My Pine Mountain 40.. Beatdown!

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On December 2, 2012, I attempted the most physically and mentally challenging endurance run of my life… The Pine Mountain 40 put on by the Georgia Ultarunning & Trailrunning Society.

pine-mtn-elevation-charge

Jason, a 3 time Pine Mountain finisher, by far has the best description of the race I have ever read.  So good I had to share……..

“Even for well-rested runners with fresh legs, the Pine Mountain 40 Mile Trail Run is a beatdown.  To use a familiar ultrarunning comparison, running this particular race is like being pecked to death by baby ducks.  The Pine Mountain course takes place on mild-elevation rolling hill terrain that does not feature any major notable obstacles, and runners do not face any steep mountain climbs, treacherous river crossings, or drastic temperatures.   Instead, the 40 miles of this course are home to countless minor aggravations that gradually accumulate to the point where motivation and fortitude are reduced to a frazzled exhaustion.  It is the little things that kill, and any small rock that catches the toe of a trail shoe, any tree root that is hidden underneath a pile of leaves, or any unstable slick stepping stone on a short creek crossing might be the final straw that causes a smiling runner to throw his or her hands up in exasperation and explode into profanity.”

Best Pace Scenario: Pine Mountain 40 Mile Trail Run 12/2/12 (Race Report).

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Custom T party favor!

Jason’s detailed blog post were the extent of my research leading up to this race. I knew it was going to be a huge challenge but I must have mentally blocked that from my prefrontal  cortex ( portion of brain responsible for logic and reasoning)- issue #1.  The Pine Mountain 40 was a great way to end a very busy fall running season (3 fulls & 1 half marathon), and to celebrate Laura’s ( #BRF’s -best running friend & 50 States partner ) 40th birthday!  40 for 40!  It was so cute and catchy I could not turn her down.

In 2012, Laura and I traveled together to completed the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, The Blue Ridge Relay, Wineglass Marathon, and Richmond, VA Marathon.  We had checked off three states in 2012 so the opportunity to cross off a 4th (GA) was very enticing.  With Laura’s famous quote, that seems to fuel all of our running registrations, “We will be trained” we committed to our first ultra marathon….without a lot of thought (prefrontal cortex issue #2)

Laura & Jenn

Laura & Jenn

Ten days prior to the big event I came down with a horrible upper respiratory infection.  I  battled through it and in hind sight should have gone to the doctor.  The lingering cough, that left and returned few days prior to the race, later caused me some major issues on race day.  Being the hard headed (red head trait), determined individual that I am  I was not going to let some pesky sickness stop my quest for 40 miles (prefrontal cortex issues #3).

We road tripped down to Pine Mountain, GA, a 8hr trek from 703724_10200152136989070_1045115297_oRaleigh.  Laura rented us an awesome cabin just a few miles from the start.  We arrived in Pine Mountain, a very quaint and friendly place, just in time for the annual Christmas parade. We thought it was a great welcome!  We stocked up on supplies at the local grocery and then headed to our cabin to relax by the fire and await our 7 am Sunday start.

029One of the best decisions made (outside of inviting Dan and PJ:)), was inviting David!  David an accomplished ultra runner  cyclist, and world traveler signed up to be the official “ultra virgins” pacer!

At 7:00am, in 50 degree temps, we hit the trail for our 40 mile adventure.  We started towards the back of the pack hoping the other 150 or so runners would clear a path through the ankle deep leaves. The first section of the trail was a great stretch of running with minimal obstacles. I did not feel particularly well and was winded early. I hoped this was nerves and would pass.  Initially, I  welcomed the frequent walk breaks up the inclines but soon found I was much more comfortable running.

We made it to the 1st aid station (Fox Den Cove- 5.9 miles).  I was thrilled to see and briefly speak to  fellow “tweep” Kristin , whom was one of the unfortunate runners to be stung by the un-expectant swarm of yellow jackets. Fortunately, we missed that early torture.  We topped off our water and kept rolling.

