Pine Mountain 40M, Pine Mountain, Georgia 4,4

Elevation: ~1700+'    Results
December 8, 2013 - Mountain trails always have a way of revitalizing me.  They
are truly a sanctuary to me, a place where the prayers my legs and lungs offer
up enable my spirit to soar.  After my recent ordeal of moving and too much
flatland running, the Pine Mountain Trail run was just what I needed.

The day dawned early at 0300 so that I could commute to the race venue in
southern Georgia from my warm bed in Atlanta.  I was sleepy, even fighting off
the urge to just close my eyes a bit as I relaxed, ready and waiting for the event
to begin... the antithesis of race anxiety!!!  The 0700 start from the dam of Lake
Delanor at F.D. Roosevelt State Park was dark enough that most runners used
a light, but I proceeded without one as my night vision has always been good
and the ambient light seemed adequate, as it turned out to be.

I began in the back of the pack, which turned out to be a mistake, as I ended
up running in a long queue for the first four miles of single track that wound
up to the ridge.  With virtually no place to pass without wasting a lot of energy,
and twenty people in front of me, I sat back on my heals and enjoyed the
ongoing discourse and cameraderie.  A couple miles into the run I caught a tip
on a root and was headed for a face plant, but decided resolutely that I was not 
going to go down so early.  Refusing to yield to the relentless pull of gravity it 
must have taken me twenty-five feet to catch my legs back up under me.  
Despite my apparent awkward and arduous maneuver, my clean recovery must
have been quite a spectacle as I earned an applause from the runners behind me.
The valiant effort left me unscathed, but did result in my pulling apart some of
the recently healed hamstring attachment in my right leg, so I had to deal with
that pain in the butt for awhile and will now have to give it time to heal again.

Once I found some daylight to go past the group, I made my move with three
others as we quickly distanced ourselves from the rest in the fifth mile.  The
split time at the first aid station seemed slow, despite the climb, so I settled
into a tempo that would get me back on track for a 5 mph pace the rest of the
way.  By fifteen miles I was at three hours, and at twenty at four hours, so my
compensting effort brought everything back into balance.


The course follows the Pine Mountain Trail, winding through mostly hardwood
forests with abundant rocks and some roots.  Following outcroppings along the
ridges would normally have yielded spectacular views, but this day was foggy
all day, sometimes with visibility down to within a couple hundred feet... and it
rained, mostly lightly, all day, with some mild ice rain later in the afternoon at
higher elevations.  Temps down below didn't vary much from 50 degrees from
start to finish, but it was cooler on top, especially with intermittent breezes.
I wore a single long-sleeved top and was literally soaked all day, always on the
verge of being chilly.  I knew not to hang around the aid stations for long to 
avoid hypothermia.  With continued movement I'd conclude that temperatures
were near perfect for a good effort.

The trail section between 20 and 25 miles, more or less, became more technical,
undulating up and down around mountain laurel lined hollows, back and forth
across pretty little streams with lots of pretty waterfalls.  It would have been a
charming run if one had the time to stop and reflect.  Keeping my attention on
the twists and turns and creative manuevers required left me with only a
passing appreciation, however.  I was made for this kind of trail run and was
loving it.  I took the first of two very hard and bruising falls at around twenty
miles, which reflexively caused me to pull back upon the reins a bit and proceed
with extra caution.  I fall can not only ruin the day, but can end a career, so I
measured my risk-taking with a little more care henceforth.

In the second half of the event I pulled back more folks than passed me, but
generally slowed with the progression of the race and expected deterioration
of performance.  At 25 miles I was at 5 hours and 10 minutes; at 50K on this
rolling, challenging course I still managed to come through at 6 hours and 50
minutes.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  I stayed even for a few miles, then
stepped it up for the last five, much of it down hill, and finished strong in under
nine hours.  My leg lift was good into the finish and I was still able to drive hard
without digging too deep at 40 miles, which portends well for the longer races
that lie ahead.

Overall a good day, despite being fatigued in a big way and really not being able
to train on hills and trails very much in the past six weeks.  This event would be
worth an encore.  It was great doing 100% of the run on woodsy trails, for a
change.  One more 50K next weekend, then I bring 2014 into my sights with
great expectations for performance and fun.