This is part 2 of what I’m now considering a 3 part series on this years TNGA. Check out Part 1 here –>Â http://www.bigpigracing.org/2014/09/tngapart1
So what am I once again doing up at this insane hour? Well, things needed to be done. And the TNGA wasnâ€™t going to complete itself. All of my gear was packed; bike, cold weather gear, food, multiple kits, (what seemed like) thousands of dollars worth of parts and tools, water, TrailLED lights, batteries, and a stomach full of nerves. Sure, I’ve spent hundreds of hours preparing for this race, but I still doubted myself while driving north out of Tallahassee. Of the stories Iâ€™ve heard about this race, none were pleasant. Most were actually about how riders cracked both mentally and physically. I heard stories about racers calling home and crying to loved ones, quitting after one day, and simply going insane in the wilderness.
I wasn’t even to the Georgia state line, and I was already playing over scenarios in my head. What happens if I get separated from Jeremy and Josh right from the start? What would happen if they drop me? Do I have a chance at dropping them at all? How strong was I, both mentally and physically? What was the weather like there? Was I going to get lost in the middle of nowhere with no signal? Iâ€™m not exactly Bear Grylls after all.
That last question had me thinking a lot actually, because I had problems uploading the GPS route to my Garmin before leaving for Georgia. However, thanks to an awesome mixture of Josh, Jeremy and Annette, I was supposed to have a pre-loaded Garmin at my disposal once I met up with them. Even with that in mind, I was still freaking out a little bit. Canâ€™t blame me for wanting everything to be perfect. Yeah, perfect, a word that describes TNGA almost too wellâ€¦ Except for the whole part where it doesn’t.
Iâ€™m slowly making my way closer and closer to Mulberry Gap (MG), which was a good 6 and a half hours from Tallahassee. Wanted to get there bynoonor so in order to meet up with the Oak Cliff Bicycle Company (OCBC) group and calm my nerves before hopping on the shuttle over to the yurts. As I reach about the hour mark, being about an hour away from MG, I get a phone call from Leslee. I have no idea what she could want, other than to see how close I am to reaching the destination. Thatâ€™s how the conversation started out anyway, and then it went in a completely different direction.
Apparently, JP (our Dallas comrade who rode the Tour Divide alongside Ray) was having difficulty with the organizers regarding his Spot Tracker. Not something as simple as it wasnâ€™t working, he didnâ€™t have one. And if he didnâ€™t come up with one out of nowhere before noon, they weren’t going to allow him to race. Thatâ€™s pretty crappy if I do say so myself. So back to the reason Leslee called me. At this point, I was actually holding onto a Spot Tracker that belonged to Ray, and I happened to have it with me, in my car. I passed this info on to Leslee, and she mentioned that she would let me know if they needed it. Apparently there was much going on to figure out the Spot Tracker deal, so I waited patiently and continued driving to Mulberry Gap.
As I reach the 5 mile mark, I get another call from Leslee, asking me to make sure that I have the Spot Tracker (because during the previous phone call I had mentioned that I was 99% sure it was with me). 100% is much MUCH better than 99%. I pulled off to the side of the road into some farmerâ€™s driveway and searched through my boxes. There it was, Rays Spot Tracker. I called Leslee back to notify her that we have an extra Spot Tracker for JP and everything was going to be fine.
Now I am at the 3 mile mark (3 minutes later) and get another phone call from Leslee. I think this time she just wants to say hi, how much she likes me and wants to talk about how much she enjoyed Judgement Day. To my surprise, none of those topics came up in conversation. But one thing that Leslee did need from me at this point was the serial number from the Tracker. I quickly unscrewed the back and read off the number to her. This happened at about 11:30, a half hour until the deadline. Another note, the closer you get to Mulberry Gap, the less cell signal you have. In other words, luck was on our side this time. That would be the last time that word is used in the next 4 days.
I finally made it to Mulberry Gap, and was immediately intimidated. Everyone I was looking at as I pulled in looked serious. Of course they were joking around and shooting the shit with each other, I mean serious in a GSD kind of way. (If you donâ€™t know what GSD means, Iâ€™m sorry). Everyone I saw seemed to be in their 30â€™s or 40â€™s, and some even 50â€™s and 60â€™s (maybe?). Those are the â€˜endurance agesâ€™. What the heck was I doing there at 27? Just as immediately as I felt intimidated, I felt like I didnâ€™t belong. All of these negative feelings, and I hadnâ€™t even parked my car. I think too much.
I get parked on the side of the looped parking lot at the top of the driveway right next to the Mulberry Gap barn (which will play a HUGE role later on in this adventure), and get out. Iâ€™m competitive by nature, so as I walk by the other racers Iâ€™m sizing them up, checking their bike setup and what gear theyâ€™re bringing with them. TNGA is not a race per se, but it is. I donâ€™t even know these guys, but all of this is happening in my head. Like I said, I think too much. As I made my way toward the MG house, I see a familiar face. Itâ€™s JP!
As I mentioned before, JP Evans rode with Ray during the Tour Divide and we both had the opportunity to speak at the memorial held for Ray earlier in the year. Well, I speak for myself; I spoke, JP sang and played the guitar. Back to the present, I gave JP a bear hug and told him I had a present for him in my car, also known as the Spot Tracker. He was thrilled to hear that it had been figured out, and I was thrilled that I was finally alongside someone who I knew and trusted. (There was no sizing up going on with JP, heâ€™s next level bad ass. If you donâ€™t believe me, Google â€˜tour divideâ€™).
We chat for a little bit, and my nerves get calmed. I then begin to walk around to the shuttle where all of the bikes and gear are being loaded up to listen in on the conversations taking place. From what Iâ€™m hearing, sounds like there are a good number of first timers and a few returning warriors looking to better their times. One person with a beard approached me and asked about someone on my team, Mike Frazier. â€œLooks like youâ€™re a Big Pig, do you know Mike Frazier?â€ Pssh.. Do I know Mike Frazier? Is that even a valid question? Of course I know Mike Frazier!
Frazier and I used to watch The Walking Dead every Sunday night that itâ€™s on at his place. This would seriously help me prepare for the crap-tastic work week that was ahead of me. We always began and ended the night with our secret bear hug. That nobody knows about. But anyway, the person asking was Sean Williamson, a great biker himself. We chatted for a few minutes, and I came to understand that he wasnâ€™t there to race, but to take some pictures and watch all of us suffer. Before I could get any real useful information about the race, I see yet another familiar sight. The Oak Cliff Bicycle Company caravan was driving up the hill! That meant my boys Josh and Jeremy were finally there!
To this day, I canâ€™t express how much seeing those two dudes got me pumped for this race. Now knowing the gang was together, it was time to get serious! I greeted them as they made their way back up the driveway after parking. Both seemed to be in good spirits, which was good to see. We continued talking about the race as we made our way over to the house to complete registration. It was at this point where I found out what would be in store for us the following morning.
What is that you might ask? Breakfast of course! When we worked out our registration, we found out we would have a wonderful spread the following morning of pretty much anything we wanted, just as long as they had it in stock. Pretty much, a peanut butter buffet; pick something out and Iâ€™m sure peanut butter would go great on it, especially right before a race. I continue to sign my life away, and then head back outside where the rest of the gang is.
One thing that I had forgotten on the way (and I noticed once I made it to Mulberry Gap) was that I had relatively no salty snacks. I had a whole mix of sweet, but no salty. One thing I learned the hard way was to never just buy what you are craving the day youâ€™re shopping. For an endurance race, your body is going to go through phases; many ugly phases. One hour you could crave potato chips, the next hour you want apple sauce, the next hour your stomach feels like it can only handle liquids, but the next few hours you crave a fast food cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake. Long story short; plan for every ugly phase that your stomach could go through. Does this mean bringing way more than you may potentially need? For someone with my stomach, yes. I bring this point up because I had contacted Annette about something salty. She along with the OCBC group did not disappoint, as I received multiple Baby Ruths, cashews, and wait for itâ€¦ a turtle hat.
Leslee even sang me a nice little turtle song. Did I mention she loves signing on the trails? Because I think itâ€™s appropriate to mention at this point in the story. One perfect instance of this was at the Johnson Branch 4 hour race this past summer. I, along with Josh and roughly 10 others mistakenly followed a group of racers in front of us onto the red section of the trail (more technical than one would like for an endurance race). After getting beat up for what seemed like 10 miles, we were back on the race course, and many minutes behind the competition. We were all dead tired and we were only about an hour and a half in. Just a little bit after that, I hear someone singing near me. It was (I think) a Modest Mouse song with lyrics changed to be â€˜racingâ€™ and â€˜bikeâ€™ related rather than what they were supposed to be (I have no idea what they are supposed to be in the first place, so I was enjoying the tune and slightly smiling on the inside because it was awesome to hear). Turns out it was Leslee, and the bad ass herself passed me and left me the dust!
So I have the salty gifts, turtle hat, and my bike is now being loaded onto the shuttle. Itâ€™s pretty bare, and everyone else has their gear already attached. Looks like Iâ€™m going to have a lot of work to do once we get to the yurts tonight.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
This is more or less how I viewed my bike compared to everyone else’s.
More things are said at this point that I seriously do not remember, mainly due to the fact that I was once again nervous. But I do remember trying to be a part of a conversation revolving around the upcoming race; gathering firsthand information and horror stories. Before we knew it, the leaders were calling for the racers to hop in the shuttle, as they were about to leave fairly soon for the starting line.
Our options were a large van, small van or truck. As Jeremy and JP jumped into the large van, I followed suit, and we collectively looked to save a seat for Josh (traveling in a group would be beneficial and also calm my nerves yet again). Josh gets in the van (after Leslee yells for him to get in before itâ€™s too late), and we all sit there for a few minutes while we wait for departure. Leslee jumps in from the side to take a few â€˜action shotsâ€™ of the group inside of the van. What I would come to find out over the next few hours in that van, this wasnâ€™t a group that was going to go down easy. These fellas came to tame the beast that is the TNGA.
Two guys that I happened to be sitting next to were Scott Sidener and Tristan Moss from South Carolina. Both of these riders were TNGA rookies, but they had practiced the week before on the first 70 miles of the course, smart move. This fact made me feel a tad bit better about myself and my chances. Come to find out, Scott was looking to attempt the TNGA on a single speed fat tire bike. Let me repeat that. The TNGA, 350 miles and 56,000 feet of elevation change, on one gear and a fat tire bike. Complete insanity. These two were great individuals, and we passed tactical notes back and forth as we made our way to the starting line. Of course, the real information was coming from those who had actually raced the TNGA before, Josh and Jeremy.
As I was talking with Scott, Tristan and others, weâ€™d occasionally look to Josh or Jeremy to verify or debunk something that we heard or said. What the start is like, limited water along the final 75 miles of trail, what gear everyone is bringing, among many other topics. It was almost an all-you-can-ask buffet once those inside the van realized they were sitting with two completely knowledgeable veterans. I had to grin at this point, because I had already picked the brains of these two dudes about most everything they were asking. It was amazing to be able to train with these two for the previous months, sometimes opportunities like that are more beneficial than you first realize.
So we are moving along at a good pace in the van looking to make it to our final destination in about an hour, when a passenger states that a restroom would be handy. Hmm.. Weâ€™re in the middle of nowhere, no public buildings for miles all around us. Someone in our van finally had the light bulb blink, as they recommended we just pull over to the side of the road. I mean, weâ€™re all guys after all, and even worse, weâ€™re all mountain bikers. So alongside a major roadway at this point in time, any passing vehicle would have been witness to 10+ guys spread out alongside the tree line like it was halftime at a football game. As funny as it sounds, I believe this moment was photographed (itâ€™s PG rated).
We continue to make our way to the east side of Georgia on this winding road, and the conversation is continuing to flow (no pun intended). We finally make it to Clayton, GA where we decide to make a snack stop before driving the rest of the 20-25 minutes to our bunks for the night. So we approach a grocery store and the majority of the riders head inside to grab some quick grub. Nothing too much though, as we planned on coming back for some dinner after settling in to our yurts. I grabbed a makeshift salad from the salad bar, and I believe Jeremy did as well. Regarding the other guys, I saw everything from whole subs, cookies and even muffins. Everyone is different. Me, Iâ€™m fairly nervous at this point, so I donâ€™t know what will stay down easily. We take a minute to eat outside of the store as the others finish shopping, and then hop back into the van to drive the final miles to our yurts.
I know I had been told multiple times in the recent days and even hours that the yurts are nothing more than a shelter with a ceiling fan and bunk beds. But I didnâ€™t get the full picture until we reached our final destination. There they were. Yurts. Shelters with beds. Awesome.
I picked out a key for the yurt that happened to be right in front of us, closest to the driveway; convenient. We went to unlock the door and claim our space. We being Josh, Jeremy, JP and I, the Dallas crew. We sat down momentarily and began thinking about our bikes and our gear, the two things that were still on the road with the shuttle. So basically we had nothing to do until later that night when the shuttle finally arrived. Great. Now I can just sit here and think about how I want to set up my bike, multiple times. Remember, I like to think a lot. Give me more down time at a time like this, and itâ€™s a recipe for insanity. We find ourselves sitting/laying outside of our yurt just talking straight mountain biking. Those within earshot begin to congregate around our circle, as we again have a couple of the best veterans around and talking about their experiences. At this point, Iâ€™m just laying down on the wooden walkway using a full Gatorade bottle as a pillow. Talk about being comfortable. Letâ€™s just say I was preparing myself for what was to come.
Finally, the van drivers decide to start gathering the guys together as they wanted to head out for dinner. Back to Clayton. We come across this nice Italian place (I believe called Mama Gâ€™s Italian Restaurant). Check it out if you have the chance, good stuff. About 15 of us roll in to this place like we owned it, and get the awkward stare from most of the people already seated. I mean, letâ€™s be honest, Iâ€™d be confused too if I saw a band of brothers walking in where no one looked alike and everyone was wearing some kind of weird shirt and socks. (We were all wearing shorts too, but you canâ€™t get all that weird with shorts).
We sit down at the special fireplace in the back corner (told you weâ€™re special), and again we all start to talk about mountain biking. This place it Italian (my favorite kind of food), so I get something that has never disappointed me; spaghetti and meatballs. Most everyone else gets a personal pizza. Which upon second thought was a very smart idea. Leftovers could be packaged into thin slices and easily packed for the TNGA. You think thatâ€™s disgusting? You have no idea. A slice of pizza could mean the difference between happiness and sadness on mile 50, so you just never know.
As we are eating, veteran Scott Thigpen is performing his recording duties; capturing our conversations and I believe filming us at times as well. (There was quite the joke that was said between the Dallas crew, and I believe thatâ€™s all that heard it. Hopefully anyway. If it was caught on camera/microphone, oh boy. All I remember is that it was a great joke, and we all laughed). Great story, I know. Then I found $20.
Itâ€™s getting later into the evening, and weâ€™re all about ready to head back to the van. Unfortunately, the walk into the restaurant was purely downhill, which means the walk back to the van was 100% uphill. Minor details, but these are things that I remember. And I remember this walk uphill not being one of my most fond memories of this entire trip. We pack into the van again and head back to our yurts for the final time.
Once we return, we notice that the shuttle had finally made its way to the yurts and they were already unloading the bikes along with the gear. Since my bike was bare, it was loaded on a rack on top of the truck. Since this was a rack I had never operated before, I spent a good 5 minutes trying to unlock my bike before I gave up and asked for assistance. Great start to the night!
I got my bike off of the rack and brought it along with my gear into our yurt. Now it was time to make final preparations. I casually looked over at what Josh and Jeremy were doing with their bikes as I started gearing mine up. We all swapped back and forth ideas, theories, strategies and again, stories. As we were loading up, we were greeted at the door by someone looking to find a space in a yurt. This fellow went by the name Monty Marshall. His name was Monty, but I would later find out that people called him Asa. Monty was a TNGA veteran, and was actually a partner to Josh during parts of last yearâ€™s TNGA. As soon as they both recognized each other, it was like reuniting two childhood friends. I was glad to see this; another friendly face and another valuable source of quality information.
I mention that much information was swapped during these late evening hours. To back up that claim, hereâ€™s an account from Josh:
Someone asked the group in the yurt if they planned on taking a sleeping bag
Somebody else: JP says heâ€™s not taking one
Jeremy: Well, I guess I wonâ€™t then either
Josh: Shit, you guys arenâ€™t taking them? Damn it. I want mine. Maybe I wonâ€™t bring it. JP, someone said youâ€™re not taking a sleeping bag?
JP: Oh yeah, Iâ€™m taking mine!
Jeremy: Guess Iâ€™ll bring mine too then
Josh: Thank gawd cuz I really want my sleeping bag. So weâ€™re taking sleeping bags then, right?
Kota: I donâ€™t have a sleeping bag 🙁Â Â (Thatâ€™s a real sad face)
This is how it goes throughout the evening, piece by piece, in a room of 6 guys trying to shed weight off of their already loaded 40+lb bike.
What some of you may not know is that the same conversation took place the year before with Josh, Jeremy and Ray. Except this time, Ray said â€˜no bagâ€™, and none of the three guys took sleeping bags. Unfortunately, this lead to both Josh and Jeremy freezing their asses off in a campground bathroom on a 40-something degree night.
Moral of story: every piece of equipment serves a purpose.
After all of the conversations died down, the bikes were nearly fully pieced together, and I was as confident in my choices as Iâ€™d ever be, I took a picture of it and sent it to Kevin Dunnahoo. He was asking what my setup was going to look like, so I tried to find signal somewhere on the church grounds.
I decided to go with no weight at all on my handlebars, something that gave me a bit of difficulty on my first trip. Instead, I loaded up my Viscacha (seat bag) with all of my tools, along with two emergency Gatorades that I collected throughout the day. In my frame bag, I carried even more tools, backup parts and the necessary tech pieces that would allow for me to charge my phone and GPS when I needed to. Finally my CamelBak was just that, my source of water, and the storage part carried all of the food I was taking on the race. Beef jerky, nuts, candy bars, snickers, Stinger waffles, Shot Blocks and Pro Bars. Basically, I didnâ€™t want to go hungry. I also was planning to carry two water bottles. Because I wasnâ€™t interested in drinking straight water for 3+ days, I brought some Scratch drink mix and added some of Jeremyâ€™s Raspberry flavored to my Lemon-Lime flavored powder. If you want to be picky, you signed up for the wrong race. I took what I could and made the most of it.
I put the finishing touches on my bike and moved onto my clothing options for the next 350 miles. I ultimately decided on my Big Pig camo bib and white jersey with the black Pig. I chose the bib because it has the best chamois. And if Iâ€™m going to be sitting on my saddle for hours on end, I want to be comfortable. To compliment my kit, I decided to go with my newly owned state of Texas socks, which I received from Della as a parting gift. They were perfect for the occasion! However, I realized just then that I had forgotten an important piece of equipment at home, my light windbreaker that doubles as a rain coat. Crap. I dug through my bag to double and triple check that I hadnâ€™t just misplaced it while packing. Still nothing.
So remember the veteran Monty? Well heâ€™s a talker, and he talked about strategy and past attempts most of the night. Coincidentally, we started talking about a windbreaker that he pulled out of his bag. It was exactly like the one I had at home! He followed that comment by saying I could have it for the race. I first declined saying that he needs it more than I do, but he insisted that he had multiple jackets for this race all ready to go. This was a huge boost to my morale.
But as soon as I got that boost, I was brought right back into panic-mode. I realized that the batteries I had for the Spot Tracker were the wrong kind. Thatâ€™s not something you want to be dealing with the night before a race. I went from yurt to yurt, asking people I didnâ€™t know if they had any appropriate batteries. At the second yurt I came to, a racer was getting ready and seemed to have a huge bag of batteries on him. I told him Iâ€™d pay him good money for 4 AAAâ€™s, and it was a done deal. I got back to my yurt, popped in the batteries, and was relieved again for just a moment. I say just a moment, because of course Iâ€™m a thinker, and now I had too much open space, silence and time to think about whatever else I was missing.
From what I could think of at this point, I wasnâ€™t missing anything else of importance. I will repeat, at this point.
The guys could probably tell I was nervous as I couldnâ€™t sit still. I walked over to the church house where a few people were still talking, just because. I got back to the yurts to notice that the boys were about to head off to bed for the night. It was then I realized that the start of the TNGA was less than 10 hours away. If I thought I was nervous before, I was kidding myself.
I sat back in the yurt, using my towel as a pillow and having no real blanket (Iâ€™m as smart as they come). I again began running through multiple scenarios, but stopped and told myself that I needed to sleep. The last planned time to sleep in a comfortable position in a controlled environment for a few days. I wanted to enjoy it.
That night, we all planned on getting up at 5 so we could eat at the peanut butter buffet and have time to relax while getting ready for the final countdown. I went with the boys over to the breakfast lounge and filled up on bagels, peanut butter, oatmeal and orange juice. It was so satisfying. But due to my nerves, I was careful with what I ate as I had no intentions of bringing it back up before we even started.
My bike got loaded onto the shuttle, along with my excess gear, and I was left with only my kit, my helmet, gloves, glasses and bandana. I hopped into the van with the Dallas crew, and we were about to depart for the starting line which was on the border of South Carolina and Georgia. If it wasnâ€™t go-time before, it was now. During the short ride I tried my best to zone out and look as serious as possible. Not to intimidate people, but to fake myself into thinking that I can do this.
We made it to the starting point, and there was already a large group of riders and supporters there getting ready and watching as we rolled in. I took a moment to unload my bike when able, and started the final preparations. That included making sure my tire pressure was correct (another item on the list of things talked about by the 6 dudes in a room). This was also the time to make sure my GPS and Spot Tracker were working correctly. It seemed as if both were, so I was happy for that fact. However, I was so nervous that I had to walk into (use) the forest twice in the half hour we were there. Itâ€™s a weird feeling. Iâ€™ve been nervous before for other races and baseball games, but never this nervous.
The organizer of this race, Derek Kozlowski (Koz) counted down the moments until registration closed, and then began with the racers meeting. Pretty basic information, but important nonetheless. Especially for us rookies. In the middle of the meeting, Koz passed the mic over to Jeremy, who took a few moments to pass along the word about Ray. Ray was the reason that the Dallas crew showed up this year to the TNGA. To carry the legacy that Ray built. Jeremy spoke well of Ray, and even those who never knew Ray felt the sincere heartfelt words that Jeremy put forth.
After the meeting concluded, we were given a 10 minute warning. 10 minutes until it all starts. 9 minutes until the hardest race Iâ€™ve ever been a part of. At this point, we gather the Dallas crew together to take a picture of â€˜before the destructionâ€™. This would be the only picture with all 4 of us smiling and in good spirits for quite some time.
Left to right: Myself, Jeremy, JP, Josh
5 minutes until itâ€™s me vs. the wilderness. 4 minutes until itâ€™s me vs. 350 miles of unrelenting terrain and elevation change. 3 minutes until I literally make a mess in my kit. 2 minutes until most all communication is cut off for 3+ days. Now weâ€™re beginning to line up on the Chattooga River Bridge that divides South Carolina and Georgia. 1 minute until all of my training goes through the window and the real test begins. 30 secondsâ€¦ 5â€¦4â€¦3â€¦2â€¦1â€¦ Screw it, here goes nothing. I clip in, smile at civilization as I pass the last observers on the bridge, and forget about everything that I was once nervous about. Iâ€™m not nervous anymore, Iâ€™m just doing what Iâ€™ve been doing all along; riding my bicycle.
So I begin to pedal just like everyone else, and realize Iâ€™m getting dropped fast by those with â€˜big ringsâ€™ on the flatter sections of pavement we started on. But why? Well, that would all be thanks to a series of conversations that started at a DORBA meeting earlier in the year. At the DORBA board meeting that was held at the Community Brewery (good place for you Dallas folk, check it out), I ran into Josh and Jeremy. At this point in time, I was just beginning to feel out their minds for information regarding TNGA. One topic that came up had to do with gear ratios.
For those who donâ€™t speak â€˜bikeâ€™, gears come in sets, with the first number representing the number of teeth on the chain ring up front and the second number representing the number of teeth on the cog in the rear. In the simplest of terms, up front, more teeth = harder to pedal. In the rear, more teeth = easier to pedal. So basically 32×18 is harder to pedal than a 32×21. With as much climbing as weâ€™d be doing, any sane person would choose to have a smaller chain ring and larger cogs to work with.
Back to the conversation. Both Josh and Jeremy talked about how they had their gears set up in previous years. Jeremy had first used a 2x (two size options) up front and is now thinking of going 3x. Josh is definitely thinking about going 3x. Me on the other hand, knowing that we have to perform our own maintenance, am a little stuck on the idea of going 1x up front. Easy maintenance and it can be done. The only problem with this would be the size range of my rear cogs. I had the original 36 tooth cog in the rear as my largest, and according to calculations done by Josh and Jeremy, I would need something much larger. That is where Matt Malone came in. He overheard us talking about the gear ratios and threw in his idea about the WolfTooth 42 tooth Big Cog. With a 30 tooth chain ring up front, this could be doable. We continue the conversation, each giving our recommendations and preferences, and months later I end up purchasing both a 42T cog along with a 30T chain ring, both from WolfTooth. A purchase made solely for this race, but it was much needed.
So the race has started, and Iâ€™m feeling pretty good other than the fact that Iâ€™m being dropped. No worries though, I have the right gear ratio to get myself up all of the nasty hills (mountains). We continue along the pavement for a few miles, going slightly up and downhill for moments at a time, but nothing noteworthy. I fall behind Josh and Jeremy, but I can still see them both up ahead. Pavement turns into gravel, and Iâ€™m sensing the first real climb is up ahead. Sure enough, here we go, time to test out the gear for the very first time.
As this is the first climb in the race, and it being relatively early on, there is a line of individuals attempting to pedal up this hill. Some have already experienced a mechanical issue and are dealing with it on the side of the road, some are choosing to walk their bikes already, and some are breathing heavily as I pedal by in my semi-granny gear. I lose track of Jeremy, heâ€™s either too far ahead or around the bend in the road, but I can see what looks like Josh and his bike. I donâ€™t want to say I was nervous, but I was. It was time to race, and I wasnâ€™t sure how the other two guys were feeling or what their plans were. (Of course we talked about strategy the days leading up to this, but that can always fall apart once the starting gun goes off). I did what I could to keep Josh in sight without blowing myself up. Before I knew it, I could again see Jeremy, and Josh was just a few feet ahead of me. Nervous no more.
We reach a small plateau in the middle of the climb, and we notice Scott and Tristan sitting down enjoying a snack. We make sure theyâ€™re alright, and continue on. A little further up the climb, we decide to stop for a few minutes to grab a bite to eat. During the short break, we watch as Scott and Tristan pedal on past us. This would happen one more time each during this initial set of climbs. During our next stop â€“ before what Josh called a huge climb â€“ we all dipped our hands into mommyâ€™s medicine cabinet and took some pain pills. My right calf was starting to feel a little abnormal, and the other boys were having minor issues of their own. Better to face the pain up front than have it lingering and getting worse.
Josh, a veteran of the TNGA was indeed preparing himself for what was to come in his own way. Here is his view on the necessities of pain pills:
This is the point in the race where I start taking ibuprofen. In any race like this I start about half way through day 1, and continue about every 4 hours till the finish. Because after half way through day 1 everything is starting to hurt and it’s not going to stop. May as well stay on top of any inflammation. It’s still fun though.Â
Half a day down. Much more to go.
We were all happy to notice that there was no huge climb ahead of us, at least as close as Josh had mentioned. Relieved momentarily. We continue down the gravel path and slowly get closer to a place that the boys have no fond memories of; the Darnell Creek Horse Trail. From what I was told, this trail had to be walked in previous years. Only thanks to Koz and a group of mountain bikers were we able to bike it this year. That is, if you consider what we did on the trail, â€˜bikingâ€™.
The Darnell Creek Horse Trail was nothing short of a crap fest. Literally and figuratively. At this point in the day I was still wearing my sunglasses, which was not a smart idea if I do say so myself. This trail was nothing but extremely loose gravel, dirt, mud, creek crossings, dirt piles dense brush, and yes, you guessed it; horse surprises. The ONLY, and I mean ONLY good thing about this trail is that it was mostly downhill. Downhill, something that I cannot do as gracefully as Josh or Jeremy, so naturally I was falling behind. That wouldnâ€™t normally be an issue, but I had extreme difficulty trying to see anything ahead of me, let alone what was about to smack me in the face. Again, thanks to my sunglasses. I gathered some courage, increased my downhill speed, and went for it. I figure Iâ€™d rather crash than lose sight of the boys. And crash I did, right into a dirt pile thankfully. After this, I decided to fold my glasses up and hold onto them with my teeth until we got out of this mess.
The trail was still crappy in my mind until the very end, but I finally made it to the end where I could see both of the guys waiting for me. Ok, that was awesome, canâ€™t wait to do more! We made our way off of the trail and onto pavement. I remember this was about mile 30 or so (yeah, weâ€™re only 30 miles in at this point); because I constantly looked down at my GPS as we were coming up to the peak of a hill on this road. Why? Photographer Scott, Sean and a few others were standing there at the top taking action shots of those pedaling by. I also remember the mileage because we spent a good 5 minutes trying to figure out how to take this picture without stopping.
This is the point where we start noticing how majestic nature really is. We didnâ€™t have the time to stop and take pictures (technically we did, but thatâ€™s not what this TNGA was all about), but all I can say is that the scenery was amazing. Iâ€™ve never seen green-covered mountains like these. A quote sums it all up.
Jeremy: This is what itâ€™s all about boysâ€¦
And it really was. I spent half of the time being mesmerized by the mountains, and the other half just daydreaming. Thereâ€™s nothing like this over in Dallas, so I tried to take in as much as I could.
We reached a part of the route that crossed a widely used roadway. Sitting right next to the roadway was a post office that Jeremy had mentioned should have water. We all could use a good splash of water on our faces at the very least after what we just went through, so weâ€™re all planning to stop. Weâ€™re pacing with another racer as we near the post office, so we let him know what our intentions are. He however declines, stating that heâ€™s all set with his water. Fair enough, we were just looking to help out a fellow rider. We stop at the post office and notice a pile of hoses out back. We park our bikes, grab our water bottles, and fill up. I decide to follow the lead and pour some water on my head to cool down a little. It was the first real refreshing part of the TNGA, so it raised my spirits slightly. Bring on the next part!
For the next few hours, we were spending our time slowly climbing up horrendous hills (or at least horrendous from my perspective of only seeing what I have so far). Constantly thinking about the climbing wasnâ€™t something I enjoyed; it got old after the initial climb soon after the start. Since that point, I began singing to myself, in my own head. For me at least, this was how I was going to take my mind off of the constant pedal strokes, coming around a corner and seeing another steep incline, and to help fight off the desire to just fall off my bike and rest. For the entire first day, I spent a large majority of my time during the climbs singing three words in my head over and over and over and over again. Those three words were â€˜this means warâ€™.
