I somehow managed to talk Elvis into traveling with me, and crewing for the race. We had a good flight down, and stopped at Jersey Mike’s for subs and sweet tea on the way to the hotel. Sooooo gooood. The sky train at ATL airport uses the same chime as the eBay app… I recognized the sound but couldn’t place it until Elvis exclaimed “someone’s bidding on us!”
The hotel itself was probably the worst I’ve ever stayed in. It was so bad it was funny. Super dirty sheets, one of the arms was missing from the desk chair, the windows were clouded up, and there were some bugs in the bedroom. Also, a disturbingly detailed massive painting of peaches over the bed. We went to Walmart and bought a couple sheets to put on top of the bed because we heard folks had gotten lice. Maybe I should have looked closer at the reviews before booking. At least the room didn’t smell too bad.
We went to the pre-race meeting, grabbed my bib, and got the whole Run Bum spiel…”you’re gonna die, blah blah” and details on the course and race itself. ….And then we went to Jersey Mike’s again for dinner. Stopped by Walmart again to pick up a map, some iced coffees, and mini pies as an impulse buy.
The race started out pretty awesome. I was running in 3rd in a pack of 5 girls, it was a super positive energy and we were having fun in the dark on the trails. At mile 5, Liz Canty rolled her ankle and stayed back a bit. I ran with Teresa and Luzia and one other girl that I think DNFed.
At one of the aid stations around mile 12 I was in and out, and think I passed the Swiss girl and the DNF girl. It was me and Teresa. I dropped her on a climb and was running with Shawn Webber. He was cool, he was describing how he trains for mountain races living in Florida. Turns out he also grew up in MA and knew some of the same trails and runners that I do.
We were really careful at mile 16ish(?) to make sure we followed the right course markings; the ones we had to follow were pink BUT they said USFS DO NOT REMOVE. There was a section that the trail owners were rerouting but the race course stayed on the older trails, with a massive climb. The new trails were freshly blazed and gorgeous, flatter, and marked with pink flags with NO TEXT. If I wasn’t running behind Shawn I would have missed it.
We crushed. He was really fast on the climbs but I caught him on every downhill. I’m slowly realizing what I’m actually talented at.
We ran through thorns…a lot of them. A thorn bush got caught on my right ankle Hahahaah! I ran like 30 feet with it stuck on me. That sucked! Anyway the girls never passed me and I had been leading for a while, but coming into an out-and-back aid station, this group of a few girls and a guy or 2 was magically ahead of us. As we got to the aid station Shawn and I addressed the issue of the pack of girls and the confusing flags…he knew the spot we were talking about and had warned us at the pre-race meeting to be wary of plain pink or orange flags. The RD just told me to keep running my own race. But it fucked me up. I didn’t grab enough food or water from the aid station and I also didn’t stop to see Elvis and it just put me in a bad spot mentally. I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to get my smile back.
Besides, this was just running. This is just a stupid, expensive, painful, time-consuming hobby 😅 I was on beautiful trails and it was a gorgeous day, and I was surrounded by great people. I thought about my daughter and I wanted to be able to tell her that sometimes things don’t go your way, but what’s important is to still give your best, regardless. Don’t give up, and be flexible when things don’t go as planned. You don’t have to win to be proud of yourself. I also thought about all the folks who cared about me and were following along, and it was the extra little push that I needed.
I managed to turn my attitude around and just focused on getting to the next crewed aid station (mile 42ish?) and I was really looking forward to seeing Elvis. Getting to each aid station was a boost. The volunteers were awesome and I couldn’t help but smile as I pulled in. Had a few rough spots on the way…including that god awful climb up to Winding Stair, but seeing Elvis and eating that $.50 Walmart pecan pie made a world of difference. I saw a couple guys drop at that aid station, including Aaron Saft, but I caught a second wind.
The rest of it is kinda blurry… I had to shuffle a lot but never really blew my quads. I had no girls to run with and Shawn had picked it up over the douchegrade climbs. I was alone for the last 30. I think I passed 5 people, and 5 other guys passed me. I started listening to music and that helped. Lamb of God has some songs with bpm that matches my cadence and the metal kept me inspired and motivated.
