This past weekend time was made useful in the service of many happy, and probably quite a few sore, runners. Saturday around noon we had gone to finally get my dear wife some shoes to run in other than her preferred low hikers she has been using. She has some other shoe shat are more appropriate but she wanted to keep those nice...lol. Now, she can have some comfy shoes for out and about and some to trash while running.
Around 1 I left for Pine Mountain and met up with the Pine Mountain 40 miler RD Sarah Tynes, Tony G., John T., and Matt G. to start the marking process. Initially I had thought I was going to run the entirety of the course but thankfully (very, very thankfully), I was given a 7.5 mile stretch to mark solo and then run back to my truck. I got in a solid 11 miles, which is my longest run to date since Pinhoti. While meeting up and gathering instructions from Sarah I was enlightened to find out that John T. just opened a running store in Columbus. This is a great relief, but was a little late as we had just made the purchase for Amber not even two hours earlier...oh well, se la vie, at least we know she will need more shoes, as will we all eventually. I departed and started marking with a coupon for Big Dog Running Co. and a race beanie courtesy of Sarah.
I managed to mark my leg without falling. Pine Mountain is a tough race, not for climbs, not for gnarly descents, but for leaf covered rocks and roots on narrow, sometimes precarious trails. The rocks will have your feet feeling like they had been caned for hours at the end of the day, the cant of the trail will torque your IT band and have you begging for the end with at least 10 miles to go. The joke is on you on this course which is what adds to the genuine, all-encompassing awesome ultra experience you will have. What I am leaving out is that you get to see 7 different waterfalls, breathtaking view of Pine Mountain Valley and Warm Springs, fall colors in full effect (which if you live in the Northeast is a plus if you LOVE fall...you'll get to see it twice!) AND...some of the best folks the southeast has to offer.
Race day I get a bit of a late start but manage to get to the race before Sarah kicks the runners out the door for the start. Len and I head out to get some gas and decide that a little bite at HuddleHouse would do us well having to endure the cold and all while providing for runners all morning. That was one heck of a great breakfast, shared with a stellar man...who also happened to pick up the check (thanks again brother!). We headed up to Dowdle Knob to stage the drop bags and await the mass of the runners to pass through. The lead runner came through in just a shade over two hours...absolutely phenomenal, as much as I run these trails there is no way I could ever get there, not even in my dreams.
A few hours in I finally get to see quite possibly my favorite club member. Jason R., this guy once weighed 400 pounds and took the initiative to take it off himself through education, hard work perseverance and exercise. He is the most trim I have ever seen him and looking strong! Pine Mountain was his first ultra last year and he was in a hurt-locker afterward. This year...he looked so strong and ran the entire last 4 mile stretch which can be daunting in some areas. The guy is a beast, and so humble, full of life and genuinely cares about everyone...everyone. I do not think that there would be anyone on the face of this earth that could possibly meet Jason and think negatively about him.
After I got to see Jason roll in, give him a bro-hug and get him some Gatorade Len and I went back to the start and I then went and swept a 6 mile stretch of trail. Did I mention I run in Pine Mountain a lot? I do, I mean a lot. It is not uncommon for me to take off early and run 6 hours or more up here and then head home. Falls are not extremely common for me on this trail for that reason. I did re-learn two things that I already knew on this 6 mile stretch. This first being that drought causes roots to come to the surface in search of water here. The second is that the more time you spend running off the trail the less you remember to pick up your feet. The culmination of these two re-learned lessons ended with a beautiful face plant about halfway through. Needless to say, my knees were high for the remainder of the day.
I made my way back to the start and met up with Len and Kerry D. to go back up to Dowdle Knob and start sweeping back the start. I would be stopping after 3.5 miles as I needed to get home to finish some homework I had. We made our way down the trail and caught up with the last two runners. The attempted to let us pass but after informing them that we were there for their safety they reluctantly led us to the next aid station. In an attempt to take their mind off the pain and the impending drop that was to occur once we hit the next aid station I rattled on and on with Len, Kerry and the two runners about races to come, races past, the trail we were on and adventures I had experienced on it. I am not sure if it helped anyone else, but that 3.5 passed a lot quicker that I had anticipated.
I made my way to the Start.Finish area for the last time for the day to let Sarah know I was leaving for the day and to thank her for another great event and letting me help. I hung a bit longer than I should have but still made it home in time to finish my paper...
I think I am done with taking a whole weekend for long runs for a while. Next week is the club end of year party so that is my excuse there. I am missing my family terribly and my heart is heavy for the time I cannot ever make up that has been forced upon us with deployments and other trips.