The following  9 miles were sheer mental torture.  I am typically a sickly optimistic person but the negative thoughts of DNF(did not finish) were running ramp-id in my head. I have NEVER battled this nor ever considered dropping from a race. My breathing was labored and the uphill hikes were proving to be my biggest challenge.  They took everything I had.  I would have paid big money for a pulley system to drag my ass up the hill sides.  David, so kind, slowed his pace to stick with me and offer his ever helpful coaching and mental support.

025My struggles, both mentally and physically continued, as  I lagged behind and  eventually caught up with concerned trail mates David and Laura at the 3rd aid station (Dowell Knob-14.3 miles). My words were few and Laura knew me well enough to know I was struggling.  As Laura expressed her concerned  that I was going to end up with Pneumonia, one of the jovial GUTS volunteers chimed in  “Hell, it is way cooler to say you got pneumonia  running an ultra than just laying on the couch”  Oddly enough, I had to agree with this wise volunteer.  It was at this moment, I knew I was among fellow “bad asses” and I was going to give it all I had.  When ” all I had” was gone that would be the end of my race.   I am a huge proponent of “run your own race” so I encouraged Laura and David to go on without me.

With my much improved mental attitude, I pushed on.  I convinced myself to “live in the moment” and try to enjoy the sights and serenity the trail had to offer (despite the ever present pesky rocks, roots and inclines).  The day was nearly perfect despite the climbing temps.  The 70 degree temps were unwelcome but better than rain.  As I made it toward the 4th aid station (Rocky Point – 17.8 miles) I noticed my fingers were beginning to swell like sausages.  This was un nerving as this has never happened.  I had been hydrating with nuun, taking electrolyte tablets, and fueling with my cliff bars, and pretzels but obviously with the heat it was not enough. At the aid station, another wonderful GUTS volunteer told me to load up with some salt and suggested the bake potato pieces dipped in salt.  Yum, those were the best cold bake potato pieces I had ever eaten in my entire life. I swished them down with some Coke like “cola”…ahhh best Cola I have ever had and I was off.

I was feeling better, not optimal, but enough to keep going.  I reached the first time cut off at aid station #5 (TV Tower- 22.82 miles) with time to spare (not much but it was time) . At this point, I knew I was close to 26.2 miles, a familiar mileage accomplished many times.  I was determined at minimum to reach 26.2 and claim my Georgia marathon! My spirits lifted and I found energy from my new “line of sight  marathon goal”. and the fellow runners.  Just when I thought I was alone, and possibly the last person on the trail someone would appear.  After long stretches of solitude, just seeing another person was a welcome sight.  David, from Woodstock, GA, was so kind stopping with me when I found myself dizzy and just offering a smile, when times got tough.  We did not exchange a lot of conversation but were a support system.

Double sprained ankle? Sure does not look like it.  Go Amy! pic by Liza AuYeung

Double sprained ankle? Sure does not look like it. Go Amy! pic by Liza AuYeung

Amy M., Atlanta, seemed to appear out of nowhere. This was Amy’s 3rd Pine Mountain 40 and she was running on a double sprained ankle.  Can you say “BAD ASS!”.  I cannot even imagine.  Amy and I shared the portion of the trail with the seemingly endless creek crossings. I am happy to report we both stayed dry!  Amy’s determination to run through an injury inspired me to keep pushing.  Thanks Amy!

At aid station #6 ( Rocky Point- 24.2  miles)  David and I were told we made up some time.  That was great news.!  We had 60 minutes to cover 3.52 to reach aid station #7 (Dowell Knob 28.4 miles).  This was  doable and I was confident I could cover the additional 12 miles after the next aid station to finish.  At this point I was  not concerned with the 10.5 hour cut off. I just wanted to run across the finsh line…no matter the time..

As I approached aid station #7 (Dowell Knob 28.4 miles) I noticed  a male runner who had been ahead of me sit down…I thought odd perhaps he is quitting  As I approached the food table, the kind GUTS volunteer informed David and I we had missed the time cut off by 12 minutes.  Uggggg how did this happen? I was shocked.  I had just found my rhythm and clearly lost track of time.  I had long given up on my Garmin that could not keep up with the terrain and lost at least 30 minutes of time.  Ironically, the same volunteer who made the funny comment about me coming down with pneumonia Is the guy who told me I could not go on.  I was stunned, I knew I could make the last 12 miles and now I couldn’t. My race was over BUT I had more to give.

