Pine Mountain 40 Mile
So I came back from the TransRockies super geared up about running crazy races. I was totally obsessed and wanted to find a 50 miler to do STAT. However, I really couldn’t find one that was convenient (i.e., driving distance) and right away (because I must do everything immediately!). Mostly because most people don’t want to run 50 miles in the August heat in the South. There were plenty to be had in the fall and winter, but I was impatient and didn’t want to wait. (cue Paula Cole in the background…”I don’t wanna wait…” – on a side note, I went to see Paula Cole once in high school. She played at the local water park. She was a lovely singer, but didn’t shave her pits which kind of sullied the show. Totally random… OK back to running…)
And then I just didn’t end up signing up for anything at all. But then my friend Alex talked me into signing up for the Pine Mountain 40. I had always thought I would do it one day because 1) It’s put on by GUTS and GUTS is awesome!; 2) It’s close to home; and 3) 40 miles seems like a logical step before 50 miles, right???
However, I never signed up because I knew it was at FDR State Park and I knew that trail was pretty technical. And in December, a rainy December, it was totally covered in wet leaves. So rocks and roots hidden by slippery leaves. That just seemed like it would be miserable to traipse about for 40 miles of slippery leaves which lay upon rocks and roots galore….particularly with clumsiness…
So anyways…yeah, when Alex said he was doing it, for some reason I decided I would do it too. I never did find that suitable 50 miler and was itching to do something crazy – so this should be plenty crazy, right?
Leading up to the race, I didn’t quite get to train as I had planned… or much at all. I ran the Darkside 50k in Peachtree City on November 10, 2013 – I was supposed to run Rock ‘n Roll Savannah, but we had so much going on at work…it was just bad timing to trek down there. Darkside was run on pavement, and I ran it pretty quickly. Afterwards work continued to be crazy. We had so many mediations and depositions and other madness. There was just no time. So I did no running the next week. Then in the next couple weeks I ran maybe three times. I lifted here and there. But surely no sort of 40 mile training.
I checked in with Alex the week before the race. Turns out post NYC Marathon he had taken on a similar training – or should I say non-training – schedule as me post Darkside. He bailed.
Some other friends – Deborah and Brennan decided to sign up last minute, so I was still assured of some company. I’m typically a loner when it comes to running, but 40 miles with no headphones is a long way alone! And you know what they say – misery loves company!
The race was on Sunday. The whole week I wrestled with whether to run or not. I had to cancel the hotel by Friday so the decision had to be made by then. The weather report looked crappy – rain…but 40s/50s. So doable. Debate some more, debate some more.
Friday came and I sat on the bed expressing my internal torment to my husband. I told him, I didn’t train properly, it was going to rain, the whole thing was a bad idea and I thought I would just back out. And, in true Pooky fashion, he looked at me and said, “Why wouldn’t you run it? It’s only 40 miles. You’ll do just fine. You should definitely do it.” So I decided I’d suck it up and do it.
Later, when I said, “But what if I hurt myself and then I can’t run for a while…” And his face went white and panic set about. I could see him remembering a time when I hurt my back and didn’t run for months. A time when I was a cranky, horrible monster. Then he panicked. And you could tell he regretted giving me his usual motivational speech…but it was too late.
Saturday came and I packed up my crap. We headed down to Pine Mountain in the afternoon. Stopped in the cute little downtown and discovered a cupcake shop that was simply amazing. Best cupcakes I’ve bought from a bakery in a very long time. Soft and wonderfully delicious. If you’re down there, get you some. You’ll thank me. So we bought what she had left in cupcakes and cookies (it was closing time) and meandered on. We went to Lodge and checked in. They had a big Christmas lights display at Calloway Gardens (and I LOVE Christmas lights) but the only time left to see it was at 9-10pm. I hemmed and hawed whether we should go or I should rest. Finally I pissed around so much that it was sold out. Problem solved.
We indulged in lots of free apple cider and cookies at the hotel. The hotel was super nice, and I wish we had time to explore and hang out. Dinner time came and we both decided we were exhausted and didn’t want to go out…I did my usual thorough googling of the area’s offered cuisine. We found a pizza shop that got good enough reviews and ordered a feast of pizza and potato wedges. Then I gorged on pizza, potatoes, cupcakes and cookies. Suffice it to say that I was OVER carb loaded.
