TNGA 2019 – Confessions from a Backwoods Florida Rider

They say that if you have a strong enough “why” then the how becomes irrelevant. My “WHY” is to raise awareness and funds for Veterans – so it is a guarantee lock – 100% that I will finish the race course with a smile on my face.

This course would be the Trans North Georgia Adventure (bike race). About 350 miles of single-track, gravel roads, jeep trail, lots of hike a bike and some asphalt to string it all together. Around 50k feet of elevation climbing – so that is like two Mount Everest in height from sea level.

This would be my 5th time across this stretch of forest and dirt. Although you may not want to count the first time I completed the course in reverse (starting in Alabama) in July. The Snake Creek portion (known for its lack of water was a real doozy in the warm Georgia sun :).

THE START
We had four of the local home town Tally Boyz at the start of the race. Chris Hudson, Andy Roberts, Mathew Wilson (finished last year) were all ready to give this boog-a-bear a go. I was nervous as usual so I fidget with my gear and tell bad jokes. Kinda like biting your finger nails – a worthless distraction.

GOOD PEOPLE
Many ask me why do you do this hard race? I like the challenge and to raise money for veterans. But I especially like the people that it attracts. Humble, down to earth riders that aint scared to go out on a limb and do something that scares them. It reminds me of my days in the military with the camaraderie and brotherhood helping each other.

LESSON LEARNED
Respect the course. You may be feeling great at the start – but day 2 is really when this race begins in my opinion. Anyone can go out and ride a hundy with a hot shower and comfy hotel bed waiting on them. When you ride 16 plus hours and sleep on the side of the trail (and eat your dinner out of a plastic bag) – that is at the core of this race.

Video – stopped at Mulberry Gap for resupply and clean up

BIKE
This is the second year in a row that I have ridden the Stalwerx custom frame. It is a steel frame to my dimensions built by Bryan Sweeney out of Fort Mill, South Carolina. The frame is bulletproof with WTB scraper rims and Maxxis Rekon 2.6 tires and a Carver rigid front fork.

Basically the same bike as last year but I have taken a little bit less gear. I left my tarp and heavier rain jacket at home in lieu of a lighter rain jacket and no tarp. I used a Mountain Laurel Design lightweight bivy with bug net and It worked great.

LOW SPOT
I could hear the thunder rumbling on Taylors Ridge (near Hwy 27 and Summerville) but chose to continue ahead. A first it was a sprinkle but then it built into a full fledged lighting storm. I was really hard to ride my bike as I could not see the trail – so I tried to hike slowly and keep moving. Getting completely soaked after a long day in the saddle sapped my spirit but I made it into the Summerville Hotel around midnite. This may be the worst hotel I have ever stayed in and my standards are pretty low from my military years. But I was able to get a hot shower and fell immediately to sleep.

Video coming off Taylors Ridge lightning storm and checking into the Summerville Hotel

#FINISHTHEDRILL
If your big enough to step up to the plate – then go ahead and embrace the grind and finish the drill. Just finished the hardest part of the ride coming off the mountain and into the valley heading towards Coosa, GA.

MENTAL VIBE
I felt really upbeat in general on the course and rarely fell down on my mental game. I dont come from a biking background. I don’t really consider myself a biker or bike racer. I only ride about 2k a year (check my Strava) – but I make up for that in spades by chaining myself to the squat rack in the gym. I do see myself as an “overcomer” – against all odds looking to defy the norm. For me – the TNGA race is 90% mental and I know that I will bring home a finish time after time by leaning heavily into my mental game.

I honestly felt like I had a big mental shift during this race. It all started back in May while riding the Vista 300. I had a lot of time to myself during that ride which always means many hours of reflection and self review. I knew that coming out of Vista I felt stronger mentally and had some really big goals that I wanted to knock out. That carried over as I ventured into the TNGA and I knew that it would all pay dividends down the road. Every day on TNGA was a mental building block that I would not trade for anything. A real soul journey as I got to dig down and see what was truly inside and how I could use that energy to my advantage.

I stopped counting miles and instead looked at the quality of my thoughts and how that effected the total experience. This became a soul journey for me to improve myself.

BEST EQUIPMENT
(second year in a row)

I cant ride or race without my Icebreaker merino wool briefs. That means no chamois to rub my ass and under carriage raw. Nothing fancy – just fast drying underwear is all that it is. I had read about this hot tip from Lael Wilcox and decided to try it out for myself. Boom – worked like a charm.

If you get chafed raw – then you may not finish the race. This eliminates that problem completely.

HELP VETERANS
That is my number one cause and it propels me to do things that I would not normally do.

Check out the post ride funds update

Related Articles:
TNGA 2018 Notes
TNGA 2017 Notes
TNGA 2016 Notes