My 2011 racing schedule is finalized and got Coach's seal of approval. My big event will be the TNGA, the Trans North Georgia. This is a multi-day, self-supported/partially supported race across Georgia through the Chattahoochee National Forest. 350 miles and over 56,000 feet of climbing. 2010 was the inaugural event which took place over Labor Day weekend. 18 started and 12 survived.
I started my prep work for this event last week by riding sections 6, 7, and 8. Zeke was a big help as he is very familiar with this area. On Thursday, we shuttled my vehicle to Buddy Cove Gap and then started our adventure at Shallowford Bridge. Starting out in 24 degree weather was definitely not my cup of tea, but with layers and hand/toe warmers, I managed to stay warm as long as I was pedaling up.
It had been a couple years since I had last ridden the Aska trails. Stanley Gap is definitely more difficult going in this direction = lot of short hike a bikes. I expect that come race day, these trails will be ridden in the dark, so I hope to be able to come back at a later date and do a night ride.
Once off Stanley Gap, there is a lot of pavement/gravel road pedaling. I passed a lot of churches, but no outside spigots were available. I thought that was kind of unusual as in my neck of the woods, I have several churches I stop at to refill bottles on my road rides.
Close to the turn onto Bushy Head Road, I saw an automotive mechanic shop that had a hose bib. Hoping that will still be there in 10 months. Further on down the road, I saw the barn where Eddie had a couple hours of fitful sleep.
I was back in familiar territory when I hit Watson Gap. From there I rode part of the Cohutta 100 course, down to Jacks River Fields, then entered the South Fork Trail. Zeke had painted a bad picture of this trail as well as the most eastern section of the Pinhoti; think wet, sloppy, and horsed-up. Aside from just two muddy sections which we were able to skirt around, it was actually a very pleasant ride. When we came to the 15 foot long, foot deep creek crossing, we pondered for a few minutes. Seeing as how the air temp was only 37 degrees, we did not want any wet body parts. Zeke found a good line, neither of us bobbled, and we were dry upon exiting the other side. Whew!
The climb up the Pinhoti to FS 64 was slow and soft, but kept me warm. We ended our day with 6 hours on the bike and roughly 46 miles ridden.
On Friday, we shuttled my truck to Dalton and started our ride from Mulberry Gap. Up P3 to a brief pedal on Hwy 52, then on P4. This was my first time on this section. Let me tell you, it was a hoot. The funnest part was descending Tatum Lead. As I was flying down this section, all I could think was how fast I would really be going at this point in this race with a belly full of Ginni's finest cooking! Which then led to the thought of how hard the P3 climb was going to be on a belly full of Ginni's finest cooking.
Back on to the Pinhoti, this section of trail was really steep and loose. The leaves made it difficult to see what lay ahead so I took it nice and easy. Once it flattened out along Rock Creek, it was a beautiful ride to FS3. FS3 was a stark contrast to the previous trail, what with strewn beer cans and fast food trash.
A few more miles of gravel and then the remainder of the course was pavement into Dalton. Pretty uneventful once we found our way onto the correct road across 411. The cue sheet was a little confusing so I went up 411 instead of just crossing over it. Oh, well, that is why I am reconning.
Feeling a little frisky on the paved roads and trying not to get bored, I saw some road kill up ahead, a guinea fowl to be exact. Upon trying to bunny hop it, my rear wheel grazed the bird and I swore I heard the thing make a noise, a weak squawk! Being a fresh kill, I must have hit the thoracic area, forcing air out of the bird. Hilarious!
Airport Road was FOREVER so I can only imagine what it will feel like during the race. We ended our day at the Walnut Square Mall with 4 hours and 40 miles in the saddle.
So now I am familiar with Sections 6-9. Only 6 more sections and roughly 220 miles left to go!