Back to Tennessee once more I drove to assault the gorgeous Cohutta Wilderness. I drove late into the night and got 4 hours of restless sleep in the Tennessee welcome center and then awoke early to snag a campsite early Friday morning. Good thing I rushed since the campground wasn't anywhere near capacity. The site was great though. Once I picked out my site I snagged one next door to hold for the NYC-MTB trio that was to show up a little later.
Pre-ride was good as things were coming together fine until I realized my tire issue that I would encounter. I set up my new race wheels with some Schwalbe Racing Ralphs and they never really seated or sealed for some reason. After my pre-ride i checked them 3 hours later and both tires lost 20 psi. So I had to tube up my light wheelset but as long as I was smart I shouldn't have any issues. Pasta was put down in the evening as the last tasty calories I would ingest and it was pretty sweet.
Saturday morning I awoke to a fairly chilly morning and had my usual oatmeal and some fruit and off to the line I went. It was probably mid 50's but the weather would soon heat up so the gear of choice was the sleevless jersey and bibs only, as the ladies appreciate the guns.
I lined up not too far from the front and waited for my opening to get to the left and get a good spot into the singletrack. As we climbed the 2.5 mile road climb I put in a decent effort and was sitting in a great position with 1 rider inbetween me and the lead group. As we dumped into the singletrack, I was just enjoying and trying to keep pace with the guy in front. A nice effort got me through the rider in front and then threw a few that got spit out the back of the lead group. Across the bridge alone and opening up a gap I was feeling good and kept on it. Did the climb after the bridge and the remaining singletrack fine, and then enjoyed the gravel hell. I did hydrate well early on but later would be a different story. The problem was more the fact that I worked my nutrition plan like a moron. I forgot to start the Endurolyte process too late and also brought too few pills. That won’t happen again.
The gravel climbs were good and steady with a few steep ups that made me not want to be one of the SS’ers. The main large climb was going well as efforts were pretty steady but then the legs started to go south at 4 hours in. My gracilis would intermittenly fire up as a usual first sign of the cramping to come so I hit the endurolytes at 2:30 but it was a little late. By 4 I was figting cramping in my calves and quads. I tried to super hydrate with heed and water but I forgot about the nutrition. The food came with not enough calories and way too late. The deficit would be hard to recover from. Add on top of that the fact that the Heed seemed to be mixed very weakly so the calories that I thought I was getting - I wasn't. The annoying climbs kept coming after aid 2 and they were steady but not as long as I remember. They would have been much better if I had legs.
After the long downhill the little sprinter climbs were annoying but also nice cause I caught up with my nutrition and kind of settled in on them. After those climbs the steady gravel flats and then slight incline into the climb before aid 4 was rough. It still put in some solid efforts and that went well. Into the next road climb was ok and then I got to aid 6 where the st climb starts. That was good as I was locking out the fork and singlespeeding it since those were the only muscles that would work. I got to the top fairly strong and reached the singletrack where it all went south.
I had NOTHING left. 10 miles to go and NOTHING in the tank. I mustered up the energy to keep going noting the time was getting really late for an 8 hour finish. I actually started the st at 8:07 so it would be tight. I hit one little burst climb that was washed out and had to put a foot down and that was horrible. My calf and hamstring on my right leg were locked and my hamstring on my left leg was locked. I had to peg leg it for 30 feet or so till they kind of unlocked and I could throw a leg over and just spin. And that’s all I could do. Just spin. I kept on at a snails pace and just wanted to see the end. I passed one guy that would pass me later only for me to muster up a little juice to clean the last few sections(Thanks Dave!) of singletrack and hopefully get done with this misery. With the threat of catastrophic cramps lingering just a pedal stroke away I moderated and kept on it. Dave was now following me and we stayed together and chatted down the Thunder Express. This was awesome since he helped pull me into the finish as 9 hours was rapidly approaching. I pulled as hard to the finish as I was blowing up anything I had left. Dave actually pulled me into the line for one last burst of nothingness.
As I crossed the line the clock read 8:58:15. My goal was 8:59:59 and it was good to just sneak in under it with all that went wrong. It still hasn't fully sunken in that I broke 9 hrs. When I started these 100 miler races I thought it was close to impossible to break 10, nevermind 9. 43rd overall in Open Mens was good as last year's finish was 9:46 and 66th overall. It was a long, brutal, sadistic, wonderful day.