Pinhoti 100 Crew Report

For those of you who don’t know, the Pinhoti 100 is a 100-mile footrace. Read that again if you need to, because most people who hear me say it are sure that something has just gone wrong with their brains. I’m here to tell you that your brain is working fine, although I’m not entirely sure about the people participating in the race itself. Participants go 100 miles. All at once. On purpose.

I had the privilege for the third time to crew for and pace with my good friend, Craig Smith, in his pursuit of a belt buckle (the coveted standard award for completing any 100-miler). I previously crewed him at the Lake Martin 100 (2014) and Pinhoti 100 (2015). Each time, this has been one of my biggest adventures of the year; it is an incomparable experience.

Craig has always been the worstbest influence on my running career. He’s always encouraged me to sign up for terrifyingrewarding events and to push myself to take on challenges I would never have considered even a year before. I’ve always jumped at the chance to crew for him because it’s a rare chance for me to give something back to someone who helped me nurture one of the most important aspects of my life.

The Crew

Rory Hamaker was our designated Wheelman, and he provided his nearly indestructible 80s-era Land Cruiser for the event. Brian Smith, Craig’s brother, was our Crew Chief. Craig is obviously the Runner. Based on my track record in previous crewing opportunities, I was designated Meal Planner (a quick aside—this is not the result of some sort of organization skill… I just like to know when I’m going to get to eat next!).

So we formed our odd variation of the Canterbury Tales to begin the long trek from Heflin to Sylacauga, Alabama over an unseasonably warm (highs in upper 70s, lows in upper 40s) November weekend.

Race Start

The race started from the Pine Glen Campground in Heflin, Alabama at 7am. Crews didn’t get to access this spot last year due to recent rain and the fear that lots of vehicle traffic on forest road FS500 would damage the road. Having now ridden on FS500, I can see why. But we bumped our way along early on Saturday morning, and eventually the dust cleared to reveal the line of cars parked near Pine Glen around 6:10am. What I considered trail-runnable daylight would occur around 6:45am, so we used a couple of headlamps to make gear preparations, then we made our way down to the start area proper.

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Brian and Craig get his initial vest load-out established

We saw a lot of familiar faces, and this was a Who’s Who of Huntsville trail running. In addition to the dozen or so runners from Huntsville (or who participate in Huntsville events often enough that I don’t know the difference), most of them also had crews and pacers from the area as well. I got to see my friend Lindsey Hardesty, who I literally hadn’t seen in person since we ran Day One of the Viduta Stage Race together back in April. I was also happily surprised when someone walking behind us called my name in the dark, and we found out our friend Beth MacIntire was crewing for her sister Amy that weekend. Beth had run local trails in Monte Sano State Park with us numerous times before moving out of the area.

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Huntsville-ish runners and crews. Photo Gregg Gelmis/We Run Race Photos

Tracking & registration websites reported 234 registered runners. After some quick announcements just before 7am, the runners got started. That sounds anti-climactic, but when you’re going to be running anywhere from 16 to 30 hours, nobody is in a big hurry to get out of the parking lot, as it were.

Not all aid stations (AS) were crew-accessible, but the first two (AS #1 and #2) were, so we headed back to the car, back down venerable FS500, and off to AS #1.

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The crew preparing for a long day ahead. Photo Gregg Gelmis/We Run Race Photos

AS #1—Highrock—6.7mi

For a race like this, the crew has to estimate when their runner will appear at the aid station. Due to Pinhoti’s rules, crews need to be near the aid station itself when they meet with their runner. For the most part, this meant we were bringing a backpack full of food, drink, and medical options to Craig all day long, then replenishing our supplies from the car. Occasionally, we’d be near enough to the AS that we could just collect Craig as he came through and bring him to the car.

