Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd 2017 a few pics and words

It's hard to believe that we've had SEVEN years of the Pumpkin  Holler Hunnerd. We've always had good weather for this race (oh we've had a few warm afternoons.) But this year gave us a huge obstacle--a severe, slow-moving thunderstorm during the night after the 50K and shorter distances were complete. But more on that later.

The scary pumpkin rose from the depths of mutilation by the evil two-headed vulture and was photographed chomping on a runners leg. Thanks to Susan Melon Westmoreland of Mile Junkie for the artwork for this year's shirt.

Photo by Gina Day
Stormy Phillips handled the announcements and race play by play and color commentary. 

Photo by Gina Day
I was actually fairly well rested this year, and set about the duties of smashing large pumpkins to start the three waves of runners. We allowed a two-hour early start for the hundred milers who worried that they might not make the 30-hour cutoff. We did this as a trial since in past years we have also had a 135-mile race and a lot of 100 milers took that start time and dropped down to 100 miles, giving them 40 hours. Next year, we may not have the early start, since it causes some minor and but fixable problems with the results

Photo by Gina Day
A good crowd of 100-milers, 100Kers, and 50Kers started out right at 8:00 am.

Photo by Gina Day
The 25K and 10-mile races started at 10:00. This year, the 25K used the main loop instead of crossing the nature preserve-traded in a long hill for a shorter but steeper one. Plus, they got to see Mad Dog and Them Idiots for the first time.

Photo swiped
And yes, our old bridge that was torn down last year (and at least "I" am still mourning the loss of) meant an extra mile of pavement to get to the new concrete replacement that is named Combs Bridge, a name stolen from the old steel historic, yet removed landmark. I just have to bitch.

Photo by Lisa Butler
A bit of a bustle early on, but the crowd soon thinned out. This race could easily handle 500 more runners.                
Photo by Misty Rowland
The blue loop is 29.7 miles including the out and back to the start/finish. 50Kers had a short out and back by the Nature Center on the purple road. The 100K had a longer out and back. The 100-Mile had a much longer out and back. From there on, the 100K and 100-mile just had loops--no out and back. The second and third loops were shorter--29.7 miles.

Photo by Chrissy Whitten
One of the prettier sections early on the loop, the gravel road runs between a  steep upward bluff to the right and the Illinois River to the left.

Photo by Chrissy Whitten
About 4.5 miles into the loop, the long hill leading to Mad Dog greeted the runners. I love this hill. It just goes on and on and on with a couple of false summits. This hill was the beginning of my introduction to this race course--the one that was easily summited with hardly breaking a sweat. Of course, I was driving my Jeep.

Photo by Kristin Wise
Kevin LeMaster and fam ran Mad Dog again for the 7th consecutive year. Night have caught them napping on an early round I drove. Mad Dog is the 10-mile turnaround.

This year was pleasant during the day with the sun peeking out every now and then but with a course that's 80% shady, it was a great day.

FrankMuller and Johnny Spriggs run the self-named Dem Idiots. They had a variety of smoked meats and sausages. And whiskey.

Photo by Kristin Wise
Clouds moved in around mid-day. I borrowed quite a few pictures from FB buddies, and this was one of them. There's no shortage of great picture-taking opportunities. Just point and shoot--a great photo guaranteed. 

Photo by Clint Green
Another great picture on a rare sunny stretch of the route.

Photo by Clint Green
Screaming down the hill into Savanah Corner. What would await them??

Jfrank with candy tassels no less!! I saw these in person but never saw them spin more than once or twice.

Photo by Bryan Drummond
This is the only picture I could scrounge u from the Waffle Stop. I don't even see any crusty batter on the griddle. I could have done a much better job of picture taking. Next year we'll have a photography team.

Photo by Lisa Butler
RJ, Abby, and Alicia ran the turnaround for the 100-milers. This aid station only saw 30 runners, and then their schedule was complete. They were overstocked on foodstuff, but they transported the surplus to other aid stops and were put to work on other fun stuff--pacing and shenanigans.

East of Eden is the far point on the course. Kate and Ed manned this lonely corner again this year. Kate and Ed have the best beans and cornbread around. I had seconds. There is no cell service here Local residents don't even know what cell phones are--but they're pretty back-woodsy anyway.

