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.