I have recovered now. My body is mostly healed up. It is time now to come back out and play in the woods.
Have ya ever done a really long endurance event and you get towards the end and you say to yourself “Ya know.. I aint gonna do it this way anymore. No I am not. I will not. I tell ya. I am done.”
Discomfort creeps all deep down into your cartilage and bones. Muscles are as tight as Jimmie’s hat band and your hamstrings are feeling that extra burn.
It is then – in that exact moment – that you know you have reached a new level of enlightenment.
Well… I’m not gonna say I hit that precise point – but I was started to think about it a little. Mull it around in the back of my mind until I had to smash it with my personal fly-swatter.
Faraway in the mountains of Nikko (Japan) live a small group mountain monks known as the Yamabushi.
Every year they still make the annual winter trek to practice the age old tradition of Shugendo.
It is essentially a form of moving meditation in the forest and being subjected to harsh conditions.
Hmmm….. lets think about that. Endurance in Nature.
No thermostat, nix the comfy bed and forget about a sturdy roof.
The weather could be really nice and playground like… or it could be an awful hell with killer weather and rough as a cob terrain.
We found semblances of that throughout the CFITT 2017 (thanks to course setter Karlos “Naked Indian” Bernart).
Temps in the low 30’s, rain and rough winds were served up by Mother Nature to test the onslaught of riders.
The field was littered with oversized tires and bike packs full of extra fuel, warm clothes and minimalist shelter.
Check out the overall route map
Day 1 (138 miles):
A dip of the back bike tire at 08:00 am and we were off into light rain and 60’s temps with wind. The temps dropped as the day wore on.
Trails led us through multi-use and open scrub shrub forest.
I flashed back to a time as a young boy riding and exploring off Starmount drive. I saw myself again today doing the same with a grin on my face.
Rode throughout the day and finishing the Chuck Lennon trail at dark.
We pushed on through and luckily hit a convenience store about every 10 miles to refuel with hot coffee, ramen soup and pastries.
By 1:15 am we called it as the wind seemed to be picking up and we missed a short turn.
We had a great bivvy site (near Welaka) and the tent kept us warm
No problems with my sleep set up at all as temps appeared to be around low 30 and drier.
Judy (she was very prepared) had brought a Nemo Spike Tent 2P which helped knock down the wind and hold some heat.
Highlight of the day was seeing peacocks on the side of the road along with several sand hill cranes.
For sleeping I used a S.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvy with a Sea to Summit Reactor liner (look for reviews of these soon.
I did not use an insulated mat but instead used palm fronds as a flooring.
This worked pretty good as the ground was slightly moist due to rain earlier that day.
It was awesome to see Jeff “Honcho” Williams (TNGA organizer) out on course that evening. In his posse was a young 14 year old rider who ended up finishing the route. Inspiring as hell brother – high five!.
Quote of the day:
“The most interesting people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Interesting people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Day 2 (72 miles)
Woke up early and broke camp and headed up towards Palatka where we stopped at a convenience store and re-loaded with fuel.
Highlight of the morning was seeing Mud Springs – which was anything but dirty. It was crystal clear and you could see sand churning at the bottom along with large fish. Amazing.
On the “ghost trail” I got a little off course and got into some brush and broke my derraileur. Judy is a full on mechanic and she quickly had the derraileur off and the bike back running as a single speed.
Was really psyched to have Judy out there to help me because otherwise I would be walking to 88 store in the dark woods.
We made it to the 88 store after dark but in plenty of time to eat some microwave pizza and refuel. It was good to see Skinny Jimmy and K-Porter as they were leaving the 88. Hope y’all slept good in that cold.
We decided to try and ride to Santos and possibly make it by 12 or so. About an hour in, I began to fatigue while pedaling the single speed. My hands and feet also turned into ice cubes so I asked Judy if we could stop and camp and make a fire.
We had a roaring rire in minutes and were both warmed up temporarily.
