The Georgia Death Race Story - Part 1
As I have posted about in the past, The Georgia Death race has been my A goal race for 2018. Every bit of my training for the previous 4 months has been focused on this race. I have picked smaller races that were more local to help break up the training cycle, but all in all, this has been the main focus.
In January, the Mountain Mist 50k was my B+ race that was built into this build up. I ran my fastest and most aggressive 50k. I was not worried about going out too fast as I was shooting for a near 4 hour result. It’s weird how you can warp your mind about what is considered “short” and “long.” Since my ‘A’ race was going to take at least 12 hours, the 50k seemed like a walk in the park. I figured that I could start strong as I knew the last 10 miles of the course would be the slowest section because of the terrain. I made it to 20 miles right at 4 hour pace but soon fell off of that pace. There is a 7–8 mile section that was just too technical for me to be able to really push the pace. I slowed to about 10 min/mile pace for that section before increasing the pace for the last couple of miles. I ended up finishing around 4:15 and 2nd overall. I was extremely happy with the result and how I felt at the finish. I was able to push all the way to the finish and actually felt that I could have kept going. That was a confidence booster considering the last two 50k’s that I had completed left me “out of gas” and praying for the finish line to be as near as possible.
After a few days off and a few more easy days, I jumped back into training and knocked out some of my biggest training days. My runs were a lot different than anything that I had done in the past. I was running on the trails at least twice a week and tracking both mileage/time and vertical feet of elevation. I knew that GDR had almost 20,000 ft of elevation gain and I was going to need to be prepared.
The red loop at Percy Warner park became my best friend for the next two months. I ran that thing MANY times. One of my biggest training runs was a 6 loop day. It got me just over 26 miles and around 5,500 ft of elevation gain. Another was a 5 loop day from a different parking area so I got in almost 30 miles but not quite as much elevation gain. There were plenty of 3–4 loop days thrown in there as well. I do like the white loop when the weather has been dry but unfortunately, the weather was REALLY wet during this 2 month span.
Another new workout that I did several times was using the treadmill as my never ending mountain climb. Maybe 1x week for 6–8 weeks, I would do some sort of hill workout on the treadmill. Sometimes it was 3–6 x 1 mile @ 10–12% and other times it was just 60–100 minutes straight @ 10–15%. I was never running “fast” but these workouts definitely elevated my heart rate and really got my legs feeling ready by the time I started to taper.
One thing that I really made sure to always do, was to keep the easy days easy. Sometimes that meant doing two runs of 4–6 miles at my recovery pace, and other days that meant a complete day of rest. Most of the time, it was one run of 50–90 minutes, typically around 8 min/mile pace. Know what your easy days should look like and stick to keeping those days truly easy. It will make your hard/long days much more productive. Check out my strava profile for a closer look at my build up. I hit just under 1,000 miles from Jan 1 — March 30th with around 121,000 ft of elevation gain.
I did end up racing three more times from February 18th — March 17th. I ran a trail marathon on the 18th of February as a “steady” long run, and then ran another 1/2 loop of the 2 loop course to help break down the course. That day was my longest training day as I hit close to 34 miles total. On March 3rd, I ran a half marathon on the roads just to make sure I still had some speed in my legs after all of the long, slower miles I had been doing. This was a recovery week anyways so I figured that a fast 13 miles on the road wasn’t a bad idea. I ended up 6th or 7th overall but running very close to 1:13 flat for the distance. I was happy considering my lack of speed work. And finally I planned my last “big” day on the same day as the Music City Trail Ultra 50k on March 17th. It was a great course to get me mentally prepared for GDR. It had some challenging climbs and descents and made for a great last big workout. Again, I finished this race feeling strong and like I could have kept going.
The last two weeks of my build up were purely for me to stay healthy and stay on top of my nutrition. I made sure to ease up on the mileage and keep some leg turnover workouts in the plan just so I didn’t feel stale. And finally, after weeks of homework, planning, and mind numbing workouts, on March 31st, race day had come.