Race: Pinhoti 100 Trail Run

Runner: Dan Thomas

Race Date: 11/06/2021

Location: Sylacauga, Alabama

Results: 79th Overall with a time of 29:02:32

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/6230096485

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Aid stations ~ every 5 miles was great. You only have to carry a little hydration and nutrition between each stop. 4 Drop bag stations made for easy access to your supplies as the race progressed.
  2. The trails were soft! Soft Long needle pine needles covered the forest floor and most of the trail. It was like running on a cushioned sole and just makes you smile with every stride.
  3. The course flags were consistent throughout the race and kept everyone on course through the whole race.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  • If you like PB&J and Quesadillas you’re golden, if not, well… Tough. There wasn’t a lot of variety in aid station food. I was really looking forward to some pancakes, hash browns, eggs, etc and there just wasn’t a lot to speak of. The Aid station around mile 58 had great burrito’s and the final aid at mile 97 smelled sooo good but I was out of time and didn’t stop to sample their offerings.
  • The aid station volunteers were very nice and friendly. Just don’t rely on them to know the cutoff times or to give you encouragement to get out of there and on your way. I was literally the last person to make it through 3-4 stations and you wouldn’t have known it. I was frantically asking “How much time do I have!?” and getting casual responses of “Oh, like 2-3 minutes.”
  • Don’t rely on the cutoff times to make it in. Making the cutoff on the previous aid is no indicator that you will make the next cutoff. They don’t account for course terrain. For example, on the last big hill around mile 70-80. There is no way you’re going to keep your same average pace here so you better bank a bunch of extra time before you even get there or you’ll get cut on the hill.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Right out from the starting gate the first ~ten miles of the race is called the “Kanga Line” This is because the single track section (90% of the race is single track) doesn’t allow for passing. Everyone is more or less walking/jogging/stopping for ten miles in a traffic line waiting for the course to open up.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  • The weather was great! I was worried about being cold but a light wind breaker or long-sleeved was enough to make it through the night just fine. I didn’t even have to pull out my spandex pants.
  • The absolute best part though was running on the pine needles. They felt soo great! After so many miles training on gravel roads and rocky trails most of this course was heaven for my feet.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • Buy a nice light for at night. I skimped and it wasn’t worth it.
  • Turn your phone on airplane mode. Much of the course has no reception so don’t bother. I turned my phone on every few miles when we hit a highpoint and would make my calls/send texts/get updates and then turn it off again.
  • Bring a nice watch. Again I skimped here and ran with my Garmin 235 which lasts about 10 hours. I ended up carrying a stupid battery pack for 24 hours to recharge my watch multiple times.
  • We almost got off course a couple of times just because we were all in our own heads. If you’re running with a group, assign someone to keep an eye out for the course markers…

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  • Buy the right freaking equipment. Can you run a 100 miles on a budget? Yes. Should you? Definitely Not. I remember running through the middle of the night thinking “I have 13 hours of dark to endure. My light is not going to make it” AND “Is that a rock? A hole? A shadow?” I should have had a real good light.
  • Run with a friend! It makes the time go so much easier.
  • Make sure your pacer knows the section they are running, what the cutoffs are, and how far to the next stop. They also need to be able to calculate in their head. I can’t tell you how many pacers I asked in the last ten miles of my foggy race brain, “What is the next cutoff time? And what pace do we need to do to make it in time?” It was really frustrating when the pacers were clueless. At one aid station I nearly missed the cutoff simply because I was mistaken on my calculation and no one corrected me. (I blame lack of sleep) 😉

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The race is over the time change every year. Your watch and smart phone will probably change times WITHOUT your knowledge. Ask aid stations for the “Race Time” as compared to “Current Time”. Don’t get caught counting on getting an extra hour of race time for free like some people do…

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

You’ll pass a few small waterfalls, and cross dozens of streams. There were a couple of pretty viewpoints but mostly your going to be in the trees here. The best part though, was the shade from all the direct sunlight.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

This was my first so I’m probably not the best to ask but in short, No, this wasn’t a terribly difficult course. Coming from Utah and doing most of my training on some serious mountains, I found myself in the Alabama hills, asking “Where are the real mountains?” With that said there is a TON of up and down on this course. The whole time you’ll either be going up or down for a total of 30k ft of elevation change, but not too much of it was really steep or challenging.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

This is a well run machine. For the most part they really know what they are doing and have many runners come back year after year to participate.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Show up and throw it down. Nothing too difficult here. It is the last qualifying race of the season though so expect it to sell out. I was on the waitlist and made so don’t fret if you’re not early to signup.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Hope you like tailwind, because its all they’ve got.

Weather and typical race conditions

40-70 degrees most years.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Bring some hand warmers for the starting line as you’ll be cold and there isn’t anything to keep you warm while you wait.

How’s the Swag?

Sweet Golden Belt buckle!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

This was a great first time 100. I’d recommend it.

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