Georgia Death Race: How to Run yourself Ragged
Racing Overtrained/ Injured
A belated race report is better than No race report (I hope). It's taken me a while to decide to write, writing is like that for me. But, alas… the tale of my first GDR- sort of- honestly, its been a little too long to recall the turns, the food, the nitty gritty details that I try to share to actually have my blog be useful to others trying to learn about the course (SO this probably won't help and if that's why you're reading- so sorry. It's still a good running story!).
Pre Race: I was injured and burnt out already. The long story is long. The short story is I had a baby almost exactly 12 months prior to GDR, he was my second, so 2 Bubs, 1 full time job, Army National Guard commitments and then toss in a new business proposition and suddenly there was a lot on my plate. I was still hitting Every. single. workout, hitting, every. single. mile in my plan. Despite pain and fatigue I pushed onward to follow the plan as designed by my coach. By mid January I peaked- I was amazing! Ha ha! But by February I was wiped out, by March overreaching with my hamstring tendinopathy and flaring piriformis syndrome. My backside was on fire and the constant daily pain was really making the running less fun.
So it was by February that I was pretty sure the race I wanted was out of reach, I knew because I couldn't imagine wanting it badly enough. I hurt and I was getting worse, not better and it was too late. Being undertrained and weak on that course or being slightly overtrained were pretty damn equal… so I didn't slow down, no regrets. But also, I couldn't see my race. I am huge believer in the meditative part of training and I just couldn't see a strong race, no matter how hard I tried to conjure it, I felt nothing. Nonetheless I was determined to close, to finish, I'd put too much work in to not just wing it. Despite the suggestion from my coach that maybe GDR wasn't worth it, maybe I should just take the loss and heal now...but no.
I committed to going and seeing how it played out, just doing my best, knowing damn well I'd mentally struggle and it might get ugly. But I knew how to handle my weaknesses (ask for help) and I was ready.
Down to GA: I had an easy flight, long traffic filled drive northeast of Atlanta to get to Amicalola Falls for race check-in. Once there I was excited to run into a few people and meet a couple others. It was packed and a bit of struggle to locate friends but I found every one but Liz who had already left the crowd for an early dinner. I had no dinner plan thus far. I had found Combos and water at a dollar store and nothing else. I had race food and figured I'd get by, but it was a bit less than ideal. Anyways, after the pre-race meeting had ended I drove to my Air BnB, stopped at gas station and found Ramen noodles….figuring at least there's some carbs and salt (not something I would usually eat before …well anything). I arrived and met my hosts who were an older couple quite interested in hearing about the run and my crazy sport which was kind but I needed to unpack, organize and re-pack and EAT… so it was a bit a of struggle to manage the small talk as the night continued to tick by with my 2:45am wake up just around the corner.
Race Day: Early early morning arrives and Stephen is there 5 min early to pick me up, Crew is On Point! I was excited, down right scared but totally excited. I hadn't gotten to run with Liz in so long, I knew her training and her life had set her up to be Super! That girl can climb! So I was hoping to spend a few miles together before she crushed me….We met up at race check-in that morning took a couple photos and in minutes we were off to the Start line!
GDR Chunk 1: Mile 1 - 17ish I didn't feel bad starting out, but I knew right away in the back of my mind that my starting steps were not the flighty light adrenaline filled steps that they are when you're ready… but I pushed it anyways, I really was not worried about how the day was going to go, I wanted to have some fun. I headed out with the top ladies and we rolled through the first many miles. It didn't take long till a couple of other ladies had breached our group and took off hard. Soon our group was changed up a bit as every one found their climbing legs. I knew I was not even a little prepared for the climbs and I knew I need to be right on the edge of pushing myself and chilling the heck out, but I felt good and I hoped it would last (even though I knew we were just getting started). It wasn't long at all before I was already feeling it… just like I had on my last several long runs… heavy exhaustion and fatigue. That FEELING…it gets into your head. I let myself slow up, a lot. I watched quite a few people pass as my pace tapered down hoping to get just a little bit of "Me" back. It wasn't too long before we were headed down a long long downhill (but even that was kicking my butt)… and then the absolute worst was when I realized that the endlessly long downhill, was an out and back. I didn't know it at first, but then it hit like bricks. Then there was Luzia and Liz bouncing up the trail, (both in their passing said something kind and inspiring) but I was sinking in my "defeated-ness" already, I was feeling ROUGH and I had to turn around and climb back out of there.
Chunk 2: Mile 17-34 This was hell, the entire thing, I climbed that hill out of the Aid Station in the worst mood. I was so frustrated to have hit a low ALREADY! I mean, I knew it was coming, I knew we'd done almost ZERO hill work because I kept struggling with my hamstrings for all of my GDR focused training block, but even though my training was crashing I still completed my back to backs, my speed work…. To a "T"… so why couldn't I suck it up… I kept on pushing the positive self talk, but I mostly ran solo the entire race from mile 15 on and sometimes in ultras you get tired of yourself. I'm used to this though, and I don't stop, (But some of those climbs did breach that 40% grade, hands on your knees and the huffing and puffing that brought me to a standstill many times that I just froze, recollected my wimpy butt and stuck to what I know works-> keep moving forward). I had my watch to set to the elevation setting and simply kept going, knowing that every foot I climbed was closer to the at least 16K I had to hit.
