My first hundred mile race: Pinhoti 100

The first time I had even heard of someone running 100 miles was during my first marathon at the age of 16 when I met a woman who was using my big race as a training run. I remember being somewhat skeptical and a little annoyed. “Now that’s just crazy. I would never do that.” Just four years later I ended up running a 50 miler and still list that as one of my top most painful experiences, up there with childbirth, appendicitis and the two times I’ve broken my wrist. Naturally, I told myself that I would never do that again. Now I realize that denial is just the first stage of ultra-running. If you don’t want to run an ultra, you probably shouldn’t use the word “never”.

Shortly after running my first marathon post-kids, I caught the 100 mile bug and I caught it bad. I mentioned it to my husband and he just rolled his eyes with a smile and said he knew it was coming some day. I called my mom hoping she would talk some sense into me and maybe remind me that I’m a stay at home mom with no time to train for a marathon, let alone a 100 mile race. Instead, I could sense her nodding in support as she said, “Ok. When?” Everyone I turned to for the voice of logic and reason told me that they were completely supportive and that they would do whatever they could to help – they’d watch the kids, crew me, even pace me. The same night I talked to Matt about how we could afford it he made me this blog and suggested I look for sponsors. When I asked how we’d make time for me to train with his busy schedule, he made a plan with me and assured me that we’d make it work. And when I found the race I was sure I wanted to do, he registered me before I could stop him. My family and friends totally surrounded me with support and I owe every bit of my success to them.

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My brother in law planted a rose bush almost twenty years ago and it continues to bloom at special times in life. This beautiful flower bloomed right before my race.

Finally Race Day

After a restless night of tossing and turning, I finally accepted that I wasn’t going to sleep anymore and got up at 2:45am. It had been loudly storming all night long and at least now it was just raining. Soon enough my mom, older sister and I headed to the race start. The course had been changed slightly due to the tremendous amount of rain and runners were now to start at Aid Station 2, backtrack to Aid Station 1 and then turn around and follow the course normally. Muddy roads and a collapsed bridge meant Aid stations 4, 6 and 13 would now be unmanned water stops. The weather wasn’t going to make things any easier but I was just going to have to roll with it. I did worry about how hard it would make things for my kids and for my family, after all, I might need them to crew me in the future!

First 13 miles – My stomach was churning and I could already hear my heart pounding I was so nervous. I just wanted to get out there and do it already! We all lined up and the race started somewhat anticlimactically, like most ultra-runs. I quickly joined the conga line of runners on the single track, occasionally chatting with the people in front and behind me. This section included lots of waiting and walking, awkwardly passing people and awkwardly getting passed. The trail surface was covered in cushy pine straw which was pretty much like running on butterflies and rainbows (but with the occasional rock or root hiding under the leaf litter to bring you back to reality). We went up and down moderate rolling hills and hit a few little creek crossings that could mostly be jumped across. I enjoyed the gorgeous fall colors and the occasional views overlooking the Talladega National Forest, what we could see through the rain and distant fog anyway. Some kind volunteer was standing in the middle of the path directing everyone around a hornet’s nest. A little over an hour in and we were having to get out of the way for the faster runners who had already hit the aid station and turned around. The side-stepping definitely slowed things down for everyone but it was nice to cross paths once again with some of the friends I had met on this journey and say hi. It was also pretty impressive to see the clusters of runners near the front, competing for the top spots and clearly giving a good effort so soon into the race – I am not one of those runners. Around this time I also started noticing much faster runners passing me on occasion and only realized later that they had gotten lost at a critical intersection of trail and Forest Service Road. The course had been marked well for the normal direction but was never changed to accommodate the direction shift. I thankfully did not get lost here but can imagine the frustration of getting off track so early in the race. Eventually I got close enough to the aid station that I could smell foods the runners had eaten when they passed by. When I got to the aid station I may have shouted, “I knew I smelled Doritos!”, grabbed some fruit instead and headed right back out. The crowds had thinned a little and I got into smaller groups of runners, chatting here and there and having fun guessing people’s accents and where they were from. I was a little concerned at how far that 6.57 miles felt in relation to the entire distance but I didn’t dwell on it. After about 2 hours, I was experiencing my usual muscle soreness and my feet and ankles were strangely tender from all the off-trail side stepping. I reminded myself to focus on getting to Aid Station 2 where I’d see my mom and sister.

