Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Stay Haunted


He stood carelessly on the jagged cliff edge. His limpid eyes slowly scanned the ancient horizon in hopes of catching a brief reflection of a time long ago. His mouth curled upwards into a serene smile and I watched as he drew a breath… almost as if he was savoring the last drag of a cigarette. I shivered as a cool breeze whipped across the rock face and came in contact with the stagnant sweat that had collected on my lower back. He seemed unphased by the December air and continued to listen to the prehistoric language the Appalachians were softly whispering. Like the elementals of old… he desired nothing more than to wander valleys, ford rivers and haunt mountaintops.

Men climb to visit summits but cannot reside a top of mountains and for good reason. The conditions are oftentimes unfavorable and harsh… water is scarce and the ground not bountiful for growth. Mankind belongs to the valley. Man wasn’t designed to wander this world alone but instead to live in harmony with one another. Man needs community to not only perpetuate its species… but as a means to create… to inspire… to thrive.  However; equally important… the spirit needs its moments of solitude. The spirit can become diluted when the persistent and never-ending clamor of the crowd takes precedence of life. 

My stomach rumbled deeper than rolling thunder across vacant Midwestern plains. I peeled open and broke off half of my white macadamia nut breakfast bar and extended the other half to the wild spirit hopping around in front of me. He smiled and silently declined... continuing his gleeful mountain top dance along the cliff side.

I slumped against a rock and turned my face towards the heavens to bask in the morning sun. Hours had passed since we tiptoed out of our room and spilled into empty predawn streets for our first strides. We had silently bounded alongside swift moving rivers before intricately lacing together different footpaths leading us to our current location high above the city.  

I continued my detailed observation of this unique entity who was joyfully celebrating life among the clouds. I gazed upon him with envious eyes. He was completely and utterly blissful. In the few moments where he actually stood still… I saw his spirit at peace. I observed a man that was free. One not bound by the complexity this realm boasts. He wasn’t simply reacting to the environment but unconditionally aware of his motives. He was in competition with no man. He longed for something more meaningful… a deeper respect… one that was not tied into contests among men. He yearned to receive the same reverence from nature that he continuously poured into these mountains. Nature will mercilessly beat you down. She will humble you in unimaginable ways. Ways that are so unforgiving… so ruthless… that it will make one swear off revisiting this type of darkness. He not only understood this concept and accepted it wholeheartedly… but it haunted him... leaving him continuously returning to the mountains to try to capture nature’s heart and admiration.  

The glimmering smile from his adventurous eyes indicated it was time to continue our journey. I pulled my stiff, rigid body from my rocky chair and peered out over the horizon one last time. He smiled before darting down our elevated path. He was always one step ahead… playfully verifying his superiority. We descended the mountain together… hugging close to the ridgeline… in constant captivation of the expansive views. I found myself fascinated at the way he gamboled about in an elegant fashion. His movements were free flowing and ghost like as he scurried near sheer drop offs and navigated the well-worn footpath with ease. His laughter was as pure and genuine as a newborn baby playing peek-a-boo with its mother.

I felt a change in the air as we took a seat on a fallen evergreen. His eyes had transitioned from a radiant green to a dismal grey. We were a handful of miles from our final destination and he knew it would be many moons before we returned to these mountains. He was content with the time spent wandering the forests but yearned for the days where this type of outing would be a daily ritual and not simply a visitation.

We arose in silence and quickly synced our strides as we meandered along the heavily traversed section of trail. We were greeted with smile after smile as we moved closer to our destination… each one softly articulating a friendly unspoken greeting.  We paused momentarily along the final vantage point to soak in the Appalachian topography one last time before our final descent.

I stepped down from the ledge onto the soft packed dirt and instantly felt his absence. Other than silent communication and laughter, there had been no exchange of actual dialogue between us. I turned and shielded my eyes from the sun as I watched him slowly dissipate into the still mountain air.

Instantaneously I was engulfed in a cool breeze in which carried a simple phrase. The two words slipped in through the openings on each side of my head, trickled down my spine and resonated within my chest cavity.

“Stay haunted.”


PC: Varina Hart

Dear Lord,

If Heaven doesn’t have a vacancy when my time comes to bid adieu to this realm… I pray You allow me to wander Your sweeping valleys, ford Your flowing rivers and haunt Your prestigious mountaintops as a ghost within Your astonishing creation.

                                                                  - Fiction -

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feet Don't Fail Me Now - Duncan Ridge 50k

Reasons I signed up for the Duncan Ridge 50k:

1.       I love the north Georgia mountains

2.       The DRT is one of the hardest trails in the South

3.       Could possibly get to hang out with my Georgia trail peeps

4.       To keep me from running Pinhoti 100

While the stated 1-4 reasons are all fantastic reasons… #4 is the MAIN reason behind the DRT 50k sign up. I spent most of the sticky, hot, humid Alabama summer in a boot and recovering from a terrible case of plantar fasciitis. I knew if I was going to bounce back from injury… I would need to be smart and gradually ease back into training/racing. So I decided against Drake’s “zero to a 100 real quick” approach and instead decided to go with his “started from the bottom” approach…
Instead of hopping right back into longer distances... I decided to enter some shorter distance races and slowly build back up… like the Ridge 2 Ridge 21 miler

PC: Karen McDonald

And the Autumn Equinox 16 miler…


Before tackling my first long race back at the Rock/CreekStumpjump 50k

PC: Mark Macknight

Running injuries are tough. They break you physically but I think even more so mentally. Running for me is more of a lifestyle than a hobby. By no means is it the center of my life… but it is a major part of my life and brings me lots of joy. When you are accustomed to doing something almost every single day and then physically can no longer do it… it can be depressing. Thankfully I have an amazing support group made up of friends and family that kept me positive throughout the process and kept me from going crazy… I mean it’s not like I went crazy and started cross dressing as a French maid or anything like that…

Well... maybe the cross dressing thing did happen... but who doesn't like dresses?

