Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Back at It

Back to running this week, but will be keeping it nice and easy the next few weeks. Got out Tuesday morning for a run around the Heath. Started in the dark and watched as the sky lightened and came to life on the horizon, pinks and purples, golds and oranges. Only subtle light along the Heath when I went by, too early, but still lovely as always. My legs felt a little bit sore from Sunday's 3 miler - amazing how quickly the body gets used to just sitting around! - but I know it will come back quickly. (4.3 miles)


Headed down to MA today to celebrate Thanksgiving with Ryan's family. Looking forward to good food, laughter, chaos and time with everyone, and planning to sneak in a few runs too :)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

13 Days

Sam is feeling back to her normal self - the antibiotics and a few days of using the inhaler helped a ton, thankfully! As for me, my voice is back, but I still have a bit of congestion. Still, so much better than earlier this week!

Friday, after dropping Sam off, I headed over to the Cathance for a walk. It was a cold and blustery morning, the leaf-covered ground wet from Thursday's rain, the river roaring, the sun shining. Taking a walk in the woods isn't quite the same as running but being out on the trails is always good for the soul :) (1.8 miles walked)




Ryan had to be up in Bangor for work for the day so he stayed over with Jamie and Kate on Friday night and got a run in with John and Jen up in Acadia on Saturday morning before heading south. Lucky guy ;) 

As for Sam and I, it was yet another day spent at the Y ;) for Sam's second swim meet, although this time around it was just a dual meet which made it slightly less chaotic, which was nice! Once again, Sam just seems to be in her natural element, so comfortably on the pool deck and in the water with her friends. It is really cool to see. She swam the 50 free, the 25 backstroke and was the 25 free leg in one of the relays this time around. All good stuff!



This morning dawned rainy and windy. I was feeling seriously antsy and after lunch, finally decided that 13 days was more than enough and went out for a short run. YAY RUNNING! It was warm and very windy, and although my legs felt very creaky, it felt so good to be running! Kept it short and sweet but was just so happy to be out :) (3.0 miles)

Although race season for the year is over, I still have 160 mile to run to hit 2,000 for the year and it's nice to have goal to work toward over the next 6 weeks!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Whoa There!

Well, although my legs felt great and in my mind, I was raring to go this week, with four walks planned, the rest of my body apparently did not agree as I woke up on Monday barely able to talk, my voice was so hoarse. I didn't feel badly overall, just a bit sniffly otherwise, but not being able to talk was a real bummer! I decided I needed something warm and brothy for dinner so Sam and I had a soup date at Little Saigon on a cold, snowy night, which was fun! As Sam said, I'm sad that your throat hurts but I'm also happy since it means we got to get soup! 😉


Still not much of a voice yesterday but I bumbled through work speaking as little as possible. Then, when I picked up Sam last night to take her to swimming, she told me that her ear had been hurting her all day and that she had heard it pop this morning. Well, we've had enough go-rounds with ear infections to not mess around, so we skipped swim and I called the doctor to make an appointment. Amazingly, they were able to get us in last night at 5:00 so we were able to confirm, that yes indeed, it was an ear infection, and her lungs were also so tight from congestion due to the cold/cough she's had the past few weeks that she wasn't getting a lot of air in. They did a nebulizer treatment in the office and we left with a prescription for antibiotics for the ear and instructions to use her inhaler 2x a day for a few days to loosen things up. Sigh. Poor kid.

Thankfully both of us are much better today, with the antibiotics kicking in for Sam and my voice returning to about 90%. Here's hoping we continue on the upswing over the next few days! Assuming I do continue to feel better, I'm planning to walk on Friday and Sunday and to take a short run on Monday! But in the meantime, another day of rest tomorrow :)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Weekending

A Few More Pinhoti Thoughts:

Official Pinhoti results were posted. I ended up with an official time of 26:47:11, 47th of 140 finishers (247 starters) and 15th woman.

When Ryan read my race report, he texted back, "where's the drama?!" Ha! But seriously, there really wasn't any. I know, so boring ;)

I'm not saying I had a perfect race, but it did go pretty well and for that I am still incredibly thankful and happy.

Of course, when I look at the results, I definitely lost a number of places in the final five miles. In fact, there were three girls who finished right before me between 26:45 and 26:47:02, so if anything went less than perfectly it was that final stretch when I didn't push enough to get those few minutes and places back. I feel a bit of regret about that, but it is slight, and certainly not enough to tarnish my feelings about the race.

Strava also shows 2 1/2 hours of "non-moving" time, some of which was most definitely aid station time, and some of which was time on the trail spent peeing, stops waiting for people to get over obstacles, stops prior to water crossings, stops to adjust things here and there, and a few minutes at least at the very beginning as we all were at a standstill getting into the singletrack. Funny, I had really thought I did a pretty good job of keeping moving, but obviously multiple aid station stops were more lengthy than I remembered.

