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Pinhoti (The Carnage)

Posted November 4th, 2012 at 07:18 PM by Black Spurs

We ran into Dennis and Randy who are both from Mississippi at the packet pickup. Dennis has been the RD for the MS50 for several years, and Randy is also involved in the race. They run ultras together all the time. We all three finished Rocky Raccoon 100 earlier this year

To be honest, I didn’t give this course the respect it deserved. My training was adequate to finish the race, but my mental preparation may not have been what it should have been. I didn’t suffer through long runs like I did leading up to Cajun Coyote and Rocky Raccoon. Those two races were not what I would call easy, but I found them to be a lot less grueling than I expected. On a mental level, I just went through the motions…

We started out a little after 6AM. The first 45 minutes or so were dark, and no one really passed anyone that I remember. I was behind a guy who had a very comfortable pace going. I should have stayed behind this guy longer. But that single track was drawing me in quickly. It was so beautiful. And it seemed so easy at first. The first hills were small, and I would walk quickly up the hill and started running the downhills, which was my plan from the beginning. It wasn’t long before I thought, “I think I can keep this up for at least 70 miles, maybe even a little bit faster.” I didn’t think I thought it loud enough for the trail to hear it, but I think I remember hearing the rocks, roots, and leaves on the trails say, “Really?!? I dare you to try.” As time went on, I was just screaming down these downhills. And it was gloriously fun. I was having a blast. I blew through the first aid station right on time. I did notice that on two steep climbs (were they on the elevation chart?) I had a pretty serious heart rate spike. I got to the top of one and had to stop for just a minute because I had a little head rush. As such, I slowed down a little.

I recovered and continued onward. But I basically found myself in the same situation on the next section. But I was still on track with nutrition, hydration, etc. And the important thing was that I was having fun, a lot of fun. I just can’t say enough about the beauty of this trail. It is just a gorgeous area in which to run, hunt, hike, stand around looking (which I did a fair amount of later). I pretty much forgot about running 100 miles, not a good idea when you are running 100 miles. I made it to the next aid station at just over 13.2 miles in a little less than 3 hours, which was right on schedule. I felt fine, but I was very aware that I had run hard to keep what I thought was a pretty conservative pace over the course of the first two sections. I started to worry just a little bit about how things would play out later on down the trail. I was already a little annoyed about the fact that I thought a drop bag at 27, 55, and 85 would be plenty. The aid stations lacked many things that I thought would be available. Basically, there were chips, PB&J, pretzels, cookies, and M&M’s. I was wanting potatoes. But I moved on down the trail kicking myself for not preparing better with my drop bags. I ate as much as I could tolerate, and I continued to drink HEED. It was starting to get warm, and I was concerned about possible nausea and cramping.

I can’t remember how far it was to the next aid station, but I know that around 18 to 20 miles I started to cramp in my right hamstring and left quad. I stretched that out, took Endurolytes, and kept on moving down the trail. I was running this section pretty well, but I did lose about 10 minutes getting my cramps under control. They were manageable, and I was still pounding the downs. But I think my climbing legs were starting to slow down a bit. And my stomach started acting up a little after the cramps started. I can’t imagine drinking more than I was. Maybe the HEED had turned on me. I still don’t know. I ran onto the next aid station at 27.xx where I had a drop bag. “OK, one milestone hit; I made it to the first drop bag.” I climbed up a ridiculous section of rocks that I think was the overflow from Lake Morgan. I heard two aid station workers say, “Good job 126, good job!!!”

I said, “I feel like crap, but thank you.”

