Yes, you read that right: after all this training, all the build up for this race… I didn’t even finish the sucker.
Let me tell you why.
Basically, this race was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. While the weather leading up to the weekend was beautiful, sunny, and warm, temperatures dropped and it started to rain the night before the race. And rain it did… into the morning, and all day long, and for the next two days.
Still, despite a miserable-looking radar and temps in the 50s, I had plunked down my cash for this race and had trained for four months, so I toed the start line and pushed off at the sound of the gun. I felt pretty positive for the first 30 miles or so, but starting at aid station 3 I saw riders dropping like flies.
At aid station #3, it was freezing cold, the rain returned in earnest, and I saw a group of about a dozen riders turn around to ride back in. At this point, I was only 30 miles into the race, so I knew I had to keep going.
After #3, the climbing really began in earnest. There were several false summits along the way–it never seemed to end! But I just told myself that I once I got to the top I could rest going down Potato Patch.
Going down Potato Patch was easy, but it was freezing! I hit the next aid station, and again noticed tons of other people dropping out of the race. There was actually a shuttle there heading back to the start line, quickly filling up with riders who had thrown in the towel. I knew there was more descending yet before I reached the bottom, so I just kept going downhill.
Once at the bottom of the course, after coming down Potato Patch and knowing what it was going to feel like to return, I couldn’t make myself go back up. I wrote about the misery that is the climb up Potato Patch in one of my training articles, and I had been dreading that climb for over a month. Add in the rain, the mud, the cold, and the mental exhaustion, and I just didn’t know if I could do it anymore.
I stopped in the middle of the road and had a mini breakdown, trying to force myself to keep going but having absolutely no resolve to make it happen. While it was frustrating to quit at that point, I was pretty sure that if I had kept going I would have quit in about 10-20 miles, or probably sooner, probably halfway up Potato Patch. And after checking my watch, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to make the cut off times at the later checkpoints. Or maybe that was just me justifying my decision. Regardless, after 61 miles and 7.5 hours, I was done.
Best decision of the race: stopping at Mulberry Gap. Being very familiar with the Ellijay end of the racecourse, I had visited Mulberry Gap a couple times for various events, and knew what an awesome facility it was! Coincidentally, Mulberry was located at the bottom of all the descending I mentioned above and was just a half-mile before the location of my mini-breakdown.
Once I made the decision to quit, I climbed back a half mile to Mulberry, rolled in, and gave my wonderful wife a call to come pick me up. The awesome folks at Mulberry could easily see how miserable I was so they gave me some clothes from the lost and found, a towel, and some soap, and let me take a hot shower! After 7.5 hours of cold and muck, soaking in the hot, steamy water and sipping an ice-cold beer from one of the riders staying at the camp was heavenly! Take note, my friends: if you’re going to DNF a race, DNF in style!
In the end, I think I made the right decision to quit. I was comforted by the fact that the other three people I knew in the race also DNFed, two of them in the same general area as I did. According to stats from the race organizers, 269 people were registered for the 100, and only 138 finished. Of the missing 131, 50 didn’t show up on race day and 81 DNFed on the course. 2013 marked the most DNFs ever in the Cohutta 100. At least I was in good company! 🙂
I was also slightly comforted by the fact that my goal over the past four months wasn’t to complete the Cohutta 100. My goal all along has been to complete a Dirty Century, and the Cohutta was just a good way to help me handle the logistics. If the weather had been better, perhaps it would have worked out, but clearly I was wrong…
This isn’t the end of my Dirty Century saga. Stay tuned for part 2: “Dirty Century: Redemption”!