Despite knowing Craig’s anticipated pace, it’s still a guessing game, so we were always early to arrive at an AS with the possibility of staying there a bit until he showed. Almost every runner was stopping briefly to top of fluids, get some fruit or candy, or drop trash. That was typical throughout the day. Brian jumped right in helping the volunteers at AS #1 as they figured out their rhythm.

We mostly saw just a few runners coming through at a time, then short breaks between waves that got smaller and smaller. Pretty soon, a train of Huntsville runners came through together, and they were obviously running together for company and pacing. Not many runners needed crew attention at this stop, but it’s what we were all there for anyway, and part of the crew’s job is just to be familiar faces and cheerleaders.

We saw Craig at 8:33am—slightly ahead of his goal pace—and quickly sent him on his way.

AS #2—Shoal Creek—13.27mi

This was another relatively easy stop for us, although one thing the early stops help the crew do is get a rough idea of the order of the pack. Knowing what faces were a few minutes ahead of your runner previously (always subject to change, of course) can be an indicator that your runner is coming up soon.

Craig was a little bit faster than his previous station-to-station pace, which surprised him. He’s just not built to go slow! He was building up a bit of a time cushion against a 24:00 finish time, which was not necessarily the plan, but we also knew some later sections with lots of climbing and walking would likely be slower than target pace as well. He and David Thurman were pacing each other, and they came through about 9:55am.

After seeing Craig off, we headed off to a gas station to get gas and ice to last the day. Some other crews had the same idea, and we chatted briefly with some ladies from BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society). This was coincidentally the same gas station run we made at Pinhoti last year that led to our meeting Kelly Teeselink and her crew supporting Julie Moffitt. That year, we’d end up seeing that same crew at almost every aid station all day and night as Craig and Julie yo-yoed, and Kelly would later save my bacon by providing a spare headlamp when mine died in the middle of the woods—something I have been trying to pay back to another runner in need ever since.

AS #3—Horseblock—18.27mi

As was the case with several of the aid stations, parking for AS #3 was just on the side of a state highway. After we rumbled to a stop in Rory’s M1 AbramsLand Cruiser, we all noticed a burning smell at about the same moment. Fortunately, it was just a result of the tall grass coming into contact with the muffler. We kept an eye on it for a moment since the state was under a burn ban and at risk for grass and forest fires, but no excitement ensued.

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Craig arrives at the Horseblock Aid Station (AS #3)

Craig arrived at 11:01am, which had his cushion built up to almost 30 minutes. David also decided to downshift here, so he let Craig know to head on without him.

We gave Craig pacing information and made sure he was loaded out with packable food and plenty to drink. While there would be three aid stations before we saw him again, this was the longest time he’d go all day without seeing the crew (22.67mi until AS #7), and the next 23 miles would also take him through the heat of the day (upper 70s) and the climb to the highest point in Alabama—Mount Cheaha.

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Brian, Rory, and other crews at AS #3

Lunch!

Since we were going to have a couple hours before we’d be able to see Craig at Cheaha State Park, we headed back over to Oxford to get lunch at Panera Bread. This was also a repeat of last year’s plan, when we ran into other Huntsvillians. This year repeated the pattern, and we had lunch with Ryan Chaffin and Ryan Harbaugh of Team Nasty, who were crewing for David Nast on his first 100-miler.

AS #7—Bald Rock—40.94mi

Starting to feel crazy yet? We’re now forty-one miles into this thing, and we’re not even halfway there.

AS #7 is in Cheaha State Park at Bald Rock, which is the observational promontory on the north side of Mount Cheaha. The Aid Station itself is actually in the parking lot at the sane end of the footbridge going out to Bald Rock. The area is one of the most scenic on the entire race trail.

Being such a beautiful afternoon for strolling in the park, Cheaha was packed. Unfortunately, the park didn’t seem to plan very well for the capacity of racers and their crews, so there were not any functioning bathrooms.

Pacers are allowed to begin at this AS, although Craig’s plan was to mirror our approach from last year and let him get down the “Blue Hell” descent on his own before we picked him up around mile 45.

