In less than 6 weeks I’ll toe the line at the Georgia Death Race. At 5 AM on Saturday, March 25, 2023, I’ll join a couple hundred other weirdos intent on covering 70 miles of hiking trails and gravel roads up and down mountains in the north Georgia wilderness.
As the days left to prepare for GDR dwindle, I’ve started to give serious thought to the last push in my preparations for the race. There’s not a lot of room for error in a 70+ mile ultra.
I’ve had a pretty solid run of training over the last few months. I think my aerobic and muscular endurance is better than ever. I have five weekends left to work with and I plan use them strategically:
- February 18/19: 4 hours on feet, all single track and as steep as I can find followed by a rest day.
- February 25/26: 5 hours on feet on Saturday, 100% on trails with maximum vert. 2-3 hours of rolling hills on gravel roads on Sunday.
- March 4/5: 4 hours on feet, all single track and as steep as I can find followed by a rest day.
- March 11/12: 6 hours on feet on Saturday, 100% on trails with maximum vert. 2-3 hours of rolling hills on gravel roads on Sunday.
- March 18/19: 2 hours on feet, mix of single track and gravel, plenty of vert.
- March 25: GDR
With every one of these runs I want to fuel generously, run easy, and finish feeling like I could do it all over again. Between these weekend efforts, I want to run 2 or 3 times each week with each run ranging from 60 to 90 minutes. At least once a week I plan to run hill repeats at moderate effort (not hill sprints).
Getting and Staying Healthy
For the last seven weeks I’ve been dealing with minor injuries. First, after a 28 mile effort seven weeks ago I developed some pain in my lower left leg. That issue hung around for about two weeks but cleared up just in time for the Hogpen Hill Climb five weeks ago. Unfortunately, I developed an issue in my right leg coming out of the Hogpen Hill Climb and that issue has persisted up until now.
Finally, this week I broke down and I’m taking the entire work week off of running. I’m actually taking Mon-Wed off of everything: running, spinning, working out, everything. On Thursday and Friday I plan to spend some time on the exercise bike and do a bodyweight workout, but I won’t run again until this weekend.
Based on how I feel right now, I think my right leg will be good to go by this weekend. However, if that’s not the case, I’ll continue to limit the amount of running I do during the week until my leg is back to 100%, even if that means I don’t do any running Mon-Fri. The weekend runs have to happen. If I’m going to be able to finish GDR, spending 4-6 hours continuously on feet each weekend for the next few weekends is mandatory.
The last health issue I’m working through, and have been working through for about a year now, is plantar fasciitis. However, that issue is much improved from just a few weeks ago thanks to a combination of Heel That Pain heel seats, foot stretches and massage, and taking a day off between runs. I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s under control and won’t be a significant issue during GDR if I can keep my feet moving in the right direction (pun intended).
I have one major equipment concern nearly 6 weeks out from GDR: I’m not confident I have the right shoes.
I have two pairs of trail shoes in my rotation right now: a pair of Nike Trail Pegasus 3’s and a pair of Salomon Speedcross 6’s. Both are great shoes that I like a lot, but I don’t think either is the right choice for this race.
The Nike’s are super comfortable and I love running down easy trails and gravel roads in them. However, after about 20 or 25 miles my toes start to feel pretty beat up in them. They don’t do a great job of offering toe protection for long miles. They also aren’t very stable over technical terrain and they have laughable grip in mud, pine needles, deep leaves, and over wet rocks.
The Salomon’s are like having claws strapped to your feet. The grip is amazing. They are unbeatable when it comes to powering through mud, leaves, and pine needles, and they grip anything they come into contact with. They are truly amazing when it comes to steep technical trails. However, they aren’t very forgiving. They’re quite firm and when running on gravel or asphalt they get uncomfortable really fast.
Based on the course description, it sounds like the Salomon’s would be great for the first 37 miles of technical single track trail while the Nike’s would struggle, then the Nike’s would be great for the next 20 miles of gravel roads while the Salomon’s would beat my feet to death. The last 15 miles or so are a mix of steep technical trails and roads – a combination neither will handle particularly well.
What I need is the grip and protection of the Salomon’s with the cushion of the Nike’s – something like the Hoka Speedgoat or Altra Olympus.
While I feel a bit bad about buying yet another pair of trail shoes while I have two pairs that are in decent condition, I think it would be a mistake to try and make due with either of the pairs in my current rotation.
The last piece of the puzzle heading into GDR is nutrition and that’s one puzzle I think I’ve solved.
I recently started using Gnarly Fuel 2O to fuel my long runs. In combination with the occasional gel, cookie, or fruit snack, I’m able to comfortable get down 200+ calories per hour. I’ve used this combination to fuel long runs up to 4 hours and haven’t even sniffed the dreaded metaphorical wall.
There’s a big difference between a 4 hour, 20 mile long run, and a 20 hour, 70 mile race, but I feel more confident than ever before in my nutrition strategy going into this race.
My only real goal at GDR is to finish under the 25 hour cutoff. I think I’m on track to make that happen.
A lot can go wrong in an ultra and there’s no guarantee that anyone who starts an ultra is going to finish it. I feel I’ve prepared about as well as I can. I think my legs can handle the distance and the vert. I think my mind is primed for the challenge. I think I have a handle on the logistics, equipment, and nutrition.
I could get injured or lost. My body could unexpectedly revolt on race day. I could get sick. There’s a lot out of my control that could derail my GDR preparations and effort, but as for the variables I can control, the pieces are coming into place.