On my very first mountain training run in Sept. 2011, I met Brad on the Duncan Ridge Trail who was running the GA Loop carrying 2 jugs of water. I had never heard of The GA Loop before. I later learn he was running approx. 55 miles in the mountains that weekend, and very few people actually complete this run in a day meaning under 24 hours. It's just over 17,000 feet of elevation gain not to mention the elevation loss. I was thoroughly impressed and thought that would just be so awesome to be able to do that! In fact, it would be a dream to be able to do a run like this.
In Dec. 2012, I decided that by late May or early June, that I would run the GA Loop. I could have run it sooner except I was too busy training for GDR. My original plan was to cover the loop over 2 days. But, those plans fell through in April, and I decided to just go ahead and run it in a day. Corinne who had just finished running and winning "Cruel Jewel 58 mile race" the previous week was going to join me for at least 40 to 50 miles. My original plan also included running this with self-support and setting out aid in a few places.
However, a few weeks before I am to run the loop, I'm chatting with Brad, and he mentions that he would crew me if I ever needed him to. This is a general blank statement, but it gets me thinking. Hmmm? So, I think on it, and it would actually solve setting out aid, but also who better to crew us than the person who has run this course twice? So, after consulting Corinne, I inform Brad of our plans to run the loop and ask if I could take him up on his offer to crew us. He accepts just like that and even agrees to run with me when Corinne needs to stop since her legs will be tired from Cruel Jewel. So, I name Corinne and I, "The GA Loop Girls".
So, the plans are set and Corinne and I meet Brad and drop off our aid into his truck. Corinne has this little bag, and I have an entire cooler. It's funny. In my cooler, I have 2 Cuban sandwiches, hummus wraps, a gallon and a half of water, a few cokes, mountain dew, coconut water, powerade, and one red bull. The red bull is for emergency use if the shit hits the fan....lol Turns out as usual, I over packed.
Corinne and I start running at Woody Gap at 5:14am. I am not running this for time but rather as a completion run. I just want to have a good day, have fun, and complete it. I do not underestimate The GA Loop though. I do realize and know just how hard this is going to be. But, I also know this is what I love to run. I feel like I am pretty well prepared as one can be for this type of run.
Corinne and I are running and talking the whole time. We make the right onto the DRT and are running just fine. We even talk about needing to stay on the blue blazes and know we will be at Wolf Pen Gap at mile 10. However, we quickly come across this tent right in the center of the trail, and we have to walk around it. Corinne and I are talking about what kind of idiots pitch their tent right on the trail? We get distracted with this conversation and keep running. We run all the way down and realize we are near the entrance of Vogel Park. It's then after running approx. 2 to 2.5 miles downhill that we missed the DRT sign going left and now we have to climb all the way up adding a good 4 to 5 miles to our day!
This is also an extra climb that we don't anticipate or appreciate this early on in our adventure. Neither one of us are happy about this, and I really want to say a lot of bad words, but I remain positive and decide well, running extra miles is just good training. But, that climb all the way up was hard! We make it to the sign and see exactly where we went wrong, and it's so frustrating that we both missed that turn. Then we realize that the people in the tent camping were on a camp site and we were the only idiots running through their camping area! So, we do have some good laughs about the two blondes calling them idiots when it's actually us who were the idiots! LOL I've decided all we can do is move forward and it is what it is, but I know the rest of this course, so I know there will not be any more mistakes.
We make it Wolf Pen Gap (15 miles), and we refill water from the tree stump and take our first break there. We continue forward and run onto the Duncan Ridge Trail. On this stretch, we come across an older man hiking with two young adult men. We stop and chit chat and tell him what we are doing. He says he has to shake our hands because that is just so great that we are running 60 plus miles in a day! We meet Brad at Mulky Gap (27 miles). It's about noon time, and I tear into my Cuban sandwich and refill water and drink some coke. Boy, do I feel better after this. I was starving!
Our next stop to meet Brad is going to be Hwy 60 (mile 35). However, I warn Corinne at Fish Gap that we are entering "The Abyss" or technically Rhoads Mtn. I explain to her this section will be the hardest for me all day. And it is, but also it is easier than the last time I was here...lol Funny, how that seems to work! It's also this section that is the warmest part all day. I am so happy when we get off the DRT and are onto the BMT. I feel like we are home free! We are soon just maybe 2 miles away from Hwy 60 when we see Brad running towards us and then he runs it into Hwy 60 with us. He is a site for sore eyes because at mile 35 we are more than half way through. We take more time at this mobile aid station to eat, refuel, before moving forward.
