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Pinhoti 100 2020

Race: Pinhoti 100 Location: Heflin Alabama to Sylacauga Alabama, all following the Pinhoti Trail Distance: 100 miles A Goal: 23 hrs 28 mins B Goal: 26 hrs C Goal: Finish
Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4309940162 Crew Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnbhayFyGd0 (much better than this race report, credit to OGfirenation) Photo Essay: https://spark.adobe.com/page/eNKDVQ7sGIFKu/ (also much better than this race report, credit to aewillia)
Initial Planning So, how I chose this race. I signed up for the Vermont 100 lottery when it opened, having finished it in 2019 and it being a race reasonably close to me, and then didn’t get in. I was so far down on the waitlist that it was a near 0% chance that I would run. So I immediately started looking for an alternative. I had heard about Pinhoti a lot and it looked like a good race, and one that has been around for a bit of time, so I signed up for it, not really knowing much more than that it has a reasonably long history, is a Western States Qualifier, it’s in Alabama somewhere, and it has a 30 hour time limit. I could figure everything else out in the next 9 months.
I recruited OGfirenation and mamsorris for crew since they both lived close enough, and eventually solidified that they’d be able to make it for the race.
The Crew Grows As the race started approaching, some other ARTC folks who were “nearby” started to be interested in crewing as well. herumph was back in SC, and aewillia decided driving all the way across Texas, Mississippi, and half of Alabma wasn’t enough to deter her. And then a last minute (and highly welcome add) was runroardinosaur, who has experience at the distance, having finished the Umstead 100 before. All in all, an excellent crew.
The Days Before In the interest of avoiding crowded airports, I decided to drive down instead of flying. I left my house on Wednesday evening, with a goal of picking up Scott (herumph) in South Carolina on Friday before making it to packet pickup Friday afternoon at the finish Line. Wednesday night I crashed in my car in a truck stop in Northern New Jersey (or maybe pennsylvania).
I woke up the next morning and continued on my way. I tried to drive the Skyline drive in Shenandoah national park, but found out it was closed so had to backtrack. But I did get some good Mexican food in Front Royal VA. I decided I still wanted to get a jog in at some point and found out that the Wild Oak Trail in George Washington National Forest wouldn’t be too far off course. I wound through farm roads off the highway to get to the trail head, and at about 3 in the afternoon took off down the trail to the summit of Grindstone Mountain. About a 3 mile round trip from the trailhead and about 1000 ft of gain. Solid shakeout. I kept heading south and finally got to somewhere around the VA/NC border. I scanned google maps to see if there was anywhere I could car camp again for the night, but nothing looked promising. I booked a room at the cheapest motel in the area and settled in for the night.
The next day was an easy drive to pickup Scott in South Carolina. I got to meet his dog and nearly kill myslef on his electric dirt bike. We drove off, and stopped for lunch, getting some delicious chicken tender pub subs. We finally reached packet pickup right as it opened and I was able to collect my bag with a t shirt, bib, and crew car window card and we left for the Airbnb. We were the first to arrive, so we quickly unloaded some stuff, then went for a 3 mile shake out where we got chased by no less than 4 different farm dogs. And met three very good farm dogs. We got back to the house to find Jones looking in the windows and not checking his phone for the instructions on how to get inside.
Over the next few hours the rest of the crew arrived as we talked strategy, cooked frozen pizza, and prepped for the race. I wound up going to bed a little early because I wasn’t feeling very well, but decided to not let that bother me as there wasn’t really anything I could do at that point.
The Start to Mile 6 The start line was at a campsite in Heflin. OG and I arrived and had to park about half a mile a way and walk in. It was a mix of runners and campers staying at the starting line camping area. The campers did not know when they booked their sites that they would be awoken by a group of runners all descending on their sleeping area when they booked their sites.
I was using the facilities, so I missed most of the announcements of how the start would work. I was hanging out sort of near the group of runners when suddenly they all started moving. I jumped into the pack and started jogging the next 50 yards until we turned onto the single track.
Everyone slowed down as the conga line formed. It took a long time until we started moving again and then it was very slow. I feel like I didn’t really pass anyone or even try, as there were just too many people ahead of me with the narrow trail and figured I’d just have to move slow for awhile while people started to stretch out.
