Georgia Death Race Finisher
The race starts, and I start running with Katie and Michael. Katie and I agree to try and stick together for as long as we can. We agreed to not hold each other up and push each other forward if we find that we are slowing the other one down. I am more worried about my injuries slowing me down, and I don't want to slow down her race.
The race takes off through the campground at Vogel and the crowd is thick, and it's fun listening to all the chit chat. I am really just excited to be here and really do not have the usual race nerves that I usually have. I already know that I will finish as long as I don't re-injure my ankle. All, I have to do is to not sprain my ankle and take it easy on the down hills for my ITB.
We are not even a mile into the race when we see our first DNF. He is walking back towards us and Katie asks about him and he says today is not his day. We are shocked to hear this! But, as Katie says it's better to find this out now than later! We run a little further when Michael sprains his ankle and he cannot bear any weight on it! He had a badly sprained ankle from a few weeks prior! This is so scary to see so early in the race! Michael pushes Katie forward, and I know it has to be really tough for her to press on past her brother. She offers to stop, but he tells her to keep going, and she said that she knew that he meant for her to keep going even though she feels badly. I feel horrible for him because I momentarily think about my ankle 3 times it's normal size and if I sprain it as badly as I did the week before that I might be out too! But, I have to quickly remove that thought and keep going.
Pete is running along side us and we chit chat all the way up to Coosa with Katie leading most of the way. She's doing great. We get up to the top of Coosa and I notice my watch says 1:57 hours. I am happy as my goal was to get to the top in 2 hours. I am a little nervous about going onto the DRT at this point as I remember how painful it was going down this steep descent just 7 days ago with my ITB issue. I tighten my laces for the extra ankle support, and Katie helps to readjust my ITB strap above my knee. It's at this point, that I just mentally push the pain onto a shelf way back in the deep part of my brain. I push it so high that it's out of reach. I brace myself and start going and Pete and Katie want me to lead from here. I start down that descent, and I am able to run down. Not like I want to, but I am able. I mention to Pete and Katie that if I am too slow they can go past me, but they both say I am doing fine.
My next goal is to get to Mulky Gap by daylight. It's just starting to get daylight when we reach it, and it's our 2nd aid station. I do not like staying at aid stations long, and we are quickly in and out and headed towards Fish Gap. My next goal is to be at Fish Gap in 4:30 hours. Along, about mile 13 or so Katie is having a hard time keeping up so I stop a few times, and she quickly catches up. She is mentioning how hard these climbs are, and I try to encourage her and wait on her and remind her we have all day to do this...lol! I know these first 21 miles are tough as I've run them multiple times now. But, by mile 14 she is urging me to go forward. I tell her let's not worry about it yet and give it a few more miles that she may just be hitting a low spot. This happens in longer races whereby everyone has energy lows and highs at different times. But, she is insisting that I go forward and says, "I'm going to hold you back all day." I'm kind of at a loss as to what to do. I don't want to belabor the point on this climb, but also I'm really just surprised because I didn't expect this to happen this early in the race. I remember her talking about how Michael pushed her forward and how he meant for her to go and with that in mind I press forward. But, boy do I feel bad about it!
I reach the top of the climb and by mile 15 I run into Brandi who is walking and she says her knee is busted up. I ask her if she needs anything, and she says not but tells me to "go get it". I tell her that Katie is not far behind me and will catch up to her soon. I make it to Fish Gap in 4:29! I am right on schedule and then enter what I lovingly call "The Abyss", but it's actually Rhoads Mountain. This is 3.75 miles of climbing hell and for me the toughest part of this entire race. How can 3.75 miles be so hard? It's just almost straight up and then straight down and repeat 3 times. I am so glad that in training I've gone over and back in the same run because today I only have to do it once! LOL
I enter the abyss with an Alabama runner named Zach whom I met a few miles prior. We talked instantly because he was sporting an ITB on each leg whereby I just had one. Zach and I leapfrog each other for the next 20 plus miles and every time we meet back up we just resume our previous conversation or start up a new one! I also leapfrog with another runner David who I learn lives probably 15 minutes from me, and I probably ran more miles with David than I did Zach! We leapfrog for about 20 miles or so as well.
I make it through the Abyss and surprisingly pass people on those climbs, but then I get passed on some of the down hills as I am having to run them conservatively. Once I reach the BMT sign, it feels like relief because I know this run doesn't get hard again for me until just past the swinging bridge. The next 12 miles are going to feel like cake. I've got the worst part of this race over with! I make a right at the sign and running down Skeenah is just so much fun because I see friends running up and others who are ahead of me. It's like a hug fest running through Skeenah. I see Jake, and we hug briefly and he is running with another runner that I do not know. I see Corinne and Kelly and a few other people that I recognize from other races.