So, now we are headed towards the swinging bridge. I love this section of trail and really I'm just enjoying this run. I have felt good all day with no lows all day. We make it to the bridge and I ask Corinne to come to the water with me and we splash off and rinse off in the water. Oh my, does it feel good to rinse the sweaty salt off my face and arms and I even wet my hair some. Just past the bridge we have another tough climb, but I've been here before. In fact, many times before! When we reach mile 40, I do a happy dance on the trail. We are at mile 40, Corinne! She says, "I see it!" Meaning she has seen my happy dance! LOL
We reach Long Creek Falls and make a left at the AT/BMT junction. We are thinking that we are to meet Brad at Hightower at mile 47, but mile 47 has come and gone. It's not long before I see Brad's bright yellow shirt and socks, and he is running away from us. I yell, "BRAAADDDD" almost as loud as I can, and he stops and turns around and runs towards us. He said, he was getting worried about us and thought he better turn around and get his headlamp in case it got dark. He runs it into Hightower with us the last few miles of this stretch. Corinne and I inform Brad that this stretch from Hwy 60 is not 12 miles but rather 15 miles. It's not a big deal to me, but it was worrisome.
So, we are at mile 50 at Hightower. Brad says that we have just 12 miles to go. It's just now getting dark. Corinne is done. I am so grateful to her for running with me these 50 miles, but her legs are really done. I completely understand. I had hoped she could finish with me..really hoped. She's really one of the strongest women I have ever had the privilege of running with. Brad and Corinne talk as Corinne decides to meet us for the remainder of our planned aid stations. I tell Corinne that she could just drop Brad's truck off at Woody's and go home to rest because we can run 12 miles unsupported. But, she will not hear of that and is determined to see me through. How much good can I say about this incredible lady? I just can't.
It's starting to get dark at this point and Brad and I put on our headlamps and take off onto the trail. The climb here is hard, and it feels like it's taking forever but also my legs are getting tired. We get to Horse Gap and Corinne is nowhere to be found! Brad calls her and advises her to meet us at the next stop Cooper Gap which is mile 54. Corinne says, "what has taken you so long?" LOL I know it's taken awhile but dam those climbs were hard! I said, "OMG Corinne, be glad you stopped. It's so rocky and rooty and HARD!!". So, she is ok with that I hope because it's true. That shit wasn't easy.
Brad and I press onto Gooch Gap, and it's still not any easier. It's just hard as nails hard. My feet are just beat to pieces, and I feel a blister that hurts. I am trying to move as fast as I can, but I feel slow. Brad is awesome in listening to me ramble but mostly I talk about what a great day this has been and how surprisingly good I have felt all day. I really couldn't have asked for a better day of running. I'm so thankful to be able to accomplish such a huge goal, and I'm getting close to the finish.
We reach Gooch Gap mile 58.5 and Corinne is there waiting on us. Corinne and I ask Brad, "How much longer?" lol And, Brad explains it's just 3.5 miles or a 5k. Corinne informs Brad that 3.5 miles is NOT a 5k. They are debating the point, and I am just kinda laughing to myself about it because to me it doesn't matter if it's a 5k, 3 miles, 3.5 miles as I still have to get this finished. But, at the same time I'm tired and my feet really hurt. For a split second, the thought crosses my mind if Brad and Corinne tell me that I've done my miles and let's call it a day. In that split second, I might have been tempted to do just that. But instead, I ask Brad if he thinks I should drink my red bull. I haven't touched it all day! LOL He says, "yes, go ahead and drink it". But, I can only stomach about half of it.
When we start at Gooch Gap, I am looking for the sign because I want to see that it's just 3.5 miles to Woody's Gap. LOL Brad points it out to me, and I stop and point my headlamp at it to be sure. Sure enough, it's 3.5 miles. It's not long when I ask Brad if he can pace these last 3 miles as I can't see as well with my headlamp despite me changing batteries awhile ago, and he has a much better light than I do. I had been pacing the entire day and now I'm ready for someone else to do it. It's in these last few miles that I explain to Brad that I am not whining but just want to let him know that I have a blister, and it hurts. He never acknowledges my blister or my pain! LOL It's not a big deal, and it's probably for the better that he doesn't after all, I do not make a big deal out of it either. It just felt better to say it out loud because it was really hurting.
We make it out of the woods and onto the street, and we are crossing over to Woody's Gap. Corinne is there waiting to hug and congratulates me. I ask Brad what time it is because my Garmin died long ago, and he said 1:27am. He says, I ran a sub 20 hour GA Loop, but it actually was 20:13 hours and came out to 62.10 miles because of the bonus miles I ran. I am so terribly happy to have ran this. And, I was thinking could I run another 38 miles now if I had to? LOL It's an interesting question that begins to plague me and one that I ponder for weeks to come.
I drive home thinking about what I just accomplished and how great it feels to have set a goal so long ago and to have completed it. I'm forever grateful to Corinne and Brad for joining me in making my little dream come true. I couldn't have done it as well without their support for sure. And, to think they gave up their day for me is just an amazing thing.
Will I do it again? Hell yes! I can't wait!