Written by Scott Burrill Tuesday, 29 May 2018 00:00
On April 28th I traveled down to Tennessee to compete in the Big Frog 65 NUE Marathon Race. This is my second year competing at the event which I placed 1st in Masters and 13th overall at last year. Tread and I drove into the area in torrential downpours so we expected our pre-race ride to be fairly wet and it was. Luckily things tend to dry out fairly well in the Cherokee National Forest where the race course is laid out. The course is probably 60/40 fire road and single track and although there are no excessively long climbs; you are either going up or down for a majority of the race eventually accumulating around 7,500 feet of vertical.
Race day promised to start a bit warmer than last year at around 56 F. It starts on pavement and climbs a 2 mile or so hill before dropping into some seriously sweet roller coaster single-track so the name of the game is topping that hill in a good position so you don’t get log-jammed in the singletrack. I went harder on the climb this year and kept the lead pack in my sites the whole time, dropping the remaining mass behind me giving me a great position. The next 20 miles are all singletrack and fun however unfortunately, I had to stop at one point to adjust a loose flat kit under my seat and attend to other matters but got back on the trail in few minutes losing only 10 or so spots most of which I reclaimed later. After the sweet-sweet machine-cut single-track, you bust out onto 10+ miles of rolling fire road though the beautiful Cherokee forest. The fire road section involves a 4-5 mile climb on each side of it. It’s a matter of finding your pace and hopefully a good group to work with. I found myself primarily solo through a lot of this section - both ways. The course then does a huge 14 mile lollipop including around 9 miles of climbing broken into three big hills then its back down the fire road to return to the singletrack.
My friend Mr. Crampy came to visit me starting around mile 40 or so and as usual my power output took a hit but I’ve learned over the last year of racing marathon some management techniques for this problem First I incorporated a lot more standing on hills. I was able to carry my speed from downhills on the fire-roads into standing climbs on the ups which in the end not only gave my overtaxed sit muscles a rest but ended up being a lot faster. This approach kept the major muscle seizures at bay and got me back to the final 10 miles of singeltrack.
When I went through the final aid-station at mile 54, Ryan O’dell the race director told me I had at least one master ahead of me. Ok well then, it’s go time. I managed to pick off probably 4 or 5 more positions in that last 10 miles and finished strong but in the end I was beat by 13 minutes in the masters. Jeff Clayton, an Epic 100 Miles Masters winner from the 2016 NUE Series apparently has decided to run the Marathon class this year and so it would appear I have my work cut out for me.
I ended up with 2nd in Masters and 23rd overall. In the end I raced the course considerably faster than last year but the competition is up a notch or two.
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