Pinhoti 100- 2014 – my second 100 mile run

This would be my second ever 100 mile run and my second Pinhoti 100.   I had a successful first 100 last year but I made a bunch of rookie mistakes and I wanted to see if I could improve by changing what I learned last year.  My goals for this year were to beat last years time of 24:50 and go under 24 hours and try to break into the top 10-20 overall(last year I was 46th.)

Last year I took long stops at most aid stations, but this year I planned to make much shorter stops. Last year I wore shorts with liners the first half and had very bad chafing, this year I planned to wear stretch pants with no liners the whole race. Last year I changed shoes at mile 85, but toe box was small and my feet had swollen were very painful until I changed the shoes back 10 miles later.  This year I planned to wear the same shoes the whole race.

I had the same crew from last year my friend Dean and his wife Heather from Atlanta.  When I called Dean to ask if they would crew me again he asked why I would do this to myself again?!!  I told him I love running in the woods!  Last year my wife Celeste and my kids came to cheer me on.  But after last years race I went back to my hotel and took a hot bath which caused me to vasodilate and I passed out.   After seeing me pass out Celeste said she would not go back again.  I thought she may change her mind but as it turned out her photography business was very busy and she had two shoots the same weekend , so no family support this year.

Also on the family side is the timing of this race sucked!  Because I had to be at packet pick up Friday night in Alabama which was also the night of Halloween. So for the first time since having kids I missed trick-or-treating with them.  I will not be doing a race again where I have to miss Halloween! Kids are little for such a short time and I don’t want to miss out again.

I made another change this year about 2 months before. I decided to change my running shoes that I ran in last year.  Last year I ran in Montrail’s and they did a good job but I felt almost every rock and root.  I kept hearing how over a long race like 100 miles, a  more cushioned shoe would allow me to run in less pain.  So I decides to try using Hoka’s this year which turned out to work great.

This year I went to the pre-race meeting/dinner and packet pick up Friday night that I missed out on last year. I got to talk with runners I met last year and meet some new ones.  After the dinner I went to the hotel and tried to get to sleep early. I made a Facetime call to my wife and kids to see all the candy they got trick-or treating.  I had to get up very early around 3:30AM to take a bus to the start line.  I got very little sleep and tried to catch a few zzz on the 1.5 Hr bus ride. It was very cold 29 or 30 and windy and no one wanted to get off the bus until right before the start.

I was very happy to see Dean and Heather around 30 min prior to the start and handed them my gear bag.  I told Dean that I wanted to get in the top 10 or 20 this year and planned to go out with the leaders and try and hold on.   He said it sounded like a good plan and if it didn’t work I could always slow down.

I lined up at the front of the race to get a good position. The race starts on a gravel road for about 100 yards then goes right into single track trail.  Last year I went into the woods in about 25the place and it was like a conga line for the first 6 or 7 miles.  This year I went into the woods in second place and I could run at my own pace.  A dog came running by early on and then I got passed and went into 3rd place.  At around mile 5 I got passed and was still in 4th place at the first aid station at mile 6.

I had planned to run all the hills the whole race. And through the first two aid stations I did not walk any hills.  Coming into the second aid station to my surprise I was catching back up to the guy in 3rd place.  As I approached the aid station I could hear a train, but I did’t think much of it.  But as I got closer Heather and the aid station volunteers were yelling the train is coming!  I ran passed the aid station table and watched 3rd place cross the tracks in front of me and I started to run toward the tracks also and could see the train was fast approaching.  I made the split second decision that I am a Dad of three and decided to stop.   Once I made the decision to stop I stood and watched as the 5th, 6th, and 7th place runners came into the aid station. I was very frustrated at this point because not only was I catching 3rd but now the gap I had on the three behind me was completely erased!!  I was fuming for at least an hour and I new the 6 or 7 minutes wasn’t a big deal but the mental part of having the others catch me sucked.