At East of Eden, runners have an option. The Great Gourd Challenge--to do, or not to do? They can continue on the course, or take the small detour up a decent incline--a mere 236 feet in a half mile (if you take out the flat part, 200 of the feet of climb in about .25 of a mile.) It's a calf burner on the way up and a quad burner on the way down. At the top, Susan Melon Westmoreland awaits and presents you with a nice souvenir to wear with pride. This year, it was a buff-like stretchy thing (can't call them Buffs) and almost 100 runners took the challenge.

Photo by Earl Blewett
Next aid station is Hard Up Ahead. The last segment goes by a few houses and the Pumpkin Holler Cemetary. The old graveyard is a scary place indeed in the middle of the night. That's allI'm gonna say about that.
Photo by Earl Blewett
Earl Blewett and Chuck Streit have attended to this aid station for all seven years of the race. They are probably the most experienced ultra runners I know. Earl was running 100-milers when there were only about 75 people in the world who even knew running 100 miles was possible for a human to do. In the picture above, we know that this is from lap one because Kathy and Mike are smiling, and are dry.

Photo by Wes Rupell
The next stop is Bathtub Rocks. The segment to get here is paved--old asphalt with a few gravel spots here and there. There are a few sneaky hills sprinkled in--hills that grow during the night, and by the third lap, they are mountains. Bathtub rocks is a party station. Disco light and lively music is standard fare. Runners have come to expect gourmet food here, and this year did not disappoint.

Picture swiped
Last Gasp is the last aid station on the loop. Shorty can be a loving encourager, feeding runners warm soup, fixing their feet, massaging cramped calves, but mention anything that sounds like quitting, and she turns into a rabid drill sergeant. No DNFs on her watch. From here it's only 3.5 miles to the finish, and she always gets the runners on their way.

Photo swiped from Bryan Carpenter who probably swiped it from someone else
Earlier in this post, I mentioned "a severe, slow-moving thunderstorm during the night." If you've read my two previous race reports (Cloudsplitter and Heartland) then you know that heavy rain with high winds, hail, and general misery have been a common theme--so why should this week be any different???  A bad squall line was bearing down on us bring a 110% chance of rain. And rain it did. All night long. Relentless rain. So bad--it was fun--if you had been dropped on your head.

Photo by Earl Bewett
I had done my best to get tarps and/or tent walls to every aid station, and they helped. The aid station workers had it the worst. Running or even brisk walking generated enough body heat to keep runners from having hypothermia, but sitting around in the aid stations trying in vain to stay dry was not the dream situation for our volunteers. But we at Pumpkin Holler have the best volunteers in the world.

Photo by Misty Rowland
Stormy Phillips (what an appropriate name!!) emceed the start/finish line for 32 hours. He sent the early starters off at 6:00 am Saturday. He cheered the 10-milers and 25Kers in to their finish. He heaped on kudos to those finishing the 50K, praised the 100Kers and 100-milers as they embarked on their 2nd and 3rd laps and then administered the accolades to the multi-lap conquerers as they crossed the finish line. Dude never slept and was chatty and funny nonstop. I'm not sure how he did it.

Photo by Misty Rowland
32 hours after he started he was just as witty yet genuine as ever. Great and appreciated performance, Stormy Phillips. 

Jesse Deana was the final finisher and she got the honor of smashing the last pumpkin. Jesse was close to being behind the cutoff, and with 9 miles to go, it looked like she might not make it. But she had great pacers and once she passed Last Gasp, she picked up the pace and finished with 6 minutes to spare. 

Top three in the following distances are as follows.

10 Mile Men
1. Dominic Halser
2. Kyle Knapp
3. Steven Hill
10 Mile Women
1. April Shroff
2. Morgan Richardson
3. Holly Bronsert

25K Men
1. David Carter
2. Ted Holder
3. Joe Van De He
25K Women
1. Lori Enlow
2. Missie Warner
3. Annette Ward

50K Men
1. Mark Schattenbe
2. Aaron Trujillo
3. Josh Crocker
50K Women
1. Katie Kramer
2. Amanda LLynch
3. Lindsay Fritsche

100K Men
1. Bo Shelby
2. Cory McDaniel
3. Rob Green
100K Women
1. Ruth Loffi
2. Elizabeth Baker
3. Jennifer Benecheck

100 Mile Men
1. Justin Walker
2. Lance West
3. Jeff Lewman
100 MileWomen
1. Lisa Butler
2.Kathy Hoover
3. Sherry Meador

Crotch  shot by David Newman
Our copper belt buckles were well received. Even as RD I have these buckles in my possession, I have a major case of buckle envy, and I am just going to have to find a way to run the 100 to earn one that I can wear.

