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Pinhoti 100 (2014)

Posted November 3rd, 2014 at 11:42 AM by Black Spurs
Updated November 5th, 2014 at 02:03 PM by Black Spurs

This year’s Pinhoti 100 Mile Endurance Run was a very important race to me. This race is really the only one that matters to me. I was humbled beyond words to be allowed to speak about the person who initially told me about the race a few years ago, Brian Turner. Brian finished the race in 2012 when I fell to pieces early on and did not continue. A little over a year later, Brian passed away with cancer. That same month, November 2013, another friend passed away with cancer. Both of these individuals showed nothing but positive attitudes all the way to the end. I knew I had to go back to Pinhoti to finish that race, and although I love that belt buckle, a belt buckle is not enough motivation to complete a rugged, 100 mile, mountain race even if it has two big gobbler tracks on it.

The plan was to walk the uphills and run the flats and down hills all the way through the race until I was reduced to a walk and try to finish in under 28 hours. My training had been going well all through the year, but about 6 weeks before the race, I really had some issues with my back the last 15 miles of a 50 mile race. I was concerned about that because it was still hurting the night before the race as I slept on the floor of the Sylacauga, Alabama recreation center. My back was never even an issue during the race, but I had other issues to contend with throughout the course of the day and night.

Mile 1 to Mile 41

We got to the start line with howling winds and freezing temps. After a check in, about 200 runners left out on an epic journey. Things eventually spread out, but the first mile or two of these races are always congested. The first section of the trail is deceptively difficult. It is really a beautiful area. Mostly, roots and leaf covered rocks are the biggest challenge here. The climbs are not bad, but the ups and downs take a toll on you over the course of the section. In the first part of the race, I was mostly concerned with the section between Lake Morgan (mile 28), the CC Road (about 37 miles is my guess) and on up to Bald Rock at mile 41. I completely fell to pieces somewhere along there in 2012. To correct that mistake, I made sure I left the start line with a full bladder of water in my hydration pack along with two handheld 20 ounce bottles of Tailwind. I would refill each bottle with Tailwind at aid stations and save the bladder for that long section. I reached Lake Morgan in 6 hours, 20 minutes, which was 17 minutes slower than I reached it in 2012. And it was part of the plan. I was running too fast in 2012. I left out of Lake Morgan quickly with two bottles of Tailwind. Based on what I had looked at with different split times in the past, I figured it would take me 2 hours, 15 minutes to get to the CC Road. I got there in a little less than 2 hours. I did run out of water in my bottles just before the aid station. I pressed my back up against a tree and squeezed the bite valve on my hydration vest to fill a bottle up quickly and dumped a packet of Tailwind in it and kept on going. I thought I had another 20 minutes before the aid station, but it was just around the bend. The climb up to Bald Rock was not very difficult at all. At Bald Rock, I changed socks and ate a double cheese burger that my brother and my pacer had picked up for me. My main source of nutrition was Tailwind and some peanut butter crackers. I got tired of peanut butter crackers, but the Tailwind worked fine.

Mile 41 to Mile 69

I was concerned about this section because the race started at 7AM this year instead of 6AM, and it is pretty treacherous to head down the back side of Mt. Cheaha in the dark. I had plenty of time, though. I picked up my pacer and we ran down the paved road until we hit the trail again, which basically went straight down for quite a ways until it turned back into a runnable trail. I did some boulder hopping and caught some folks on the way down before linking up with another runner. We made short work of this section and were feeling good. Suddenly, I noticed my pacer was nowhere in sight. He caught up on the road section and we caught another runner or two before the next aid station. I saw a friend’s crew at the mile 45 aid station and found out he was only five minutes ahead of us. He is pretty fast, so I felt like we were doing well. We blazed on through the next section, crossed a creek, climbed another mountain, and kept on running. Around mile 50, my pacer fell hard after twisting his ankle. We tried walking a little bit, but his ankle was not getting any better. I knew I would eventually slow down, so we decided that I would go ahead alone. I made good time rolling on through to mile 55 where I told my brother that my pacer was somewhere out there. At this point, this thing had become epic. I moved on through to mile 60 in about 13 hours and 35 minutes, a little behind a 24 hour pace feeling great. I made into mile 68 at Porter’s Gap and my brother had linked back up with my pacer. He was done. So, I put on some running tights, ate a burrito, refilled bottles, drained a blood blister, and went off into the night to tackle the Pinnacle. Luckily, I like running alone at night in the woods. I am perfectly comfortable doing that.

