The Georgia Death Race was fantastically beautiful and went remarkably well, which is actually a little surprising given some of my decisions going into it but more on that after a little description of the race. Nobody knows the exact length of the course but its somewhere in the vicinity of 65 miles with about 30,000 feet of elevation change, maybe somewhat more but what's 1000 feet give or take amongst trail runners? They give you a map at pre-race so at least you know where you are and I even got a chance to use it once.
When my alarm went off at 3 in the morning I wasn't entirely cheerful about the race start time but when I saw the sunrise across a range of mountains unbroken by power-lines or radio towers or buildings I just stopped and smiled. When I started running again I was still smiling and it lasted all the way to sunset, which I beat to the finish by a narrow margin. I even stayed cheerful for the 20 miles of forest service road (roads and I don't get along well and I didn't have quite the right shoes for it do to the aforementioned decision making).
The aid stations and people were great. I got to know a couple people better than I did before the race and made a couple friends during the race, one of whom I wound up running in the last 3 hours or so with. I'm guessing, maybe Christian has a better idea of the time but I know absolutely that I could find the exact point on the course where we met. Its a funny thing about trails and one of my very favorites, the way you get to know people so quickly, the way you can remember certain places and moments with such clarity.
What was harder than I expected? The steepness. I did hours of hill repeats and always the day before my long run and with extra attention to running the downhills hard. Even at the end of the race I had enough quad strength to keep running down hill on the roads but there was very little in my training as steep as several of the miles of hills in Georgia. You use different muscles or different parts of muscles when it gets really steep. I could feel my effort level suddenly shoot way the heck up (meaning my heart hammered in my chest and it was harder to breathe) as soon as it got steeper than what I'm used to. Shortening my steps helped somewhat but I will train some steeper ups before my next race down there, or maybe just train it once in a while to stay well rounded.
What about those decisions I'm pretty amazed didn't blow up in my face? I wore my new pack as planned. The weather turned out to be very warm so I wore my Vertical Runner race singlet which is a tested and very comfortable top in hot weather. Here's what I failed to consider; I've never worn that light, minimalist, racer back tank with that pack. The pack straps rested directly on my skin for 65 miles and a lot of sweat. I got very, very lucky and didn't lose any skin at all. Also, Osprey makes a very, good product.
I wore shoes I'd worn before in that they were the the same model (INOV-8 X-Talon 212 for the curious), but new in that I'd just taken them out of the box. That, in itself wasn't much of a problem but I don't trust myself to actually tie my shoes for races. I replace my laces with stretchy bungi laces and I remembered to do that. What I forgot is that it takes 10 miles or so to get them adjusted so that my foot stays put properly in the shoe. I had a hot spot by mile 8 under my big toe and forefoot. Somehow, after adjusting the laces, the problem resolved and I finished blister free. That just doesn't seem believable. I didn't even lose any toenails.
Oh, so then, on the recommendation of Vince, I picked up a pair of slightly heavier INOV-8 shoes with a little rock plate to wear on the forest service road sections. These I had considered wearing all race long initially since they were broken in. I changed my mind last minute and drop bagged them to mile 25. Did I change into them? Of course not. Do I know why? Not a clue. I guess I felt good at the time so I didn't want to change anything. The 212 is a great shoe but its also very light and thin with no rock plate at all, just a little pad and a lot of traction.
So when I hit the forest service road and it turned out to be pretty hard packed and gravel covered I figured I might as well run as fast and as much as possible for a while because my feet would only last so long. My feet, as it turns out, are a whole lot tougher than they were a year ago. They were tender but I could still run when the finish line came in sight.
How did I finish? I often wonder how to answer that. Seriously. It took 15 and a half hours or so. I was the third woman to finish. Neither of those is really how I finished, its just numbers. I finished smiling. I finished uninjured and right with myself in my head. I finished at a dead sprint or what felt like it at the time and there were people I knew at the finish line and they put an arm around me. I finished wanting to know how everyone I knew still out on the course was doing.
Oh, hey, if you live in northeast Ohio and you sign up for this race, message me and I'll tell you where to do hill repeats:)
In other news, I am running in Iceland in August in a Racing the Planet 156 mile stage race. I am doing this to raise funds for a charity called Runwell which sponsors recovering addicts for treatment and encourages recovering addicts to participate in sports as part of a healthy recovery. If you wish to contribute to my campaign, here's the link: