I come to the realization that I have only gotten as far as I have with my training through the people I have met and had the privilege of running with. I am well aware that without each of these amazing runners that I would not have come as far as I have in such a short period of time in preparation for this race. I made a general post on Facebook the morning before the race expressing my gratitude for the people who took so much time out of their lives to run with me. It was a general post as I'm sure they knew who they are, but really feel the need to take the time to thank each one of them for making me a better runner.
My generic Facebook post as written: I'm truly grateful for my running friends who have met with me over the last 5 months to prepare for the GDR. These folks often woke up in the middle of the night and drove sometimes for hours. Ran hours with me in the dark, rain, snow, ice, wind gusts, and well below freezing temps. These folks ran tired, hungry and sometimes up to 10 hours in a day with me and then sometimes ran again with me the next day. They put up with me on my great days and my not so great days. You all have encouraged me in so many ways, and I hope I gave something back in return. Good luck to y'all tomorrow!
Jessica: I just cannot say enough good things about this lady! We started running together last summer and have even run a few of the same races. She ran at least 70 trail miles with me between Dec and Feb. and another 20 miles since GDR. I have tremendous admiration for her not only as a runner, but as a mother and friend! She is tough as nails. We have run together in the dark on an unknown trail together on our first run from Woody's Gapt to Neel's Gap and back. One of the most adventurous fun runs ever for me. I was truly inspired after this run to venture out and learn new trails. I have always wanted to do this, but it was Jessica's outlook on trail running that inspired me to go forth and actually do it. I love Jessica's sense of adventureness and her fearlessness. I'm so excited about our future running plans together. I think the two of us together with our joint fearlessness might just be a dangerous combo!
Sarah: Is also a life long runner who has run numerous marathons and races over a 30 year period. She won "The Jewel" 100k last April 2012! I was lucky enough to meet her through a Mom's running group on Facebook when we both realized we had signed up for GDR. We set a date last Nov and met in Dec to run. She's a dedicated runner who routinely runs 70 to 80 miles per week but because she lives South of Atlanta doesn't have the opportunity to run mountain trails very much. We met up to run at least 72 trail miles between Dec thru Feb. This is one determined lady! She always made me laugh because every time I met to run with her which was always in the dark still, she would always arrive up to an hour early to sleep in her car before our run! So, then I'd have to knock on her window to wake her up to run! One day she met with both Jake and I for a 30 mile run on the DRT. She had a very rough start falling behind. This was NOT like her at all! This is a lady who does NOT stop. If you run with Sarah and you stop, she keeps going..LOL I love that about her! Anyways, after about 3 miles into this 30 miler she confides in Jake and I that she had fallen on a road run the day before hitting her neck and head! She was really hurting and was not feeling this run. I almost fell out realizing she showed up to run nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain over 30 miles with neck and head pain! What was even more surprising and impressive is that she says, "I am going to run 3 hours out and 3 hours back". Ok, I just had to laugh. I say, "Sarah, most people would not even show up after a fall like that let alone agree to run at least 6 hours on a tough route!". Well, about 3 hours into this run Sarah catches her 2nd wind getting ahead of Jake and I whereby she saw 2 wild boars out on the DRT and Jake and I missed them. Sarah not only gets her 6 hours but she finished this tough training run! Talk about perseverance and determination. I am in awe and have so much respect and admiration for this lady! We still plan to run trails whenever she can get away, and I am so happy that even after GDR we still talk.
