We decided to sleep at home on Friday night and drive to the start in the morning. We drove up for the packet pickup and briefing on Friday afternoon at thr Holiday Inn. We saw RD Karen Pearson, Andrei Nana, Mike Smith, Christian Griffith, Vikena Yutz And others there. We got a great briefing on what toexpect during the race and Liz got recognition for the fact that she would be the new world record holder for most 100 mile races in a year. We dropped off our drop bags headed home soon after to get some rest. It was nice that the race was close and we knew the course having run those trails many times. But knowing the course, we knew what we were in for. The race has a 36 hour cutoff and there's a reason for that. It is a rough, rocky course with lots (about 18,000 ft) of climbing.
We arrived at the starting line in plenty of time, looking forward to great weather. The course starts with about a mile and a half of climbing on a paved road to get to the Pinhoti Trail. It then follows the well blazed Pinhoti trail nearly all the way to the turnaround. The divergance from the Pinhoti is a cruel detour hatched in the dark recesses of the mind of RD Karen Pearson. And she seems like such a sweet person.......
Instead of just following the Pinhoti, Karen has us run up and down a powerline cut for about a mile. For a bit I thought I was on the Barkley course with the crazy steep and rutted climb and briars. The first part of the Pinhoti we hit is called the "rock garden". For several miles you have lots of rocks. There are plenty of rocks throughout the course but those first (and last) miles are pretty slow and tough. The trail traverses through lots of beautiful hardwood forests on a mixture of single track, fire/logging roads, with a bit of pavement thrown in.
Aid stations are spaced a bit apart with the occasional unmanned water stops but the stations were well stocked and the folks manning them were absolutely great. I believe most of the aid station workers were from a local Dalton running group as well as the Atlanta GUTS group. Thank you all for such wonderful support! I was doing my usual eat only when hungry thing and doing fine but as I got to the turnaround aid I was famished! I pigged out big time eating a huge Turkey sandwich, a Mickey D's chicken sandwich, a large piece of pepperoni pizza, a large handful of chips, and a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso drink. That gorging held me for about the next 20 miles!
As I headed back I didn't expect to see Liz for a while as I felt I had been moving quite well so I was surprised to see her only about a third of a mile down the trail. She was moving well and looking good. I continued on, feeling good myself and moved well as darkness fell. I did some foot maintenance at the mile 71 aid station and continued on to the 87 mile station where I sat for a bit and refueled. I had started to get real sleepy just before this stop and my stomach was getting a bit dicey. I didn't linger and after chiding Andrei not to sit too long I started up the hill onto the ridge above.
At this point Imwas running with the guy who had been in the lead at the turnaround. I don't remember his name but we had been running togethernfor several miles chatting. When we reached the top of the ridge, about an 800 foot climb in about a mile or so, I spied a campsite just off the trail. I was feeling really sleepy and said I was going to lay down and get a nap. I slept for probably 15 minutes and got up, very groggy. (Andrei teased me later about seeing me sleeping on the ground after just telling him to get out of the chair.) When I got up I actually wandered around a bit just to find the trail. I was disoriented but recognized a rock pile and started down the trail. I ran for while and has vague disorganized thoughts that I seemed to be dropping down too much as I thought The trail traversed more along the ridge. It never occured to me that I might be going the wrong way until I saw aid station lights below me. Crap. I had just run back down the hill to the 87 mile aid station at Snake Creek Gap.
I thought about just turning around before the station but wanted to see if Liz's brother, Robert, had made it there yet. I had run into him hours before at the top of John's Mountain. He was there and I explained what had happened to him and the aid folks I had just seen an hour before. What a stupid mistake! I wasn't really that upset about it all for whatever reason and started back up the hill. Thecourse is 104 miles long so I still had 7 miles to go. Near the end Susan Donnely caught up with me and we ran together for a few miles before she pulled ahead to finish before me. Those last miles through the rock garden were tough for me. I was tired and my feet really hurt. With all the rough tread And rocks I hate to think what I would have felt like without the Hokas I had been wearing the entire race. They were lifesavers! Still, I did have some toe issues.......
Liz arrived in 32:49:25 and got quite the reception as her crossing the line set a new record for most hundreds in a year. Karen had also had a very handsome trophy made to mark the accomplishment. A very nice and thoughtful gesture, Karen. This is a very tough but very well organized event. As it grows it is sure to get even better. It was fun to do a race on trails I train on and perhaps one year I'll try to actually perform here rather than just survive.
Race count: Liz (26) Scott (18)