Still, looking over my data, it appears I went through the halfway point (50.3 of 100.6) in 13:02, so all things considered, not a bad split for a finish time of 26:47! So much more consistent than TARC, when I gave up 5 hours in the last half! ;)

More for my own recall than anyone else's, here are a few thoughts on fueling during the race, which I do think played into me feeling pretty solid energy-wise for 26+ hours:

I had clear thoughts on what food sounded good and there was no wishy washy standing over the aid station tables for me. My goal was to keep up with my gels every 1/2 hour for as long as I could, and also to eat something at every aid station (or food we had brought if it was a crewed spot), even if just a cup of coke or one cookie. I think I was mostly successful and I did manage to keep eating throughout. I did skip the mile 6 aid station and the mile 93 aid station in terms of food. Interestingly, the two food items that were the most appealing were bacon - I probably ate a dozen pieces in all throughout the race starting at mile 40 - and fritos. Otherwise, I'd say I ate maybe 3 small ice oatmeal cookies, 1 orange piece at 35, 1/2 grilled cheese at mile 55, a 1/4 quesadilla at mile 50 and at Pinnacle at 75, a few bites of watermelon at mile 40.  At mile 50, I had grapes and tried to eat some pizza but that got tossed. Same with the pizza at mile 85. I had two shots of pickle juice, one at 55 and one at 60. I started in on coke at mile 23, but honestly didn't drink a ton, maybe just a small cup or two at most stops, but not all.

I had a pack of Honey Stinger chews the first time my watch dinged 30 minutes, and a Gu Lemon Sublime at an hour. After that, I alternated between Honey Stinger Acai & Pomegranate gels and the VFuel Cool Citrus gels (which have a small amount of caffeine). Unfortunately, due to the warm weather, the Honey Stinger gels were out pretty early on (by mile 18, I think). They were just too sweet and thick. Luckily, the VFuel sat well all through the race, and I probably had 25 of those in all.

Of the food we picked up in Atlanta, the grapes we had brought were great, they went down easy. I drank most of the Blueberry Naked smoothie we had brought, as well as most of a bag of Fritos. I also had about 3/4 a can of a Starbucks Espresso Shot at mile 80. Only managed about 3 bites of the little debbie oatmeal cream pie that I took with me at one stop, the rest got chucked into the woods, and I maybe only ate about 3 regular potato chips, something about them just stuck in my throat. All the chocolate and candy bar stuff I had brought sat untouched. So weird sometimes how things that have worked before just don't sound good at certain races.

I think the small constant stream of caffeine from the VFuel, supplemented by the coke, helped as I felt like I had even energy for most of the race, with the major downs coming at mile 40 after I had climbed up Bald Rock in the heat of the day and at mile 80 when I was just plain old tired and sleepy. I never wanted to curl up on the side of the trail though, like I did during TARC. I felt focused and with it throughout, even when I was a bit faded.

Chafing was definitely better than at VT50 but I still ended up with a fair amount. I think I need to try some alternates to BodyGlide to see if I can mitigate that in the future.

I never had any cramping or serious leg break-downs during the race, and my legs felt so much better than after TARC and even VT50. Maybe in part to keeping a more even pace and/or training and/or better regulation of water and electrolytes, but for whatever reason, I was glad to have stairs not be the enemy the next day! :)

I think overall, I come away with the satisfying fact that I had a good race, in which I managed the humidity and course well, fueled well, had great support between Ryan and John, and overall kept up a good attitude, all of which allowed me to have a successful race! We learn something with each race we do, and I hope I can build on this positive experience for future ultras!

The Weekend:

Saturday was Sam's first swim meet. To say it was overwhelming and chaotic is really an understatement, but for her, once she walked onto the swim deck, she felt at home and in her element. So proud of this kid! We don't have results yet, but she swam the 25 backstroke, the 25 freestyle and the 50 free. Overall, she swam very well and I think she even won her heat for the backstroke! It was so crowded, it was hard to tell and the timing clock wasn't functioning for her lane, but regardless, it was awesome to see her swimming so strong!

We were there for 5 hours, so it was a long day but she had fun and we all learned a thing or two about swim meets! Now we know to bring folding chairs, computers, lunch, you name it ;) Hopefully next weekend's meet, which is just a dual meet instead of one with 5 teams, will be a bit less crazy but if not, I'll be prepared :)

So many people...

So many swimmers... thank goodness she had those bright pink/orange goggles so she stands out!

Hanging out on the swim deck with her friends

My little swimmer


This morning, I got out for a walk on the powerlines before Ryan headed up to Camden to meet Tyler for his run. I got all bundled up since it was only 26 degrees out, but really, it was quite lovely and I warmed up quickly. November is often a tough month as we lose light and lose the brilliant fall foliage, but there is a subtle beauty to be found out there on the trails on these late fall days. (2 miles walked)

Winterberry brightness

Ice patterns

Early morning light

Bittersweet

Friday, November 10, 2017

While We Were Away and the First of Two Rest Weeks

While we were away for Pinhoti, Sam had a great long weekend with Neenie and Pip! We are so grateful for their help and so glad she had the chance to spend extra time with her grandparents. So special :)

Headed out on Friday night for the Halloween Parade

Black Cat and Vampire

Besties :)

Celebrating Pip's birthday with a pumpkin pie. Yum!

Cathance walk

Cathance walk

Cutie pie :)

Checking out the beaver exhibit in the ecology center

Out walking

Trail selfie

Along the river

LLBean fish tank fun

Pho for Pip's birthday dinner! 