Mile 13 to Mile 18 – I started heading down the hill toward Aid Station 2 and was already starting to choke up a little, thinking about my family supporting me and still nervous about the enormity of the task ahead. I was almost glad for the out-and-back because I was able to use the porta-potties at Aid Station #2 again. I grabbed some grapes from my mom and sister and got back on course, crossing over a bridge and hopping over a metal guardrail back onto single track. While I was still eating, I smelled that someone had used the bathroom too close to the trail and I completely lost it. I threw up and dry heaved for 5 minutes as I apologized to passing runners. I anticipated that I might get sick in the later stages of the race but not after the first half marathon! Thankfully that was the last of me getting sick but I was worried it was the start to a long day and grapes were no longer a food option. I had already committed that I was going to continue until the “sweeper or the reaper” got me so I kept going. It was a little disheartening to get passed so frequently through this section but I hoped the sickness would pass eventually. I shifted my focus to the beautiful trail and knew it would be just a few short miles before I’d see my crew again. When I saw my mom and sister at mile 18, they handed me a cup of warm food with a piece of bread and walked with me along the stretch of road. I didn’t feel like eating but forced it down anyways. The car was on the way so they asked if I’d like to quickly change my wet shoes. “This soon in the race? Nah, I’ll be fine.” But thankfully they were pretty convincing and the combination of the dry shoes and the warm food helped lift my spirits and I left in a much better state.

Mile 18 to mile 27 – During this section I started feeling better and stopped feeling so nervous. I think my body finally realized, “Yep, we’re going to be here all day.” The shoe change was pleasant but didn’t last long as this was the start of many stream crossings. There were so many creeks and streams it was difficult to imagine that in years past, people had finished the entire race without getting their feet wet. I went out of my way to keep my feet from being submerged for as long as possible and then somewhere around mile 20 the water was too deep for that to be possible. Several creeks were actually scary to cross with slick rocks and fast-moving water.

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One of many creek crossings. Or can we just call this a river?

Throughout this section I occasionally ran with a group of three – Mark, Theresa and Shannon – who were very upbeat and fun to be with. Mark and Theresa sang “Uptown Funk” word for word and several other catchy songs, with Mark getting so into that he’d turn around at times to emphasize the highlights. At one point we passed a waterfall and Mark made a joke about chasing waterfalls and then sang that song too. It was cracking me up and it was really encouraging to see some genuinely happy people. I’d ask Theresa for stats on the course and talked to Shannon about interesting races, bog bodies and other perfectly normal stuff. Soon enough, we hit the unmanned water station at mile 22 in place of the usual aid station and filled up.

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My happy trail friends: Shannon, Theresa and Mark

A little ways down the trail, my foot got caught in a root and I landed on my hands and knees in some mud. I laughed at how absurd I must look as I washed off in the next creek crossing (which was of course not far). Then the trail took a tiny out-and-back to the Lake Morgan Aid Station, which involved a river crossing and a climb up the side of a waterfall. It was an awesome aid station put on by BUTS, the Birmingham Ultra Trail Society. It would be another 7.5 miles until the next water stop and the race director had asked that people only fill up as needed at that next stop so that the later runners would have some too. Well I got so excited picking out all of the pineapple gummy bears that I just forgot to fill up my water, a really stupid mistake that could have ruined my race. I can’t believe I’m saying this but luckily for me it started pouring (instead of just raining), cooling me enough that I didn’t end up needing that refill.