Photo by Candy Williams
It's so hard to thank every volunteer individually, but heartfelt thanks to the 80+ volunteers who gave a day or two of their lives to help make this race special for our runners.

Big props to Dana Childress and Brynna Schelbar Phillips who ran the start/finish aid station which doubled as the final feasting place for finishers. During the night in the rain, inside their walled tent, they stood in 6" of cold standing rainwater. Come daybreak, we moved the station to higher ground, and the breakfast crew sprang into action. Brynna server up scrambled eggs, bacon, and a variety of quesadilla/burrito concoctions. Dana created all the aid station kits, which included shopping for nearly $2000 of food/drink, and then packing over 100 pounds of grub into huge packing tubs for each of the aid stops. She also orchestrated set up and tear down of the start/finish (except for what was provided byTATUR Racing) and packing the box truck for the trip home. All that to say this--we have the best volunteers on the planet.

What's new for next year? We do have a few changes in mind, and in the next few weeks/months, I'll clue everyone in on what we have up our sleeves!!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hanging out at Lapland--Heartland 100 mile aid station

I worked the Heartland 100 Lapland aid station this past weekend. Twice in the past few years, Dana and I have manned this stop set at mile 16 and mile 84 on the out and back jaunt in the Flint Hills in Kansas. This year, however, Dana could not make the trip due to work, and I had recruited trusty volunteers Lynna Gilstrap, David West, and Johna Ellison to help me manage the madness. 

Heartland RD Eldon Galano volunteers at Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd so we trade out volunteering at each other's race

It seemed like the entire week I was running behind in preparing for this assignment. Friday morning, I had nothing packed. Most of the basic aid station supplies are furnished by the race, but we ring the special stuff--bacon and mini pancakes, potato soup, and I had also brought taquitos, a pecan pie, and a cheesecake. I like our runners well-fed. Dana had filled my shopping list and there were only a few minor things for me to snag Friday morning until I discovered a bad leak in a water line in my camping trailer. DISASTER--since we really need our trailer fully functional next weekend at Pumpkin Holler. Dana found a dealer who could get right to work on the repair, and I had the hour task of dropping the trailer across town and packing up my tent-camping stuff. So instead of arriving at my weekend post at 5;00 or earlier, it was well after dark.

Even so, there was no rush of things to be done at this point, and after dropping my friend Stormy off at El Dorado at his hotel, I went to Wal Mart for some last reinforcements for the weekend ahead. From the race start in Cassoday, it was 12.5 miles due east of a well-maintained gravel road that just seemed to go on forever and ever--but I instead traveled east of El Dorado for 24 miles and then straight north on Road 31 to our lonely intersection--and this route seemed to be a little quicker.

I played with my new iPhone, looking for spooky settings where things dissolve into the deep black moonless backdrop of night. 

Our intersection. Theoretically, I should have been able to have pizza delivered here. But I had no cell signal.

Using two chairs in the middle of the road, and my camera propped up and set on a 10-second timer, I managed a selfie close enough to the look I wanted and photo edited the rest. I sat in the chair under a billion stars and played video games on my phone--something I rarely do.

I somehow forgot my tentpoles, so I blew up my air mattress and camped inside the aid station tent--a pretty good solution.

Lynna drove up and was parked and car camping before I managed to get some sleep. David came a little later and car camped as well.

Our morning started with us setting up the food table, getting the water jugs situate and cooking 200 mini pancakes and 5 pounds of bacon. Most of the hotcakes and bacon were consumed. I did my share of tasting.

The arrow marks out home for the weekend. By 11:00--5 hours into the race---we began our downtime. I figured we'd see our first return runner around dark. I made another trip to Wal Mart for stuff to tie the tents down. The race had staked them to the hard rocky ground, but we were getting 40 mph gusts and it was only a matter of time until they took flight.
 We decorated both tents with strands of LED lights, which made our aid station visible from space.
 Our porta potty had a disco ball inside for lighting. We called this our porta-party.