Monday, Sam went back to school after having had all of the prior week off from the storm (!!), Mom and Dad rested ;) and Ryan, John and I made our way back to Maine. I was feeling good enough that after we checked through security, Ryan and I walked through three terminals to terminal C. There were some neat art exhibits set up in the long walkway tunnels along the way. I may have felt good, but I did avail myself of the moving walkways ;)

Walking in between terminals at ATL (really cool multi-media display with bird sounds and cool overhead "foliage" effect)

On Tuesday, Sam went to school, Ryan and I rested, and while Mom and Dad were still around, we had a (slightly late) birthday dinner for Sam with all the grandparents and my aunt Susie. It was great to see everyone and fun to celebrate our kiddo!
Presents!

Stylin' girl

Big kid

Cool kid

8!

Big candle, little cupcake

Happy kid

Love this one 💗

Smiley girl

Cutting the crazy cake made for the rest of us chocolate-lovers

Cut right in!

It was a nice way to ease back into reality :) I must admit that it was a bit hard to focus at work on Wednesday and Thursday, but I had lots to catch up on after being away! #paperwork

Thursday I did a bit of rolling and stretching and I decided the legs were feeling good enough to get in a short walk today. It was a blustery, cool, sunny morning and I got in a nice walk along the river on the leafy trails. Felt really good, and probably was moving faster than I was during some my midnight miles at Pinhoti ;) Felt good to stretch the legs and good to get out and enjoy the beautiful morning! (1.8 miles walked)

I'm taking a full two weeks off from running even though honestly I am feeling pretty good. This break is totally self-imposed but I think it is important to let the body rest and recover after a long, hard effort. I am also eating a lot... Seriously, see that cake above? I just finished the last of it, and I think I've probably singlehandedly eaten about a 1/3 of it ;) #eatallthethings

Roaring river

Along the trail

Flowing Cathance

After my walk, I enjoyed a good massage from Lauren before doing some errands and grocery shopping. Now it is time to move on to cleaning the house! And poof, just like that, all caught up :)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2017 Pinhoti 100 Race Report

Pre-Race

I've had a lot of people ask me how and why I picked Pinhoti as a race for this year. There is a really long answer to that question but the gist of it is that the top item on my list of goals for the year was "to run 100 miles and qualify for Western States." But running a 100 miles is no easy task and I knew it had to be a 100 that excited me. I also wanted my second 100 to be a different format than the four 25-mile loop course race I'd run at TARC in 2015. So, at the end of 2016, I spent a lot of time looking at ultrasignup and run100s.com for just the right race, and I kept coming back to Pinhoti.

I knew Carolyn had run it in 2015, and I was intrigued by a number of things about the race - it was point-to-point, it ran on a long distance trail, the Pinhoti Trail, it seemed relatively easy logistically to get to for a "travel" race, and it was in a state that I had never been to before. Plus it had a cool finisher buckle ;) It appeared to have a relatively large field and didn't look like it filled up super quickly, so I kept my eyes on the ultrasignup page and told Ryan that when he got the job situation sorted out, I wanted to sign up. I tried not to think about it too much though, as I wasn't sure it would happen and I didn't want to get my hopes up too much.

Finally, Ryan got a job, there were still spots open and it seemed like Pinhoti actually might happen. And then, all of the sudden, the spots were gone. I was deeply disappointed. I decided not to put my name on the wait list, as I really dislike wait lists and the thought of training for a race I might not get into just was not appealing. Then, sometime late at night at the end of June, Ryan and I got a message from Carolyn that the RD had opened more spots and let everyone in off the wait list. Ryan actually woke me up to tell me about it. D%*m! Should have put my name on the list after all. Gah! But, the silver lining of the situation was that the wait list was empty and if I added my name, I was virtually guaranteed to get in, as there are always drops for one reason or another. And so with some trepidation but much excitement, I clicked that button and onto the wait list I got, at spot #4. It was a bit torturous to keep looking at the list, watching my name move up one place at a time but still not knowing...


And then, while I was down in NC in mid-July, I got an email that I was accepted and I just had to confirm my entry. Holy sh*t! I was in! I was actually going to be running Pinhoti! OMG! In typical Danielle fashion, as soon I knew I was in, I wanted to get the logistics sorted out, and we soon had hotel and flights booked and my parents agreed to come up to stay with Sam over race weekend, and boom, there was nothing to do but TRAIN!

I had already started to ramp up the mileage in May, knowing that I would be doing something in the fall even if Pinhoti didn't work out, so I had a number of long runs under my belt already and I set to work on a slightly abbreviated 100 mile training plan. I signed myself up for Moosalamoo and VT50 as training races, but never would have thought that the wacky weather with heat and humidity at both races would help me prepare for Pinhoti!