Finally I made it to the first aid, already behind schedule. OG gave me my bottle of ensure, which I drank while he filled my bottles. I asked him to make sure my other shoes were at the next crew stop, because I was starting to feel some rubbing against my big toe that I hadn’t felt in training, so I wanted to switch from the HOKA Challengers I was in to the Wildhorse 4s, which have a wider forefoot. Then I headed back out to conga line with a bunch of other runners.
Seeing OG at Aid 1 to seeing everyone at mile 18 There was another 6 miles of similar trails, where we ran sort of along contour lines and up and down the valleys formed by the hills and mountains of the Talladega Forest. There were some stream crossing but so far I could keep my feet dry. At mile 13 was the second aid and crew for even numbered runners (odds got aid at the first aid station).
The course was never flat, and always single track. So far it was incredibly smooth trail as well. Almost no roots or rocks. And then at about 15 miles in, while I was jogging behind some kid, I felt a sharp pain in my right ankle, and then another. I looked down and saw a yellow jacket on my sock. I swatted at it and yelled “YELLOW JACKETS” and took off down the trail. Two years ago I was swarmed by yellow jackets at Hallucination 100 in Michigan, and was stung 9 times from the ankle to the ass. Sprinting and slapping, I ran down the trail cursing. I managed to get them off and away from them, receiving somewhere between 3 and 5 stings. Thankfully less than I got in Michigan. Fortunately the trail was quiet again until the next crewed aid station 3 miles later.
See everyone at Crew Aid 2, then miles 18-43
The aid at mile 18 was essentially on some major roadway through the forest and the whole crew was there. It was great to see everyone. I sat down in a chair and started trying to organize myself. I thought I might stick with the shoes I was wearing and just relube, so I got my socks off, applied lube, put my feet back in my shoes, wiggled them around, and then decided I wanted to switch from the Hoka Challenget ATRs I had to the Nike Wildhorse 4s for the wider forefoot. I also drank some water, drank 2 ensures, and had OGFN bring me a tiny little cup of gingerale. I also did some unseemly things with a stick of Squirrel’s Nut Butter (Only Fans Subscriber content). Sorted out, I took off down the road, feeling okay and looking forward to the rest of the race
From mile 18 - 43 In this section, I knew I’d hit the largest climb of the race and starting at around mile 35 and ending at about mile 41. But I had a lot of ground to cover before then. The course continued to be more of the same, winding along the side of the ridge, up and down the valleys. For the aid at mile 27, there was a brief out and back, with a rock scramble next to a really pretty waterfall. The course continued to present incredible scenery.
I linked up with another runner right about when the climb up to Mount Cheaha, the hight point of the race (and the state of Alabama) began at about mile 35. He had run the race several times previously, and was giving me geological features to look for to know when we were getting close. Apparently, I’d know we were getting to the last steep bit when I saw a boulder the size of a car. Not long after he said this, such a bould emerged from the fog. I really did feel good knowing we were closing in on the top.
Eventually, we reached the peak of Cheaha, totally encapsulated in a cloud. There were a few tourists on the boardwalk at the top, and they cheered us on. We continued down the boardwalk, and I made use of the public restroom at the end of the boardwalk. I lost my geoligically inclined friend while I was in the restroom and started down the foggy road alone, immediately unsure if I was going the right direction. Eventually another runner emerged behind me in the fog and I was able to double check that I was headed the right way. It was starting to get dark, and I had been warned at packet pickup that I wanted to be off this descent before the darkness arrived (unfortunately, I think I had passed the guy who gave me this warning a few hours prior. Not sure if he made it down in daylight).
After a few turns along the roads up the mountain I turned onto the trails for the descent, fondly know as “blue hell.” Now, the Nike Wildhorses are comfortable, but they suck on wet rock. This descent was all boulders and it had been raining for a few hours prior. Not a great combination. I had to slowly pick my way across the boulders (here’s a pic from some guy’s blog in 2015 that looks like it was similar conditions https://2sparrows.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/img_0114.jpg?w=584). I managed to make it down without falling and didn’t need my headlamp until the descent started to mellow so all was well. I continued downhill to get to the crew at mile 43 aid, Lake Cheaha.
Mile 43 - 55 I got into the aid, and the crew had many treats available for me. They had my ensure but also had gotten me a bottle of coke and a bottle of gatorade. With a supreme lack of foresight, I finished all four bottles of liquid over the course of changing my socks, getting my bigger headlamp on, changing my shirt, and generally taking care of any other issues I had.