I tried to sleep but I was SO restless (…could it be the carbs…). I thought about bringing some Benadryl, but didn’t. I had a headache and just didn’t feel good. And the front desk had no sort of Tylenol, Advil or anything else. Sigh. And I basically didn’t sleep the whole night. Come about 4AM I finally fell asleep for about an hour. After that, I just gave up and got up. I looked out the window. Looked cold and rainy. I decided to bail. But I couldn’t. It was too late. I could see everyone else Facebooking about getting ready. It was go time.
I layered up, lubed up, and choked down some Purely Elizabeth granola with almond milk and a banana. I woke up the husband to give me a ride, and we were off into the misty, rainy darkness. He dropped me off near the front since of course I was late…A quick trip to the bathroom was of course the priority. And there was no line! Woo hoo!
It was actually not that bad when I got out there. Much warmer than expected and only lightly misting. I saw Brennan and Deborah and Matthew and started to get excited.
We climbed the steps up to the road and I looked around for friends. I found Deborah and yelled and yelled for Brennan, but couldn’t find him…but low and behold Pooky suddenly popped up out of nowhere, and that was a very welcome site before take off!
Off into the darkness we want, headlamps a bobbing. Into the woods and winding around the trail in the darkness was pretty awesome. I tried to stay with Deborah and company but ended up alone for a bit. I just super duper focused and tried not to trip in the dark. However the sun came up quickly, and I got warmed up fast. Shed some layers and just kept on keeping on. I was really tired due to lack of sleep, but overall felt pretty good.
Not too far in, Brennan caught up to us, and we kept trucking on together. We chit chatted about everything and the time passed pretty quick. We kept a pretty leisurely pace (which would bite us in the ass later) and enjoyed the trail.
The aid stations were well stocked and full of awesome volunteers who were always a welcome site. Early on I got an extreme craving for nachos. When I expressed this at an aid station, one volunteer reached into her purse and pulled out some gluten free tortilla chips and gave them to me! So sweet!
Brennan and I had a great “coach” and cheering squad….an older gentleman that Brennan knew. He was at each aid station and would tell us how on or off pace we were and offer encouragement. Not to mention Snickers. Yes he gave me a Snickers mid race 😉
I texted Pooky every now and again with my whereabouts. He told me he would see me at Mile 22, at the TV Tower. I texted him that I had a couple more hours – meaning a couple more hours to Mile 22. However, next time I had a text from Pooky it read “until you finish? Awesome, you’re doing great” lol. Talk about an overconfident husband. If only…
At some point it started raining pretty hard. It was super slippery with all the leaves and there were lots of rocks and roots to keep us on our toes. Somehow I did manage not to fall. Amazing!
However, in our chit chat, Brennan noticed I had decided to wear my wedding band. He was like, um, you better watch because your fingers will swell. I said, “nah, its fine. I wear it all the time on long runs.” Then I went to wiggle it to show him. At this point I noticed my fingers were WAY swelled and the ring was VERY stuck. We tugged and tugged and I freaked out. Eventually we got it off. Aaaah that felt so much better. Thanks for the wisdom running buddy.
Brennan and I pushed on. When we got to Rocky Point which was like 17 miles in we realized we were meandering pretty slow and may not make the 6 hour cut off at Mile 22. Eeeeeek! I’ve never run this race before; I’ve never run 40 miles before; and I’ve never been so close to a cut off before. Never! So naturally, I started to freak out. And then I told myself, there’s only one way to fix this….so I put my head down and pushed on.
I got to TV Tower, Mile 22, with minutes to spare. They tried to feed me, and I wasn’t feeling anything. But then someone offered me a grilled cheese sandwich. I haven’t eaten a grilled cheese in eons. Eons. And this was on regular old white bread with regular old fake orange cheese. For some reason it sounded good. It was promised to be hot and salty. And omg it was. This grilled cheese sandwich was the most amazing thing I had ever eaten. It was magical. It was spiritual. This grilled cheese sandwich was a religious experience. And it was all I could think about for the next 10 or more miles.
At this point my only goal was to make it to mile 28.5. That was when the sweepers were unleashed. I knew Jason Rogers was sweeping, and I felt comfort in knowing that I could run with someone I knew. I figured I could just keep telling myself that I just had to stay one foot in front of him, and I’d be ok.
I got to 28.5 aid station and Pooky was there! Yay! I was so happy to see a familiar face. By this time I had lost Brennan (he had to drop out) and Deborah (little did I know she was right behind me). However, Pooky was in full blown “Dance Mom” mode. He was dead set on helping me finish. When I got to the aid station my pack was finally empty and I needed to refill with water…which is an ordeal – getting it off, getting it open, filling it, etc… And Pooky was admonishing me, to hurry, that I didn’t have time…he kept me moving and he meant business!