I had decided not to ask anyone else to come crew for me, as it just seemed like much too big of an ask. Ryan would come as my sole crew and pacer, and we crossed our fingers that we could work out the logistics of this. I hadn't realized Ryan was so stressed about that part of the program until we got a message from John a week and a half before the race asking if we wanted help crewing. I think John might have been sort of mad I hadn't actually asked him to crew, but again, it really seemed to me to be too much to ask, so I told him he didn't have to, that I honestly wasn't expecting other help, but that we'd gladly accept if he really felt he was able to and if he could find a cheap flight. Well, turns out he was able to get flights with departures and arrivals right around the time of our flights, so it all worked out perfectly! Ryan was super relieved to have help with the crewing and pacing, and I knew John would be a great addition to the team both crewing and pacing. Suddenly it was a party :) Yahoo!

The start of the week of the race was the big rain/wind storm that wiped out power to almost 500,000 people in Maine. It threw a whole lot of things out of whack including having school cancelled all week and Halloween postponed until Friday. And Sam got a cold. And I was feeling guilty because I knew she was sad we were leaving, and we weren't going to be at the Halloween parade with her. Well, it kept my mind off the race a bit, I guess, but it left me feeling stressed out. I hoped I could pull it all together for race weekend!

Friday

John met us at our house at 5:00 am, and we headed off into the darkness for Logan.

You know, just regular travel shenanigans ;)

We got the car dropped off, got through the long line at security and all onto our flights on time. After an easy flight, Ryan and I arrived in Atlanta and took the train to baggage claim where we had planned to meet John, who was arriving 12 minutes after us. Of course, John got on the wrong train and headed to international baggage claim ;) but you know... Picking up the car was another slight adventure but we eventually left with what we had ordered, a mid-size SUV, and headed off to a large mall area for lunch and to pick up race supplies.

Big airport walkway

All of this took a while, and then we still had 2 hours to drive to Sylacauga, where race packet pick-up was and where we were staying. Once we got out of the sprawl of Atlanta, things got rural quickly and we passed many fields of cotton and rolling hills.


Sweet Home Alabama

Fields of cotton

We got to pack pick-up around 5:00, quickly picked up my stuff and I had my "before" photo taken. What fun!

Before Photo (Photo by: werunracephotos.com)

After checking into the hotel, which was not the cleanest place I've ever seen, we headed to downtown Sylacauga for dinner. Ryan had found a pizza place, and it was a perfect spot for a pre-race dinner in a cool reclaimed space. We ran into a few other racers there and had a good time chatting at the bar.

Cool signs around town

Pizza and Pint

Neat space for a restaurant

Back at the hotel, we all showered and got ourselves organized for an early wake-up, as Sylacauga was the finish of the race, so we had a bit of a drive on Saturday morning to get to the start back in Helfin. 

Race Day: Miles 0 to 18.27:

The morning's dark drive ended on some winding dirt roads taking us out into the Talladega Wilderness to a random campground. Runners milled around and there was no real start line, which was kind of weird, but it was evident that we were in the right spot so we just hung out. We found James, Emma and Sara, as well as Laurie and Tony, and chatted until there was notice that it was time to line up. It was very humid and warm. I felt nervous but focused, and soon enough, right at 7:00 am, we were off!

Trail Monsters representing!

My ragtag crew ;)

We headed up the dirt road for literally only a few hundred feet and then it was a stand-still as 247 runners tried to get onto the thin ribbon of singletrack. Well, at least it would mean not going out too fast ;)

Start

Waiting to get onto the singletrack

The trail was a nice singletrack that wound in and out of draws, over little streams, along the side of the hills. It was incredibly slow going, and there was really no use passing anyone as the line of runners strung out in front of and behind me for a long ways. In some sense it was frustrating but on the other hand, it ensured a mellow start and there wasn't much need to think. You just had to follow the person in front of you ;) 

The woods were gorgeous though, and the foliage must have been right at peak, truly lovely. But the conga line went on for miles... 







Interestingly, mostly the train was quiet, but every once in a while, there would be chatter here and there. We came to the first aid stations at mile 6.7 and since I knew Ryan and John were not meeting me there, and I didn't need anything major, I stopped only briefly to pick up a cookie and then made my way across the crowded road back onto the trail and into yet another conga line...

There were numerous stream crossings, two of which required wet feet, the first one happening at mile 3. Huh, hadn't expected that... At some point there was a stream crossing where many were hesitating and hoping to rock hop. Tony had been only about 5 people in front of me in line, and just took a slightly different route and went right thought. I did the same, and finally managed a little while later to get some space on the trail. At mile 11ish... crazy!

I didn't do much thinking in this first stretch before I saw Ryan and John at mile 13.27. I mostly just went with the flow, following people, taking my gels, enjoying the woods and the nice trail, and forcing myself to think that keeping this easy pace would only help me later in the race. 

The crew accessed aid stations were very busy and a bit chaotic. At mile 13.27, Ryan had set up the chair that John had purchased the night before at Walmart a little back from the aid, but there were still a ton of people around. Although the temperature was decent, maybe low 70s at this point, the humidity was high and even though I wasn't putting out a ton of effort, I was totally soaked already.

I stopped to get more gels, drop my trash, refill water, wipe myself down with a few wipes and reapply Bodyglide. And we realized that Ryan had set up the chair on top of a fire ant hill and had them crawling all over his feet... yikes! Thankfully I managed to stay out of them!

Conga line...

Ryan calmly applying Bodyglide while getting bitten by fire ants...