Once I was ready, I took off into the night, newer and brighter headlamp lighting my way. This started about a 3 mile section of road, which would have been a great time to make up some time and jog. Unfortunately, all that liquid had ruined my stomach, and I had to walk to keep from puking. I walked at least 4 miles (probably over an hour with how slow I was going) before my stomach started to settle.
Once my stomach was settled I marginally picked up the pace. The trail was still mostly nice and smooth so I wasn’t too slow in the night. Unfortunately, my ankle had loosened up from the initial stings. It felt like the joint had collapsed, but then I realized that it was because the swelling had gone down. Essentially, the running combined with the swelling, it was as if my right ankle had taken a much more significant amount of work than my left. Between the slow movement, ankle pain, etc. etc. I was wishing I had poles for climbing. I started looking around on the ground for a suitable stick but it was hard picking. Most sticks on the ground were starting to rot. Eventually I found one that was strong enough, but it was very long, so I wound up smacking it against trees to snap it so that it reached a suitable hiking length. New hiking stick in hand, I hiked onward into the night.
My ankle was still bothering me but it wasn’t so bad that I had to stop, and I made it to the next crewed aid at mile 55.
Mile 55 - 68 At mile 55, there was a more limited crew, as Alex and OG were back at the house sleeping, so Scott, Dino, and Sam were there to take care of me. I don’t really remember what I did here, except complain about drinking too much at the last aid, and talking about how my right side was feeling the effects of the stings. .Either way, they got me put together and sent me back into the night. I did have to take a new back up headlamp here, as at one point in the last section, I gave my backup to another guy as his had started to die. I also left my stick with them to bring to me at the next aid, because i knew that there would be a big climb after mile 68, up to a point called the pinnacle.
I hiked / jogged along the trails, but don’t remember too much of what was going on. Eventually I reached an aid station at mile 63, and was relieved to see there was a porta-potty available. I crossed some railroad tracks and made my way into the plastic box. Within moments of shutting the door and sitting, a train whistle blew. The sound of the train’s wheels churning across the tracks approached. My tiny polymer lavatory began to shake violently. The whistle sounded again. I felt that if I were to open the door, it would be ripped off by the passing train it was so close. I eventually just had to get used to the shaking and noise as I went about my business. I finally exited, the train still rolling past. There were numerous runners caught on the other side of the tracks. I covered my hands in sanitizer and went to the aid station to refill supplies. As I was leaving, the train was still passing. I felt bad for the runners losing time on the other side but it’s not like any of us were on a competitive pace at that point so it hardly mattered. It was a short time until I got to the mile 68 aid where I could pick up Alex (aewillia).
With Alex from 68 - 85 I made it into mile 68 with my stomach feeling better. The crew took care of me and after getting some stuff refilled and food and drink, Alex and I took off, only to stop at the end of the road when I realized I had forgotten my stick and to take care of some stuff. So Alex ran back to where the crew was and collected my stick and the diaper cream that came home from Italy with me. I got a glove on and went to town with the baby cream. Just as I was doing so Jones showed up to see what was going on, so I was able to hand my dirty glove to him which he so caringly took to toss in the trash. Thanks Bud!
Alex and I cruised along in the night at barely more than a fast walk, and then we got to the climb. At least 1000 ft of gain, and just endless switchbacks. Was very glad to have my stick the put some weight on as we hiked upwards. As the trail started to level off, I started to also get really drowsy. Alex said she could tell when I was falling asleep standing up because I would start dragging the stick instead of planting it. I asked her to keep me talking and the conversation proceeded to become endlessly inane. But it kept me awake. We finally reached an aid up near the peak. It was pretty cold and breezy at the top but they had a great fire going. My heels and feet were starting to feel a little beat up (I had a few water crossings earlier that I don’t remember specifically where, so I didn’t put them in before, but my feet had gotten wet). The skin under my forefeet was starting to fold overitself so I took my shoes and socks off and started drying my feet by the fire. Pretty quickly the skin dried out enough that I was able to take some Leukotape and tape across where the skin had been folding so that it would be held in place. That helped with the pain and I got my socks and shoes back on. The sun started to rise as we were at the aid, which was really beautiful to see from up high on that mountain. We headed off with the sunrise and were able to pickup the pace with the light and the now downhill trend of the trail. Eventually we made it to mile 85 where the crew was waiting.
With Sam from 85 - 95 Rolling into the aid, they were blasting music. I made it past a roped off sections to where the crews were waiting and broke it down to the music they were blasting. I got my stuff organized again and then Alex showed up to the crew area with a couple of pierogi. They were delicious. I’m realizing while I’m writing this that I hope she brought them for me and not for herself. Oh Well.
