There are few reasons why I have signed up to the Pinhoti100, but the main one was to be able to register to the mystic Western States 100. Pinhoti 100 was the last race from the ws100 list. I had somehow assumed that ehumeliak 100 was a qualifying race, but when curiosity bit after I learnt my friend Eric was doing this race, by chance I ended up going to list of the ws100 qualifying races only to find out it is not! So here I was 3 weeks after the Ironman Maryland, not having trained properly, having slacked off training for good 2 weeks and putting on 3 Kg (a lot for me)..and rushing to find a cheap air ticket to Alabama - as driving 15 hours with the family, didn't fly with Ainhoa :).
The Pinhoti 100M race is a point to point race hosted in Alabama - yes, Alabama!! who would have said there are hills and trails in Alabama, and yet, yes there are to the point few Californians flew to do this race as apparently it has quite good reputation.
The night before:
I decided to stay at the cheapest lodging possible at Sylacauga Parks and Recreation Dept office where they would provide rooms to be shared. You just had to bring a sleeping bag for 10 usd. Not bad for few hours sleep you would get anyway as you had to wake up at 4:30 am to take a bus that would take you to the starting point, 1:30 hour drive for a 7:00 start.
We had the race briefing hosted by the RD (Todd Henderson) which was interesting to learn a bit about the history of the race and some of the characters that has been running it. Then we had pasta dinner and off to bed (or the floor) at around 21:00.
I woke up at 4:00ish to get dressed as soon as possible and geared myself to be ready. Outside temperature was very low, not sure what degrees, but it was bloody cold. That weekend the whole of the east coast was impacted by a cold storm so you can imagine what it is...
One on the bus I dozed on and off until we arrived to the staring line. It was getting so cold that I was the last one to leave the bus. 5 minutes before the race, I was ready to sprint to the starting line to get in line only to find out that the bus driver had left the door locked! I got a bit of stress as could not understand which button from the bus driving control to click. I start to press like a monkey all the buttons to eventually play the horn multiple times until the driver came back....A very close call..!!
90% of the race is single trail. Right after starting everyone got into an indian style line where you were forced to be behind someone. This was ok for the first couple of km, but after a while, you start to get too excited like a dog being unleashed, and you want to overtake. This was tough as the track is very narrow and there was no room to step to the left or right to overtake and if you did, you still had a long line in front of you. I managed to overtake 2 times by stepping up a bit the speed at about 11~12 km/hr, but after getting to the point I was on my own, I took the wrong turn after a crossing, instead of continuing straight, I turn right on the 'road', when I realized this wasn't the direction (I bumped into 2 guys that were getting into hunting with a very southern(?) accent told me they didn't see any runner) I had to go back (slight climb up) that I ended up getting where I had started. To this point I said to myself it wasn't worth it and (luckily) made me slow down a bit, as I was crossing probably 25km and I was starting to get a bit tired on my legs.
By this moment, my friend Eric was ahead of me and I had no intention to catch him as wanted to keep the pace.
I also have to mention that I was doing something which is a total "NO-NO" in any race, or at least it is one of the top 5 "NO-NO" (I will publish list in a later post), which was to use a brand new shoe (also on another post on shoe reviews). I was wearing the TOPO Oterro shoes and as usual you start to feel a bit uncomfortable after a while and your mind playing games kicks in. I was wondering if it had to do with the going a bit faster to overtake few line of people, the quick sprint I had to do uphill for about 500 mt to come back from the wrong turn or because of the new shoes, I was feeling really tired on the legs. Whichever the reason, it got me to go slower and keep my target pace of 10 km/hr.
I went thru few of the checkpoints where they had all I wanted: oranges, bananas, potato chips and/or boiled potatoes, and coke. Fast checkpoints, no more than 2~3 minutes, and I moved on, mostly running by myself until I managed to catch on Eric. This must have been at km 50 or so..At this point I started to feel slightly better and run faster. It was also I was being tailed by Andy who had been following for sometime and helped me keep going at a decent fast pace.
Until checkpoint 15, we've been on and off passing each other or catching up with Andy, until I managed to stay ahead of him. I did hit the moment at KM 90 that you start questioning whether you can finish this race. Your body is tired, your legs start to feel wobbly and the ability to keep the focus comes to play a key role here. I managed to start breaking the race into a legs. I convinced myself that I just had a marathon left and after that, it would be whatever is left, but I just had to run a marathon. There are many moments where your mind wakes up and says 'hey dude - do you think I am stupid? A marathon is 42KM and there are still 70KM left..it's more like ALMOST 2 marathons! But then you quickly convince it's just 42KM and 2 laps of 10KM...so you go playing this game back and forth until you literally are with just 3 aid stations to go.
At this point I wasn't sure anymore if whoever was behind my tail was Andy or someone else, but knowing that somebody was very near to overtake me, DID help me pushing forward. Later I learnt it was the 1st girl to make it to the finish line as Andy stayed back longer breaks at few aid stations.
It's worth mentioning that another factor that got me to not stay longer at the aid stations was that the temperature had dropped so much thru the night (we are talking about mid-night-ish at this point), that the moment I stopped just for a quick coffee, I would start shivering like snake. It was so cold. While I did manage to ignore the 'mermaid' like whispers calling you to sit at the aid stations coming from the fireplace..I did sat down for a while at station 16. Taking that decision to stand up and continue was probably as tough as running the whole race. Once you sit down, the warmth of the wood fire is so enchanting that keeps you hypnotized looking at the core of the fire...Very dangerous stuff...Again, focus comes into mind and you got to wake up and move on...
Once I pass the last aid station, I thought it would be a very easy 2 miles left to the finish line thru the main highway into town. It ended up being the longest 2 miles ever. Literally it never ended. I thought about speeding up and finishing (or at least pretend) I was still strong. I didn't happen. It was longer than that, it tired me to boredoom and got really tired and just had to 'trot' slowly lowering my head and just be content of seeing the finish line. (I even managed to get a video recording message to my family!).
All in all, amazing 100 miles. Understimated the altitude climbing as ~15,000 feet doesn't sound like a lot, but when doing it in a 'faster' pace (that what you would do in a Hard Rock or ehunmilak 100M
), it really wears your legs off. The rolling hills are really misleading as you try to run them as much as you can as you think they are a piece of cake - but beware, they are many of them.... At the end, ultra happy to have managed to:
1) finished it...
2) managed to make it before 24hrs
3) not have used hiking poles for a race beyond 50M
4) the diet is proving to work (in ehunmilak 100M I followed practically the same diet while at race)
5) how self-suficient you can be on a race
I have no words for my family supporting me on this hobby, Todd for letting me in even after registration closed, Eric for being a friend and having him in an 'unknown' place for me..and everyone else I met and helped in the race (especially the volunteers!!!).