The Snail began blogging about an upcoming 50K race called SweetH20 50K that he'd signed up for. After he ran it, I read his race report, and had this to say:
"I feel like I've had my eyes opened as to what kind of pain is actually out there to be had. And I am excited, in a totally sick way:)."
Through many adventures with these fine folks, I've learned that ultra running is not so much about the running as the journey of self discovery that happens when you put yourself in a semi-comatose state of pure running and suffering. It forces you to shed yourself of all limits and focus on just simply taking the next step forward. Imagine entering this state at a time when your sense of the moment is more alive then ever, and you will begin to gain insight into what drives me to seek bigger and bigger challenges and longer and longer races....
So, from Thomas Armbruster (Georgia Snail), to Jason Sullivan, to Charles Raffensperger. Long story short (you wish!) that's (ultimately) how I came to find myself
Training Lead Up
The crash training of the previous six months has included 30-mile night runs, the Laurel valley Ultra, and two separate attempts (1 successful) at the entire 80-mile Foothills Trail. Always trying to sneak in just one more adventure, the weekend preceding Pinhoti found me running 50 miles of the Pitchell 100K , and Charles pulling off a 44-minute Pumpkin Butt 50K PR.
A virtual rainbow of drop bags
Once I finished
Big Easy and Little Weezy
Christian and Lane were rockin' the belt buckles
The Big Day
Buy the ticket, take the ride: With the race being a point to point format, a long bus ride to the start was in order unless you had made arrangements to move your car. Which we hadn't.
We were running a bit late for the 4:00 am bus departure time, so we decided to skip the hotel's checkout process at the front desk. It was only on the road to the Rec Center that I realized my mistake. I had planned on getting coffee and breakfast at the hotel, and now I had none.
Oh, well, with 18 aid stations along the way, surely there would be plenty of time time to eat.
Miles 0 - 7 Aid Station 1
It was cold at the start! I don’t know what the actual temperature was, but I was very glad I had brought an extra sweatshirt. Even so, I was still shivering as we waited for the start.
Somewhere during this first 6 miles, lack of food (but especially coffee) caught up with me. By the time I reached the first aid station I was a mess. I was grumpy, cold, and very nearly in tears for feeling as bad as I did 6 miles into a 100 mile run. Not being able to get my gloves off of my hands sent me over the deep end. By the time Charles came over to help me, I was a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
As is often the case in times of great distress, I find comfort in the wise words of Samuel L. Jackson. Today, I could practically hear him say, "You better chill that bitch out. Tell that bitch to be cool!" To Charles: "Say, bitch, be cool! Say, bitch, be cool!" Bettah get yo shit togetha, woman. 94 miles to go. After eating, I felt much better, apologized to Charles, and Samuel Jackson made his exit.
Miles 7 - 13 Aid Station 2
After the 2nd aid station, we made our way past 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, and it was pretty cool.
As we came in to AS #3, it was simply awesome to see Holly and Thomas waiting for us! I cannot tell you how much it helps to see a friendly face. Immediately, they went about setting the bar high for all future crews. I mean, look at the other crew guy looking at Holly as if to say, "Are you serious? Is my guy gonna expect that kind of service???"
Holly is desperately trying to dig the knots out of my caffeine craving shoulders!
I'm like a running ninja...with a pink cap. And a big white dude.
You guys ROCK!!!!
Miles 23 - 34.5 Aid Station 6
Other than the detour, the course had been a single track lover's delight up to this point. Unfortunately, I no longer considered myself a single track lover. In fact, by this pont, if I never saw a narrow, slanted, rocky section of single track again it would be too soon. It was really starting to wear on me, plus something was going on that was affecting our perceptions- it seemed like there was no way the distances people were telling us were what we actually ran. Sometimes it seemed much shorter, but mostly it seemed much, much longer between aid stations.
Charles - looking so fresh you just want to slap him.
Miles 34.5 - 41 Aid Station 7 Bald Rock
This was mostly an uphill section that turned rocky coming up to the highest point in Alabama, Mt. Cheaha. As we neared the top, I started feeling really dizzy. At one point I was so light headed I was worried I was going to faint. Charles gave me a Roctane, which seemed to help and we carried on.
The best view on the mountain was at Bald Rock; it was crowded with visitors, and we stood with them for a while to enjoy the view -- it was GREAT! We thought we had to summit the mountain here then climb down to the Aid Station. That's why is was so freaking weird when we heard Thomas' voice shouting out, "There's my runners!!!"
Steep climb up to Bald Rock
The surprise 'fros were indeed motivational, Team Snail!!!
Crews put on a serious party at this rockin' Aid Station
After changing shirts and eating, Charles and I were off to Blue Hell and beyond. (This steep, rocky trail coming off Mt. Cheaha is run uphill in the Mt. Cheaha 50K). Blue Hell is a pretty crazy section. It's not even a trail, it’s just rock hopping and more than once you're going down 3 or more feet at time. If I understand it correctly, Blue Hell drops you around a 1000 feet in ½ a mile. 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 -- but it would have been had it been dark or I had to climb up this hill.
Miles 52 to 55 Aid Station 10
From the aid station, it was slow going as the trail became pretty technical. The highly reflective tacks and tags on the flagging were excellent night-time markers. This may have been the section where we picked up Adam and a couple of other runners for a short time. By this point, the Aid Stations were blurring together somewhat, as was what was happening in between them.
Miles 55 to 60 Aid Station 11
I began to think Steve Jobs was the greatest person in the world for inventing the iPod through this section. 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. Charles was still fantastically strong and his strength pulled me through. I was feeling pretty bad about letting him down, and if he continued to look as good as he was now, I wanted him to continue on without me.
First, I'd like to thank RD Todd Henderson for putting on such an excellent event and being the great host that he was.
A huge, huge THANX to Georgia Snail and the lovely Holly. You guys made this a fantastic experience and we're forever grateful to you for showing such selflessness and making us have so much fun. We're ready to return the favor- just say the word.
I have to say that my favorite part of this race was returning to watch all the finishers after getting some sleep back at the hotel. Weezy was the face of Pinhoti this year, as he finished his first Hundred Miler. GO WEEZY!!!!
Dan B. and Weezy sharing a great moment