Headed off across the tracks (10:04 am departure from mile 13.27 aid station)

This race had a lot of well-spaced aid stations, with most of them accessible by crew, so I had only 5 more miles to go until I saw John and Ryan again. Although I had gotten a bit of breathing room around mile 11, I caught up with another conga line heading into the aid station and then was in yet another conga line upon exiting back onto the trail. Oh well, I just kept moving, and like I said, it gave me a chance to just sort of go and not have to think. 

The early miles of this race were quite rolling, with a lot of narrow sidehill singletrack trail in and out of draws, through lovely forest, over downed trees and crossing little streams. I really enjoyed the terrain and the countryside. I think if there hadn't been as many people on the trails, it would have been easy to run too much of these miles too fast, but as it was, it was mostly hiking up the little rises, which was fine by me. I felt strong and although I was soaked, and was beginning to feel pockets of warm air in spots, it didn't seem too terrible. 

The mile 18 aid station was busy once again, but I was feeling good, we were efficient and calm and after a quick stop to eat, reglide, gather up enough gels for the next long stretch without crew, wipe off the sweat and refill things, I was off again. 

Somewhere early on (photo by: werunracephotos.com)

See all the people?! Crazy! (11:15 am departure from mile 18.27 aid station)

Miles 18.27 to 40.94:

This time, it would be 22 miles before I saw Ryan and John again. There were 3 aid stations in between and the first big climb of the race. The trails quieted a bit but there were still a lot of people out there. I caught up with one of the guys we had been chatting with at Pizza and Pint the night before at the mile 23 aid station. It was getting warmer, and I took my first two little cups of coke before I headed up the road. 

The next aid station was at mile 28, out along Morgan Lake. It was a short out and back to the aid, up the edge of a beautiful waterfall. The aid station had ice and popsicles, and I gladly put a cupfull of ice into my hat and took a popsicle. Sadly, it was some sort of nasty banana or pina colata flavor and I had to spit it out and throw it away. Gag! Ugh! Ah well. 

The trail was more of the same, lots of sidehill, lots of beautiful foliage, lots of high grass along the trail edge, overgrown underbrush and still a lot of downed trees to get over and around. There was some lovely pine needle cushy trail sections and some good views through the trees. 

The aid station at mile 35 was down off an old fire road out in the middle of nowhere, just two tables with a smaller selection of food, but they had coke and I had an orange slice and took a cookie to go. From there it was a long climb up Bald Mountain and it was getting hot and it was 35 miles in and man, oh man, I knew I was going to need to regroup at the top! This was the first of two big, long climbs on the course. With about a mile to go, I started to see day hikers out amongst the rocks in the woods and I knew I was getting close. Sure enough, we emerged at the edge of the woods to a gorgeous view out into the valley and directions to climb the steps up onto the walkway and run out to the aid station at the end. Pretty cool spot!

Bald Rock (Photo by werunracephotos.com)

Bald Rock vista

Boardwalk

More boardwalk

End of boardwalk

Bald Rock

Emma and Sara - James's rockstar crew. 
I didn't see them, but John and Ryan saw them a few times at least.


Busy spot! (4:38 pm departure from mile 40.94)

The aid station was busy busy busy, and we stopped quickly to get a few pieces of bacon and a watermelon slice for me before walking further down to the road to where Ryan and John had set up out of the fray. They were awesome at every aid station, having things all set up for me to sit if needed and to help me sort things through. When I saw Ryan, I told him I needed to sit and regroup a bit. I had some smoothie, coke, bacon, grapes and changed my shirt too, along with picking up my portable charger to charge my watch along the way as it was getting down to 20% or so. While I ate, I learned that James was flying :) and that I had just passed Tony, who was sadly still sitting up closer to the 40 mile aid station, having been puking for quite some time :( 

After eating a bit and cooling down, I felt much better and although I knew that "Blue Hell" (very steep descent) was coming up in this next stretch, the decision was to not take the headlamp as I would see Ryan and John again at mile 45.25 and I was moving well enough that I would make that before darkness fell. 

Mile 40.94 to 65.44:

From the aid, we ran down the auto road for a while before turning off onto the trails and descending very steeply over lots of rocks on "Blue Hell." It reminded me of the descent from Tumbledown Mountain, very rocky, very eroded, very well traveled, lots of hands needed to get down over bigger drops, and I had to take it very slowly, especially with 40 miles on my legs! Many, many people passed me, but I was OK with it as it was nothing I hadn't expected :) HA! Thankfully, the steep rocky portion was fairly short, and then we hit some more wider, less rocky trail, so overall maybe a mile and a half, and we soon came out onto more road near a lake. I knew well enough to take advantage of the pavement and as I honestly felt pretty decent, and the road was mostly downhill, I ran pretty much all of it before we turned off onto a fire road leading into the mile 45 aid station. I think Ryan was quite surprised how quickly I had gotten there, but I told him it was only a mile and a half of torture and then all roads, so really, I was in good spirits and it wasn't that bad!

I picked up my headlamp here, and was forced to eat and drink a bit ;) before heading off into the woods with a bag of fritos in my hands and into what would inevitably quickly be darkness.