We’d had an update from ultralive.net on Craig’s arrival time at AS #5, which helped us adjust for his ETA at AS #7. However, he still arrived a bit earlier than expected at 3:50pm. Given the segment he’d just climbed as well as the temperature, he was understandably getting overheated at this point. In addition to food and drink, we also loaded up his hat with some ice to help him stay cool on the descent. Although we fully expected to see Craig at AS #9 before dusk, we went ahead and loaded his headlamp in his pack just in case everything went sideways.

AS #9—Silent Trail—45.25mi

The approach to AS #9 is a narrow dirt road. Given the drought conditions, dust had been problematic all day. Not long after turning onto the road for this AS, we were greeted by two opposing cars and such a dust cloud that Rory had to turn on the truck’s lights.

Once we’d claimed a parking spot on the side of the road, I got my gear together for the upcoming 10-mile stretch. Brian and Rory prepped Craig’s supplies, then Brian walked down to the aid station to collect Craig when he arrived.

The trail-running community is incredible about helping each other. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising since most of us have needed help in the middle of nowhere at some point, but it still is always something I’m impressed and proud to see. While waiting at our car, a lady got into the car several car lengths behind us and then appeared to struggle to get moving. Rory noticed right away that her front wheels had spun on the dirt while the back wheels hadn’t budged. He guessed that it was an unfamiliar car (crews were now rotating in pacers with their runners, so presumably the car’s owner was now out running) and that she hadn’t released the emergency brake. He quickly helped her find the brake release and got her on her way.

Craig was now moving about at the pace we expected (arriving at 4:52pm), although he still had a time cushion established from his earlier segments. He sat down on the tailgate while we resupplied him. He was starting to get a little pickier about food, which was an indication of things to come.

This is also a good point to mention what the crewing experience is like. Early in a race, the racer is telling you what they need. As things progress, the crew starts pushing things at the runner, trying to convince him or her to eat/drink/take the item. At some point, runners are likely starting to feel nausea or other GI discomfort. Heat and fatigue are starting to make themselves felt, and blood sugar is sometimes getting wacky. Going into the night hours at a 100-mile race is like watching your runner transform from an incredible athlete into a highly-mobile toddler. You can’t always convince them what to eat/drink or when. Even though the runner may know you’re right, you have to do your best to keep suggesting, cajoling, or demanding that they eat or drink things.

Brian prompted Craig to get moving, and we headed out into mile 45, the same segment I ran with him last year, but this year in the daylight!

45.25mi-55.34mi (Pacer: Ron)

Despite an increase in my own training this year, I immediately noticed how much faster Craig was moving compared to last year. I was pretty comfortable with our pace, especially as the temperature dropped, but he definitely pushed my heart rate a couple times. Especially with his energy levels at this point, Craig was moving smoothly on flat sections, running short/flat inclines, and power-hiking the rest.

We were walking for just a minute while Craig finished some food, and we were passed by Yellow Calf Sleeves, who we’d yo-yo with several times on this segment. She’d end up finishing just five minutes and two spots ahead of Craig, although that was still 15.5 hours away.

We passed another girl dressed and tanned like a native Floridian, then another dressed like she was prepared for snow that night. We also passed a couple hikers and ran past some people at a picnic facility I didn’t even see in the dark last year. Although we’d continue to occasionally hear a voice carry or see a headlamp, we had the trail mostly to ourselves at this point.

Eventually, the light dropped enough that we needed to turn on our headlamps. Night trail runs are a unique and exhilarating experience, and a good headlamp will still let you move plenty quickly with time to react to terrain. Even so, Craig caught his foot at one point, and I heard him grunt, which was enough for me to ask if he was okay. Apparently he hit the same toe he’d stubbed on his son Miles’s bouncer earlier in the week. Chalk up another reason why parenting is dangerous to your ultrarunning training!

