I drove to Ocoee, Tn where I met Bob Lamberson and his family and Brad Reed. We all jammed into a room at the Ocoee Whitewater Inn. Six people, a bunch of bikes and stuff. Kinda reminded me of college days and beach trips. I threw my sleeping bag in a corner and crawled in. The sleep I got was good, there just wasn't much of it. I woke at 4:45 to the sound of rain. Yep it was pouring and according to the Weather Channel there was a 20% chance that it wouldn't rain all day.
God why didn't I just go back to sleep then.
Two hours later, I was on the starting line at the Ocoee Whitewater Center with 200ish others including Eatough, Landis, Harlan Price, Shey Linder, Ernesto Marenchin and a bunch of other fast guys that would drive the pace up from the get-go. I also saw a bunch of guys I know from the Carolinas like Tomato, Stephen, Dicky, and several others that I know of but haven't really met. I was next to my buddy Bob Lamberson and his wife Anet who was doing her first ever hundie, just behind her was Michael Ritter.
At 7:00, after a few (thousand) words from Bruce Dickman we were off. The first 2 miles or so were on a slight climb up the pavement to some really nice singletrack. At about 7:01, I knew I was in trouble. I had nothing in my legs. I tried to tell myself it was from not being warmed up and such a hard pace. Into the singletrack I got in a good group and we had a great pace and nobody messed up despite the mud (the rain had stopped for the moment - we were in a 20% period). It was fast and flowed really well and for awhile, I had fun and foolishly thought the day may not be so bad after all.
The singletrack lead us back to the Ocoee Whitewater Center where I had my 15 minutes (more like seconds) of fame. We were going along the river on a really tame path that was fast and flowed well. All of a sudden we were in this rock and root garden from hell. It was like being in West Virginia. People were sliding and bouncing all over, busting tubes like there was no tomorrow. I passed five people, bounced off the sixth one (neither one of us went down) and it was over. The dude on the FS bike I bounced off of was impressed that I was on a rigid bike.
Through the whitewater center and on to a really tough root-laden singletrack climb where I saw Michael for a bit (Bob was long gone and I would never see him). Michael let me by because he rides singlespeeds also and knows how hard it is to climb with geared bikes on climbs like this. I got into a jam a bit later and simply could not go as slow as those spinning away in their grannies. I spun out trying to get over a root step. Just as I did, a smart-ass passed me and announced "Oh I love my gears". Little did he know that Karma can be a bitch and his Karma bit him about 10 miles later when I passed him and his broken chain. I just kept my mouth shut and spun my lovable little dependable gear right on by.
The next thing up was about 70 miles of mind-numbingly boring forest service road that went around the perimeter of the Big Frog Wilderness. It was basically up, down, up, down, up all day long. By then, somewhere around 40 miles or so, I was in Georgia and feeling so-so. I kept my eye on my average speed hoping to keep it above 10 mph thus ensuring I'd finish in under 10 hours. At the moment it was 11.4. I felt good but my good feelings were something I'd soon get over.
The Road to Hell is all Gravel
The beginning of the end for me came at about 55 miles. I began to feel sick. I had been dilligent in making sure I was getting enough fluids and calories but this was different. I was getting my fever back and anything I put near my mouth made me gag and dry heave. I was somewhere in the Chattahooche National Forest and my options were few. I was slowing down and I began to daydream.
cue dream sequence music......................
Phil Ligget: Oh have a look at the veteran Vassago rider. He's not looking to keen.
Paul Sherwin: You are right Phil. That looks to be Brian Archer and he is slowing down and it looks like he may be starting to crack.
Phil: Goodness gracious me, he takes a drink from his bidon and it looks Paul, as though he has thrown up.
Paul: This surely is the end of the line for Brian. He'll be looking for the team car - except there is no team car.
Phil: He's taken another drink from his bidon and spit it out. He's had another drink and he's back on the move. Paul I don't think he even missed a pedal stroke.
Paul: I believe Duckman - as he is called, is going to ride himself right back into this bike race.
Phil: He may not be one of the heads of state in this race but you must give him credit for being a crusty veteran.....................................
Huh....Where am I?
Oh yeah. I knew that the end was coming. I couldn't eat and it was only a matter of time before I ran completely out of gas and fell over on the side of the road. I only hoped that that point would be 100 miles and 10 feet into this race. But it wasn't. That point came at 82 miles and aid station #5. I stopped. I had a fever of about 100 and was actually thinking of death as a viable solution towards feeling better. I took some Tylenol and hopped onto the SAG bus and went to sleep. I would have to wait for about an hour to get a ride out. It didn't matter. I felt like hell.
On top of that, I had to deal with quitting. Have you ever seen the Tour De France and when someone quits they climb into the Broom Wagon crying? I can identify with that feeling. The feeling of letdown is huge. You work so long and hard for something and fail after putting so much effort into it. It sucks.
I got over it though. I quit something I should have never started in the first place so why should I feel bad. I made it 82 miles- the last 15 puking all over the place. I had nothing to be ashamed of.
Bob, Anet and Michael all finished well. This was Anet's first. We are all proud of her. Brad Reed finished strong in the 87. ( that's the 65 plus a wrong turn).
My bike was perfect. I cannot get over how well the new Vassago Optimus rides. I did the whole day with no mechanical issues whatsoever and at a lot of times, the roads and trails seemed to just disappear under me. To say I love this bike would be an understatement.
So now for me I will get healthy and look forward to the Triple Header of Pain coming up in about a month.
As for the Cohutta.......
I'll be back!