This weekend was my first NUE race. It was 65 miles of pure fun and mountain bike riding. I have been mountain biking for less than two years, and this race was a big change for me. My dad, Heath, and I started driving early Friday morning, 5:30 early, and picked up our friend, Ron, for the trip. The 9.5 hour drive loomed over us and we drove on. I recently bought a book of crosswords, which turns out I am really, really bad at, so they helped keep us entertained, or extremely frustrated.
Once we reached the park, we went out for a pre-ride of the course. We rode about 18 miles, covering the start and finish single track. The starting single track was awesome and oh so flowy. It was great to ride. The end was mostly downhill, great to know that at the end it was mostly downhill. There was also a couple sketchy parts on the last downhill, which I really made a mental note of for when all I wanted to do was get done and to the finish. Once we were done riding, we checked-in, made our drop bags, and ate some spaghetti dinner with a lot of breadsticks! We stayed in a hotel about twenty-five minutes from the start (instead of camping at the park). We all got our bikes ready for the next day and relaxed before going to bed early.
The Cohutta 100 started at 7am and the Big Frog 65 started at 8am, leaving me alone to stew and get nervous by myself for an hour. I rode around to warm-up, riding up the start hill, just watching the time slowly creep by. I eventually went over to the start line to wait with the crowd. I get nervous about picking a starting position at races- I am slower on the single track than most other people, but I can climb hills well. I really don’t like messing up other riders, either slowing them down or just goofing up over a technical section. The more nervous I am the more likely I am to make a mistake. The nice and very hard thing about this start is that it had a road climb to help spread everyone out.
Moments before my race started, I realized that I had forgotten to put my spare tube, tire lever, and CO2 cartridges back on my bike. I only had my patch kick and plugs, which would only get me so far if I had a flat. I prayed to the bike gods before starting and hoped I wouldn’t get a flat!
Starting out on the climb was more brutal than I realized, my legs were tired and I was pushing hard. My adrenaline was pumping, making me nervous and jumpy during this first stretch. The turn into the single track was welcome and off we went riding quick. Here, I slowly started to relax and let me bike do it’s thing. Unfortunately, I tried to let someone pass and they knicked my handle bars. I went down and ended up with a few bumps, bruises, and scratches, but nothing too bad. It took me a while to relax again on the single track.
I got in with a new group of riders and continued to ride through the fast and flowy single track. I loved just flying down the hills and around the turns. The views were beautiful. We eventually reached the gravel road, where the majority of the climbing started. Around mile 30, we just started climbing, and climbing and climbing. It felt like it was never going to end. The heat was starting to get to me and I was running low on water. Not a great feeling. I made it back to the aid station, refilled my water, grabbed a snack and started on my way. I began to feel a little nauseous and it wasn’t fun. At mile 47, another beyond steep five mile climb started. The best thing was knowing at the end of this hill, I would hit the single track to the finish.
On the final single track, I had moments where I was so tired I didn’t think I could keep gong and others where I could pedal up over anything and power on. The one thing I kept reminding myself was to “have faith in my recovery,” something my cross country coach used to say. No matter how tired I was going up hill, my body always seemed to recover to fly down. It really made a difference to me! I was so happy to get finish the final descent and head to the finish line! I went and sat in the stream to cool off. I got to clean all the dirt and sweat off me. It felt amazing. I ended up finishing 6th overall, I was stoked. Heath ended up getting fourth, which was incredible against this competition.
My dad and Ron also had hard races. The heat got to both of them, making the end of the races hard! I was definitely happy that I picked the 65 and not the 100 for this race! Ron had to quit early, something he never does- he felt terrible on Friday and he felt wore on Saturday. He ended up not eating until Sunday morning to recover!
I am so excited to see what will come next. I spent the car ride back brainstorming ways to get quicker, get better and climbing, and just relax while I am out there. My arms and back were so tense and sore the next day from just being so tense. I love my bike and I can’t wait to see where we will go next!!