Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Epilogue

First off, if you're still reading all this... THANK YOU!  I tried to get down into text as much as I could remember over my seven days on the trail; it is impossible to capture exactly how I felt, what was going through my head; what I learned about myself...  Anyhow thanks for reading.
Now that the Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run has been put to bed so to speak, I ask myself, “What next?” Right now I honestly don’t have a clue. I do know that this whole experience really opened my eyes to my potential to be a pretty decent multi-day trail runner. I was surprised that my body held up as well as it did. Three Hundred Thirty Five miles in less than six and a half days would take its toll on anybody and about all I have to complain about is some tendinitis in my left ankle and some poison ivy rashes and bug bites. Averaging almost 53 miles a day on rough terrain, battling poison ivy, ticks and spider webs and frequent navigational issues (i.e. unmarked or poorly marked trail) in the hot and humid South is no easy feat. I definitely could not have done it without my able crew. Thank you very much to my crew chief Josh Kennedy. His knowledge of the Alabama Pinhoti trail system and recon approach to the unfamiliar Georgia sections proved to be a huge asset in ensuring frequent aid access. I still don’t know how was able to find me out there off some of these small, random seeming back roads! Wow! Josh worked tirelessly from even before the journey began, planning, exploring, etc… all to ensure everything would go off with minimal hitches.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day Seven: The End Of The Trail

Baker Branch Trailhead (FS 3A) to Northern Terminus (Benton MacKaye Trail), 30.7 miles, ~8 ½ h

    This is it; my last day on the Pinhoti Trail!  I can hardly believe it!  I was awake even earlier than usual because I was so anxious to get going; also it was a pretty involved drive to get back to where we’d left off the evening before (remember that long climb up into the Chattahoochee National Forest?).  We made good time and only started a short bit after 6:00 a.m.  Today my company included Kathy, Joey and Fritz once more.  Meanwhile Eric Charette would be shuttling Fritz’s mini-van closer to the far end of the day’s route (Josh would pick him up after getting us started) and would later be joining us on the trail.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day Six: Hot Cross-Country Day

Day Six: Snake Creek Gap to Baker Branch Trailhead (FS 3A), 46.9 miles, ~12 ¼ h

    Alright, second to last day on the Pinhoti trail.  I was now over the “hump”, I’d come a long way; some 257 miles over the past five days and still many miles to go but, never the less, the goal was in sight; I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was up early again, especially because of the long drive back to Snake Creek Gap from Dalton and the fact that today’s forecast promised temperatures would soar into the low 90s (Fahrenheit)!  Sure thankful of my sauna heat training now!  I devoured a waffle and several glasses of juice at the hotel breakfast and then we were speeding our way to the trailhead.  Soon we’d arrived and were itching to go.  Today Eric Fritz would attempt to join me for the whole day’s worth of mileage.  As we had full crew support, this was a great opportunity for him to get some high quality long distance training in; he could stop at about any time if he had to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day Five: Last Long Push

Midpoint of Simms Mountain Trail to Snake Creek Gap, 51.8 miles, ~14 ½ h

    Up and at it early again!  Why not?  It was a cool morning, but it was shaping up to be another very hot day and I had another long, epic day planned; the last truly long epic of the journey so it was go time!  The first ten miles or so of today’s route was basically totally flat so this was a good time to go fast.  So run relatively fast I did; probably a bit faster than Josh expected as I missed him at the first couple of road crossings!  I saw him flash by going the opposite way on the highway; obviously expecting me further back on the rail-trail.  At the next road crossing, I built a rock arrow on the road for him to see (there was virtually no other traffic this time of day) and then another a little bit further along when I crossed another road.  It must have worked because by the next crossing there he was snapping pictures as I emerged out of the woods into this incredible open field in the little community of Holland (sorry, no windmills here).  He apologized but I just waved him off, I felt fine and didn’t require any aid anyhow; it was still very cool out, but that sun was coming up quick!  I changed out bottles and kept on going making my way to the High Point Trailhead (the Georgia version, yes I’d also passed through a High Point Trailhead in Alabama on the previous day!).  I was nearing the end of the Simms Mountain Trail and one could tell, it was now a tall grass covered piece of double track trail right next to the road.  The grass was wet with dew and soon so was I; wet shoes again!  Oh well.  The final section of flat ground was on a recently constructed extension linking the High Point Trail head to the Simms Mountain Trail directly.  The old Pinhoti route had you leaving the trail for a short jog along the paved road before the trail head; this new extension bypassed the road and heads right for the trail head.  It was very obvious that this was very recently cut as there were still all kinds of little stumps, branches and vines near the ground trying to trip me up.  It’s definitely passable, but hopefully they’ll back fill the path in with some nice gravel before they’re done.  Otherwise this was a nice new little trail; much better than being on the road!  It was still a bit aggravating, constantly bumping into little stumps or getting near trip-lined in vines so I just decided to take it easy and walk the rest of the way to the trail head; it wasn’t very far now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day Four: Half Way Home And A New State

