Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 Pinhoti 100

You know those days when absolutely nothing goes as planned?  When you wonder why you do this to yourself?  That was my 2014 Pinhoti 100.  But as all bad days go, I learned a lot and walked away tougher from the experience.  

The 2013 edition of this race was my return to 100 mile running post-injury.
I had a pretty good day last year and returned this year with the hopes of bettering my time and my place at the finish.  I loved this course last year and looked forward to running it again.  Training leading up to the race was not ideal - but I've learned that race lead-up is rarely ideal and felt ready to tackle the beast again.  

Gene Meade crewed/paced me last year and I felt so lucky when he offered to come back and help again.  He knows how to take care of a runner and he knows me very well so I knew I was in good hands.  Plus, he's just funny as can be - and laughing and having fun can never be understated when it comes to racing 100s!  

The race festivities began with weather warnings.  For cold temperatures and high winds.  Normally these types of warnings are welcomed, I thrive under adverse conditions and cold weather is much better for me than warm when it comes to race day.  But for this race, the cold and the wind compounded with a bunch of other factors to create a perfect storm.  
With Anji at packet pick-up
The start time was moved out by an hour this year, to 7am.  I'm guessing this was done to allow us to start without headlamps - but it sort of threw my game off from the beginning.  I had an idea where I was the year prior and found myself feeling discouraged because I seemed slower this year when in reality we'd started an hour later.  

I hitched a ride to the start with Rich White, the Cascade Crest RD.  It's nice to carpool to the start and I also prefer to let my crew/pacer catch a little more sleep for the long night ahead.  It was fun to see a few Washingtonians (Chris Schultheiss made us a trio) and it was fun to chat with Rich on the way to the start.  Another Ink N Burn Elite, Anji, was also racing and in the car as well - we were all upbeat and ready for the challenge.  I saw my friend Jason Green at the start and he graciously wrapped me in his down jacket for some extra warmth while we waited for the race start.  I gave my new friend Cecilia Santos a hug as we lined up for the start. In short, it was a reunion party!!
Suited up and ready to go!
Last year I made an error in going out too fast on this very runnable course.  The conga lines can be bad and I started quickly last year in an effort to avoid running too slow.  I did a much better job this year keeping the reigns on and felt very comfortable but not overreaching at the start.

The miles and aid stations ticked off pretty easily early on.  I was surprised to see my friend Anji at the 3rd aid station helping Gene.  She'd dropped and was now helping me along with Gene.  I was psyched for the extra help (I don't usually even have one crew let alone two!).  For the first few aid stations I was doing well at sticking to my hydration/fuel plan and all seemed good.  Despite the cool morning temps, I seemed to be warming up well and spirits were high.

I can't really put my finger on it but at some point the plan just flew out the window.  I noticed my urine was darker in color from the beginning and I had a feeling the pink/red drink I was using was making that worse.  I started to ween off my planned fuel drink and started carrying a bottle of water. If I had to pinpoint when things started to go wrong for me it was probably this moment.  In general, my fuel plan is made in lucid moments when I think rationally about what I need to eat.  When I decide on the fly to deviate from the plan it's not usually a good decision.  The cooler temperatures and the wind had me more focused on staying warm and less focused on calorie intake.

I kept chugging along but the wheels continued to come off.  I started to get pretty cold by the late afternoon as the sun began to set.  I rolled into the aid station at mile 47 and the look on my face says it all.  I knew the wheels were coming off.

But in true ultra runner fashion, I plodded on.  The next aid station and crew access was miles away and I needed to get there before dark.  My pace had slowed considerably and I was trying everything my brain could think of to pull it back together.  I started to have some difficulty breathing - basically a wheezing in my throat and tightness in my lungs.  It made my heart rate spike and I felt my effort level was too high for the pace I was moving.

I only barely made it to the 55 mile aid station by dark.  It was really dark in the wooded areas coming into the aid station and I was moving very slowly because of it.  I got to a rocky section leading up to the aid station and was saved by a guy with a headlamp.  I think I would have tripped along this rocky section had he not helped me there.  (thank you Mr. Headlamp whoever you were!)  I was desperately cold when I reunited with my crew at this aid station and bundled up for the cold night ahead.  Gene walked away from this aid station with me and up the road incline and I felt myself truly discouraged.  I was freezing cold and the night was only beginning.  I knew my day was not going as well as I hoped and the thought of 45 miles to go was a bit daunting.  Gene did his best to raise my spirits but his job was not an easy one.

I have few memories from the night.  I was consumed by a bone-chilling cold the entire time.  I couldn't feel my hands for most of the night and I was abysmal at fueling myself.  My hands were so cold I couldn't concentrate on anything else.  I drank a small cup of coke at each aid station but drank nothing in between.  I grabbed a piece of food at each aid station but ate nothing in between.  I could make up excuses about how my hands were so cold I couldn't grip my bottles and drink properly and that I couldn't open any food I was carrying.  The truth is that I was just foolish.  I crawled into the pain cave whining and feeling sorry for myself about being so cold.  Sure it was cold.  Sure I was tired.  But the fact is I messed up and stopped thinking.  I didn't drink.  I didn't drink anywhere near enough to fuel myself.  I got severely dehydrated and that perpetuated the foolish thinking and made the cold impact me more severely.  In hindsight this all seems crystal clear.

At the time I was worried about the wheezing, which got progressively worse as the night wore on.  I was unable to breathe when I would try to run and ended up hiking the last 30 miles of the course.  I would run and be unable to breathe and then walk and be unable to feel my limbs.  It was a long and painful night.

In the end I finished.  It wasn't pretty but I got it done.  To think that I was able to keep going in such a depleted and hypothermic state is pretty remarkable.  I might be dumb but I'm tough.  :)  Next time - stick to the plan, Jen.  Stick to the plan.

24:48 - 5th place female

Keep smiling.  :)

Gear I used:
Skirt, shirt, tech tube and cami from Ink N Burn
Hydration Pack - Orange Mud Vest Pack
CEP Compression socks


  1. Despite the cold and some other problems, you still finished 5th! Congrats!

  2. Nice job! Maybe not where you wanted to finish, but I know for me the bad races are the races you learn the most! Keep on running! :)