. . .And, just like that, we are 3 weeks out from Georgia Death Race.
Well, maybe it’s not really, just like that. Because just like that has included a whole lot of hard training this winter and a whole lot of real life. That’s the thing about the ultra running world – it somehow has to fit into real life. That means it fits into snowstorms, to-do lists, family life, hours when you should be sleeping, mental breakdowns [I can’t pull it together lately], all of Saturday and Sunday morning, and the Arctic cold.
Training almost becomes everything during the final months and weeks leading up to race day – not quite, but close. Because it really just has to be enough without being everything. But, that’s a really fine line. The training is fun, exhausting, rewarding, challenging and a mental rollercoaster.
So I have been out there, running all the snow covered trails. Some weeks you slip and slide through the slush, other times you carefully navigate the ice-covered trails [you love your sole spikes more than you should ever love a piece of metal]. Sometimes you put on your snowshoes and it takes 3 hours to navigate 8 miles on ungroomed trails. Or you check off a couple PRs – in the form of longest road run to date and longest treadmill run to date [not to be confused with longest run to date]. I was absolutely sure that the winter weather was only made for snowmen, but I guess this year it is made for Crystals too.
One week, following over five feet of snow the previous week, we had the nicest break in weather, in the form of a heatwave, perfectly timed, with my first ever snowshoe race [no snowshoes really needed if you had been practicing all of your snow running]. And, then a week later we had our coldest weekend yet – 18 miles in the Arctic wind and I started wondering why I do this crazy trail running thing.
The training has been less than glamorous. Most of the time I looked more like a ninja than a runner and the only shorts and sports bra weather was found in the basement, on the dreadmill, the mill to nowhere. But, training must go on, because we have start lines AND finish lines to get to. And, on top of the running, you balance in the other things – strength workouts, Wednesday morning group workouts, the band work and a yoga class or two [just to remind you that you carry all of life in your hips and they barely open, stretch, or whatever they are supposed to do].
I was reminded with an email captioned, “Get ready to die..” that we are rounding up training for Georgia Death Race and I’m really trying to soak it all up. In October, I fell down the mountain. I sprained my ankle and took 6+ weeks off of running. I returned to cold weather, snow covered trails and less than ideal. I struggled, but I returned. And, last weekend with 18 and 15, I finally felt like my legs have caught back up to my head and my heart. This week marks another peak week – with a 20 miler [and, another double digit run] on the calendar and single digit temps in the forecast [perfectly timed].
I am grateful Jesse and I can run this one together. Maybe we will even make the drive and find some dirt [this may only be wishful thinking..].
So as we round out training and then head south to Georgia for 72 miles and 40,000 feet of elevation, I can say, it’s nice to know what to expect [kind of]. So, for you first time Georgia Death Race runners, here is what you should know about the adventure [or the things I wish I knew the first time around] —
- Expect the unexpected. Race day usually doesn’t go as planned, even when you have plan. Be okay with that now, but have a plan [read the emails]. Know the course, the aid stations, the mandatory gear, the check ins, etc. And, when it doesn’t go as planned [i.e. you wear the wrong socks and shoes], embrace the suck.
- The Aid Stations will be your best friend during this race — they are helpful, well stocked and ready to make sure you keep moving. Last year I filled my bladder and two water bottles – basically, this just made for a really heavy pack. This year I’m opting for 2 20oz. bottles only. That is plenty of hydration between aid stations.
- Bring layers. I don’t think I would have ever anticipated the nighttime temperature drop. But, it dropped, and it was freezing. The medical blanket came out during the final miles – it may have not added warmth, but it helped block the wind. Pay close attention to the forecast. My teeth chattered, I considered curling up on the mountain to be rescued [don’t do this – Sean said this is a big no], and I could not move fast enough to warm up.
- Play the first half of the course moderately. Everyone told me this, I don’t think I actually believed them, but they are right. You will climb a lot, save your legs. The course opens up to fire roads and single track somewhere around the 40 mile mark. You will want to be able to run. And, run well. Note: The gravel hurts! Minimailist shoes may not be your friend in this race — or maybe they will, choose wisely.
- If you have a pre-race nutrition tradition, plan for it. Your dinner options at the lodge are limited and sub-par at best.
- Do not make fun of the waterfall stairs. You will understand on race day/night. 600 steps is a lot of steps. And, whenever you go up, you have to come down. Take my word for it. See number 9.
- Bring toilet paper. Leaves are NEVER your friend. NEVER.
- Do not mistake the moon as a light or fire. It is the moon, DUH! I cannot tell you how many times I did this during the final miles. It’s a let down when you are not almost there, don’t do it.
- Do not celebrate too much when you see the sign for Amicalola Lodge. The race is not over yet. And, if we follow the same course, just get ready to grit it out. It will include 600 steps, a no fun downhill, and the most miserable trail you have ever been on. But, no worries, you will get an ice bath for good measure before you cross the finish line.
- When the RD says, “You are going to die..” he may sincerely mean it. You may even whole-heartedly believe it for a little while too. Only believe it for a little while.
- Have fun. Yes, I said it, f u n! It’s not going to be the easiest race you’ve ever run, but the scenery is amazing, the community is awesome and you are going to walk away with a whole lot more than sore legs.
And, friends, if you want to read about all the details, here’s last years recap:
Until Georgia, XO. -C2