Y’all. We have a problem. I’ve been bitten by the 100-mile buckle bug.
Two weekends ago I helped crew and pace my friend Greg at the Pinhoti 100, and it was one of the most fun and eye-opening experiences ever. I had been excited for months to go play in the woods and truly dive into the ultra scene by watching my first 100, but I didn’t expect it to make that much of an impact on me.
Some people would take one look at the delirious, smelly, blistered runners and go, “Uh, no.” Instead, all weekend I was giddy as hell and kept going, “I want to be you! I want to chafe and ooze and lose my toenails too! Let me into your crowd!” The ultra community is fun and laid-back and drama free and crazy. I’m so serious—these are my people.
Instead of giving you a 30-hour minute-by-minute recap, I’ll paint a picture of the race by highlighting all the reasons it made me want to run 100:
Teamwork—Who doesn’t like being on a team? Especially one that’s all about you! Greg assembled Team Sasquatch to crew and pace him—complete with a kickass logo and matching hoodies. Since Greg is sponsored by Cahaba Brewing, we were also decked out in Cahaba Brewing gear. We looked legit! We looked like Bigfoot groupies with a drinking problem.
During the race, we would meet Greg at every accessible aid station, refill his pack with fuel and hydration, shove cookies and Mountain Dew down his throat, pat him on the back and send him on his way. The crews were working like a well-oiled machine. Help the runner, encourage the runner, send the runner on his way. Rinse and repeat. It was organized chaos, and I loved being in the middle of it.
I never realized how integral a crew is to a runner. Obviously, it helps to have a team there to cater to your every need, disgusting as it may be (blister-popping and thigh-lubing, anyone?). But there’s nothing that will boost a runner’s morale more than seeing the smiling faces of his crew at 3 a.m. I already know who I want by my side for my first 100—get ready Zack and Natalie!
Volunteers—Just as important as the crew, volunteers can make a race that much better. Every Pinhoti aid station was full of smiling faces, delicious food, Christmas lights, fun music, and fires.
But the BUTS-sponsored Pinnacle aid station at mile 74.5 was epic. I’m not kidding—it was an oasis in the middle of the woods. I’m sure some runners thought that they were hallucinating. Runners had to climb over 1,000 feet on steep switchbacks on an exposed ridge in the middle of the night in 30 degree temps to get to Pinnacle. What was their reward? Dance music heard for miles, fried egg sandwiches made with love, bacon, menus posted on the trail, bacon, a roaring bonfire, bacon, and the happiest BUTS around. And bacon. These guys worked tirelessly to make sure that the food was stocked and the runners were happy. Katie and Kyle had been up since 3 a.m. Saturday and still were working their asses off and had smiles on their faces when Greg and I saw them at 3 a.m. Sunday. Everyone, I mean everyone I came across raved about the Pinnacle station. BUTS kick ass.
Experience—100 miles is a long fucking way to run. Stop and think about it. 100. Miles. It’s easy to forget in my circle of crazy BUTS friends how truly incredible it is to run those kinds of distances. The amount of training that goes into the race is a feat in and of itself. Months of blood, sweat, and tears all left behind on the trail. Not to mention that it’s just as physical as it is mental. I witnessed firsthand what being alone with your thoughts for 100 miles does to you. It takes a special kind of person to will one foot in front of the other repeatedly when everything hurts beyond what you imagined and all you want to do is stop and sleep. I want to be that person.
Two of my favorite quotations are “and miles to go before I sleep” by Robert Frost and “little by little, one travels far” by J.R. Tolkien. Cliche as hell running-wise, but I see them as metaphors for life. I have a lot that I want to accomplish—I don’t know what exactly yet, but I want to make an impact. And as stupid as it sounds, running 100 miles can be a metaphor for life too. It takes time to do great things. I want to put myself out there, push my body to the limits, and continue on my journey for whatever awesomeness awaits.
Badass—Let’s be honest. I want to be known as a badass. 100 miles should cinch that title, no?
So all in all, it was a fun, inspirational, and emotional weekend. I can’t wait to pace or crew another ultra, and I certainly can’t wait to start training for mine. Greg, you better be by my side when I tackle my first 100. This is your fault, after all.
Some more shots from Pinhoti: