Eddie O'Dea broke his own Trans North Georgia (TNGA) record earlier this month. The Topeak-Ergon rider set out for 350 miles and 56,000 feet of climbing with 22 others on September 3 under blue skies and 60 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures, but the highs for the day would be in the upper 90s.
The course featured a mix of forest roads, singletrack and some pavement. O'Dea immediately took to the front and never looked back.
"In my head, I was only racing the clock to beat my time from last year." O'Dea set the course record in 2010 at 55 hours and 27 minutes.
While the racers were underway Tropical Depression #13 became Tropical Storm Lee and began creeping northeastward. The TNGA riders were making their way westward and the two were bound to meet somewhere in the next few days.
"I knew about the storm and knew Monday was going to be messy with lots of rain if not a full on tropical storm," said O'Dea after the race. "My goal was to be finished before it hit western Georgia." It didn't quite work out that way.
Sunday morning, he made a brief refueling stop at Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-a-Way in Ellijay, Georgia about four hours ahead of his pace last year. "I literally ate a dozen scrambled eggs and a peach. It was delicious."
Sunday afternoon, he was on pace to finish in the early hours of Monday morning before sunrise. He made it past the infamous Snake Creek Gap section of rocky singletrack before dark and was advancing toward John's Mountain as nightfall came. "With the technical part of the route behind, I was sure I could push through the night and finish around 4:00 am. Then the rain started around 1:00 am. It was heavy for 30 minutes, but there was little wind. The real problem was the fog/cloud that was sitting on top of the ridge I was riding. I couldn't see more than 10 feet. I was also operating on one and a half hours of sleep over the last 40 hours of riding." Eventually the slow moving and lack of sleep caught up to him and he crawled into his bivy for a few hours of rest.
O'Dea notified his wife and the race director of his break, which lasted for about two hours until 5:00.
"The storm intensified during the last 20-25 miles. I actually cut my bivy sack into a poncho to keep warm." O'Dea made it out of the final singletrack section at Highpoint State Park only to find the old railroad bed turned trail that would take him to the finish was now draining two to three inches of water. "Last year I was doing a time trial through there at 20mph, this year was a real struggle to hold 10mph while slogging through the run off. I was very happy to hit the last five miles of pavement so I could just get into an aero tuck and get the ride over with."
Eddie crossed the Alabama state line at 8:34 am for a new record time 48 hours and 34 minutes, beating his previous record by nearly seven hours. "I did a lot of little things to improve my time over last year." He used a lighter bike, carried less gear, improved his nutrition and competed at a six-pound lighter race weight.
"I was seriously motivated to prove that this route could be done in 48 hours or less," he said.