My first comment was “Dang, this is my first ultra, I would have at least liked to have made it to 30 miles” they laughed at me and said ” Congratulations!  You are an ultra runner!”  I know anything over 26.2 is considered ultra distance but there was something psychological about hitting the 30 mile mark.  I considered hiking up to the trail head to get in my final two miles but I risked my ride back to the finish and it was a little crazy.  Finally, I embraced it…I didn’t have to run anymore…so I treated myself to some M&M’s!  Ahhhh they were good!

The Finish! Congrats David and Laura 9:22:48

The Finish! Congrats David and Laura 9:22:48

There was comfort in numbers, as I sat with my fellow “pulled” runners waiting for the remaining runners.  I was happy to see Amy approach.  I had not seen her for some time and was wondering if her ankle had gotten the best of her.  Next was Paige, from Atlanta, and then Rhonda a fellow Raleigh-“ite” and the Co- Race director for the Umstead 100.  Rhonda and I had passed each other several times throughout the day. She was struggling with an injury and bad cramping but kept pushing!  It wasn’t until we were “pulled” that we made the Raleigh connection.  Rhonda, with all her ultra wisdom, educated me that that I did not have a DNF, I did not quit, I was pulled due to time cut offs!  This was comforting as I was trying to process what had just happened.   Her next question to me was ” Why did you chose this race for your first ultra?”  Prefrontal Cortex issue #1….enough said!

I am at peace with my Pine Mountain 40 attempt! I did

Perhaps the smartest thing I did related to this race....soak my feet and legs in the COLD mountain water!

Perhaps the smartest thing I did related to this race….soak my feet and legs in the COLD mountain water!

not give into the negative mental tourture!  I did not quit!  I gave it what I had in my that day!

Pine Mountain 40 is the hardest most mentally and physically taxing thing I have done outside of two natural child births.  They say that God erases the pain memory of child birth so women will have more than one child. God clearly must do the same for ultras!  On the way home, I was planning my “ultra redemption” race with my sister, fellow ultra runner Amy!  –(wait listed- Mangum Track Club Fat Ass 50k) I’ll be back!

Thanks GUTs for an awesome ultra experience!

See ya on the trail!

“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”

 Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

Laura & David Packet Pick  Up

Laura & David Packet Pick Up
Cabin!

Cabin!

Heart Shaped Tub in the Master Bed Room!  Too Funny!

Heart Shaped Tub in the Master Bed Room! Too Funny!

My running widower Dan!  He is awesome!  Thanks Dan!

My running widower Dan! He is awesome! Thanks Dan!

Grocery closed on Sunday.  Dan & PJ got dinner supplies from Family Dollar! It Rocked!

Grocery closed on Sunday. Dan & PJ got dinner supplies from Family Dollar! It Rocked!

So tired...I could not even put my compression socks on right!

So tired…I could not even put my compression socks on right!

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“Space Goats” Strike Again….Adventures along the Blue Ridge Relay 2012

Last weekend I participated in my first running relay!  What an adventure living in a van for 37 hours with 5 fellow runners.  The Blue Ridge Relay relay starts in Grayson Highlands State Park,VA (near the base of Mount Rogers- VA hightest peak) and ends 212 miles later in  Asheville, NC! (the mileage varies year to year due to course adjustments)

I joined the 12 persons Designated Drinkers Team, an established relay team who have run the BRR year after year.  Last year, The Legend of the Space Goat was formed. The history of the Space Goat is cloudy at best…the only thing we know for sure is the name morphed out of the description of two of the hardest running legs that are famously deemed “Mountain Goat Hard“.    In 2012 we kept the legend alive with our “alter ego” The Space Goats.  Like Superman, the Space Goats appear out of nowhere perform good deeds, BAAAA, and usually leave without a trace.  Most never knew they encountered The Space Goats….while others only  knew by the “Space Goat Tag” on their van.