Iâ€™ve enjoyed listening to music throughout my entire life. Something Iâ€™ve noticed about myself is if I listen to a certain song, I will think of the time period in which I listened to it most. So for instance, the Beastie Boys – License to Ill and Rage Against the Machine – Battle of Los Angeles albums would make me think back to high school. Funny side note:Â Kid Rocks â€˜Bawitabaâ€™ always makes me think of 6th grade when my classmate Travis was the first to know the proper lyrics to the chorus and tried to teach it to all of the guys. Bon Joviâ€™s â€˜Sheâ€™s a Little Runawayâ€™ brings me back to my early years when my dad would bring me to Buffalo Sabres hockey games at the old Buffalo Auditorium. Anything off of the early Avenged Sevenfold â€“ City of Evil album would bring me back to my days at Jamestown Community College. Oh the glory years. Back to the present, there were newer songs that made me think of more recent happenings. One of these actually happened to be associated with Ray. When Ray was first diagnosed, a new song started playing on the local rock station in Dallas. It was Pearl Jam â€“ Sirens. Now, Iâ€™m not usually a fan of Pearl Jam or Eddie Vedder for that matter, but this one song of theirs caught my attention for some reason. I still hear the song being played every now and then.
Back to current times, and here I am saying â€˜this means warâ€™ in my head repeatedly. Yes, I in fact wanted to go to war with each and every climb. But thatâ€™s not the reason for me singing it to myself. It was the 3 word chorus to one of my favorite bands newest songs that was being played on the radio quite often. The artist: Avenged Sevenfold, the song: This Means War. The entire song is over 4 minutes and I love every bit of it, but these were the only 3 words that needed repeating. It was quite fitting actually.
As we worked our way up and down the mountains, Jeremy had other things on his mind. From the very beginning, we noticed that his Dynamo light (powered by the friction in the hub) was acting a little funky. At first, we noticed it looked to be on when it wasnâ€™t supposed to be. Then a little bit later we noticed that it wasnâ€™t storing the energy like it should be. Hmm. Interesting. Well itâ€™s still daylight, so weâ€™re not too worried about this fact. Yetâ€¦
We again find ourselves working our way up a mountain on gravel. Further and further away from civilization; at least thatâ€™s what we thought. We see a stream up ahead in the distance, and decide that it wouldnâ€™t be a bad time to stop, cool ourselves down in the water and grab a quick bite to eat. As we approached the stream, we heard multiple gun shots. Not gun shots in the distance, gun shots that sounded to come from a gun less than 50 yards from our location.
As soon as the three of us heard the shots, we all knowingly jumped off of our bikes and got as low as we could without laying on the actual ground. (I canâ€™t speak for Josh in this instance, because I was concentrating purely in the direction the shots were coming from. Josh was behind me at this point, but I assume he got down low as well). Jeremy being in front turned to both of us and asked if we were both ok before turning back in the direction which the shots came from to yell out that we were bikers just looking to ride on the trail.
Jeremy again shouted in their general direction the same thing; weâ€™re just bikers looking to ride through!
Again, no responseâ€¦ Verbally anyway.
We heard a couple more gun shots go off, and we again quickly duck our heads, as if to aid in our chances of not being hit. Great, how it this going to play out? Weâ€™re in the Georgia boonies up against either some redneck country folk or seasoned hunters, and we are unfortunate sitting ducks with the bright colors of our kits easily spotted from a distance. We decided after a few moments to slowly move forward towards the creek. Silence. The kind of silence that we werenâ€™t comfortable hearing given the situation. Were we being slowly stalked? Had they/him/her lost us? Again, silence = too much thinking for me. Not good.
We make it to the water and decide to lay our bikes down on the other side of the creek after crossing it. Itâ€™s relatively shallow, so no significant carrying was necessary. After laying our bikes down, we decide to take our chances and just go for it. So we do, and walk straight into the creek, dipping whatever body part we think needs a little refreshing into the running water as we watch and listen to our surroundings. Nothing is happening. I guess thatâ€™s as good of a sign than any other at this point.
It had been at least 5 minutes at the time when we start to refresh ourselves in the stream, so weâ€™re starting to collectively feel better about our situation and getting out of their with our lives. Just then, we notice a fellow TNGA rider approaching from the distance. We shout for him to be careful, as we heard gunshots near our location. However, he doesnâ€™t seem phased by this information. Well ok, we tried to help. Iâ€™m not going to repeat myself.
This rider passes us, tells us good luck (yeah, good luck to you too buddy, donâ€™t get shot out there), and pushes onward. But before he gets out of sight, he turns around and tells us that thereâ€™s a gun range right next to the trail up ahead.
We pick up our man cards, bikes, gear, and continue on. Once again, we reach the edge of the forest and get dropped onto a nice paved road (this is a reoccurring theme; dirt, mud, water, mud, dirt, gravel, boulders, yay pavement! Forest, dirt, gravel, up that gravel, dirt, mud, yay pavement!)
We continue along, and as we hit the peak of one of the following hills, Jeremy states that there is a shop/bar/restaurant on a dock right in front of us. Well, not literally in front of us, as itâ€™s a couple miles away and off of the path. But itâ€™s a shop that has hot food, beverages, chairs, and people. We all decide that it wouldnâ€™t be a bad idea to take a 20-30 minute break and grab a quick bite, relax and more than likely down a caffeinated beverage.
We make it to the dock and I immediately sense all of the eyes on us as we roll in and lay our gear down. We park alongside a fellow biker on the patio and ask him how heâ€™s doing. Alex may have been his name? Heâ€™s all alone, decently muddy, but all smiles. He finishes his french fries and heads out as we walk into the store in search of something delicious. Jeremy decides to order some pretzel bites with a honey mustard dip, and Josh and I grab a Coke. We also use this time to charge our devices as their patio had multiple electrical outlets.
Up to this point, I was having difficulty with my Spot Tracker. Everyone that was trying to follow me online was unable because my unit wasnâ€™t communicating properly with the satellites (or whatever happens that causes them not to work). Jeremy and I were in the same position, so we were powering our units off and on every time we stopped to see if the re-boot would do anything. Jeremy eventually had success, but I was still not showing up on the maps. I first found out about this when Leslee posted on Facebook saying that they were following Josh, but were not able to find my Spot Tracker on the map.
Because I knew Leslee was following our progress every minute that she could, I got out my phone while we were stopped and called her. We first talked about my GPS and how the power was draining from it fast, and then got onto the topic of my Spot Tracker. I also conveyed to her that we were all doing great, and were just stopped shortly for a snack break. The conversation was quick, but it was nice to hear her voice.