For the next 27 miles until I reached the highest point in Alabama at mile 40 (Cheaha Mtn.) I kept going back and forth within the top 10.  Some of the runners I was passing and getting passed by that I met were Nathan and Kelly.  Nathan was from Chattanooga and had his two young daughters and a wife cheering him on and Kelly from Kentucky being crewed by his mom.  The view from the top of the mountain was beautiful.   The only problem up to this point was on the climb up to Cheaha my back started hurting.  I was on track for a 20 hour finish as other runners kept telling me but I knew the pace would slow at night and there was the climb up Pinnacle at mile 75.

My nutrition was going pretty good I was trying to get a GU gel pack in every hour and getting real food at aid stations. Hot soup was my favorite!   Including a cupcake that kelly’s mom gave me at the top of Cheaha mountain.   I was using water and Heed and kept trying to drink, I was concerned about hydration because I was having to force myself to pee.  Later in the race I decided to stop the HEED and just drink water.

At mile 55 I put my lights on and turned on my Ipod to go run in the dark. The music was good company as I never listen to music when training.  I found it very difficult to keep a good pace in the single track in the dark.   At this point I fell out of the top 20 and my back was hurting on every climb.   At around mile 57 I changed my watch from one to the other.  From last year I learned my Garmin watch would only last 18 hours.  And after it died I would have no idea how much further each aid station was , so I decided to wear two watches this year.   Before I shut the first watch off it was acting up and going haywire and was getting frustrated until I turned on the second one.

At around mile 70 I started the climb up to Pinnacle and I just put my head down and hiked all the way up. It was how I remembered,  very windy and cold (around 28 degrees).   I remembered they had loud music playing at the top last year and I kept listening for it but it felt like the switchbacks up the mountain went on forever.  I was so relieved when I finally got to the aid station at mile 75 and I sat down by the fire and had an egg and cheese sandwich and some hot soup.  They told me that I couldn’t stay long and kept asking if I wanted a shot of whiskey!  Even though I declined their nice offer, the volunteers were great here and at all of the aid stations!

This was the longest I spent at an aid station and it was hard to get going and knowing the trail kept going up for another 8 or 9 miles.   Much of the climb were jeep roads but were very rutted out and hard to get any type of running pace on.  An enjoyable part of this section was when I kept looking behind me thinking another runner with a light was coming, was actually the moon shining so bright!  Also I stopped a few times and put my hand over my headlamp to look at the stars. WOW! – the sky was just amazing there must have been a million stars out that night!

I knew that the last 15 miles were mostly dirt roads and the race finished on a paved road so I was hoping to have a strong finish.  I kept doing the math adding the distance and time from the first watch to the second watch that I had turned on at mile 57.

When I was able to run on dirt roads and not on single track I was able to get a good pace.  I learned on the single track trail that for my next 100 I need to get much brighter lights.  I took a face-plant once or twice and was very timid and slow thereafter on the single track.

At mile 85 I I started to pick up the pace and felt much better on the gravel roads.  I did come across something strange on one of the jeep trails at around 2 or 3 AM.  A drunk couple  with there car stuck and asked if I had time to help them.  I smiled and said sorry I’m in the middle of a race.   It was very strange and I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t only imagined it until I read other race reports that saw them also.

During the last 10 miles I passed some runners including a guy from Wisconsin I met on the bus ride. He told me he had crewed Scott Jurek at Western States and on his first attempt at WS he finished in 22 hours.  As I passed him he told me” I can’t believe what strong finishers their are in this race!”   I said thanks and he was doing great as well.  This gave me a great boost and it felt good to be passing people at the end.   As I went out on the road for the final 2.5 miles it was very foggy and my lights were all but out and I didn’t want to stop and change the batteries.  The road seemed like it went uphill all the way to the school at the finish.   I kept looking at my watch and I was calculating my finish time.

I was so excited to see my finish time of 22:11, almost 3 hours faster than last year!  I got my buckle and Heather took my picture at the finish line.  I went into a warming tent they had at the finish and there were about 5 other runners sitting covered in blankets.  That’s when Heather told me I finished in 18th place!  Wow, what a great feeling meeting and exceeding all my goals for the race!   I ate pancakes and listened to the other runners.  The RD and the other runners were talking about the trophies for age groups.  The race director said he was doing one age group winner and it was for the top finisher over 46 and I said can you change it to 44 and older?  He just laughed.

