Welcome to the Meat Grinder
The Meat Grinder is the nickname of the brutal trail run in which a group of us have been subjecting ourselves to throughout the summer. Typically, we run this trail from the Amicalola Falls Visitor Center, to the top of the falls, and then proceed along the Amicalola Watershed. There’s hills… lots of hills, with rocky footing, and overgrown foliage.The trail is designated as strenuous in the hiking guides, but for ultrarunners, that just screams – “LET’S GET SOME!”
It’s beautiful, but brutal – and we love it.
Saturday, July 12, 2008, I got my ass kicked at the Meat Grinder. This is my story…
The Good, the Bad and the Thirsty
First, the cast:
- Rockman – local speedster, marathon runner, focused on time and built like an elite runner
- Vict’ah – Hilarious, free-spirited, runner who carries enough gear and food for a week
- Christian G. – You’re humble narrator, who simply wants to survive each brutal Grinder session
And as the sun started to rise in the mountains of North Georgia, we squeezed into our trail shoes, strapped on the water packs and water bottles, grabbed some nutrition, and took off under the famous stone archway on our way to the Southern Terminus of the Applachian Trail.
Since Rockman is much faster than me, I enjoyed having him leading the way. It forced me to push harder than usual. I was running some of the more difficult portions, such as Black’s Mountain, that I probably would have speed-hiked had I not been behind Rockman.
The end result of running with Rockman was a PR (personal best) for me on the ascent to Springer Mountain. He made it to the top in 2:05 and I arrived three minutes later in 2:08. Killer – but I believe he held back a little with me. I strongly believe he is capable of a sub-two hour climb to Springer.
Another “good” was seeing a black bear for the first time in the wild. It was a small cub, which freaked us out for fear we might be smack dab in between the cub and it’s mama, but we kept moving anyway, yelling a lot, and hoping to scare them away.
Still my first bear. I was stoked.
Around 6 miles into the trail run, I inhaled a bug.
Not your nat variety of bug, but a big-ass, what-in-the-heck-was-that? -kinda bug.
A flying filet mignon.
I started choking and gagging – both because it was caught in my throat, but also because I freakin’ disgusted. I could feel it buzzing and moving. It was very traumatic.
I swallowed a ton of water and eventually I either drowned him or swallowed him whole – probably both – but I was finally able to collect myself and carry on…
…and the thirsty
This sorta’ plays into the bad, but… feeling a little high from my accomplishment at getting to Springer, Rockman and I decided to push a little further, beyond Springer Mountain, along a short section of the Appalachian Trail, and onto a beautiful, serene, and somewhat eery, road-less-traveled section of trail called the Benton MacKaye.
I was out water.
But, “don’t worry” says Rockman, “there’s water near a shelter not far from Springer Mountain”
So we kept running deeper into the Benton MacKaye, galloping downhill and loving this interesting and new, unexplored (at least to us) section of trail.
But when we turned back, and found the creek near the shelter, there was no water.
Well, maybe a trickle.
I was thirsty, mad and started cussing. “I can’t go another 9 miles without water…” — and in my somewhat agitated state, I happened to walk all around in what little water there was, and Rockman was none-too-happy.
We got what little bit of brown water we could, which was practically nutin’ and headed back. I think Rockman was agitated that I walked through the stream, so he pushed on ahead while I sat for moment to reflect in the log book tucked away under a rock at Springer Mountain.
This theme continued for the next six miles.
I caught up to Vict’ah, whom I hadn’t really seen the entire run, and he was also desparate for water. He sent me down a path with a sign that said “water” …but when I descended the long, overgrown hill, the same thing – no water.
I was so mad – and to add to my enjoyment, I now got to climb back up that long hill – still waterless.
I was a little worried – I wasn’t sure how my body would react without water for so long, and in that humid heat. With no other option, I pushed on, eventually catching up with Vict’ah once again as HE was climbing out of a possible water trail — with nothing but a 1/4 bottle of brown goo.
No thanks. I kept moving.
For about four miles I suffered worse than I suffered since the Chattooga 50K.
The miles were clicking off ever so slowly and I started getting some delusions and hallucinations. Dizziness, wobbly legs on downhills, and hot as hell. …I was not in good shape.
But I guess I’m just a worry-wart wimp, because I arrived at the big creek, about a mile from the Falls, and drank and drank and drank; but I wasn’t finished yet…
Sprinting to Soak
All I could think about for the last mile and a half was finishing this run and soaking in the creek at the end – a ritual we have for easing sore muscles – and mine were in exceptionally bad shape due to the dehydration issues.
Luckily, the last .5 miles or so, is all downhill and fast. I took advantage and literally sprinted down that mountain and plopped myself into the creek ready to express to Rockman, who had already beaten me to bottom by 30 minutes, how beat and battered I felt.
…but after 5 minutes in the creek I was happy.
– good training for Laural Valley in a couple of weeks.
– good times on the trails with my friends.
– the runners high from hell
…and eagerly awaiting whatever food was sure to come in the next 20 minutes.