As we progressed, we went through some sections that seemed much more overgrown than either of us remembered last year. While the footing was generally clear, a lot of kung-fu hands were needed to keep branches, leaves, long grasses, etc. away from our upper bodies.

We overtook Yellow Calf Sleeves not long before AS #10, which was not crew accessible. I can understand how these middle-of-the-woods aid stations boost runners’ spirits. I’d only been going ~6 miles, and I was happy to see them! Running on a couple generators and strung with lights, they had multiple tents with all the trail foods, a grill making quesadillas, and even a TV showing football scores and the current game. I was able to get an update on the Auburn game and get a quarter of a quesadilla (not a good sign) into Craig.

While Craig was indomitable on the move (Rory and I compared notes, and to our memory, nobody passed him while he was moving), he was starting to struggle with nausea, and his aid stops were taking longer and longer as he tried to get some food down. Yellow Calf Sleeves rolled through AS #9 pretty quickly, and we headed out a minute later.

We only had about 3.3 miles until AS #10 and the next crew stop. We overtook a couple other runners within a few minutes. Craig always exchanged a “Good job!” with anyone we passed, and I religiously asked if they were okay or if they needed anything. We eventually reeled Yellow Calf Sleeves back in shortly before the climb out to AS #10.

During our climb out, which seemed to consist entirely of softball-sized ankle-breaker rocks, we heard some noise and lights ahead of us. I initially thought it was the aid station, but in turns out we’d first come across some very drunk campers, who demanded to know, “Yew gun dewt!?” Craig gamely yelled back that he was indeed “gun dewt.”

After getting teased that we were at the aid station, I began to hear that blasted cowbell some lady had been swinging all day (the first time I’d been happy to hear it), and we arrived at Adam’s Gap.

AS #10—Adam’s Gap—55.34mi

Rory and Brian were watching for us to arrive, which was 7:42pm. The last segment was behind our target pace, much of it due to the time accumulating from longer aid stops. We got Craig over to his folding chair, where he performed his transformation act from trail juggernaut into suffering ultrarunner.

He was fighting nausea pretty hard now. Brian channeled his inner gameshow host and announced food, candy, and drink options. Rory and I Vanna White-d everything we could. Brian eventually got Craig to agree to some Ramen being made over at the aid station tent. We also kept pushing flat Mountain Dew at Craig, which had been one of our most successful and consistent sugar sources all day.

Craig’s back was also starting to hurt, which was a completely new problem for him. The nausea and his back left him leaned forward in his chair for quite a while, and Brian’s concern grew noticeably while Craig spent over 40 minutes at the aid stop. I wouldn’t realize this until we spoke later, but Brian mentioned that Craig came to aid station ahead of his 24h pace, but the 40-minute delay caused him to fall well behind it. Making up time later in the race was unlikely, especially given how he was starting to struggle nutritionally.

Although Craig was beginning to struggle, this was a great stop for getting to see a lot of familiar faces. Many of the other Huntsville crews were in the area, and several came over to check on Craig or answer his questions about how their runners were doing. It had been full dark for a while now, and the AS was blasting some excellent music choices. More than any other AS on the course, this one felt like a runners’ party.

Craig wanted some Ginger Ale, but the AS didn’t have any. Brian did acquire some pickle juice, however, which wasn’t a big hit. In an act either of brotherly love or attempted crew chief cleverness, the pickle juice got mixed in with the remaining Mountain Dew. Craig was not a fan and recommended Pepsi not pursue it as a future flavor.

As we got him ready to go, Craig asked for his arm sleeves, which were back in the truck. Brian dashed back to get them, and I convinced him to start walking with Rory, who was the next pacer for the next ~10 miles. Brian couldn’t come up with the sleeves under the time pressure, and we got Craig going anyway knowing he had his jacket but also that he would warm up again once he was moving.

As Brian and I collected our stuff to head back to the truck, Brian tipped back the remainder of the Mountain Dew at about the same time I asked him if that was the pickle juice. It was.