PC: Beau Beard

Though I feel like I could have finished Pinhoti with my current fitness level… I just don’t think it would have been an enjoyable experience. And to be honest… I had a freakin BLAST crewing/pacing Sam and Ali at Pinhoti this year!

PC: Chulwon

The week before DRT50k was really relaxed. I was excited because this was the first time since March where I didn’t have any sort of nagging issues or pain going into a race. I did a few short runs around Montevallo to keep the legs loose…


 With an extremely peaceful sunset/night run up to King’s Chair on Thursday…


I decided to take a half day off work on Friday so I wouldn’t feel rushed. Before heading off to the mountains…  I made my way over to the FARM  to be a part of a video shoot they were doing.

PC: Beau Beard

After a few short takes… my part of the video was complete and I headed onward to Georgia to settle in for the night at the Hiker Hostel.


It was so great sharing laughs and drinks with Bradford Poppins and Jason Green. It had been far too long since I’ve seen these guys. We discussed Jason's  Yeti 100 that he directs along with various other trail related topics. Eventually the conversation came to a close and we all headed to bed.



There’s just nothing flat or easy about the Duncan Ridge 50k. The only way to describe this race is ruthless. Jason was kind enough to illustrate a step by step guide of how a runner’s race typically goes…


For the first few miles you’ll be singing and laughing as you gallivant along the single track. After climbing +2000ft over the next 4 miles up to Coosa Bald… you’ll probably feel a little bad and some may want to even purge their breakfast. By the time you start the return trip on the DRT… you’re calf muscles will be aching pretty bad. Once you make the awful climb up the backside of Coosa… you will see a can of gasoline and book of matches resting on Coosa Bald. At this point of the race… runners are encouraged to go ahead and soak their thighs with the Super Unleaded Octane 93 gasoline and strike a match. This is 100% guaranteed to be a more pleasant experience than the next 4 miles. Once your quads are completely trashed… shuffle the last 3.5m to the finish line for beer.

I got out of my car at Vogel State Park and stepped into a bitter cold morning. The temperature was just below 40 degrees and was only supposed to warm up to a little over 50… but the wind was piercing. I went and grabbed my bib number and said hi to my friend Ceci. When I got back to my car I saw Ben Gray. We chatted for a few minutes and he introduced me to a guy named Sean who had just crushed his first 100 miler at Pinhoti a few weeks earlier. As I started packing my vest for the race I heard a familiar voice call my name from across the parking lot. “Hey whats up hello?!?!” It was Violeta! The last time I saw V was when we crewed Brandi to her Fat Dog 120 finish up in British Columbia. I gave her a hug and we caught up on each other’s lives for a few minutes before we started talking about race wardrobe. Thankfully… she persuaded me into wearing and bringing along a lite long sleeve Patagonia base layer just in case things got slow moving and cold.

PC: Deborah Williams

I stood around talking with Jason for a few minutes before making my way over to the starting line.

PC: Deborah Williams

After a few words from the race director… we headed out along the asphalt on our adventure. I went out with the lead pack so I wouldn’t get bottle necked and stuck in a conga line. Before I knew it… we were already coming through the first aid station at mile 3.5. Although I was sure the wind would pick up and be cold for the climb… I still removed my long sleeve base layer as soon as we left this aid station since I had planned to keep a steady push up Coosa. We had a solid group as we made our way up Coosa. I kinda laid back and just listened to their conversation for a while from the back of our little wolf pack. From a few of the discussions that took place during the climb… I gathered that a few of the guys were doing the 30k option and would soon break off on their own route once we hit the next aid station. We were greeted with a cold wind once we topped Coosa Bald. I had tweaked my ankle during a night run a week prior to the race… by no means was it bothering me but to play it safe… I stopped and tightened my shoes before I made the descent down to the Whiteoak Stomp aid station at mile 8.5. The ladies at Whiteoak Stomp were super sweet. I quickly filled my soft flask and grabbed a banana before heading back out onto the Duncan Ridge Trail. The next several hours were going to be the most difficult. The DRT is basically a roller coaster ride of steep ass, switchbackless, ascents/descents with little to no flat sections. My plan was simple: solid pace on the descents and hard effort power hike on the climbs. My plan worked. I ended up passing a couple of runners during this section. I eventually caught up to a guy from Asheville named Brandon. We shared an enjoyable conversation for a bit before I fell back into my pace. I wasn’t ready to push things just yet and wasn’t going to let someone else dictate my pace this early in the race. I settled back into my rhythm and took in the views. This race was one of the few times I had been on the DRT and actually had views. Usually my view along the DRT was concealed by fog, summer trees, or nightfall… so I was grateful for the alone time on this crystal clear day.

PC: Ceci Santos

As I started the long descent down to Mulky Gap aid station (mile 13.2)… I began already dreading making this climb on the return trip. That dread went away when I heard Sean cheering for me from down below. I quickly refilled my flask and grabbed a banana. Sean said I was only a few seconds behind the second place runner (Brandon) and wished me luck on the trip up to Fish Gap. Despite just meeting Sean for the first time before the start of the race… I already really liked him. He was a genuine cat. 

