Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trail race spotlight: Georgia Death Race 03.16.13

Sean Blanton running on a segment of the Duncan Ridge Trail and the Georgia Death Race.
A couple months ago I saw a post on Facebook from local Georgia ultrarunner, Sean Blanton, describing a new race he was working on that he called the Georgia Death Race. While I wasn't impressed with the name he chose for the event, I was intrigued by the route he had selected. 

Basically, the race will start in Vogel State Park, hit the Coosa Backcountry Trail up to Coosa Bald and then get on the Duncan Ridge Trail, easily the toughest trail in Georgia. I've run this trail and the Coosa Backcountry and both are challenging trails. Another race, the Duncan Ridge Trail 50K has the same route except you turn around after 25K to head back to Vogel State Park. 

The Georgia Death Race continues on the Duncan Ridge Trail and connects with the Benton McKaye. You should look back through my blog to read my running of the Duncan Ridge Trail last year. There are no switch backs. It is straight uphill running and then straight, quad busting downhill running for several miles. Although, you are rewarded with amazing scenery. 

Once the course reaches Three Forks, it takes a series of non-traveled trails and forest roads all the way to Amicalola Falls in an effort to avoid the Appalachian Trail. Not due to difficulty, if anything the race route is harder, but because organized race events are not permitted on the AT. The course covers 60 miles and promises over 30,000 ft. of elevation change on mostly challenging single track trails.

Sean recently announced that race registration for the Georgia Death Race would open on Monday, October 8. Obviously, runners like to test their mettle, as 25 participants signed up in the first 48 hours. Before you rush to register for the Georgia Death Race, take a moment to read my Q&A with Sean regarding the race.

Sean, you've traveled the world and run trails from Hawaii to Nepal to Switzerland. How do the trails in North Georgia, your home base, compare to other trails in other parts of the country and the world?

Trails here are awesome. They are rocky, hard and untouched. Trails around the world get lots of wear and tear from locals and tourists. Not many tourists to North Georgia and most locals don't hike or run much on the trails we selected for this race, the Duncan Ridge Trail and a section of the Benton McKaye Trail. The majority of hikers and runners go to the Appalachian Trail or stay in the state parks. Our trails have some incredible views. I have run for 40 miles on these trails on a Saturday and not seen a soul. I hope to share these trails with others.

What was your inspiration behind creating the Georgia Death Race and why did you choose that name for it?

The inspiration for the race came from me and Brad Goodridge always trying to come up with god awful run ideas up in North Georgia. This was a mutation of one. Our favorite trails and the hardest trails we know. The name is more for show. No one is going to die. I mean how many races do you hear the name and have no idea where it is. This begs the question. Plus it sounds awesome to say you finished the Georgia Death Race.

With a cap of 150 runners, describe some of the challenges and the highlights that race participants will encounter while racing the GDR.

First of all, the runners will experience running at night on single track trail with a 4 am start. With the leaves being down around this time of year, the views are stunning and runners will be able to see into the distance at the mountains around them. They will see the sunrise over the back of Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. There are several rocky peaks along the Duncan Ridge Trail that allow for amazing unobstructed views. You will cross over a fun swinging bridge. We will have some fun surprises at the aid stations. The hardest climb will be done in the dark. You will think it goes on forever. It's about 2,300 ft. gain in just 3.8 miles. There is close to 20,000 ft of elevation change in the first 40 miles. 

What would you advise to anyone eyeing the Georgia Death Race as their first race longer than a 50K?

I would advise them to look at the race as a fun organized hike run. We have a 28 hour cutoff. You can walk it in that time, I assure you. But it is all about training properly. I would focus more on up and down more than distance in training. Hiking would be a good idea because unless you're an elite runner (and even then) you will be hiking most of the up. Don't be scared. I will do everything in my power to help you cross that finish line. We'll have aid stations every 4 to 8 miles.

What about the race swag? What is each participant receiving with their race registration and when they finish?

Everyone will receive a custom Race Ready tech tee for the race. Top 3 male and female will be receiving A LOT of prizes from our sponsors as well custom awards. All finishers will receive the coveted Georgia Death Race nail. Its an old railroad spike engraved with "Georgia Death Race Finisher". Why? Because if you finish, you're tougher than nails! Also we will have SO much stuff to raffle off at the pre race meeting its not funny! You will leave with a smile and some gear.

I understand you are trying to string together the Georgia high peaks into a race course. What other race courses are you planning?

That is a fun run as it takes place in a lot of wilderness area. I am planning on about two to three races next year. And four to five in 2014. My races are different than all the other trail races. I see a lot of people just picking any old trail and hosting a race. Those races end up with rolling hills through the woods with no views and no reward. I plan to change that. EVERYONE OF THE RACES I PUT ON INCLUDE A VIEW AS A REWARD. When I run, I have a lot of fun and I have my own epic races coming up. I run to see beautiful things I can't see from my car. I use this philosophy when designing race courses. I promise, if you run the Georgia Death Race or any other race I put on that you will stop mid race to admire the view. So carry a camera! 

Last one…describe the Georgia Death Race in five words.

I only need one.....EPIC!


There you have it. Ready to earn your GDR rail spike (that has got to be one of the more original race bling out there)? Then register at UltraSignUpThe race is capped at 150 runners and starts at 4:00am on Saturday, March 16, 2013.

Follow Sean Blanton on Twitter at @runbum or like the Run Bum page on Facebook, and hit him up if you have questions about the Georgia Death Race. Happy trails!