55.34mi-65.44mi (Pacer: Rory)

Craig’s wife Jess had run this segment with him last year, and we dropped Rory into last year’s successful pacing plan. Rory has done middle-distance trail running in the past, although he hadn’t been able to train much this year. While other crews may operate differently, Craig’s pacers have traditionally not had to do a lot of pace coaching; Craig is going to run what he’s able to run. We tend to focus more on keeping him company, providing some mental distraction, and continuing to remind him to eat and drink.

Rory reported that this section started out on some Jeep road, which helped both Craig and him get loosened up again. Now that he was moving again, Craig transformed back into Runner Craig, and Rory noted how the conversation picked up again. Craig was probably also feeling a boost in his blood sugar from the aid stop.

Rory indicated that Craig didn’t eat particularly well at AS #11 (60.29mi, not crew accessible), although they did keep moving fairly well afterwards.

The Pinhoti trail had been threatened several times recently by forest fires, although there were no immediate threats at race time. However, they encountered a smokey section during this leg.

AS #12—Chandler Springs—65.44mi

Lacking the Wheelman, neither Brian nor I was excited about driving the Land TankCrusier into this aid station. It’s one we remembered in particular from last year being a dirt road barely more than a single car width. As it descended a hill down toward some railroad tracks, there was some gravel we’d used to turn around last year, but we’d also almost gotten last year’s vehicle stuck in the loose gravel. We decided to park headed in and let Rory help sort it out once he arrived.

Brian and I had also encountered a road sign warning of “fog or smoke ahead,” which we’d connect later with Rory’s report of some woodsmoke during their most recent five-mile segment.

This AS was really just a waypoint location compared to last year; there was no proper aid station presence at this location this year. Officially, I think this was a water-only aid station.

Being in such a remote location with no light pollution, I took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful starlight. Over the road behind us, the moon hung right between the trees, lighting the corridor runners would ascend to depart the aid station.

Brian prepped his own running gear, and Craig and Rory surprised us by showing up earlier than expected (10:51pm). Craig laid down almost immediately behind the truck to stretch his back. Although drivers had done good job all race long leaving plenty of space for others to get in and out of parking spaces, this still led to a moment of excitement for me when I heard the vehicle behind us start, and I saw the driver reach for the shifting lever. I dashed over to her window and asked her not to move while we scraped Craig off the ground between the vehicles.

With Craig arriving early and being noticeably more talkative, we were hopeful that we might be rallying. He’d have 20 miles with Brian, although we’d see them again in just a little over 3 miles.

AS #13—Porter’s Gap—68.78mi

We were not rallying. But more on that in a minute.

Parking for this aid station was once again on the side of a two-lane state highway, then there was a relatively short hike up to the AS itself. Just a moment after Rory and I parked and moved to the back of the truck to gather supplies, a pickup truck went flying past. Rory and I both gave him a few choice words, which were interrupted immediately by the sound of squealing rubber. Apparently this genius didn’t think that 20 or so vehicles parked on the side of the road was a good reason to slow down, and he very nearly rear-ended a crew vehicle turning into the aid station.

In our combination of haste (this was the shortest turn-around between crew stops), encouraged attitude at Craig’s apparent rally (we thought he’d roll through the AS pretty quickly), and lack of attention (we didn’t have the Crew Chief), Rory and I forgot to bring Craig’s folding chair up to the AS.

Craig and Brian arrived at 11:51pm, and Craig was badly nauseous. The aid station workers had a number of folding chairs available, so we quickly commandeered one to cover for our crew mistake. Brian brought the tough love and told Craig to force something down even if it was just to throw it up and get it over with. Craig worked slowly on some more Ramen, but nutritionally this was another poor stop for us.