I slapped Run Bum’s Georgia Death Race sign as I started the climb out of Mulky Gap. I caught up to Brandon and we ran together for a bit. We met up with the lead runner (Caleb) as he was calmly jogging up one of the climbs. He seemed relaxed and steady. I knew there would be absolutely zero chance at catching him so after he passed and pleasantries were exchanged… he became none existent. Brandon asked if I wanted to pass and took advantage of his offer. I knew we were closing in on the turnaround at Fish Gap and wanted to get in and out really quick.

I was greeted with a familiar face at Fish Gap aid station (mile 15.4).


It took every fiber of my being not to ask Molly for a shot of Fireball… but alas… I left the bottle unopened and was in and out of the aid station fairly quickly. I started coming face to face with other runners as I started back towards Mulky Gap. Because of the double fisted banana halves… I gave a half assed/crappy high five to Run Bum as he passed by (no disrespect bro!).

In no time I was back at Mulky Gap (mile 17.6) chatting with Sean. He said the lead runner was about 25mins ahead. I had no intentions of pursuing this nonexistent figure he spoke of so I simply refilled my flask, said my thanks, ducked my head and started the hellacious climb out of Mulky Gap. I honestly don’t know which climb sucks more… the climb out of Mulky Gap or the climb up the backside of Coosa. I guess they both have their own special recipe for suck soup.

Since I had kept my energy and efforts at a pretty steady level all day…  I rolled back into Whiteoak Stomp aid station (mile 22.2) happy and relaxed. I refilled my soft flask with some electrolyte mix and grabbed another banana half before heading up the steep climb to Coosa Bald. I knew if I was going to keep my position in 2nd I was going to have to push it hard on the dreaded 4 mile 2000ft descent back down Coosa. I went ahead and apologized to my quads (for the record: it’s Wednesday and they still haven’t forgiven me).

I made good time down Coosa and thoroughly enjoyed the fun descent… but boy did I pay for it. My legs were trashed as I made my way in and out of the final aid station. The last 3.5 miles aren’t necessarily hard miles… but they aren’t easy. I kept a steady pace for the first mile and sang along to Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die”…

“Feet don’t fail me now… take me to the finish line…”

At one point… I even tried to hurdle a downed tree. The legs told me quickly that they didn’t completely appreciate the jumping gesture. I promised them there would be no hurdling the rest of the way in. Even picking up the legs past a certain point created muscle spasms. Though I was moving slow like day time drama… I finally popped over the road and back onto the final section of trail that leads into Vogel campground. Being less than a mile from the finish… and most importantly colbeer… I picked up the pace. I popped out onto the asphalt and was looking forward to coasting the last quarter mile to the finish line. Unfortunately… Sunshine wasn’t about to let that happen. I turned around and saw the 3rd place runner (Josh Cline of Florida) in practically a full sprint closing in behind me.


I forced my body into a sub 7min pace sprint until I reached the bridge leading to the finish. I fist bumped Caleb Denton (overall winner) as I crossed the line.

PC: Deborah Williams

6hrs30mins and +10,000ft of vertical gain later… I could finally stop.

PC: Deborah Williams

We all stood around introducing ourselves to one another and chatting about the race for a few minutes.

PC: Deborah Williams

Caleb had managed to take a pretty gnarly face plant dive into a rock right before the last aid station. He had a pretty bad cut along his eyebrow but still managed to set a super impressive new course record in 5hrs45mins!

PC: Jason Green

My body temperature was falling quick so I changed into some warm clothes before joining Jason and Bradford Poppins’ group for a beer. I set up shop beside my buddy Kristopher and listened in on his recent running adventure in Chile. We watched Ben cruise in for a huge 22min PR on the course!

PC: Kristopher Cargile

We are certain that if it wasn’t for the accumulation of salt on Ben’s face… he would have shaved off the necessary 57 seconds for a sub 7hr finish…

PC: Kristopher Cargile

It wasn’t long before Violeta came bounding in for a 2nd place overall female finish!

PC: Jason Green

I didn’t know a ton of people in the race… but I hung around for a bit to watch the ones that I did know finish. I’m glad I got a chance to sit down and talk with my buddy Kevin for a bit. We chat pretty regular through social media messages… but nothing beats being able to talk face to face. I also got a chance to see my friend Ceci! It had been years since the last time I had actually seen her!

PC: Ceci Santos
I said goodbye and snapped a picture with some of my trap crew before packing up for the long drive home.

Though my legs weren’t fond of the long drive back to Alabama right after a tough race… it was nice being able to sleep in and wake up to the wifey and Wobbles the next morning…

After a lazy coffee and bacon filled Sunday… we headed down to the in-law’s lake house for a relaxing evening. I took a nice, easy sunset ride along some of Shelby County’s finest country roads on the bike to try and loosen up my legs…


Maybe I’ll take Jason’s advice for next year…

“Run the 50k once and then just come back every year and do the 30k. That way you can just hang out and drink beer!”


“Run long, run wild, and howl loudly!”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Just Wanna Crew Good for You Good for You Uh-Huh – Pacing Pinhoti 100

Dear Diary,

*blushing* I met this guy on the internet named Sam. He’s like… so awesome! He’s like… tall, dark and handsome! He likes long runs in the woods, craft beer and is like… just totally rad! He said he would like… fly out to see me and would like… bring some beer for us to drink… and we could like… go hang out in the woods together and junk! I know I know… it’s the internet so like… there’s a chance he could be some creeper just trying to use me… but I’ve got a good feeling about this one and I’m just SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED!!! Totes gonna be like… the best time eva!!