Our tents never blew away but two other aid stations were as lucky. a strong north wind coupled with sideways sheets of rain sent the tents into orbit. It got into the upper 80s Saturday for a high, and down to the upper 30s Saturday night--maybe colder. Rain with high winds froze many a runner and the drop-out rate was high.

 By 4:00 am, most of the clouds had moved on and clear skies let the temperature drop. Our last runner came through at 5;30-ish and race officials came by and picked up the aid station provisions and drop bags It was still over an hour from daylight so we crashed and caught an hour or so of sleep, and then packed up all the stuff I had brought.

 I headed east thinking I'd come out in Eureka, where I'd get gas, coffee, and make my way home.

A quick stop for another selfie at Cake Batter Batter could have been better with a cupcake, but you cannot expect friend Deana Thornton to stay open 24/7.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


I'm a little late with my race report, but I have finally sorted through my pictures and picked out a few good ones of stuff I remember from the race. A month ago a group of six of us carpooled (read that: crammed all our stuff and eager bodies into a Dodge Caravan) and made the 13-hour drive to Norton Virginia. 
Our team, from left to right: Me, Jeremy Harrison, Christine Fischer, Mike Rives, Jana Graham, and Bryan Carpenter.Bryan had made this ticker counter and posted it on Facebook every two or three days. I think possibly most of the world at any given time knew how may days and maybe minutes it was til this race
But let me back up a little bit. Back in 2014, a volunteer showed up as we were getting Pumpkin Holler underway and wanted to follow us around and pick our brains as to what all went into putting on a 100-miler. Susan Howell drove from Kentucky, and we worked together doing a lot of the preliminary work at Pumpkin Holler. She helped out at the start/finish for a while and then rode around with me and finally worked at Last Gasp for a good part of the race. She had a lot of questions--all good questions--and took mental notes and maybe just maybe I imparted a wee bit of wisdom in RDing--assuming what I do could in any way be classified as such. I'll touch more on this story later.

We're a couple of hours into the journey and had our first potty stop and carb loading. This Braum's in Vinita, OK took a solid 15 minutes too even take our order. The drive-through line was taking top priority, but finally, they came and waited on us grouchy runners and we exercised patience and grace the likes of what I never knew I had. Notice the scowl on my face!
Bryan Carpenter--a good friend hooked on ultra running and who has an unhealthy craving for shiny things, latched onto Cloudsplitter. This race, according to, has over 26,000 feet of elevation gain (and descent) and in my books was one of the top 10 toughest 100-milers in the nation. I gave my fatherly advice to him warning of the seriousness of climbing incredible inclines on 30-hour tired legs, and reminding him that the 40-hour cut-off was in place for good reason, but this only fanned the flame. Bryan used FB messenger and text messages to subliminally impregnate my mind with running this race, and I finally gave in.

We took turns driving while the passengers made a valiant effort to get a bit of sleep. I had another picture of Jeremy with a solid stream of drool running down his chin, but he must have commandeered my phone and deleted the picture. It was priceless!
Whether by coincidence or by design, there are a few similarities in Pumpkin Holler and Cloudsplitter. I opted to add a 25K to the Pumpkin Holler lineup, and later actually added a 10K (and then upgraded it to a 10-Mile.) My reasoning was that it gives a few more people an opportunity to be a part of the event, and as a windfall brings in a few more dollars making it possible to have better shirts, medals, aid stations, etc. Cloudsplitter wisely has a variety of distance options. While most 100-miler races start at 6:00 or even at the ungodly hours of 5:00 or 4:00, at PH we've always done an 8:00 start so people can get an extra hour or two of sleep (does anyone Really sleep before a 100?)  and it gives time to get all your gear ready, eat a bite or three, dare I say potty visits (I admit there will always be a long line at the drop and splash booths.)
Suffice to say, I like the later starts, and Cloudsplitter had an 8:00 start until this year when it was moved to 7:00 am.

