Despite completing the Boston Marathon and heading into a 355-mile bicycle race through the mountains, Mayfield's Jason Fitzgerald insists he has no athletic ability.
"I'm not athletically gifted," he said. "I'm just pretty determined."
That may be a significant understatement.
Fitzgerald, owner of Arrowhead Campers in Mayfield, spent 20 years improving his race times so that he could run in the Boston Marathon in 2006. He has run in about 40 marathons and ultra-marathons, which vary but are at even longer distances. For the past year, he has been logging 200 to 250 miles a week.
"Almost every day I've been running or biking or both," Fitzgerald said.
His accomplishments would be impressive for a man in his physical prime, but Fitzgerald jokes that at 56 he sees himself as past that.
"I understand it's a monumental task for me at my age," Fitzgerald said of competing in the Trans North Georgia, a mountain biking race across portions of the Appalachian Mountains that is so rigorous only about 200 individuals total have completed it in the past nine years. Roughly 100 have signed up this year to try it.
Fitzgerald will begin racing Saturday.
Part of what makes the race so difficult is that is considered self-supported. That means there are not locations along the trail where supplies are provided. Instead, competitors carry their own gear.
They may choose to deviate from the trail to stop to get food or water from any source accessible to the public or even to spend the night in a motel. A GPS tracker shows where they are at all times to prevent cheating.
"You try to take enough food for about two days," Fitzgerald said. "Then you try to stop at a convenience store somewhere along the way."
The race is officially scheduled for nine days, although some leaders finish it in two or three. Most take around five days to a week. Competitors who stop for more than 48 hours at any one location must withdraw.
The race includes 55,000 to 60,000 feet of climbing and includes pavement, dirt paths and gravel roads.
It does not stop, regardless of weather conditions. Fitzgerald's top concerns are hurricanes, severe injury or severe illness. They are big enough worries that he updated his will before leaving on the trip.
For other issues that could arise, he has a pistol, a hunting knife and bear spray.
His gear also includes tools and spare parts for fixing flats or changing broken brackets.
"You will have a breakdown," Fitzgerald said. "You just hope it's not too severe."
Fewer than half those who leave the starting line at the Georgia/South Carolina line will make it across the finish line where Georgia meets Alabama along the silver comet trail.
"There are not going to be many people who think I can do it, but I still believe I can," Fitzgerald said. "If it only came down to guts, I think I could do it, but it may not."
And if he is able to accomplish his goal of finishing the race, what's next? Maybe a triathlon, he said.
"I've got two of the things, he said, "if I could just swim."