Not going to lie, trying to figure out a way to put the Pinhoti 100 into words seems almost as daunting as the race itself. I know there are things I will get wrong, sections of the course and people I will forget, and I will never do this experience justice. However, here’s my attempt.
Pinhoti weekend started with me picking up Jeff in our rental car — a huge Suburban that could’ve carried the crews of 2-3 runners. We drove the 4 hours or so to Sylacauga, AL but not before stopping at the amazing Tennessean truck stop (where we contemplated buying an entire cured ham, opting instead for an Alabama car flag) and eating at Applebee’s in Gardendale, AL (where we were treated to the wall of Alabama “celebrities”).
My mom met us at packet pickup which was great. We talked to Scott and Cary before heading to the hotel with Steven and Kimber. The drive was only about 40 minutes but long enough to hear the “Whisper Song” 3-4 times. Ryne and Khette met us at the hotel, and we noshed on some Mellow Mushroom before turning in for the night. After some pretty decent sleep, I was awoken with the Alabama fight song from Khette’s phone (and in case you don’t know, Khette’s a HUGE UT fan). She even wore a Bama shirt and hat. #BestCrewEver We all grabbed some breakfast at the hotel and set out towards the start line. By then, it had started to rain some, but with the humidity as high as it was, the rain was almost welcome. After some last minute lubing up and a pee break in the woods, it was go time.
Because of the rain, the race actually started at Aid Station (AS) 2 and did an out and back to AS 1. The first 13 miles were single track on pine straw which I kept thinking felt soft enough to be God’s mattress. I don’t remember ever running on pine needles before, but it was very nice. I saw my crew at AS 2 and grabbed my pack from them (I started the race out with just my handheld since I knew I’d see them fairly quickly). I settled back into a really nice, easy pace and was feeling great when I rolled into AS 3 at mile 18. I grabbed a clementine from Khette and some chips. Since I knew this would be the last time I saw my crew until mile 40 and that there were a couple of unmanned aid stations on this section, I grabbed a 3rd flask filled with Skratch to put in my pack along with some extra Little Debbie cakes.
Start Line: Photo Cred – Greg Gelmis
I still felt good as I headed back into the woods and onto single track. Because of all the rain, we were presented with some really beautiful waterfalls. Even though it was a pretty section, this was the first time that my mind tried to get in the way. I started thinking “how the hell is this going to happen? How am I going to make it all of this way?” I pushed out these thoughts as best as I could and focused on making it to the next aid station. Phil made me a bracelet with the distances between each station and my expected arrival times at each. Aside from being incredibly helpful, it also gave me something to do every now and then — check the bracelet, check the time, recheck the bracelet because I couldn’t remember what the bracelet said the first time. As we made our way to the next manned station at mile 27, I had to scramble up some slippery boulders. That definitely got me out of my funk, as did spotting the aid station tent. And then I heard someone yell my name. “Season?!” I had no idea Season and Hunter were going to be there, and it was such a great surprise! Season had my drop bag all out and ready for me. Hunter gave me the rundown of the race so far. It was hard to leave them, but I knew I’d see them again at mile 40.
I took off back down the boulders and onto more single track. There were a bunch of water crossings, and I’m not talking “ooh my feet got a little wet” crossings. Water was rushing in most of these. I had begun running with a guy from NC, and we had to actually help each other across some of them. I had been looking forward to climbing Cheaha, and finally, we started climbing. As we climbed, it became a lot more technical. The trail was littered with larger, moss-covered rocks. Fog started covering the trail giving the trail a fun, eerie vibe. We hit a long boardwalk that was super slick, but that meant we were close to the aid station and my crew. They had an awesome setup under a shelter at the end of the boardwalk. Ryne gave me some amazingly warm ginger tea. Khette gave me the run down of football scores, and Jeff filled up my pack. I got out of there as quickly as I could — it was getting darker by the minute, and I wanted down Blue Hell before it was too dark.
