FKT: Josh Sanders - Pine Mountain Trail (GA) - 2019-04-26

Gender category
Route variation
Standard route
Finish date
Total time
3h 49m 37s

West Georgia mountains on my mind… set a new speed record on the 23 mile long Pine Mountain Trail. No wonder The North Face ran their TNF 50 here for half a decade. Amazing views, waterfalls, cliffs, mountains, single track, dense forests, rocks, streams and everything else you could want in a full on wilderness mountain run. Full FKT trip report in Strava. Created a segment for the FKT (west to east). 

Pine Mountain Trail FKT - 3:49:37

West Georgia mountains on my mind. Broke the former speed record by 7 minutes. Fueled with Reece’s peanut butter cups and butterfinger bites because TSA confiscated my gels for the first time ever. At one point I lost consciousness due to rib pain. No more technical mountain running until the bone/cartilage heals (sad face). Falling, which is inevitable on these technical mountains, is the most magnificent paint I’ve ever felt. The last fall felt like my chest was ripped open. Bent over and then woke up on the ground a few seconds later. Just crazy. Anyways, gonna run across the continent Tuesday, so there’s that. Detailed Trip report below:

I picked up a two day work trip in northeast Alabama and a quick search of the fastest known time site showed the Pine Mountain Trail was only an hour from the airport. So naturally, broken ribs and all, I decided to attempt another technical mountain speed record 13 days after setting the Black Mountain Crest Trail record. The PMT looked super awesome and very well cared for.

The plan was for my crew to take the 7:00am flight and I’d just book the 4pm flight after dropping them off at the airport. That would give me 7 hours to drive down to the trail, set a new FKT, get food, drive back to the airport, return the car and catch my flight. The only hiccup was that TSA made me throw out my gel on the way. Never had that happen before but I guess I brought too many (12 gels?). Oh well.

Wednesday and Thursday were work days. I drove RAZR’s and Polaris 4x4 ATV’s through the Alabama mountain mud at really high speeds for marketing videos. It was a blast but I also lifted way too many heavy things for having just broken my ribs and spent way too much time on my feet. I didn’t get a run in Wednesday night because we worked until 11pm. Managed a quick 5k shakeout in the pouring rain just before dark in our Atlanta hotel Thursday night.

Friday morning my crew was off to the airport and I drove down south. Saw a horrific car accident right in front of me and it messed me up a bit. I’m glad I’m doing hard things and taking a shot… life is short. I had no gels so I went to a country store to get water and something to eat. Got Reese’s peanut butter cups and butterfinger bits because the candy sounded good. It was a mistake.

I started running right around 8am. It rained heavily overnight and was still misting and lightly raining. The views the first few miles when you’d climb up a ridge were amazing. I actually stopped for 3 seconds to a photo of one them. My legs definitely weren’t fully recovered from the vertical effort of the BMCT run 13 days previous. Felt fine on the flats and downhills but the climbs were hollow. Just didn’t have my normal gear.

I wanted to try to break 3:30 and if I were fresh and tapered, I’m sure I would have. But coming off a tough 48 hour work assignment on tired legs, it wasn’t happening. I managed good time the first few miles but definitely slowed the second half. Around mile 5 I got lost for approximately 3 minutes and freaked out. With the previous speed record coming down to seconds, I despised wasting minutes.

The trail was narrow single track and the tall overgrown vegetation was soaking wet from the rains. It was kind of fun getting splashed with water as I flew down the trail and brushed against the leaves. The trail was definitely rockier than I thought it would be. It’s 90% runnable but you’re paying attention to the ground constantly. I didn’t realize how much the act of falling would hurt my ribs until it happened.

It is inevitable that if you’re cranking down this trail you’re probably going to fall. Around mile 4 I tripped and went down the first time. It felt like my ribs were smashed with a baseball bat. The falling motion caused the break in the first place and the exact motion happening again was unbelievable pain.

I can normally ignore pain when in a race situation, even if it’s extreme. I couldn’t ignore this. I had to stop running, bend over and grimace. I “only” had 3 falls today and all would normally be nothing more than annoying on a normal day. But when your ribs are already cracked and the cartilage torn, it’s the most intense pain I’ve ever felt.

The final fall happened about 6 miles from the finish. I was getting tired and caught a rock just right and tripped forward. I didn’t even fall to the ground but the motion just ripped my chest. I keeled over with my hands on my knees and clenched my teeth trying to absorb the pain for a moment. It was spectacular. I woke up on the ground a few seconds later, having passed out from the pain for a bit. I got up and kept running as the pain eventually wore off with motion but it was gnarly.

Despite the broken ribs and difficulty breathing that comes with it, the trail it self was just incredible. I wished I wasn’t attempting a speed record so I could stay longer and take pictures. Mountain vistas, cool rock formations, and the last few miles had a ton of waterfalls on the large creek that the trail follows. This trail is technical enough that you can’t get in a rhythm the whole run but the views make up for it.

My time the second half of the run sucked. My legs just weren’t recovered from the BMCT and 11,000’ feet of ascent in 24 hours 13 days prior. I had no power going uphill and slowed too much. Legs got a little sore and knees stiff, even with heart rate under control. I didn’t eat enough because the Reese’s just didn’t sound good and I was moving too quickly to chew them, really missed my gels. I never doubted I’d get the FKT because I was ahead of pace and felt fine but there is no doubt my legs need rest soon as that’s possible.

I’ve got a 46 mile run planned for Tuesday that involves flying out of the country and I have to make that happen but I’m hoping for a few days rest once I’m back. In the mean time, I’ll do lots of ice baths and foam rolling. I picked it up the last mile to get a sub 3:50 in the books and set the record. Took a shuttle back to my car and went to an unreal southern kitchen restaurant on the other side of the trailhead. Some kind of muscadine jam on southern biscuits, yes please!

This trails FKT deserves to be under 3:30 and I hope someone does it soon. I’m happy I managed the FKT and glad I got to experience this trail. This is my 9th speed record on the trails and the next one will make me the 19th person to ever get to double digit records. The pursuit IS happiness