Georgia Death Race

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 😀

Race Recap: Bel Monte 50K

No matter how many races I’ve run, the pre race phantom pains always show up. What’s up with that ? 😂 I rolled my quads, hamstrings, glutes race morning and then told myself it will disappear once I start running so ignore it. And as usual things fade away when you’re enjoying the moment and they did for Bel Monte 50k as well!

I’ve done this race before on a snowy March day a couple of years ago. It’s an out and back course. Good mix of technical trails, runnable trails and road sections. Not a crazy amount of vert, but enough to keep it interesting. Close to 35 miles with 5K+ feet of climbing. It runs in the George Washington national forest area in Virginia. It’s a fun course for this time of the year. The organizers did a great job of COVID proofing the race. Bibs were mailed in advance. They checked-in runners on the course as you entered the woods, and handed out the medal and swag as you crossed the finish line. All aid stations had packaged goodies. Perfect 👌

Overall, I’d say I had a great day and weekend. I spent Friday evening catching up with my friend who is busy training for numerous races herself and was running the 50K. We indulged in some Mexican food, laughed about all the good times, discussed our training and planning for future events, and just catching up on life! It was awesome.

Race day morning was perfect weather. Low 40s and dry! We walked to the starting line, and I noticed my back was wet. I knew there was some kind of bladder leakage going on, and not having any other option for water I started stressing. We went to our cars to find a bottle and I remembered having something in my car for post race recovery drink. I grabbed that with the thought of filling it up at every aid station. I knew it was going to get hot later on, so incase the bladder kept leaking It would keep me cool I figured. Turns out the leak was at the top, and with the bladder being upright it did not leak much once I started drinking. The bottle was handy, as I filled it with soda and water between some aid stations without have to refill the bladder. Good reminder for me to have bottle handy for GDR as well.

The first big climb on the race is at Mile 4 or 5. The legs felt heavy and I thought to myself , boy this is going to be a struggle today. I got another 30 miles to go! The course is longer than your typical 50K. It’s close to 35 miles, and I think that’s by design based on the layout of the trails and best spots for turn around points and aid stations. After summiting Bald mountain, I somehow got into a really good rhythm and things started clicking. I joined a pack of runners, and the miles ticked off easy. Next thing you know I am 2 miles from the turn around. Cool.

I did a good job staying on top of my hydration and fuel. I grabbed an entire banana at the half way aid station and stuffed it in my pack. Decided it’s time to put on some tunes as it started getting hot and I needed a distraction. Else I’d probably start bitching about the heat 🥵🤪. I also knew the course going back has longer stretches of climbing, so refilled my bladder this time. That was a good decision as there was a 9 mile section between aid stations, and most of that was low grade climbing. I passed a number of runners. My legs felt pretty ok for the most part. I did the typical let’s take it one section at a time approach. Had gels / salt tabs. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. It’s pretty common for me to cramp up during a hot day. An experienced runner friend told me once that I should feel like I have to pee during races as a good sign that I am on top of my hydration game. One of my goals was to experiment with that, and it worked.

Got to the last aid station, filled my bottle with coke. 5 more miles and we’re done. Kept on moving, but rather slowly on the technical descents. I used to be totally fearless and bomb down technical trails, and here I am today gingerly placing my foot on these rocks hoping to not hurt my ankle and fall on my face. What the heck !! I know I can still rip, but today I chose to be careful and save that fun for another day. Hit the last road section. Surprised I was still passing folks. Crossed the finish line and got my medal and shirt. Yay!

This was the longest run I’d done since my 100 miler last November. I wasn’t even sure if I was up for 35 miles, and it is a long way to go! But I’ve been in this situation so many times before… so there’s that. I never really had an off stretch during the entire race, and that was the best thing about it. Finished in 7:51 without feeling completely trashed. I truly enjoyed my day in the woods! Maybe I have evolved in how I approach these races and what they mean to me. I did Run Happy.

Last training run for GDR done. Next up is some grueling climbing in Georgia 😍, that I know will take a lot out of me.

