Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My First DNF - The Georgia Jewel 100K

I am starting this post by telling you that I did not finish this race(kind of like how some books start with you knowing the main character is going to die).

The race, The Georgia Jewel 100k proved to be a tough course for my amateur legs.

Before signing up for such an ambitious distance I thought it would be nice to speak with the race director to make sure the distance would be possible.

Our email conversations went like this:

I am pleased to see that you signed up.  We went and finalized the course this past weekend.  The 100K has four loops which consist of roughly 1400 feet of climb per loop.  Some parts are technical and there are a few water crossings so you will get your feet wet.  However, I've extended the time limit to 18 hours and if you train on trail with some climbing involved you will be fine.  Hill repeats will help as well.

Thanks for signing up.  I'm giving buckles on the 100K.

See you in April.

- Karen

Thanks! Just to clarify, I have 13 hours to run the 46.5 miles(3 loops), then I am on my own to finish? This is my first ultra and I am not sure how my pace is going to be, so I am just trying to plan ahead. The way the race was presented in the handbook gave me the idea that we would have ample time to finish. Honestly I am not sure if I can finish now with less time.
     Barefoot Tyler -

 You have to leave The House on the fourth loop by 8pm.  The finish is at 1pm so that gives you 5 hours for 15 miles.  That's 3 miles an hour on the last loop which is very manageable.  You will be fine.  18 hours is a lot of time for a 100K.  It is not a tough course - well there are some good climbs with a few technical parts but it's very runnable.   Just remember that you will have to make the 8pm cut off but you will have 5 hours to do 15 miles.

I have been known to be lenient on race day but one has to draw the line.

Don't worry you will be fine.

See you race day.
Impressed with the quick replies and information given to me I signed up for the 100k, as my Dad did for the 50k!

Race day came. We all stood in a crowd as the race director gave a slightly confused but carefree guide to the race. Basically we start at The House, follow a bunch of pink ribbons through the trail for 5 miles, and end up back at the house. Then we run 5 miles to a cottage, and come back for 5 more miles.

Simple enough, I thought. The race started at no defined spot, and we were off. The most eventful thing about this 5 mile loop was the two river crossings back-to-back, which after crossing we noticed that they were completely unnecessary and Karen was just messing with us. We laughed and kept running. Apparently somewhere along the first 5 mile lap I missed a turn(as did other people) and only had 4 miles on my watch. This was after getting turned around a few times, but I thought, "Hell, I'll just keep going and get as far as I can.

The 10 mile loop after the house was confusing and hard to follow. We would be on a defined trail and all the sudden not see any pink ribbons. Run back 10 feet, and we found a ribbon in the woods completely off the trail. Times like this were frustrating but were not as taxing as some of the later confusion.

Somewhere in this mess I met a man named David, who went on to finish, and a woman named Elizabeth(I think). David had completed a 100k before and kept me excellent company. Elizabeth was a minimalist runner and commented that she liked my gait. Sweet!

At one point after running past The Cottage and fueling up myself(at this point David and Elizabeth were ahead of me) and the running sisters(I don't know their names but they are the neatest girls ever. They are 15 and 16 I think, and can probably outrun you) started running together. Then the major confusion happened. We ended up right where we started to make our way up to the cottage. WTF! This race is stupid!

After about a half mile of listening to the girls yell at each other we finally got back on what we thought was the right path(I looked at my watch and saw that we hadn't been that way before, so it might be correct...)

The only major climb of this section was the climb to the water tower. It wasn't so bad though on fresh legs.

Finally, after getting turned around a few times with a different group we made it back to the house. At this point, mile 14.5, I was feeling pretty good. I fueled up and went back to start on my second loop. Despite the confusion I felt like I had a better understanding of the course and told myself, "You can do this!"

The back side of The House
During the second 5 miler I was expecting to get on track with what the race director wanted us to do. With only missing one mile I wasn't that worried about it.

As I ran up on the dual river crossings I saw where I was supposed to go and where I went. Basically I originally had went straight across the river, saw an arrow pointing to the right, and ran that way. Sensible right? Nope!

Apparently I was supposed to make a slight left while crossing the river and go down a side trail. No problem, I'll just go this way!

Then I hit it.

