[long read] It has been a week since my 100 mile attempt. It is like a dream now that it is over.
Through out the process I have been asking myself how I feel. I felt excited and anxious during the planning and still is and am very much respecting this distance. I did not finish but was not disappointed. I wrote up the report how I can do it better so that I would be able to finish next time. There were not a lot of thoughts going through my head during the run, unfortunately. The main reason I like doing long runs is to take my mind off things. It is very relaxing to me. This race was anything but that. I for few times I zoned out and I suffered (by getting lost). Most of the time during my run, I had to be on tip top attention focusing on navigation and time management. Two areas I did poorly and resulted in not being able to finish. However, I feel relieved and a sense of achievement from doing the run.
I started the year training for the 70.5 mile Laurel Highland race, but due to Covid19 and it was canceled/postponed. Running a 100 mile was on my mind but it was set either for end of the year or later in 2021. It was only after doing the GVRAT, I felt I was ready to tackle GSER, which pushed up the time table quite a bit. I found out about the race quite late, mid May I think, and same for the race director. She threw out the idea of the race around late April. I checked it out and felt I had a high chance in running it and it would serve a good preparation to a tougher (real) 100 mile race. GSER being a virtual made it easier, the pressure to succeed is less than in a real race.
The final couple weeks before the race – I was in a funky mood, some kind of depression, maybe because I had just finished the 1000k of the Tennessee run, and there was not much else to do. I took the two weeks easy. Really easy. No running. Just only slept and ate. Not only that, I was lazy and procastinated in preparing for the 100 miler. If anything I think that led to me being underprepared, such as running in the heat.
As those of you who have been following my blog, you knew the last few days before the GSER event were hectic for me. I was scrambling studying the maps, getting my stuffs ready, my pack, my maps, and choosing the start time. There were tons of things to do and I was stressed out, when I realized I wouldn’t able to handle everything. Life and work didn’t make things easy. I should have taken a whole week off work beforehand. I felt I was couldn’t get the basic things ready as I like. I was going crazy and angry. I was not sleeping well. I didn’t adjust my sleep time for a night time start. Even the trip to the airport was stressful.
Thursday 8:00pm. Atlanta. Landed in Atlanta and was going through final packing. One thing I did well was I arrived at Atlanta a night before. By utilizing the 7/4 weekend holiday, I flew in on Thursday night.
I had the Friday off, and originally, I wanted to run early Friday around 5/6 AM. However, after hearing people say, that it is hard to reach Stone Mountain by closing time, indeed, 13/14+ hours, I figured I needed either 2/3 AM start, for extra buffer time. But I was flying out Sunday, noon, so 2/3 AM start on Saturday was out of the question. Techinically 2/3 AM start on Friday is doable but I would miss the sleep the first night in Atlanta. Hence I decided to settle for a Friday evening start. It was a wise choice.
Friday 6:30 pm. I arrived up at the foot of Kennesaw Mountain. Uber dropped me off (they wouldn’t let cars go up). In my race preparation I know to expect hiking up to the top for the start. It was about a half hour hike.
I was still adjusting the start time and originally set at 6:00pm, but I felt I might be running too fast and would get to Stone Mountain too early in the morning before they were open, they open at 10. So I moved it an hour later to 7:00 pm, timing to be just right that I would reach Stone Mountain at 10/11 AM the moment they are open to ascend the mountain there. In reality, I did not reach Stone Mountain until 4/5 pm. I was off on my planning.
The afternoon was hot. I was sweating bucket of water. The 2 L of water along with an 8-12 oz flask, were quickly gone. It was supposed to last me for the whole night, but I think it only lasted couple hours. My pack was full with food (mostly granola bars). By the way I carried most of those back with me, and did not eat them. I stuffed some bars in my shorts too. I was fully loaded. I had other stuffs like flashlights ready though darkness was still couple hours away.
Kennesaw trailhead was easy to find. I crossed the parking lot, got to the sign and took some pictures. There were people around. The parking lot was full. I think there were about 50-75 cars. I followed some other people and began to walk up on the Kennesaw Mountain Trail.
I didn’t run yet, trying to conserve as much strength as possible because I knew I would have a long night plus the whole day tomorrow. My expected finishing time was 30 hours. I hope to get as many miles as possible during the first 12 hours. I was secretly hoping to get near the 50 mile mark by morning. 13-14 hours, that was the original plan. As you read on, things quickly didn’t go my way.
