The Assault on Pine Mountain is a new 9 (8’ish actually) mile trail race north of Atlanta close to Red Top Mountain State Park. The race has two significant climbs and descents starting at miles 3 and 5. Shorter trail races are tough for me since speedsters, typically young ones, can show up and blaze the trail. I was hoping that the two rather big switchback-laden climbs in this one and the technical single track throughout could work to my advantage.
The race started well, as I quickly worked to stay with the leaders. The guy wearing the Vibram five-fingers fell off about half way through the first climb. So then I was left with two of the aforementioned speedsters who appeared to be friends from Jacksonville (based on their singlets). They were strong on the climbs and even faster on the descents. At the top of the first climb one of them was well in front and out of site. At the bottom of the first descent, they were both out of site. I kept plugging along and managed to catch them about halfway up the second climb. The first guy ended up taking a wrong turn on the loop that we were on and eventually met us head on and turned around with us. All three of us were together again.
After a hard consistent pull up the second climb, I came out of the water station at the top in first place and started into the descent. Three miles to go. I had not managed to shake them on the climb and I knew they were faster descenders than I. So I did the only thing I could think of…run as fast as I could. I quickly figured out that one of the guys was upset about getting lost and fell back. So I ran with the other speedy guy hot on my heels, eating up the rooty, rocky single track as we went. I offered to let him go by but he declined.
After a short but steep uphill section, we finally came to the downhill gravel road that would lead us the remaining 600 yards to the finish. At that point, the speedy guy came around and started sprinting downhill. I tried with everything I had to keep up, but I just couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough. I was still within about 20 feet at about 300 yards to go but all of the sudden I tripped since I was to travelling at a speed that I had no business at. I laid out superman-style in the air and came to a skid like an airplane missing it’s landing gear. I immediately jumped up and asked the camerawoman well positioned about 15 feet in front of me if she got a shot of that as I ran by her. Unfortunately she missed the best shot she would have had all day. I sprinted in happy with a second place finish. It was a certainly a fun battle. I was particularly impressed that the winner had never run a trail race before and was from pancake flat Florida.
The rest of the day was pretty much perfect. I capped it off with a great day of college football on TV with the family (Tennessee won! Auburn won! Georgia Tech won!) and rocking out with the Black Lips at a truck stop dive bar till 2AM. Plenty of celebratory beers were downed throughout the day. Seriously, could it get any better?