Jake: An unexpected surprise and a gift. I met him in December after finishing a 22 mile run on the DRT in the Vogel Parking lot. I went into the store to get a coke. I saw him in running gear and figured he was probably training for GDR. So, I start a conversation with him and learn that he's a NC runner up here training and taking pictures. I recognize his name from the FB GDR page. He had gotten kind of lost running the Coosa loop alone and had just finished his run too. I tell him the next time he comes up to run to let me know, and I'll give him a tour of the DRT! LOL Poor Jake, doesn't know that I am directionally challenged on roads (he later finds this out!), but I do know this course and these trails. So, as it turns out he plans to run the next month and joins both Sarah and I for the notorious 30 mile run mentioned above. Jake is highly intelligent and funny! I have been lucky enough to have run 60 miles with Jake before GDR and 43 miles since. We also figured out that we both ran Merrill's Mile last summer, but I don't think we talked with each other then! I am grateful to Jake who spent so much time talking GDR strategy wiith me. We both think in numbers and figured out mileages and time frames. I am fascinated with his knowledge of bio- mechanics and the dynamics of running that I am so interested in. I can talk hours non-stop running with Jake and never be bored...wait I have talked non-stop running with Jake! LOL I am just so grateful for all of his help and encouragement of me prior to this race and since. I am equally grateful for his constant harassment of me, and I think he's truly the re-incarnated older brother that I secretly always wanted! LOL He keeps me laughing and apparently he has a good time laughing with me or at me. On our last 30 mile run 10 days ago with Corinne he called our run "The Great Laugh-Athon"! I couldn't have said it better myself. I hope there will be plenty more Jake and Angela trail adventures for a very long time as I thrive on pure harassment! lol
Cecilia: This is a girl that I have wanted to meet ever since I first saw her July 4th, 2011 at the Dahlonega Firecracker 10k. It was my first 10k race but also the first race I had ever seen that a woman won first place OVERALL. In late July 2011, I ran Suwanee Mtn. 3.5 mile trail race and Cecilia was there. I spoke to her briefly there congratulating her on her win in Dahlonega. We got hooked up finally on FB through Sean the RD for GDR this past Dec. because he knew both of us lived close to each other. AS it turns out, Cecilia was running 24 hours Hostelity too and like me was running the 12 hour day race. We chat on facebook some, but she was trying to recover from a knee injury and wasn't ready to meet up for runs just yet. I was so focused in my race at Hostelity that I didn't get a chance to talk to her as much as I would have liked. Mostly speaking to her before the race even started. We finally meet my birthday weekend to run Lake Z after the 30 mile DRT run mentioned above. I tell her I want to run 10 miles, but then that morning decide I want to run 12 miles to get my 42 miles in (my age) since it was my birthday run but ended up with over 13. This typically happens when running with me! She tries to tell me that we are at 10 miles, and I say let's run a few more! I'm sure I ran at a snail's pace after having run 30 hard trail miles the day before and then having a late date night out with my husband and friends...LOL But, Cecilia genuinely doesn't seem to mind. We meet again for a Valentine's day run and she brings me Vegan Ginger chocolate! Not only is she gorgeous, funny, highly creative and very smart, but she is also one of those rare people that I find that has a passion for running that probably matches my own. I like her for so many reasons and there is just some kind of instant connection for me. I am so lucky to have finally meet her! She is a joy to run with and honestly, inspires me to do my very best every chance that I get to run with her. I'm so excited about our future running plans and so happy to have found a local friend to run with when we can get our work schedules to cooperate! lol
Brad: One of the first local ultra-trail runners I had the great pleasure in meeting on the DRT in Sept. 2011, carrying 2 jugs of water on his 50 mile weekend! Brad is just an all-around bad ass who has no fear to attempt anything! Brad has always been so gracious in providing me with answers to all of my stupid questions, so I don't go out and kill myself or do something stupid. I remember emailing Brad a month prior to my first run at Amicalola asking him about water and directions and the safety of the trail. It all seems so silly now, but all info that I needed at the time. He is still a great resource when I need it and is always willing to help. I will forever be grateful for him allowing me to tag along on a 30 mile run with him this past Jan. from Amicalola to the BMT and then the last 20 miles of the FS roads used on the GDR course. Running this 20 mile section of FS roads was HUGE in my pre-race strategy. I am so glad I did this. I'm sure people thought it was crazy to "waste" a training day on FS roads but not me. I saw the value in it and apparently Brad did too. Not only that, but if I ever want to run a sub 7 hour 5500 feet of elevation gain, 30 mile training run, I know exactly where to go! LOL
John: One of the most decent, kind, human beings , I have ever met and was so lucky to have run 26.25 miles with him on a 19 degree day in Feb. that I previously blogged about. An incredible athlete and friend. I am so hoping we can meet up for future runs in the near future!
Stephan: The most memorable introduction I have ever encountered with a new trail runner when he rear ended me on the way to Amicalola for a 23 mile run in mid-Jan.! It was also a very memorable run because I had just completed 50.7 miles just 5 days prior and ran my fastest 23 miler at Amicalola ever and then 3 days later ran another 25 miles with Jessi on the BMT. I ran 98 trail miles over 8 days and 3 road miles during this time. This is when I first new that something had changed in my running ability. This was by far a record for the number of trail miles I had run in an 8 day period.
I cannot express how uniquely awesome my training experience was with each of these people in the months leading up to GDR. I had thought all along that GDR would be my biggest achievement yet. But, I realized that it wasn't the race that had become so important but rather the people with whom I trained with for so long. I had such a great time, learned so much, improved so much that words really cannot truly convey the gratitude that I feel. I realize through this experience that it's really not about racing so much for me anymore but really more about running. Running is really what I love and having met so many great people to run with has really changed my focus and my goals. I just want to run, and I really don't need a race to do that. I am always in training mode and will continue to do what I love best...running difficult trails. It's just that my focus has changed and will race just the races that I really want to do and helping my friends as much as they have helped me along the way.