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The waterfall going into the Morgan Lake Aid Station

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At first glance I thought I might have to go through the lake…

Miles 27-41 – I had some alone time which I really appreciated at the time as I enjoyed the beautiful course and the soft trail. I turned on some podcasts which I had picked out ahead of time. First I listened to a podcast about public beheadings, then one about unusual insect mating behaviors, and finally one about Martin Pistorius, a man who had been trapped in his body for 13 years, fully aware of his surroundings while unable to communicate or move in any way. As I listened and ran I cried and cried for this man. It was pretty fitting when at the end of this particular podcast the steady drizzle turned into a complete downpour and I just had to laugh at the image of myself, tears and rainwater flowing down my face. I could taste the sweat running off my face and thought it was pretty funny that I was able to get a shower after my first 50k – not many races provide such luxury. The rain got so loud I couldn’t hear my podcast anymore so I turned it off and just ran. I ended back up with the group of three happy runners and hit the unmanned water stop (also normally an aid station) just before the climb up to Bald Rock. I had read that this section isn’t as hard as the elevation profile makes it look so I think I underestimated it a little. In truth, the climbs were never that steep and there were even sections of this that I ran… but it was still pretty dang hard. The gradual incline just went on forever. Most of the runners in years past had been able to get through this section before dark but with the later start time and the time change, it got dark before 5:00. I was glad I had brought my two lights, especially as the fog made it difficult to see the trail at times. Everyone was struggling to find the course markers but I was using a handheld light (plus I’m young yet) so I led the way for some of it. I talked with a woman for awhile who had clearly fallen in the mud but was unphased. I told her I could tell this wasn’t her first hundred miler and that if I had to guess she’d probably run quite a few. She laughed and admitted that she indeed had run quite a few. After getting our hopes up and let down a few times and hearing some unexplained loud noises in the distance we did eventually made it to the top. In the daytime the view is beautiful but all we could see was the giant rock we were standing on and fog. We had to shuffle along, holding some pine trees to make sure we didn’t fall off the edge.

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Normal view from Bald Rock

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View from Bald Rock this year (picture from Mann Conrad)

The trail comes right out on the boardwalk and I was so excited because my family was just at the end of it, only a quarter mile away. Woot woot! As we got closer, Mark called out to his gang, “Caa-Caaaw!!!” and his crew called back excitedly. It was hilarious yet effective and I am totally stealing this idea in the future. I soon saw my family and my nephews gave me a high five. It felt great to see so many familiar faces! I was a little behind the time I had planned to get there but was still going strong and I knew that even if things got rough, my family would figuratively “carry” me through the finish as I would have a pacer from here on out. I got to use a real toilet and did a complete clothing change to prepare for the colder weather, all the while trying to remember not to flash people (all modesty goes out the window in a race like this). My crew got me everything I needed like a NASCAR pit stop in a true Talladega Night – shake and bake baby!

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Here’s me coming into the aid station, looking like a drowned rat. But the highlight of this picture is the pot roast my father in law is holding.

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Gold bond on the feet.

Miles 41-45 with my Mom! – We walked briskly down the road as I ate the highlight food of my race: delicious pot roast with potatoes and juicy, greasy gravy (with a side of french bread)!!! My inlaws had made me this very meal after a particularly difficult marathon and I probably ate four helpings of it and then grossed them out when I ate and drank it for breakfast. I asked if they would prepare the same meal for my hundred miler and it was easily one of the best decisions I have ever made. My mom and I walked with my father-in-law as I ate and then we stole his light for the next section, making him walk back to his camper in the dark. We started jogging on down the road until we hit the section known from another race as “Blue Hell”. This stretch would have been difficult on a normal day but add rain, fog, darkness, and the erosion caused by more than 100 runners before us, things got a little intense. My mom fell three times and she so bravely kept telling me not to worry about her. After the rockiest section was over, there was a section of “trail” that was essentially a mudslide that dropped off about 15 feet and was probably about as wide. People were scattered around trying to find the next trail marker, calling out to each other. One runner lost her balance and slid down the embankment, reaching up her hand for help. “Yeah, this is a little crazy” I thought as I pulled her up, glad she wasn’t out there alone. Shortly after that we hit a creek crossing. I only made it a mile with dry feet but it was a lovely mile. Eventually the trail calmed down and dumped out at Lake Cheaha. I wasted some time to use the real bathroom there because it would be my last chance to flush a toilet. We continued on and it was nice to have seen the road section the night before to give us an idea of what was ahead. We ran the easy 1.3 mile road section then turned onto 1.3 miles of gravel trail, running almost the whole way until the next aid station. My mom did great! We rolled into the Silent Trail Aid Station and I was feeling very fresh and peppy from all the pampering at the Bald Rock Aid Station and the time with my mom. I met local volunteer James Mink who follows my blog and had awesomely offered to pace me! (Maybe next year he will be running it?!) All of the volunteers at this aid station were great, they whisked off my water bottles and had me on my way in no time.

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During the race Linden got a “Monster” ice cream (that’s Sponge Bob, by the way) and he is still talking about it!

Miles 45-55 with my brother-in-law Jeremy! – I seriously had so much fun on this section! We talked about interesting stuff for awhile: differential treatment of children based on attractiveness, that coma guy again, bog bodies again, HOW MANY CREEK CROSSINGS THERE WERE. We ran strong through this section and I didn’t feel like we were lolly-gagging or wasting any time but it still took us 3 hours and 45 minutes to go 10 miles. The only explanation I can think of for why it took us so long is that we had to slow so much for all of the creek crossings, one of which was thigh deep. We passed several people and didn’t get passed so that was at least encouraging. Jeremy then turned on some music that he had picked out and it was a lot of fun. He made me try to sing the lyrics to the Hula Hula boys, “Ha’ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana”, and on another song we howled along to Werewolves of London, “Aaaooooo!” We hit the 52 mile aid station and it was awesome. They had vegan options and bacon options but the bacon was warm and the bacon was delicious and I ate a lot of bacon. Jeremy thought it was hilarious that they had so many alcoholic options, including a kind called turkey trot, and joked that he might have to run the three miles back to this party. We shoved food in our faces and continued on, excited that we only had 3 miles until the next aid station. But… this section took an hour and 15 minutes. I couldn’t understand how it took us that long except now I see on the elevation profile that it was mostly uphill. I got disheartened that I was going so slow and this was the start of my mood shift where I started getting crabby. I also realize now that even though I was full from all of the bacon I needed more simple carbohydrates too. Just to be clear, I do not regret the bacon, I just should have thought to have some fruit to go with it.

Miles 55-65 with my older sis Tiffany! – I was very excited to join up with my sister Tiffany, and it signified a step closer to the finish line. I didn’t even stop at the aid station, I just grabbed what I needed from my crew and headed out. This section was mostly gravel fire roads with not very many course flags and a lot of uphill. I had picked up my sister’s trekking poles for this section not realizing we were going to be on the gravel fire roads for so much of it. They ended up being more work then they were worth but it was still a change and that’s worth something. This is probably too much information but from here on out I kept having the feeling that I had to pee, to the point that I started worry if something was wrong. One particular time I turned off my light and went off trail. I told my sister to tell the upcoming runners that I was going to the bathroom and to tell them to look the other way but unfortunately she is deaf so she instinctively turned and looked at me to ask what I had said, accidentally spotlighting me. Haha – oops! Trail running is such a graceful sport. Onward we went, up and up the very moderate grade hills that seemed to last forever. The trail markers seemed really far apart which my sister suggested was probably because they were put up by someone in a car who didn’t realize how far apart they seemed on foot. There wasn’t really anywhere else to turn though so we kept on keeping on, eventually hitting our first aid station, grabbed some soda and continued. We went about 2 more miles on the boring gravel road and then turned back on the soft, pine covered trail. Somewhere on this section I stubbed my big toe which made me cranky and I felt earned me a little walk break. I thought I was just being a baby but a week later and it still hurts and that nail is going to fall off (that walk break was justified!).

