Thursday, September 1, 2011

Off The Beaten Path

North Georgia Mountains

In just a couple days, I will be making about 240,000 pedal strokes through the Chattahoochee National Forest.  I have been waiting for this adventure ever since the inaugural event back on September 4, 2010.  This season has been centered around preparing for TNGA.  Countless hours of training, researching gear, reconnoitering, and going through dozens of "What if?" scenarios in my head. 

If you had asked me 2 years ago if I wanted to race hundreds of miles over gravel roads and trail, I would have said, "That's insane!  I hate gravel road racing!"  Fast forward to now and although single track is where my heart is, I have begun to enjoy those long gravel grunts upward to the sky.  The race is 350 miles with 60,000 feet of climbing.

There will be a lot of this terrain; fortunately most of it tree-covered.

The first half of this race is mostly gravel roads.  Some are really steep and with the drought have been chewed up by the vehicles.  It is will be slow going on some of these:  two pedal strokes forward, one pedal stroke backward.  It will be frustrating at times, and that is where it would be easy for my morale to splinter.  But I have a few mantras to keep me happy. 

The other morale boost for me will be receiving texts from my family.  Cell phones are allowed in this race and although service will be sketchy and usage limited by battery life, I will turn it on occasionally.  Carly got an iPod Touch for her birthday and we are both geeked up about communicating with each other.

Zeke is somewhere in that mess. 

Most of the course is open, but there are some sections that will require bush-whacking.  I am hoping the wild hogs do some trail maintenance on those sections.  Poison ivy and I don't get along very well.

A lot of single track in the last 1/3.

The last 120 miles will be brutal.  After pedaling 230 miles on a heavy-ass bike, eating convenience store food, and lifting 35+ pounds of bike/gear over numerous downed trees, I then get to contend with The Snake portion of the Pinhoti.  This is 34 miles of gnarly, rocky, and rooty single track that has 5500 feet of gain.  The Snake Creek Gap TT Series takes place on this section every January, February, and March.  Average finishing times for the race are between 4 and 7 hours.  And that is during daylight.  I am expecting to be riding a lot of this in the dark.  O happy, happy, joy, joy!

Back in March, this creek was a foot deep.
The other big obstacle will be finding water.  The western portion will be fine, but a lot of the creeks and small rivers on the eastern portion are dried up or just trickles at this point.  Daytime temps will soar into the 90's and night temps will drop to the mid-60's.

I will be riding my 2008 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR.  It weighs 24 pounds.  The gear on the bike weighs 12 pounds.  My Camelbak, with a full 70 ounce bladder weighs 5 pounds.  That is 41 pounds of bike and gear. 

Stumpy, aka The Yak!

My vision quest will begin at 8 am on Saturday, September 3.  My goal is to reach the GA/AL border on Monday afternoon.  I am only halfway towards my goal of raising $1000 for Trips For Kids-WNC, so if you could find some spare change in your vehicle or couch, I would greatly appreciate a small donation.  Just click here

Enjoy what the out of doors has to offer!
Thanks to all those who have supported me in my efforts this year:  Charlie, Carly, Moms, Dads, Zeke, Coach Lynda, and cycling friends.  You can track my progress here.

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