Once I was ready, Sam (mamsorris) and I made our way out of the crew area and down the gravel road. This was not a particularly interesting section as Sam and I were on gravel / dirt roads for our time together. I was moving constantly left and right to try and find the area of the road with the least amount of rocks to dig into my feet. Notable moments were getting passed by a beat-up looking pick up truck with two dudes who were definitely blazing, and then getting dirt kicked up into our faces by a minivan which rolled by. We chatted about nothing in particular and made pretty decent time given how late in the race it was. I learned about his coyote wrangling days, and choice playlists for parties he held. Great times were had!
When we arrived at the final aid station, we couldn’t find any sign up the crew / my next pacer. We sort of wandered around and were about ready to keep going when we figured out we actually had phone service. I started calling around to see where the crew was and eventually got ahold of them and they were pulling in as they picked up the phone. We swapped out Sam for Scott (herumph) and Dino and Sam took off in the car, while Scott and I headed out on the trials.
With Scott from 95 - 100
We started down the trail and Scott cheerfully let me know he looked at the map and that the trail was “almost all down hill” to the finish. We rounded a corner and were presented with a climb. Then we rounded a turn and were onto a fireroad and then onto some mountain bike trails. With more climbs. We passed the time chatting with other runners, deciding their conversation was boring, and then chatting with each other about nerd shit. Scott took the lead for most of the way, and he later revealed the reason, I smelled too bad to run next to or behind. We passed a family with some small kids, and then Scott told me lewd stories about the infield of Talladega while we passed a few runners right in the last few yards of trail before breaking onto the field maybe 50 yards from the finish. I jogged through the finish, collected my buckle, and then just sat down on the grass, chatting with Jones who was waiting to take video.
I eventually got up again and went over to where the rest of the crew was. We hung out for a bit, and I decided to wait around to see if the guy borrowed my headlamp would finish soon. The crew was nice enough to bring me some pulled pork from the food table which was delicious. Dude who had my headlamp eventually finished, but then had to make some phone calls, so I shuffled over and the stood around awkwardly while I waiting him to wrap up telling his family he was alive and had finished the race. Once I had that collected we rolled out. Jones had to keep the windows in his car down due to the smell and then I nodded off in the passenger seat. He may have a pic of me somewhere.
Back at the AirBnB we debated what to eat for dinner, eventually settling on going to the only fast food place in the area, a Jack’s. I got some chicken tenders, fries, and a mello yello, and also judgement from Alex on my beverage choice. We snacked and drank while Jones played the role of documentarian. Then I passed out sitting up on the couch and it was time for bed.
Conclusion I was probably underprepared for this race. Not having groups to run with for most of the year, as well as spending more time on the bike and at the rock gym were probably not great for prep. I relied a lot on lifetime miles and experience at the distance to get me through. Also, the course, while beautiful, was much harder than the numbers would be on paper. Not a lot of climbing at only around 14k, but there’s very little road to make up time, and there’s almost no flat sections. You’re always climbing or descending, plus the large amount of single track meant that there were a lot of conga lines forming.
If anyone was looking for a top tier 100 mile event in the southeast, this would be one of my top recommendations. Everything was incredibly well organized, and the course is really a beauty. To be able to hold a race and have something like 90% of it occur in a National Forest is really incredible.
Tidbits that I forgot: While I was driving with Scott, he received a message from forwardbound with this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV6N2RaKet8. Strangely catchy. At about mile 55 the song had been stuck in my head for awhile. Sitting in the aid there, I looked up at Scott and said “Scott, I have something very important to tell you. I AM A BIG BIG BABY.”
Jones let me crash at his place in the Panhandle of Florida after, and on our way, we visiting the bizarre drive through museum. It was great. Then at his place I got to hang out with his cats Cornpop and Bisquick, which was also very great. Thanks for letting me stay there Jones.
The crew seemed rather taken aback about how unashamedly I’d glance around and then immediately shove something down or up my shorts for anti-chafing purposes.
I will also forever be in Jones’s debt for his taking and throwing away a glove I used to apply lube at an aid station (see video for the beautiful moment).