That was short lived as now we began an attempt to sleep in 30 degree weather with a 30 degree bag.
It sounds like it should work and you should be all cozy. But with increasing moisture it really felt much colder than the night before.
I began shaking and trying to sleep and finally had enough and stumbled out of the tent to find another pair of socks.
Even though my teeth were chattering this proved to be a good move as the extra socks warmed me and allow me to sleep more and teeth chatter less.
I definitely learned a lesson (I posted them at bottom).
Day 3 (104 miles)
Woke up freezing and hurried to make a fire as soon as possible.
Small ice crystals on the bikes and fine needle plants. Dang.
Got warmed up after an hour of riding and before too long we were re-fueling at a convenience store and on to the Greenway bike shop.
Without any hesitation they jumped right on my bike and added a fresh derailleur and gave us the CFITT discount. We were back up and riding in as short a time as needed and on the way. We pedaled hard through Santos and were finishing up Tricycle trail as the sun set again on us.
My light began to fade on my helmet as well as my backup on my handlebar. My K-lite light and Son hub performed flawlessly as always. THanks to Shey Lender. I have used this setup on the Tally Tango, CFITT 2016, Huracan and TNGA races. Very dependable. I did get a little frustrated as I thought I had extra battery juice for my other lights. A note to myself not to be frustrated.
to quote Ralph Marston
“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.”
It did get colder on the third night but not quite as bad as before. We tried to make it to the last stop convenience store but missed them. Judy promptly made us ramen soup with broth and we refueled and got our bellies warm.
Last 20 plus miles we headed in towards the finish. Saw Larry Bennett on the trail and later on saw Ray “Sasquatch” Egan at the bridge. A quick front wheel dip in the gulf and we were done.
You can see our results and split times at each station on Trackleaders.com
Team: Brad McLeod/Judy Mendoza-Sanchez
Bike frame: Carver gnarvester
Bivvy/Bag: SOL bivvy and Sea to Summit 30 degree reactor liner.
Wheel set: Stan hugo rims with Maxxis chronicles and DT swiss hub in rear and SON hub in front.
Seat: WTB Rage seat. I just broke a Brooks carbon during the TNGA 2017 but the WTB seat is doing fine.
Rear seat bag: Revelate Visacha bag. It is a little too large for me and bike racing. If I was just bikepacking/ touring then it would be better with more room. The Revelate pika bag would be better for this past race.
Lights: K-lite with generator hub as main light. Had a Bontrager ion light on the handlebars and another light on helmet.
Don’t let your frustrations out for something that you know how to prevent and fix.
Gear I Needed (but did not have):
When temps drop to low 30s at night I will make sure to bring 2 pairs of smart wool high socks.
I also will bring a pair of toe/shoe covers depending on the weather and wind.
For sleeping I plan on bringing a pair of down booties.
My feet got really cold on the second night and if I can prevent that I will be much warmer.
Get a better battery system. I ran out of juice with my two Goal Zero batteries and needed extra juice for my lights and phone.
I am looking at the Outdoor Tech Kodiak Plus 2.0 – 10,000 mAh battery for the Huracan 2018 race.
When I was building the fire my lighter was failing. I need a better more dependable lighter for next time. I will also bring a few fire starter cubes as I want to be near a fire (or start a fire) for Huracan 2018,
I think I will pack a small amount of BCAA powder as a way to put clean fuel back into the fatigued muscles.
Overall it was great to ride with Judy as she showed she is a true warrior inside and kept pushing no matter what.
That is all you can do – is push forward – 1% daily…and work to make improvements.
Special Thanks to Matt Wilson and the Great Bicycle Shop.
TNGA 2016 notes: Confessions from a backwoods Florida rider
About the Author:
Brad McLeod lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
A perfect riding day for him is exploring new trails, meeting off the grid folks and getting lost (temporarily).
In the past years he has raised over $20k for Veterans and homeless teens.
TNGA 2016 writeup