Blue Hell is aptly named. Straight down with lots and lots of rocks. Many times I had to crawl down the rocks using hands, feet, and butt. At one point, the guy in front of me completely wiped out while running down a fairly steep, muddy section. I tried to do the opposite of what he did but ended up sliding down on my side as opposed to my back. After my mud bath, the trail smoothed out just as it started getting dark. Between the AS at mile 45 and 52, there were more creek crossings. One of them was so deep and was rushing so hard that we had to go further down, through the water, and crawl back to the trail head. I was so glad not to be alone at this point — people were falling in the water left and right. Slowly, the single track took us up and down and around until we could finally see the lights of AS 9. They had everything you could ever want to eat and drink here, including whiskey. They also had a TV set up underneath a tent — fortunately, the Bama game hadn’t started yet or else I may never have left. After an amazing grilled cheese, I got on my way. It was only 3 miles to the next AS and my crew. Some wet and chilly miles later, I was rolling into AS 10 at mile 55. Hunter gave me the Bama score (3-0; we made a field goal!) as I sat down for the first time all day. I changed shirts from the NRC race kit to a Mizuno tech short sleeve (probably my only real mistake of the race). Khette rolled out my IT band and quads as Jeff got me a quesadilla and Ryne gave me more ginger tea. It was straight up star treatment to the the tune of dub step being blasted by the AS.
Mile 55 Aid Station
Some 6-7 minutes later, I was walking out of the AS and up a jeep road. The soft, jeep road was such a physical and mental break from the technical trail of miles past. I should have run more on this section, but I was freezing, and for the first time all day, my legs just felt dead. I got passed by a lot of people on this section, and finally, I was able to talk myself into running/shuffling. This 5 mile section took a lot longer than I thought it should, but eventually the small aid station came into sight. Still cold, I drank ramen like it was my job as I listened to the game over the AS worker’s radio. I stayed here longer than needed, but they had a dog there, and earlier in the day, I was really missing Gyps. . . so I played and got puppy kisses. Season and her runner came up just as I was about to leave. Season said to run the next section with them — which I was so happy to do. We headed out on some more jeep road for a couple of miles. Scott Bell and his pacer, Brad, came blazing by us, looking and feeling great. The jeep road dumped us back on to single track, and we stuck with the Season in front, Rebecca in the middle, and me bringing up the rear formation for the rest of the way. Even though we were three tired people trying to make conversation, just having them there was so nice. We kept thinking we saw the aid station until finally we were right. My crew was there again, gave me the score (according to Jeff, we won 1000-16. It was really 30-16, but I’ll take it). My feet were soaking wet, and I made the decision to change into my tall, wool Swiftwicks. Ryne earned a huge badge of honor for reapplying Bodyglide to my feet before putting on new socks. Jeff gave me coffee that was a freaking God-send as Khette got the stick after my legs again. Steven packed me up some goodies for the “road”, and soon, Jeff and I were on our way. Picking up a pacer, along with the new socks and coffee, was the best thing that happened all day. I felt like we were running really well, and we soon started passing people. We also were talking a lot as Jeff got me caught up on the events of the day which made the miles pass by quickly. Soon, we were starting the climb up to the Pinnacle AS at mile 74. After climbing for a while, we saw and heard the AS before we snaked around the switchbacks that would lead us there. We could see headlamps below us which is always really cool. The Pinnacle climb was a pretty decent climb — harder than the Cheaha one, for sure. At the AS, we ate some delicious soup, and Jeff packed me down with potatoes, chips, and gummy bears. I was so happy here because 1. miles 65-74 were the best I felt the entire day and 2. I knew we had a marathon left, and given the time, we could basically walk the rest of it in.