I get down to Skeenah and this aid station is crowded, but I have to actually stop and do a few things here at this aid station and is one of two aid stations that I take more time with all day. It's warming up and I have to remove my base layer and hat, and I have to refill with water and eat. Deano is sitting in a chair and is not feeling good. I give him some Tylenol and/or Motrin and encourage him to start back up Skeenah with me to get him walking because now he has gotten cold. We are not walking long when one of his friends stop to give him a hug. She is cute, blond, and bouncy, and I just crack up to myself and keep pressing forward. I see Brad, Sarah, and other friends who are looking strong as well on my way out of Skeenah.
Once I start down the BMT, it's about mile 22ish or so and for the duration of the race the next 43ish miles not one single person passes me, but boy do I pass a lot of folks. I catch up to David and we run all the way to the next aid station at Point Bravo which is mile 25 in the course description but it's actually more like mile 28 or 29..lol I forgot to look at my watch but it's not even noon yet. I just know that because when I later ask David if he remembered what time we got there he said he asked someone who told him it's not noon yet. This is fantastic because my goal to get here was 7.5 to 8 hours, and I am here before the 8 hour mark.
I quickly breeze by this aid station and head down the FS road towards the swinging bridge. And, my stomach hurts. I have to find a tree cause darn, I have to go poo! I find a tree and go and guess what? I see David passing and then I see Zach passing as I am squatting in the woods! I hope they didn't see me but nothing I can do about it if they did! LOL So, I start back running and catch up to Zach and then he stops to stretch and then I catch up to David, and he says "I wonder where you were!". I simply tell him I had to stop to use the bathroom and spare him the details...lol We continue past the bridge and up the climb that I knew was waiting for me, but I also know that running this section 6 days prior that today I feel much better. This was a shit hole last week when I ran this section...that run was HARD....today, not so much! LOL But, I do get nauseated, and I am sucking down a gel. I am power hiking pretty fast and tell David to feel free to move on if he wants, and he says he's just fine as he's just trying to keep up with me. I have to walk a little further and eat a bit or take another gel but basically I am having to catch up on calories.
I get a 2nd wind and press on and shortly before I reach the BMT field, I realize that David isn't behind me, and I don't see him or Zach for the remainder of the race. I was happy to later learn that David and Zach ended up finishing the race together. Two great guys that I had the honor to meet and talk with for so many miles!
Reaching the BMT field felt like a 2nd wind. It felt like it was all a mental downhill from here because I knew I would not have anymore steep descents until the final mile of this race. I only had one slip with my ankle in the dark on the way to Mulky Gap, and I was able to manage the pain. I still had my ITB pain and ankle pain pushed up on that proverbial shelf. I was feeling good. I head to the next aid station at the start of the FS road and when I head out I look at my watch and it's 10:44 hours. I am just so very proud of myself because my goal was to be here just under 11 hours. It feels like I gained momentum.
Leaving the Winding Stair Aid Station, I run a few miles with a runner from Indiana whom I learn has 5 daughters ranging in ages 15 years old to 9 months! We had a great conversation, but alas I have to slow down because my stomach pain returns, and he speeds ahead thank goodness because I have to make a running dive into the ditch, but I misjudged my speed and slid down into mud and land in a creek just in time to pull my pants down and leave a deposit. Right there in the creek that I didn't expect to see! I was laughing so hard that this happened! ONLY ME! But, boy do I feel better after this.
This section of FS road is hot as it's later in the day. I ran out of water as I forgot to refill water at the last aid station! Duh...but it's ok as I can go a few miles without water. I get to the next aid station at mile 44 (which is supposed to be mile 40 according to the guide book). And, this station is rocking some awesome music. I see my friend Theresa who asks, "Angela, do you want a beer?" very enthusiastically. And, I reply, "NO, YES, NO, YES, NO". I can't make up my mind! LOL Susan is also there and they are asking me about the race and she asked if I saw her husband Bill. I inform her I saw him coming out of Skeenah gap which was 22 miles ago so he probably isn't too very far behind me? This aid station was awesome. I am double fisting cups of water and Gatorade because I am so hot and thirsty from being out of water. I am also so hungry! Ravenous to be exact! I eat as fast as I can and one of the volunteers is filling my back pack with water for me.
Susan tells me that I look much skinnier than I did starting out this morning! I tell her that after 44 miles I should look skinny and if she saw what I left in the creek a few miles back she'd know why I look so skinny! So, I tell them how I slid into the creek! The volunteers are cracking up laughing so hard and said that I had my own private boudet, and it was the best story they heard all day!
