Way back in December when I didn't make the start list for Trans Iowa, I set my sights on the Trans North Georgia Adventure as a test to see if I was going to try to make a Tour Divide run. My friend and Tour Divide finisher Brett Simpson suggested it noting it contained 1/4 of the elevation gain of the TD route in less than 350 miles. Ouch! So I set my sights on it and started training and preparing. I registered and got on the start list.
Fast forward to August and I was on my way to Georgia on an ill advised road trip. I stopped halfway at my friend Jon's place in Lynchburg, VA, where he was studying at Liberty University, and spent the night after a 7 hour drive and pushed on in the morning. I drove from there down to Sycamore Cycles in North Carolina, where I picked up some maps and got some advice on some good loops in the Pisgah area.
I chatted with the guys there, and it definitely seemed like a pretty cool shop. They had a coffee shop built right in to the store there so I got an iced coffee and studied the maps I bought. I then rolled over to Dupont State Forest to do a short shakedown ride. I did about 10 miles up there and had a blast! The majority of what I rode were flow trails and double tracks. That place has some seriously good flow and I was pretty glad I stopped driving for a bit to take a break. I need to go back to that area and ride more on the Pisgah side as well now that I have some new friends from that area. The Pisgah side is much more gnarly and technical in character than flowy Dupont. I proposed a South East mountain bike road trip to some friends at the shop for later in the season when things slow down at the bike shop.
|A nice little log ride at Dupont SF|
Shortly after figuring out how to get the jeep situation sorted, I got all of my race essential gear packed, the bike loaded up with gear, threw it all in the trucks, and got in a van to be shuttled to the start where we camp out at a small campground in yurts. If you are unfamiliar with what a yurt is, it's a large circular semi-permanent tent. There were bunk beds for six people in mine and I shared my yurt with the crew from Texas, JP, and Monte. When we first arrived at the yurts, the bikes weren't there yet so we just sort of hung out by the yurts outside and shot the shit. Everyone sounded really well prepared and sounded like they did a bit more research on the course than me, some had attempted the race before. TNGA is not a race to be trifled with and as a rookie racer it can be intimidating hearing other racers with experience on the course talk about it. It is every bit as difficult as it sounds, and course conditions can conspire to make it harder still. I choose to put some of the horror stories I heard out of my mind and just hoped luck would be on my side and the weather would hold out.
The second shuttle van of racers arrived and shortly after the first wave of racers piled back into the van and we went to an Italian restaurant to grab a bite to eat. I ordered a pizza and sweet tea and down the hatch it went. I always eat pizza the night before any race. It's tradition, superstition, and science. I've never had a bad race when I have followed this habit so I was happy to be able to fulfill that desire. It was kind of crazy while we were there, the entire wait staff looked no older than 14. I guess they start'em young in Georgia
The bike trailer had arrived while we were gone. This was what we had all been waiting for, we all hurried to get out bikes and gear out of the trailer. From there we all hurried into our yurts and started unpacking and repacking our gear. We were all searching for things to cut from our final packed gear list. I tried to make some cuts, but everything remained mostly the same. Now that I have finished the race, there were a few things that I realize I didn't need at all that were fairly heavy, but for a first run I definitely caution against rolling out with too light of a pack. Here is my pack list:
Tools, Maintenance Items and Spares:
3mm L allen wrench
2.5mm L allen wrench
Torx T25 small L allen wrench from avid bleed kit
Pedro's Tulio Skewer
Park Tool Valve core remover
2x Single use Stan's No-Tubes Sealant bottles
Park Emergency Tire Boot
Small tube of super glue (double bagged)
Bottle of Rock and Roll Blue (Extreme) Chain Lube
Set of Semi-Metallic Brake Pads for Avid Elixer Brakes
2x SRAM 11 speed quick connect chain links
3 links of 11 speed chain
2 very small pieces of towel
half roll of electrical tape
10 zip ties
small Giant MTB pump
Shelter, Additional Clothing, Comfort Items:
RAB Survival Zone Light Bivvy
Klymit X-Lite sleeping pad
Endura baggy waterproof shorts (only outers)
Endura rain jacket
Tub of Eurostyle chamois cream (double bagged)
Contact case prefilled with fluid
Ground cloth, made from a cut down lumber wrap, light but bulky
Garmin eTrex 20
eTon BoostBloc 6000 (useless)
Cygolight Expillion 800 and extra battery
iPhone charging plug
mini USB Cable
Digital Tire pressure gauge
Hydration and Nutrition:
Full bottle of Endurolytes, repacked into ziploc bag
3L Bladder, Sawyer Mini water purification filter hooked up in line with drinking hose.
4 Honey Stinger Waffles
5 Shot Bloks
|after repacking in the yurt|
For the race I rode a custom build El Mariachi Titanium frame that I built up myself, including handbuilding the wheels. I ran a SRAM XO1 drivetrain with a 32 tooth chainring, Stan's Flow EX rims laced to Hope Pro 2 Evo Hubs with DT Swiss Revolution Spokes shod with Maxxis Ikon 2.35 EXO 3C TLR rubber, a Whisky Parts Co. #9 carbon rigid fork, Avid XX brakes, Thompson furniture, and a Brooks B17 Titanium rail Champion Select saddle.
For bags I used a custom made CraterPacks cuben fiber frame bag that weighed in at a mere 325g, big shout out to Rich out in Telluride, CO for making this awesome piece of gear for me. The gas tank and saddle bags were off the shelf models from that other famous bike packing bag maker formerly known as Epic. My rig ended up being bomb-proof throughout the race. I changed out my rear brake pad at Mulberry Gap, and that was the only thing I did besides lube the chain periodically. Zero mechanicals. I definitely put the bike through it's paces, as I received multiple comments from other racers that I was going to break something the way I was descending in the race. There were several occasions where a landed awkwardly or put my wheels to some severe stress descending rough technical terrain and they stayed dead on true the whole race. I was descending fast whenever I could and even had a little fun popping off of stuff occasionally and catching small amounts of air. I love these wheels, even if they are a little heavy.
Leading up to the race, I was averaging about 17 hours a week of riding time, going three weeks high volume, one week recovery. I rode my bike everywhere I could commuting on top of training rides at least 4 days a week. I definitely felt like I was prepared for the race as far as my fitness went. We don't have the climbing terrain that I was told to expect in Georgia so I did about half my training on a singlespeed set up on the El Mariachi Ti for leg strength and climbing. I really feel like the singlespeed riding paid off now that the race is concluded. Perhaps in the future I will start trying to tackle some of these ultraendurance races on a singlespeed. I think I might try a 100 milers next year just to see how it treats me.
My plan for the start of the race was to pack light and only carry enough water and food to make it to Dillard which is the first opportunity for resupply about 30 miles into the race. I dumped about 2/3's of the food I planned on starting with and only filled my bladder with about 1.5 liters of water. I repacked my travel bag with all my unneeded supplies and clothes that would go back to Mulberry Gap and hit the sack. The next morning would be the start of the greatest adventure I've had on two wheels so far!
Stay tuned for part 2!