Not sure what is going on here ;) 

But I was in a pretty good mood, honest :)

All set up and ready for me :) I am a lucky lady!

Ryan's "You must drink" face ;) (5:48 pm departure from mile 45.25 aid station)

I merrily headed out into the woods, finished up my fritos and started running. The trails had finally gotten a bit quieter, with runners stretched out comfortably before and behind me. I got a few miles into the woods, winding along the sidehill in and out of draws, watching dusk arrive through the trees. 

Dusk

Trail around mile 47 miles

As I climbed higher onto a ridgeline, I could see the beautiful pinks of the sunset through the pine trees. There were several people set up at campsites and a shelter along the way. What a pretty area to backpack in! The trail wound back down into the woods, and it got dark quickly. As soon as I turned on my headlamp, I could see these little green reflective things on trees and in the leaves on the ground along the trail. I wasn't sure what they were, maybe micah? Huh. I could see a headlamp or two far ahead along the different draws but was alone. I know I slowed here, as it is harder to run in the dark but overall, I felt I was moving pretty well. I think Ryan was concerned that I would feel lonely along this stretch, as Pinhoti allowed people to pick up pacers as soon as 40 miles in and there were already a lot of runners who had company, but honestly, it was quite peaceful out there and I was content and feeling good.

At some point in this stretch before the mile 52.07 aid station, I had the first stream crossing I've ever had to do in the dark and all alone. The water was cold, up to the top of my calves and I could see numerous fish about 3" long swimming about in the clear water. Crazy. From there, the trail wound up along the edge of a steep mountain/hill. I could hear the river below and the trail was narrow and rocky and wet. I had to take it slowly for sure. There were two more stream crossings and several other campsites nearby along the way. 

At some point, I popped out of the woods after a climb at the mile 52 aid station, which was the most well-stocked aid station I'd seen all day. A bar if you wanted a drink, tons of over the counter anything you could ever need, pizza cooking, vegan salads, a portable potty with a little tent around it for the women, and very gracious aid station hosts. This was a non-accessible aid station so it was a bit quieter, which was nice. I used the bathroom, got some coke, some bacon and some pizza and sat for a minute. The pizza had onion on it so that had to go into the trash - blech! - but I picked up more bacon and a quesadilla for the road and headed out onto the trail with a throng of people. 

Two ladies were in the lead, a runner and pacer, merrily running along chattering away, with about 15 of us behind them! It was a bit of a slow go and there was some muttering behind me, but in a way, it was nice to be with a bunch of people in the darkness and to just keep up the pace. Eventually, there was a stream crossing and the chance to pass. I took it along with some others, and I ended up in a bunch of guys that all knew each other. I listened to their chatter as we climbed up to the next aid station, mile 55.34.

Mile 55.34, I popped out of the woods into a mass of headlamps and music and oh my gosh, so many people! Ryan put his hand right on my shoulder and guided me through the throng to the aid station tables, where I had a cup of pickle juice (who am I?!) as I had forgotten to refill my salt tabs at mile 45 and felt like I needed salt, and picked up a few quarters of grilled cheese and bacon, before we headed over to our chair. There was also a big tent set up with a huge TV so that you could sit watch the Alabama game. HA!

Roll Tide!

What a crew! Making sure I have everything I need, including taking my meds and brushing my teeth before I took off (photo by werunracephotos.com)

Such a cool photo! Headed out of mile 55.34 aid station (9:03 pm departure)

I did stop here for a bit but it was an efficient stop, getting done what I wanted and no extra sitting around, before it was off again into the darkness. At some point, I noticed one of those green reflective dots that I thought were micah down along the edge of the road and shined my headlamp down on it to take a look. Big a** spider! Well, guess there are a lot of spiders out in these woods! I had been seeing spider eyes everywhere... Wowsa!

Anyway, the section between mile 55 and 60 was all packed dirt forest road. It was totally runnable. I had to stop along this stretch and poop in the woods (sorry, maybe TMI, but it's true.) There were no portapotties AT ALL along the race course, so that was a bit of a bummer, but I felt better after stopping and continued along. I passed a few people in this stretch, as I was running that slight uphill grade that I can just grind out while they walked, and leapfrogged with this one guy for a while back and forth. The miles went by pretty quickly and we soon came to the mile 60.29 aid station, basically two tables set up along the side of the road. 

My friend came in right behind me, and as I was swigging a cup of pickle juice and drinking coke, I asked the aid station workers what was ahead. It was darn dark out there and the markers were sparse, so I wanted to know what I should look for. The aid station worker told us we'd be going up a washed out jeep road for a mile and a half and then would be making a lefthand turn on some singletrack down to the mile 65 aid station. The two of us took off together. The road was washed out enough and uphill enough that it wasn't really runnable. We walked with purpose and chatted away as we walked along together. It was fun to have someone to walk with and I enjoyed his company, he was a cool dude. I learned his name was Brian and we chatted as you might while you are running with someone in the middle of the night, about other races run, and where are you from, and what do you do, and where is that trail turn-off? and so on and so forth. We passed a bunch of other racers on the walk and kept an eye out for that turn-off but a mile passed, then two, then three and we still hadn't seen it! There were still headlamps behind us and we kept seeing sparse confidence markers, but really! Finally, the turn-off came and we headed down the singletrack. It was nice and cushioned with pine needles and we picked up two other runners, all of us chatting and running together. Eventually Brian took off faster than the rest of us on the downhill, and I stayed with the other two to mile 65.44.

