Pumpkin Hollar? I heard of this race last year and I kinda had to snicker when I heard the name of it. I then heard that it was a race "just" held on a rock road..... More on that later. After getting my butt handed to me I was looking for a more manageable race. Using the term "easier" would simply be blasphemy cause 100 miles is hard no matter where and each race presents its challenges and I thought this courses weaknesses would be a great match with my current strong points. I had a friend training for the 100k and another for the 100 miler. A lot of my friends are getting ready for 2 100's here in Texas but I wanted to do the race that gave me my best chance of success and felt fairly condident I could run this course so I signed up a few months ago and began the mental preparation. My last race Mogollon Monster just 3 weeks ago was hard and missing a cutoff at Mile 30 I think was in sorts a blessing in disguise as it gave me time to get another long run in before Pumpkin and to go into the race very well rested. Sometimes crappy things happen in life but if you are real honest with yourself you will find that things happen for a reason and getting pulled from a mountain race was great for my next race. This race I also changed up my planning,race strategy, nutrition. Everything. All the things that weren't working I put on the back burner. My last 3 100's I haven't had pacers to drag me home and I haven't got them done. This race, as soon as I signed up I went and got 2 very good friends to commit to pacing me to the finish line. More on them later.... Leading up to the race, I had to travel a lot with work. Like 7 of the 14 days before the event. I squeezed in a 53 mile run broke up into 3 segments 14 days prior at the urging of my buddy Dale. Everyone says that a long run won't help your next race unless done 21 days out and maybe that's the science of it, but science can't predict the mental strength and confidence that helped me. Nutrition wise- I threw it all out the window. I had been overeating at all my races and in turn getting sluggish. After several long conversations with a few people I knew I had to switch things up. Pace wise- Dale convinced me that I had a ton more early speed and I was wasting it by hanging out in the rear of the field and a few other friends concurred so I worked on that leading up to the race.
Race day- As I said earlier, this course was on a gravel/Rock road. Looking at the course profile, it looked fairly doable with my short running experience. It was set up on 3 50k loops with a 8 mile out and back to began the race to get to 100 miles. Aid stations were no more than 5 miles apart and from previous race reports they were well stocked. Friday am my friend/pacer Jose aka Pepe Ruuner met me at my house and we set off to pick up my other friend and pacer Jeff Maddron. Jose was there with me when I did my 1st trail run ever at Big Cedar in January 2014 so it was awesome having him with me on this part of my journey and really bolstered my drive to finish. Jeff is a young man who I've met through Team RWB and is striving to get back into running Ultra's after being out for several years as he was serving in the US Army. Both of these guys are vets and I knew they could get me through the rough spots. That night we went to packet pickup and ran into so many friends from the Dallas trail running community. Nikki and Billy who I met in 2013 when I tried to run for a couple of months were there as well as Marcus and Jenny. Jacquline and Lisa were there for their 1st 100k race and Carol was there to run 100 miles. It was basically a reunion in Tahlequah,Oklahoma for me with some of my original trail running peeps and made me proud to be running that race.
Race morning- after discussing race strategy with Dale n Carl I decided to go out with a garmin and a stopwatch and hold a 12 minute pace as long as I could and then to finish the race dependent on my pacers dragging me along. Dale wanted me to wear a hydration vest as I have in every Ultra but my 1st. I took my vest to the race but never unpacked it. Instead I opted for simply a handheld and a belt to hold any nutrition I may need. I had 3 drop bags across the course and with aid stations fairly close I knew I could manage for a few miles. The race started at 8am with the 8 mile out and back. 1st mile was fairly easy and then we hit the hills. I heard this section was tough but the jeep road made it fairly doable. I power hiked the next 2 miles up hill with a couple of run sections mixed in. In no time I hit the turn around and headed back down to the start line 4 miles away. I'm not sure what happened but I was going faster than I normally do even on a training run. I'd look at my current pace on the downhills and have to slow down. I planned on doing this section in 1:45 but rolled into start my 1st 50k loop in 1:30. The 1st loop my whole intention was to feel out the course,stay on top of my nutrition and run as much of it as I could. I had a drop bag at mile 8ish,14,23 and start line with Tailwind, Ensure,V8 fusion, Gu's(tons of em) and snacks. I opted to stick with the liquids and browse on Pringles at every other aid station to keep something solid in my stomach. There is 150 calories in 6 Pringles too so that helped some. I made the decision to drink tailwind every other aid station and on the others to simply drink water. I had 1 20ounce bottle on me and I had to make this work or resort to the vest on loop 2. Loop 1 was fairly easy. Huge hill at mile 4.5 with a fairly sharp descent after it. Mile 25 to 28 was very sharp ascents and descents and mile 23 or so to mile 25.7 was hard hot blacktop. I came into the start line with the 1st 40 done in 8:55 I believe. It was a solid pace for the 1st loop. My garmin died at mile 29 into the race with a 12:48 overall pace and I struggled the last 9 miles without it and got passed by 3 people. Wasn't happy about that but that was my best pace ever early into a ultra so big picture I was happy.