The climb was about 1 mile long. I knew this since having studied this part closely beforehand and the trail map/sign indicated that as such, confirming my knowledge. I was smuck about my hiking skills. This was child play in my mind. It is a popular trail for local people. I saw all kinds of people. Families, couples, lovers, some carried their cat in a basket/or strap to their chest (like it was their infant), dogs were not allowed on the trail unfortunately. There were some who were really not fit to hike. I passed them as quickly as possible when they had to stop to take a breather. Some were wearing masks, many didn’t. I had my face covering on. I pushed on. Sweat was dripping down. It was not easy to breath. I got to give it to the heat.
I reached the upper parking lot. No car was allowed up there but those of the park police. There was a good overlook and you could see Atlanta in the distance. Wow That was like 10-15 miles away. Knowing I should be there by morning, kind of imagining the path in my head (my run would take 35 miles to get to Atlanta, to the inner city). I followed the next set of trails to reach the summit. I stoped to take some pictures. Giddily excited. This would be it, my starting point for my first 100 Mile attempt. Everyone’s starting point, not just mine.
6:56 pm. Started my watch at about 6:56 pm. I was using both the Strava and Garmin to record. Off I went. I didn’t really run down hill, but I was kind of slowly jogging, back down using the same trail. Once I reached the upper parking lot, I followed the road down as according to the turnsheet, instead of on the trail I hiked up. The sheet was very accurate at this point and I was praising it in my heart. All the turns were spot on. I had a great outlook. It was hot, but all system were go. Little did I know that heat was one factor that would derail my whole operation.
The first marathon (25-27 miles) had many turns. There is a new direction every quarter miles. The guidance was very detailed. It told you which side of the road you should run on, traffic and how to prepare for the next turn. There were a lot of reading to do while running. Yet I had those down pretty much. I read them many times already, on the plane and in my spare time. In truth, now having run it, next time all those bit of information can be ignored. There was really only one road, Kennesaw and Roswell, for the next 5-6 miles. I wasted a lot of time trying to follow exactly everything and it slowed me down tremendously. Who care when I pass the Big Chicken or the OK Cafe? This was a preview of the whole run.
Still I was taking things slowly. Better get the turns right than missing them and getting lost as I told myself. I had no problem leaving the Kennesaw Mountain. I was running to Marrietta on Kennesaw rd. It started to sprinkle somewhat by the 2nd mile and I had to put away my phone since it was not waterproof. I kept my map and turnsheet safe too, each inside a ziplock bag.
Running to Marietta was not a problem. I realized my pace has been much slower than normal. My breathing was not that good. It was only about say 3-4 miles. So I need time to “warm up” even though it was 90+ degree that night, a joke of warming up. I made my way across Marietta Park. Saw a man proposing to a woman and we all clapped when the woman accepted. I continued on. I drew strength from people’s clapping.
This part was very easy. It was just one road Rosswell st. By 6 miles, my first 10K, I checked my distance and time. My distance already differed from the turnsheet by 10%. So either my watch was wrong or the turnsheet was wrong. However, this kind of situation is to be expected because we know in a race unless one run a perfect path (they called a tangent), you are going have more distance than the official course. Also our GPS watch is not a “scientific” grade instrument – they are wildly inaccurate due to many factors (many people didn’t know). More of this to come. It was kind of a foreshadow that extra miles are not good, but I quickly suppressed my doubt. Indeed throughout the night I added as many as 10 extra miles as you will see.
8:00 pm. Sun was starting to set, but the heat was oppressive. Past 8 actually. I know I was doing a much slower pace than expected but I kept telling myself, that is normal because I wanted to save energy. You want to run very slow in the beginning so have the energy to push at the end. I got my experience from running a lot marathons. I know 100 miler is nothing like a marathon, but principle should be the same. I was not too worry about my pace. The slower the better as long as I am ahead of the curve.
I was doing mental math on the distance/time. I know as long as I keep a 3 mile pace I would be able to finish. 3*33 hrs = 99 miles. 3 mile pace is like 20 minutes per mile. I was not too worry about that because I was doing around 4-5 miles per hours at the time and banking the extra mile. So I saw my speed as a graph in my head and comparing that to the minimum/maximum time allowed for the race. I was planning to bank a lot of extra miles. All this though was wishful thinking, soon throughout the night I was constantly battling with just barely staying ahead the curve and that was a serious problem.