The pretzel bites were good, but they were gone fast. Just like the Cokes. We unplugged our devices, put our wet, sweaty gear back on, and moved forward. It was slightly uphill to get back to the intersection where we went off of the designated trail, but it didnâ€™t matter to me; the small deviation was well worth it. We are back on the right path, and itâ€™s a grassy, dirt path. As we make our way off of the grass, dirt and gravel and onto pavement, Jeremy remembers the road section that weâ€™re on and recalls stopping at a house nearby last year to get some water from their hose.
One thing I learned about Jeremy throughout the months leading up to the TNGA and during the race itself is that he has a tremendous directional memory. This was not the only instance when it came in handy, but it amazed me nonetheless. We pulled up to the end of the driveway of a house that Jeremy said he collected water from last year. Itâ€™s about 5-6 in the evening at this point, so Josh takes this break to get his light out of his gear bag and situate it on his helmet. I didnâ€™t have to do this, as I decided to keep it there the entire race. Personal preference I guess you could say.
Jeremy notes that from this point, there will be no chance for water until we reach Woodyâ€™s bike shop. This is quite a ways away, so I take time to check my water bottles and CamelBak. Iâ€™m feeling confident in the amount of water that I have plus my two emergency Gatorades that I packed, so I decide not to get water. I do however walk up to the house with Jeremy as he approaches the front door. He knocks once, twice, no answer. We look through the window; no one seems to be home. We want water, so we decide that using his hose wonâ€™t be an issue. Bottles are filled, we walk away, and everybody wins.
We return to Josh and our bikes at the edge of the driveway to notice that Josh doesnâ€™t have his light on top of his helmet. I ask why, and he says he wants to do it later when itâ€™s closer to dark. Alright. We pack up our gear again and head straight for the next big climb, which was right in front of us. This climb was all gravel and was beating me up. Weâ€™re about 10 hours into the race, and this hill is starting to get to me. Not only was it annoying because it was steep; I knew that going into it. I was annoyed because it had so many twists and turns as it went up. Every time I came around a corner, I hoped to see the trail flatten out. That didnâ€™t happen the first time, the second time, the third time, and so on.
Letâ€™s pick up the action at about the 10th instance of this false hope. Itâ€™s starting to get dark at this point, so I begin to put my XXX on low, a setting Iâ€™d be able to hold for over 20 hours thanks to TrailLED, Grady, and his skills. I picked the XXX from the TrailLED lineup because I needed something I could rely on, was very lightweight and would last long. At this point, Jeremy was fooling around with his Dynamo hub, which didnâ€™t seem to be cooperating. We werenâ€™t necessarily worried before dark, but now that itâ€™s getting to the point of needing a light weâ€™re beginning to worry. Josh also hadnâ€™t put his light on yet, so we looked for a level plateau to stop, eat and gear up on.
Finally weâ€™re to the top of this massively annoying mountain, now we get to start going down. But before we do, we were stopping to take care of our own individual needs. Jeremy had to deal with his Dynamo, Josh had to put his light on, and I had to eat something. We needed this break to refresh ourselves and prepare for what was ahead of us. As we all sit there doing our own little thing, Josh and Jeremy both mention that we havenâ€™t even started the climbing yet. Wait, what?! I somewhat argued the point, saying that we had already climbed for the number of miles they had mentioned earlier. Someone replied by saying: â€˜Oh yeah, thatâ€™s the mileage for the first part. Now weâ€™ll go down slightly and then climb completely out of the mountain range.â€™ Fan-flippin-tastic. My positive attitude starts going out the window. On the inside only though (I think), I didnâ€™t want to boys to know that the facts they just laid out just drained me emotionally. Physically Iâ€™m feeling fresh as ever, I could pedal the rest of the night just as long as I had my tunes that I could sing to myself. But mentally, I was being tested.
This emotional drain lasted for mere seconds, as I thought back to the only question that mattered: What would Ray do? Ray would sack it up, climb out of this range like a boss and bomb it downhill all the way to Woodyâ€™s without looking back or thinking twice.
Just as quickly as that question crossed my mind, I had some words with myself, slapped my own face, and put my game face on. No mountain is going to tell me how to feel. I own this mountain.
We packed up and decided to move onward. By this point, we were subtly pacing with a pretty cool chick. We had been going back and forth with the only female single speed rider in the race this year, Eleanor. Eleanor was very nice, and she paced with us for a while during the climbs. We all took time to chat with her and keep her spirits up as we pushed along, although it didnâ€™t seem like she needed any cheering up, she was naturally good-spirited. She fit in well with us Dallas boys, and I think we were all happy to have someone else to talk to for just a little while.
We continued climbing, and it was becoming more and more difficult to see exactly where Jeremy was. His Dynamo hub was not working, and it was now the time of night where light was needed. Josh and I decided to fall in line behind him on climbs to shine the way. We finally saw what we thought was the peak of the mountain and were presented with a web of trails. Do we go straight, left, right, right-center? What do the GPS and field notes say? We think itâ€™s to the right, so thatâ€™s where we start. Eleanor is with us at this point, so if we get lost, all 4 of us are in it together. We go right, up a slight incline and reach another peak where we notice a pickup truck. Thatâ€™s odd. Jeremy rides up to and past the truck, and immediately comes back to say that this isnâ€™t the right way. As heâ€™s saying that, a couple comes out from behind the truck and tells us that other bikers have come up this way only to turn around and go back down. I donâ€™t know what was going on behind that truck, but I do know that I wanted to turn around and leave.
As we get back to the web of trails, we take right-center, which we think is now the correct way. And it is, thank goodness. This was the portion of the trail that Josh had said to be careful on, and we stopped before descending to go over the safety once again. This upcoming portion was all downhill with surprise boulders, large ruts, and huge dips in the trail; all of which can end your race if you donâ€™t see the obstacle or hit it in slightly at the wrong angle/speed. This put me a little on edge because as I mentioned before, Iâ€™m not the most graceful downhill rider. Jeremy was off and running with the limited light that he had, while I picked up my cajones, let off the brakes, and followed the line Josh blazed to the best of my ability.
