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 was very important for me to finish this race 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 arent scared to go out on a limb and do something that pushes their comfort zone. It reminds me of my days in the military with the camaraderie and brotherhood helping each other. Year after year I come back and psyched to be around this uplifting crew of characters.

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. Getting out and riding a hundred miles in off the grid areas is hard enough. Waking up that second and third morning your body hurts. But you must push on and finish the drill. If you think you have this course in the bag – you will be reminded to be humble. The course will punish you with a lightning storm or a mechanical breakdown. Respect the course. Always.

Video – stopped at Mulberry Gap for resupply and clean up

Just wanted to say that Mulberry Gap was a welcome relief stop with great food and a hot shower. If your in north Georgia check out Mulberry Gap!

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.

This bike is rock solid and gets the job done on a tough course. 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. I still could not see the trail at times and had to stop and then hike really slow.

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 try to make up for that in spades with a honeybadger tenacity. The honeybadger does not care and will attack others 5x its size.

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.

I am very grateful for the Vista ride that started this recent series of mental uplifts. I am very thankful for the TNGA course this year to solidify these good positive mental thoughts.

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

SPONSORS
The Great Bicycle Shop
Stalwerx custom bike frames
GIRO (helmet and shoes)
Sockguy socks

TNGA 2019 Donors
A total of 64 donors $3456 raised for Navy SEAL Foundation. Thanks to our donors!
Lance Groom
Kevin Porter
Marcus
Anonymous
Fallen brothers
Jayesh Dave
Anonymous-In memory of Adam Brown
Joe Gunter- In memory of Murph, Ax, Danny, and their rescuers
Michael Coyle
Robert Akagi
Clint Fowler
M Brantley
Michael Evans
Mike Carpin
Alejandro Majorum
Anonymous
Ronald Wyncott-In Memory of Stanley A. Wyncott US Navy WWII
Richard Southern
Scott Moskowitz
Kokoro class 46
Anonymous
Chris Wickman
Jorge
Scott Hudson
The Old Master Chief
Ivan Schlutz
Anonymous
Shannon & Jennifer Rawlins
Andrew McCormick
Tom Leveen
Chirin
Coggins’ Family-In Memory of All The Great Warriors
Peter klamka
Erwin Valencia
LJ Sink-LaSalle – SOF Prep Class 002
CS
James Fleming MD-In memory of lost loved ones!
Patrick Barry
Joe Jenkins
Quietly in the Shadows-In memory of two shipmates I lost on a deployment
Jason Smith
Anonymous
Roger Godwin
K Kleinhelter
Gordon Geer
Linda and Gerald
Matt Winger
Anonymous
Terry Dupriest-In memory of my son, Lt. Cmdr. Robert (Robbie) Caldwell.
Scott Robinson
John Ed Cargile
Cindy Fox
Raymond Egan
Chris Judd
Todd Parks
Mitch Bruhn
Wilding -Hard is just an adjective
Ivan Schlutz
Anonymous
Anonymous
Michael A. Petrizzo, Jr.
Dieter Franiok
eric montgomery
STEVE FISHER
Jeffrey Naville

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