9:00 pm. I reached the first neighborhood and turning off the from the main street. I think in a real race there would be a race station there. This course previously was used in a real race. I tried to drink conservatively. Yet the night was hot. I was hot and sweating. I finished all the water in my flask. This neighborhood has a local runner who knew our race director well, since it was mentioned in the turn direction. The turnsheet was telling people to wave to the guy and pee in his lawn and steal his moonshine etc. I like that. Well I didn’t know the guy and didn’t feel comfortable of stopping by his place drink his stuff and relieve myself. There was no need I still have plenty of water, or so I thought.
9:30-10:00 pm. Now it was completely dark. The moon was up. A full moon or close to it but I didn’t have enough light to see. I was already suffering from night blindness from my flashlight and from the constantly checking the turnsheet. This section took me into a trail system. There was one car left in the park parking lot – they shined their light at me – newbies, you don’t do that to people because you blind them. They were mounting their bikes on the back of the car. I was really exhausted. This trail system had been my nightmare during my preparation because the only instruction on the turnsheet was to find the semetary and use the GPS map. I couldn’t use the GPS map. There were ton of trails and side branches. The sign at the gate said park close at dark! I never break any law / local ordinances before. But I had to do this. We are going to YOLO this, I was telling myself.
I was already very tired by then. There was a picnic table. I sat down. Restudied the map and gps map. Luckily the trail has their own map too and signage. They numbered the various points, which made it easy, I just had to go from one numbered point to the next, like in frisbee golf. This was a new map I didn’t have before the race and I wish I did. But studying the new map I had an idea how the race path would take. So after eating some fruit gummies, I started off. In my head it seemed just few minutes break but I probably stayed for 20-30 mintutes or even more. It was way too long to check the direction. However, I said I have to take this slow because I don’t want to get lost in the park. This was the kind of pace for my whole race. None of this usually happened in my other races. I was both panicking internally yet at the same time was telling myself, I am still ahead of the game.
There were a lot of turns in the park. But each turn there was a park sign with a map. Each turn was only about few hundred feet/yards away, very short distance. I did not run. I just hiked. It was slow going but I told myself it is dark, and I was on a trail I never been on before. There are some technical stuffs, rocks, branches, hill climbs and downhill, all the elements that can disable me. Once you are hurt, the 100 mile run would be over. I was only maybe 10% of 100 miles done and there was still a long way to go. I do love trail. I love night run because it is intense. At any other time, this would have been my joy. Yet I had to control myself not to run it. It was not my turf. I wish I had a trail buddy there.
10:00 pm. I found the semetary. I heard noises there and thought people were partying up there. However once I reached it there was no one there. I know those were noises from real people. Ghosts and supernatural stuff does not scare me. At least not that night. In my mind I got to do this 100 miler, no matter what. I checked my watch and know I was way behind schedule. I wanted to reach the Braves Stadium by 10 pm and now it was 10 pm I was still stuck in the trail system.
Luckily the crazy trail section ended shortly after and I was on a wide bike path, which was very runnable. I ran on many bike paths before. I felt I finally could do some speed work then. There was one biker passing me from the opposite direction. I was not alone. The moon was higher and brighter.
11:00 pm. Sometime later I reached Acker Mill Ln/Rd. Hallelujah. I saw my first convenience store. I think the time was close to 11. All my water was out by then. I went in. Refilled. Got some soft drink. I don’t remember what. Could have been mountain dew since that is my favorite. During the whole run, I tried many different drinks as many as possible! Heavenly for me to drink sodas. The break was much longer than I wanted. But got to push on.
Things got a little hazy from there. I was still optimistic. So far I hadn’t made any wrong turn, just the park and direction was slowing me. Then the trail splitted. I saw the direction and I know I had to leave the bike trail at some point to get on the road. But when I did, I arrived at a street crossing not mentioned in the turnsheet. I checked the GPS, GPS showed I was off track. Looking back it now I was just a little bit off, maybe like a few dozen yards. I was actually in the right place. In my mind though I thought I was half mile off, the scale on the google map always confused me. I thought I have to follow the trail a little bit more (the turnsheet distance might be off here too), So I went back on the bike trail. This was my first mistake of the night.