We made it to Norton VA finally--in 17-18 hours, but who's counting? Norton has a legendary predator/mascot that reportedly haunts the mountains of High Knob. This sasquatch-like creature is named Woodbooger, and has a local restaurant named after him. We made this our first meal in Norton, and took turns posing in this beastly photo-op.
I had actually signed up to run Cloudsplitter in 2014--it's first year. My ongoing knee problem put a damper on my training--with that and an insane work schedule, I sat the race out. It was after that race, reading the race reports, that I realized the severity of the elevation was a serious matter indeed. With an out and back course, every incline you go up, you go down. That many feet of climb figures to an average of over 500 feet per mile when you're going up. This is more than Western States, more than Leadville, and more than 95% of the other 100-milers in North America.

After eating, and checking into our motel, we drove around to scope out any part of the course we could find. We drove to High Knob--a mountain peak that towers above the quiet valley town of Norton. 
The weather before the race was perfect, and Saturday was great too, although we had Hurricane Irma dishing up buckets of rain on us in the wee hours of Sunday morning and well into the day and evening.

We were looking for the T-intersection that was a central hub of the race. We found the High Knob campground and assumed this was the first Major aid station. From there, it was just sight-seeing. 
In 2014-2016, the Kentucky course (which was right on the Virginia border in places) had a problem with local residents messing with the course markings. The trail--which had been in existence for years, had gotten more use and a lot more with this growing race, and the local rednecks found it fun and games to re-mark the course sending runners miles off course. The final straw was when Bubba and Billy Bob started hanging out on the trail on their 4-wheelers with their he-man guns in their lap. You just cannot reason with people like this, and with a matter of a few months before race day, Susan put a halt to registration and made plans to move the race to another location and in another state. WOW. As a race director myself, I know this was an enormous undertaking finding a workable course in a beautiful area that set up well to the different distances that this race offers. They chose High Knob. From the mountain above Norton Virginia, there were a couple of established trail systems that fit the bill. Susan and her group of volunteers mapped out a new route, measured the course, established workable aid station locations, and did so flawlessly, from all I observed. 

Oddly enough--the race had almost the same elevation gain as the previous course.

We actually followed the trail beyond this sigh for maybe a quarter of a mile, and it was all UP. 
We made the pre-race dinner and briefing. We picked up our packets and were treated to super nice long sleeve race shirts. I love mine, It's thin and breathable, and makes me look skinnier. How can you not love that??? We were warned about all the critters we might encounter--timber rattlers and copperheads were a bigger concern to me that the occasional bear sighting.

This was the starting line. I guess I should have taken a picture of the other side of the banner.
I managed a decent nights sleep. This only slightly offset my lack of and quality shut-eye on the long drive over. I was in the back seat trying to nap, and Bryan would purposely drift off to the shoulder of the road where the chatter strips would jolt everyone out of their near slumber. What a joker!

Two minutes to go time. I was all set. My watch was ready for me to push start, I was wearing my new Saloman Hydration Pack--an S15 I think. It has a lot of storage and felt really heavy and I almost dumped half of the stuff out, but once I had it on, I never was bothered by the extra weight.I had drop bags in a couple of places, I had my trekking poles--a great decision to bring them!!
They fired what sounded like a cannon, and we were off. I could not find that comfortable stride at first and alternated between my signature shuffle, a jog, and a brisk walk.  Very quickly I was one of the last five in the race and not much longer than that, I was last. I looked at my pace and told myself that everyone else in the race was going out too fast. Funny thing is--I believed that!!

There were photographers along the way, but I never saw them. In looking at the race pictures, I did see they got a shot of me, and obviously, I did not know they were there, or I would have sucked it in!
Bryan, Jana, and Christine stayed together every step of the way. Mike hung with them, but at one point fell back a little. Jeremy ran a faster pace, but eventually slowed down for a while and then must have stepped it back up in the final miles. This initial climb--over 2100 feet in 5 miles was the beginning of my demise. I trained with lots of hills. But this hill got hold of me mentally and would not let go. I reached the top finally in last place and was running 32-minute miles. Well--it was a hike. I told myself I could gain some of that back. It was a long race and a long time limit. And this was one of if not the worst climb on the course.
Notice the heavy leaf cover on the trail--yes there is a trail there. When the trail got rocky, those leaves made it look not so bad but in fact, it was treacherous. 
This large rock looked like a face. I started noticing faces in the rocks--I do that a lot--but this was only the beginning of several hallucinations that toyed with me during the night and into the day Sunday.

