With only 26 days until I run the Pinhoti 100 Mile race I decided to show up and race this 2 loop course. I felt like I needed a mental baseline of where I was in regards to my training. I had still put in 44 miles during the week leading up to the race so I would have to accept my end result, even on fairly tired legs.
I met up with Bo before the race and we carpooled together to the start. It was nestled deep in the foothills near the NC/SC state line. It's normally an adventure in itself to even find the start line of a trail ultra, but we made it with no problems.
Check in went smooth and we lined up with about 60 -70 other runners on the start line promptly at 7:30 AM. The course description stated that it had rolling hills with a few substantial climbs. We were to do the loop twice and it was about 15.50 miles long. There was also a team relay option for the race.
The entire field of runners went out VERY fast. I looked at my Garmin and we were running about a 9:55 min/mile pace for the first mile. I think the relay team runners were a big part of this as their pace was supposed to be much faster than most of the 50K runners.
Oh well, I ran at the very back of the pack with Chris, Bo, and Bill K. I knew that this pace would start breaking runners down soon (including myself). It did.
We crossed several deep creeks during the first 8 miles. As most runners tried to tiptoe across on the rocks, I opted to just plow through the deepest part in my Hokas. I needed to see how they were going to hold up in the water and they did great.
It was so much fun to splash through a creek and then run up a rutted out rocky hill on the other side. Rarely ever feeling the slightest root or rock in the Hokas.
I was a little surprised by how rocky the trail was. I was expecting a much more groomed surface, but was glad to see this. I love running the technical stuff. This caused the field of runners to spread out and everyone settled into their own pace.
I ran as many hills as possible without completely "redlining" and overheating. If that began to happen then I would walk for a short bit and then pickup a jog again.
I attacked this first loop as hard as possible and my first 15.5 mile split was 2:57. This averaged out to a 11:25 min/mile pace over about 2,400 feet of elevation gain on a fairly technical trail. I was very pleased with this, but had a feeling that I was going to fall apart on the 2nd loop.
I hit the 2nd loop hard and kept pushing the pace. I was very disappointed to arrive with no water available at the 20 mile aid station. The purpose of this race was to raise money for college student scholarships which I think is great. As a result there was very little in the way of aid station food or drinks. Heed/Water if you were lucky. I'm fine with this type of event, but there MUST be water out for the runners. It is dangerous to not have this necessity.
As a result I begin to cramp and slow down for the next six miles. This really frustrated me because some of the fastest running on the course was to be had through this section and I was forced to mainly just shuffle through it.
I briefly thought about taking a chance and drinking from a creek, but thankfully decided against it.
I was finally able to get some water around mile 27. I took down two S-Caps and a gel and began to feel better within about 15 minutes. All that was left at this point in the race was a steep half mile climb and then some very fast running opportunities into the finish.
I tried to keep pushing as hard as possible, but my legs were quickly dying on me and the cramping was trying to start back.
My legs were absolutely dead during the final mile as I pushed the pace into the finish. I knew that the faster I ran the sooner it would be over and I did just that. Full steam ahead.
I really thought that I had a shot at a sub 6:00 hour finish, but couldn't quiet pull it off. I was still pleased to finish around 6:20. This averaged out to about a 12:15 min/mile pace which should make a 15:00 min/mile pace seem very easy next month at Pinhoti.
I enjoyed this course and race, but if you ever decide to run it just come prepared with your own food and water. They do allow two drop bags to be placed out on the course. Use them.