LOVE HARDER , EAT BETTER & EXPLORE FURTHER
- “I was more of a Tupac guy” - Luke Hough, the whitest man in Heflin, Alabama while discussing 90s rappers on our way to pick-up
- “HOMEWRECKER” - Ryan Ploeckelman
- “Serious question, can you run with a tampon in?” - Sean “The Run Bum” Blanton
- “I mean, you knew it was going to hurt” - Jackie Merritt
- “I totally see those headlights coming at us, but I gotta poop, let me know if they get too close” - Me to Jackie around mile 80 as redneck truck approaches
- “Does she only eat Oreos?” - Mile 93 Aid Station volunteer
- “I’m gonna Breakfast-Club it” - See photo, hitting the asphalt for the 2ish miles to the finish line
- “This is how it ends, death by Pitbull in nowhere Alabama” - What IS it with unfenced dogs in the backwoods
- “You don’t have a vagina, crush it dude” - Me, to the amazing gentleman who passed me trucking before we hit the high school :) but at least didn’t knock me out of First Female
Did I really run 100 miles? My body, my feet, my knees and my soul definitely know it, but my brain is still all “What the fuck happened to Saturday, how is it Monday and I’m driving to work”.
Now, I can probably recap 50k and 100ks a bit briefly, but this would become a lengthy blog trying to summarize 22 hours of relentless forward progress. Instead, I gathered all my favorite quotes, those that made me laugh and the things I remembered the most vividly this morning. Second, I broke this run into four sections and describe them as well as I can for those who know me and for those that may like to run Pinhoti in the future.
Miles 0 - 45
In true Liz fashion, I spent most of this time alone. At the beginning and on and off through mile 20 I spent time with Whitney Stanley, Sarah Williams and Lauren Mitchell. Formidable women in their own right who took on this challenge with grit and grace. I’m sure they were much more lady-like than I was.
I felt like I spent this entire 10 hours or so with my feet wet. Lots of rain this year made for lots of creek crossings that were dried out last year. This would make for some hamburger-feet later on, but, for someone with generally no blister issues I kept on chugging with my trusty Swiftwicks.
Every aid station transition was quick and perfect, all due to my crew and even the people they enlisted at times to fill packs and mop my face (Thanks Jobie Williams!). It got hot, stayed hot, and for me that only made the day better. I am sick and twisted and love the heat, bring on the misery, I’ll chug Tailwind all day long.
Running these miles was rolling and gorgeous with mostly curvy gullies and views of the changing leaves. Leaf-cover made for a few toe stubs, but no big falls. Climbing mT.Cheaha was worth every minute spent in the socked-in woods. The view was beautiful and truly the climb was not a bad as I expected, in fact I ran most of the way up, assuming I had messed up my pace chart and was not heading toward Bald Rock. Heading down the road after Bald Rock was the warmest I really ever felt in the exposed sun, and dropping into Blue Hell was truly rough. That technical section was slow going and was the only time I got a bit lost as I missed a well-flagged turn and ended up in someone’s picnic lunch.
Miles 45 - 65. Quick moving time spent with Sean Blanton
I ran into the Mile 45 - Silent Trail Aid Station with Jess who said if I wanted, Sean Blanton was willing to pace for the next 20 miles. I had intended to take this all on alone until 65, but really at this point I was just plain bored. I had one great gent I had been running on and off with, Jim Fleming, but other than that just silence or my headphones. Run Bum was a GREAT distraction and really a great pacer. He kept me even, my heart rate down and by the last ten miles with him I was still running strong. Sean, Jim, James Demer and I crushed that section and came into Mile 65 within a few minutes of eachother feeling great. Miles 45-55 are a mix of rolling, single track and a bit of road. Miles 55-65 are a long, long stretch of fire road that mostly goes uphill until you take one hard left to beautiful, soft downhill pine trail to the Mile 65 aid station.
Unfortunately right towards the end, I had started to develop a little bit of heel pain. I had started to modify my stride and hit more on my midfoot but I could tell that was just going to start a whole new host of problems. “Here comes the tough stuff”, I thought. I knew. As Jess had said earlier, I had trained for the suffering and took on some tough tune up races to prepare for it. Game on.
