The 7th Annual Ouachita Challenge was held this past Sunday. This was my first big test of the year. If I were to give myself a grade it would be a C+. A combination of changing my race day strategy, overworked/overtrained and just not having good legs for the race. In reviewing my data from my Garmin 305 I will change some things for the Cohutta 100 which is in two weeks. If you are interested in the course and the data you can view/download at Motion Based (best viewed in IE). Pictures can be viewed at Phillip Walrod website. Phillip did an awesome job and got some great photos as you can see by the two trail photos below.
I met my teammates Randy Cartwright, Rich Anderson and Mike Classen the morning of the race. This was everyone's first Ouachita except for Mike who had raced here I believe twice before. Before the race Mike gave me some tips which I appreciated. The race started with a roll out.
There was suppose to be a "bang" to start the race, but I never heard a thing. It was full on from the moment we left the parking lot. I got boxed in and fell back toward the end of the pack, but quickly started to work my way up which was the first mistake of the day. My heart rate was in zone 5 around 180 before I knew it. I should of backed off then, but I kept pushing and soon bridged up to the lead pack of about 30 riders. Gerard told me to "save something for the last half and don't be a hero", which I did remember at about mile 45. Once we hit the first section of gravel road I decided to ease off some and wait for Rich and Randy. They were both soon on board and we road together with some other riders until we hit the Womble trail.
I for one was very glad we were finally on some single track. Course conditions were good in most parts, but due to some heavy rains in the area some parts of the course were very muddy. I was o.k. with this as I am usually good in the mud. Rich, Randy and I rode the Womble together and worked our way around several packs of riders. The overall pace was still a little high for me and I was really trying to pace myself and make sure I drank and ate enough. This event was really just training for Cohutta 100 and our pace was too high for a 100 mile event so I started to back it off some.
After crossing some very wet muddy sections including about a dozen creeks we finally got to the first rest stop. Rich's friends and Carolynn were there to give us some much needed support. Rich was first to the stop and was gone just has I got stopped. Randy worked on his slowly leaking rear tire. I got a fresh bottle of Accelerade which was my main supply of food for this event. I took off at an easy pace as Randy finished pumping up his tire. He bridged up to me, but still was having tire trouble. I did not know if I should wait for him or just keep going. I decided to keep going and steadily brought back Rich who was long gone by this point.
After a long section of road we were on to the Ouachita trail and more climbing. I signed up for the event to get in some serious climbing and I got just that. 6,636 feet according to my Garmin. I finally caught back up to Rich, but by then my stomach was not feeling very well so I was just looking to finish the event. What I did not know was the hardest part of the race was just coming up. Sections like Blowout Mountain just kicked my butt. Team Seagal has a good post on the race and these trails. I ended up passing Rich on a climb and rode some of the harder sections by myself. I started to get some serious leg cramps and was having trouble keeping everything in my gut. In the beginning of the race I did not drink/eat enough and I tried to make up for it which was a mistake. Now my stomach was full of my drink mix and was not digesting very quickly. This was my second mistake of the day and I paid for it dearly over the last 20 miles of the event.
In the end I finished with a ride time of 5 hours 33 min and 34th place overall. I learned some lessons and feel I am ready for my next big challenge - The Cohutta 100. Rich did awesome and finished in 29th. Randy came in 53st and Mike finished in around 6 hours 15 min.