Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pine Mountain 31.5

This past Sunday, December 4th, was the big day.  Was I ready for it?  I don't know, but all in all I did surprisingly well, and the weekend was a lot of fun, full of things I've wanted to do for a long time.

After waking up following a good night's sleep Anna and I took our time getting ready and started the trek down to Calloway Gardens where we would be staying Saturday night.
After checking in at race headquarters we set out to get out tickets for the Fantasy in Lights.  Let me tell you, every Georgian should see this at least once.  It's pricey, but worth it...especially if you have kids...they would love it!

Evening sky at the Country Store Overlook.
Before our 10:00pm viewing of the lights we drove around the park, headed over the The Little White House (which closes really early), and then onto Warm Springs.  WOW we thought as we entered this 1/8 mile downtown...this is a tiny little Christmas romantic...we should have stayed here.  So, we got out and walked around a little and even went into a shop...that's all it took was one shop...we ran for our lives and were glad where we were staying where we did :-)
We had dinner at the Country Store (which provided me a few laughs on the run) which, though it had a lot of potential, wasn't really all that good...oh well.
About ready to enter!!

After making my rounds and receiving my dose of customary heckling it was time to get to the start.  Standing next to Shannon, he remarks to me "Aaron, next week I am going to run a 5K, drink some beer and smoke a cigarette afterward."  We had talked about this on our way back from Pinhoti, and it seemed even more fitting at the moment...what were we about to do?
"OK, GO!" or something like that and we were off!

Hey, I know this place!  I need to turn left!  I was at the famed Buzzard's Roost.  I have to give a special thanks to Joel for letting me know about this.
(Photo: Joel T.)
Holy tornado batman!  Shortly after the Tuscaloosa tornadoes hit, Georgia received a taste of them...acres and acres of trees were down...  It was really interesting seeing the patterns of how all of the trees were lying.  You could totally tell what direction the wind was coming from.  Personally, I found this section of trail extremely difficult to run…especially on the return.
Tornado Wasteland.
(Photo: Ronnie H.)
"On your left." said Len as he passed a walker.
"One more passing you on the left." was what I said, following right behind Len.
Apparently, this didn't sit too well with Mr. Angry Runner.  For the next quarter mile or so he followed me right on my heels.  At one point he tripped as we were climbing some rocks, hits me in the back, and then yells at me something like "I just need to get around you man."  Did I smell bad or something?  Then he does the same to Len.  Fortunately for Samantha, who was also running with us, she never passed him.  Len turned around and gave me this look like "What the hell is his problem?" And, that is exactly what I was wondering.

"Len!  Look, there he is again!  We caught back up to him!"
"Does he think he is running?" Len pointed out (exactly as I was thinking the same thing) because he was doing the most fantastic ultra-slow-motion run we had ever seen.  It was truly laughable.  We laughed at him behind his back…literally, and then later in front of him.
"What should we do?" I asked.  Honestly, I didn't feel like dealing with him again.
"This time we are going to pass him and put some distance between us." So that's what the three of us did...we were like a machine…like a freight train.
We never saw him again.

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE seeing my friends at aid stations?  Hearing them scream my name is insane and it gets me mega-pumped every time!  AND, seeing your girlfriend at an aid station a little past the half-way point was exactly what I needed.  Anna asked me how I was doing, I told her, she wished me luck and I was off.  But not without the requisite fist bumps, grilled cheese sandwich, and threat of death from Frank who brought his sling shot to get me out of the aid station of course.
CLOSED! (I so loved seeing this!)
(Photo:Frank C.)
Then it happened.  I twisted my ankle…my bad ankle.  At this time Len had run ahead and Samantha was a little ways behind.  I was running with some girl I only know as Miami, so I sucked it up and kept on.  Then it happened two more times.  Eventually Samantha caught back up and the three of us walked into Mama Kim’s aid station where her and Tracy were taking care of us.  Mama Kim yelled at us to leave, and then I told her to shut up.  I was pretty pissed off at myself at this moment and took it out on her…sorry Kim.

Yep, shortly after leaving the aid station with Samantha I did it again.  My ankle had become totally unstable and unreliable even with a brace on.  I sat Samantha run off in the distance as I seriously contemplated returning to Mama Kim’s aid station.  No, I pushed on.

And that was it.  I walked to the Mollyhugger Hill aid station where Phillip was patiently waiting.  I was way past the cut-off.  The sweepers were right behind me.  The aid station was almost all packed up.  Phillip would have let me go, but I wouldn't have been an official finisher and I would have kept the sweepers out on the course a lot longer than was realistic, and for what?  So that I could death march the last 8.5 miles?  So that I could really hurt my ankle?  So that I could completely ruin running for myself forever?  No way.  I was done. 
And with that my race was over at 31.5mi…8.5mi short of the finish.

I am VERY satisfied with how this race turned out and the whole experience in general, even though I was met with some questions like “What the heck happened?” and “Are you OK?”, threats on my life like Joel trying to use Frank’s slingshot to shoot off my left nut, and finally, another friend who shall remain nameless (to protect her identity) who turned to me as this 900 year old guy crossed the finish line and said “If HE can do it…”. 
I do have to say that the most meaningful comment to me was “I am so proud of you.”
Thanks to all of those that helped and gave up their weekend to volunteer.  Y’all rock!!
Trail Sign.


  1. "If he can do it, you can do it." That quote will go down as GUTS lore. Great job out there, Aaron! At least the slingshot busted and you saved a nut.

  2. Great blog, love the pics, and you and Anna are too cute!

  3. I'm going to steal a recent quote in UltraRunning magazine because it suits this race perfectly. Pine Mountain 40 "is like being pecked to death by baby ducks". It's so true. All of the hills are runnable, the creek crossings are not bad, the temperature is comfortable, and the technical parts are not horrible, but everything just comes together in the wrong way and the little things gradually wear us out and destroy the motivation. That's what happened to me when I ran this race. I'm having fun, the hills aren't bad, I'm working my way around the rocks, but it comes to a point where my ankles are just ailing and the bottoms of my feet are in pain beyond belief.
    I really am proud of you for running well and staying positive for as long as you could on an injured ankle. That's some serious toughness and you're a great ultrarunner.

  4. You did awesome out there. The only thing that matters is you had fun, and you are satisfied with what you accomplished.

    Here is a link to one of my favorite songs ever. Best advice out there.

  5. Thanks everyone! I wish I could say all of the photos were mine, but I gave credit where it was deserved :-)

    JT - I needed to hear that's been a long time since I've heard it and's some damn good advice. Thanks bro!