Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 Pinhoti 100

I was really looking forward to this inaugural Pinhoti 100 as it promised a lot of single track & had an early starting time. I didn't think getting too sleepy, like at Grindstone, would be an issue -- and it wasn't. Unfortunately, my old nemesis, my back, like at Mohican, did me in once again = DNF. Maybe my body is trying to tell me something with 3 DNF's now in my last 3 100 milers! My Dr. prescribes muscle relaxers for my back, but they have no effect on me. My last resort is a chiropractor -- I've always kept away since I'm "double jointed" & have feared something may pop too far. My joints can pop out of place without help from someone else! I'm going to seriously think about it, but for the mean time, I'm cutting down the length of my races.


With the race being a point to point format, a long bus ride to the start was necessary unless you had made arrangements to move your car. I get motion sickness easily & the ride was OK till we reached the hilly & curvy gravel road 7 miles from the start. I felt nauseous & my stomach became upset, but not enough to throw up. The nausea went away once we started but my stomach remained upset.

I ran into Bob Engel & Robin Meagher, both from Cincinnati, at the start line -- both would do very well in this race! Congrats!

Miles 0 - 6.7 Aid Station 1

I wanted to go out slow so I kept to the back at the start. With about 90 starters funneled into a narrow single track right off, it was single file walking for about a half mile for the runners in the back. It was a rocky & rooty section that was slick from the rain the day before, so I didn't mind the walking. The trail remained narrow but everyone was able to find their own spacing by the 1st aid station.

Miles 6.7 - 13.27 Aid Station 2

Very nice runable single track thru this area. Whoever designed the Pinhoti Trail seemed to have a priority in mind: no trails along the top of any ridge! This was clearly evident thruout the entire course (of what I completed). All the trails went along the sides of hills with occasional sections along the bottom & only rare crossings of the top of any hill. The only exception I noted was about a half mile of ridge running coming up to highest point in the race at Mt. Cheaha. With this "side of hill" trail design and switchbacks, the course was fairly "level" considering the very hilly nature of the area.

My upset stomach turned into a need for an unscheduled pit stop. The chafing afterwards was pretty painful even though I did get some relief at the aid stations.

Miles 13.27 - 18.27 Aid Station 3

After the 2nd aid station at 13.27 miles, a detour was made onto a roadway to avoid a section that was heavily damaged by a tornado. This was mostly uphill & everyone was able to witness the incredible destruction along side the road. It looked like a clear-cut logging operation! After several miles of this, we finally got back onto single track. The fallen trees were not limited to that one detour area though. There were countless trees across the trail from start to finish on this course that you either jumped, climbed, crawled under or went around. The first hundred or two weren't too bad, after that it became taxing on my back. They were momentum killers for sure.

Miles 18.27 - 34.56 Aid Station 6

Other than the detour, the course was a single track lover's delight up to this point. I felt good as I was well within myself & making good time. With a pretty good breeze, leaves were falling like rain -- very nice!

Miles 34.56 - 40.94 Aid Station 7 Bald Rock

This was mostly an uphill section that turned rocky coming up to the highest point in Alabama, Mt. Cheaha. The best view on the mountain was at Bald Rock & it was crowded with visitors. I stood with them for a while to enjoy the view -- GREAT!

Miles 40.94 - 52.07 Aid Station 9

The steep rocky trail coming off Mt. Cheaha was called "Blue Hell" (this segment is run uphill in the Mt. Cheaha 50k). I would say it was called "blue" as there were blue blazes painted on the rocks. It was steep, but not as tough as I expected -- it would have been had it been dark or I had to climb up this hill.

It was about mile 50 when I had my first twinge of pain in my back -- it was not a welcome sign. It became dark & with every trip or stub of the toe, the pain would seem to go directly to the back. After another unscheduled pit stop I entered the aid station at 52.07 miles at about 13 hours 14 minutes. Great volunteers this stop & at every aid station!

Miles 52.07 to 55.34 Aid Station 10

From the aid station, it was slow going as the trail became pretty technical. The highly reflective tacks & tags on the flagging were excellent night-time markers. There were a couple creek crossings and the water was down. It was clearly evident that these creeks became raging torrents at times. Unfortunately, my back was getting worse by the mile & I was slowing down considerably thru this section. At the aid station at 55.34 miles, the thoughts of DNF were creeping in. Up to this point, all I thought about was that I was on schedule for a PR & felt pretty confident about it! I sat down on the ground as I went thru my drop bag & put on some warmer clothing & then pondered my situation. Had some hot soup & other goodies & started off to the next aid station slowly.

Miles 55.34 to 60.29 Aid Station 11

As I was walking, I started calculating the amount of time I had left to get under 30 hours and figured I had to do 20 minute miles the last 45 miles. But I thought, after the next aid station or two, the trail really took off from any roads or civilization & if I decided to stop then, there were no provisions for the volunteers to get me out of there. This weighed heavily on my decision to stop as I didn't want a repeat of Mohican, where I had to be packed out of the wilderness when my back went completely out. Better safe than sorry, so I made the decision to just walk it in to the next aid station where there was vehicle access & end it at 60 miles.