At this point, I knew I had some serious problems with my stomach. I hadn’t eaten for about 45 minutes; everything looked and tasted horrible. Even the Lance Nekot cookies that I like so much were not working. It got to the point that I remember thinking that I would like to punch the Lance delivery truck driver in the mouth the next time I see him in town. I snapped out of it, and realized that the wheels were going to be coming off the Burke Bus if I couldn’t turn it around soon. It is frustrating when nothing that has worked before is working now, not even ginger chews. Nevertheless, I knew I could probably take in what I had in my drop bag (Honey Stinger Waffles, Special K Protein Shake, Honey Stinger Chews…). I got some of that in me and sat for a moment to assess the situation. I was down a few more minutes from my goal, and I was starting to get a little worried. I was 5:34 into it; legs were ok; feet were perfect; stomach was a mess. Then I saw the stack of PB&J sandwiches. Normally, I love them, but I was just absolutely nauseated by the sight of them. Next, a lady from our table at the pre-race dinner came strolling in, crying. She was out. I looked at her with as much compassion as I could muster, secretly wishing I could catch a ride to anywhere but where I was (Maybe we could go beat up a peanut butter salesman or better yet, a peanut farmer, get right to the source of the problem…). But I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. I wasted a little time here; I don’t know how much but more than planned.

I started feeling a little better, and I started running again. I had my heart rate under control; I was able to take in some calories; and my legs were working well. This next section takes you from 27+ to 34.1 (actually to 35.7 to be exact). For about 4 miles, I was doing very well. But my stomach was not allowing me to take in any food while I was running. I kept trying to do some walking and eating, hoping things would turn around. A couple of times I had to take a seat on a log or rock in an attempt to get the queasiness to subside. I could only muster dry heaves when I tried to force it. Then more climbs and more down hill running. I was still running the downs decently, but it was clear that I was to the point of fighting the cutoffs.

I arrived at a creek, and I saw someone on the other side sitting on a log. He was happy. I yelled across; “How’s it going?”
“Not good,” he replied, “but that creek sure feels good on your feet.”
I took off my shoes, pretty much resolved to the fact that this was not going to be a day where I would get a belt buckle. But there were more important things than belt buckles right now. I took a seat, and someone came up from behind me. There was actually someone behind me? What a surprise!!! We took off our shoes and waded into the water. It was cold, very cold. And I didn’t want to get out. I did though. The three of us sat on a blown down poplar log and talked of running. We laughed and joked about our day, and considered what we might do next. Strangely, all the things we planned to do at that moment, on that log, in those woods, were all runs of 50 miles or less. I think a road marathon was even mentioned. I looked around to see if Oprah was there. She wasn’t.

And then we all moved on down the trail. One guy had picked up two tree limbs to use as “trekking poles”. This was pretty comical, but they seemed to work well for him. Eventually, we heard someone up on a switchback barfing. Naturally, we all picked up the pace to actually “catch” someone. I told the guy that the trail had sent our asses up to the next aid station to hand them to us. He said that was good because he was going to get his *** and take it to the house. We all laughed and moved on toward the aid station at 34.1 (actually 35.7).

We rounded a bend and the first person I saw was Randy Saxon, the Mississippi runner I mentioned earlier. He was all smiles; we shook hands. He said he had been fighting stomach issues, too, and he had been through enough of these things to know that sometimes you just have to live to fight another day. He said Dennis was struggling, but he continued on to Bald Rock. Finally, I could eat and had something good to eat, chili, of all things hit the spot. We were not supposed to be allowed to drop at this point. And we still had about 20 minutes left. But when we were offered a ride, we all took it. We all helped tear down the aid station and began our journey back to Bald Rock or Adams Gap to get shuttles to where we needed to go.

I got to Adams Gap and waited to see if Jason Rogers or Sandy Horn would come through. I really needed to get to Porter’s Gap where my brother was, but that would be another report altogether. There was very little cell reception, and I left my phone with my brother because it never dawned on me that I would not finish because I didn’t give this course the respect it deserved... Eventually, we all made contact, but I was gone before Jason and Sandy came through. They both went on to finish, and Dennis finally got his Pinhoti finish too.

One of the biggest takeaways I got from this race had nothing to do with my failure to complete the course, but I came to realize the magnitude of accomplishment that is involved in completing one of these races. The way I felt yesterday is the same way others have felt on days when I have been successful. And I reflected on that as I rode in the truck to Adam’s Gap and witnessed more carnage. I wasn’t humbled by the trail; I was humbled by the human spirit on the trail. As such, I am not beating myself up over woulda, coulda, shoulda. I am rejoicing in the fact that I got out there and just let it all hang out and had a good time.
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