Mile 69 to Mile 85

The wind was howling at about 30 mph. The temps were in the low 30’s to upper 20’s. Heading up to the Pinnacle on top of Horn Mountain is one of the iconic features of this race. For the first 3 miles or so, I ran strong. Once the climbs started, I began hiking up the 22 switchbacks to the aid station on top of the mountain. Anywhere that trail flattened out, I ran, but it didn’t flatten out much. I did not see another soul for these 5 miles up to the top of the mountain. The wind was relentless, and sometimes it was a good distance between trial markers. I figured as long as I was still going up I must be going in the right direction. I got in and out of the aid station quickly and headed on UP a “jeep road”. The term “jeep road” is not a good description for this section of the race. I think “rock strewn washout” would be a better one. This section was impossible to move with very much efficiency. It was slow going, and I began to notice my right shin hurting. I didn’t give the pain much thought and kept on moving up. Finally, I got onto another section of trail, which had quite a bit of rocks, but it was much better than the “road”. I came out of the woods at mile 80, drank some coffee, and moved on up another “jeep road” that I was able to run pretty well for about a ¼ of a mile before it got as bad as the other road. Meanwhile, the wind was still blowing relentlessly, and I was dealing with some chaffing and my shin. At this point, I began to see some folks, some were catching me and I was catching some. I turned onto the trail again around my 83 and ran a good section of this because it was a lot of downhill. This is the first section where you start to come down out of the mountains, but the mountains have not spit you out yet. I hit some very smooth, pine straw covered single track that led into the mile 85 aid station at Bull’s Gap. I started running a good pace again, finally. Right as I was about to come off the trail into the aid station, my right foot hit a sharp rock that tripped me and sent me sprawling onto a big clump of boulders. I thought I may have broken my jaw, but I was only cut on the jaw. I had told someone earlier in the race that I wasn’t a very good downhill runner because I didn’t do well at breaking. He said that made me a good downhill runner. My problem with downhill is that I have no brakes, and I am pretty clumsy. At the aid station, a guy with a Nestle Toll House cookie beanie on told me I was a good 90 minutes up on the cut off. So, my brother decided to run with me for the last 15 miles.

Mile 85 to Mile 100.59

Most of this section was road with some trail mixed in until you got to around mile 98 where you get to a highway and finally to the track at Sylacauga High School. We ran some; we walked a lot. We autographed a lady’s shirt at the mile 90 aid station. These last miles were really about reflecting on what had been accomplished. Physically, these things are difficult, but even more so, they are mentally and emotionally exhausting. A couple of times it took everything I had to keep from breaking down and sobbing like a baby. It wasn’t because I was tired, hurting, sad, or even happy. I was overcome with every emotion that I have ever had all at once somewhere between mile 90 and the finish. I only feel this way at the 100 mile distance. We eventually saw the stadium lights and saved enough to run on around the track to the finish where I received a hard earned belt buckle in 27:54, six minutes under goal time. We ate pancakes and drank a growler of Bell’s Oktoberfest with friends before I crashed out for a nap on the football field.
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  1. Old Comment
    WHW's Avatar
    Awesome effort. Congratulations!!!
    Posted November 14th, 2014 at 11:46 AM by WHW WHW is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Black Spurs's Avatar
    Thanks Mr. Warren. I figured you would like that belt buckle.
    Posted November 14th, 2014 at 02:29 PM by Black Spurs Black Spurs is offline
 

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