Georgia Death Race Report – 2019

What: Georgia Death Race

When: End of March

Weather: Variable

Cost: ~$275

Course: Steep single track, minor pavement and apparently some fire roads and stairs?

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.

#1: Visit the Course at Least 6 Months in Advance

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.

#2. Practice Training on STEEP Downhills

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!

 

#3. Train Specifically for this Race

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.

#4. Continue Upper Body/HIIT Training

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.

#5. Continue Back to Back to Back Training

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.

#6. Dedicate More Time for Rest and Relaxation

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.

Conclusion and Final Take-Aways

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.

Mountain Peak Fitness – 2018 Race Report

Regiment Running – How to Not DNF

Metalhead Mountain Runner – 2019 Race Report

Did YOU run the Georgia Death Race? What were your thoughts? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.

Much Love,

Stephanie

Naked Bavarian 40 Mile Race Report

What: Naked Bavarian 40 Mile (20 Mile Option too)

When: Early March

Cost: ~$35-$40; refunds offered if you drop before a certain date!

Terrain: Single Track/Double Track/Some Road Sections

Weather: -50F to 100F. Just kidding, it’s Pennsylvania in the end of Winter. Anything can happen.

Last year when I did the Naked Bavarian 20 Mile, our crew piled into the car and headed down to Pennsylvania early in the day to beat an impending snow storm (we hail from good old Upstate NY).
We ended up hitting the storm half an hour into our drive and battled it the rest of the way to our hotel. Our projected 4.5 hour drive took a whopping 8.5 hours, and I nearly wet the car 10 times because we were deathly afraid to pull off the highway.
The one time we did stop, at a roadside rest area, all of the port-a-potties had holes cut out of the sides so you could see the person next to you (seriously, the entire row). And then a tree almost fell on the car.
Ironically enough, when we got to the event that year, there was no snow. None. The weather was chilly, but gorgeous. This year, we were not so lucky.
The drive was a breeze. No bad weather, we had no issues. We stopped plenty of times and I was more than happy to take full advantage of the McDonald’s restrooms.
The morning of the event, however, was another story. We had four inches of snow. The drive to Blue Marsh Lake was a bit treacherous; the plows hadn’t made it through the area yet/snow was still coming down. We took it easy and left early, so thankfully, we had no issues.
Shockingly, there were still a large number of folks that showed up despite the weather. I think close to 400 people were running (including 20 mile folks).  I love the determination of people in the north. All of you are awesome and inspiring. Keep on keeping on.
The first lap of the course wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The front-runners blazed a nice trail; the snow became a neatly packed little trail which made running a breeze. The course looked absolutely gorgeous.
I cannot stress this enough. It looked like something out of a postcard with the freshly fallen snow. I was geeking out so hard I nearly fell multiple times. It was so worth it.
The hills weren’t nearly as bad as I had remembered. Trekking poles would have been super helpful for the steeper parts to maintain balance, especially on the downs. I started grabbing fallen sticks after a while and using them to help me down on the steep parts to avoid sliding into the next person. No one likes a human avalanche.
The course is kind of like a lollipop. It goes out for 5 or 6 miles (loose measurements), loops back on itself, and then follows the same path back in. This part was pretty torn up by the end of the first loop; it started to get really muddy and a bit slick in some spots.
Having trail shoes was really helpful.
Someone made some snowmen at the start/finish which was pretty neat. I had to force myself back out for a second lap. I thought my husband was already way ahead of me and felt guilty because I thought I had missed him. Turns out, he had dropped after one lap and was already warming up in the car.
Brat.
I saw my mother in law on the way back out. She was cheerily chatting away, per usual, looking quite chipper.
I became super envious that she was almost done. The second lap wasn’t nearly as much fun as the first. The weather warmed up so the snow was melting off the trees… And onto the runners. I yelped a few times when it hit me. Not a nice move nature.
Heading back out on the course was tough with so many folks coming back in; things got pretty slick over the morning. I had a rough time on the downhills, especially trying to get around folks who were coming back in. The downed sticks helped a lot though.
The course never really opened up; I was always near people, which was pretty nice. I enjoyed the company though folks weren’t really talking all that much.
I was a bit worried about the cutoff with the conditions. The race director said the park wanted everyone out an hour early, which meant we only had 10 hours to finish the course. He did give an option to start an hour earlier at 7AM, but we didn’t get in early enough for that.
By the time I reached the end of the lollipop on the second lap, the course was pretty tore up. My ankles and hips were pretty sore from trying to stay stable; it took about a week to fully recover back to normal. I realized I had a time cushion before the cutoff so I slowed down a bit and decided not to push it too hard.
This event was one of my final long runs before Georgia Death Race.
Despite the conditions this year, I absolutely love this race and would happily do it again. It’s inexpensive, has super well-stocked aid stations, and a great group of volunteers. The elevation isn’t too crazy and it’s fun to get outside towards the end of winter for an event.
You even get a little souvenir when you finish. Not bad for the price tag.
I’m sure we’ll be back, probably with crampons and trekking poles for next year. Based on our track record I’d say we’re due for a warm year next time. XD Here’s to hoping!
Did you run Naked Bavarian this year? What about other courses in the Uberendurance race series? I’d love to hear about your experience.
Much Love,
Stephanie