Hugs and kisses!!



First Impressions (Thursday)

On Thursday afternoon, I pulled into my driveway and saw a white, windowless van parked in front of my house. I started walking towards the van when out popped a man wearing a greasy worn out trucker cap, a rolled up long sleeve flannel shirt with a tightly fitting undershirt that was 3 sizes too small to which exposed his beer gut. He flashed a smile through his unkempt handlebar mustache and said…

I’m Sam… and damn boy... you’re a lot cuter in person than on that there internet.”


Internet friends can be scary. In this day and age… with a few keystrokes… anyone anywhere can create a completely different personality and hide their reality behind a computer monitor. Of course you’ve seen the “How to Catch a Predator” show on Dateline and have probably read countless stories in the news about how these creepsters have tricked and deceived people… oftentimes ending in really bad situations. Well… this is not one of those “I fell victim to a creeper” stories. Yes… social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook can easily be used to create a false perception of how glamorous and picture perfect someone’s life is. But if you are an actual human being and have ever breathed air from this planet… you should know that life is in fact… not picture perfect. I know… crazy concept right?

Growing up… you really don’t have much of a choice but to make friends with those around you. Normally… you’re stuck with a certain group of people for 18yrs of your life. You make friends with these people because they’re the ones you see every day at school or the ones you play ball with... and unless you want to be a loner… you are forced to make friends with your peers. Now that the world is at our fingertips… you can literally make friends with people anywhere on the planet. Social media and the internet gives you an opportunity to be picky. You can now hand select people that share the same interests, desires, activities and beliefs that you possess.

I’ve always felt like I’ve had a good judge of character and the trail/ultra running community for the most part… is an incredibly honest and supportive environment. I’ve made friends through social media that I have never met and I consider some of these people really close friends. One of these friends is Sam.

As you can see from the above picture… Sam is in fact… NOT an internet creeper. He’s a genuinely awesome, down to Earth guy and I really was kinda sorta like totes excited to meet him!

Sam and I met years ago on a glorious, perfect summer day in Instagramia and have since been friends. Though we do share common friends… we have never officially met. Sam contacted me earlier in the year talking about possibly flying out for the Pinhoti 100 in November. Of course I told him if he did come out… I would house him and if I didn’t run it myself… would crew/pace him. Well… November had crept up and with a few days before Pinhoti…  I found myself in route to King’s Chair with Sam.

There can always be some awkwardness with meeting people for the first time… but running and talking with Sam was just like going for a run and catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. It’s always a nice validation when the real life person actually turns out to be the same as they present themselves on the internet.


Trains, Rains and Sleepless Nights (Friday)

Sam headed up to the starting area for the Pinhoti 100 midday on Friday… I had to go to work. He went up to scout a place for us to set up camp that would allow us not to have to do much travel in the morning before the race. After finding a spot he headed down to Sylacauga for packet pickup and the pre-race dinner. I eventually got off work, packed up my gear and headed to Sylacauga to pick up Sam. We decided to leave his car at the finish so we wouldn’t have to make the long drive back to the starting line after the race. After I picked Sam up from the stadium… we headed towards our camping spot. We took a slight detour through the city of Talladega for gas and food. On one of the dark back roads we noticed a bunch of smashed pumpkins covering the road. We eventually passed a vehicle pulled over in a parking lot with its truck bed full of pumpkins and teenagers. I guess there’s not much to do on Talladega Friday nights.


We decided to set up camp in a nice grassy area at the starting line. When we pulled into the parking area a couple in a car rolled down their window…

“Are you guys camping here? We have been here for 5 minutes and two trains have already passed. It’s really loud.”

The couple left and we sat around for half an hour waiting to see how bad the train was going to be. No train passed so Sam set up his tent and I made myself a bed in Hotel de Andrews. Though it was early… we decided to turn in for the night since we had such a long weekend ahead of us. I wasn’t sleepy… so I stayed up sipping on a whiskey drink and listening to the rain fall…


It wasn’t long after turning the lights out when a train rumbled through. Of course since there was a train crossing less than 20 yards from our camping spot… the conductor laid on the horn. This happened periodically throughout the night to ensure we received the least amount of sleep possible. I’m not sure what was worse though… the loud train horn every hour or the hellacious storm that rolled through in the wee morning hours. Either way… sleep didn’t come Friday night.

Pinhoti 100: I Am Sam Reed (Saturday)

Since we had set up camp in the exact spot the race started… we woke early so that we could breakdown camp and move our vehicle out of the way. Unfortunately... Sam got very little sleep due to the train and rain. The rain was so heavy that it saturated his tent and he woke up with everything wet.


We drove up to the Ranger’s Station and parked. Before long… the Ranger Station bustled with the special type of nervous excitement that only pre-100 mile races can bring. Birmingham had a good amount of runners that were lining up for Pinhoti this year… this being some of those runner’s first attempt at the 100 mile distance. It was a lot of fun talking with the majority of the Bham crew before the start of the race.

We made our way down to the starting area as the clocked ticked closer to the 7am start time. The clouds had held their rain all morning but slowly started to spit as the +200 runners anxiously awaited their cue.   