A final climb to High Knob. I finally caught up with a few people. It turns out that they were all either in the 25K or 50K and after their respective turnarounds, I was all alone.
I breezed through the High Knob aid station without using my drop bag. I ate a cookie at the food table and went on without checking my hydration bladder. A slight mistake as I was empty and thirsty by the time I reached the next aid station at Edith Gap.

This as the beginning of a double out and back. The 100 milers ran all the way to Hanging Rock and back and then all the way to Little Stony, which was between Bark Camp Lake and Hanging  Rock. These mileages don't look at all daunting but given the terrain, this was really tough. 
At this point, I was starting to re-think my goals. Was this too early to think of going with plan B. I really had not thought much about a plan B. Well, that's a lie. I HAD thought about that. One thing I have always allowed at Pumpkin Holler was for people who reached the point where they knew they could not make the 100-mile cut-offs, I allowed them to drop to the 100K or even the 50K. Susan also made that provision. In both races, the runner HAS to cross the finish line. So no dropping out somewhere on the course and catching a ride back.

Ok, I admit it. Part of my problem is that I  take a lot of pictures. I went off trail for this one and it looked to be a spectacular photo, but there was not a clear shot of the lake because of all the trees.
In studying the course map, I thought the out and back was a pretty straight shot, and assumed it followed a creek bed for 15ish miles. It did, except two or three times it veered up and over a mountain and then back up and back down, rinse and repeat. mmmm--not so straight.

There were lots and lots of creek crossings. Many were dry--no way to get your feet wet. Some were passable with man-made bridges, some you crossed on moss covered fallen trees. Some you could jump boulder to boulder. And a couple you just got your feet wet.

The leaves were in full flaming color. Even those on the ground were in technicolor--more color than I've ever seen in Oklahoma. And true to form, on my blog posts, there's always a couple of sun-peaking-through-the-trees pictures.

Feet got wet here. Some of those rocks suitable for boulder hopping were also slick. 
 I mentioned my trekking poles. I got my Black Diamond poles several months back and had used them in a couple of races. I really thought I had mastered the technique, and indeed I had. I used them for 90% of the race. They helped me greatly in the rocky water crossings, through the technical stretches of trail, and especially on the steep descents. 

I was amazed at the tall trees. Google has helped me decide these were Virginia Pines.

Nice looking trail--huh? Well, this trail went gradually uphill for 1 1/4 miles. Not so steep at all, but it was nothing but shifting rocks from potato to basketball size, all loose, and all covered by a thick blanket of leaves. Every step was a potential ankle twist. I'm a long time trail runner with bionic ankles, but I was cautious here. My trekking poles were of no use here because each plant of the pole seemed to wedge way down between the rocks, and I nearly broke the tip off a couple of times before deciding to just carry them through this section. The trip on the way back was in the dark, despite going downhill, it took quite a bit longer than it did to climb it.

This was Bark Camp Lake. It was a beautiful section and I had run quite a bit of the way the preceding few miles. The colors of leaves were amazing.
I met Jeremy just before taking the above picture. It seems the whole gang was worried about me. There were rumors that I was lost, had got off course, was off sightseeing. I did get off course purposely for about a hundred feet but never was lost or had a doubt about the route. Jeremy was looking great and said he was gonna slow it down a little.

I waltzed into Bark Camp Lake aid station feeling great. I needed to see about my feet. I had a wee bit of a hot spot acting like it might get worse but overall, I felt good. I was on a high. They offered to give me a full-service tuneup for my feet, and I declined until I found I had not put my foot stuff in my drop bag. :-/ They went to work on my feet. Did a massage thing, and put some sort of antibiotic cream on my hotspot, which I didn't think would make a dimes bit of difference but it did help.

Next, I met this trio on their way back from Hanging Rock. (By trio I mean Jana, Bryan, and Christine--who was taking the picture.) They were doing so chirpy happy good that I wanted to smack them. (Bryan needs a smacking every now and then anyway!) I told them of my decision to turn around and continue on the 100K route. They understood. I did the math and it was the right decision. I secretly was a bit concerned about them as well, although they did one thing that 100 milers rarely are able to do--they never slowed down.

