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.

Ready to roll before 7 am.

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.

Less than 20 miles into the Cohutta 100 and already coated in mud. Photo: SaraKristen Photography.

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.

At Mulberry Gap, feeling defeated.

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.

Getting ready to clean my bike and myself.

Muddy bike

Mud caked to my leg.

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”!

# Comments

  • syd

    Pretty tough…Better luck next time…Hope the weather holds for your next race.

    • mtbgreg1

      Actually, my “next race” was a short one this past weekend… was supposed to be two 10 mile laps, but it started pouring on us less than 10 minutes into the first lap, haha! The race organizers cut it down to just one lap. Pic from that race: http://www.singletracks.com/photo.php?i=0&c=0&p=57574

  • skibum

    Way to keep your chin up. I’m not sure how I would have handled that after all the training put in. Looking forward to the “Redemption!” Best wishes for something less miserable.

    • mtbgreg1

      The worst part was knowing I was going to have to blog about not finishing, haha!

    • jeff

      That type of accountability definitely cuts both ways. It’s both a motivator and a burden. 🙂

    • mtbgreg1

      So true

    • GimmeAraise

      Thats one thing I’m not looking forward to. hope it does not happen anytime soon! (knock-on-wood)

  • delphinide

    That stinks bro. If you were a close friend I would joke and say ‘nobody likes a quitter’…but I guess I just said it anyway and know I am just jabbing you to make you laugh. That picture of you at Mulberry makes me laugh, because that look on your face is a perfect example of how we all feel when something like that happens. I thought about flying from Denver to do the Cohutta for the first time this year, so your story makes me glad that I didn’t. Looking at your photos I was thinking, you need a Salsa Beargrease, small flask of Makers, and some leg warmers and you would have been a little more comfortable. I think you should do a few ration drops and do the Cohutta on your own, with a friend, in nice weather before that sticky Georgia summer comes roaring around. Know this though my friend: you trained, you tried, and you rode a tough 61 miles in adverse conditions and that is something to brag about…a dirty century in nice weather will seem so much more pleasant to you now. The destination is in the journey, and now you have a great story to tell and something strong to make you reflect more sharply on life. It doesn’t always go your way…and so many people in this world endure such greater hardships outside of recreational purposes. It’s little thoughts like that which make me feel blessed, even when mother nature doesn’t co-operate. 🙂 Good luck on Part Deux!

    • mtbgreg1

      Thanks so much delphinide! Yeah, good choice on not flying out…

      At first I was going to use leg warmers, but didn’t put them on… but after I went up a couple thousand feet in elevation I wished I had.

      As for doing Cohutta before GA summer, GA summer is already here. Hot and humid out there today!!

      Thanks again for the thoughtful comment man.

  • stumpyfsr

    I rode wet and cold (shorter distances) and can imagine what are you went thru before throwing a towel. This wasn’t a failure but an opportunity to learn and get ready for your next dirty century.
    Many could DNF, not everyone can write about it.
    I wish you better weather and successful finish next time.

    • mtbgreg1

      Thanks man!

  • GoldenGoose

    How’s the bike after grinding it through that much mud for 7.5 hours? I’m guessing it needs new brake pads at the very least.

    • mtbgreg1

      It’s actually not too bad. The brake pads are still going strong. The one thing I have noticed is that the fox fork isn’t quite as smooth as it was before the race.

  • Terrier

    This is an awesome story about a wise choice. For me, mountain biking is suposed to be fun. And for me, getting sick is not fun at all. Your bike looks like my Hi Fi Plus. I bought it and six weeks later found out I was moving to South Florida! I miss those Georgia trails. But I did meet Paul from Gator Boys at Markham park. He stopped to catch a ten foot gator in the middle of his ride that day.

    • mtbgreg1

      Thanks man, I appreciate it.

      Yeah, I believe the Fisher Hi Fi was the precursor to the Superfly… that’d be the similarity 🙂

      I don’t envy you South FL…

  • granvillegravel

    Hey, I was one of those people who registered and didn’t show. I’ve done several of these NUE races and one of them in the pouring rain. It was about the most miserable cycling experience I’ve ever had. Plus it trashed my bike (mostly new drive train, new brake pads, fork overhaul) to the tune of a couple hundred bucks, and I crashed 3 times, injuring myself on the final crash. One rainy dirty century was enough.

    • mtbgreg1

      Dude, I don’t blame you for not showing. If I had had a similar experience before, there’s no WAY I would have willingly showed up for a repeat!

  • MTI

    Gregg as one of the three DNF in the race that you know I will say good job on the 61 miles. We stopped at the same place. It is funny that you said the first 30 miles were OK that was what killed me. Once I hit the gravel I felt pretty good until the temps tanked going down Potato Patch. When I come down for the ride in June I am going to bring my brake pads. MTBChick wrote an article on changing brakes. My reply is always just go to the bike mechanic keep them in business. Jeff had replied I should learn because they could be a trailside repair. I never would have believed it until after this misery! My rear brakes were gone. I admit I am still bummed after all that work in the cold and rain training but there is always next year…and maybe the Fools Gold 100! At least we gave it a go!

    • mtbgreg1

      Yeah man, that we did!! Great job to you as well!

      Looking forward to having you come down for the Dirty Thirty!

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