Heather and Dean picked up my car and took me to my hotel. They did a great job all the way around and I am lucky to have them as friends!

I slept for about 5 or 6 hours and then I headed home.  I stopped in Birmingham for lunch and ordered a 18″ large pizza and ate the whole pie.

There were parts of the race when my back was hurting and it was bone chilling cold and I thought this was my last 100 miler.  But only a week or so later I put my name in for the Western States lottery.  So, I think I was born to run!

I am so thankful to my family for supporting me through all my crazy ultra races.   I am so thankful for the Pinhoti Race director putting on such an awesome race and all the volunteers out there all day and night!

Thanks for reading and if you run I hope we get to run sometime.


Pinhoti 100 – First 100 mile race 11/2-3 2013

5 screws and can still walk!

5 screws and can still walk!

How do you start a hundred mile run?  What races do you do, what training do you do, what stuff do you need?  This journey began after I broke my calcaneus in half and needed surgery and 5 titanium screws to put it back together.   I came very close to never being able to walk the same again let alone run.   While recovering I read many books including ultra marathon man by Dean Karnazas.  Dean described how he was very unprepared and he somehow willed his way to his first 100 mile race.   This is when I started looking for one to do myself.

I first singed up for my first marathon in October 2012 to be in April 2013.  While training I ran 26.2 miles on the trails in December and decided to sign up for a 50K trail race in March.   I raced the Fall creek falls 50K and started out way to fast and was miserable the last 10 miles but still finished in 5:30 hours.   I started out much slower pace for the marathon a month later and had a much better race and finished in 3:37 in the pouring rain. I planned to run a 50 miler over the summer but with the new job and living in WA state for a month it never happened.

Fast forward to Nov 1st and the Pinhot 100 in Heflin Alabama.  I had convinced my friend Dean and his wife Heather from Atlanta to meet us Saturday and be my crew for the race.   Friday after school Celeste and I and the kids left for Alabama.  We got to Mellow mushroom to pick up my race packet around 9:30 PM and to sleep around 10:30 at the hotel.

Saturday morning the alarm went off at 4am( I had got up at 1am and at 3am so excited and nervous for the race) and I started getting dressed for the race and loading the car.  I got Celeste and the kids up and we headed to the start.

I texted Dean on the way and as it turned out he was the car ahead of us on the dirt road heading to the start.  We got there about 5:15 am and I handed Dean and Heather my gear bag and cooler.  It was dark so I had my head lamp on as we all walked the half mile down the dirt road to the start which was lit up with a string of light between two trees.   I signed in and was officially listed as a racer.   I kissed the family and took some pics and then I went over to a fence by the start line to stretch.   I started talking to a guy stretching next to me who had the same shoes on as me.    He told me he would be changing his shoes around mile 80 because there were a lot of dirt and paved roads at the end, I told him I would also.  (I said I would but I did not know what I was talking about!)

The start was a simple “1 minute to go” then “start”!    I gave the kids high fives and got into the group toward the front.   Very quickly we left the dirt road and onto the trail.   We were all running in a long line, I peeked back a few times to see the line of lights it was cool.   We very quickly started crossing creeks and I had told myself to keep my feet dry at all costs so I slowed down and skipped across rocks on each crossing.  Most people did the same but a few people acted annoyed and ran straight through.   This surprised me a little knowing we were less than 5 miles into a 100 mile race.   Running in front of me right from the start was the guy I was stretching next to at the start.  I found out he was Errol Josephs and in front of him his friend Johan Desmet. They had both run this race before  and both were from outside of Atlanta.  Johan said he wanted to PR and finish under 24 hrs and Errol joked I don’t want to run with you then that’s too fast for me!  They commented I was running very fast for my first 100, I said it felt good but I would probably regret it later.

The first aid station came at mile 6.7 and I had decided to go with one hand held bottle and would hand the empty one to Heather and she would hand me a full one.(this strategy had some faults as I learned later).  Anyway at the first station my family was there (I was surprised because Celeste said she would go straight back to the hotel) and I forgot to grab anything to eat.   I realized shorty after leaving the aid station I had no gel or food so I asked another runner for a goo or gel and he gave me a goo and I was very thankful.