Miles 65.44 to 85.63:

This aid station was right across a train track, and a bit quieter than some of the other crew-accessible spots. Ryan and John had the car right across from the aid station, and I sat down and told them I wanted to change my shirt and socks. In the previous miles, I had started to feel some rubbing on the tops of my toes, due to all the water crossings and the humidity. I knew I needed to get dry socks on. Ryan said my feet looked pretty rough, so he put Desitin on the bottom and Bodyglide on the raw spots on the tops of my toes and got me into new dry socks and back into my shoes. Ow, that hurt! I wasn't really in the mood for eating but agreed to take a bag of fritos to go. I also agreed to take John along 3 miles earlier than anticipated. Pinhoti allowed pacers starting at mile 40, which I in no way needed and I honestly felt really good into the early hours of the night. I had originally thought that having John from mile 68-85 and Ryan through the finish would be fine but since Ryan suggested it, I figured it would be nice to have company for a few extra miles along the way, so John and I headed up the hill and into the woods together.

Headed up the road, eating Fritos (11:48 pm departure from mile 65.44 aid station)

The moon was full and so bright! Beautiful!

John and I chatted away, climbing uphill and along a nice stretch of trail. We passed a number of runners and pacers here, including a dad and his 6-year old boy who was pacing him for this short 3 mile stretch. So cool!

Soon enough we were descending on the sharp descent into the mile 68.78 aid station. I didn't really do anything here, except grab some coke from the aid station since we had just seen Ryan three miles before (12:48 departure time). I knew the next stretch of trail included the biggest climb of the course up to the top of the Pinnacle at 74.5 miles. 

As the trail wound in long sidehill fashion in and out of the draws, John and I wondered if we were actually on the 14 switchbacks headed up to Pinnacle or if those would arrive later. We kept debating back and forth as we ran along. We were climbing but not steeply. At one point, someone came up behind us, and I said, just let me know if you want to pass, to which he replied, oh I'm coming for you all right! It was Brian. I was like, what?! I thought you were way ahead! Turns out he had had a rough go of the past three miles, so he joined into our merry little band and we kept climbing. We started to hear music but knew it was far away as there were no lights to be seen out in the darkness and we kept getting sightings of headlamps still climbing through the trees ahead. Finally, we reached what we knew had to be the final switchbacks to the aid station, and the terrain got steeper and steeper. The three of us chatted away as we climbed, and having an extra person along kept us moving, so we pushed and pushed, up toward the blaring music until we reached the top.

The Pinnacle! (2:34 am departure from 74.5 mile aid station)

It was darn loud up there but they had bacon and we had surprised Ryan, coming in sooner than he had expected. It was a pretty quick stop here as I was feeling good and we pressed on. Somewhere in the melee of the aid station, we lost contact with Brian.

The miles between the Pinnacle and the mile 79.53 aid station were rolling with some nice ridgeline that must have had lovely views during the daytime. There was also a stretch of trail with big loose rocks and my headlamp started to dim. I was feeling tired and was lagging a bit. John stayed up front and would tell me, let's shuffle a bit, and we would, until I'd say I'm walking. He was pushing food and drink and running, but all in a nice friendly way, and I appreciated it. We popped out at the aid station sooner than John had thought we would, THANK GOD!, and Ryan was set up by the car along the side of the road. I sat down and closed my eyes for just a moment to gather myself together again while I worked on downing about 3/4 of a can of Starbucks Espresso Shot, nasty milky stuff but the caffeine was bound to help. Not much else sounded good. I picked up Ryan's headlamp and left mine for him to charge. Took a bag of fritos to go. (4:16 am departure from 79.53 aid station)

We walked down the road for a ways, and eventually I put the fritos away and told John we should run and not waste this stretch by walking. I also know we both stopped for a pit stop at some point along the road too. Then eventually, we went back into the woods and the caffeine must have kicked in at least a little bit as we seemed to be moving fairly good here though, passing some groups of runners, and ended up adding two to form a little train. As we ran along what really was a nice stretch of trail, the runner and I were feeling a little grouchy, waiting for the descent, hearing music but not knowing where the aid station was, not seeing anything in the trees, descending and then ascending, going farther and farther, it seemed, from the music. Gah, where was that frickin' aid station?! Finally, finally, we got onto a steep descent and came out of the woods to blaring music. I was so happy I started grooving to the music :) 

We did another sock change here, and I tried to eat some pizza and drink some smoothie, but only managed a bite or two of pizza and the protein version of the smoothie was yuck! A few more gels in my pocket, and I picked up Ryan for the final stretch! (5:27 am departure from 85.63 aid station)

Miles 85.63 to the Finish:

Another pitstop along the road, but otherwise, I was in a good mood, catching Ryan up on what had happened and listening to the tales of his day. We were on a nice packed dirt road the whole way from mile 85 to the mile 93.13 aid station and I was moving pretty well and picking people off along the way. We ran a lot and definitely made up time. Our headlamps were on for a short bit but we were soon able to remove them and enjoy the bright full moon above and the early morning light of dawn hitting the forest around us. It was insanely beautiful. 