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Uh-oh… Somebody left some selfies on my camera.

Before the race I had written some “crew-tips” with things I like to hear when running and things I didn’t want to hear. It really meant a lot to me that my family was following my instructions to the letter and sometimes would quote things verbatim, like, “Every step is one step closer to the finish line!” At one point I said, “Well, I guess I have been out here for almost 18 hours, I suppose it is understandable that I am tired.” And Tiffany responded, “Well you still have 10 more to go. OH NO, I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY BIG NUMBERS!” I’m cracking up thinking about it. My sister did amazing! Of my entire family, she put in the most miles training for her pacing section and she did great. I was sucking wind unfortunately and wasn’t in the best mood (sorry Tiff! Not your fault!).

Soon enough we got to the next section which was crew only and I saw someone that looked like my friend Sarah ringing a cowbell (turns out it was my friend Sarah, oops). We could hear the train but I didn’t see it so I booked it past the tracks. It was nice to see my husband, who I was seeing for the first time during the race, and he whisked me to the crew car where I ate some chocolate and changed out my shoes as quickly as possible. I may have snapped at my younger sister that I didn’t want her to have hurt feelings if I accidentally snapped at her. Oh the drama of running 100 miles!

Mile 65-68 with my younger sister Hannah! – My sister Hannah is a very strong walker who on a normal day can power walk almost as fast as I can jog. We had already planned to power hike her entire section, thinking it would only be slightly slower then my planned pace anyway and giving me a short break. Only she took off and left me in the dust! I was still in a funk (sorry Hannah! Also not your fault!) and just kind of yelled “Waaaiit!” I think she had been so worried about slowing me down that she didn’t think about the possibility that I could struggle to keep up with her! The hill took us 20 minutes to climb up at a decent pace so it was probably at least a mile long. Then we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor and head back down, knowing we would get to the aid station in just a short time. We talked about how the day had gone and funny things our kids had said and just talked the time away. We had planned on jamming out but it was still raining pretty heavily, I had gloves on, it was dark and the music player was in a plastic bag.. it just didn’t work out. I was pretty bummed too because until the Pinhoti I have never listened to music during a run and I had made a pretty sweet playlist just for the race. In case you were curious, my playlist included songs, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Everything is Awesome!” (from the Lego Movie), “I Would Walk 500 Miles” and some other good ones but oh well! It was nice to spend time with my family during these sections, even when I was cranky, and the change-ups really helped to pass the time. Soon enough we came in to Chandler Springs. Matt expected to just send me on my way since I had just seen him but I needed to get out of my funk and I was really cold from the constant rain. I noticed that my fingers were pruny, that’s how bad it was. So, I got kind of bossy and asked for my very specific change of clothes. I dressed myself in 100% wool everything, wool bra, wool underwear, wool long sleeve pants and a wool long sleeve shirt. Unlike many other fabrics, wool can keep you warm even when it is wet and I truly think this change of clothes saved my race. Many people struggled with hypothermia while I was pretty comfortable temperature wise for the remainder of the race. I should note that I normally don’t wear that outfit unless it is below freezing, so even though it was still around 50 degrees outside, the combination of wind, rain and the difficulty of regulating body temperature after running 68 miles made it feel much colder outside.

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Matt made this awesome sign so I could find my crew in the dark.

