Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Pine Mountain 40 Miler, December 8 2013. Time 10 hours 12 m 24 seconds

December 8th 2013 Pine Mountain 40 Miler. Time 10 hours 12 m 24 seconds

Temperatures in the low 40's and lashing rain on the way to the start were not the most inspiring for the event that was to be my reward for training over the last few months and planned as the high point of my running year. Thankfully the worst of the rain passed before the start of the race and temperatures actually made it up to about 50, not the worst of running conditions.
7 am and head lights on and off we went, a mad rushing mass of 143 runners out to have fun for the day. The dawn quickly came and by the time the trail crested the road running the length of the park for the first time it was lights off and full speed ahead, relatively speaking. Having hiked here several years ago I was surprised by how rough the trails were, big difference when trying to push the pace in race. The trails are in great shape and it is constantly up and down so not a lot of rest or cruising. Early on I made the correct call to drop my pace back closer to my planned 15 minutes per mile even though it felt like I could maintain better, apparently I am learning from my years of over extending myself early in races.
Of course the fact the one has to at times scramble with both hands and feet in multiple sections will also "fix" any excessive pace aspirations quickly as well.
First 18 miles went very well, then I hit the lowest point on the course which turned out to be a series of very twisted paths back and forth in a heavily wooded river/stream area. The trail marking were not great here, in my opinion and after a few stumbles and wrong turns I was felt drained with a touch of panic as the cut off time crossed my mind for the first time. Pushing through this area and climbing up to the TV tower aid station was the hardest stretch of the entire race for me, amazing how the loss of mental confidence so quickly translates into physical distress. The fact that I hit this area on my own certainly did not help and connecting back up with some people on the way up out of the valley helped keep me motivated and on track.
Still it was with great relief that I put my eyes on Amanda and Kieran at the aid station jumping and hollering to cheer me on, coupled with some amazing chicken soup. The combination of Amanda's support and the heat of the chicken soup quickly kicked me back into the right mindset. The grilled cheese certainly helped also.

Heading out from the TV tower I was able to get back on pace and maintained pretty well for the rest of the race. Amanda made it to very aid station along the rest of the course and it was a huge boost every time I rounded a corner to see an aid station that I also heard her cheering as soon as I was in sight. She had chicken soup at the ready every time and updates on timing and how I was doing on maintaining my pace. The physical lift and the mental boost each time was immense, knowing how you stand when it's good news is a big weight of your mind. A big hand of M&Ms at the very last aid station, 3 miles from the finish was the final necessary sugar rush to make it to the end

The cumulative effect of the rocky ground certainly did take a toll on my feet and the last few miles into the finish area on the soft forest floor section was a great relief. As always the last mile in seemed to take forever, especially as it was in a very heavily wooded section which was totally different from the majority of the course, almost felt like I was in a different park. Thankfully this section was a reverse of the start so I knew I was in the right place and there was no need for the panic that can come when you think you are lost.
Cut off time was 10 1/2 hours and my plan had been to maintain a pace to make 10 hours so getting in at 10 hours and 12 minutes meets my criteria for success, a great race generally run as I had planned and without any major stress about making cutoff times.
Finally after many years talking about it I have completed the Pine Mountain 40 miler.

On a side note, Ben Gray ran a great race again even if he did finally realize that constant events were taking a heavy toll on him. Still a 7:36:37 time is impressive.
Kieran spent the day popping between aid stations as one of the race support members and demonstrated what a huge part of everyone's success all the race day volunteers are.  Of course I had the added benefit of Amanda as a dedicated support which made my day all the better and sweeter. Thank you my love.

So the plan for next year is that Amanda will run this and I will be the support crew, I am looking forward to returning the favor. Then maybe I'll be back in 2015..

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