I was in my best mood. My body finally “warmed up”. This was where I could really run for hours and run fast. I felt strength and I love night run on an empty trail and so I pushed on. It was uphill too and I love hill work, that my strong suit. So I poured my strength out and turned off my mind. I was in zone so to speak. You know it. I was running blindly into the wrong trail.
Maybe for a mile or even two, my spider sense told me to stop. I then realized then there was no more right turn. Either the turn sheet is screwy or I am off track. I pulled out my phone quickly checked the map and the route track (at that time my phone still worked and it had the race route showing). OMG I was completely off. Miles off. I really hated myself then, knowing in my heart, I was probably at the right place in the beginning and blindly ran these extra miles. Nothing worse than having to turn around and run those miles again (I think I was now 1.5 miles away from the turn off). No matter, it is a 100 mile run. I had built enough buffer for stupid mistake like this.
It brought to mind of my recent made running friend, who did the Black Forest Ultra in PA earlier in the year. He told me his story of getting lost early in the race and later couldn’t finish the race due to being out of time. He was the fastest dude I met running mountain trails. I had a sinking feeling, this could be me, though I could run fast, but as long as I keep making silly wrong turns, I would be done for.
12:00 am. I headed back to the turn off point, much more slowly. I believe I was walking back instead of running. Got off the trail finally at the right place. Checked the turnsheet and GPS. It did mention about Highway Interstate N some point at where I was confused. The turn direction was to follow the yellow line (and I found it). No matter. I crossed road. I was so close to the Braves Stadium at the time and I understood the geography of the place, having studied this part in my race preparation, so even without the turnsheet I could navigate this part. Sometimes your own instinct is better than the directions given. It was past midnight by then. Took some pictures of the stadium. A lot of people were hanging out at the the Battery. I guess it was a hip place to hangout. They have bars and stuffs. The turnsheet instructions were very detailed here. It was like a scarvenger hunt. Look for the Big Baseball. Run under it. Look for such and such Hall, which I didn’t know it was a drafthouse. But I found it after wandering around the place. Look for set of four stairs, didn’t find those. I went down a different stair and crossed a wrong street.
My spider sense said I was lost. Headed back to my last known location. Forget about the set of stairs, moving on to the next instructions, it said look for the parking lot. There were like 6-7 lots there. They all have color code. I wish the RD would say, enter the Orange Lot or the Red Lot. I lost so much time at the Braves stadium. Those were all useless instructions. The key was to find the predestrian pathway to cross over the interstate outside the stadium. The most simply instruction for myself if I am going to redo this is just follow the private road (battery rd) around the standium, maybe take 10-15 minutes and get out of there. No need to play scravenger hunt in the ball park, looking for this and that landmark, which was completely waste of time. I think I lost 30-60 minutes there looking for this and that clues. The predestrian skywalk was easy to find. Jeeze. That was only thing needed.
1:00 am. Bye bye stadium. I guess it was 1 am by now. I was still pretty fresh. My blood was flowing. I had some setbacks but again night was still early. I had maybe 5 hours more of darkness and I could do another 20-30 miles before day break. I got to make a lot miles now the night is a bit cooler. I was still sweating bucket but the temperature was around 80 degree. I was wearing long sleeves and felt like 90-100 inside.
My next point was to reach 26 miles/marathon. At the stadium my watch was reading 19-20 miles. In my mind I have less than 10 miles to do. 26 mile point did not seem that far. 6 hours for 20 miles. 6×5, 30 hours for 100 miles. I was still in the game. By Golly that was not true. 26 mile point was at a street called Tuxedo. I don’t know what happened next but this 6 miles took me forever to get there. Really literally the almost the whole night to get there.
Things are very vagued here, maybe because it was deep in the night. Might be my sleeplessness is causing memory lapse. Well I had to go back onto the trail. I didn’t mind. I think it was pretty easy. I got off the trail again, didn’t know where or when. The next neighborhood was pretty confusing. I had to make a turn into an unmarked street called green river something. The turn sheet instruction was clear about looking for the house address on the brickwall, but I must have fallen asleep at this point. I was in my rhythm again and I just wanted to run for a long time. I didn’t like to pause and check the turnsheet every two-three minutes.