Miles 68 – 95 with my friend Sarah! – My friend Sarah drove over 5 hours to come pace me during this race. Even though we have never hung out in any normal social situation because I have kids and she works and goes to school full time, we have run over 100 miles together in random training runs, including when I paced her at Thunder Rock. At this point we know each other pretty well and run together pretty well and I could not have asked for a better pacer during the toughest part of the course. After my change of clothes I started feeling better and felt like I was running pretty strong. I thought we should be coming up on Pinnacle but it seemed like we had already gone the distance to the next aid station. When we realized that we still had to do Pinnacle we knew were going to have to pick up the pace or risk missing the cut-off times. I had read from race reports that this was probably the hardest climb of the entire course. I’m glad we were mentally prepared for this section as we climbed 22 switchbacks within earshot of the aid station the entire time. Sarah found me a couple of good climbing sticks as I hiked up and I joked that I was a wizard commanding the hills to do my bidding… things get weird after running for more than 20 hours. To distract me, Sarah told me her daily routine in exact detail (and I mean exact detail) and somehow it worked. Of course all good and bad things must come to an end and we finally came up on the Pinnacle Aid Station with “Can’t Touch This” playing loudly. I was so pumped! I knew we were close to the cut-off times so I just shouted that I was feeling great, feeling pumped and was going to continue on but also how long until cut-off time? They told me I was only two minutes before the cutoff but that I was looking strong so they would let me continue. Woot woot! Sarah got me some coke from the aid station and told me to keep going. The excitement soon wore off as I realized how hard it would be to make up time and that I might really not make the cut-off times. I had already determined that IF that happened, I would officially DNF and continue on the course as a civilian, without using the aid stations and with my family crewing me. If they weren’t going to let me do that, I would just wait until the aid station packed up and continue on anyway. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that and I have Sarah to thank for that.

We continued on and Sarah warned me that I wouldn’t be able to slack off at any point if I wanted to make the cut-offs. I still felt like a had to pee all the time, even right after I would go. Sarah told me that I’d have to start holding it longer and that I wasn’t allowed to pee until the next aid station. I think I snuck off trail a few times anyway but probably not as often as I would have so in the end it was for the best.

I know that your perception of time and mileage seems longer when you are tired but the next section just seemed to go on forever! We kept thinking the climbing should eventually stop and we’d start the downhill section. We came across the occasional runner and Sarah would stay back for a minute or two and see if they needed anything, giving one man her extra poncho. We talked about how awesome it would be when the sun came up in just another hour or so and how soon I’d get to see Matt. We passed several people here and it was tough thinking that every person we passed would most likely not make the cut-offs. The sun came up on time and it revealed just how beautiful it was outside! It definitely helped take the edge of running for 80+ miles. There were a few overlooks that I wished I could stop at and enjoy but I was on a schedule. I don’t remember the next aid station because Sarah didn’t let me stop at it. She told me not to say a word about the cutoffs just to run and she would catch up. I mean, she is seriously the best pacer ever. I actually got pretty far ahead because we hit a long downhill section and I felt pretty good that I could still move at a decent clip considering what I had put my body through. She filled my water bottles and brought me some coke (how she held all of that while running I will never know) and got me a few more hiking sticks for the next climbs. At one point I thought the climbing was over and I chucked the sticks into the woods like a javelin thrower – hyyyaaah! I’ll admit that was pretty fun… until we turned the corner and saw a few more climbs. “Oops..” Looking back on it, Sarah was extremely patient with me.

Sarah kept making me eat (which was definitely for the best) and I really didn’t want to or feel like it. She handed me a few pretzels and like a toddler I spit them out “Blech!” She tried them and told me that they were fine and handed me a few more. Nope, they were still disgusting and I just looked her straight in the eyes as I tossed them dramatically over my shoulder. I was a real brat! Another time she handed me a piece of bread and when she wasn’t looking I chucked it into the woods. She turned and looked at me, shaking her head, “I saw that!”

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Another creek crossing from earlier in the race

On a particularly long and boring hill Sarah told me we I had to think of a plant that started with the letter A and then she would do the letter B and so on. This was a good distraction but at times my mind went blank and I used a different category instead. I was supposed to think of something for the letter N and I just shouted NOPE. She looked at me all sassy and so I thought of something else. It really did help pass the time and I was thankful for it.