Meet the Space Goats of Van 2

Here is my pictorial recap of an awesome running adventure

Sara (van 1) kicked off the relay for us  at 10am Friday at Grayson Highlands State Park  in VA.  Sara also earned accolades for assisting  fellow space goats with various aliments. Melinda’s GI stress and Dave’s two dog bite attack. Thanks Sara for keeping Melinda and Dave in the mix. (update…the wonderful BRR Directors were able to locate the dogs and confirm they were current on their rabies shots.  No Rabies shots for Dave!)

Sara kick’in off the 1st leg for Designated Drinkers!

As Van 1 ran the first 6 legs of our relay we (Van 2) headed to exchange area 6 Bald Mountain Baptist Church, West Jefferson , NC.  On the way TheSpace Goats were called to action when fellow runners of  TEAM 621 Ninga were in need.  The Ninga’s van was stuck in the culvert along a winding mountain dirt road.  While our goat strength was not enough to free the van, luckily they were assisted by a very kind local resident ( ”  people of the woods encounter 1″) who attempted to pull them out.  Unfortunately, they had to go to plan C and call a tow truck. The Space Goats, transported Team 621 Ninga’s next two runners to the  next exchange.  Apparently, this was most helpful since Team 621 Ninga came in 9th out of 141 teams!  Way to go Ninga’s.

SAVED! 2 runners from TEAM 621 Ninga- Columbia, SC being transported Space Goat style. I am sure they will never forget….

11:00am with one save under our belt and time to kill we  took the opportunity to find some food. Our Male van mates ensured we never missed an eating opportunity, THANKS.  We enjoyed some really yummy pizza in Jefferson, NC at Pizza Plus the home of .30 cent Pizza! Not only was the pizza good but we were thoroughly entertained by “People of the woods encounter 2”  Tommy and Chelsea.  They were the nicest, simplest people who were very excited to share the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with a bunch of  running city slickers!  Tommy talked our ears off.  We found a fast friend in Tommy and a “moonshine” hook-up.  While we passed on the moonshine, we were sure glad to have Tommy on our side.

John Loaf”in with Tommy & Chelsea

Pizza Plus, in true Space Goat fashion, offered a much needed electrical outlet, for our very own lactating BAD ASS MOTHER RUNNER  Melissa “MAAA MAAA Goat”.  Deamed Bad Ass for just signing up to live in a van, run while lactating, a sheer 7 months after giving birth to her second child.  Simply Amazing!  Did I mention she forgot her battery pack for her breast-pump and remained completely calm (hence the need for the electrical outlet). Luckily, a fellow space goat from the Ultra Team- Where the Hell is Van 2, continuing the Space Goat saves theme,  just happened to have an extra ac/dc adapter so now she could pump while we rolled down the road.  No pumping and dumping here!  She was able to store the ‘liquid gold” in our cooler.  Had Lance Armstrong been with us I am sure he might have partook (cheap shot…but I hear he ate breast milk ice cream as part of his performance enhancing rituals)  Melissa was my 1st recruit to the Another Mother Run club!

Maaa Maaaa Goat happily models her breast pump!

When we finally arrived at exchange area 6, with hours to kill, we tagged a few vans,

got tagged, “doubled it down”,  and played a mind expanding time killer game we learned from Laura “Most Talkative Goat” called F*#k, Save, Kill. (did I mention we were in a parking lot of a Baptist Church)

In deep thought…Laura introduces us to our “mind expanding” game

Laura claims its a well know bar game, but none of us had heard of it.  It was very entertaining and we certainly entertained the teams around us.

Finally it was time for Van 2 to Run!  Mark Cox, our amazing Team Captain, ran it in

Mark Cox..passing the band to Van 2

and passed along the  BRR arm band to Van 2 runner # 7 Melissa “Maaaa Maaaa Goat”.