After the runners took off on their wet and muddy adventure… I made my way back up to the Ranger Station to sit and hang out under the pavilion. Due to the rain making some of the forest service roads sloppy and dangerous… Todd (race director) had changed the starting route. The runners were now running a short out and back at the beginning and would actually pass through the starting area again at mile 13. I sipped coffee (thanks again Sach!!) and chatted with Chulwon, Leland, Sachiko and a few other new faces under the pavilion while we all waited for our runners. This mid-stretch picture that Chulwon snapped suggests that the coffee possibly didn’t work as well as I hoped…


I looked down at my watch:  8:30am. I started to make my way down the forest service road to the aid station since the goal chart Sam had made for me had him coming through mile 13 at 9:00am.

Sam’s needs were simple. At every crew access point I would give him 2 bottles of Nuun tableted water, replenish his gel supply and send him on his way. He came blazing through right at 9:00am. He dropped his empty bottles and gel wrappers on the ground, I handed him the 2 fresh bottles, stuffed his pack full of gels and in a matter of seconds he was on his way crossing the railroad tracks. I picked up his gel wrappers, tossed them in the garbage, collected my crew bag and headed to back to my car.

I arrived at the Horseblock aid station (mile 18) and went ahead and prepped Sam’s stuff. I threw down my pink fold out chair and sat around talking with Todd for a few minutes. Jeff Estes eventually joined the chair party and kept me company while waiting on the runners. I looked down at my watch: 9:45am. Like clockwork… Sam came through right on schedule sitting steady in 3rd. I snapped into the crew mode and with a quick exchange of supplies… he was off and running.


I didn’t have access to Sam again until the Bald Rock aid station at mile 41 so I had time to kill. I swung by the Lake Morgan aid station (mile 27.6) to drop off two water coolers. Our BUTS group was in charge of that aid station so I chatted with Kyle and Mark briefly before making my way up to Bald Rock.

I parked the car in prime location and went for a quick hike out to Bald Rock to check out the conditions. It was really a serene and beautiful day…  ( in my opinion anyways)


The heavy fog made it clear there would be no views today for the runners…

I hung around Bald Rock for a bit before heading back to the car. My friend Bill Woody was starting to set up the Bald Rock aid station by the time I got back. I hopped in the back of the car and had a little lunch while I waited…

After finishing my snack… I popped my head out of the car and told Bill to wake me up if I wasn’t up by 1:20pm. Sam was scheduled to come through around 1:40pm but I didn’t want to take any chances and be unprepared when he arrived. I slowly drifted off to sleep to the soft pitter patter of the midday rain…


I didn’t sleep long… maybe 30mins before I was awakened by a chatty Cathy gabbing on her phone right outside my car. I groaned, made a whiskey drink and started preparing Sam’s supplies…


By this time tons of people were floating around Bald Rock aid station. I saw Willy (creator of the Cruel Jewel races). It was great catching up with him since I hadn’t seen him since the inaugural running of the Cruel Jewel 56m  a few years ago! Eventually it was a party… Leland (Shawn’s fiance/crew), Ryan James’ wife, Jake Thornton’s dad and a few others joined the party. When I heard a few cheers from the boardwalk and someone yell “first runner coming through” I looked down the boardwalk and saw a red Altra shirt glaring through the thick fog. Sam had moved into the lead position and was looking strong! I switched out his bottles, stuffed his pack full of gels and sent him on down the road…

I quickly plugged in the GPS coordinates for the Silent Trail aid station (mile 45) and made my way out of the massive crowd at Bald Rock. I went ahead and prepped everything for Sam when I arrived so I could get in a short little run while I waited. My legs were feeling tight from standing/sitting around for the past few days and I just needed to loosen them up. I knew I didn’t have much time so I slid on some shoes and headed down the forest service road. I wasn’t half a mile into my run when I saw Sam’s silhouette in the distance.

He was all smiles and still feeling great. I pushed ahead of him to get everything ready for a quick exchange. He quickly grabbed a fresh bottle and continued down the road. He had a 10 mile segment before I would see him again at Adam’s Gap.

I arrived at Adam’s Gap and walked over to the aid station to find my buddy Dan Ripple manning the grill. Dude can cook. He whipped me up a bacon/egg/cheese tortilla and it was by far the most delish thing I had all weekend! The thick fog darkened the woods and the rain started setting in… but that didn’t keep me and other crews from having fun.  I poured another whiskey drink, Dan kicked on some music and a few of us threw football in the rain while we waited for our runners. Sam came through a few minutes behind schedule but was still in high spirits and happily chomped away on some aid station munchies. 

We did our normal exchange with the only difference being that we switched out Sam’s hat for a buff and he took some gloves. I ran down the forest road for a quarter mile with him away from the aid station crowd in order to get a better idea of how his day was going. He was peppy and extremely positive. I wished him well and told him I’d see him at Porter’s Gap in 13 or so miles.

After leaving Adam’s Gap I decided to take the sketchiest possible forest service road to get to Porter’s Gap… because why the hell not? I had the map out so I knew I was heading in the right direction… but there were a few moments where I thought this could potentially be a bad idea. “What happened if I got stuck? Who the hell could I call? Did I even have service? Man… I’m gonna be so pissed if I let Sam down!” My doubts were laid to rest when I eventually I popped out on an actual paved road.
I was greeted with a friendly face at the Porter’s Gap aid station (mile 69). Caleb, my ultra buddy from Georgia, was manning the aid station. We chatted for a few minutes before I returned to the car for a some dinner…

After putting on some pants and a warm jacket… I headed back to the aid station. Caleb got some music pumping and passed me a beer. The crew life is a rough life… but somebody’s gotta do it…


