My 2013 Pinhoti 100 race was more of a learning lesson than anything else. It was a lesson about myself, about my gear, about my family and my friends. I didn’t finish the race, but I walked away feeling great and even more confident. I would have never expected my race to end the way it did, but I’d like to think that I’m a better runner and person for completed what I did.
Prior to this years Pinhoti 100, I got a Facebook message from Kelley Wells asking me if she could crew for me since she was unable to run due to an injured hip. I immediately said yes was excited to have someone else at the race as I was originally planning on running it unassisted and using only drop-bag for my gear. Then I got an unexpected surprise that one of my running heros, Joe Fejes would be joining along too!
I drove my truck to Columbia and picked up an exhausted Kelley before heading to Sylacauga, AL for packet pick up and the pre-race dinner. Kelley just got off a three day night-shift rotation was slept most of the way as I chipped away at the 6 hour drive ahead of us. We rolled into the Sylacauga Rec Center as packet pick up was kicking off. I grabbed my bib, #253 and then we settled in for the pre-race dinner and briefing.
We met up with Dan Hernanadez, Bren Thompkins, Karen Jackson, Brian Reddish and a slew of other local runners and their crew. After a big pasta dinner and some good pre-race information from RD Todd, we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel and get everything laid out and set up for the morning. Joe Fejes was running late after a long day of traveling home, but he rolled in and we all crashed.
Bright and early at 2:30am the alarm went off and we were all up and ready to go. Then Kelley walked in the room white as a ghost. “You locked the keys in the car, didn’t you” I said. 20 Minutes later we were on our way to the start. A quick Waffle House stop and a few missed turns we rolled up to the start (from the wrong direction) with 15 minutes to spare before the raced started. I said my quick good byes and headed to the start. I finally got to meet Tim Worden and took a few quick pictures with Lara and Tiana.
The race kicked off right on time and the masses quickly aligned single file into a kanga-line as we headed out on the single track. I was able to grab Lara’s arm and pull he in front of me as the trail shrunk down and we clipped away the frist few miles together.
The aid stations burned away one after another. Kelley and Joe met me at every station ready to keep me rolling onto the next. My race was right on track and I was well ahead of the 24 hour cut-off pace and feeling great. As I rolled into the 13 mile aid station my stomach gave out and I tossed my cookies as I climbed up the waterfall into the aid station. I told Joe and he soaked my shirt in ice water along with my bandana. That turned me around quickly and I was back on my way.
Everything was great. My body felt good, I was eating right and taking in enough fluids. I was having the race of my life and having fun doing it! The temperature was starting to drop as the sun went down so I began adding layers and grabbed my headlamp and headed out from mile 65 heading over the shortest leg of the day. Just prior to reaching the 68 mile aid station I ran into Andy on the trail heading the opposite direction as he was heading out to meet up with Bo. I asked him if he had an extra headlamp and a jacket I could borrow as mine was burning out and I needed some additional layers on before I headed up Pinnacle.
Andy gave me a long sleeve shirt, jacket, pants and a neck sleeve and the lamp off his head and I was heading out. Within a few feet up the trail, the lamp began flashing three times fast and little did I know, but that meant the lamp was about to die. Before long I found myself in complete darkness, trying to follow what I thought was the course through the woods and over rocks. I tried to stay on course as long as possible before completely getting myself lost.
Not wanting to lose any time I decided to backtrack and try to find my way to the course. I was officially lost. I went left. I went right. I went up and I slid down a lot. I could not find a blaze, a flag or anything! At this point my emotions began to get the best of me and at one point I considered burying myself with leaves until the morning and walked out when the sun came out. But before I set up my bed I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Where the F$%# are all the damn headlamps!!!” and still no reply. At this point I knew that I was trying to get up Pinnacle so I decided to just start climbing up, but I had no idea what side of the Mountain I was on but I couldn’t just stay where I was and freeze.
Almost four hours had past since I left the last aid station and then I finally heard the sounds of boomin’ bass coming from the top of the mountain. That HAD to be the aid station! I continued to traverse the side of the mountain sliding down as much as I was going up before I feet landed on a very flat section of trail. TRAIL!!!! My gut immediately said go left and that is when I saw it, a bright orange flag under a tree with a big blaze right at eye level! Not to much longer after that I saw a poster board that hung on the side of a tree that said the aid station was only a ½ mile away. That half mile felt like a life time.
Once I got in the BUTS guys got me some warm soup, fresh batteries and I was back on my way. At the point I was still 30 minutes ahead of the cut-off time and didn’t want to waste another minute. My legs were now cold and my body was very stiff from not moving much over the last few hours but I refused to give up.
I continued to press on until the 85 mile mark when I rolled in just past the 30 hour cut off and was told that I was done. My first reaction was disappointment. I have never had a DNF and this would now be my third of the year.
I used one of the aid station workers phones to call my family to let them know that I was okay and to see if they could reach Kelley to have her come pick me up. I stood in front of the fire and tried to warm up slightly before the truck pulled up. I was already ready at that point to register for next years race and knock out those last 15 miles.
The race was everything that I had hoped for and there was no way that I would have ever guessed that I would end up lost for hours on end before making my way in the darkness to the top of the mountain. I learned a lot about myself in those few hours and decided that my wife was right:
Sent via text: “You have nothing to be disappointed in, you tried your best”
Looking forward to trying again next year!