The early afternoon brought temperatures in the 80’s along with the famous humidity of NC.  While temps in the 80’s were not ideal we were fortunate it was not as hot as it had been the week prior with temps in the 90’s.  The Space Goats were prepared with lots of cold water, gatoraide, Nuun tablets, Rusty’s stash, and ice cold disposable towels. In true Space Goat fashion we shared our water and  towels with fellow runners struggling along the course.  All were appreciative and we are confident we got one struggling girl, in tears, safely to the next exchange.

“MAAA MAA Goat” rocked her run!

I am pretty sure I looked like MAAA MAAAA goat 7 months after I gave birth (My Space Goat Dream)

Melissa despite the heat had a great run and passed off the BRR band to  runner #8 Laura “Most Talkative Goat”.  Laura in an Olympic frame of mind smoked her run and blamed her faster than planned pace on “getting caught up in the Gold or Silver moment”

Laura our Talking and Caring Space Goat!

Humble “Quiet Killer Goat” kicked major ass on the road!

Next up was runner #9! Melinda “Quiet Killer Goat”  survived 37 hours with her VERY obnoxious and loud van mates, fought off stomach issues, and quietly slayed all of her runs.  One of which was Mountain Goat Hard! She was our secret weapon…quiet yet deadly.  She even claimed a kill (no animals were harmed) on her last leg and adorned a feather as her prize!  Melinda, Bad Ass Mother Runner, and  my second recruit to the Another Mother Runner Club!

“Quiet Killer Goats” prize from her run

Testosterone time, as runner #10 John “Life Saving Goat” finally hit the street.  We are so proud of our fellow Space Goat John who assisted a fellow runner who collapsed from heat related issues a mile from the next exchange.  John  quickly came to his aid, flagged down passerby for help ( who happened to have ice in their car), iced his wrist, neck and elevated his feet.  John stayed with the unresponsive runner until medical assistance arrived.  John you are amazing!  We are so proud of you!  “Space Goats Save Lives”

Eagle Scout and “Life Saving Space Goat”

Patiently waiting at exchange 11, we got word from a fellow runner that John was delayed due to assisting a runner. Next up was  Runner #11 (me) Jenn “2nd Most Talkative Goat”.

6.2 miles, Hard, but Beautiful!

I was setting off for the first official leg on the beautiful, historic Blue Ridge Parkway.  Fortunately for me, temperatures dropped rapidly and cooled off nicely….I was set up for an awesome run!

Holy Hills& Mountains, I did it! with Laura and Melinda upon my finish

Runner #11, Rusty “Beer Goat” , whose favorite carbs come from a can, was fired up and  donned in his run kilt ready for action!  Not only do Space Goats save lives but we ” never sacrifice fashion”

“Beer Goat” always planning his liquid carb loading “I don’t run for another 7-8 hours”

Rusty finished strong  and transitioned us into and extended break where we gassed up the van and grabbed some FOOD.  Next on the agenda was SLEEP!  I am unsure if anyone slept but we did get 2 hours of REST at Newland, NC Post Office exchange.  1:00 am arrived faster than we desired but the Space Goats were ready for our night runs!

Jenn and Melissa!

John and Laura with her famous $6 headlamp. We are unsure if we could really call it a headlamp.

2:00am ish illuminated Space Goats Rusty and Melinda

Our night runs were peaceful and quiet. Continuing the supportive nature of being a Space Goat we voluntarily accompanied our night runners so nobody had to run alone.  “MAA MAA goat” ran 3 accompanying night legs displaying true Space Goat Spirt and badassness (ok it is not a word but you get it).   Our goat calls “BAAAAAAAAA” were most helpful at night to identify our runners approaching exchange zones.  Near dawn John “Life Saving Goat” had a not so pleasant “people of the woods encounter 3”.  This poor resident was not very happy with the noise the relay participants that had kept her up during the night.  John, a gracious southern gentleman, apologized on behalf of the participants of the   Blue Ridge Relay.  Courteous Space Goats!