Happy to be done


18 more days to Georgia Death Race. While that may seem like it’s fast approaching, it feels like a long ways away for me. See I have completed this race before, and I’ve been to the area a few times. Once to pace my friend Gabi at GDR for about 26 miles, and then to pace my friend Minnie for another race called Cruel Jewel 100 that runs on some of the same sections of the trail referred to as the Dragon spine. There is just something about the relentless climbing through the north Georgia mountains that really speaks to me. After a while the constant climbing just becomes more of an ache, and forces you to really figure out a way overcome it .. and that perhaps is what draws me to this particular race. I don’t think it’s the “run” in the running that I enjoy the most. I love moving through the mountains and covering distances on terrain that seem tough for me. I appreciate the work put in by Race Directors to figure out how to connect trails and create unique and challenging courses. It brings an element of creativity and adventure that I can appreciate. I do meet other runners and share some great moments with them at these races. Sometimes you help pull someone else through a tough time, and sometimes you get helped. Most of the times it’s transient, and your thankful and move on. My primary goal is to not necessarily better my performance time from my last attempt. I am not there to make new friends. It’s a bonus if I can make new friends and connect with like minded souls, or get a PR. Honestly, I just want to experience the adventure that lies ahead and see how I address it this time around. To me it’s just part of continuing to see the how my approach to situations has evolved or If I am getting into the same rut again ?!? And of course, I am out there to have some fun! It’s like a fun weekend adventure trip that hopefully ends with me getting a GDR spike, and a hoodie. Yes, love hoodies.

Spike from GDR 2017

Before I get there I do have a 50K to tackle this coming weekend though 🙂 And, hey I ran on snow free trails for the first time in a while this past weekend. Yay for that !!

Rocky Ridge Trail, Brandywine Creek SP in Delaware

The Unexpected Vertical Week

Here I go with another run post. This is all I’ve been thinking about lately 🤷🏽‍♀️

With the plan I had cooked up in my head for GDR, last week was supposed to be a low mileage, recovery week. Technically the mileage was lower than the previous, but boy did I hit it hard on the climbing! And yeah, that was a blast! Running in snow has been a constant lately, and I am using muscles that have been dormant 😂

I ran at Brandywine creek during the week, and did a solid treadmill workout that felt strong. The highlight really was Saturday’s adventure at Tammany. I went into it with no plan or expectations. I’ve had a hamstring / glute issue on one side that tends to get aggravated sometimes. Decided to take it one loop at a time. Felt really strong on loop one, which I expected. During that loop I decided to use the day to experiment with race day nutrition. I had enough gels, water, electrolytes and food with me in the car. Between each loop, I made sure to hydrate a ton, eat, take salt tabs, pee, change buff or jacket if need be. Basically setting myself up to tackle the next one without any “I wish I had” thoughts. Loop 2 felt good. Loop 3, 4, and 5 felt good too! Helene convinced me to do another loop and I did. Basically finished strong, with enough left in the tank to go on if I had to. 20 miles with more than 7K + feet of climbing for the run, and a whopping 14K for the recovery week 😂

So basically food allowed me to be in the moment. Nourished my brain, and kept me happy! Now I just need make sure I apply this on race day 🤪

Happy trails !

Some pictures from this weeks run adventures.

At Tammany lookout with Helen
Testing out the Brandywine trail near Harmony Hills
Slush fest on my week day run

Stay warm in Winter: Hike up a Mountain

We’ve had a pretty solid winter this season here in Southeast PA…well atleast over the past few weeks.

Snow  Day 1
Snow Day 1
Snow  Day  10
Snow day 10 😂

On Jan 28th I was contemplating on what races to sign up for in 2021 and was itching for a challenge. In person races are making a comeback, but depending on what you’re looking for options are still low. I started to think back on adventures I had attempted that tested my guts and grit, and Georgia Death Race (GDR) really stood out. Quickly I looked up if registration was still open for the 2021 edition, and yes it was! So there I was click click, pay, click, confirm, click. And just like that I am in. OH SHIT. I told myself I have 2 months, and if I can put in a solid 6 week training block, taper for 2 maybe I have a shot. Don’t know till you try right?

After I signed up, winter decided to show up in full force of course 🙂 My friend Helene (who is also training for GDR) and I decided to go for mountain repeats at Mt Tammany. This loop is a pretty gnarly one – basically very technical and steep. With snow the “technicality” is sort of smoothed down. The climb was packed, which made it better, but the descent down the blue trail was soft and fluffy with 2 feet of snow in places that you had to wade through. It was a WORKOUT. Spent about 5 hours with more than 5K feet of climbing and called it a day. Definitely the most memorable trip I’ve had up on Mt. Tammany.

Going down the Blue trail

Keep on moving and put in the work. Don’t worry about pace. This will all hopefully help on race day… well ..some race 🙂

Happy Trails ya’ll!

6 more weeks to race day!

Top of Mt. Tammany