I was running a little late leaving the house. Rain was pouring down with bright flashes of lightning, and the ominous thoughts were already beginning. Would Melanie want to postpone to tomorrow? Will it be lightning all day? What in the world am I doing?
I sent an ETA text to let Melanie and Ali know I would be there right before 6am. The rain only seemed to get harder as I arrived an hour later to Thunder Rock Campground. It was still dark and raining. The lightning provided brief light. Next time, I’ll have a rain jacket.
I reluctantly grabbed all my things. I didn’t require a lot of time to get ready because I’d prepped everything the day before, but I made my way to the bathroom to hang out. I was secretly hoping we’d postpone.
I rode my Trek Supercaliber with XXX Bontrager wheels. I ran a 2.4 Maxxis Ardent on the front and a 2.0 Bontrager race tire on the back. I’m trying to figure out what to run at Leadville next month, and actually changed the tire in the front the day before DMR to try it out. I run a 32 in the front and 50 in the back (I think, haha!) I carried 2 bottles and 2L Osprey.
Ali rode with us the first 3 hours or so. Her sage advice, “Don’t stay too long at Mulberry Gap… you’ll get sucked in and never want to leave.”
Once Ali turned back, my thoughts turned to Cohutta 100. I had DNF at mile 57. I wanted to ride past that point to see what I missed and add a little more down to Mulberry and back. We stopped for water at mile 26ish right past Jacks River. One thing is for sure, Melanie and I did our share of drinking on the entire course.
We stopped at Mountaintown Overlook for some pictures. And mother nature. Not going to lie. We overhydrated.
Somewhere past this point is where I quit Cohutta 100. Listening to music made the mood even better. I’ll never ever ride out here without my water filter. I never used it today, but it felt good knowing I had it just in case.
Couple of guys were riding out there opposite direction and had a good chat with one of them. Mostly about how bad it was climbing back up out of Mulberry. He was right.
We arrived to Mulberry Gap at 1pm in good spirits. We ran into some very nice people, stopped for cokes and treats at the store, and bought sandwiches to go.
I really figured we had the hardest part over with and the rest, which most of I had seen, wouldn’t be so bad. Climbing out of Mulberry Gap was pretty tough. The rain had cleared, the sun was out, and I immediately missed the rain and overcast skies.
I did almost take a wrong turn because there are several roads meeting together at mile 57. I would have figured it out because it dead ends.
I rode up on a big black bear who ran off fast. I stopped in the middle of the road and just stared at how big he was running off. Of all the times I’ve been in the woods riding, I’ve only seen a bear one other time.
I was happy to see mile 65 because it is where Jeff Rizer, Mary Sickler, and I have been riding back and forth all year. They have helped me so much train and get faster to even consider completing this.
We ended up stopping in a shady area to take a break again at mile 70. I wanted to get to the next water stop at Big Frog, but honestly, we were wearing down. It was a perfect spot, I’ll say. Shade from the intense July sun, and we worked on eating the sandwiches from Mulberry Gap.
Big Frog was a slog. I have ridden it this direction before, but it was never this horrible. Tired legs makes all trails worse. It just went on and on and on. I started noticing the clock. 7pm had already arrived. I’m not sure how so fast. I was doing the math, thinking about sunset, I didn’t have lights, and kicking myself for not bringing a light. Melanie and I had decided to do this route for our Leadville training for next month and had no time constraints, yet I was starting to feel the anxiety grow (a little). My After Shockz headset died too. It was time to break out the cell phone speaker music.
I locked down my right brake when I saw a baby bear run across the road. We decided to take another break just to allow mama bear and baby bear to move on.
The rest of the ride was the hardest part. The sun was dropping fast, and so was my spirit. I just wanted to be finished already. The descent down to Thunder Rock may have been my slowest ever, but we had no lights and could barely see. Riding up to the car was nothing short of euphoria. We made it. We did it. I think I said “We did it” about four times. I had iced cokes in the car and made use of the showers at the campground. Riding in the rain had taken its toll.