Finally huge thank you to the crew aewillia, runroardinosaur, mamsorris, herumph, and OGFireNation
submitted by chrispyb to running

Pinhoti 100 202

edit: forgot this '0' Please imagine the title says 2020
Race: Pinhoti 100 Location: Heflin Alabama to Sylacauga Alabama, all following the Pinhoti Trail Distance: 100 miles A Goal: 23 hrs 28 mins B Goal: 26 hrs C Goal: Finish
Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4309940162 Crew Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnbhayFyGd0 (much better than this race report, credit to OGfirenation) Photo Essay: https://spark.adobe.com/page/eNKDVQ7sGIFKu/ (also much better than this race report, credit to aewillia)
Initial Planning So, how I chose this race. I signed up for the Vermont 100 lottery when it opened, having finished it in 2019 and it being a race reasonably close to me, and then didn’t get in. I was so far down on the waitlist that it was a near 0% chance that I would run. So I immediately started looking for an alternative. I had heard about Pinhoti a lot and it looked like a good race, and one that has been around for a bit of time, so I signed up for it, not really knowing much more than that it has a reasonably long history, is a Western States Qualifier, it’s in Alabama somewhere, and it has a 30 hour time limit. I could figure everything else out in the next 9 months.
I recruited OGfirenation and mamsorris for crew since they both lived close enough, and eventually solidified that they’d be able to make it for the race.
The Crew Grows As the race started approaching, some other ARTC folks who were “nearby” started to be interested in crewing as well. herumph was back in SC, and aewillia decided driving all the way across Texas, Mississippi, and half of Alabma wasn’t enough to deter her. And then a last minute (and highly welcome add) was runroardinosaur, who has experience at the distance, having finished the Umstead 100 before. All in all, an excellent crew.
The Days Before In the interest of avoiding crowded airports, I decided to drive down instead of flying. I left my house on Wednesday evening, with a goal of picking up Scott (herumph) in South Carolina on Friday before making it to packet pickup Friday afternoon at the finish Line. Wednesday night I crashed in my car in a truck stop in Northern New Jersey (or maybe pennsylvania).
I woke up the next morning and continued on my way. I tried to drive the Skyline drive in Shenandoah national park, but found out it was closed so had to backtrack. But I did get some good Mexican food in Front Royal VA. I decided I still wanted to get a jog in at some point and found out that the Wild Oak Trail in George Washington National Forest wouldn’t be too far off course. I wound through farm roads off the highway to get to the trail head, and at about 3 in the afternoon took off down the trail to the summit of Grindstone Mountain. About a 3 mile round trip from the trailhead and about 1000 ft of gain. Solid shakeout. I kept heading south and finally got to somewhere around the VA/NC border. I scanned google maps to see if there was anywhere I could car camp again for the night, but nothing looked promising. I booked a room at the cheapest motel in the area and settled in for the night.
The next day was an easy drive to pickup Scott in South Carolina. I got to meet his dog and nearly kill myslef on his electric dirt bike. We drove off, and stopped for lunch, getting some delicious chicken tender pub subs. We finally reached packet pickup right as it opened and I was able to collect my bag with a t shirt, bib, and crew car window card and we left for the Airbnb. We were the first to arrive, so we quickly unloaded some stuff, then went for a 3 mile shake out where we got chased by no less than 4 different farm dogs. And met three very good farm dogs. We got back to the house to find Jones looking in the windows and not checking his phone for the instructions on how to get inside.
Over the next few hours the rest of the crew arrived as we talked strategy, cooked frozen pizza, and prepped for the race. I wound up going to bed a little early because I wasn’t feeling very well, but decided to not let that bother me as there wasn’t really anything I could do at that point.
The Start to Mile 6 The start line was at a campsite in Heflin. OG and I arrived and had to park about half a mile a way and walk in. It was a mix of runners and campers staying at the starting line camping area. The campers did not know when they booked their sites that they would be awoken by a group of runners all descending on their sleeping area when they booked their sites.
I was using the facilities, so I missed most of the announcements of how the start would work. I was hanging out sort of near the group of runners when suddenly they all started moving. I jumped into the pack and started jogging the next 50 yards until we turned onto the single track.
Everyone slowed down as the conga line formed. It took a long time until we started moving again and then it was very slow. I feel like I didn’t really pass anyone or even try, as there were just too many people ahead of me with the narrow trail and figured I’d just have to move slow for awhile while people started to stretch out.
