Cohutta 65

one of the key races i was using as a benchmark for leadville was the cohutta 65. (once upon a time i was thinking i would do the 100 mile option, but that 6 wk break off my feet earlier this year had me rethink that plan…)  

while not the full monty, the 65, just shy of 11k of elevation gain, was still going to be a respectable day. the rain overnight and during the first hour of the race added another twist to the day. luckily it wasn’t that cold (although there was a bit of snow here on monday!)
we started at the ocoee whitewater center at 7:15am with a light drizzle. after a quick 3 miles down hwy 64 (a nice climb to break up the field of 160+ riders in this distance), we turned into the brush creek singletrack trails. i actually haven’t ridden this section before and i’d imagine it would be quite nice and flowy if it wasn’t for the thick, slick mud everywhere. after some speedier guys passed me, i settled into a nice pace, yo-yo’ing with a few guys for the next 2 hrs. all was going well until i wiped out hard on a bridge. we had lots of short wooden bridges going over creeks & such and i really did try to take them easy; i’m not exactly sure what happened here, but next thing i know i lay my bike out and we’re sliding across the bridge… i see a pole and think “this will not be good if my body slams into this”. luckily my bike hit it first – but that just meant i hit my bike… groin into the handlebars and stem. yeowsers. i layed there a minute taking some deep breaths (people making sure i was ok), but when i saw a girl pass, i was back on my feet.  time to go!
i was a bit slow for a bit, trying to get my balance again. things hurt for sure. i was a bit slower than anticipated getting back to the WWC; now time for some tanasi trail action… by the time i was up bear paw, i was able to pass the girls that had passed me when i was down. once i hit the forest service roads, i was back in my element. it did seem to go on forever – funny how things didn’t look that familiar even though i’ve ridden here several times this year. i was alone for a long time here, just doing my thing and riding hard. 2 voices were constantly in my head – matt’s voice saying “attack the hills” and jeramie saying (in response to me wondering how he thought i’d do) “well, depends on what cathi shows up”.  early on it was “cathi that crashed hard and was in pain”. but now it was “cathi that was on a mission”. i wasn’t there to just ride; i wanted to race.
finally the turn from 221 to 62 (the “big frog loop”) came, along with the aid station with our drop bags and the smiling & energetic ken radley (always good to see a familiar face on a grueling course!) i actually didn’t need anything in my bag – i had been filling up with heed at some earlier stops and did so again here (i actually like the light taste of the stuff – i do get tired of the gatorade/powerade sweetness, which was what i had stashed…). some quick lube on the chain and i was off again – i has seen a pink jersey when i pulled in and really wanted to reel in that potential girl. which i did soon enough – along with 2 others on this section. that was energizing! i hooked up with a few guys that had a solid pace and good conversations for a bit. i suck at remembering names sometimes… there was the singlespeeder from atl that knew some of the addictive crew… and a bike zoo guy from knox with cool checkered arm warmers… 
once back on 221, i just kept on… my legs were feeling fabulous, although the shoulder/neck pain i get sometimes was now setting in  - at least that made me forget about my pelvis. the big neverending climb came and went without problem – with the leaders of the 100 mile passing me here – damn they looked fresh! 
finally the last aid station before the final singletrack section. hooray! they didn’t have any heed, so i just kept the 1 full bottle i had, figuring it would be enough for the last 12 miles or so. about 10 minutes in, i started hearing some noise from my bike… not the hiss of flat tires (like last weekend), but something else. then without warning, chain suck. aaah, so that is the sound of a bone dry chain that doesn’t want to move. what sucked even more was the fact i didn’t have any lube on me. every 5-10 minutes my bike would seize. sometimes i could get through it, but half the time i was going up a hill or over some rocks/roots, so it royally f’d me up. for once i was totally thankful for every descent i could find – if i didn’t pedal, i didn’t have problems. i passed lots of people sidelined with mechanicals (including a friend with a snapped derailleur), but no one with lube. so basically this last section (which initially i was worried about, not knowing how tired i’d be going through it, then was excited about because i was feeling great), ended up sucking royally, taking at least 30 min longer than it should have. 
thunder rock express could not come soon enough. i got through that easily and was thankful for the fsr at the end – that signalled about a mile of road to the finish. liz & evan were right there waiting for me – i tried to look fast for him :)  (erick was with ethan, who was napping).
it was definitely cool to have my little nephews up from orlando so they could see aunt cathi ride bikes (inspire them young!) after some wrinkles getting results posted, i ended up 5th in the women’s 65, with a time of 7:32:06. (this would have been 56 out of 100 total riders in this distance – always like to see how i compare to the guys ;). while i’m definitely happy with this, 4th place was only 32 min ahead, so it could have been an interesting finish without the mechanicals.

me + my # 1 fan evan

desperate for drink

ahhh, hydrated & happy (i swear this isn’t a coke commercial)

ken helping me out with a post-race s

So now… the next day… 
I am definitely happy with my race – my body felt great (except for the crash of course) and I was happy with how my legs responded. my nutrition and hydration was on. what to change? well, carry lube!! other than that, just continue on with matt’s plans, whatever they may be. (it’s working so far!) i did see an old friend, zeke, at the race and i hope to catch some long rides and leadville knowledge from him in the future. i am a bit sore – that great post-long-workout soreness where you know you did something good… but then my left knee that i landed on is aching good (the cuts aren’t too bad), along with my neck (and not the part that was sore during the race – maybe i hit that when i fell too?? hmmm)

I’ll be interested to see how this experience relates to Leadville. I’ll have 4.5 more hrs to tackle 35 more miles and 3000’ more elevation gain. Altitude will be the determining factor I think, as my fitness track seems to be right on.

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