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 it....my 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, and...ahhhh....my 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!!!!