TNGA 2020 – Confessions from a backwoods Florida rider

“COVID 2020” has been challenging in so many ways. My heart goes out to those who have passed away during this pandemic and a prayer of strength to those in harms way.

A part of me asked “should I ride while others are in crisis?” or “should I move forward in a time of need and help others?” To make matters worse – my daughter was scheduled for surgery on Thursday before the event. Take a deep breath. Those were the questions in my mind as I began to prepare for TNGA 2020.

The Tour Divide was canceled earlier this year during the peak of the virus. As well as many other racing events in the deep South. This left many racers looking for a big endurance event later in the summer – that was still open.

This years TNGA 2020 would be one to be remembered as Honcho and crew were able to stagger the starting times of racers and pull off another journey down the long wet green tunnel across the mountains of Georgia.

After wrestling with the idea of not racing… I decided to go all in 100%. Go big or go home. I had worked crazy hours all through the pandemic as an essential worker traveling from coast to coast – so my training miles we’re down. But I knew deep down what it took to finish with 5 previous back to back completions – so I got down to business to get it done.

The word got out that our local youth NICA bike team needed funding to get started – so now I had a reason to ride and help them get $$$ fir bikes and helmets.  We raised over $5,320 thanks to our awesome donors.

During the race there were lots of ups and downs both mentally and physically . I knew deep down that if I rode hard and finished – that there would be a payoff. This idea gave me extra strength when I was beginning to fatigue and enabled me to go the extra mile to finish the drill.

This was my 6th trip across this incredibly rugged course. 350 miles of tortuous off road and 45,000 feet of quad crushing elevation.  But deep down – I love this path of deep green forest, crushed rock gravel and gnarly single track. Every time I get near the end of the race – the wheels come off (literally). This course shows no mercy and will eat bikes and riders for lunch. In past years there have been multiple flats, busted rear hub, fatigue, mild trench foot… these had all been my nemesis over the years.

I knew that I needed luck, some sunshine and a tail wind to not melt down at the Coosa store (32 miles from the finish) as I had in previous years. After waking up in Dalton I felt good after picking my way through the babyhead rock gardens on top of Snake Creek. No broken bike parts. As the day progressed I knew that the only way to make it to the finish in under 4 days I would have to ride all night.

There were perfect temps – warm but not steamy. Everything was working – no issues. Time to put your head down and ride like your life depended on it. I know deep down that this effort was not all me. The biking gods were shining down on me as I felt as if a higher power had taken over. I really did not have that ability in me but somehow I continued to move forward to finish with a smile on my face. I would not melt down this year – I would push as hard as I could toward the end. Just under 4 days had been a major goal for me ever year. 3 days 23 hours and 31 minutes (only 29 minutes left on the clock). I still dont believe it as I write this in the comfort of my home.

What did I learn on this trip that was so different from the past 5 trips? That we all have a deep well of energy that allows us to tap into a higher power and do good things. I knew that from previous hardships but it was refreshing to re-learn this at the end of this race. I am grateful for being able to live and learn that on a great riding course.

By far the Wahoo Element exceeded all expectations. Honestly – I knew that I would break this fragile electronic device with my fumbling monkey hands. I am brutal on gear and can find a way to bend it break most any gear. I had my Garmin Etrex and Iphone loaded with the route as a backup just in case.
But day after day the Wahoo kept me on track and I think the screen layout is more visually appealing to my Neanderthal brain.

The funny thing is that the Garmin Etrex failed after day 1. The route just stopped at about mile 170 – which made me now dependent on the Wahoo. I later found out that the file I downloaded had over 10k points which will truncate the file when it gets to that final point. Next time I will load up a much smaller file.

There we no bending of metal and flesh on this trip for me. I am so grateful as this has been my bugaboo in past trips. At the Snake Creek watering spot I looked up to see Michael “Raschhole” Rasch limping down the hill. He had an endo coming down the gravel jeep trail and took a bad spill. I could tell by the look on his face this was not just a small bump. He said he was ok and believed he had a mild concussion. Turns out that he also broke his pinkie finger but was still able to finish the race. For most riders that would have been an easy out – an excuse to quit. But Rasch got it back together and soldiered on to finish.

I tried hard to stay out of the crash zone as I knew that could end any bid that I had for the finish. I had to stay upright to finish without massive delays.

We had a new cache charger hooked up and it all looked good to go (the red “on” light) worked pre-ride. I flipped it to “on” during the race and it was not working. I wanted to top off the battery on my Wahoo after we hit the Amish store and was not getting the red light. I fiddled with it a few more times that afternoon but no luck. My backup cache battery worked fine and so I used that as my backup method to charge the Wahoo on the fly. I will have this worked out for the upcoming Tally Tango on October 3rd.

Many thanks to the Great Bicycle Shop for keeping my bike running these past few years. I am very grateful to Stalwerx for building my custom frame that has served me so well on many big races in past years. Thanks to Trixie T. with Giro and for the Giro Terraduro shoes and helmet.

I am so grateful to friends, clients and others of like mind who stepped forward to help our youth get outside and on bikes.

Tally Youth NICA Bike Team Donors:
Tom Gaddis
Al Arauz
Kelly Beacher
Shane Anglin
Richard Charette
Amir Pishdad
Gail Vaughn
Andrew McCormick
Christine Read
Terry Dupriest
Jay Shepherd
Scott Robinson
Mike Coyle
Robert Turan
Deb Burr
Ivan Schlutz
David Shufflebotham
Erich Hauser
Bryan Swan
Ace Bogedain
Rich Southern
Sheyna Carroccio
Kokoro camper
Rose Kelley
Gary Foster
Bennie Henderson
Dennis Scott
William Rauton
Linda Culbreth
Scott Maclean
Barry Wilcox
Steven Fisher
Bailey Zimmerle
Mitch Bruhn
Charles Allen
Kimberly Biback
Rick Schmitt
Joe Jenkins
Pat Martin
Neil Heckman
Aubrey Nicklaus
Melvin Jones
Jason Ottinger
Joanna Southerland
Judy Zelznak
Jennifer Kilinski
Rick Hays
Kevin Deyo
Kim Murrell
Randall VanOss
Joe Wharton
Andy Roberts
Rose Kelley
Jimmy Card
Jeff Harrell
Lydia Hill
Dieter Franiok
Shawn Hermann
Mark Butsch
Ken Chaisson
Rick Zelznak
Laurence Mccullough
Brad McLeod
Bree Van Oss

Related Articles:
TNGA 2019 – Confessions from a backwoods Florida rider

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