We left the AS, and we quickly realized the weather was not on our side. It had been raining off and on the entire day, but the next 6 miles were brutally wet and cold. At one point, we were on a ridgeline, and the wind was just insane. Jeff gave me his buff and his arm warmers. I desperately wished I had put on the Craft base layer at the last aid station. Regardless, I was so thankful Jeff was there, especially when he lifted my cold, spirits by telling me how Steven got locked in the women’s bathroom. We ran through the AS at mile 79 but not before Jeff took a video of how crazy the wind was blowing their tent. We got on a jeep road for a while — it felt a little warmer which was “nice.” Eventually, we were dumped back on the trail. I don’t know if we were moving slowly or if it was a little longer than advertised, but this section seemed to take forever. We were still moving pretty well though and continued passing a few people. As we got closer, Jeff gave me advice for the last section including “if it hurts to run and it hurts to walk, run.” We saw a headlamp bobbing ahead and ran into Brad as Scott was taking a pit stop. Just a little while longer, and we were at the mile 85 AS. As usual, the crew had a sweet set up. I quickly changed into my Craft shirt (so much happiness), ate a ton of food, got another stick rubdown, said a million thank yous to Jeff, and then Ryne and I were headed out on the last 15. This AS looked awesome and looked like it had the best food imaginable, but I was ready to get started on this last section
Ryne filled me in on what had been going on throughout the day, and the conversation continued as the “sun” came up. There wasn’t much sun, but the light of day was a nice change from the past 13-14 hours of dark. We were at the mile 90 AS pretty quickly. I was finally warm and able to shed my UD jacket which Ryne put in his pack. We grabbed some water, coke, and a few snacks before getting back on the jeep road. It was pretty easy terrain with a few gentle rollers. Ryne was great and would tell me when/how far we were going to run and then when we would hike. We did this all the way until the next aid station, but not before I saw a leaf that I thought was a dead baby turtle. I had heard about the brownies at the final AS and probably talked to Ryne about them for a couple of miles. Our plan was to grab a brownie and get out of the AS as quickly as possible. The brownies did not disappoint. At the AS was a sign that read “2 miles of trail, 3 miles of road”. Ryne checked his watch as mine had crapped out just as I picked him up. The trail was more like jeep road and some grassy spots, but we hit the road a little more quickly than expected. 3 miles was all we had. We employed the walk-run method as we passed by a farm with some donkeys and then picked up an actual road. We kept thinking we should be getting close to the school, but not yet. My legs were dying, but having Ryne there, made me run sections that I probably would’ve just walked. I told him how tired I was getting and he told me to eat. I poured some gummy bears in my mouth just as we saw Chris walking towards us. We asked how much further — “1 mile. . . and there’s no reason you should be walking this, Beth.” Crap. He was right. So we started running again. FINALLY, we saw the turn off the road and towards the school. Soon, we saw the lights of the high school stadium, and then there was the track. As we entered the track, Ryne just said “you did it. You’re a 100 mile finisher.” I almost lost it when he said that. We made our way around the track before Ryne peeled off and I ran through the finish line.
My mom and dad were there as were the crew. So much happiness and not enough thanks could be given to anyone. I was just completely overwhelmed by what all of these people had just endured and done for me. There is NO way that race would have happened without them. Honestly, the race could not have gone better (to me). No stomach issues, no injuries, no super dark spots. Only thing I would change is putting on the Craft base layer. My crew was a well oiled machine, and my pacers were beyond amazing (I realize now what a poor job I did pacing for Jeff — I learned so much from them and I’ll be a better pacer/crew member next time!). 25:16:17. 100 Mile finisher.
What I wore/Gear
Pearl Izumi shorts (entire race)
NRC race kit shirt; Mizuno tech; Craft base layer
Swiftwick socks x 2
Altra Lone Peaks 2.5 (never once did I change shoes or want to)
Boco hat; 2 buffs
Skin Slather lube at start and 65; Bodyglide for along the way
THANK YOU to everyone who called, texted, facebooked. Thank you to Nashville Running Company for all the gear and support and allowing me to be on the race team. HUGE, GIGANTIC THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to my crew. Forever indebted to you.