As such I passed the turn and also continued for half mile or more again uphill I think. Again hated myself for running the extra mile as I headed back. I found the turn now I was awake. The whole neighborhood was pretty confusing. It was small like a parking lot, or square, with a lot of small houses. It was a music school or something but no one was around. I knew this during my preparation. You have to go behind a big parking deck etc. I got lost many times there and had to stop each time, checked my map, checked my turnsheet, checked map, double checked. There were many turns. This maze was worse than the Stadium. I cursed at the turnsheet. At least at the Stadium, there were signage and things were big and massive (and logical). Here most roads don’t have signs because they are private roads. They even used chain link to block off some of them. I found the church parking lot the turnsheet mentioned. It was a humongous church. I felt confident of being back on track.
2:00 am. Tuxedo Rd was where I had to turn but it was still no where in sight. I passed through the pacer community. That was the road name. West Pace something. At this point I really wanted to use the restroom. But we were in a residential. I wouldn’t pee in people lawns. The thought did pass my mind a coupple times. Just go behind a tree. No one sees you, but who know I am in a rich neighborhood. They sure will have all kind of sensors and night vision camera. There are a lot of nice houses. Massive mansions. Yet no sidewalk. What happened next was the pacer road measurement was conpletely wrong! I think on the turnsheet the distance was like .4 mile but in actuality that stretch was like 3-4 miles long. A big different. I don’t remember how I handled my pee problem. I think I held it in until morning at a potty station.
3:00 am. I made it to 26.2. By that point my watch was showing 30/32 miles – 50K. I was way way behind. 50k now according to my watch but on the turnsheet, I had only ran a marathon. I was streaming both internally and externally. 8 hours for marathon was insanely slow. I got to do 3 more. (8×4, means my ETA is now 32 hours to finish the race). I was still in the game, but my speed advantage was dwindling. My next target was to make it to mile 50k mark per turnsheet, not by my watch mile. That is only about a 10K, no a 8K. It shouldn’t be that long. However. The Tuxedo community is also massive. Also a very rich community. Yet no sidewalk. Some of the distances were also off. So I was running blind most of the time. I missed every single of my turns. Most costly was the last turn. I think I was another half mile or mile passed the turn had to come back. This on the turnsheet was correct. It was a real 0.1 mile, but I ran 1 mile more. Purely was my mistake here. I think every street there was called Tuxedo. It was a Tuxedo nightmare. And people there didn’t sleep either. Where all these cars going in the middle of the night 4 AM for God’s sake? There was no sidewalk, but I constantly had to get off the road to let cars pass by.
I said I must push on. I still got this. I was still maybe an hour ahead of the buzzard. Worse outcome would be I just on pace and would have to battle the pressure of the cutoff the whole way. The battle of attrition I call it.
5:00 am. Long story short. It was like 4/5 am I got to 50K. I was very upset by this time. All my advantage was now gone. I was barely making the cutoff if there was one. Soon it would be dawn. The sun would be up and a hot day expected. My goal to run to 50 mile during the night failed. Epic Fail, because I only did 30 miles in the last 10 hours. My night time advantage was gone. I didn’t and couldn’t accept that the turnsheet was wrong. I felt I was just running too slow. Indeed I was too slow. I was beating the air. I was not sleepy but frustrated. There were many people on the road. I passed by what I thought was a strip club. People were all standing outside making out and stuff. Laughing and making noises.
6:00 am. The rest of the night was uneventful. I got to Beltline, another bike path/ trail to rail exactly at the cutoff, maybe 10 minutes after the cutoff. I was afraid I couldn’t find it. This was one of the longer segment in the first half. Straight into downtown Atlanta. The morning had dawn. People were out now. I looked at joggers and jealous at their speed because they were fresh. I used to run like they do. Fast. Now I was slowly plodding along one step at a time. Even the slowest person was passing me. I had ran the whole night more than 12/13 hours now into the race. I was not sorry because I knew I had another 20+ hours to go. I felt my heart was exploding and legs were heavy. My next goal is to reach 50 miles. I was hoping to get there by a certain time, I was thinking noon-ish. I felt I could still make it. I was hoping to rewach Stone Mountain by 1/2 pm. If I do, I am still in the game. Even if 3 Pm I would still be OK.
7:00 am. Every step was hard. My strategy was to do 1/3 2/3. Run one mile walk two. I had no problem at the Beltline. I sensed my pace increased. Didn’t feel good but I was catching up all the lost minutes. After that I got into the city of Atlanta. My progress was slow but enjoyed all the sights the city had to offer. The city needs a lot of fixings. I got to the Olympic part. The environment was not welcoming. The neighborhood was scketchy. I was disappointed but also kind of expected it from the rumors I have heard. Atlanta there was no paradise. It is not a shiny city as seen from afar.