I met Mike about a mile behind them. Mike had tried to keep up with his Amigos and did so for much of the race, but backed off to run his own pace. I have a theory about that--he left his alter-ego Meego on the DASH of the VAN!! Meego could easily see where he went, and see all the runners getting ready to race. 

Folks, this is BaD KaRmA. With Meego in tow strapped to Mikes pack, Mike might have won the race.

I met one more dude behind Mike, and he acted surprised to see me. He asked if anyone "knew I was still in the race." WTF??? He told me the aid station ahead (Hanging Rock--the 100K turnaround) was shutting down and had tried to give him all the leftover food. He was told he was the last runner, and the other guy (me) must have gotten off course. 

I made it to the aid station 35 minutes before the published cutoff time, and there was NO ONE THERE. I looked in the trash bins and there was a ton of aid station food thrown away. I was a little aggravated, to say the least. I took a picture of the trail sign to prove I was there, and then took another pic with me scowling at the camera. LOL!

Me with my best mean looking scowl.
So from here, I was on a mission to catch someone--anyone. I ran a bit faster, and this was easy except when you had the stream crossings. It was getting dark, and I waited as long as I could to pull my headlamp out, milking the remaining daylight for all it was worth. When it was finally too dark to go on, I pulled my headlamp out of my pack and found it had dead batteries--but just like a boy scout, I was prepared. I had a new pack of batteries in another pocket in my multi-pocketed pack, if I could only find them. Then I had a heck of a time getting the cap to the battery compartment opened. I finally resorted to turning the flashlight on my phone on to see how to open my headlamp, and then to see which way the batteries went in. Ten minutes well spent. In the next minute, I was flat on my face on a slick rock in the middle of a creekbed. BAM! It probably was comical, and I was OK. Then I sucked down a GU, which turned out to not agree with me.

I mentioned catching up with someone, and by no speed of my own, I did catch someone. At Bark Camp Lake, Mike was waiting for me. He also had decided to drop to 100K, and we thought we could tough it out together. By his recommendation, I ate some potato soup and it was awesome, so I had another. Then I ate a piece of chocolate, and a guy offered me a half can of Red Bull, and I slurped it down. 

Then Mike and I took off into the night. It was good to have company, and we chatted it up for a while gossiping like a couple of jr high girls. Then a wave of nausea hit me. DAMN! I took more salt, sipped cold water, and tried to keep a brisk walk going, I know from past experience that nausea leads to super slow pace, which leads to sleepy time. All of the above is bad. But Mike kept me going, and by the time I reached High Knob, was a little more alert and hungry for more potato soup.

We drank some coffee and tried to regroup, but Mike had hit a low spot. I tried to talk him into going on with me, but he decided to take the trail back to the finish line which netter him a 50K finish, despite running well over 50 miles.

I left out of High Knob campground and climbed for a few hundred feet and then began my trek to Devil's Bathtub. I was thrilled to be getting to that part of the course. I was also concerned that this course goes through a deep canyon with several deep pools of water, possible waterfalls, slick rocks, and it had begun to rain--Irma was making herself known. At High Knob Lookout, we ran a mile or so on paved road, and then onto a well-maintained gravel road. The sleep monster was having its way with me, which was a shame because I should have been able to really make good time on this stretch. It was maybe 6-7 miles to the entrance of Devil's bathtub, or at least the road that led to the area, yet it took me 3-4 hours to get there. I stopped at one point and laid down on the road to get a 15-minute nap--even set the alarm on my phone. Sleeping on a gravel road in the rain is not one of the smartest things I've done. I decided to just keep moving--even a slow walk would eventually get me there. Weird thing--I'd wake up just standing in the middle of the road. I'd be walking thinking about something going on in my life, and talking to someone, listening to what they were saying and then I was out. These thoughts and spoken words playing in my head were turning into dreams. I was falling in and out of sleep, walking in the rain. I am guessing that went on for at least 2-3 hours, and I must have only traveled 1 or 2 miles. I thought for sure I'd be making my way through Devil'sBathtub in the dark, but daylight hit at least an hour before I got to the entrance road.

