What: Hallucination 12 Hour
When: Early February
Terrain: Mountain Bike Trails/Grass; course is a loop a little over two miles long
Weather: 30s – 50s; very comfortable
Getting into the Georgia Death Race was one of the highlights of my 2018 summer. The race seemed like it would be a perfect stepping stone on my way to running a 100 Mile— approximately 70 miles and a decent amount of elevation change to be challenging.
I was horrifically wrong.
Once I began laying out my training plan and doing research, I realized the race was A LOT more difficult than I had bargained for. I initially blew off the warnings from the race director as bluster. I suppose when someone repeatedly states “YOU’RE ALL GOING TO DIE”, it’s probably wise to pay attention. Additionally, a coach I spoke with before the event warned me that many people said this race was more difficult than a 100 Mile.
I learned my first lesson about the race before I’d even toed the line, about five months too late. Unfortunately, I was one of the unlucky folks who “died” along the course and didn’t “live” to see the finish.
For this Race Report, I’ve compiled a list of lessons learned that will hopefully help you (and me) in the future when and if you feel courageous enough to give it a shot.
The lottery period for Georgia Death Race opens well ahead of the actual race. I knew I had gotten in during the Summer of 2018, and I didn’t make an effort to visit the course once.
In hindsight, this was a huge mistake. I sorely misjudged the elevation grades listed on the Trail Run Project’s map and spent too much time hill training on grades which weren’t steep enough. To have been more prepared, I would’ve needed to hill train on slopes up to 30% to be ready for the climbs for intervals up to 45 minutes at a time.
What goes up must go down. I realized during the Hallucination 12 Hour that I’d mistakenly overlooked downhill training. Unfortunately, with two months to go before the big day, I had limited options to right this wrong.
I started running outdoors on dirt roads with grades up to 10% for my long runs where I focused on drilling the downs, instead of running on a treadmill where I pushed the ups. Ultimately, this wasn’t enough to prep for the steep grades of the course.
If I decide to tackle this race in the future (schedule and lottery permitting), I would invest in an alpine treadmill and several cinder blocks. This way, I could jack the back of the treadmill up and practice running on steep downs to build quad strength, while also drilling the steep ups.
Obviously, the best training would be to run single track trails in the Adirondacks, but these are at risk of avalanche in the winter or covered in snow and ice. Yay Upstate New York!
Naturally, I assumed that I had analyzed every single nugget of information on the internet well enough to know that I was training the best I could, given the circumstances for this event. And naturally, I was wrong.
Several people, including my husband (yes honey, you were right), recommended breaking down the course into sections and training specifically for those sections. I figured I was doing this well enough by training in intervals for the uphill segments… Until I realized I’d completely neglected the downhill portions of the course.
Knowing what I know now, I would return to the course to do a full run through over several days, at least four months before the race, and then develop my training plan.
I did notice some of my training strategies paid off. As part of my regular fitness and mindfulness routine, I regularly practice yoga. The extra upper body and core strength helped me maintain my form while ascending the steep hills with the additional weight of a full pack. I also did the majority of my weekday training with a pack and sandbags (~10 pounds), to replicate the weight of the pack I would carry on race day.
Several months before the race I began using the stair master as part of my training. Given the option, I would swap this out for climbing on a steeper grade treadmill in order to more accurately simulate the steep climbs and descents.
I knew this race, like many others, would involve running on tired legs. I took cues from other runners I’ve followed and incorporated back to back training. This included doing a High Intensity Interval workout on Friday, followed by a long run (25 – 40+ miles) on Saturday, followed by 2+ hours of climbing on Sunday.
During the race, I felt strong on the climbs, despite the additional grade, and noticed that I was able to consistently plug along.
Hear me out. My crew and I decided to drive down to Georgia (from Upstate New York) to save money and to see my mom before/after the race. We drove all night on Wednesday to arrive exhausted at her home in North Carolina on Thursday before the race. After visiting for a day and a half, we rushed to our AirBnB and subsequently to packet pickup, leaving us little to no time to prep for the race or relax.
On race day morning I woke up exhausted, slightly dreading the long day/night before me. I underestimated the amount of energy an endeavor like this would take and left myself little to no room for error.
Although I’m disappointed that I didn’t finish the race, I’m happy with my performance overall. I tried to run it “smart” by dialing back in the beginning, but this meant that I was cutting it close to the cutoffs (which are pretty darn tight unless you’re a front-of-pack runner). Despite only spending one to two minutes at the first two aid stations, I arrived with less than 10 minutes to spare at Skeenah Gap.
Poor hydration, a lack of downhill training and a nagging glute issue where just a few of the factors which played into my decision to drop at Point Bravo. Ultimately, I’m confident I made the smart choice for that day given the circumstances.
I’m on the fence if I want to try this race again. While I would love to go back and crush the course, I’m not sure if I have the time to properly train to run this race injury free. Ultimately, I would need to put in between 18 to 22 hours per week for at least four months before the start to have the best chance of finishing— all other factors permitting. Before this attempt, my peak training weeks were around 15 hours or 70 miles tops.
I also felt a lot of anxiety leading up to the race. While I recognize that’s the point (random course changes, etc.), it made me question my current training A LOT and whether or not I was prepared to even toe the line (with a DNF on the record, I guess I wasn’t). I heard rumors about eliminating the safety runner for future events, which makes me feel even more uneasy as I’m scared to run/hobble through the woods at night alone.
I was impressed by how well the event was run. Although the packet pick-up process was a bit confusing (you needed to do gear check outside of the lodge BEFORE heading inside and downstairs to pick up your bib), the course was well marked. The aid stations were well stocked with plenty of options, and there were plenty of volunteers. The course was also laid out on the Trail Run Project App, which came in handy at several intersections along the way.
Here’s a link to a couple of the resources I checked out before the event, as well as a couple of other fellow runner’s opinions.
Did YOU run the Georgia Death Race? What were your thoughts? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.
You’re allowed to change your mind.
Are you self-conscious?
People-pleasing is a vicious societal norm which women have somehow been bullied into since I don’t even know when.
Women should be gracious. They should NOT rock the boat. They should worry extensively about the well-being of those around them. Sacrifice everything and anything for anyone else.
You know, that same old crap. Yes, it’s the 21st century, we should move on. BUT, it’s nearly impossible to do when we look to our mothers and grandmothers, and watch them live their lives, conforming to this antiquated ideal.
It took my grandmother 85 years and a hearing impairment before she began shamelessly speaking her mind. She no longer cares about her image and consequently will gleefully order what she wants at restaurants, will take the last cookie, or share her deepest wishes.
I want to be more like my grandmother. But I’m scared.
I’m scared that people won’t like me anymore. I’m scared that I will offend someone and they might say something mean to me. And I’m also scared I might lose some friends.
But then again, I might actually feel more liberated. More relaxed. Happier.
I felt boxed in the other night. I felt bullied. I blamed my partner for making decisions without my consent. I held him accountable while he looked at me, genuinely puzzled.
And then I realized that I had done exactly what millions of other women around me have been doing for generations. I blindly allowed him to make major life decisions for us and complacently followed along until I snapped. I told him so. He panicked for a moment, before taking a deep breath and asking me how to fix it.
He didn’t run out on me. He didn’t stop loving me. Yes, he was a little annoyed, but to my legitimate surprise, he wants me to be happy too.
We ALL deserve people in our lives who want us to be happy. We ALL deserve to be around people who will let us speak our minds. And in turn, we NEED to speak up.
The time is now ladies. And men.
So I encourage all of you to speak your mind. To stand your ground. To share your feelings and to shamelessly shrug off the desperation to be liked and wanted.
I can promise that your honesty will endear you to the people who truly want to be around you. And you’ll be much happier in the long run.
Are YOU a people pleaser? Or do you shamelessly speak your mind? What tips do YOU have on how to speak up or stand up for yourself? I’d love to hear them.
I regularly rush through life.
Meals are consumed whilst working, driving, or while intermittently cooking for others. I’ll usually hop up from the table before anyone else is done so I can begin doing the dishes.
Work is a flurry of tasks. I dance from one task to the next without taking so much as a moment to take a breath.
And at home?
If I’m not running around, desperately planning a wedding, training for an event or cleaning like mad, I’m collapsing from exhaustion on the couch. It’s all I can do some nights to stare blankly at my partner and force a smile.
Does this sound familiar to you?
I’ve recently started to try to make a change in my life.
I set two alarms in the morning. I wake up with the first, by lie quietly until the second goes off, allowing myself a few moments of peace and solitude before the day begins.
At lunch, I step outside, and walk briefly around the parking lot. I take a deep breath, and then return to work.
I’ve changed my training from focusing solely on mileage and times to effort level.
I do yoga on my rest days to carve out more time for me.
And I’m a happier, more whole person for it.
I haven’t mastered the perfect system yet, but I know that I’ve started on a route that is much more sustainable than my former lifestyle.
Rather than racing around until I collapse each month, barely able to climb out of bed, I’m trying to live with more presence and mindfulness.
I still regularly mess it up, but then again, I’m human.
Do you rush through life? Are you trying to slow down and enjoy the process? I’d love to hear more. Share your thoughts below.