Wasn’t sure if I should label this post, Georgia Death Race or My journey to figuring out how to adventure post menopause ? I did not finish my 74 mile adventure through the North Georgia mountains this time around. Made a conscious decision to stop at Mile 28. It was an easy call to make for reasons I explain below, but I was bummed as it turned out to be a nice day for a run despite it being humid. I actually don’t mind the humidity. It’s like being in a hot yoga studio, where my muscles feel warm and flexible and ready to move 😀
About the course – GDR is a 3 part race to me. There’s the first 34 or so miles that’s got some intense single track climbs and descents. A combination of long switchbacks, straight up the mountain climbing, and some gentler rolling terrain. Good mix of technical and dirt tracks. The race has some tight cutoffs till about Mile 28, so you have to keep moving at a decent pace and jog when you see a downhill or low grade hill. Just getting through Skeenah Gap at Mile 21 does not mean you are home free as far as cut-off’s are concerned. The climb out of Skeenah is tough, and there are a couple of steep straight up the mountain climbs till you get to Mile 28 (Point Bravo). And, you are on these trails when it’s starting to get really hot, and there is a long gap between aid-stations. If you are a mid to back of the pack runner – you are working hard here. There is no save your legs for the second half strategy in my opinion. If you love big mountain running, you will absolutely love this part of the course. This is my favorite section – tough on the body, but easy on the mind.
The second part of GDR is the uneventful section from Mile 35 to Mile 54, which is the Jake Bull aid station. Has a bunch of gravel road sections, trails, rolling terrain and hills too. I mean it’s GDR, there are hills everywhere but nothing super crazy. I call this the connector. The only exciting part here is meeting up with your pacer if you have one to join you for the rest of the journey at Mile 43. By nature of the terrain you will end up moving at a decent pace here to help you be in the race, and no more tight cut-offs. Also, if you made it to Mile 43 DON’T give up. You do get 10 hours to finish the final 30 miles!
That brings me to the 3rd part of GDR, what I call the mind games section. I’ve done this section 2 twice before – once pacing my friend Gabi during her attempt and once during my race in 2017. The good news is if you prepared mentally for the 9 or 11 mile Nimblewill climb, you will probably end up accepting the suck and keep moving. So just be prepared 😂 It’s going to suck regardless. Enjoy the night running, cooler temps, camaraderie of other runners, non technical climbing, good time to put on music and know there is an oasis at the end of this. That aid station will put a smile on your face! The trails after this section are just about getting through the race. It’s going to be tough. There are more technical sections in the last 10 miles from what I can remember compared to the rest of the course. Or, maybe every tiny rock felt like an ankle busting, knee knackering trail! Yes, there are stairs in the end … but they come with handles. You can haul your ass up those stairs holding on to that. The final descent is steep and crazy, but you can hear the cheers and finish line. Final section – Cross the creek, not the bridge, but the creek. You made it.
Well, seems like I went off tangent on this post since I didn’t actually finish it this year 😂 But hey, that was how I would have prepared for the race mentally and will use the same approach when I go for it some other year.
Now, the post menopause part of this post. Well, I am BRCA1 gene carrier with a very strong immediate family history of breast cancer. So the first step in this BRCA1 journey is going through the process of removing the source of estrogen production in your body. I went through the process in my early 40s. I’ve been in post surgical menopause for over 5 years now, and not until this race did I actually have to stop and think about “symptoms” associated with being post menopausal that forced me to consider dropping out. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dropped out of races before. They were either out of boredom, or I didn’t make the cut off time, or injury etc. but never because of fear of not knowing how or what my body is going through. I typically like to put two and two together to help make an informed choice. But I was rather stumped when I started seeing some “bloody” symptoms since I was over and done with that cycle 5 years ago. I just freaked out. I started seeing the symptoms at around Mile 13 and of course couldn’t just drop then. I had to get in at least a long run in. I travelled all the way to Georgia after all! Mile 28, I made the choice to drop out. No regrets.
There is not a lot of information out there on managing post menopausal symptoms and ultra running. There is even less information out there about being post menopausal in your 40s, and having even more severe symptoms since your body did not get the opportunity to go through the various cycles of menopause. It’s a journey in itself and I am thinking about it in terms of 5 year phases. Not sure if it’s a logical approach to dealing with it, but It breaks it down into more tangible parts. My next plan is what type of hormone therapy, diet changes, strength programs I should be considering now to get the most out of what I love so much, i.e. adventuring and running on mountains and trails. I am really curious to hear about how other women endurance athletes deal with post menopause? Would love to hear! Thank you ladies. I know this blog barely reaches anyone, but you never know 😀