Sam had fallen a little behind his goal schedule… but still had a solid 15-20 minute lead when he came through Porter’s Gap. We went through our routine exchange and I followed him down the gravel road. The route crossed over a somewhat busy highway and I just didn’t want to take any chances with Sam crossing alone. Though he looked really fresh and alert… he only got an hour or so of actual sleep the night before and had been running for almost 70 miles… so I felt more comfortable at least being a second set of eyes. But of course there wasn’t a car in sight as we crossed over back onto the trail. I again wished him well as he headed off into the dark night in route to the Pinnacle aid station…

I wouldn’t see Sam again until Bull’s Gap at mile 85.5 where I would pick him up and pace him in for the last 15 miles. I was really hoping to get a solid nap in before having starting my segment with Sam… so I immediately went to Bull’s Gap. I was leaving my car at Bull’s Gap so I parked as close I possible to the aid station but there was still a short stretch of road I had to walk down to get to the actual aid station. I walked down to check out the scene and ended up talking with the folks at the aid station for a while. I eventually returned to the car for a snack, some more whiskey and to change clothes and pack my vest for the last 15 miles. I checked my phone and thankfully had service and could see where Sam had come through Pinnacle (mile 75) still leading…

I hung out in the car for another hour or so before heading back down to the aid station. When I got there they informed me that the first runner had come through Wormy’s Pulpit (mile 79.5). Sam was running roughly an hour behind his goal time of an 18hr finish so I had planned to hopefully push Sam just a bit during the last section to see if we couldn’t make up some time on the roads. I didn’t want to take a chance and be unprepared for Sam’s arrival, so I hung around the aid station. It wasn’t terribly cold… but when you are simply just standing around in shorts and a light jacket… a slight cold turns into freezing death. A guy at the aid station took note of this and offered me a spot in his RV. He said he would come get me whenever Sam came through. I was (and still am) sooooooooooooo thankful for this kindness. I laid down on the coach inside the RV and pulled out my phone to check for updates on the other Birmingham runners that were still out braving the harsh conditions.

The next thing I knew… I was waking up wondering where the hell I was. I was just so warm and cozy that I had fallen asleep without even knowing it! Looking at my watch… I had only napped for a whopping 17 mins… but still… it was a nap. I walked out into the cold night around 10:45pm. Sam originally wanted to come through Bull’s Gap at 10pm so I knew I had a few minutes before he would be coming through. I rechecked my  pack to make sure I was set for the last 15 mile push. I even had a kid that was working the aid station verify that I had Sam’s car key in my bag…. (I actually made him check 3 times because I didn’t want Sam to be unable to get into his car and change into warm clothes at the finish… kid probably thought I was crazy).

Sam navigated down the lighted pathway into Bull’s Gap aid station right before 11pm.

We were off at running at 11:01pm. We started down the dark forest service road and Sam looked over and held up a fist…

“Let’s do this.”

The last 15 miles were basically run along rolling forest service roads with a little bit of single track mixed in and the last 5k would be run along actual roads... not a very interesting or pleasant way to end a 100 mile race. We chatted and caught up on the day’s events as we made our way into the night. We were running solidly… mixing in a few walking breaks on the uphill sections. Early on along the forest service road we were passed by a car. Though there was nothing suspicious about it… it was still a little unsettling being out in the middle of nowhere at midnight with no protection. It was obvious that a lot of people took their trucks/jeeps out along these roads for weekend “muddin” trips. We saw headlights and heard an engine rev and tires spinning in the mud up ahead. As we ran closer to the vehicle the vehicle stopped. It was obvious they were going to speak to us so I urged Sam to keep moving forward and I would see what they wanted. Sam continued down the road as the vehicle’s driver side window rolled down. I was met with a warm gust of alcohol filled air from inside the vehicle.

Redneck: “Where you boys heading?”

Me: “Sylacauga. There’s a trail race going on so be looking out for some runners on this road alright?”

Redneck: “How far yall runnin?”

I had started back moving towards Sam while responding:  “100 miles.”  

Redneck as he’s rolling back up his window… “Bullshit.”

I caught back up to Sam and we carried on down the road. We passed a cemetery and a small church which indicated an aid station was near. We quickly checked in at the Rocky Mt Church aid station (mile 90ish) and headed down the muddy road. We finally popped onto a short section of single track. Sam immediately picked up the pace once we hit the single track. We slopped through a wet open field and eventually re connected with a forest service road. I looked down at my watch thinking that this has to be where the last aid station was located. No one was in sight. We went over a short, muddy hump and dipped back into the woods for the last little bit of single track. When we hit the pavement we knew we had already passed the last aid station. I wasn’t worried because this section was well marked and we had followed every marking and sign perfectly (we would come to find out that they had set up in the wrong location a few 100 yds down the forest road instead of at the muddy little hump). Thankfully we had plenty of water/supplies to get us through the finish. Since I had never ran with Sam before… I had to pick up the kind of pacing he needed on the fly. Some people need motivation talks… some people like to be quiet and just have someone there… some people like to set the pace. If it is someone you run with consistently it’s easy to pick up and understand… but this was entirely new for the both of us. We just made small talk and chatted the entire time. Selena Gomez’s new song “Good for You” had been on the radio every single time I drove throughout the day (for the record… I looooooove that song… and Selena…). I had gradually made up my own whiskey induced lyrics to the song…

“I just wanna crew good for you, good for you, uh-huh

I just wanna crew good for you, good for you, uh-huh

Set that pace you like just right

Keep you running strong through the night”


But I didn’t want to take our friendship to the next level with my love of pop music… I wasn’t sure if Sam was ready for that step just yet…

I had purposely stayed a step ahead of Sam so that he would have to always be pushing to keep up with me.  When he needed a walk break… we would speed walk… and if he was on an extended walk break…  I would kind of give a little jog when I felt we needed to start running again. Though I had a pretty good idea that no one was close behind us (the last time I checked Sam was at minimum 25mins ahead of the next runner) we would both look back for a headlamp flicker. All we saw was darkness and street lights. It seemed like there was a barking dog every few 100 feet. Thankfully most were chained or behind a fence so they were no real threat. Although it was after midnight… there was a pretty consistent amount of cars on the road. Most just zoomed past without giving us a second glance… but as we neared the stadium… a car up ahead turned on its brights and started slowing down. They came almost to a complete stop by the time they got too us and some dbag in the backseat made a funny face before speeding off. Ass.