The mile that I missed was the hardest mile of the whole course. I have never climbed anything that steep for that long. It was steeper that Duncan Ridge Trail(but not as long thankfully). During this time I sent my mom a variety of text messages. They said,
Don't let my dad come back out again.
Why not?
It's really hard
He has already left
Great. I had tried so hard to warn her. Now all I can picture is my dad crawling up this hill, dying, and rolling back down.

Some pretty flowers greeted us on the 10 mile loop
Making it back to the house I told my mom of my experiences. I told her, "I probably won't finish this. It is much harder than anticipated." She told me to try my best and that my dad had already done that mile the first loop and he already knew about it. Relieved, I set out on my last 10 mile loop.

This loop was less eventful. My pace went up by about 3 minutes during this loop. It was in the heat of the day and I had no ambition to run any faster.

This second lap was much easier to follow. The race directors went out and added some touches to the course. I also had a mental map of the course and could find my way around.

During this lap I lost a lot of something. I felt like junk. I had been drinking Gatorade, but I was forgetting to eat. When I hit the cottage I was greeted by some awesome volunteers who filled my Camelbak up and cooled me off with ice. There was also pizza. ALL HAIL PIZZA!

After chilling there with another 100k'er named Mark my friend Paul came up. He was looking pretty beaten up, but still staying strong. The volunteers had noticed that I was shaking when I came in(from malnourishment), but told me I was good to go if I wanted to. After talking with Paul for a minute we agreed to go out and get after it!

The last 5 miles were pretty uneventful. The climb to the water tower was much steeper this time and took much longer. Through all the complaining we couldn't help but appreciate the land.

Mark, Paul, and I kept leap-frogging each other all the way back. We weren't trying to beat each other(I think), but we were just hitting highs and lows in our runs.

Finally coming in I ran past the imaginary finish line and sat down at the house. I had zero incentive to keep moving. I looked at my watch and it told me that I would have to do the next 15 miles in 4 hours. This is extremely do-able on flat ground or even semi-hilly, but not possible for me on this course.
After chilling out for a minute I thought I might-as-well get up and run another 5 mile loop. I took about 10 steps and my head was killing me. Forget it.

One of the few flat spots on the course
 I walked over to the race director and told her that I was dropping out. Other runners tried to convince me to keep going and that I would regret it.

I still don't regret it.

We still had to wait for my dad to come in. I was pretty happy about that because it was an excellent day to sit outside and talk to people.

During this time I met a super awesome runner chick named Brandi. We talked running, technique, products, gels, etc. She tried to convince me to do the Northface 50k. I tried to convince her to do the Duncan Ridge Trail.

She mentioned that she had finished the race around 6 hours and was awarded the 3rd place girls overall plaque. Shortly after the girl who came in 4th accused Brandi of missing the 1 mile section of the first 5 miles(the one I missed). She had admitted to that before, compared GPS watches with the 4th place girl, and had her award taken away from her. This is complete BS. This was not her fault. I would understand if this was intentional or if she was the only one but I believe a majority of the runners missed that turn.

Brandi's friend, Dean, was out in the lead for the 50k. He was running without a shirt and looking like he knew what he was doing! He had about a 15 minute lead on the second place runner and about a 30 minute lead on Mitch Pless and his gang.

As we waited for the 100k to come in I talked with my dad. He said he was basically hiking and would be a while. He mentioned that he was being lapped by 50k'ers.

My Dad is on top of the hill(This is the climb to the water tower)

My dad came in and about 45 minutes later the first 100k'er came in. He was running without a shirt. Brandi was so excited to see her runner come in. The runner let out a, "WAHOO!!!" and held his hands up. As he got closer we all started to realize, "Wait, that's not Dean! That's Mitch!"

Dean bringin' it home
Mitch had caught up to Dean and passed him, filling in that 30 minute gap. What a beast! While most people are breaking down he is breaking in!

Shortly after Mitch Dean arrived. Everyone was happy to see each other and were super congratulatory to each other. Although Dean didn't have his win, he did do a great job especially for his experience compared to the other runners.

 Overall my feet held up great during this run. I did not have any blisters and they seemed dry. The VivoBarefoot Breathos and Swiftwick Socks really helped!