With my eyesight as bad as it is, especially at night with the wind in my face, I was trying to follow Josh as perfectly as I could. As I mentioned before, one wrong move could mean the end of my TNGA adventure. I put all of my trust in Josh because of his prior experience with this section. He didnâ€™t speak well of it, but he was indeed very knowledgeable; thatâ€™s what mattered to me. Hereâ€™s how Josh viewed the dangerous downhill section:
This is a narrow, steep, ledge-y, and un-maintained trail. It’s really not all that fun to ride with a load on your bike, and I’m not sure it would be fun even without. But the most interesting thing was that on this narrow technical trail there were bowling ball sized boulders everywhere. They were loose and just sitting on top of the trail which had me wondering why the people who use this trail just leave them sitting there. After the race it was explained to us that the bears in the area dig these rocks up to get at the bugs underneath and they roll down the mountain where some of them come to rest on the bench cut.Â
Yes, you heard right. Bears. Now, my nickname in DFW may be Bear related, but I have no family or friends in the Georgia woods.
We sped down the dangerous hill at speeds that sometime had me questioning my sanity, passing boulder after boulder and staring at giant dips in the trail as we go by. I donâ€™t have time to see most of what we are passing, so I continue to concentrate on the line in front of me and hope to reach the bottom soon. The bottom is near, and we come across a stopped Jeremy. He fell a few times on his way down the hill, and is now asking to ride between Josh and I so he has light in front and light from the rear. It will be a team effort getting out of the forest tonight.
As the four of us push along the edge of the mountain, things are finally starting to calm down. Our dangerous descent is over, now all we have to do is pedal our way through the rest of this forest. After the forest I was told that weâ€™d be hitting the road, and following it to Woodyâ€™s bike shop for some delicious pizza, drinks, and a hose to clean our bikes!
Be very skeptical when I use the world calm, because it is always followed with something horrible. So what happened this time you might ask? I ran over a thorn and my rear tire started spitting sealant everywhere. Well thatâ€™s unfortunate, but I should have seen in coming. We find a nice clearing, pull over and begin the tire swap. What was once tubless is now going to be tubed. I pull out a tube from deep within my Viscacha, and we go to work. The tire is fixed before we know it, but a couple things happened in that short time period. 1) Eleanor took off and pushed on to Woodyâ€™s and 2) I noticed that one of my Gatorade bottles in my Viscacha wasnâ€™t fully sealed for some reason, although I hadnâ€™t made an attempt to open it to this point. Either way, there was nothing I could do about it now; the inside of my Viscacha was nice and sticky. It smelled good though, I like the orange flavor.
We pushed on as a team, and finally made it to the road. I was relieved as this meant we were mere miles away from civilization and friendly faces. But more importantly, hot food. We finally reached a bunch of flashing lights on the side of the road, and we all knew what that meant; Woodyâ€™s Bike Shop!
Woodyâ€™s Bike Shop was a safe haven for TNGA riders. Hot food, bike wash, comfortable chairs, and people to talk to. We got there in time to see the last few pieces of pizza leave the box. But not to worry, the chef was still on duty and offered to cook us all bacon and eggs. Did someone say bacon?? We all accepted, and devoured nearly everything that was handed to us â€“ along with some cookies that were just sitting on the table. Water, sweet tea and Coke were our beverage choices, and Iâ€™d like to believe we all had a little bit of everything. Josh and I also took this opportunity to charge our portable batteries inside Woodyâ€™s shop as we had already drained them throughout the day.
As we all made ourselves at home for a short period of time, I began thinking about what Josh had told me many times in the recent past. Reaching Woodyâ€™s meant that we had climbed over 20,000 feet in the past 15 or so hours. Coming from Dallas, thatâ€™s an insanely huge number that I couldnâ€™t fathom reaching in one day of biking alone. Thatâ€™s like riding Rowlett Creek Preserve 1,000 times. Regardless of how I viewed that fact, one thing remained constant; I made it, Iâ€™m feeling good, and thereâ€™s still much to be accomplished over the next couple of days.
Recharging wasnâ€™t the only thing happening at the shop however as we were talking strategy regarding when we wanted to leave. Jeremy without a light wanted to stay for the night, Josh wanted to go, and I wanted to take a quick nap. I convinced Josh that taking a quick nap would be beneficial, so we do what we can to cover ourselves from the constant temperature drop, and the mosquitoes. Nothing is working; bug spray seems to only attract the bugs and I seem to be cold no matter what I wrap myself in (the main downfall of not having a sleeping bag. I packed only 4 emergency blankets, which are essentially large aluminum foil wraps).
So as I try to situate myself in one of the chairs up near the shop, I find it extremely difficult to shut my eyes without constantly swatting away bugs and feeling wide awake. Why am I not tired? Was it that Coke and sweet tea that I downed maybe a half hour ago? Yeah, thatâ€™s probably it stupid. I get increasingly frustrated and thankfully overhear one of the volunteers mention a sleeping pad thatâ€™s set up underneath a popup. Alright, hereâ€™s the ticket to sleep-town. It was further away from the shop, so there was less noise and less light. I grabbed the jacket that Monty lent me and tried to grab some sleep alongside Eleanor â€“ who already seemed to be passed out â€“ and Josh, who was having the same difficulty as me trying to get a quick nap.
As I previously mentioned, this was the section where the TNGA became political. There was campaigning going on for seemingly every possible scenario, each with its own pros and cons. What would we decide to do? Or, even, what were we allowed to do? Interesting questions. Letâ€™s allow Josh to answer these:
Woody’s is in the town of Helen, GA and this is where Jeremy and I stopped for the night last year. My goal this year was to make it over the next 2 passes which are daunting but paved and should have been possible by maybeÂ 4am. Kota was on board but wanted a catnap, not a bad idea. I was laid out on a picnic bench (didn’t want to get too comfortable) when Woody told me that he was going to grab some sleep and asked if we needed anything. I was half asleep when I declined. 15 minutes later I get up to see that the shop was closed up which makes sense but I wasn’t thinking about it when Woody talked to me. All 3 of us had stuff charging inside and didn’t have the (lack of) heart to wake Woody up. So I set up my sleeping bag across the front door of the shop so that I would wake the instant he opened up. Disappointing for my goals, which were out the window with a 7 hour forced break, but oh well. The rest of the ride for me would be more about camaraderie, riding hard, and getting Kota across the finish line.Â
I wake up to sunlight and a barn that is reopening. Immediately I start thinking about the time we wasted and apologize to Josh for recommending sleep. Side note: We ran into Barnabas at Woodyâ€™s, about 5-10 minutes before he left for the next section. He was the eventual winner of the entire race this year. So thinking about our first day, Iâ€™m very impressed that we all stuck together, pushed each other and made it to Woodyâ€™s as fast as we did.
Sure, we climbed over 20k feet in day one. But day 2 would prove to be much more difficultâ€¦