We synched back into our rhythm and crossed over the railroad tracks… inching closer to our final destination. I pointed up ahead at the bright stadium lights…

Those are all for you buddy!”

The moment those words came out of my mouth I got chills. I was completely blown away with Sam’s performance and was so happy that I was able to share in his triumphant moment.  We made our way through a fence… slopping through the wet grass like 2 excited young boys playing in the rain.

There wasn't a soul in sight as we popped onto the track. I cut across the field and let out a loud “whoop whoop” to inform Todd and the rest of the crew inside the finish tent that a runner was on the track. Sam took his rainy victory lap around the track and crossed the line in 18hrs30mins… winning the Pinhoti 100.


We got Sam to the finish line tent and out of the cold rain. I congratulated him and handed him his car keys but didn’t have much time to hang around and celebrate since Ali’s dad was waiting on me to give me a ride back to Bull’s Gap.

Pinhoti 100: Chicory, Dickory, Dock (Sunday)

I was freezing by the time we got back to Bull’s Gap. I could be soaking wet in freezing conditions and am fine as long as I’m consistently moving… but being soaking wet in the cold and standing around… I was done. I wrapped up with Sam around 1:30am and Ali’s dad was looking for her to come through Bull’s Gap (mile 85) at around 2:30am. We pulled into Bull’s Gap just before 2am and I went straight to my car. I HAD to get dry clothes. I stripped off my shirt and replaced it with a dry one, added a Patagonia long sleeve base layer and threw on my North Face Thermoball jacket. I headed down to the aid station to grab something warm to eat while we waited for Ali. I ate a few warm pierogis and a cup of chicken noodle soup. I told Ali’s dad I was going to head back to the car to stay warm until she got there and for him to just knock on my window when she arrived. I turned the heat on and slumped over... placing my head on the driver’s side window. I had just started drifting into dreamland when Ali’s dad startled me back to life. I threw on my vest and staggered down the road to the aid station. When I got to the aid station I found Ali  stuffing her face with snacks. I had missed this girl. She had been off thru-hiking the PCT and I hadn’t seen her since our April trip up to run the Art Loeb. We spent the next few miles catching up on each other lives.

When we passed by the cemetery and the small church I got the worst case of déjà vu… but I guess it wasn’t déjà vu… because I had literally just ran this section a few hours earlier. It was just weird.

Ali continued through the Rocky Mt Church aid station while I stopped for a quick swig of Coke. I sloshed through the mud to catch back up with her. The rain had picked up since the last time I ran this section and the road was muddier than a few hours earlier. Just as I did with Sam… we branched off the forest service road and I followed Ali into the woods for the short section of single track. We slowed down a bit when we hit the woods but eventually popped back out onto the next forest service road. We made the short climb and came up to the Watershed aid station (mile 95). By the time we got to it… they had moved it to the correct location. Though I had no doubt that we hadn’t made a wrong turn during Sam’s portion… I was really relieved to know that the aid station was in fact where we thought it should have been.

We made our way back onto the last section of single track. My headlamp started to die during one of the small climbs so I quickly grabbed my spare battery from my vest and in a matter of seconds the power of the sun was back in full force on my head.

I knew that the last 3 miles along the pavement were going to be and feel extremely long. The last stretch was mostly a straight, long, drawn out and boring road run. I took the same approach as I did with Sam… I stayed a few steps in front of Ali so that she would constantly be trying to catch up with me. Ali started fading a little when we took to the streets...

Her headlamp flashed my way… “Tell me a story…”

Pacing duty practically requires you to comply with nearly all demands that your runner may have during their darkest hours… so I told her the first story that popped into my mind. I guess since I had been praying off and on all day for my buddy Heath (aka: Sweet P) and his family… one of the hundreds of silly and mischievous stories involving Sweets was the one the winner…

“So this one time back in college… me and Sweets threw a house party at his girlfriend’s house. We had a huge turnout and everyone was having a good time dancing and carrying on. Well… me and Sweets were just hanging out in the back bedroom having a lively conversation about something of probably of least importance… but nonetheless… we were excited about whatever the hell we were talking about and really enjoying the conversation. Apparently we were being anti-social and his girlfriend came in to bring us back out to the party. She eventually left us alone… and we spawned this amazing idea. We stripped down to nothing but our shoes… opened the bedroom door… and casually walked through the middle of the party like nothing was out of the ordinary. It was like parting the sea and the moment we hit the front porch… we took off in an all-out sprint across the road and onto the university president’s lawn. We ran and laughed our white, glowing bare asses all the way around the property until we eventually made our way back to the house. Of course we were not about to be out done by the girls… but when they stripped down to their undergarments and stepped foot outside… there were 2 parked officers of the law waiting!”

We both got a good laugh at my college escapades… but it wasn’t long before Ali needed another boost.

“Sing me a song.”