Loop 2- Jeff was pacing me this round and we went out fairly easy. I used up alotta energy the 1st 40 and really just didn't want to do anything stupid. I had another Gamin in my bag and Jeff was wearing it when I came in. Looking back now, I should have had it on and been looking at my current pace instead of asking him because I didn't push nearly enough. The loop was fairly easy with no huge mistakes. As the loop went on the temps dropped and I got really cold with like 12 miles to go. I struggled crossing a cattle guard but fortunately Jeff was there to help me through it. We had a nice conversation about everything. What is said on the trails stays there but it was some good miles. We finished up and I was simply shivering and chattering.
Loop 3- the guys brought my chair and drop bag into the restroom so I could get warmer clothes and fresh shoes on. The rocks were doing a number on my feet and I was afraid to pull off my socks to see the damage. After a quick change and throwing down some calories they had me sit by a fire. Not smart as it made the cold even colder when we headed back out. At this point my feet hurt so bad and I just wanted to finish this race however I had to. We trudged through the night. Jose I apologize for my grumpiness but everything hurt. My head,arms, feet and legs were killing me. The only thing that felt great was my stomach. We made fairly decent death march time but when a guy named Kim flew by me walking as he did the entire 100 miles I knew I was sucking pretty hard. I had chafed terrible and a major mistake was not losing the underwear at the start line. The sun soon appeared and spirits soared for me. Finally losing the underwear helped my situation in my privates and getting rid the pants helped too. Jose kept urging me to run and I gave him all I had whenever I could. We got to the last drop bag location with 9 miles left and 3 hours to go. Deep down I was really afraid of not making it. Jose stopped to fill my bottle for me so as a joke I ran ahead to make him catch me. He hadn't ran much all night so I thought why not? Well I forgot he hadn't seen this part of the course and there's a Y in the road with curves on the one I took. Needless to say, it took a couple of miles for him to catch me but I made up some time. My feet have never hurt as bad as they did that last section. We pushed on mostly hiking with short shuffles mixed in. I had a 2 hour lead on our friend Carol earlier in the race but with a 1/2 mile to the finish line, her and her pacer Jorge came flying past. I couldn't respond for a bit but it felt good knowing that a friend was going to finish the race. Finally the last 1/4 mile I was able to run again and actually had to wait for her to finish before I came in. 29:53 hours into it with a 30 hour clock I got my 2nd 100 mile buckle.
Takeaways- never ever stop believing in myself. After 3 straight 100 mile dnf's I somehow with the help of others managed to keep that fire lit to run this distance. Pacers- neither of my guys had ran a 100 before but they were friends and they believed in me. Choosing them and them helping me was a plus. Nutrition- I joked to Jose that I was the Gu miester. I must have had 40 in all my drop bags. I took 2 the entire race. I ran on minimal calories compared to my other races and I never felt bloated or wanted to hurl. I tried to do 200 to 250 an hour on this course and it was optimal for me. Dropping the vest and just using a handheld helped me so much. The vest usually slows me a minute a mile and holds sweat against my body. Im not sure I'll use it much in the future unless it's a mountain race or summer. Pace- freaking trust your training and run. I've always been trying to be cute and overthinking things. Time on feet is time on feet regardless of your pace. 100 miles is going to hurt anyway so why not go out a little faster and see what you have. I went out fast for me and still was able to muster a finish. Maybe this race will make me stronger for the next by doing so???? We will see. 2 days later I have zero blisters and I'm able to walk like a functioning human this morning so life will be back to normal soon for a bit. In 26 days me and my buddy Carl along with another Dallas friend fly to Illinois for Tunnel Hill 100. I'll see what lessons I learned last week will help me in my next endeavor. Til next time #RunStrong