Finally I made it to the first aid, already behind schedule. OG gave me my bottle of ensure, which I drank while he filled my bottles. I asked him to make sure my other shoes were at the next crew stop, because I was starting to feel some rubbing against my big toe that I hadn’t felt in training, so I wanted to switch from the HOKA Challengers I was in to the Wildhorse 4s, which have a wider forefoot. Then I headed back out to conga line with a bunch of other runners.
Seeing OG at Aid 1 to seeing everyone at mile 18 There was another 6 miles of similar trails, where we ran sort of along contour lines and up and down the valleys formed by the hills and mountains of the Talladega Forest. There were some stream crossing but so far I could keep my feet dry. At mile 13 was the second aid and crew for even numbered runners (odds got aid at the first aid station).
The course was never flat, and always single track. So far it was incredibly smooth trail as well. Almost no roots or rocks. And then at about 15 miles in, while I was jogging behind some kid, I felt a sharp pain in my right ankle, and then another. I looked down and saw a yellow jacket on my sock. I swatted at it and yelled “YELLOW JACKETS” and took off down the trail. Two years ago I was swarmed by yellow jackets at Hallucination 100 in Michigan, and was stung 9 times from the ankle to the ass. Sprinting and slapping, I ran down the trail cursing. I managed to get them off and away from them, receiving somewhere between 3 and 5 stings. Thankfully less than I got in Michigan. Fortunately the trail was quiet again until the next crewed aid station 3 miles later.
See everyone at Crew Aid 2, then miles 18-43
The aid at mile 18 was essentially on some major roadway through the forest and the whole crew was there. It was great to see everyone. I sat down in a chair and started trying to organize myself. I thought I might stick with the shoes I was wearing and just relube, so I got my socks off, applied lube, put my feet back in my shoes, wiggled them around, and then decided I wanted to switch from the Hoka Challenget ATRs I had to the Nike Wildhorse 4s for the wider forefoot. I also drank some water, drank 2 ensures, and had OGFN bring me a tiny little cup of gingerale. I also did some unseemly things with a stick of Squirrel’s Nut Butter (Only Fans Subscriber content). Sorted out, I took off down the road, feeling okay and looking forward to the rest of the race
From mile 18 - 43 In this section, I knew I’d hit the largest climb of the race and starting at around mile 35 and ending at about mile 41. But I had a lot of ground to cover before then. The course continued to be more of the same, winding along the side of the ridge, up and down the valleys. For the aid at mile 27, there was a brief out and back, with a rock scramble next to a really pretty waterfall. The course continued to present incredible scenery.
I linked up with another runner right about when the climb up to Mount Cheaha, the hight point of the race (and the state of Alabama) began at about mile 35. He had run the race several times previously, and was giving me geological features to look for to know when we were getting close. Apparently, I’d know we were getting to the last steep bit when I saw a boulder the size of a car. Not long after he said this, such a bould emerged from the fog. I really did feel good knowing we were closing in on the top.
Eventually, we reached the peak of Cheaha, totally encapsulated in a cloud. There were a few tourists on the boardwalk at the top, and they cheered us on. We continued down the boardwalk, and I made use of the public restroom at the end of the boardwalk. I lost my geoligically inclined friend while I was in the restroom and started down the foggy road alone, immediately unsure if I was going the right direction. Eventually another runner emerged behind me in the fog and I was able to double check that I was headed the right way. It was starting to get dark, and I had been warned at packet pickup that I wanted to be off this descent before the darkness arrived (unfortunately, I think I had passed the guy who gave me this warning a few hours prior. Not sure if he made it down in daylight).
After a few turns along the roads up the mountain I turned onto the trails for the descent, fondly know as “blue hell.” Now, the Nike Wildhorses are comfortable, but they suck on wet rock. This descent was all boulders and it had been raining for a few hours prior. Not a great combination. I had to slowly pick my way across the boulders (here’s a pic from some guy’s blog in 2015 that looks like it was similar conditions https://2sparrows.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/img_0114.jpg?w=584). I managed to make it down without falling and didn’t need my headlamp until the descent started to mellow so all was well. I continued downhill to get to the crew at mile 43 aid, Lake Cheaha.
Mile 43 - 55 I got into the aid, and the crew had many treats available for me. They had my ensure but also had gotten me a bottle of coke and a bottle of gatorade. With a supreme lack of foresight, I finished all four bottles of liquid over the course of changing my socks, getting my bigger headlamp on, changing my shirt, and generally taking care of any other issues I had.