The second aid station 13. 27 I did the same water change out but this time took some goos and chips and a cookie.  I was chatting and running about a 10-11 min pace and really enjoying the views with the colors and vistas.   The next aid station 18.27 more water and more chips , goos, and some cookies.

Between aid station 5 to 6 and 7 were the long ones we were supposed to have two bottles but I had forgotten and was still only carrying only one.  I ran out of water each leg and did not have the crew until aid station 7 where I changed to two bottles.  I had also tried using HEED drink in my one bottle a few legs and I was having trouble peeing.   One of the legs I ran out of water I got desperate and asked a runner for some water and she said no but her pacer offered some and I took it.  Unfortunately it was not water but some type of energy drink that was giving me abdominal pain each time I drank it.  So I was very thankful to see my crew and change to two bottles at the next station.  I decided to fill one with HEED and one with water and this system worked great for the rest of the race and I started to pee very regularly.   Talking about using the bathroom I got to use the wipes I brought the first time at mile 30 again at mile 43.

Aid station 7 at mile 40 was great for a few reasons, one was Celeste and the kids were there and the other was it was sunny and warm and the view at the top of the mountain was incredible!    I changed my socks lubed up my feet and my crotch (which was starting to get chafed) and had a sandwich was feeling very uplifted from the stop.

Oh and Dean for the first 3 or 4 stops kept telling me I only had 20 or people in front of me!   I also met a runner in this stretch as we ran on a dirt road that said he wanted to go faster while we were on hard pack.  I took this to start a mantra until dark – that I needed to “make hay as long as the sun is up”.  Every time I slowed I would speed up and repeat that mantra.

I think it was aid station 10 (mile 55) that again I was surprised to see my family and it really lifted my spirits.  At this point my crotch was on fire and the shorts liner was killing me I kept putting tons of Vaseline but it only brought short term relief.  I think it was on the next leg I realized the liner was killing me and I needed to change, so at the next stop I think mile 60 I asked Dean for my long spandex pants(with no liner) and I got rid of the shorts – WOW what a relief!!  The crotch pain was finally over!

At this point I started putting warm close on and my lights and the cooler it got the more the cold food I brought did not sound good but the hot food at the aid stations sounded great and I had some bacon, quesadilla, Raman noodle soup, and some pickle juice and coca-cola.  Also at 6PM I turned my iPod on and it worked great having that to keep me focused through the night hours.

The miles from 70 to 80 were tough climbing up to pinnacle with the wind, cold and long climb it was slow going.  At aid station 16 (85 miles) in I made a big mistake and decided to change my shoes to my road shoes that have a tight toe box.  Well this made it impossible to run and Heather told me she would see me in 5 miles so I hobbled 5 miles in great anticipation of changing shoes back only to find out at mile 90 there was no crew and I had to go another 5 miles with the same shoes!!  This was probably the lowest point of the race for me, even at one point I was convinced I had passed the next aid station and I started to turn around but my old buddy Errol said turn around you were going the right way!   I had come up on Errol and Johan 5 or so miles back and said hey guys we can still make 24 hours.  (Which they just grunted but actually they both finished together in just under 24 hrs).

I was so happy to see Dean and Heather at the last aid station at mile 95 I could have kissed them, I changed my shoes and was off.  I thought I had lost any chance of making 24 hrs until I looked at my phone which said 5 am. I had forgot about the time change and started really picking up my pace.  Also at mile 91 my Garmin watch died so I had no idea how far each station was which made those miles walking even worse!    The last 5 mile went well except I had no watch and once I hit the pavement I thought the school must be less than a mile away and started running fast but it just kept going on for what felt like forever and I started to hurt and slow down but kept running until finally I came around a corner and saw the school and I saw the time was 24:50 I was happy I got in before 25 hrs and I had done it!!!!

One thing at the end that was a little anticlimactic was that Dean and Heather and Celeste and the kids all missed my finish.