Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cohutta 100 - First Race of the Season

I'm feeling a bit out of practice writing this race report. Maybe it's because I'm past my post-caffeine, long-drive craze frame of mind.

Well, the first race of the season didn't quite go as well as I had hoped. I still had a pretty decent race overall coming in 5th in 8:53, but it just felt 'off'. The women's field had some really strong competitors which was leaving me a bit anxious coming into this race. And the week leading into the race was less than restful.

I had finished up a pretty hard, high volume training block on the previous Sunday feeling, finally, pretty good on my new Felt Carbon 29er. It has taken me some time to get it dialed in and well, still needs some tweaking fit wise for me. But towards the end of the last training ride, I flatted my 2-week old bontrager acx and put a tear in it so it was useless as tubeless tire at that point. Also, I had some stomach/intestinal bug coming on that made my drive home from my favorite trails in Amherst area a pretty uncomfortable ride. I recovered mostly from it by the next morning. I then spent most of Monday traveling from bike shop to bike shop picking up race supplies (CO2s, tubes) and trying to find a new tire for my bike. I had my dog, Bruschi, with me who was acting very oddly as if he were car-sick, and he usually loves riding in the car crazily chasing passing cars as far as the vehicle will let him. But not today. I get finally get home with just enough time to walk him and get to my office for my massage client, and as I hurriedly let him out of the car, I shut the door and lock my keys, my phone... everything in the car. :( :( erggg.... An hour later, AAA opens the door in like two seconds and I'm running off like a maniac.

Tuesday, I was still dealing with bike fit issues and was really stressed out that doing a 100 miles was totally going to wreak havoc on my body because something was "off".
Wednesday was a bit less stressful, except for I woke dragging and feeling like I was coming down with a head cold - what the *^**^ ? Anyway, Doug had been up in Boston for a sales conference/trade show so he drove us down to Maryland Wednesday night, and I actually kept falling asleep most of the drive which is unusual for me. After not getting in until 1:30AM, we woke up ridiculously early as Doug thought it was another 14 hrs down to the race so we were trying to hit the road by 7am. Thankfully gps informed us it was only another 9hrs to southeast Tennessee, not far from the Georgia border. I fell asleep again on the drive down for a bit. We arrived at our hotel around 5PM, relaxed for a few and put up feet up to let them drain from the long drive. Then off to get some eats and a much needed good night's sleep.

Friday morning, I woke up feeling fairly rested but I didn't like that my throat was feeling pretty scratchy. We walked over to the breakfast joint nearby to hang out with the locals for a late morning breakfast. Afterwards, I just chilled out for bit reading a book while Doug got some work done. Then it was time to head off to the race site to get our race packets and stretch out the legs on the bike. I started to get really anxious on the 1/2 hr drive to the site. The race was being staged from the Ocoee Whitewater Center which was the where the 1996 olympics whitewater competition took place. It is an absolutely beautiful area, rolling hills/small mountains, lakes, rivers and it was pretty green already, although the pollen was really high and making me rather congested.

We got our race packets and took the bikes out for a spin. We rode the first 10 miles of the course which starts with a 2 mile road climb and then drops into some really sweet swooping, sweeping fast singletrack. It was actually kind of dusty on the trails which was making me a bit concerned I didn't bring my riding sunglasses, but lets just say that wasn't an issue at all! It was a beautiful day out, sunny, low 80s, aahhh.. As we're about to get back to the whitewater center, I notice something that doesn't quite look like a stick and let out a really loud scream and Doug's like 'what the heck was that?"... snake!!.. as we're already by it. What a girl! heehehee

We headed back to the hotel to pack up our drop bags for the aid stations (which I had annoyingly forgot about bringing my stuff with me so we could do it when we registered, which meant another 1/2 hr back up to the center).. then it was dinner and to bed early again. It's always tough to sleep well the night before one of these races. I try to push out any thoughts of the race and think I'm being successful but then the thoughts come back and the butterflies flutter away...

5 AM comes early but I'm awake before the alarm goes off. I eat quickly, have my espresso and we head to the race. It had rained overnight and the forecast was less than stellar, like 70% of rain and severe weather... lovely... It's still dark as we pull in to the parking lot and get ready to go. The staging area for the start was a narrow chute, and since I had waited in a long line for an outhouse so I didn't have great positioning at the start. It was a fast, hard start up the road climb but I knew it was important to go hard and get in as best a position as I could going into the first long stretch of singletrack. I felt ok on the climb, not stellar but not bad, but I didn't have a good sense of who of my competitors were ahead of me. I figured quite a few.

The first 25 miles were mostly fun, fast singletrack. There was some climbing, nothing too sustained in there but enough that I was noticing I didn't really feel like I had "great" legs and could just power up them all that well like I should be able to. That was a bit disconcerting, but I chalked it up to maybe having gone a bit hard for the first road climb after not having warmed up at all. I was riding with the 4th place woman (although not knowing our positions at that point) for a bit but she dropped me once we started in on the long, long, long dirt road climbs. I had in my head for some reason that the singletrack was the "hard part" of the race and that the 60 miles of dirt road would be relatively easy.... ha! It wasn't the same hour long uninterrupted climb like in Shenandoah. You would climb a bit, then descend briefly, and climb again, brief break... but my legs weren't liking it. I kept hoping they would come around but I was just feeling very inefficient. I felt like I was putting out a hard effort but just not getting anything for it so I started wondering about my tire choice, the bike fit, being sick.... and lots of stuff that wasn't going to help me get through the race. I forged on.