Once I was ready, I took off into the night, newer and brighter headlamp lighting my way. This started about a 3 mile section of road, which would have been a great time to make up some time and jog. Unfortunately, all that liquid had ruined my stomach, and I had to walk to keep from puking. I walked at least 4 miles (probably over an hour with how slow I was going) before my stomach started to settle.
Once my stomach was settled I marginally picked up the pace. The trail was still mostly nice and smooth so I wasn’t too slow in the night. Unfortunately, my ankle had loosened up from the initial stings. It felt like the joint had collapsed, but then I realized that it was because the swelling had gone down. Essentially, the running combined with the swelling, it was as if my right ankle had taken a much more significant amount of work than my left. Between the slow movement, ankle pain, etc. etc. I was wishing I had poles for climbing. I started looking around on the ground for a suitable stick but it was hard picking. Most sticks on the ground were starting to rot. Eventually I found one that was strong enough, but it was very long, so I wound up smacking it against trees to snap it so that it reached a suitable hiking length. New hiking stick in hand, I hiked onward into the night.
My ankle was still bothering me but it wasn’t so bad that I had to stop, and I made it to the next crewed aid at mile 55.
Mile 55 - 68 At mile 55, there was a more limited crew, as Alex and OG were back at the house sleeping, so Scott, Dino, and Sam were there to take care of me. I don’t really remember what I did here, except complain about drinking too much at the last aid, and talking about how my right side was feeling the effects of the stings. .Either way, they got me put together and sent me back into the night. I did have to take a new back up headlamp here, as at one point in the last section, I gave my backup to another guy as his had started to die. I also left my stick with them to bring to me at the next aid, because i knew that there would be a big climb after mile 68, up to a point called the pinnacle.
I hiked / jogged along the trails, but don’t remember too much of what was going on. Eventually I reached an aid station at mile 63, and was relieved to see there was a porta-potty available. I crossed some railroad tracks and made my way into the plastic box. Within moments of shutting the door and sitting, a train whistle blew. The sound of the train’s wheels churning across the tracks approached. My tiny polymer lavatory began to shake violently. The whistle sounded again. I felt that if I were to open the door, it would be ripped off by the passing train it was so close. I eventually just had to get used to the shaking and noise as I went about my business. I finally exited, the train still rolling past. There were numerous runners caught on the other side of the tracks. I covered my hands in sanitizer and went to the aid station to refill supplies. As I was leaving, the train was still passing. I felt bad for the runners losing time on the other side but it’s not like any of us were on a competitive pace at that point so it hardly mattered. It was a short time until I got to the mile 68 aid where I could pick up Alex (aewillia).
With Alex from 68 - 85 I made it into mile 68 with my stomach feeling better. The crew took care of me and after getting some stuff refilled and food and drink, Alex and I took off, only to stop at the end of the road when I realized I had forgotten my stick and to take care of some stuff. So Alex ran back to where the crew was and collected my stick and the diaper cream that came home from Italy with me. I got a glove on and went to town with the baby cream. Just as I was doing so Jones showed up to see what was going on, so I was able to hand my dirty glove to him which he so caringly took to toss in the trash. Thanks Bud!
Alex and I cruised along in the night at barely more than a fast walk, and then we got to the climb. At least 1000 ft of gain, and just endless switchbacks. Was very glad to have my stick the put some weight on as we hiked upwards. As the trail started to level off, I started to also get really drowsy. Alex said she could tell when I was falling asleep standing up because I would start dragging the stick instead of planting it. I asked her to keep me talking and the conversation proceeded to become endlessly inane. But it kept me awake. We finally reached an aid up near the peak. It was pretty cold and breezy at the top but they had a great fire going. My heels and feet were starting to feel a little beat up (I had a few water crossings earlier that I don’t remember specifically where, so I didn’t put them in before, but my feet had gotten wet). The skin under my forefeet was starting to fold overitself so I took my shoes and socks off and started drying my feet by the fire. Pretty quickly the skin dried out enough that I was able to take some Leukotape and tape across where the skin had been folding so that it would be held in place. That helped with the pain and I got my socks and shoes back on. The sun started to rise as we were at the aid, which was really beautiful to see from up high on that mountain. We headed off with the sunrise and were able to pickup the pace with the light and the now downhill trend of the trail. Eventually we made it to mile 85 where the crew was waiting.