So all-in-all it was a just okay experience. I had a good time finding my way through the woods. Once I got over the idea of not finishing and just enjoying myself things got better.

Will I run another Georgia Jewel race? Probably not. I obviously don't agree with how the race director sets up her races. Instead of making a big deal out of it I will just avoid the races. I don't know why some ultra directors find it necessary to lie. If they were just truthful I could mentally prepare myself. This is why I like The Duncan Ridge Trail. Yes, it is hard. I can mentally prepare myself for it and chose my distance wisely. This year I am doing the 50k, a step up from last years 30k.

Some other blogs about this race are:
Determined to be Fit


  1. I was also in the pack that missed that first mile loop. I also had 4 mi on my GPS when Paul and I missed the loop. I was mad that I didn't get to do it twice when I realized it the 2nd time around. Other than missing that loop, and I got turned around twice on the course. Once by about 20 ft and another time by about 1/4 mile. The 2nd loop was much easier to navigate with the improved markings. I did find it to be pretty runnable on most sections which I liked. There were alot of gravel, dirt road and grassy sections. I had heard from a runner that they had to change the course that was originally planned because of fire? I know there was some burned sections, but I don't know if that's true. This runner said the course we ran was not the one that was originally planned. I'm not sure that I'd run this particular race again only because it was on private land and not on a true trail which I prefer to run. One of my friends who ran the 100k said the reason he signed up for this race was because she did such a great job on a 100 mile race that she coordinated. My only gripe was the course markings on that first loop. I was upset to miss that one mile loop and while I stayed on course I felt badly for the people who were off course. I saw that throughout the first loop. It makes for an uneven playing field when it's a race. I can't compare how I did to other female runners on ultra signup because so many people messed up because of course markings. I did not pay too much attention to the course description or the elevation gain. It didn't matter to me as I've already ran on the hardest trail ever. lol. I would definitely run another race by this RD based on how well she did on a previous race that she did. She is also an ultra runner, and I'm sure she is aware of the critiscism, so I'm thinking she will likely do a better job next year in terms of course description and course markings. The person who marked the course came up to me and asked me what I thought when I finished, and I told him that it wasn't marked well that first time around. I had to give him credit for asking about it. It showed that he wanted to know and cared about the race. I agree that stinks about the 3rd place finisher having her award taken from her. That's awful! I don't think they should have done that unless they disputed the first 2 girls as well. I think they should have left it at first come first awarded because no one would have missed that one mile loop on purpose!

    Awesome write up. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The Myers sisters are beasts! I ran with their mother for most of the race and chatted with their dad at a different race. I had to find out how two young girls ended up out there!

    As a back of the packer, I think an 18 hour time limit is a little tight for this race. I took me 4 hours per loop anyway with the 50K and I wasn't even the last finisher. Maybe I would have been a bit faster if I weren't working with an injury, but not that much. That time limit would make me hesitate to sign up for this race as a 100K.

    The course did crazy loopy things, but I honestly think it was marked OK. I have done ultras with terrible marking and this was not one of them. I've come to accept that getting off course just comes with the territory of ultras. Even on well-marked courses, people get lost because who pays attention 100% of the time? Who's always looking up when you are trying not to trip over something? At least they had flags placed often enough that if you didn't see one you should know that you did something wrong.

    I'm glad that you don't regret your decision to drop out. You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. There is always another race to run!

  4. Short and "not so sweet" comment.….rushing to find help for Tobee at mile 7 (the broken Fibula girl) totally trashed any attempt at breaking 9 hrs…Kudos to Heather, the very kind girl who sacrificed her race to stay with her. She was 2 1/2 hrs delayed and dropped out. I did not know what “running courtesy” is in that situation..anyway, I limped in to complete the course (in its entirety as originally laid out by the RD, thanks to a few runners pointing me in the right direction on the first lap) in 11:37. ughh Was not happy with the deception the RD implied with the race description and her letter to me stating that this is a great beginners course..rather than trash the RD, I will simply opt to not participate in any race put on by them. The Duncan Ridge Trail race is now my "target" race, in November. With the Dirty Spokes trail run, The Ranger Trail in May and the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th before the DRT...My focus will remain on trail running/power hiking.

    Carpe Diem