I am no stranger to singing or playing the guitar in front of people… and I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep that made my mind go blank… but for the life of me I couldn’t muster up a song to sing. I had literally been singing Selena Gomez and my own rendition of her song all flippin day… but it didn’t come to me in that moment. Thankfully by the time we got to the barking dogs, Ali had forgotten her request for a song. Ali had set a sub 24hr goal and I had been checking the time since we left Bulls Gap. With 3 pavement miles to go…  I had slowly started picking up the pace because it was actually possible for her to snag a sub 23hr finish time. Mile 97 – completed – 9:59min/pace. Ali looked over at me…

“We’re moving pretty fast aren’t we?”

I don’t think she could see my smile beneath my light beam on my head… “Yep… just keep it up!”

It’s so hard to judge how fast you’re moving late in a race. You feel like you’re dropping sub 7 min miles when in actuality you’re running closer to a 14min/pace.

Mile 98 – completed – 9:40min/pace. At this point we started catching up to 2 other runners which gave Ali a little more energy. We passed by the other 2 runners when the stadium lights appeared. Again I got chills when I saw the lights.

I knew we had a plenty of time to get to the finish line before the clock struck 23hrs… but I picked up the pace anyways to see if she would bite…. and she did. We banged out the last mile in an 8:37min/pace!

Just like I had done hours before with Sam… I made my way through the fence line with Ali and onto the track. We coasted together to the finishing chute where I broke off to the left and let her cross the line alone. Ali finished 3rd overall female in 22hrs57mins. She hugged and thanked me for coming back to pace her.


The last 5hrs30mins of pacing Sam and Ali had been some of the most inspiring and some of the most fun moments I’ve ever had running. I felt so blessed to be a part of 2 amazing performances.

Ali went to change into warm clothes and her dad gave me a lift back to Bulls Gap to grab my car. When he dropped me off I was greeted by a ton of Birmingham folks waiting on their runners to come through. Chulwon caught me in a happy, euphoric, still warm and glowy state…

By the time I walked to my car I was freeeeeeeeezing. The temp had dropped even lower than what it was during the overnight hours. Since I had to change clothes to pace Ali… I had very little dry clothes left. I threw on my sexy manpris, threw on a tshirt, a light rain shell, a SpongeBob beanie and headed down to Bull’s Gap to collect Sam’s main crew bag.

One of the aid station workers greeted me…

“You’re kidding right? You’re not back to pace someone else are you!?”

I laughed and just shook my head. I picked up Sam’s crew bag and hung out with the Birmingham crowd to cheer on our local runners. Thankfully Shellie had a blanket she was saving for the runners when they came through and loaned it to me while we waited..

It wasn’t too long before Ryan, Sunny, Tanya, and Shawn came through. Their crew tended to their needs and when they set off for their last 15 miles… I set off to the finish area. I was extremely drowsy and knew I needed some sleep before heading home. When I got back to the stadium I met up with Sam for the first time since he finished. He said he was pretty beat up (he took a pretty hard fall onto one of his water bottles that hurt his ribs) and kinda just wanted to head back to my house. I could tell he was bummed because he had mentioned previously how he liked to stay until the actual finish of every race... but he needed some quality rest. I gave him my garage door opener and he headed towards Montevallo while I headed towards Hotel de Andrews for a nap. I crashed hard for about an 1.5hrs. I woke up a little pissed. I knew I had missed a lot of people finishing their race… but I knew I needed nap.


Now that I was feeling less like a zombie… I fixed myself a whiskey drink and headed to hang out and watch the rest of the finishers cross the line. Greg and Sonia were about to head off to cheer on some of the runners as they got on the road section and I met up with Season and Hunter Lane and Jeff Estes on the bleachers. It wasn’t long before a big group of BUTS came through the finish.

We all retired under the stadium to hang out with the runners as they relaxed and enjoyed their massive achievement. Hunter opened a cooler and passed me a beer. We headed back up to the stadium bleachers to watch the final hour of the race unfold. It wasn’t long after we took our spot on the bleachers when a woman walked up and stood next to me.

“Where did you get that beer? Are they handing them out? Do they normally hand them out at events like this?”

It was obvious she was being weird. Hoping she would go away… I gave her a short answer and continued my conversation with Hunter and Season. About that time an officer appeared and walked over and asked the woman to follow him. Another office appeared a little further down the bleachers. Apparently we weren’t the only ones that thought she was acting strange…

With a few minutes before the 30hr cutoff… we saw Shawn emerge from the opposite side of the field holding the American Flag…


He triumphantly and proudly waved the flag all the way through the finisher’s chute. What an epic ending to an amazing weekend.


After the clock ticked over the final 30hr mark… I packed the car and headed home. I made it home just as Kati was leaving to meet up with her friends. I took a quick shower and Sam and I headed to pick up some dinner. Sam treated me to beer and pizza for letting him stay at the house and for crewing him all weekend! In honor of spending the entire weekend racing in Talladega… we decided to watch Talladega Nights. The warm pizza, colbeer and sleepless weekend had caught up to us… we decided to call it an early night and head to bed.

The past 48hrs were insanely amazing. From being blessed enough to take part and aid in top notch performances like Sam and Ali’s…

to witnessing some of my closest friends push through harsh conditions and awful weather to achieve their goals was nothing short of awe inspiring. Maybe next year I’ll take the Pinhoti plunge and run it myself… or perhaps lay back and enjoy crewing/pacing a good friend again… but for now… good bye Pinhoti… I’m going to sleep! 


“Run long, run wild, and howl loudly!”