68.78mi-85.63mi (pacer: Brian)

This segment is one of the most difficult on the course. It’s almost 17mi between crew stops, includes the second-largest climb on the course, and is occurring at a mileage and time of night that almost everyone is struggling. Brian had run this segment with Craig last year as well, although last year’s conditions featured driving rain, wind gusts, and much lower temperatures that led a number of runners to descend into Bull’s Gap with hypothermia.

Fortunately, the conditions were better this year, although Craig’s GI struggles continued. Brian reported that shortly after getting a little food at the Pinnacle Aid Station (#14, 74.53mi), he threw it back up.

Brian’s headlamp also fizzled on this section, which makes us three-for-three on having a headlamp issue on trail 100s. He was able to get some replacement batteries installed and keep Craig moving.

AS #16—Bull’s Gap—85.63mi

Given the time and distance between crew stops here, this is the window for the stationary crew to try to get a little sleep. Rory and I organized everything to head over to the AS in a few hours (especially Craig’s chair) and then closed our eyes for a little less than two hours of fitful sleep. I have no doubt it’s better than continuing to run in the woods during the same time, but I’d be lying if I told you we woke up refreshed.

Despite the delays and unpredictability of when we’d see an update on ultralive.net, we were able to see Craig’s arrival at AS #14 to refine his ETA for AS #16, and we headed over about 4:45am.

AS #16 was being run by the Huntsville Track Club (HTC), so there were a number of familiar faces. Once we got Craig’s chair established and laid out his consumables and road shoes, I walked over to the AS to see their selection. A blanket in a chair began talking to me, and it took a moment to resolve into Ryan Harbaugh (crewing for David Nast). Lea Billups (crewing for Kevin Mack) was also there, and we all compared notes on how our runners were doing.

Craig arrived at 5:04am (Sunday), so our calculations for his arrival as well as his pace consistency through the most recent segment was much better than last year, when we had to stand around for a fair amount of time.

Craig and I had run the upcoming miles together last year as well, and during our planning meeting a week before, we compared notes on how many trail miles versus road miles we remembered on this section. We agreed that road shoes would be more appropriate, and so he got changed into those.

Brian gave us a short update on how things had been going, then he got to work pushing food at Craig. He somehow talked him into a pirogi or two. Craig refused any sport drink mix in his bottles and just stayed with straight water, which was discouraging but not surprising. I knew Craig was running on “battery power” at this point without much nutrition going in, and I was worried about whether he’d last.

85.63mi-94ish mi (pacer: Ron)

This segment consists entirely of Jeep road, which allows runners to move a little bit faster and more consistently. The elevation from here to the end is also net downhill, although there are still some rollers and a few good climbs. Craig has maintained both years at Pinhoti that he gets bored on this section. I remind him that we’re moving faster and ending the suffering.

Heading away from AS #16, there was a lot of downhill. We put in a relatively fast mile but then faded again pretty quickly. Craig was clearly struggling with some imminent nausea again, and we stopped three times for him to put hands on his knees, although he didn’t throw up again.

Craig was also struggling a lot with drowsiness at this point. We passed several runners, and I continued to ask them if they were okay, although I believe they all had pacers that responded affirmatively. One runner we came upon had just curled up in the shallow ditch next to the road, and her pacer quietly told me they were taking a quick nap break. I don’t mind admitting that it scared the crap out of me.

In each of his past 100s, Craig has had a sleep-running moment: one with me at Lake Martin and one with Brian during Pinhoti. In both cases, though, it seemed like being called on it helped snap him out of it. This episode seemed to be hitting him harder, and on three occasions, I grabbed Craig’s pack and used it to make sure he stayed pointed forward while we hiked up a hill. He protested weakly that he was okay. I ignored him. We were within an hour of sunrise, and I tried to give updates every 10 minutes or so about how the sky was lightening up, some color was appearing, etc.

We passed AS #17 in the dark and didn’t even slow down. This year it was a water-only station, although Craig commented how he remembered getting a Grapico there last year. Craig and I both called out to the aid station worker to ask if he was doing okay before we even realized he was a volunteer. It was just another reminder to me of how people treat each other on the trails.

