12 November 2023

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My plan to get just one more state checked off that 100 miler bucket list before the end of 2023 went bust this weekend as I recorded a DNF and the Pumpkin Holler 100 Miler in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I had once again made the race weekend trip with my camper van, but this time the trip was shorter than planned. 

While I got to spend a beautiful evening camped right along a river just 50 yards from the start-finish line of the PH100 and woke up well rested on race morning, I just did not have it mentally after a challenging first 40 miles that were dominated by unexpected heat and one to many wrong turns. 

I was happy to spend the first 50K alongside my good buddy Walt Handloser. We'd spent a few race weekends together toeing the starting lines at various 100-mile races, but it had been a while since I had last seen or spoken to him. It was great to have some time to catch up before I had to let him go ahead.

The PH100 is a multi-loop course that is almost flat with most of the vertical gain on the first 40 miles of the race. Runners complete a 30-mile loop 3 times. During the first loop, we had to complete a 5-mile out and back for a total of 10 additional miles. This section turned out to be the crux as Walt and I initially missed this turn (the only real turn of the race). It seemed quite a few runners had missed this turn and when we reached the next aid station, we had initially been informed that we could complete the out and back on the next loop. However, when we returned to this aid station after completing the Pumpkin challenge, a 2-mile out and back with a decent climb leading to the turnaround, we were told that we had to complete the out and back now. This meant backtracking on the course, completing the 10-mile out and back, and then returning to the same aid station once more before continuing on.

To be honest, I'm still not happy about how this was handled by the race, but I have to respect their decision. It put quite a few runners at a disadvantage, losing lots of valuable time to no real fault of our own. The only (major) turn of the race just wasn't marked properly. The only turn sign was hidden in a ditch behind some brush, barely visible to runners while passing. At the end of the day, it is my responsibility as a runner to pay close attention to the course at all times and to be familiar with the course. I am not blaming anyone but myself for this error, but I had just hoped for a different outcome. 

As it was, I never really got over this mentally. and when the day turned extremely warm, it added to my frustration. The decision to quit this race prematurely built slowly and steadily between miles 30-40. When I arrived back at the start/finish area after 42ish miles, I called it quits. I was at peace with this decision then and now, but this meant that I would need to find another event to come back to for that now illusive Oklahoma 100 mile finish. As a result, I will either return to complete the PH100 or I will need to find another event in Oklahoma to earn my OK finish.

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