There was a tough paved road section and it made my feet hurt a lot. I saw a dead possum with like 9 pink squishy babies strewn across the road…I peed and realized my ass was chafing but so was my back from my pack and basically everywhere else.
Before the race I scoffed at the railroad spike being referred to as a “burden we had to carry” but by mile 61 it was adding a bit of weight that I didn’t really wanna carry. I got to the last aid station and thought I only had 8 miles to go but it was really 13.5. My GPS watch was almost dead at mile 42 so I saved and preserved the battery in case the RD wanted to compare routes at the end.
But I think I ran better not knowing the mileage. I ran by time of day. I ran kind of blind. I calculated by time when-ish I’d reach the next aid station.
Forget the pizza rolls…I passed through an aid station with legit pizza. Except I was getting hot and thirsty so pizza and quesadillas just didn’t make it into my stomach.
Jake Bull aid station was pretty awesome. The volunteers were incredible. One guy asked what my drop bag was (the orange Loon Mountain Race drawstring) and sprinted off to get it. I thought I’d be special with an orange bag..turns out everyone else had the same idea! They filled my handheld and my bladder AND helped me stuff more HoneyStingers into my pack. Oh and they poured cold water on my head. I shrieked. It was amazing.
The sun set and I reached the 600ish steps up the waterfall in Amicalola Falls. The steep climbing felt better than the slow shuffle of the last 30 miles. By the time I reached the top it was dark out. Had to go down a mile and a half of technical trail in the dark and the downhill is what hurt the most. I could see a headlamp behind me so I just shuffled as fast as I could.
There was a bridge crossing the creek, but the finish line was through the creek itself, an example of how the RD just likes to fuck with you. When I knew I wasn’t gonna be passed at the very end I hollered and splashed people at the finish 🙂 I was just happy to hold on for “4th” and didn’t bring up the course cutting thing, but Shawn caught up with me and said he spoke to the RD on my behalf. So those details are up in the air. It’s tricky though cuz 1st and 2nd did “finish” so much sooner than me…but they had fresher legs by not climbing and descending the mountain that I did.
My stomach started going south the last few miles and after I threw my spike in the coffin and got my new engraved one and a pint glass I started to get super nauseous. I think I had a total of 15 HoneyStinger gels plus a soft flask of the stuff, plus random aid station foods.
Elvis carried me like a baby to the bathroom annnnd I puked up straight black shit. It looked like shit. Like poop came out of my mouth. No wonder my body wanted to get rid of it.
Also I pooped out of my butt.
There was one other guy that we saw at our hotel that also ran the race and we gave him a ride back, he wound up finishing 3rd!
But I made Elvis stop on the drive back and pooped on the side of the road again. Squatting was not fun. I fell forward into the car door.
Then I had some chicken noodle soup from CVS and the salt is just what I needed. I fell asleep right away (around 1030?) but then woke up at 3am and *very slowly* rolled around listlessly.
I think most of my race pics show a big smile on my face, so I feel good about that. I never had a really dark spot, I didn’t sob like I had during the 40 and 50 miler I did. I think the positivity stemmed from having Elvis there with me. I’m not sure he realizes how much I appreciated just his presence.
My shins and feet hurt quite a bit. I was actually worried while running that I was getting stress fractures. But I’m swollen now so I can’t really tell? I think I’m ok though. But I plan on taking a few days completely off.
One thing Liz said to me at the finish was “running more than 50 miles sucks, doesn’t it?” I did laugh and fuckin yeah…those extra 25 miles were hard. In a sense, I’m relieved I don’t have to decide if I wanted to accept the golden ticket…it would have been a stressful decision and hard to figure out logistics, but at the same time I’d appreciate recognition that I was the first female who completed the actual course as marked.
All in all it was a good trip. I enjoyed seeing Atlanta again as a visitor, but was reminded by the SWAT standoff in Marietta why I moved.