It took me quite some time to even get started on deciding whether I wanted to write this one.After all, I'm probably the only one that has accumulated 3 (three), yes 3 DNFs at the Pinhoti 100. Granted, I also had my best ever 100 mile race performance there in 2014, but those finishes usually only ever last until the next race, at least for me.
I had prepared for this race. The A goal was the same as in 2014, which I missed then as well and the B goal was "just" to PR, which would not be easy, either. Initially, I went back to my training log from 2014. What better way to repeat a performance than to follow the same regimen, right? After about a week, I decided to go a different route. The old training just felt stale, I needed something new. I decided to reach Rob Youngren. Not only had I done quite a few training sessions with him last year as he was getting ready for Hardrock and I was training for UTMB, but I always could depend on him for general training advise as well. After all, this guy had already done anything and everything I ever want to do and not only that, he had usually done it multiple times and excelled at it as well, so why the hell wouldn't I turn to him when the time came for a proper training plan.
And with that, Rob hooked me up with a great training plan and I started hitting the road (and some times trails) the first week of August. I spent the first month base building, followed by a slow ramp up in mileage and some quality track and tempo sessions added to keep the body guessing. Training progressed well, I never missed a session or took a shortcut. Training mileage peaked at 90 miles during "the Blitz" week. I started taper 2 weeks from race day.
Race week was slightly more chaotic than usual to say the least, but I made it to Heflin in time to grab dinner with many of my Huntsville running buddies before heading to the hotel to prep my running gear and turn in for the night. Rob was along for the ride to crew at first and pace later and my wife Anya would join to help crew/pace Saturday morning. I would see her at Mount Cheaha at mile 42 for the first time, where I was still feeling fantastic.
Wer arrived at the campground (race start) with plenty of time to spare, allowing me to chat with some fellow runners, but somehow things were a little off. I'm still not sure what it was, but things were just a little off. I wasn't carrying my pace chart, I didn't use the elevation tattoo that I had purchased just for this event and I missed the Huntsville group photo. I know I know, who cares, but it was just a weird vibe for me.
The race started and I fell in in the middle somewhere. As soon as we hit the single track, things slowed down to a walk. While the pace picked up soon after, it stayed slow and that probably ensured that I didn't go out too fast. After a while I checked my watch and decided to start passing some folks. I was moving well and the first miles ticked by pretty quickly and thankfully uneventful. I continued to do an internal system check to make sure I ate, drank and didn't have any physical issues. All was well.
In fact, when I got to the top of Mount Cheaha, the first of three major climbs, I couldn't believe how quickly I managed that and how good I felt, even with the warmer than usual temps. This is always my favorite part of the race as almost all crew teams are still here waiting for their runners and there's a level of excitement as everyone is looking for their runners to make their way to the top.
Rob and Anya and Ryan were there taking care of me and while I was feeling great, I wasn't in the mood for much food and Anya later told me she could see that I wasn't my usual chipper ultra self. I headed out after a short break in a chair to eat some food to tackle Blue Hell. I continued to move well as I came through the next aid station, but as I approached mile 49-50, I started to have pain in my left hip bone. This was an unknown issue and it worried me. It quickly started to get worse with every incline. I had no idea what was going on.I still had tons of time, so I decided to try to wait it out by slowing down in hopes of it possibly going away again. No...such...luck. I still had a ways to go and when I finally arrived at mile 55 at Adams Gap to pick up Rob as my pacer, I had already made my peace to quit. I had had plenty of time to come up with reasons and answers to any thing my crew would say to coax me along. No way was I gonna keep going...and then I did anyway. I figured 5 more miles would be all Rob would need to see that I was truly done and that my hip pain really was the issue, not the usual pain that comes with running 100 mies.
Unfortunately, my crew didn't know that and decided that I thought that they could probably coax me some extra miles by delaying when I would see my crew and vehicle again. As a result, Anya was asleep and out of cell coverage as poor Rob had to watch me limp from climb to climb struggling with each left step. It was ugly and when we finally made it to mile 68, there was no longer a question what I needed to do. I was looking forward for a hotel bed and some warm food. The regrets would surely follow the next morning no matter how valid my reason for dropping....and they did.
Regardless of how badly this DNF still gnaws on me, this race continues to be one of my favorite events. It's a beautiful point to point race close to home and put on by some of the nicest peeps you'll ever meet. Eventually, I will get over it. I'm sure ultrasignup.com will ease my pain as I build my racing schedule for 2017.