Miles 65 - 85. Pain setting in with Jackie Merritt
I kept on chugging, taking Jackie out for the night and the next 20 miles. Heel pain settled in (and still hurts, sure it will work out in the next week or so) and due to increased power walking and a weird stride my right IT Band was really unhappy. I was able to keep a pretty good pace until Mile 75 (Pinnacle) a long, twisty climb that I truly enjoyed. Somewhere in the midst of these miles Jackie - a doctor and master of bodily issues - worked on my foot a little, performed some magic and alleviated a bit of the pain. At Pinnacle, I ate some noodles, put on cushier, dry socks and headed out for the last 10 miles with Jackie. Some more rutted fire road that put my foot through the ringer, but we kept on moving. The last miles down to the Bulls Gap (Mile 85 and the Huntsville Track Club aid station!) are this twisty, mind-fuck that has you hearing the voices and the music for over a mile before you finally dump out into the aid station.
I was deliriously happy to be this much closer, but having nauseous, panic attacks about how much more we had to go. Long ago I had stopped eating solid food, and I just found out we had run out of Tailwind (total planning fail on my part, we hadn’t expected me to go through THAT much Tailwind). I had also run out of Honeystinger Chews, which were about the only other thing sitting well besides Oreos. I stuffed a taco in my mouth praying it would stay there, took some Oreos and a pack of Water/Powerade for the road and headed out with Jess Wood. I warned her things weren’t pretty, and come hell or high water we were finishing this thing. I would walk the whole thing if I had to.
Miles 85 - Finish. The dark with Jess Wood.
And the ugly sobs happened. My positivity lost to my negativity for a combined 15 minutes? Jess can attest to this better, but she kept me moving, helped me breathe through the rough spots and run whenever the terrain and my leg would allow. At this point I could barely bend my right knee, so I was limited to a stutter step run or a fast walk. Good news was, the pain in my IT band had overpowered my foot and I didn’t really notice my heel. The better news was, even 10 miles from the finish line I was truly proud of myself, and proud of my body for having only (what I considered) this minor set back. Miles 85 to the finish are mainly gravely fire/back road, with a few miles of trail and the last 2.5 or so on the pavement to Sylacagua High School.
I’m sure the weirdest conversation from the entire event occurred while I tried to explain a psychology paper I had read, and found really interesting. I decided to access my pain, accept the struggle and try to find harmony. Firstly by giving a my pain a name. We named my right leg Randall. And rather than cuss and cry, as I would have liked, I talked out loud asking for my pain to understand what we were doing here and get with the program. To accept that this was going to happen no matter what, and that I would give it a rest and tons of therapy as long as we could just cross that finish line. Who knows what might have worked, but we kept on chugging and I never totally quit on running. I swear this concept exists, or I’m fucking crazy, decide amongst yourselves.
We hit the road.
I decided to channel Judd Nelson and go full Breakfast Club. Luke Hough still does not understand this reference. See second photo of the post...
And we made it to the stadium. It was amazing and liberating to run around the track. Kevin came to holler for me (Kevin Mack who I paced and crewed for here last year) and Luke ran out to come around the track. In true "Wife of the Year" style, I actually asked him if I could hit the finish line alone. A privilege he didn’t take at his Bear 100 finish. But, in some of the hardest things I’ve done, I’ve never crossed a finish line with anyone. Georgia Death Race, Beaverhead 100k and Barkley Fall Classic all had me cross a finish line alone, and although I wouldn’t accomplish a single thing by myself, I’ve enjoyed that moment of my just my feet and me that trained and raced all those miles.
I have my crew to thank for everything - Jessica Wood, Jackie Merritt and my ever-patient husband Luke Hough. Special shout-out to Sean Blanton who entertained me for several hours and kept a good pace, Jobie Williams who helped my crew out here and there (and took great pictures!), Gregg Gelmis for more pictures, and RD Todd Henderson for putting on one hell of a race.
Shorts - Saucony Bullet Tight Shorts. These shorts can do no wrong, tight, chafeless AND pockets
Tank - Patagonia something, I actually don’t think they make this anymore. I love this shirt I should have bought twelve. Lose and fitted somehow at the same time.
Pack - Nathan VaporHowe 4L. I love having this smaller pack for race day, poor thing has seen better days at this point (Barkley put it through the ringer). Holds a 1.5 L bladder and everything else I wanted between aid stations. Which by the end was just soggy Oreos.
Shoes - Saucony Peregrines and my Trusty Milestone Pod
Fuel - Tons of Raspberry Buzz Tailwind. About 20 packages of Honey Stinger Pomegranate Chews, Oreos and Sweet Potato Tacos I packed. Liters of Coca-Cola.
Let me leave you with this lovely Coca-Cola Ad. Seriously, soda companies should start a campaign for ultrarunners...
Luke Hough & Liz Canty
Liz Canty and Luke Hough. Co-habitants who like to run, race, explore and drink much too expensive beer. Read along through the awesome, the sweaty, the daily life and the occasional bickering over which running shoes are the best…