Theresa tells me to look over at these 3 guys right over there. One of them is grilling and the others are chilling and drinking beers. She says they all came in right before me and just DNF'd just like that. I told her, "well, no wonder when you're offering beers when we hit 44 miles!" LOL But, seriously, I tell her that she should go over there and tell them that there is only 20 more miles left, and they can do it! She says, "you go tell them!". And, I say, "I am not telling them shit, they are my competition!". WE all burst out laughing at that! Seriously, though these guys were from Ohio and were super nice! I tell them that I am from Ohio too, and I know that Theresa is too!
So, this was my 2nd long aid station of the day which was probably only maybe 10 minutes, and I take off with a hot dog in hand. I've already eaten a good bit and double fisted drinks for awhile, so I am almost full. But, honestly, this aid station saved my race in terms of hydration and food. I have joked so many times how a hot dog saved my GDR race!
So, I am continuing down the FS road running and my is it beautiful as the tree's haven't bloomed yet and the mountain views are gorgeous! I do see a runner on the side of the road, and like many runners before him that I saw on the side of the trail earlier that day, I ask if he needs anything or anything I can do for him. He is shaking his head in what looks something like misery meaning no. I feel so bad for him I ask him if he wants my hot dog, and I look down and realize that 3/4th's of this hot dog is gone, and I've just been carrying it "just in case" I get hungry again..lol But, again he shakes his head no. I realize how absurd this is that a complete stranger is asking him if he wants a partially eaten hot dog and tell him, "I'm sorry that's pretty gross." And, I continue onwards.
As I'm running down the road, vehicles are passing by and one guy sticks his head and arm out and yells "GOOO OHHHIIIOOOO" as he's passing by. I'm like, "Thanks!". It just feels good to hear a cheer from a fellow home state runner!
I make it to aid station 51 and do not remember what the guide book says this is supposed to be in terms of mileage, but I do know that I have 13 miles left! It's Aaron's bacon aid station and there is John B., John C. and his wife and daughter, and I meet Anna. I am so happy to be here because it's daylight and because I know I've got about 3 hours left. I know I can run this in my fucking sleep! I don't care about Nimblewell road and the climb ahead, I just know that I am home free! Three hours and change isn't even what I consider a long run. I leave this aid station and text Lee, Cecilia, and Jessi that I have about 13 miles and about 3 hours left. The time is 6:10pm.
I hit the pavement and then the FS road. I've got about 10 miles left. I am so happy. Ten miles isn't anything. I can do 10 miles, and I am still running. I am running up Nimblewell Road as much as I possibly can, and I am passing people. I pass 10 more runners in my last 10 miles. Freaking amazing. I pass my Indiana friend who is with 2 other runners as I'm passing by he says, "didn't I see you like 20 miles ago?" and I say yes, you sure did! I pass a younger couple while I am running uphill, and I remember seeing them coming out of Skeenah gap 30 plus miles ago. The male runner says, "that is absolutely impressive that you are running up this hill"! I said, "it's not easy, it's hard". But, I am so motivated because I am so close.
I reach the Nimblewell AS which is the last aid station. The volunteer takes my pack off, and it's here in my last 6 miles at mile 59 that I am a little whiny. Not bad, but I'm asking him for something to drink besides water. He tells me that a really cute guy drank off this 16oz bottle of coke, and I am welcome to it. I told him it didn't matter if he was cute or not..lol. I took a few swigs of coke. He tells me that he has run 100 milers and he knows exactly what I am feeling. Somehow that is reassuring. He helps me get my pack on and about that time another runner that I caught up to at this aid station says, "Are you running fast or are you running slow?". I am confused as I do not know what he means. I just know it's starting to get dark, I already changed my batteries, and I am going to need my headlamp soon. But, he asks a few more times if I am running fast or slow. I said, "I am running, but I do not know if it's fast or slow, but I do know I am not walking". LOL He asks if he can run with me because it's getting dark, and he doesn't want to run in the dark by himself.
And, somehow this seems so ironic and funny to me. One of my fears about GDR was finishing in the dark because I thought so many months ago that I would be running hours into the dark. I did not want to run in the dark alone which is why I wanted to team up with another runner. And, the moment of my biggest fear is here, and my fear never occurred to me. Huh? What about that!? I am completely prepared and unaware of me fear of finishing this out in the dark. LOL All of my early morning runs and hours of running in the dark have paid off, I suppose, but in an unexpected way.