10:00 am. It was very slow going. Hours ticked by. Orginally I wanted to get to Stone Mnt by 10. 10 AM went by. I was still in the middle of downtown Atlanta. My next goal was to get to mile 50. Stone mountain was at mile 62. However mile 50 seemed so far away. Of course I had done 10 extra miles already from getting lost. That was like 2-3 hours lost time. At this point the turn ditections had become easier. There were only a few streets. No more scravenger hunting. There were still a couple weird comments from the RD, like heading to L5A, something like that. The clue was completely over my head, and I just ignored it. I understood, the race was tailored to the local runners, because they would recognized the references.
12:00 pm. Each Road was like like 5 miles long. I no longer cared about if the turnsheet was wrong or not. The longest segment was Josiah L William Rd. It was forever. I only used the paper map by now since my phone was acting up. I lost internet so along with everything. However, my map does not correspond to reality. The street names were changed. My map showed the older names. It was frustrating. (No one makes paper map any more, hence map being outdated). I knew I was on the right track but there is no way to be certain exactly where I was or which street I just passed. No matter because there was no turn, just one straight road.
1:00 pm. I got to mile 50 around 1-2 pm. I was joyous. It was very hot by then. I made countless stops to stores and got water and sodas. I stopped a bit maybe 30 minutes for lunch at a lake. Tuna – I had those tuna for salad/sandwich, that was probably the best I had in the whole race. I was definitely behind on my calories count. I felt it in every step/but didn’t realized it at the time. I thought I was just low on sodium. I know I was very behind schedule too. I still had 10 more miles to go to get to stone mnt. In my mind I could do it. It wouldn’t be too late. I felt if I can still get to Stone Mountain by 5 I would still be in the game. I could still finish this race. 50 miles mark was a good point because you could fold it in half to get you expected finish time. I guess I got there in 17 hours. So my finishing time would be 34 hours. The race gave 34 hours. I knew I had about 1 hour to spare. I knew I wouldn’t make any wrong turn any more, So the last 50 miles would be faster/ taking less time. Yes a reverse split! I was still cheerful as I sent in my progress to the Facebook page. I had my internet back, but I could no longer bring the map track back up. I stopped using the phone. My watch was already showing mile 57 something, might have been mile 60. I was happily chatting away! I got my strength back to run.
As I was thinking, how crazy it would be to do a reverse split on a 100 miler. People will laugh at me. Only I knew the truth because of the extra miles I had been putting in and it is possible to do a reverse split.
Afternoon: Hours ticked by. I saw the looming dark clouds. I read the forecast that there would be 30% chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. It was both welcoming as well as fearsome. I need a cool off. A rain would do me good. Yet I don’t like getting wet. I did not pack a rain jacket, lack of room. I got to ascend the mountain before the storm. It would not be good to be up there during it or after it. It is an exposed place of granite rock, and very slipery when wet, like standing or wet marble at an incline. I couldn’t able to ascend if ground is wet. I was walking now most of the time. No more 1/3 – 2/3 thing. It was very hot. Rain didn’t come.
I expected this. I wouldn’t mind walking because when evening comes I could run again. Walking is fine as long as I could make close to 3 miles an hour, I wouldn’t be that far behind. I saw I was making around 2.8-3.0 pace. So I was good. I was three hours away from the Mountain. I was keeping track of all the miles/minutes gains and losses. I still had an hour to spare according to my mind clock. I still had hope! I could do this. I had about 14-15 hours left in the race, surely I could do it, as long as I don’t get lost. The second should be easier than the first half. There were only two major roads, El La Ponza something and Peachtree. I will be doing 40 miles on those.
Late afternoon. I got to Stone Mountain around 4:30. It was longer than I thought. I was exhausted. I got to a bench. I didn’t want to tackle the mountain yet. Sun was blazing. I sat. Fixed my feet. I had blisters. Cleaned those up. Wiped myself down with a wet wipe. Cooled down. my water was out but I know I can get them after the mountain part. There is a gas station immediately at the bottom. I was at the bench maybe 45-60 minutes. It was an unwise decision. I don’t know why I did it, but it was too hot at the time. I wanted to lay down and sleep. However I was not sleepy. The advice someone gave me before the race is you have to constantly make forward progress. Once you stop, you are pretty much done. I had a sense as I laid on the bench, this is Waterloo. I might not make it pass this point. Such thoughts scared me. I gathered my strength and got up. Up to the Mountain I went.
