Those familiar, yet strangely unfamiliar sounds fill my ears. Music playing, announcer on the loudspeaker, clapping and the chatter from runners as they made their way past me to the start line. With the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19 this was my first ‘actual’ race of the year, it’s the 19th of September, 12 months minus 1 week since my last event. I was excited just to be there and had no expectations of anything that The Georgia Jewel 37 miles might throw at me, just grateful and thankful that I was one of the lucky few worldwide to be able to run a race in person.
After a hot & humid summer of temperatures in the 90’s (32C) with 80% humidity I was relieved that race day was expected to be in the mid to high 70’s (21C) although no respite from the humidity but you can’t have it all. This meant I ran the first half of the race naked, that is instead of a race vest I wore my Naked running band with a 500ml coconut water, Pickle juice shots and carried a UD Fastdraw 500 with Active Root to keep me fuelled for the first half with the ability to top up at a checkpoint at 11 miles this worked perfectly. I stayed with the naked theme at halfway switching to the Naked vest and ditching the waistband for some more comfort.
The course was an out and back route from the Dalton convention centre to Snake Creek Gap via the Pinhoti trail and started with what felt like a near vertical descent down the infamous Mt Baker to really give the quads a serious warm up before ascending 3,000 ft of technical single track trail with a descent into Snake Creek at the halfway point. I was met here by Dion and Gobi who had a camp chair set up and my snacks to refuel. I’d come into this race treating it as purely fun so my normal race nutrition was put aside in favor of some fresh donuts, chocolate milk & a mini hotdog to fire me back up with the carbs and sugar before packing me off with my poles and a croissant for the return leg.
The pro’s of an out and back course is you know the route to some extent which at the same time is also the con! Unsurprisingly the return leg felt tougher and more technical on tired legs and I was grateful for the decision to take the poles. The Pinhoti trail felt unrelenting and I was thankful to make a friend in fellow runner Brock with about 7 miles to go, I seem to enjoy having company during a race particularly in the latter half. A surprise meeting of Dion & Gobi at Dug Gap with 4 miles to go lifted my flagging spirits to push me on to the finish; you can’t help but get excited when Gobi runs beside you. The final near vertical climb of Mt Baker loomed and it was as tough as I’d imagined with some people choosing to tackle this on all fours, some with poles and others walking a few steps before taking a breather, either way it had to be conquered to make the finish.
What a feeling to cross that finish line! I’d swapped my poles for Gobi a couple of hundred yards before the finish and Gobi was sprinting in front of me spurred on by the people cheering (for her she undoubtedly thought) and I loved hearing that familiar sound of the final beep of crossing the timing mat. My medal came in the form of a trucker cap so I have a memory to take running with me.
A big thumbs up and a huge thank you to the organisers for their enormous efforts of abiding by the new guidelines and putting on a safe and fun event in challenging conditions and a massive thanks to the amazing volunteers manning the checkpoints, finish line and of course the photographers out there all day as well. And to the running community who had come out to run and/or support and proven that we can still do what we love to do, safely.