Maxwell Gap (CR-70) to Midpoint of Simms Mountain Trail, 50.5 miles, ~14 ¼ h

    This morning I was awake before my alarm and ready to go.  I think I was now “living the lifestyle” as DeWayne Satterfield described his various cross Tennessee running experiences.  He told me that after a couple of days or so you begin to solidify, to harden to the task ahead, to live the lifestyle of a multi-day runner.  That’s just what you do, your whole purpose and existence is to just keep moving forward until you’re done.  His words rang very true to me; I could fully appreciate what he meant now.  I had no concern about work, or school; not anything for applying myself to the task at hand. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day Three: The Crux

I-20 crossing to Maxwell Gap (CR-70), 54 miles, ~14 ½ h

    Little did I know waking up this morning that today would be the defining moment for me for this entire adventure.  Today I’d set the tone for the rest of the journey.  Yesterday was a long day, followed by even less rest.  We did have a wonderful Mellow Mushroom pizza for dinner in bed from my fantastic crew (thanks Blake, Kathy and Sara for going way out of the way to get it!).  But starting out this morning in a light rain and some of the coolest temperatures we’d seen so far, it was very difficult to get going.  I knew from studying the route that the first 36 miles or so of today’s trail would be some of the most runnable sections of trail we’d likely see on the entire Pinhoti.  I also knew that today had some of the more difficult sections of the Pinhoti trail coming in the final 18 miles of today’s goal.  That meant that I really needed to take full advantage of the first 36 miles in order to give me enough time to get through the very difficult last 18 miles with as little night running as possible.  It was a tall order, but I really had no choice.  If I had to stop short of my planned mileage quota for Day Three then that left me quite a bit of catching up to do on the subsequent days if I had any hope of achieving my Sub Seven day goal.  It was make or break time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day Two : It All Gets Real

Porters Gap to I-20 crossing, 48.7 miles, ~14 ¼ h

    Bright and early, Eric and I were back at it.  Just before we were about to leave our friend John Nevels arrived.  John was going to join us for the bulk of our mileage on this day, but first he and Josh and to shuttle his vehicle further on down the route.  So after some quick greetings, were off.  Leaving Porters Gap we re-entered the woods and quickly ascended Talladega Mountain and were back down the other side before we knew it.  The skies were still overcast and threatening rain, much like the previous day, but still no rain to speak of.  As we crossed the train tracks and bridge across Talladega Creek, Josh pulled up with John in tow, they’d had just enough time to shuttle John’s truck to Adams Gap (some 12 miles or so away by trail) and make it back to meet us before we went into the woods again.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day One : The Long Journey Begins

Flagg Mountain to Porters Gap, 52.3 miles, 12h 48m

 With butterflies in my stomach, Eric Charette and I began our journey northward on the Pinhoti trail and precisely 6:00 a.m. (central time) on Josh Kennedy’s watch from the top of Flagg Mountain.  The pre-dawn morning got off to an inauspicious start when, on the drive to the start, we witnessed a drunk driver veer off the highway (at a very low speed!) and into the gas pump protector guard rail at a gas station.  I just so happens that this was very close to where we’d be running just a couple of hours from now!  More on that later…

    Heading down Flagg Mountain I felt like I was running down Madkin Mountain on Redstone Arsenal (one of my favorite training runs) as the gravel road wound its way, cork-screw like, down the mountain and eventually we popped out onto the start of long pavement section that would take us to the foot of Rebecca Mountain some 20 miles hence.  

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run: Day Zero: A Long Walk to the Gallows

Today marks exactly two weeks since I began the long drive down to the start of the my Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run; and a week since I finished.  To commemorate my experience I'm going to be publishing my day to day run reports; one each day over the next week.  Enjoy!