Our goal for the year has been to run the Pine Mountain 40 race. I’ve read several race reports and I’ve read some 500 times over- just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The one thing they all have in common – is their disdain for all the rocks. The rocks you can see, the rocks covered by 7 inches of leaves, the rocks around all the tree roots, the rocks you have to climb over and cling to lest you fall off a cliff (that only happens once, I think). So when trying to decide where we wanted to do our long run this past weekend, Harley threw out Pine Mountain. I was ready to go back to Fort Mountain but quickly gave in. It was high time I got to see this trail for myself.
Upon arriving at FDR State Park we headed to the visitor center to find out where this trail started and lo and behold, we could jump on it from there – around mile 3.75. Harley was dressed and ready to run a la Richard Simmons.
Our plan was to run about 20 miles, 10 miles out and back. I was secretly gunning for 24, hoping to run my furthest (or farthest, I don’t care) distance yet – making this my last long, long run before the Buncombe Trails 55k in a couple of weeks.
We quickly agreed with everyone else – this trail IS rocky. I was thinking it reminded me of the Hill Country in Texas and what Bandera must be like – so I kinda had a positive connection with it. Harley had it out for it. He hated it. Hate, hate, hated it. I liked that the rocks slowed me down a bit (read: I enjoyed having an excuse for my pace). They kept it interesting. I like the amount of hills and didn’t feel too guilty when I wanted to hike up a rocky one. We saw several other trail runners out there – well, four others.
When we reached Molly Hugger, Harley decided to take the Sawtooth Trail back to the Visitor’s Center. My plan was to make it to Dowdell Knob and then turn around. We parted and I was feeling strong – and brave for running by myself on unfamiliar trails. About a mile after Molly Hugger, I noticed some gnarled trees, lots of them. And then I remembered reading some race reports that mentioned this was part of the trail that was hit by a tornado back in 2009. This was a crappy portion of the trail – to me. It was followed by what seemed like a solid half mile of shoulder height weeds and overgrown brush. I was very happy to be wearing my compression sleeves for added protection.
Right around in here – on the weed wacking portion of the trail, I recalled an awful story from last weekend. I wasn’t there, but on the Saturday portion of the GUTS training run, one guy startled a bee’s nest and was stung no fewer than 30 times. Apparently that was when the forest ranger stopped counting. Boy was I glad to have recalled that story – cuz that’s when I heard the bzzz, bzzz, buzzing.
I saw several bees swarming and didn’t think twice. I turned around and ran as fast as I could – only skinning my knee on one tree stump. I was not about to be the little dude from My Girl. I could still hear the little f+ckers for a short while but ultimately I either outran them or there were only 3 in the first place. I don’t care. If I had to pick what type of animal I’m most afraid of – it’s usually gonna be a stinger over a biter. I was more afraid of these bees than I was the 2 snakes I saw slither across the trails at Sope Creek the day before.
So now I’m a little panicked with 10 miles to go and I’m sad that Harley and I separated. I kept waiting to get a text from him when he got back to the car. Then I was worried he tripped on an effen rock and hit his head on the other trail he took. Or the car keys fell out of his pocket and he couldn’t get in the car. Finally I heard from him. At this point I had like 5 ½ miles to go and was going strong. While on the phone with him I saw my first deer for the day running away from the trail. I convinced myself it saw a bear. So then I start with the clapping every couple of minutes. Hey, I didn’t get eaten by a biter (or a stinger) – so smirk all you want that I was worried about a bear in middle Georgia. What wasn’t good was…
Was that I ran out of water with 3 miles to go. I don’t even wanna delve into the panic attack from which I suffered the last 1.5 miles. It was bad. Really bad. I’m a total spaz. Long story short: drop bags. In the future, we will use drop bags – like the ones we saw at the Molly Hugger parking lot which I thought were such a great idea at the time – 14 miles before I’d need one of my own.
I ran great –but freaked at the end. Harley wanted to kill the rocks. He said on his run back he was trying to remember what he liked about trail running in the first place. We were both so emotionally shot by the time we reconnected that when the coke machine inside the Visitor Center took our $2 – well , we didn’t handle it so well.
So it turns out I actually liked Pine Mountain. I figure by December two things will happen. One, the rocks will be covered by inches of leaves and may very likely sprain my ankle that day. But two, the weed wacker portion of the trail that is currently home to a band of bees, should be dead by then. I figure they kind of even cancel each other out. I think I’m still game to run it. Harley is definitely out. He doesn’t even want to volunteer. He HATES that trail.
I was glad he was game to run our 17 mile loop at Kennesaw on Monday though. He said he was happy to do it and was happy to fall in love with trail running all over again. (Insert eye roll here). We both broke our previous best times. I did it in 2:50. I was really proud of myself and shook my sweaty tail feather all the way back to Smyrna.
Mileage – Sun 8/26 – Sat 9/1
Sun – 15miles(3:30) Fort Mountain / Mon- 00:50 Sope Creek / Tues &Wed rest / Thurs 1:45 Sope Creek / Fri- 1:20 Sope Creek / Sat – 20 miles (4hrs) Pine Mtn = 11.5 hrs (roughly 58 miles)