Mystery Mountain Marathon

Mystery Mountain Marathon
Post Race

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pine Mountain 40 Miler

Pine Mountain 40 Miler...hmmmm, one of the more deceptively difficult courses that I have run.  I think it is something about all of the runnable climbs that lulls me into a false sense of ability,...or something like that.  Last year I came in fantastic shape, and put up a mediocre time....and hurt for a couple of days.  This year, I came in sort of tired. I had really been ramping up my miles in a desperate effort to get myself ready for the winter season.  After Mystery Mountain, I knew I had some work to do, and I know better, but thought that I could get it all back by running myself in to the ground for 5 weeks.  Want to guess how well that worked???  Any ways, My friend Will Glover, training partners Jon Obst, and Agostino Corigliano, and I had gotten a sweet cabin in Calloway Gardens.  Race Day came, I was well rested, and the weather was twice as hot for the start as it was last year!! (34 degrees!).  I toed the line thinking,.....its just 40 miles.....for a distance runner, 40 miles is just mind over matter, anything less than 30 is usually a training run.  Oh, did I mention I found out that I got in to Western States on Saturday?!!!!  The Olympics for Ultra Running, a one in a million shot, ....and I dont know if I can run baby is due two weeks before...I was still on a high just thinking about it as we were about to start though.

And we're off!!!  The group of 150 runners thinned pretty quickly as we headed down the dam towards the woods, I entered the woods with my friends and settled in for the easiest section of the course.  The first 3 miles is a gentle upgrade of well maintained and non-rocky trail.  A few runners fell here early, and I thought to myself that they had a long day ahead of them, as the course just continues to get more difficult.  After crossing the road at about the 3 mile mark we worked ourselves on to the top of the first ridgeline, and for the second year in a row we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen.  We ran up on this ridge for about three quarters of a mile, I spent the whole time trying not to fall, as I was affixed on the sunrise, and not the trail.  At about 6 miles we cruised through the first aid station.  Since the weather was fairly cool, I and most of the runners around me barely stopped, the next aid station was fairly close.  About 10 miles in the trail started to get really rocky, not that they weren't already, but they were worse now.  Compunded with the rocks, this year the leaf cover was much more intense and thick, I twisted my ankle around ten miles in.  I didnt look at it until the end of the race, but it was nice and swollen with a dark black hue.

Mile 14.8 brought the Mollyhugger Hill Aid Station.  I grabbed a couple of sandwiches and quickly took off.  The entire race I concentrated on eating as much real food while running as I could, I think Im kinda' over gels and such, real food gives me a better and longer lasting boost.    I was staying fairly well hydrated as well, I didnt want to make the same mistakes I made at Mystery Mountain, and get behind.  Even though I tried to ignore it....I was starting to cramp after leaving this aid station, WHY! I was well hydrated, alternating sports drink with water, eating alot, taking salt, but sure enough, I was cramping.  Mile 16.....kicked a rock, went face forward off the trail, right calf completely seized up in to a horrible cramp.  I quickly rolled on to my back, sat up, and tried to start working it out.  I couldnt get it to loosen up, I looked behind me to see if there was an oncoming runner, and...dammit...found myself looking back at a fellow runner's junk as he relieved himself....not cool, but the good part was that I knew once he was done, he could help me up.  And he did.  So, after a 2 minute delay, I was off running through the woods again, knowing that stopping would only make the muscle worse.  I ate a few more s-caps, and chugged my whole water bottle, knowing that the next aid was only about 2 miles away.  I made it to the next station, took off, and felt pretty good for the next three miles.  At about mile 20, you encounter the most beautiful portion of the course, it is about a 2.5 mile strectch that takes you across a stream about 12 times or so, and you pass numerous cascading waterfalls, and three fairly major waterfalls.  After the stream it is just a short distance to the TV tower, which I consider halfway, although it is actually just shy of 23 miles.

At the TV tower aid station I came across Tom Wilson and his grilled cheese sandwiches. I remembered these from last year, and quickly scarfed two.  My friend from Florida Will came up while I was eating, he wasnt having a very good day, and had injured his foot.  I wasnt having the best day either, so I decided since I talked him into coming up, I would glady bring him in, at whatever pace, and share some good conversation. The next three to four miles were fairly slow, but full of good conversation, I actually think it was the favorite part of my race.  I had met Will this past May when I traveled down to FL to run Wickham Park, we did almost the entire race together and have stayed in contact ever since.  When its been awhile since you've seen a running friend, it is always great to share some miles in the woods.  Just about 26 miles in Will told me numerous times to get the hell out of there and not wait for him.  As every Ultra Runner knows, sometimes you need to be alone out there with your thoughts, I sensed that this was one of those times for him, and took off. 

When I took off, I felt great.  I remembered that I was tough, and that my speed increases with distance.  It was like an entirely different race, and I was an entirely different runner.  At 28 miles I was back at Mollyhugger Hill Aid Station, I dumped a handfull of Chia seeds into my bottle, ate another sandwich, and started picking people off.  I would be willing to bet that I had one of the fastest splits over the last 12 miles, and I made up almost 45 minutes of lost time, and passed about 15 runners.  I enjoy the last 10 miles of Pine Mountain...I generally start to warm up and shed some clothes, and the last 3 miles are basically downhill, so who could complain? 

As I exited the woods and headed for the finish line I just sort of raised up my hands and shrugged my shoulders, I was 14 minutes slower than last year, I knew I could have beat last year, but didnt, for some reason it just wasnt a big deal to me. I had a good time, I finished like I knew I would.  I dont know, I don't have awhole lot else to say.  Thank you so much to the volunteers for making the race such a pleasure.  Sarah Tynes, thank you for all of your hardwork as RD. GUTS, in general...another fantastic race.  I have a great schedule lined up for the next seven months, and look forward to seeing alot of ya'll out on the trails!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MMM 2010(Mystery Mountain Marathon) a little late!!