So, I tell Marc, sure he can run with me, but I don't know how fast I am going, so he is welcome to stick with me or run ahead. He said, "I don't care if you walk the last 6 miles, I do not want to run this in the dark". I said, "OK, but I am NOT walking!" I am thinking this isn't even a 10k. I wouldn't walk a 10k to save my life! LOL
Well, it turns out he's from Virginia and is unfamiliar to this park and area. I told him he's in luck as I've run this before, and I know where I am at. Funny, as most people would not rely on me for road directions! LOL But, also about a 1.5 mile into this run a man out of nowhere comes up to us in the pitch dark at this point and says, "I am just an old man wandering in the woods looking for water.". I'm confused and it's really just a WHAT THE FUCK is this moment?! He proceeds to tell us he's been camping and spilled his water and then while cooking spilled his dinner, and he's looking for water. He wants us to tell him where he can get water. I am trying to direct him to Amicalola Park while Marc tries to direct him to the aid station. The Aid Station barely has fluids as I think back to the used coke I drank from, and I know there are a ton of runners behind us. We listen to this poor man's plight, but seriously...I've got less than 5 miles, and I don't have time for this. Finally, the man is making his way towards the aid station and Mark and I resume running and kind of laughing at this situation we are in. Marc says, "I didn't want to stop and have that conversation as we are in a race!". I agreed wholeheartedly, we just want to be done already. This was so absurd that even I can't make this shit up.
Awhile further, I tell Marc that I can't wait to see my husband. He says, "I can't wait to see your husband too!". We both are laughing so hard at this. This was the funniest thing I heard all day long. A little ways longer I tell him that my husband and kids better be at the finish or nearly 22 years is going to be down the drain! Again, we both laugh at this.
Then lo and behold there is a marker to the left, and I realize we are being diverted off the planned downhill road. I knew immediately why because I had wondered about that way back in my pea brain. I was wondering why they'd have us finish on that steep grade with traffic barreling down that hill. And, sure enough we are running through grass, and we actually pass another runner here. Marc asks the guy if he wants to run with us, and he says no way and for us to go on. We cross the road, and I realize we are in the top of the falls parking lot.
I am totally pissed off because I know it's over a mile as we are running down the road to get into the parking lot. I know this last mile is very rocky, rooty, and the worst part it's a steep descent which isn't going to bode well for my knees, ITB, or ankle. I am pissed because when I hit the top of the East Ridge Trail my proverbial shelf that I pushed all that pain to in mile 7 just fell and hit the trail in mile 64. I am cussing so much that it's a wonder Amicalola didn't blow up with the number of "F" bombs that I hurled at it. I apologize to Marc and the other runner that caught up to us that we just passed, for my potty mouth, and Marc tells me I have every right to cuss. LOL I am going so slow down this trail as my granny knees just can't handle it, and I feel for the first time all day that I am making slow progress. I ask Marc and the other guy if they want to pass me, and they say no because I know where I am going. Funny, because there is no where else to go.
Ahead I see a headlamp, and I am calling out for "Lee". I feel quite sure it's him and then out of nowhere Mitchell jumps out of a tree and Megan is there giggling and Lee is there. I am so happy to see them! They are moving ahead of us and leading us in. I am talking, but I do not even remember what I said to them. We are getting closer and Marc says, "Angela, get up here with me to finish!". I run up to him and finish with Marc across the finish line. I was so happy to see my family that I forgot about finishing this race! I will never forget how Marc reminded me to finish. I just met him 6 miles ago, and felt so honored really that he wanted to finish this with me.
Jason G. is writing down my finishing time at 17:30 hours. Holy Shit! I did it. I ran sub 18 hours with 2 injuries. Later in the week, I learned that I placed 8th female and 43rd overall out of about 127 finishers. I believe that nearly 190 started. I never expected to place in the top 10 of females. I just wanted a decent finishing time if I could manage the pain from my injuries.
At the finish line is Jake, as he finished in 15:55 hours, and he told me he would wait to see me finish. That just meant so much that he did that as somehow I just really didn't expect him to. Jake surprised me with such a fast finish. I am so thrilled for him! I see Michael, and he congratulates me with a hug and says, "Angela, this was your course". I guess in a way it's true. I had run all but 6 miles of this course in training. His words meant so much, and I tell him how sorry I was about his race ending so soon. I'm not sure if I said that in person or in a message to him later. But, I really was sorry that happened because it could have easily been me.
Finishing this race meant so much to me because it was a goal I set 11 months ago at a time when I knew I wasn't physically able to complete this race. I trained so hard for this race and ran in conditions that I would have never considered 8 years prior when I started running again. I was lucky to meet so many people to train with in the months leading to this race and during the race along the way. I learned so much about myself and a lot about other people that will make my future races even better.
And, mostly, I am just so grateful to my family and to myself for allowing me to do what I love so much.