Despite his disappointment about the absence of Grapico, we pressed on, and Craig seemed to be past the worst of his drowsiness and his most recent nausea. We passed a couple other runner teams. Once I saw a pair behind us and commented on how they appeared to be wearing five lights between the two of them. They did not pass us. I couldn’t say for sure, but I suspect Craig refused to allow it.

Craig’s headlamp finally died on him about 10 minutes before runnable daylight. He had a spare battery but didn’t bother with it since my light was plenty and we were on the doubletrack Jeep road, making it easy to use one light for both of us.

Once the sun came up, SupermanCraig unfurled his cape and dug in for the last few miles. I had let him know once we’d gotten down to single digit miles remaining, and the impending finish as well as the daylight seemed to invigorate him.

AS #18—Watershed—94ish mi

The AS location for #18 was pushed up about a mile this year, and I don’t remember seeing the exact mileage given anywhere. Brian and I had left it as a gametime decision who would run the last segment with Craig, but as soon as we arrived I could tell he wasn’t dressed to keep running.

Craig saw and spoke to Benj Lance as we arrived (7:06am, Sunday) and Benj was heading out. We failed once again to get more food into Craig. I think we got him to take a few sips of Gatorade. Craig ditched his vest and just moved to a handheld bottle for the last miles.

94ish mi-100ish mi (pacer: Ron)

Craig hit the jets at this point, and his slowest remaining mile was a 12:02. We got off the Jeep road and back onto some trails, which we remembered to be fairly short (we’d be wrong).

We went into passing mode once again and slowly reeled in several people. I thought perhaps Craig would dial back after a bit, but he only got faster.

We both eventually commented that we thought we would have come out on the road already, but we continued to see orange marker flags indicating we were on course. Apparently the course was re-routed a bit this year, although I didn’t remember reading anything to that effect.

We eventually came out onto Oldfield Road in Sylacauga as expected, which is a long, straight road leading down to the high school. It had been a tough mental hurdle the previous year when Craig was emotionally, mentally, and physically done. I hadn’t been much help since I saw two different schools along the road and indicated that must be the high school where the race finishes (I was wrong).

Knowing a little better this year what we were facing, Craig cruised along. He mentioned that while his legs were exhausted, he felt great (which I assumed to mean mentally and cardio-ly). He ran at a sub-11:00 pace for his last three miles and change. We came upon Amy and Beth MacIntire. I could tell Amy and Beth were in the position Craig and I had been last year when he had nothing left to give and just needed to be done. We gave them the thumbs-up, and I very intentionally did not mention mileage remaining. I learned my lesson last year when I suggested two different schools would be the ending point, and then they weren’t. Don’t tease 100-mile runners during the last five miles.

I also listed this segment as “100ish” because with the route change, I wasn’t clear what the official race distance was. My watch had us pretty close!

Finish

25 hours and 23 minutes after we started on Saturday morning, Craig and I came around the half-lap of the track at Sylacauga High School, and he received his fourth belt buckle (8:23am, Sunday).

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Photo Gregg Gelmis/We Run Race Photos

If you know Craig at all, you know this picture is a huge display of emotion for him. While we didn’t get him across in 24 hours for his A goal, his time of 25:23 was an improvement of more than 2 hours on last year’s time, and he finished 48th overall out of a field of ~234.

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Breakfast at Sylacauga High School. Photo mruns.com

Many congratulations to Craig on an incredible accomplishment. My congratulations as well to everyone else who finished and those who toed the line and didn’t get their belt buckle this time around. If you ever get a chance to experience this kind of event, I can assure you that it takes an incredible amount of mental toughness to finish, but it also takes a different kind of mental toughness to acknowledge when a finish is not in your cards that day. My hat goes off to you all.

We got changed into dry clothes, loaded up the truck, and the Wheelman took everybody home. Longest Saturday ever.

 

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