Mystery Mountain Marathon 2010.....for me a chance at redemption, and a chance to share some trail with my 12 year old son Avery.  Fort Mountain Park in Chatsworth is my absolute favorite state park to run in Georgia.  Dramatic views, cascading waterfalls, challenging terrain, and tons of wild life, make for a great trail run.  This was my second year running it, and the first for my son.  Avery volunteered last year, and ran the 12 mile option this year.

Early that morning the temperatures were running about 42 degrees, some of the first cold weather of the season.  I knew that it would be pushing up in to the 80's later in the day, so I hoped to run fast early.  It was a neat feeling to shift some of my pre-race jitters on to worrying about my son's race.  We chatted with some of our other running friends, and lazily made our way over to the start line....all the while I was giving my son last minute instuctions and pep talks.

And we're off!....My son took his place at the middle of the pack, and I took my usual spot at the back of the lead group.  After one mile around the lake, I smiled as I made the correct turn on to the Gahuti Trail.  Last year, not knowing the course, I followed a group back around the lake and lost 15 minutes!!!  At this point I was running 5th, and feeling good.  The first thing I noticed about the course as we crossed Big Rock Creek was that it was bone dry.  There is usually a healthy creek with a substantial waterfall here.  This is extremely unusual for Fort Mountain, which is usually full of water and springs. The next portion of the course consists of fairly short climbs that lead you up to a ridge that you follow in to the first aid station.

As I rolled in to the first aid station, I was able to announce my most recent news that my wife and I were expecting.  I actually announced this at every aid station that day!  Other than that, I blew through the aid station, and continued on.  Sean Blanton came up behind me and we shared a couple of miles chatting about Costa Rica.  He took off, putting me back in 6th....he would end up in 5th for the day.  The next portion of the course was a decent climb to the summit of Ft. Mountain and the mysterious wall....the best overlook in the park is here too.  I passed one guy, but was passed by two, now Im in 7th, but feeling great.  In my opinion the next 4 or 5 miles are the easiest on the course....rolling hills that normally take you through a picturesque and wet part of the park.  But alas, the creeks were all dry here too.  I ran these miles with some of the 12 milers, and when we rolled in to the aid station at 11.5, I said goodbye, feeling great about the second half of the race.  The temperatures were no longer cool, probobly around 65-70 degrees by now, which still felt good as I traveresed the long steep powerline hill.   I had some time here to wonder about my son, Avery, had I trained him well enough for this?

Downhill....after cresting the powerline summit there is about 1 1/2 to 2 miles of continuous downill rugged terrrain.  This is generally my specialty, but after not running much in August or September, I felt it in the quads.   The next aid station was just after the half-way point....I ate some S-Caps due to the increasing heat, really hydrated and took off.  I knew that it was 5.2 miles to the next aid station, and 80% of that is uphill.  The temperature reallly started to shoot up on this section, and I lost another spot....8th place....still felt good running in to the aid station, and stopped to chat up Bryce for awhile.  The next aid station was a 5k away, and extremely difficult.  It is a massive climb next to one of the most beautiful cascading mountain streams I have ever seen....but once again...dry, or almost dry.  It was at this point that my lack of training for the last couple of months caught up, as did four other runners.  It was a little discouraging, but my fault for being slack in my training.  I settled in to 12th....and was prepared to start towards the last two aid stations and the finish.

I had forgot to mention that by this time I was started at about mile 18, and I never recovered from it.  The cool morning gave me a false sense of being hydrated, so I didnt take in the proper amount of water.  As the heat picked up, and the sweat started to pour I was behind in my hydration and just couldnt catch up, even though I tried.  Anyways the next 4 miles were fairly uneventful, and not the most scenic areas of the park, so I put my head down and gave it all I got.  I actually picked up two of the runners that had passed me, and I really got a burst of energy thinking that I could still pull off a top 10 finish.

AT mile 25.2, I was flying down the power line hill that we had previously ascended at mile 12.  I could hear Susan Breeding cheering for me, and I took off.  And then it hit...a cramp in my side that almost put me to the ground, and made me completely stop for about 15 seconds.  One runner passed, then I started to walk...then another runner passed....the pain was getting worse.  I have never before, and have never since had a side stich/cramp like this.  I can only assume it was from my hydration issues.  For a second I wondered if I would finish....but I dont have quit in me...and would crawl if I had to.  I rounded the lake in some real pain and crossed the finish line holding my side.  I had shaved off 8 minutes from the previous year, and finished 12th, 8 spots better than last year.....I should have been thrilled, especially since this was still only my second year running, but I felt twice as bad as when I had finished the year before.  I was upset with myself for not coming in prepared.

My son, Avery, rocked the twelve miler.  He is currently the youngest to ever finish(but just by months), and ended up around 48th out of 140 or 150 runners.  I was completely ecstatic for him, and sooo proud as many of the stories at the finish line contained someting about him.  He immediately asked when the next big race is, and I am still beeming ear to ear.  How proud can a father be when he hears things like "...and he hasn't even begun to reach his potential", or " keep this up and you'll be running in college!". 

All in all, another amazing GUTS run. I am lucky to be a part of, in my opinion, the best ultra and trail running club in America.  Thanks to all of the volunteers that made it possible, and a special thanks to Kim Pike for doing an amazing job at RD!!!  See ya next year!!!!!....or better yet, see ya a t Pine Mt.