5:30 pm. what I didn’t realize is how hot the afternoon was and how hard the trail up the Stone Mountain could be. As expected I was completely exposed on the bare rock. The reflected heat was hot. It is also about a mile up. Yet unlike Kennesaw, this was a technical climb. It is boulder scrambling. Running was out of my mind. If I am fresh, yes, it would be a great run, but not in my current condition. I labored up. Some parts, I had to get on my hands and feet. I used the railing but it was burning hot. If I slip I would be rolling off the mountain. I think it took more than an hour to reach the summit. Near the summit there was a tree and sat down on a boulder under the tree. Dude, someone pooped there, nasty. All the toilet paper and poops. Dude. they supposed to carry their poops down the mountain.
Anyway, I had a bit more to go. I didn’t want to come back down. I explored a bit hoping there would be a shop or restaurant up there. There was a building in the distance. When I got there. Nope. It was closed.
6:00 pm. I slowly made my way down. I think by then it was six PM. The turn sheet said used the path or the service road. I chose the service road thinking it would be easier. It was longer. I got lost too and went down on a side trail. But I descended. Just kept going down till you get to the bottom. I thought I was still on the right track. I got to Robert Lee Rd. The turnsheet said follow Robert Lee Rd to the parking lot. Here I didn’t check the map. It might have been my phone was quarky or my head was from heat exhausion, but I made the worse decision in the whole race. I thought either way Robert Rd would take you to the parking lot. I took the right but it should have been the left. I think I walked 2-3 miles before realizing I wouldn’t get to the main parking lot. Holy guacamoly. Only way of course was to backtrack. I was fuming.
7:00 pm. I knew it. Race was over. There is no recourse. I did do the calculation in my head. That turn was the last straw that broke this camel’s back. All hope was lost. I told myself I could not afford any mistake and here I was. I cried. I got back there to the main parking lot, still not at mile 62.2 yet, but my watch already showed 70+ miles done. The park was closed by now. I was still using the turnsheet (I think it did say take a left on Robert Lee). Somehow, I overshot the turn off. I went to what I thought was another exit but the gate for that was closed. I couldn’t get out. It was anticlimatic. I no longer cared how long it would take to get me out the park. The parking lot was empty now. I was pretty sure before my ascend I read, park close at dusk. Now was only 7. We had one to two more hours till sundown, why is the park closed? Later, I read it was because of July 4th celebration, and earlier they had a protest, that might have led to closing the park early. I didn’t know any of this until the next day. The protest made it on the evening news – about armed men parading around at the site.
The South revered their Civil War Heritage but in the current climate that is seen as racist. I grew up in the South and the Confederacy was always seen as pleasing to me. I did not know I was indoctrinated and came to accept a lot of Southern symbolism and values. What were passed as honor and glory was truly a veil to cover the dark history that was rarely mentioned, supression/slavery/Jim Crows. Off topic, I know, though I grew up in the South, no one would consider me their southern boy, because I look Chinese! Silly for me to claim the Southern Heritage. My great-great-great Grandfather didn’t fought in it. In the end, the thing what matters is you have to treat people with respect and dignity. Those things, like Stonewall statues, was an era past. They fought for the wrong causes and lost (South kept saying state rights) and it is time to move on. Systemic racism is real both in the South and in the North. Blacks are being treated as second class citizens and I believe as an immigrant I fare much better. Any way. enough ranting. It is a hard topic.
Well the first thing is I need to get myself out of the park. I could climb the fence, but I was too tired. I didn’t want to break anything (bones). I didn’t have the comfident that I could do it safely. Luckily a park officer showed up. He pointed me and this other guy who was also stucked inside how to get out. We had to walk maybe quarter mile – half mile to the other gate. Surely that gate was open for exit and I totally missed it the first time I passed by. There was an officer there. I guess I was afraid getting near the officer the first time so totally discounted it to be a way out.