Coming in to Mile 34 AS they had signs about pizza and for the first time in 18yrs of running that that sounded Awesome! I trucked into the AS happy to see people and ready to ask for a little lift. I don't collapse on people often in races and I don't remember the things I plan to accomplish at an AS. I tend to forget, rush and leave only to still be deep in my own struggles….So I decided to take my time. I really felt like I'd pretty much blown the race I'd planned on, so I might as well enjoy that I could right?? Only I was not having fun, I missed my kids and couldn't stop thinking about how amazing their day must have been, sunny and warm playing all day… and I was missing it to suffer alone in GA?!?!? Mom Guilt…. Gets me down! So anyways, I roll into the AS and eat 4 chunks of pizza and explain that I am really not into to this today and could use a boost. They helped me find some laughter and I got myself together and took off for the next section.
Chunk 3: Mile 34-50 Well … the boost didn't last long, I was still low, still whining to myself, wishing the wonderful, perfect day away and being frustrated with myself for that… I wanted to appreciate the climbs the work, the earth… and I did , but in a "forced reminding myself of why I was there", kind of way. Finally I was going to see my Crew, Stephen at mile 42 or 44, who knows? Anyway I made the effort to run into the AS but I was ready to take 10 maybe 15, just sit and re think what I was doing here. Luckily, a good crew and volunteers got me my Huel, my Red Bull, thicker socks and reminded me that through my whining I was still laughing and I was obviously not going to quit, and I knew I wouldn't too, (Which is part of the pain, part of what makes you want to quit- because you know you won't with no legitimate reason). So, I got up and ran on down the trail… still low, but I tried using my ipod and using music for first time ever in a race. The music and caffeine helped, my brain was a little more excited to be where we were. I was moving much better, happier but not much. At the mile 50 AS I tried to get as much caffeine as I could to keep my high going and I ate a bit. It wasn't until the 7th female was coming into the AS that a little tinsie winsie fire of competition kicked in… I realized I really didn't want to get passed again!
Chunk 4: Mile 50- 74ish I worked hard and climbed the next long fire road mountain like I'd flown all the way to GA and run 50 miles to get to it… (oh, I did)…. I passed the female in front of me and secured 5th place, but that kept me working hard because I didn't want to lose that again, I kept looking back, trying to run more than hike and jog. I just kept on hustling, for the first time since mile 15 I was doing "Me" and it felt good. The mile 60 something AS was amazing, they got me as much coca cola as I could tolerate, a little bit more food and turned me 180 degrees toward the course where I had one of those moments when you look down a cliff and the world wobbles for a minute, it was a fairly steep downhill and my quads were wrecked, but you gotta run the downhills!! So I did, pounded down it through every ouchie ooo, owwwiiiiiiee that it took. 10 miles left and I was just rolling along. As the sun set I was reminded slightly of the disappointment of the day, I planned and trained to finish before sunset, but well… that wasn't my race. We got to the visitor center at Amicalola Falls and I was ready and waiting for the stairs, I'd been dreaming of them all day long.
Finally, the stairs… I was so slow, but I just kept on trucking and when I got the top I had no idea how much was left, but luckily a volunteer let me know that I was 10min from the finish line, that was amazing to hear! I ran down that road as hard as I could and took the downhill on the trail fast, it was fully night time and I had to be careful, I think I had stop a couple times to find the course markers but that was it, it came out at the stream and I didn't totally know where I was until every one shouted for me to walk through the water and then I realized I'd made it. I finished GDR as 5th Female with a solid "F&%$ you" in my soul… just as the race intended ;)!
Final notes: That course is hard, but not as scary as it's made out to be. If you train for it, even a little, you can complete it if you're willing to suffer. Keep moving forward… because seriously…. Where else are you going to go in the middle of the day or night in the middle of nowhere??? To sleep??? Instead of working on the same goal you've been getting up at 5 in the morning to complete for months?!? No way! Move your Feet! Keep going, eat, drink, ask for support- that’s why the volunteers are there! Change your socks! Wipe your face. Take the time to enjoy the work, the suffering. It's about finding the struggle and learning over time through practice (and failures) how to work with it/ overcome it and push beyond. That’s the passion, the craving (for many of us)… to learn how to get beyond "ourselves". The actual goal is more existential than any course or finishing time.
Huge thank you to my crew, the new friends created through runners and volunteers alike! Huge Thanks to the RD for an awesome course, a ton of struggle and plenty of laughs! I am so damn glad I got to meet you, run with you, whine to you and enjoy this crazy sport with you!
Happy running All!