TNGA 2017 Notes Confessions from a Backwoods Florida Rider

Photo: Starting off the TNGA race on the South Carolina/Georgia border with Ryan Kota and Ray Egan (Cycling Sasquatch).

The Trans North Georgia (TNGA) off road bike race is 350 miles with about 50,000 feet of climbing. It starts at the South Carolina line and traverse the mountains of north georgia through gravel roads, single track trail, rivers crossings and less than 20% asphalt.  It is an unsupported race so you have to carry your own food, tools and shelter as the race takes several days no matter if you are a pro elite rider.

It is considered a beast race – so like a moth to the flame I return again for another pilgrimage.

This was my biggest race of the year and my goal was to raise funds for wounded Veterans, beat my last years time of 4 days 13 hours and finish with a smile on my face no matter what happens.

My “WHY” to finish this race was very strong after last years bike malfunction (rear hub) left me walking the last 20 miles or so to the Alabama line. I am riding for Navy SEAL Veterans who have been injured in combat so there is no way I cannot finish and disgrace my brothers.

To prepare for this event I finished the Tally Tango 160, the CFITT 240, Huracan 300 and several training rides on the TNGA course.

My first day of the race all went well until I hit the 4×4 jeep trail on Trey Mountain. My seat rail snapped and I had to use straps to keep it intact and then ride standing up. I was in luck as Woodys bike shop was only a few miles up the road. After a stop there for an hour and a quick fix I was back on the bike and feeling good and heading up Hogpen gap at about 12 midnite. I finally made it to Vogel about 2:30 in the AM and slept on a picnic table.

I set my alarm for 7 and slept for about 4 hours in my rainjacket and an emergency blanket on my legs.

In my humble opinion this race really starts on Day 2. Everythings running great until you get punched in the mouth. How you respond says everything. So I look at Day 2 as Round 2 and I am positive that I will dominate the round and finish the drill as I claw my way to the finish.

Up the next morning and moving a little slow but nothing a cup of coffee wont cure. A hard start as we hit WolfPen gap but the reward was Coopers Creek gravel road which is one of my favorite on the TNGA route. Really felt good all day and wanted to push as far as I could. I ended up getting to Mulberry Gap and could not pass up on a bed and breakfast.

Up the next morning and hitting the P3 trail which is mostly up hill to P4. Physically I was at 70 percent but felt really good mentally – 100% laser target on that finish (with a smile on my face).

Photo: Just finished riding Darrell Mill single track before hitting the asphalt road heading west towards Dalton, Georgia.

I felt ok and just needed a cold drink and a sandwich as we were heading into Dalton as I rode with several other riders and resupplied.

One of the neatest events of my life happened in the next hour as I rode the highway and watched a full eclipse of the sun. Shadows formed and turned backwards. It was like living in a dream.

I resupplied one more time very quickly with a cold drink before I headed up the hill and to Snake Creek Gap. I felt good as I knew this course but also knew this part of the trail was considered to be a tough go.

I got a flat tire and now the battle begins.

HARDEST PART OF RACE:
Getting to within 3 miles of the end of Snake Creek and flatting and watching the sun go down as I repeatedly tried to repair. I still felt good physically and could have ridden that evening to midnite. So that was a bummer having to sleep in the bathroom at Snake Creek instead of riding hard into the night.

But I am prepared mentally for many set backs and obstacles. I will accept nothing less than finishing this race on my terms.

I ended up sleeping on the side of the trail that night.

Woke up and walked with bike to corner store to repair tire and resupply. I finally got back going for the last few miles but hit a rocky area and lost half my pressure. I was so close to the finish I started to walk and ride some on what seemed like 6 psi.

I made it to the finish at 4 days and 11 hours – and was two hours quicker than last year.

I ended up raising $1710 for the Navy SEAL Foundation to help wounded Veterans.

MISTAKES
I used a front tire without side wall protection (Panaracer fat be nimble) and paid the price as I flatted on the rocky Snake Creek trail.

LESSONS LEARNED
Bigggest lesson learned is to not just go straight to adding a tube when you flat out. Take the time to fix the hole in the tire (with bacon strips and duck tape) before you try a tube. I spent way too much time on the tubes but did finish in the end.

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TNGA 2016 tour and race notes