The End

I told the volunteers I was stopping & asked if I could get a ride back to the finish. They said there was a shuttle scheduled soon & to sit down & wait. I was reluctant to sit down as I knew if I stopped moving for very long I would start freezing. The volunteers said they had a space blanket & that the shuttle would be there any minute & convinced me to sit down. About 5-10 minutes later I started shivering. There was a breeze & the space blanket didn't cover every part of my body -- I felt the wind! My inside shirt was still soaked from sweat & that didn't help. I was soon shaking so much I told them this wasn't working & that I needed to get some place warmer. My back pain was no longer an issue at this point and I started to feel a little nauseous on top of all this! One of the volunteers brought up their car & cranked up the heat -- saved once again! Many Thanks to this volunteer! Soon after, Jamie Henderson (RD Todd Henderson's wife), with some heavy coaxing to get us moving, transferred me & another runner into her vehicle for a ride back to the finish. Jamie is one wonderful person!

As I reflect back on this race, I'm very disappointed once again, but happy that I took on the challenge. I felt really good most of the race & most everything was going well -- things can change quickly though, as I found out. The point to point format on a brand new course made for new scenery every step of the way -- it was a big change from loop ultras & the course was great! I would definitely like to take on this race again next year.

Next up is Dizzy Fifties, also in Alabama. The event offers a 50k, 40M & 50M options. I've opted to try the 40M.


Jeffro said...

Sorry to hear you weren't able to finish the race. But hey, 60 miles is still 60 miles. Maybe next year I'll be ready for a 100 and will run this one with you.

Cassie said...


Sounds like your body just wasn't feeling it. I can't even imagine going 60 miles........

I've heard good things about chiropractors that use active release technique. After a 3 month long knee problem, I decided to try it, and she solved my 3 month knee problem within a month.

Looking forward to the Dizzy 50s race report!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed.

Hey great effort man...This is Kyle from Cincinnati. I was at Stone Steps this year with you, as well as the training runs at Mt. Airy, and at Mohican. I enjoy checking out your blog every now and then, and just wanted to say hi.

I was looking for the official results for Pinhoti, to check on you and Bob Engel, and to see how the race unfolded. Anyway, congrats on a good run/effort. I know the DNF is tough to swallow, but the best part about ultra's is there always another, right? I'll be at Mohican again this year for the 100 and will be running several marathons, a couple 50k's, and at least one 50 miler in preparation for Mohican. I am narrowing down the schedule now, but I will be at the Frosty 14 in February.

I look forward to reading more of your race reports and will keep an eye out for you, at the other races. Get that back of yours healthy and see you soon.


ed said...


Thanks. The trails at Pinhoti were more narrow than at most races. I enjoyed them & I'm sure you would too. With your current physical condition, any 100 would be no problem for you -- if anything, it would just be a matter of pacing yourself. Your "maybe" sounds like you've taken the 1st step in the mental preparation!

Congrats on your super speedy DINO run!


Thanks. I'm still hestitant on the chiropractor option at this time. I've been asking around since Pinhoti & I hear most chiropractors would not work with someone with a possible slipped disk.

Hope to see you at an ultra in 2009?! LBL 60k? Steve Durbin IS tough!


Thanks. Congrats on your runs at Stone Steps & Mohican! You'll do great on the 100 option too, no doubt.

Bob did well at Pinhoti -- finishing really strong with a 10-20 mile kick!

I plan to attend Mohican next year, ONLY if it isn't too hot & I've worked something out with my back.

In February, come on down to Louisville's Lovin' The Hills 50k on V-day! Nice course!

Alan Jaques said...

Just wanted to say hello and it was good to read your race report. I was the other Kentuckian down in Alabama who made it to sixty miles.
My race sounded a bit like yours. The eight hour drive, plus the 3 hours sleep, plus the 2 hours on the school bus equaled DNF for me as well. My stomach bugged me most of the day and then the tendon behind my left knee did me in after about 40 miles. As my first attempt I know I'll have more tries but it was still a bummer to feel so good and not be able to make any miles.
I'll probably see you at Otter Creek in a couple of weeks.
I'm already considering McNaughton for my second try at the distance.
Check out my race report if you get a chance.
look forward to seeing you soon!
Alan Jaques

Robin Meagher said...

Heyhey-nice blog, Ed! I hope you have fun in Alabama this weekend!

ed said...


Thanks for introducing yourself after the race -- I didn't know very many people there and you made me feel at home!

You did well on your 1st attempt considering your knee problem -- I know how you feel -- I had patellar tendonitus several years ago & it was no fun.

I enjoyed your 3 part race report! I hope your knee is better when I see you at Otter Creek next month.



Yeah, I had so much fun in Alabama, I'm going back for more! Just wish I had Pinhoti to do again . . .

It was a pleasure talking to you at the post race brunch & hearing about your determined effort during the race. You deserved the recognition & award you received for sure! Congrats again!