Less than a week from the Georgia Death Race.
I wish I could credit who made this – some frickin’ beautiful person
-Gotten in a few good taper runs with other athletes in the area, some who will be racing, others who will be crewing. It is wonderful commiserating about the race together. Having people inside of my circles that I can talk terrain, strategy, tough spots, heat/humidity, pooping in the woods. Knowing that we’re all going to suffer together. We’ll definitely have different experiences, but we’ll be on the same trails, start from the same line. Talking about the race with people who are not running or have never spent time near an ultramarathon takes explaining, and I have to hear the usual jokes, like, “72 miles? I’d get tired driving that far! Yuk-yuk-yuk!”
I have probably heard that joke a thousand times. I’ll still appreciate it, I appreciate anyone willing to listen and talk about ultrarunning, even if that person shakes his or her head the whole time.
-Now, I am scrambling to put gear together, get the necessary nutrition. Maaaybe I’ll wash my pack. I’m using the Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 vest again this year, with hard bottles. It’s what I’ve trained in, and what I know. Introducing new things now would be dangerous, I think. I won’t be standing on a podium at the end of this, but I’d rather have the best experience possible.
-In the grandest stroke of luck, I was offered a sponsorship from a local outfitters store, Mountain High Outfitters. Christopher Groom, owner of the business, believes I am enthusiastic enough to represent the store and its athletic image. This is the first time I have had a sponsorship of any kind. Elated, I am. I am also watching other sponsored athletes more closely, learning how they represent a brand and its products. I want to thank them by being a positive force for the company and their efforts to encourage active and outdoor-curious lives, while I want to also remain true to my own experience to trails. That trails connect people, not divide them. We share the experience of suffering, expanding the depth of strength and love for ourselves and others through what we can accomplish (*Insert granola*).
Chris and the good folks at the Ponce City Market store in Atlanta have been amazing, suffering me and my bashfulness at my blessings. I have learned that the more direct I am about what I need, the more it helps them.
-For the first time I’ll have a crew. One of my roommates wants to experience an ultra from the most anxious, thankless perspective. I mean, I’ll thank her, but I’ll probably be a despondent grump in latter sections of the race. We’ve had multiple discussions how to perform this roll well, since I’ve never crewed either. Most of what we can come up with is to move me along as fast as possible through the aid station, check in with my nutrition and gear, updates on weather or anything about the course ahead. And after the few moments it takes to gather that info, off again I go. It is a strange role to take, waiting for an athlete to arrive. And the athlete leaves as quickly as he or she came.
-Am I ready? Physically, I know I am better than last year. I believe I can reach a 19 hour finish. I know that not pushing for the first 35ish miles is the right strategy. Hell, even the Race Director says that. After the 40th mile, if I’ve still got legs under me, that’s where the race begins. The best question is, is my mind ready? Before a race, my mind is always wandering in and out of the pits. While I taper, my anxiety builds. I believe in my abilities, but that doesn’t stop doubt from pushing on me. In fact, this week seems to be the time to question my choices in life, my very existence. I don’t want to dwell on my mistakes and self-worth, but that’s where my mind goes. A depression that catches hold of me when I am alone and quiet, or wanting to sleep. What tends to happen, my time spent moping is a subtle investment in happiness to come. While I’m in the deepest darkness, it is difficult to maintain that perspective, or consider it at all. But I am reminded, eventually, every time.
I’ll be on that starting line, and I’ll be ready to go. I’ve been looking forward to rejoining all of these other nutty goobers for too long. I’ll have friends there, too. That already makes this experience bigger and better than last year. I’ll be uploading fun pictures to @mattt_trails on Instagram when I can throughout the weekend.
Photos from last year’s finish with my guy Bryon and our amazing friend Marylou. Bryon paced me from mile 47 last year, and he’s running the whole thing this year!
***Oh, and keep up with the Barkley Marathon this weekend, too!!! Gary Robbins FTW! Gonna be epic, and I can’t wait to put my legs up and watch the latter half of the race.