I chose this race for the sole purpose of getting another Hardrock qualifier. This was definitely the hardest qualifier I have done. We started at noon on Friday. The temps were already in teh low 80s with high humidity and almost no breeze. My goals for the first day, 1. Keep heart rate down and feel “too good” at the top of the climbs 2. Run the downhills easy, steady, no tension. 3. Eat a variety of real food. On the first long climb, I was passed and passed and passed some more. “This is where you have to behave”. I knew the keeping my heart rate down would be a challenge. It seemed too easy. By 8 miles I was in 145th place. I just kept thinking, “you are going to have to do this ALL day tomorrow in the heat”. “Don’t destroy your ability to perform tomorrow”. I pulled out my bandana and soaked it in every stream and wrapped it around my neck to cool me. Conserve and Perform.
Dad came with me, my only crew. No pacers. These are the mountains where my Cherokee family lived. Everything there had Cherokee names. The trails, lakes, streams, towns, all had Cherokee names, but there was an abject absence of Cherokee people. They were all moved to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. Gold was discovered at Dahlonega. The name itself is the Cherokee word for yellow. That was the final nail in the coffin for the Cherokee people. They were forced to leave under the Indian Removal Act.
The lands were seized by the State of Georgia, without a treaty, and divided among white settlers in a lottery fashion. 4,000 Cherokee men, women, children died en-route. 4,000. They were not allowed time to gather their belongings, and as they left, their homes were looted. Many of the people bought into the land lottery for a chance of getting a lot with gold or other profitable resources. Once most realized their lots were not profitable, they sold or abandoned them and moved away.
After 25miles up and down the mountains on technical, single track trail, I entered Skeenah Gap aid station in 117th position. I had moved up almost 40 positions. It was getting evening and it was good to see Dad. He tried to offer a chair, “would you like to sit for a few minutes?”. I proceeded to shake my finger no, as I stuffed piece after piece of watermelon in my mouth and moved on to grilled cheese sandwiches.
I was trying to get as many calories in as possible. One of the lead male runners had cramped up on the side of the trail, and someone was going back to help him down. I caught the conversation between the aid station captain and a younger volunteer. The younger, “Well, it’s early, we can get him back up and going again”. The captain adjusted his cap and said, “yes, but the price has been paid, he went out to hard and now he’s going to suffer”. That’s exactly what I had hoped I was going to avoid. “Don’t write checks your body can’t cash”, I told myself. I gave dad a kiss and headed off for the night.