(Nov 2, 2013 – Nov 3, 2013)
We all have a story to tell about the ultra events we do. I must tell everyone mine. In October 2012, my training partner who had helped me get motivated and excited about running triathlons was trying to find some others to run his first 50k. He was signing up for Mt. Cheaha with another training buddy and was trying to convince me to do it with him. I had no interest in doing a 50k and at the time it seemed to be a terrifying challenge. But, I gave into the peer pressure and I registered. That was it. I was commited to running my first ultra event.
Fast forward a bit now to December 2012, I was hell bent to have the best marathon run of my life at the Rocket City Marathon. I had actually followed a training plan to some degree. I finished that race with a PR (3:29:59). At this point in my life, I really thought I was going to start a journey to train and complete an Ironman and maybe try and qualify for the Boston marathon.
All my training had basically been on roads. I managed to get out on the trails one or two times at the Monte Sano park before I traveled to the Talladega National Forest for packet pick up and pre-race dinner. Todd Henderson is the Mt. Cheaha race director and he really knows how to put on a race. He does a great job at all aspects of the race. At the end of the pasta dinner after the speaker, he gave away door prizes. I thought that was pretty cool. Some of the prizes were pretty good but as always, I have basically no luck and my ticket wasn’t getting drawn. We were about ready to pack it up and head to the hotel when Todd made a big deal that he had one last give away. It was a free entry to the Pinhoti 100 trail run. My kids were with me and I had given them my ticket to watch. Wouldn’t you know it, he calls out my number. My girls were so happy that I had won something. Of course, they don’t know what I’m getting. Todd had made a little speech to everyone prior to the drawing, asking anyone that couldn’t or wouldn’t actually run the race to just pass if their name was drawn. I would have never paid to run a 100 mile race at this point in my life. But, this one was going to be free. So, I got up and went to retrieve the pass from Todd. He looked at me and said, “Can you run a 100 miles?”. I asked him, “When is it?”. It was in November. I thought for a second and said, “Sure!”. In my head I was thinking that I have plenty of time to train for it. So, I took it. I took an entry to run a 100 mile race the night before I ran my first 50k.
Needless to say but I had a great time on the Mt. Cheaha 50k and finished it looking forward getting ready for Pinhoti. Everything I had read online was that you had to be logging 70-100 mile weeks to be successful in a 100 miler. My normal training volume was somewhere between 120-170 miles a month. Where would I find the time?
I really didn’t change a lot with my training. I did start running trails at least once a week. I registered for as many ultra events as I could. I even DNF’d one the September before Pinhoti. I DNF’d the Yeti Snakebit 50 miler at mile 31. It was hot and I didn’t do the right things to ensure I stayed hydrated. It was a good lesson for me to learn and I’m glad I learned it at that race. Over summer, I spent most of the summer trying to recover from injury. May, June, July and August was spent with me trying to recover from an injured calf. The injury prevented me from logging more than 100 miles a month. I did try and cross train on my bike. But, my volume wasn’t that much. After being injured all summer and DNFing the Yeti Snakebite I told my wife I wasn’t going to run Pinhoti. I ran the Cumberland Trail 50k three weeks before Pinhoti. I finished it feeling pretty good. I was still undecided about running Pinhoti. My wife had given up on me. She had made other plans the weekend of the race that would prevent her from helping me race weekend. This meant if I did run it, I would be running it on my own.
About a week before the race, I just suddenly decided that I was going to do it. My training was NOT ideal but when is it ever ideal. Everything I read emphasized that a 100 miler is as much mental as physical. I can do mental and I knew I could. If I didn’t get anything else from my six years in the USMC I did get some mental toughness.
Pre Race Preparation: Since my wife wasn’t going to be helping me (crewing), I knew I had to prepare. I had to get my drop bags ready and I had to find a place to stay. Todd does this cool thing where he let’s runners sleep at the recreation center for $10 the night before a race. So, that solved that problem. Next, was preparing drop bags. I carefully planned the entire race. I used the elevation profile and tried to play through the race to make sure I had the right stuff in each drop bag. In my head, after packing the drop bags, I was as ready as I could be.
Packet Pickup and Pre-Race Dinner … I got my packet, found out which part of the floor I could sleep on, put my drop bags in their proper piles and I settled in for a great pasta meal. It was a full house. Lots of folks stuck around for the drawing and speaker. It was a good time.
After the dinner, everyone that wasn’t sleeping at the recreation center headed out. I got comfortable on my sleeping pad and got my head on straight. If I recall, we had to board the bus that took us to the start at 4am. I believe I got up at 3:15am and packed up all my gear. It was time to run a 100 miler. I used a the Katoa hydration belt. I started the race in my oldest pair of Hokas (Stinson Evo). I had CEP compression socks. Standard long run preparation gear. Bandaids on my nipples and I was coated up with Body Glide on all the spots that require that sorta thing. Because I regularly get a raw spot or a blister on my right big toe and sometimes on my achilles. I put moleskin on the sensitive spots in hopes of delaying the sure to come pain.
I slept as much as I could on the bus ride to the start. When we got off the bus, it was freezing cold. I didn’t have anything but a short sleeve shirt own and I hadn’t brought anything else. I knew when we started running it would warm up pretty quick. But, that didn’t change the fact that I was freezing. Todd got on the back of his truck and gave us a little race briefing and got us started.
I remember during the first 15-30 minutes after the start what was going through my head. A frightening reality set in that I was going to be running a 100 miles and that it was going to take at least a day. It was amazing how that thought process ensured I didn’t push myself to much at any given time. I had a mental goal to make 50 miles in 12 hours. I had told myself if I could do that, I was certain I could finish the race before the 30 hour cutoff. I wish had had vivid memories of each aid station. I’ve tried to recall specific details but I don’t. There are certain moments when I relaxed that I recall my surroundings. But for the most part, I was so focused on all the things I had to do to be successful I missed much of the course. My wife had insisted that I take some pictures and I’m really glad I did.
Things I Did To Ensure Success …
Hydration: After my DNF at the Yeti Snakebite 50 miler, I was prepared for the day. I knew that the sun was going to warm things up a bit and I needed to make sure I stayed hydrated. I drank a 20oz bottle of water every 30 minutes. I did this all day. When it cooled down and got dark, I cut back to about one bottle every hour. Also, I never refilled my bottles with water. I always refilled with Heed.
Electrolytes: I took 2-3 S-Caps every hour.
Nutrition: I ate Roctane GU for the first 40 miles with some chips, potatoes and other aid station food but I had to completely quit taking GU after mile 40. At the Bald Rock aid station I ate a hot dog while I changed my shoes. It was freaking awesome!