Friday, December 10, 2010

CREW REPORT: Pine Mtn. 40-Mile Race

The annual Pine Mountain 40-Miler is put on by GUTS. This year's race was held on December 5, where I was lucky enough to experience this much-beloved race from the perspective of "crew mate".

First, a little about Pine Mountain and the Trail: Back in the 40's, Franklin D. Roosevelt made Warm Springs, GA and neighboring Pine Mountain his home away from home. He would first come here to treat his polio, but soon fell in love with the beautiful scenery of the Appalachian foothills. When visiting, it's not hard to understand why FDR loved it so much. Even in the late stages of autumn, the area boasts a certain mystique and beauty.

FDR visited the overlook below no less than 41 times.

The Pine Mountain Trail begins in FDR Park and extends 23 miles mostly along a ridge. The trail boasts 29,000 feet in elevation change and is known for its diverse terrain, crossing creeks, and climbs up and over ridge tops and traversing past oak, hickory, pine and maple trees. Many sections of the trail are also known for the degree of technical difficulty. The trail is littered with protruding rocks made even more difficult in the fall by the leaves covering the trail.

That sounds beautiful doesn't it? Much better than how Jason Rogers describes it (although I bet every runner on Sunday is taking sides with Jason).

"How can I describe the Pine Mountain trail? Rocks. Lots of rocks hidden by leaves. Lots of rocks that presented a constant danger of trips, bloody falls, hidden "toe catchers" to trip me up, countless small boulders for me to bang my toes on. A few creek crossings that I managed to complete without getting my trail shoes wet."

Photos courtesy of Jason Rogers
After spending the night in Pine Mountain, we headed out early the next day to the Pine Mountain group shelter, where we enjoyed hanging out with several friends. I just have to say that I'm always amazed at the level of camaraderie that exists among runners, but especially trail runners. It seems to be cemmented by a mutual love (and borderline obsession) for something non-runners deem crazy (you’ve heard the “you’re crazy” subtext in your non-runner friends’ comments before).

I feel like this camaraderie is strengthened in some situations (like when you’re running a race that might possibly kill you).

Camaraderie of the crazies - party of 3

As 7:00 approached, we all walked up to the road where the race would start. It was a chilly 28 degrees and barely dusk as we stood there listening to last minute instructions. Then, they were off.

RD extraordinnaire Srah Tynes says, "Sock Monkey not happy with headlamp placement."

How many of these people are going to get "Schicked" today??

The runners headed down a brief stretch of pavement before hitting single track trail.

Leopold and I had made a bunch of signs earlier in the week and I was anxious to get to the first sighting of the runners to get Charles' reaction. I headed over to Buzzard's Roost, which is not an Aid Station but a road crossing about 2 miles in.

Charles came through looking very strong here.

Later, he told me that the guys he was running with said, "Your OUR hero, Charles! How'd you get her to come out here and cheer for you?"

After Buzzard's Roost, I was off to Fox Den Cove, the first official Aid Station, at Mile 5.9. Charles came through in :56 minutes, which is about 9:30 pace. I was alittle worried he was too fast, but he looked very strong and comfortable at this point.

Charles is looking strong at Buzzard's Roost

Next stop: Mollyhugger Hill, which served as mile marker 10.8 and 31.54. This Aid Station was a lot of fun, but I was getting a taste of how cold this day was actually going to be.

Yeah, it was that cold.

My favorite sign

Charles continued to look strong and keep a fairly consistent pace. Whenever he dropped off it was because of a particularly difficult stretch.

As I spent the day wandering from Aid Statin to Aid Station, I enjoyed the sights quite a bit. Here are some of my favorite things from the race:

Favorite costumed volunteer dudes.

Favorite grilled cheese.

Favorite HTFU dude.

Favorite HTFU guys number- which should serve as the marketing photo for next year's race.

All in all, I had a fantastic adventure. I am so proud of Charles! Covering 40 miles in 9:16:02 (average pace of 13:54), he is the true defintion of an Ultrarunner. Recently, fellow trail runner and blogger Jon Harrison wrote something that pretty much sums up what I was thinking and feeling as I watched Charles charge in to the finish:

Being in nature, one is left with no choice but to marvel at creation. Be it vast flatlands, rugged mountain tops, or a simple stream snaking its way down a mountain, it is sure to inspire awe in even the hardest of hearts. Despite this, I truly believe that the finest of all God's creations lies in the mind of man. One can shatter a rock with the proper hammer, dam any river with enough concrete, burn any forest in conducive conditions, but the will of man is something far harder to shake.

Thank you Sarah Tyne for putting on such a great race, and a big thanks to Woody for the awesome post race meal! See you next year.


  1. Great report, Psyche! I thought up some new descriptions this time around that are equally brutal, but I had so much fun at this race. Next year!

  2. Another great report!

    Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
    Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
    Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

    More fun in the woods with rocks, leaves, and fantastic people :)