Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cohutta 100 Mountain Bike Race

 The Cohutta 100 mountain bike race was Saturday. This race got in my blood 5 or 6 years ago. It is in an area that I have done a lot of riding in over the past 15 years, the north Georgia mountains on the border with Tennessee. I always enjoy the big views you get from the ridges during this race. And the great long downhills. And the singletrack sections.Not much I don't like about the Cohutta 100.
 I told myself I would train specifically for this race this year. I had some good bike training in January and February but in March and April my biking couldn't even be described as training. I would miss two full weeks of riding and then put in 30 to 50 miles in a week and then lay off the bike again for a week. My running miles had been high during this time so I wasn't completely out of shape just, not in good biking shape. I would do the best I could with what I had and be thankful that I can even ride a mountain bike for a 100 miles.
 There were four of us from middle Georgia, Greg, Van, Monte and myself. We all started off together on the two mile climb up to the first singletrack section. Once on the trail I was able to relax a little and get my heart-rate under control on the flat flowing section. It all went well until we dropped back down to the river and started the climb back up the mountain. I was trying to stay on Greg's wheel which was a mistake. He set a pace a little too hot for me. He finally pulled away and I settled into my on pace and Monte and I rode together for a while while finishing the climb.
 At the top of the climb we have a long downhill that leads to a forest service road section that parallels a creek for several miles. After this easy section, it is a series of long climbs up to Potatopatch. Then a long downhill that drops 2000 feet to one of my favorite trails, Pinhoti section 2. We loop around at the bottom and then climb back up 2000 feet to Potatopatch and retrace our course back to the finish with a few deviations from our outbound route.
 I maintained my calorie and water intake well during the race and rode within my means all day. I had a realistic goal of going under 10 hours in the race. I knew this would be a challenge considering my lack of preparation for the race in the last 2 months. I came across the finish line in 9:58:28 and am happy with how the race came together.
 Next year I am really going to train for the Cohutta.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oak Mountain 50k

 On Saturday March 31st I raced the Oak Mountain 50k for the 10th time. Scott and Jackie Parker have been putting on this race for 13 years. In my ten years at the race it has been run flawlessly. It is always well marked.The aid stations are manned with volunteers who are knowledgeable about the needs of ultra runners and are eager to get you in and out in a hurry. A big thanks to all the volunteers who give their time to make our race day go so well. And the cook out at the finish, always something to look forward to. But what truly makes this a great race is the course. Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham is a jewel. Beautiful, well maintained trails, waterfalls, rock formations and lakes make this trip to Alabama one of my favorite races each year. This race course has it all; climbs, sweet ridgeline singletrack, rocky descents, and soft dirt trails to give your feet a break.
 There are always a lot of familiar faces at this race. The Atlanta posse, the Florida bunch, and the Alabama locals. Middle Georgia had it's own crew this year. Tom Sloope, Chris Parrish, Thomas Flaherty, first time ultra runner Vince Lucas, and myself all made the trip over for the race.
 I started off with three Alabama runners, John Cobbs, Chris Dollar and John Gregg. We ran together into the first manned aid station at the north trailhead in 4th through 7th place. John Cobbs did not stop at the aid station and headed up the the blue trail and put a good lead on John Gregg, Chris Dollar and myself. When we reached the ridgeline we found a good pace and cruised to the rocky downhill where we cross the creek below Peavine Falls. A steep climb up from the creek leads to the second manned aid station at the Peavine Falls parking area. After the aid station I caught up with Cobbs and we ran together along the creek section before he put some distance on me on the long uphill to the unmanned aid station at the jeep road. From the jeep road we ran along a rocky ridge before coming to my favorite downhill of the race. It is a rocky switchback descent to some soft fast gentle downhill that leads back to the north trailhead aid station at 21 miles. I passed John Cobbs on the downhill but he quickly caught up with me on the flats leading into the aid station.
The section from 21 miles to the the next aid station at the Peavine Falls parking lot starts with a 3 mile climb up Double Oak Mountain on a jeep road. This is where the real race starts. John Cobbs and I left the 21 mile aid station together but he soon left me on the climb up the mountain. John is a strong runner, especially on the hills. He put 19 minutes on me in the last 10 miles. Last year he did about the same thing. He always finishes strong. I was able to enjoy the climb and the new section of singletrack that Scott Parker added at the top of Double Oak Mountain to cut out a couple of miles of the jeep road. This trail runs along the west ridge of the mountain. The picture above is from the trail. I really enjoyed this new section with it's great views and rocky singletrack.
 After arriving at the Peavine Falls aid station the second time at 26 miles it is only 5 miles to the finish. This section has a fun downhill on the BUMP trail down to the dirt road crossing. I fill my bottle for the last time at an unmanned aid station and know the race is almost done. The trail curves around several ridges and re-entrants where you can actually hear the finish line activities and smell the burgers before popping out at the finish. I cross the line in 5 hours and 36 minutes for a 5th place finish. Not my fastest time there or my slowest time, somewhere in the middle of my ten races at Oak Mountain. Hope to have several more here in the years to come.

 Another highlight of the day was having Bethany there with Teri. I hope this is her first of many times being dad's little cheerleader.