I ran my first 100-mile race on Saturday (and Sunday) -- the Pinhoti 100 miler, the only 100 miler in Alabama. I suffered in ways that I did not expect, and I did not suffer in ways that I expected I would. I finished in 25 hours and 27 minutes, about four and a half hours slower than my "A" goal, and about an hour and a half behind my "B" goal. No matter. I finished nearly five hours in front of the main goal, which was to finish the race in 30 hours. I got my belt buckle.
As a wise man (Fifty Cent, I believe) once said, I am now in the club.
Um, why Alabama?
I wanted to do my first 100 at low altitude -- presumably one that was a little easier. So I searched a bunch of sites that published lists of 100 milers, and I noticed that there was one in Sylacauga, Alabama, a tiny little town in rural Alabama, where I just so happened to live for four years when I was a kid. The timing in November worked well for me, so I figured it was perfect.
Why 100 miles?
I've wanted to run one of these things since high school. I was pretty serious about my running in junior high and high school, and dating back from the day I first read an article in the Denver Post about the Tarahuma tearing up the Leadville 100, I knew I wanted a part of the sport. But in the intervening years, I drank a little too much beer, ate a little too much, and strayed from the straight and narrow path of serious running. About three years ago, though, one of my high school teammates, after finishing his first marathon, announced that he was going to start doing ultras. This guy always drew out the competitive juices in me. I told him there was no way he was going to run 100 before I did. At the time, this seemed pretty unlikely. I was well over 200 pounds (I'm only 5'11''), I hadn't run more than 3 miles in six months, and he had just run a solid marathon time. But on November 5, 2011, I weighed 155, had finished a training block where I averaged 60-70 miles a week, and I was ready to go. And my friend, Mike McCarthy (no relation), was still in pretty good shape himself, and he had graciously agreed to pace me during the second half of the race.
The above background is only relevant in that it shows I had spent quite a few years thinking about the distance, and the moment. I knew I wasn't going to win the race, or, absent a horrible accident involving a semi-trailer and the entire lead pack early in the race, compete for the podium. But I wanted to run well. You don't wake up every morning at the butt crack of dawn to run for 80 minutes because you want to underperform. You want to live up to your potential. And so I was nervous. Very nervous. So very nervous that I did not get one second of sleep the night before the race. I tossed and turned and fretted. I tried counting sheep. I tried meditating. I tried thinking of nothing at all. I tried counting backwards by multiples of 27 starting from 200,000 (true story). To no avail. The alarm went off at 3:15 and it only served to let me know that I would be totally and completely exhausted -- before I started my first 100-mile race. Oof.
I got up and started eating. One ensure. One power bar. A bowl of banana, honey, and almond butter (delicious -- and highly recommended). Coconut water. I downed about 1000 calories before my girlfriend Monica woke up and joined me on a trip to the starting line. The course was a point to point, starting in Heflin, Alabama, roundabouts 50 miles Northeast of Sylacauga, Alabama (there were lots of twists and turns along the course). When I got there at 5:20 am, 40 minutes from the start, there was no one there in an official capacity yet. I stepped out of the car, and I spotted course record holder and eventual winner Karl Meltzer, professional ultrarunner and famed Speedgoat, and asked him where the start was. He said I was about standing on it. Ok. Just wait for the cavalry to show. A few minutes later they did, and I signed in and started chatting with other folks. Everyone was friendly with a buzz in the air. I chatted with one kid from the area who had never run more than 15 miles in his life. Yikes. I don't believe he finished.
Without much to-do, the race director got us all lined up. He said we were already late, and he was going to make this quick. And with the words, "Get out," we were off...