Hallucination 12 Hour Race Report

What: Hallucination 12 Hour

When: Early February

Cost: ~$100

Terrain: Mountain Bike Trails/Grass; course is a loop a little over two miles long

Weather: 30s – 50s; very comfortable

My husband picked this event out in November as something to motivate him to keep running all winter… I figured I’d tag along as a nice excuse to run in some warmer weather sans face mask.
We flew into Charleston Airport and stayed at a Hampton Inn ~1/2 hour away from the event. Charleston is a small airport; it didn’t take us more than 15 minutes to get through security. This included the time it took airport security to search our bags (I didn’t take the batteries out of my headlamp), and swab our drink mixes.
I love the beds at Hampton Inns. We also tend to save a lot of money staying there since we usually load up on snacks during the continental breakfast and stash them in our room for later. Hoarders much?
The event started at 8AM. Unfortunately, they only had one port-a-potty, so this led to a bit of a wait and sub-par conditions. The Race Director promised this would never happen again though, thankfully. 🙂
Fortunately for us, the weather was gorgeous. Zero rain, beautiful temperatures and even a little sunshine. The course was mostly dry with pretty much no mud. I actually wore road shoes and had zero complaints. The trails were pretty well packed down and it was easy to get traction on.
The loop was pretty interesting. It twisted and turned A LOT, which helped with slowing down and maintaining a more even pace. The Hubby said he had a tough time with getting up to his normal speed due to the twists and turns; I didn’t have this issue. I actually liked the variability and felt that it helped maintain a more even, consistent pace.
100% of the course is runnable. I don’t wear a GPS watch or any of that fancy stuff so I have no idea what the elevation breakdown is, but the course was pretty darn flat aside from a couple of small rollers. These were really fun to try to run fast. I like to build up momentum on the downs and use it to carry me to the top of the next hill. I have yet to succeed in making it to the top of the next hill on momentum alone.
I really enjoyed this race. The short loops made it easy to keep track of nutrition. Part of the course runs out and back on a flat grassy area, which is right next to the parking lot/port-a-potty. We bought a tub to tuck out things in during the race from Walmart, but it would have been just as easy to put things in the trunk of our rental car if it has been raining. I liked to use this part of the loop to walk and eat.
The race director and the crowd were friendly and accomodating. I liked how neatly the aid station was laid out at the start/finish.
All in all, it was a fun event. We would definitely consider going back next year, especially as a reprieve to get away from the Upstate NY weather.
The Race Director also offers special pricing if you sign up for his race club. We can’t afford to travel that much, otherwise we’d probably consider it. I haven’t ran any of his other races, but we’ve got our eyes on a few of them. When/if we do, I’ll keep y’all posted.
Did YOU run the Hallucination 6/12/24 Hour this year? What did YOU think of the course? What about the other events in this series? I’d love to hear your comments below.
Much love,
Stephanie

 

You’re allowed to change your mind.