7:00am ish- Night legs done we headed to the final team exhange zone at a Baptist

FOOD

Church in  Barnardsville, NC.  These church members rolled out the red carpet and welcomed runners with a hot pancake breakfast, real bathrooms, tent for sleeping, or better yet  a padded church pew for sleeping.  These people were simply amazing and hospitable!  THANK YOU!  We fueled up, and got some rest.  Some got sleep, I got 2 hrs of REST. Most Space Goats chose the padded church pew, one lone goat, skipped the food and went straight to the tent for sleep. She  had the tent all to herself.  Clearly, the quietest she had been in 24 hrs.

Laura “Most Talkative Goat” in her private sleeping quarters

Space Goats, Rested, fueled, ready to run it home to Asheville!

Saturday morning brought drizzle, sporadic down pours, and cooler temps.  Awesome running weather.  Van 1, had endured much excitement during the night assisting the Ultra Team- Where the Hell is Van 2? with locked keys in their van, and Dave’s dog attack.  Two dogs attacked and bite Dave.  Fueled with Space Goat awesomeness…..he outran them.  Way to go Dave!  Feeling giddy, our van mates pranked incoming runner and Team Captain, Mark Cox, by lifting the hood of the van faking a breakdown.  If only I had captured, Marks expression as he ran by. 🙂

Van 2 was off, as Melissa ran the hardest leg of all a Mountain Goat hard 6.5 mile climb!  Delirious The Space Goats cheered and entertained all runners on the mountain goat leg.  We were thrilled to have fellow Ultra Team runner Hazel to cheer!  Things got a little crazy as we entertained!  We are sure that we made a difference for all the runners out there.  We certainly had fun doing it. Scenes from Mountain Goat leg….

Beautiful running man!

hmmmm…strip tease?

Sleep deprivation causes odd behavior or was this a modeling post for Athleta Sportswear

The finish of Mountain Goat

Melissa “MAA MAA Goat” slayed her run and passed 4 runners!  Amazing! Way to go to MAA MAAA!  Next we sent Laura “Most Talkative Goat” off on her dream run…9 miles down hill where she maintained a 7:30 pace!  Melinda “Quite Killer Goat” ran strong on the 2nd Mountain Goat leg and finished strong with a super huge smile of accomplishment and a prize!

Thrilled to be DONE!

John was off and endured torrential rain and cold temps.  Luckily it was his shortest run of the relay and he was able to burn it out!

Holy Hill……

I was off for my last leg once again on the Blue Ridge Parkway, only 4.2 miles but the first 2 were all uphill! I endured, with the finsh line on my mind and burned it out and passed the BRR band to Rusty for the 6.6 mile Glory leg!

We quickly made out way to the finish line to greet Rusty!  Rusty brought us in strong in the pouring rain and cold!  Designated Drinkers a.k.a Space Goats  finished  Saturday 5:56pm with the official time of 31hours and 56 minutes! Average pace per mile 9:05, 95th of 141 teams!

Running in the Glory Leg with Rusty! Where are our fellow Designated Drinkers Team mates…..Mellow Mushroom bar?

While we did not capture an official title, we are ALL WINNERS for SURVIVING!

Space Goats (minus Melinda) at the finish. Poor Melinda was seeking sanity was searching for her family!

Our Men and family welcomed us at the Finish!

My 1st Relay experience was over the top! As my 9 year old would say “Epic”.  I had a blast!  My team was awesome and most importantly my van mates made the experience memorable and highly entertaining!  I gained 4 new nutty running  friends! ( I knew Laura and Rusty prior to our adventure)

While the hours were long, the miles hard, the comradery shared among fellow runners was priceless!  Thanks to all for an amazing relay!

The Asheville night life was not spared from the Legend of the Space Goat. Great job MAA MAA!

Now  as Tommy would say……time for some much deserved “loaf’in” BAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

My runs were dedicated to a dear friend Graham Edward Beacham, whom was called home after a tragic car accident Wednesday prior to the relay. An avid outdoors man, I know Graham would  appreciate the beautiful scenery and quiet of the mountains just as I did.  I cannot think of a better way to reflect and pay respects.  I know I made him proud!  Love and miss you dear friend!

Second Wind Toast for Graham and a job well done!

Rest In Peace Dear Friend……