Well I didn't die. That's a plus.

The ins and outs of the 68 (ish) mile GA Death Race

This death defying race started for me in March of 2014.  The weather was amazing and I felt good going into the race.  I had to do this one to qualify for a 100 miler to then qualify for the Tahoe 200 miler in September, so I was gung-ho about finishing under 18 hours.  Well, the "Dragon's Tail" apparently had other plans for me.  The Duncan Ridge Trail is about 26 miles of hell in the woods.  Some of the pitches of the climbs can reach as much as 45% grade, and GA does not believe in switch backs!  Last year, my achilles blew up around mile 30, just after crossing the suspension bridge at the Benton MacCaye trail and I walked 13 miles to the next station, getting my first DNF ever.  I swore I would have my revenge, and I set my sights on 2015.

This year, I was trained on hills, pumped, and ready to kick some Duncan Ridge Trail butt!  On Tuesday of the week of the race, the Forest Service switched the course to start at Amicalola Falls and run to Vogel State Park.  It was supposed to rain the couple days leading up to the race and the day of the race pretty hard, so from the start, there were challenges.  This left the hardest part of the course, the Duncan Ridge Trail, at the end of the race, after we would have already run about 50 miles.  Then, usually my husband comes to crew me and help me out with the race, but he was leaving town early Sunday morning and had entirely too much work to get done Saturday, so he couldn't come.  This was going to be my very first truly solo race, and I was actually pretty excited about it!  I packed my drop bags with what I thought I would need and probably had too much in my pack, but I would rather be over prepared than to be needing something I knew I left at home.

Race morning, I woke at 3 am and left the house by 4 to get to Vogel by 6am where a bus would be taking us to Amicalola Falls.  The buses ended up leaving 15 minutes late and getting to the park right at 8am, where Sean announced that we would be starting 15 minutes late to give all the bus riders time to do any last minute preparations.  With all the last second announcements, "Ready!  Set!  DIE!" was shouted and it was Go-time!  All the racers made their way up the 600 Amicalola Falls stairs, we hit the top of the falls, shot our way back down the gravel access road, and trekked our way up the ridiculously steep road to the lodge.  Once past the lodge, we thinned out to service roads for quite a ways to our first aid station at Nimbelwell Gap.  My pack was good and I headed out to the next station 8 miles away.  Along the way, there were a bunch of runners I would go back and forth with.  We were all going our own pace and would either pick someone else up, or drop back to be met by another runner.  About the time we hit paved road, I helped a dude put his hood back inside his jacket and we got to talking and running together to the Jake Bull aid station.  Here I grabbed a couple cookies, filled my hydration, and headed back out.

My nutrition plan of eating every 43 minutes accompanied by Osmo hydration mix in my pack was proving to be a pretty good combination.  The Osmo wasn't sweet at all and I liked it that way.  The gels were sweet enough.  After some extremely muddy service roads, and a couple seemingly endless climbs, we arrived at Winding Stair Gap at mile 23.5, where there was also a mountain bike race being held.  It was pretty cool to see so many people out in the foggy and wet conditions.  At the next aid station, our first drop bag awaited us, so I was able to sit for a second, re-fill my hydration and food stash, change my shirt, and head out to the next station.  Now the fun would start!  We finally hit single track trails and running just became more awesome at that point!  The fact that we had 30+ miles on us already wasn't anything, as I hit my second wind and began to have a little fun!  Navigating those trails made me think of running the 200 miler in Lake Tahoe and how much fun we had, so I began thinking about how awesome I was feeling and kept on going.  As the miles ticked by, and I picked up my second drop bag, I passed the area that had been the bayne of my existence for a year now.  I gave a nice little nod to the running Gods and crossed over the suspension bridge to the last 1/3 of the course.

The DRT didn't disappoint tonight.  It was dark, and foggy, and the trails were amazing!  Minus the whole straight up, straight down with no switch backs thing, the trail was quite nice.  Since it was dark, you didn't know how far you had to go to get to the top or the bottom of a climb.  But the weather being like it was, you could feel yourself getting to the top or bottom as the wind would pick up and the temperature would drop as you neared the top, and once you crossed to the other side of the ridge, the wind died, there was no fog, and the temperature rose to about 60 degrees.  By this point, my achilles was screaming at me again but I had learned that digging my toes into the hill, instead of planting the whole foot felt much better, just took more concentration.

White Oak stomp aid station would be the last full station before the finish, and I thought it was only 6 miles, but I quickly learned I was wrong and it was 8 miles!  My favorite aid station buddy, Jannette Mass was there with some Fireball liquor and some warm Ramen to get me going.  I stood there, not knowing completely what I was doing since I was rather delusional at that point.  I grabbed a home baked pumpkin mini pie (for Pi Day of course!) and headed out to climb Coosa, a 4,225 ft peak that we would do about 900 ft of in less than 3/4 of a mile since we were coming up the back side.  About 1/2 way up, I realized I didn't partake in the Fireball, nor did I grab my ramen!  Fail.  After hitting the top of Coosa and saying a few choice words, it was a 2200 foot descent in about 4.5 miles and a few near death slips in the mud, when we finally arrived at Wolf Creek, then it was home free!  Or so we thought.  The creek was at the bottom of the mountain.  We had to go back to the middle of it.  So we had one more climb of about 2 miles to the ridge, and then back down through the Vogel trails, to the road, and straight into the finish, in 17:05!

Holy crap!!  I had just defeated enormous demons that had plagued me for over a year.  Yes, I had done a 100 mile and a 200 mile race in the meantime, but this one haunted me, just for the mere fact that I don't quit, and I had to drop due to injury.  But now I have my spike and I can move on.  Any race I do, I always say, "I'm never doing that again!".  But next year, they will be reversing the course again to the original direction.... and that seems pretty intriguing, as that will be the true test of my DNF.  Run on Friends!  May the trail Gods smile upon you always!


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