You’re allowed to change your mind.

The things you wanted when you were 18 don’t need to be the same as the things you want when you’re 38, 58, etc. Perhaps you’ve come to the realization that owning the latest iPhone, wearing only “name-brand” clothing and following the latest celebrity gossip won’t make you happier. Maybe you’ve figured out the career you’ve been pursuing in pharmacy is really your parent’s dream and not your own. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter.
You’re allowed, if not expected, to grow. As you get older, you’ll change. Your body will change. You’ll learn more. You may even change your core values or outlook on life. And that is completely and totally acceptable.
I mean… If you never matured, there’s a good chance you’d still be complaining about that girl in high school who stole your boyfriend or yell at your mom for asking what you’re doing this weekend… Because hormones.
You’re allowed to change. The people in your life will change. The only constant in life is change. Adapting to it will only suit you better in the long run.
Repeat: you are allowed to change your mind.
No longer want kids? Don’t have them. Want them? Have them. Marriage? It’s completely up to you. Failed marriage? Shit happens. Hate the job you once loved? Do something else.
Don’t be trapped by the ideals you outgrew.  You don’t have to define yourself by the same standards which you did as a child, last year, or even yesterday.
Maybe you come across new information which completely debunks a belief you’ve held for years (newsflash; I totally believed that men had one less rib than women for like 20 years), or maybe, you’ve finally realized you deserve to be happy.
It doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s your life to live. You have the right to be you. To believe what you believe. To want what you want. And to feel what you feel.
You know you best. So listen to yourself. Listen to your body. Trust yourself. And realize it’s okay to deviate.
You have the right to change your mind.
Have YOU had a change of heart? Or have you stayed on the same path for years? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

You’re Not Getting Any Younger…

Are you self-conscious?

Do you regularly worry what other people will think about you?
Do you think you’re fat, ugly, or some other negative, debilitating term?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, allow me to help you change your perspective.
You’re not getting any younger. And, unfortunately, gravity, time and environmental contaminants are NOT on your side.
That’s right. In addition to gravity slowly pulling down your skin, your body’s failing collagen production and the natural aging process, you need to contend with a host of environmental factors which are seemingly determined to destroy any remaining modicum of youth you may still possess.
Don’t believe me? Google the effect air pollution can have on your skin. Try not to freak out… Or quit your job and move out to the country.
Now that I’ve sufficiently freaked you out about the future, take a moment to look back on those old facebook photos and instagram posts. Whip out a photo album if you’re feeling nostalgic. Chances are, you looked pretty damn good. Gorgeous, in fact. Slim, trim, fit and hopefully, happy.
And guess what? When you took those photos, you probably felt equally as awful, worried or self-conscious as you do now.
Have you caught on to where I’m headed here?
So take a deep breath. Take a look in the mirror. Focus on every single positive quality and thing you love about yourself. Be it the gorgeous color of your eyes, the great hair day you’re having or maybe the way your jeans happily hug your curves.
Because tomorrow, you’re going to be one day older. And then another. And then another.
Don’t waste your youth. Enjoy it. Wear that tight dress out to dinner. Throw on a pair of heels. Sport the bikini. Run in your sports bra. And relish EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE.
Take the photos. Smile. Enjoy your body while you have it. You’re not always going to look like this. And one day, when you’re old, saggy and grey, you too can point to old photos of yourself and brag to your grandchildren about how hot you were when you were younger. Here’s looking at you Grams (she turns 90 this September).
Still not happy with where you’re at? Figure out why. Chances are, you’re engaging in self-destructive behavior because of some unresolved emotions from your past. Seek out a qualified therapist who can help you sort through your issues. Because you’re worth the extra time and attention. Once you process and let go of the negativity in your life, you’ll notice positive changes all around.
Have you ever felt self-conscious before? What do YOU love about you? What’s YOUR favorite quality? Tell me all of the good things about your life; it makes me so happy to see other people happy.
Much Love,
Stephanie

It’s Time to Think About Being Selfish

 

 

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.

Shocking, right?

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.

Much Love,

Stephanie

Rushing Through Life

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.

Much love,

S