With Sam from 85 - 95 Rolling into the aid, they were blasting music. I made it past a roped off sections to where the crews were waiting and broke it down to the music they were blasting. I got my stuff organized again and then Alex showed up to the crew area with a couple of pierogi. They were delicious. I’m realizing while I’m writing this that I hope she brought them for me and not for herself. Oh Well.
Once I was ready, Sam (mamsorris) and I made our way out of the crew area and down the gravel road. This was not a particularly interesting section as Sam and I were on gravel / dirt roads for our time together. I was moving constantly left and right to try and find the area of the road with the least amount of rocks to dig into my feet. Notable moments were getting passed by a beat-up looking pick up truck with two dudes who were definitely blazing, and then getting dirt kicked up into our faces by a minivan which rolled by. We chatted about nothing in particular and made pretty decent time given how late in the race it was. I learned about his coyote wrangling days, and choice playlists for parties he held. Great times were had!
When we arrived at the final aid station, we couldn’t find any sign up the crew / my next pacer. We sort of wandered around and were about ready to keep going when we figured out we actually had phone service. I started calling around to see where the crew was and eventually got ahold of them and they were pulling in as they picked up the phone. We swapped out Sam for Scott (herumph) and Dino and Sam took off in the car, while Scott and I headed out on the trials.
With Scott from 95 - 100
We started down the trail and Scott cheerfully let me know he looked at the map and that the trail was “almost all down hill” to the finish. We rounded a corner and were presented with a climb. Then we rounded a turn and were onto a fireroad and then onto some mountain bike trails. With more climbs. We passed the time chatting with other runners, deciding their conversation was boring, and then chatting with each other about nerd shit. Scott took the lead for most of the way, and he later revealed the reason, I smelled too bad to run next to or behind. We passed a family with some small kids, and then Scott told me lewd stories about the infield of Talladega while we passed a few runners right in the last few yards of trail before breaking onto the field maybe 50 yards from the finish. I jogged through the finish, collected my buckle, and then just sat down on the grass, chatting with Jones who was waiting to take video.
I eventually got up again and went over to where the rest of the crew was. We hung out for a bit, and I decided to wait around to see if the guy borrowed my headlamp would finish soon. The crew was nice enough to bring me some pulled pork from the food table which was delicious. Dude who had my headlamp eventually finished, but then had to make some phone calls, so I shuffled over and the stood around awkwardly while I waiting him to wrap up telling his family he was alive and had finished the race. Once I had that collected we rolled out. Jones had to keep the windows in his car down due to the smell and then I nodded off in the passenger seat. He may have a pic of me somewhere.
Back at the AirBnB we debated what to eat for dinner, eventually settling on going to the only fast food place in the area, a Jack’s. I got some chicken tenders, fries, and a mello yello, and also judgement from Alex on my beverage choice. We snacked and drank while Jones played the role of documentarian. Then I passed out sitting up on the couch and it was time for bed.
Conclusion I was probably underprepared for this race. Not having groups to run with for most of the year, as well as spending more time on the bike and at the rock gym were probably not great for prep. I relied a lot on lifetime miles and experience at the distance to get me through. Also, the course, while beautiful, was much harder than the numbers would be on paper. Not a lot of climbing at only around 14k, but there’s very little road to make up time, and there’s almost no flat sections. You’re always climbing or descending, plus the large amount of single track meant that there were a lot of conga lines forming.
If anyone was looking for a top tier 100 mile event in the southeast, this would be one of my top recommendations. Everything was incredibly well organized, and the course is really a beauty. To be able to hold a race and have something like 90% of it occur in a National Forest is really incredible.
Tidbits that I forgot: While I was driving with Scott, he received a message from forwardbound with this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV6N2RaKet8. Strangely catchy. At about mile 55 the song had been stuck in my head for awhile. Sitting in the aid there, I looked up at Scott and said “Scott, I have something very important to tell you. I AM A BIG BIG BABY.”
Jones let me crash at his place in the Panhandle of Florida after, and on our way, we visiting the bizarre drive through museum. It was great. Then at his place I got to hang out with his cats Cornpop and Bisquick, which was also very great. Thanks for letting me stay there Jones.
The crew seemed rather taken aback about how unashamedly I’d glance around and then immediately shove something down or up my shorts for anti-chafing purposes.
I will also forever be in Jones’s debt for his taking and throwing away a glove I used to apply lube at an aid station (see video for the beautiful moment).
Finally huge thank you to the crew aewillia, runroardinosaur, mamsorris, herumph, and OGFireNation
submitted by chrispyb to artc