I sent in my fairwell on the race Facebook group page. Finishing the 100 miler was no longer within my reach. I know I still have 10 hours left to do about 40+ miles. Technically in good time, 4 miles an hour is easy peacy, but not today. I could barely get two miles an hour. I had hope once darkness falls my faster pace would return. I wrote to them that I was quitting. They were very supportive saying in this kind of heat and for me to put in 100K is no easy feat. I love them. O you could make friends anywhere you go in the running community.
In the back of my mind, I remembered one of my race director (for the OGU) said, at some point in an ultra you would come to a time you want to quit. He said, he always tell his runners to sit a bit, cool down, and maybe half hour later, you would find the strength to do it, so don’t quit too soon.
After I posted the message on the race Facebook group, I felt a sense of relieve. No longer was I worry about finishing or clock management. I walked on. I really wanted to call an uber right there and then and get off the mountain, but I said, I should pause a bit even though I pretty sure I wanted to quit. I continued using the turnsheet and got to Main St. This next few directions were all easy. I knew them by heart. There was the gas station before a new bike trail start. I went in. Watered up. Got soda. Got batteries for my headlamp, even though I already decided to quit, one part of me wanted to continue on, and I would need strong light once darkness falls. I brought my dinner. I didn’t remember what I ate. I wanted noodle soup but they didn’t have it. I think I ate a can of peaches and emptied a bottle of muscle milk. I felt great. But dinner costed me another hour I believe. Yet I didn’t care because I was no longer in the race.
8:00 pm. It has been 25 hours since I started. I traveled a bit more, maybe one or two more miles and got to the next gas station. Speedway. The sun was setting and I can see that. My decision was if I press on, it would be dark soon. But now I was really sure I wanted to quit. My pace did not return. My rash burn was bothering me all over. I could apply gel and lotion to fix them, but since I am already quitting, and where I was still kind of a remote place. I rather getting pickup during the daylight hours than in the dark. I was telling myself, is there any value to push on until midnight or even 10 o’clock? I already reached my goal to make it to mile 62 on the turnsheet. The answer was yes, I got to put in my miles for the other virtual race, Tennessee GVRAT, however, that is so silly. I got two months to do that one. So I should make the speedway gas station as my final (finishing) point. I smelled awful. Even I couldn’t stand my own stench. Only after you stop you started to notice all kinds of things. I went in to the Speedway and brough the Axe deoderant and sprayed myself plenty. Still didn’t smell good. The Uber took quite a while to get to me. There was no where to go but to wait for the Uber.
8:30 pm. My garmin indicated 77 miles done. I took one more look and reluctantly pressed the stop button. 25:35 (25 hours and 35 minutes). I think 25 minutes was waiting for the uber. My race was officially over. Race mile though was 62-63 miles.
The rest of the adventure was just that. I was fell asleep the moment I got in the uber. No longer could I stay awake. The night was cool. The driver had his window down – maybe I was too stinky or maybe due to fear of coronavirus. He was young, in his twenty or even late teens. He was the first Uber guy with his mask on the whole time. The price was very reasonable I think $25 and not $90. My first Uber guy did not wear a mask! But the first guy picked me up in a BMW. I think the second one was a toyota. I respected what this guy did though. I had my own mask on too. The ride was long too, maybe an hour or more to the hotel near the airport where I stayed for the night and flew back in the morning.
I did not regret the decision to quit. There is no if, like I could finish or not. Not going to play Monday Quarterbacking. What’s done was done. I did not feel badly that I did not tough it out. I felt I gave enough to the race. It was not my all, but enough at the right point. I knew I still had some left in the tank, meaning I had not reach my limit. At least I felt I still have about 20 miles and might able to squeeze 30 miles. But to go for that emptying the tank point, I felt I would hurt my foundation and the risk was very high I might not reach the finish point even if I gave my all (100% sure I wouldn’t able to do it). It was no longer fun. I was cutting my loss early.
I hated getting lost. I hated hours wasted at various places. Yet I knew I could still come back and do again. I had great confident I definitely can redo this race and finish it. I felt I already won it – a weird feeling in what seemingly a failure, but I felt I really achieved my objective, that is to reach 100K. 100 miler is just that, you have to come up solution for the unexpected during the race, being flexible and to be able to push on. The last 40 miles were an insurmountable problem for me at the time.
I am not making light the 40+ miles left to do and those would not be easy miles. I am not comparing myself to those who did the remaining 40 miles and toughened it out. I respect greatly those who finished. 100 miles is no joke.