My "fuel" in my drop bag was at aid station 3 which was a long ways out ~50 miles or more. I was guessing the first 20-30 miles would go fast and the roughly every 15 mile aid station would be closer to mile 45. In retrospect, I wish I had dropped my bags at Aid station 2 and 4... oh well.. And sometime before aid station 3, the sky opens up and man does it start storming. Nice!! Well I'm glad I did wear the windbreaker vest after all, guess I won't be leaving it on my drop bag. It's windy, whipping, pouring rain, thunder, lightening. The dirt roads held up pretty well but they were definitely starting to feeling slow and sticky and energy draining. After Aid 3, there's a bit more climbing but then it's down down down, with some annoying "rollers" still but the up is nice at this point since coming down soaking wet was freeeezzzinng (think warm fuzzy thoughts, karen, warm...)..and the ups would let you warm up some. Oh, but crossing the top of the mountain, still within tree line, the wind blew me across the trail a couple of times, pretty crazy... I was like, well I guess this is what it's like to do one of these 100s in the rain.

I felt a little bit better on the second half of the course although still not quite as well as I would have liked. The dirt road just went on and on. The pouring rain actually cleaned off a lot of the mud and dirt until the last section of singletrack. I was again having foolish thoughts that this last singletrack was "mostly" downhill, yeah right for 8 miles..., but nope, starts out on this slight climb that's all bogged down and muddy now. I'm like come on...and it's not even really singletrack at this point either. When I finally do get on the true singletrack, I was annoyed at how much climbing there was in it and it was getting sloppy and muddy and my bike didn't want to shift into easy gears all that well... It felt like it kept going and going, and I was like just put us out on the road, despite being a devote singletrack lover. Finally, finally, the end is in sight. The course drops down to the road we drove in on to the whitewater center and follows that for about a mile to the finish.. yeee haawww.. I pedaled hard as I realized I would make it under 9 hours, a feat I didn't think was going to happen this day.

I was completely covered in mud, as was my bike. I just walked down to the river and half-got in and tried to get a lot of the mud off. I wasn't planning well on this front as I only had a small hand towel and couple wash cloths to try to get clean with - not an easy task, and try not to get Doug's vehicle too messy.

I actually felt pretty decent finishing up - my bike didn't totally wreck my body, nor the course per se...my stomach actually felt pretty normal and I wasn't feeling overly smoked. So, I guess that's good. Perhaps, I need some fast two-hour racing to get me going from the long steady pace...

I wasn't sure where I finished up as they didn't post results past 3rd for a bit. I was quite surprised that I managed 5th with how it went for me on the course. So, we waited around the awards ceremony and then I caught up with some of my fellow racers who all such truly wonderfully nice people (and I don't mean to sound sappy saying that). Then back to the hotel to get cleaned up... might I say there were some very dirty butts... :0 We just ordered some pizza delivery and had a couple of beers and called it a night. It's hard to sleep post race too. Too much adrenaline? Too much sugar all day? I slept ok for post-race. My knees were really achey so I know I need to figure out what's not quite right with my position the bike, that and to find my "power" position on it. It's a beautiful bike and gave me no issues in this race so I can only imagine how good it will be when I'm fitted to it properly. This was my first race using Carborocket, one of my team's sponsors. It worked really well for me. I've noticed that I feel pretty satisfied/not hungry while using it in this race and during training and it's easy on my stomach. Also, yummy honey stinger chews, another of my team sponsors. I am very grateful for their support.

We had intended to wash the bikes before heading home but didn't feel like dragging them out of the car again. We drove home heading east first into the mountains through North Carolina and stopped in Asheville for lunch and to check out the sites - very pretty area. My knees were pretty stiff the day after the race. I didn't want to have to bend down for anything. It made me feel pretty decrepit, although that's all that was really sore on me so I can't complain too much. The drive back up through Virginia was pretty uneventful, had to skirt around one accident but not too bad. Ate some dinner at a brewpub we found in Harrisonburg last year when down in that area for the Shenandoah 100. Doug was nice enough to drive so I could enjoy some good brew :) Then we drove into some of the thunderstorms still hitting the area which was a bit treacherous after a long day's drive. We finally arrived back in Maryland at Doug's around 11 just at my threshold of being in the car.

I finished up my drive home with rain the whole way about 8:30PM on Monday.

Time for some rest and recovery, kick this congestion out, and get the bike all set for my next adventure the end of this month - the Transylvania Stage Race -- what have I gotten myself into?? :) :) :)

Many thank you's to my sponsors for iRideAdentures/MTBRaceNews.Com team!!


  1. nice work Karen! good seeing you out there

  2. Terrific Karen, you're an inspiration!

  3. Karen:

    Great to see you're at it for yet another season! Keep up the good work--you don't want to peak too early! - Ed Kross