Having fun or mildly delirious 90+ miles into the race!

Moonset and sunrise, Alabama style

Sunrise

The mile 93.13 aid station came quickly and I didn't stop for long. I was really looking forward to the final miles, thinking they'd be similar to those before, but unfortunately, we entered the woods and were on much rougher dirt roads, followed by a few stretches of field, followed by some nasty, washed out old jeep roads down to the edge of town. I felt in a good place but I simply didn't have the energy to run down those old jeep roads. I wasn't feeling quite stable enough. So instead I put on my Sparkplug power hike, and Ryan said it was hurting him to walk so fast ;) Ha. Unfortunately, a few of the ladies who I had passed on the dirt road passed me back here, along with a few others. Gah. I honestly didn't care at the time, but I know Ryan feels badly now, thinking he didn't push me enough to try and get back those places. In any event, there was much less running and more walking in this stretch but I was trying my hardest not to lollygag and I so wanted to see that pavement, as Ryan had said that meant we had 3 1/2 miles left to go.

Yay running!!

Through the fields

Finally, we hit a dirt road at the edge of town that spit us out onto pavement. This was it! The final stretch. Holy crap. I was actually going to make it! Honestly, I feel like I was really focused all day. I never had songs in my head. I never had doubts. I never even thought about quitting. I just kept moving forward. Yes, I was tired in spots and I had a few low points at mile 40 and 80, but really, things went well all day long and I was doing what I was meant to do that day. And when I hit the pavement, and started to think that I was almost done, started to let my mind wander and think about the finish and what I had done, I got emotional and started to cry and got so choked up I couldn't breathe and we had to stop by the side of the road for a minute until I calmed down ;) This is the sort of thing that only happens to me, I swear. After that, I closed my mind up again, and focused on breathing and running the damn straight pavement, with a few walking breaks in between. 

Pavement as far as the eye can see...

Both Ryan and I thought we had further to go on the pavement than we actually ended up having, so in the end, I probably could have/should have pushed a bit more in that final stretch to catch up with some of the ladies ahead, but hindsight is 20/20 and you know, I am still absolutely proud of my race and super happy with it all, a few places be damned. 

So then, there it was, the stadium with a final turn and a run across the grass and onto that track that I had envisioned in my mind and my smile was big and wide and I was just insanely happy. I had done it! 100.59 miles. 26:47. 

47/140 finishers (247 starters)
15th woman
26:47:11

Rounding the final curve on the track

Headed to the finish

YES!

Official finish line photo (photo by: werunracephotos.com)

After photo (yes, I look a little crazed but it was only because I was insanely happy!) 

So happy!

Initial Post-Race Thoughts:

I will admit that before the race, I had dreams of running faster. I would have loved to have PRed for the distance (26:29 at TARC) and even had had grand ideas of 24 hours, but in the end, it doesn't matter. I ran a good race and I am super proud of the result. I felt strong throughout, I didn't cramp, I didn't have any negative thoughts, I remained focused, I ran happy. Pinhoti was a challenging but fair course, and the humidity and relative heat made it tough for many this year. There was only a 55% finish rate, quite low for this race (137 of 247 starters). 

I was bummed to hear that Tony ended up dropping at mile 40, but psyched to hear that James ended up finishing 4th overall with a blazing fast time of 21:53. So impressive!!

I really enjoyed the course and thought it was beautiful with a lot of runnable portions and some good climbs and descents to keep things honest. I was wet all day and the humidity stayed with us through the nighttime - I didn't even need long sleeves or a hat or gloves or anything! I came out of the race with two small blisters on my feet, a lot of chafed skin, a lot of scratches and heat rash on my legs from the grasses and overgrown brush that I rubbed against along the trail in spots, but no real pain, no injuries, no regrets. As I write this two days later, I can get up and down the stairs normally. I didn't swell up like after TARC or have the terrible shakes that I had after that race. I can sit on the toilet ;) I was even able to walk through three terminals Monday at the Atlanta airport to get to our gate. I am calling it a WIN! :) Oh, and that buckle, I do so love that buckle :) I am proud to have earned the right to wear it!

Love those turkey prints!

Last But Not Least:

I had a lot of love and support during this race from Ryan and John and I can't thank them enough for being patient, honest, upbeat, funny, helpful, wonderful friends, crew and pacers. Their support was invaluable, and I couldn't have done it without them. I am grateful to them both beyond words.

Huge thanks also go out to my parents for coming up to hang out with Sam for the weekend and for supporting and loving me always, as well as to my in-laws for supporting me in this crazy pastime even if they don't quite understand it. ❤️ 

Of course, there are all our awesome friends who did training runs with me in prep for the race and who cheered me on from afar, and and all the aid station volunteers who helped runners throughout the day and night out on the course. So many thank yous! No 100 is ever done alone. I am one lucky lady!

Official results and probably more thoughts to come, but for now, I'm signing off. Thanks for reading :)