Soon enough we were back on the single track, making our way up and over the final big climb. Sarah told me that I would have to really push the pace if I wanted to make it in time and I knew she was right. I started jogging some of the ups and when we crested the hill, I picked up the pace and ran as fast as my legs would carry me until we hit the aid station. I was sniffling like a baby and had tears streaming down my face as I realized how far the aid station was and how little time I had to get there. I saw my mom, Matt and Melissa standing on the trail cheering me on (and could tell they were a tad emotional too) and they joined in behind me as I continued running to the aid station. When we got to the Aid Station the man told me to get back out there because I was only two minutes ahead of the cut-off times and they probably wouldn’t allow anyone else to pass through there. Sarah told me later that I had probably put in a few 9 minute miles at this point which is not bad for having run 85 miles. I would not have pushed that hard if Sarah wasn’t there encouraging me and I completely credit her with my success during that section. She filled up my bottles and got me more soda as Matt fed me some avocado, bacon and marshmallow cream (don’t judge, it was delicious!). I had read somewhere that 100% of the people who made it to the mile 85 aid station finished the race and I felt slightly relieved that we had passed this landmark. I still worried that we would have to push the pace for the rest of the way and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up. There was nothing left but to do it.

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Thanks to their Mimi and Papaw, these cuties were having fun even in the rain!

The next ten miles were on gravel forest roads so they were somewhat boring as far as scenery goes but there were no creek crossings and no hidden rocks or roots. Even though each mile hurt, running was simple and the miles passed more quickly without the constant obstacles to contend with. I got extremely whiny here and Sarah put up with my crap like a champ. She would literally push me at times. On some of the more ridiculous hills she let me lean on her shoulder to close my eyes. I don’t really remember too much about this section except that it was a roller coaster of ups and downs, emotionally and in truth. We saw some runners in the distance and used them as motivation to catch up. Sarah reminded me that the next aid station would bring us to the single digits. We were getting into the home stretch! I was really going to finish this thing! It was still windy and wet outside but after more than 25 hours of constant rain, it had finally stopped!  We talked with some runners, one of which recognized me from my race report.

The final miles with my husband Matt – Even though it felt like forever, we did eventually see my crew again! I had just run over 93 miles and I would get to finish this beast with my husband by my side. There was confusion about where we were but we knew we had 2 hours to go 5-7 miles! I was so excited to see Matt and I had fun for the first mile or two, even as tired as I was. I knew at this point that I was going to finish the race and I finally let myself think about being done. I also decided that I didn’t have to eat anymore because I was so close to the finish. Both of these were huge mistakes that left me extremely moody and emotional in the final miles. The single hour I went without food caught up to me and I started becoming so irrationally cranky and whiny. I would cry saying things like, “I just want to be done.” “I just want a nap.” “When are we going to get to the rooooad?”. Then just like that I would be fine again for a minute or two, then back to cranky. I was a hot mess and I am embarrassed for anyone who saw me in that state, I’m not sure I have ever been that ridiculous in my whole life. Thankfully my husband was expecting this and wasn’t offended but even in the moment I was kicking myself for being such a wimp. Matt recognized that part of the problem was that I was hungry and made me eat a few olives but I kept thinking about how much better pizza and hot wings would be.

We finally did get to the road and I asked a man there how far it was to the finish. He said that it was exactly four miles once we got to the turn. I had a brief moment of excitement and then got cranky again when I decided that it felt like a mile before we even got to the turn. To account for some of the course changes in the beginning (which I think only cut out like .26 miles), an extra mile was added to the road section. These stretches of road were so demoralizing. The road just continued straight forever with seemingly no end in sight. I tried to run to every other power line, walking in between, but even this was proving to a challenge. More sobbing like a baby and uncontrollable whining. We saw a school sign and I got my hopes up… until we realized it was the elementary school. Then we saw more school signs and realized it was the middle school. UUUGGGHH, when can I be done?! I look at my watch and saw that I had been running for 29 hours and 30 minutes. I had to be close or I was going to miss the cut-offs. I kept thinking I would turn the corner and see the lights to the stadium and after enough times of being wrong it really happened! Some guy asked Matt if we were running a marathon and for some reason this gave me my 99th wind and I shuffled as fast I could toward the finish line.