Jason was there, preparing to sweep with a few others. He told me that I had some time… so off I went! I just kept thinking they were one step behind me and so I high tailed it best I could…
The aid stations were every three miles after this. I was a little woozy and mostly just pissed at myself that I was going so slow and barely staying ahead of the cut off. The race cut off was 10.5 hours. And it looked like I wasn’t going to make it. I have to admit, I thought I’d run the race in 8.5 or 9 or maybe even 9.5 hrs. But 10.5, or not finishing, that never even crossed my mind…until now. I spent a good 10 miles or so of the race, at various points, yelling at myself and scolding myself. I don’t know why I trucked it so slow. I was super tired, but my body felt fine. I think I was just being overly cautious on the rocks and leaves and roots and such. I guess. Who knows. I guess there is a first time for everything and this was my first time to be barely barely making it…and I sure didn’t like it.
Pooky met me at every aid station until the end. Poor thing. It was cold and rainy. And it had to be so boring. But he met me with great “Dance Mom” zeal at each spot. Yelling at me and not letting me slack. If this were a pageant of some sort, he would’ve been ready with the vaseline for my teeth, hairspray for my undo and lipstick for the touch up at each stop.
When I saw him at the Buzzard’s Roost road crossing (about 2 miles from the finish) …at this point I knew I was going to make it. I passed two guys taking a picture with one of their wives (or sisters?) and kids. It was so cute. I started to get emotional thinking about the long day and the fact that I had done something that seemed kind of impossible earlier.
I rounded the corner and could hear the camp. I knew I was getting close. I looked at my watch. It looked like I wasn’t going to make it under 10.5 hrs. They were still letting people finish for some time afterwards, but I made a promise to myself that I would not accept one of the coveted fleeces unless I crossed the line in 10.5 hrs or under (not to say there is anything wrong with doing so – a finish is a finish – but I had already worked this out with myself and a promise is a promise).
I could hear the camp for sometime. Eventually I could faintly see it. It was almost dark by now. I sped up and ran in as fast as I could. I spotted the clock in the distance. 10:27 !!!! I made it in under the wire. Pooky was there cheering me through. Lots of people were there cheering me through. I really have to hand it to all the volunteers and fast runners who stuck around for us slow pokes (to put it in perspective, the winning woman ran it in 6.5 hrs… FOUR hours faster than me!!!!). I loved it!!! And totally totally appreciated it! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Trail runners rock. Supporters of trail runners rock. They are just good people.
It was SUCH a good feeling when I crossed that line. Indescribable.
I headed inside and went to get my fleece. Molly was handing them out, and I had met her at the Six Hours of Dauset Trail race. She came in second behind me (not even sweating or tired) and then went out for an “extra” cool down loop of six miles afterwards. But then again, she runs 100 milers. What can I say, she’s a beast.
They were out of size small, but were sweet enough to order more and have it shipped right to me! More awesomeness!
I changed my clothes and got my chocolate almond milk. I went outside and saw that Deborah had finished too. Yay!!!! Was so glad to see her smiling face come through.
We chit chatted with a few people, I changed (OMG it felt good to get out of those cold wet clothes) and then we were on our way.
It was an epic, awesome day. First, it was a humbling experience. This was my first time at this race and at this distance, and I almost didn’t make it to either the starting line or the finish line. However, I’m so lucky to have such an awesome supportive husband…and friends and family…who encourage me to do these crazy things I love to do. Every time I want to give up on myself before I’ve even started, Pooky won’t let me. And each time I run one of these crazy races, it reminds me how awesome and amazing my husband, friends and family are….and how ridiculously lucky I am to have them in this unreal life of mine. What I learned is, that while it was disappointing at the time to be barely making the cut-offs, what would have been most disappointing was if I hadn’t even gone out there and tried today. If I had quit before I even toed the line. Luckily, my friends and hubby won’t let me get away with that 😉 You never know if you don’t try…so if I have anything to tell you from this – it’s go out and try!!! A slow finish or a DNF (*did not finish) is way better than a DNS (*did not start) in my book!
We headed home and I racked my brain for what I wanted as a celebratory meal. Exhausted and worn out, we decided to eat in the house. No sleep, 40 miles, 10.5 hrs by foot and 1.5 hrs by car later, I cooked us dinner. Mac n cheese from a box and crossiants from a tube… with a can of green beans for good, healthy measure 😉
It was an amazing fake food meal, and I loved every artificial morsel. Promptly thereafter, I fell dead asleep. And what a glorious sleep it was. Time to dream about the next crazy adventure to conquer….
Happy Trails until next time guys 😉