This wasn't my first rodeo. Nor was it really a "race". Bibs with timing chips made it somewhat official. But it was free with a membership to GUTS (Georgia Ultra-running and Trail Society) and there weren't any medals or t-shirts.
I wasn't even sure if I was going to run it until about 10 days before the race because I was wait-listed. So I just kept on training like it wasn't even happening.
I did a 20+ mile hilly trail run 10 days prior (mistake #1):
I did have a lovely pasta dinner cooked by my sister who was kind enough to let me crash at her house for the night because it saved me almost an hour of driving time in the morning. I don't really do mornings.
I laid out my gear the night before and actually got to bed at a reasonable hour.
I navigated to Sweetwater State Park with my friend Google and found a parking spot as directed by the volunteers. I was maybe a 1/4 mile from the start line and decided to bring my foodstuffs and hoodie and leave my extra clothes in the car. (mistake #4)
As I started to walk, I sped up to keep warm and ended up side-by-side with a guy from Alabama. We walked up to the bib pickup together and kind of hung around for a bit fiddling with our gear until I bolted for the port-a-potty.
Near 8:00 a.m., I got a little nervous because I realized it didn't look sunny out and I hadn't checked the weather since Friday. (mistake #5) I didn't want to go back to get my gloves or zip top because I was afraid to miss the start. (mistake #6)
A woman yelled for us to go outside and then she proceeded to give us a brief description of the route. 6 times around the 5ish mile white trail which would be marked with blue ribbons. Runners doing the 25K would do 3 loops.
With no anthem and zero fanfare, someone yelled 'go" and we all scrambled towards the trail. I guess the start changed a bit from previous years because the swarm of runners went past the trail head briefly. Giggling and shrugging, we filed along the trail and headed off into the woods.
I tried to position myself near the front 25% not knowing if there would be much single track and jostling. I didn't want to get stuck too far back. (mistake #7) Except a lot of the front of the pack was running the 25K. And after being stuck going at 11:XX pace for nearly a mile, I took off like a bat out of hell on the fire road. (mistake #8)
In my attempts to keep pace with 2 women who flew ahead, I tried to keep them in my sights as we ran. The fire road was about a mile or so and then the next 2 miles got to be a bit more technical. There were stairs made out of logs. There were paths covered with rocks and then roots and then sand.
And then giant boulders approximately 12 feet tall that you had to find footholds to climb over.
I muttered what the f---.
At one point, when I went around a boulder the wrong way, I realized there was a guy right behind me, following my every move. I kept trying to give him room to pass, but he would catch me on the downs and lose me on the ups.
Nearing the end of mile 3 there was about 50 (?) stairs to climb. And then a giant hill filled with roots to climb after the stairs.
What the f---?
After getting to the old mill ruins, there was about 1.5 miles to get back to the start/finish. This was probably the easiest part of the run with mostly smooth trails save for a few sections of log stairs.
The guy that had been trailing me the whole first lap was right on my tail as we came to the start/finish line. A dude sitting on a camping chair read my number out loud. I passed through the start/finish and since I didn't need anything from the aid station yet, I turned back around. And then the dude in the chair yelled at me because I was going the wrong way. And then yelled at me because I was going to mess up my timing chip because I crossed by the start/finish twice.
Perhaps a little instruction on where to go would have been useful DUDE!
I apologized to the guy on my tail who made the same mistake as me and urged him to go ahead of me. Sheesh. Now I am angry, cold, and it's only 5ish miles into a 31 mile race.
My hands are bright red and swollen. I am cursing myself for not wearing gloves. Too late now.
The next lap is bad. I am not in a good place mentally and I am wondering why I am out here freezing my body parts for a race that I don't even get a t-shirt for. My legs already feel like they are on fire and I haven't even hit double digits.
I stop caring about what place I'm in at this point. If I can make it to the end, it will be enough to just finish.
Lap 3 I end up picking up a friend after we get through the nasty little stairs section. We end up running the last miles together as he decided to drop to the 25K because his hip is bothering him. I was so happy to get lost in conversation that miles 13-15 were pretty pleasant.
But then I start lap 4 by myself and it starts to suck again. Why did I wear shorts? Why am I not wearing gloves? Why am I running around a park for 31 miles? Why didn't I put any Pringles in my pack? Remember that first time you ran a marathon and you bonked so hard....like this?
The fire road is in pretty decent shape along the flat, but it is a rocky, rutty mess along the downhill.
And then I bonked again. I was shuffling along with a pace that felt like 20 minute miles. My legs felt achy and tired and I wanted to stop and cry. Except there really wasn't anything wrong with me other than I was being a big wuss (and perhaps a slight electrolyte balance?).
I saw the girl who had been passing me back and forth all race get further and further ahead looking like she just started.
When I arrived back at the start/finish, I saw my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew waiting for me! I stopped and gave my nephew a kiss (he's 7 months so he doesn't know any better) and told my sister they didn't need to wait for me--I was just happy to see them. It was too cold and miserable to stand around for another hour waiting to see me finish this ridiculousness.
I downed 2 Cokes and got another potato before I went out for my last lap. I was so happy for spectators and went bounding out for about 1/4 mile. Then the bonk returned. I trudged on, not really allowing myself to walk except on a few gnarly uphills. And those stairs. Stupid frickin' stairs.
When I got to the mill again, I was so glad to wave good-bye. It was really cool to see the first time and last time. Not so much in the middle.
I dropped my upper body across one of the tables at the aid stations when I stopped. One of the timers asked if I was okay. Yeah, I mean, I guess. More or less. I'll be ok.
Once I scooped myself off the table, I went to grab my sweatshirt and sit down. I wanted my pants, a drink, a drink, and to lay down. But instead, I cracked open my untouched Mountain Dew and called Adam, responded to a few texts, and wondered when my need of pants would win over my need to not move.
I tried to get up once to go use the port-a-potty, but I got a nasty leg cramp and fell back down. So I rested for a few more minutes, ate some Pringles, and then decided I would check my results and go to my car.
5:22:34. 2nd female (by 4 minutes, derp) and 7th overall!
Okay, better than I thought. But I really just wanted pants.
I get to my car, turn the heat on full blast, put on pants, and change my shoes. This takes an obscene amount of time. As I climb into the front seat and look ahead, I realize I am about 20 feet from the trail where runners are still making loops.
I could have grabbed my gloves and zip top any time....Are you f---ing kidding me?!
I drink a beer. I eat half a can of Pringles. I Facebook and text for about 45 minutes. I eventually get warm enough that I actually have to turn the heat down.
Something tells me I am going to have a completely different problem in Miami in 2 weeks!
(Thanks to 323 Archery for the photos!)