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Suddenly the weight of the race was lifted and I knew that all of the hard work I had put in was coming to an end. My goal was to cross the finish line with a smile and boy was I smiling – I surprised myself and literally jumped for joy! Looking now at my finish line picture, I’m still like, “Dang, I don’t think I can even jump that high on a normal day.” After 29 hours and 41 minutes of constant forward motion, I was DONE. I shook race director Todd Henderson’s hand and took my belt buckle, a throwback to the times when hundred mile races were just for horses. Over 250 had signed up for the race, something like 220 toed the starting line and only 133 finished. I was the 131st finisher but I was a finisher. This was the longest Pinhoti to date, let’s say over 101 miles, and in the worst conditions the race has seen.

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I wanted to finish the race with a smile on my face! I think I did it guys.

It was an amazing experience. I’m so glad my family encouraged me and joined me – I will always hold such fond memories of this race and our time together. My kids had a blast with their Mimi and Papaw and my son Linden is still talking about his “Monster Ice Cream” he got (the one that was actually Sponge Bob)!

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This is only half of my motley crew!

I cannot thank my family and friends enough for all that you put up with! Thank you especially to my Mom, my Dad, Jeremy, Tiffany, Hannah and her kiddos, my parents-in-law Betty and Paul, my friend Melissa, my friend Sarah and my ridiculously supportive husband, Matt. I know people say this all the time, but I truly could not have accomplished this race without you guys. Crewing is no joke and can be just as hard as the actual running, especially when you thrown in a few toddlers and constant rain.

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The walk of pain.

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Blisters on all my fat toes but that’s pretty minimal damage for what I put them through.

I’ve been tempted to say that I’ll never run another hundred mile race again but I know how ultra-running works and no one believes me anyway so let’s just say that I most likely won’t be running another one anytime soon.

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4 thoughts on “My first hundred mile race: Pinhoti 100

  1. Glad I finally got to read this. In awe. It definitely brought me back to my 100 finish earlier this year. The fact that yours was such crappy weather shows the extra effort. It would have proved too easy otherwise! That is a motto of mine. When shit happens, just think of it as an extra challenge so that you can brag to yourself more 🙂

    I’ll have to try the audio podcast listening sometime – good idea. And very interesting topics – probably stuff id listen to also. Sounds like your long distance pacer was amazing and really knew what u needed. Food and water are critical. I like have to constantly eat real food. 100’s are eating and drinking contests with running mixed in!

    I have a set of questions for u. When I was in a similar position at my 100, I found that after mile 50 and then especially after mile ~75 that I had to own and keep track of my pace and mileage so that i didn’t slip behind cutoff. It was critical in me finishing, and my pacer (though helping tremendouly in other ways) didn’t push my pace. Did u worry about your cutoffs? calculate your pace? Speed it up or slow it down dependent on what was needed. I had a GPS on my phone which gave me a way to track it pretty good. Or, were you more flying by seat of your pants and guessing on aid station entry times? Or something in between?

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    • Thank you! There were a lot of psychological similarities between our first hundred milers (only you had to suffer for quite a bit longer!). Podcasts are such a pick me up, you definitely need to find a few and try it out. My pacer, Sarah, was the sweeper at the BFC! She has run 8 or 9 hundos, getting first place female at Arkansas Traveler a couple years ago. She definitely knows her stuff! Neither of us were wearing a GPS watch unfortunately. I think that would have helped me in the middle miles to realize how slow I was going. On the other hand it may have just been depressing. I’d like to wear my watch during a race sometime, I stopped wearing it after I broke my wrist.

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