The dirt and grassy road that led to the park area was about 2.5 miles and a sweet gradual downhill. I ran my fastest miles here and managed to actually pass a couple of runners. 

The park was nothing like I thought. The first 7 miles or so was a nice non-technical single track through jungle-like flora. The further I ran though, the steeper the ascents and descents became.

The final descent into the Devil's bathtub canyon was 1247 feet in 3.9 miles. It was super steep in places, and my trekking poles were a lifesaver.

Even with Irma dumping rain on us all night, there was barely any water running. There's supposed to be a Devil's Swimming Pool too. Someone had built a few cairns in the bed of the main stream. Looks devilish to me.

This is a borrowed pic. I think this I saw this, but not with the little waterfall. I'd like to come back here someday and spend a day poking around. 

There's supposed to be 30 or so water crossings here, and with a little more rain, I believe it. As runnable as the trailz were getting here, the last mile through the stream was a slow go. 

I then had Bryan, Jana, and Christine PASS ME. They had done the second albeit shorter out and back and still managed to catch back up with me. One There was a mystery aid station at the end of the loop--or at least it was a mystery to me. I met Bryan, Jana, and Christine coming back down a hill heading toward me. They told me there was a real aid station just ahead. And there WAS!! It was run by ultra runners. They had super good potato soup, lots of bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches hot off the grill, and coffee. This was LIFE being infused into my broken body. It was raining so much I had given up on taking pictures, and/or was too sleepy to remember to take any.

After leaving the aid station, I was told to turn right at the bottom of the hill. I was so lost--not sure at all as to how to get out of this place. But this road was the one to go on, or so I was told.

This is what all hills should be. How can I describe it? It was a nice gravel road-wide enough for a Jeep. There were a couple of washed out places. How about 1162 feet in 1.7 miles? Yes, it was all that. But the climb continued. 2477 feet in 7.9 miles. It was mind-numbing. 

But seriously, the last half of the long grind was not as bad. It was the nice gradual downhill I described earlier in reverse. I thought with daylight, I'd be through with sleep issues and such. Earlier I mentioned seeing faces in the rocks and in trees. Things started getting stranger. At one point on the long climb out of Devil's bathtub, I saw a rather large motor home parked just off the road. It was a nice one. I saw the windows, the door, leveling jacks, the windshield, a rear bumper. It was an off-white with brown accents. I also saw as I walked a few more steps past the motorhome, a motorboat on a trailer parked just to the side of it. I walked a few more steps and then looked back over and it was GONE. It was just a large rock outcropping. Later, I saw a van--an older Dodge Caravan--off white again, rammed right into the side of a bluff above me. It might have been parked half in a cave, but how in the heck did it get there? I kept my eye on it as I walked by. I wanted to see it magically change into a rock or whatever. It stayed like I saw it--a van stuck in a bluff. But then I kicked a rock in the road and briefly took my eyes off of the van and when I looked back up, he van was gone. It was just a big rock all along, and of course, I knew that. Later, I'd see large shadowy things--much like a sasquatch ahead in the road only to have them turn into trees or just disappear.

I was starting to fall asleep on my feet again, so I took my phone off of airplane mode and saw that I had a good signal. So, I called the wife--no answer. She was probably asleep as she works the night shift. I called Kathy and got voicemail. Left a message. Called Lynna--no answer. I called Melon and left a voicemail and she called back. We got to talking and it was almost as good as having a pacer. I filled her in on all the details of the race, and after 30 minutes, I was walking quicker and shuffling comfortably. Then Kathy called back. She and I chatted it up for 30 minutes or so. By then, I was wide awake and didn't have any more trouble with sleep or hallucinations for the rest of the race. 

I did run quite a bit more. I managed to pick off a few more runners and I see now that they must have been 100-milers. I was the last place 100Ker by a large margin.

It started to rain when I was about 5 miles from the finish. I got into a real jungly area where the trail made a lot of weird twists and turns. I popped out into an open area,  and there were no course markings to be found, so I retraced my steps and ended back in the same place. Frustrated, It looked like I could easliy burn an hour or more trying to find my way out. So, I tried to open my Googe Maps in the rain. I had my phone in a baggie, but with wet fingers, I could not use the touch screen. Finally, I managed to get the map app open, and saw I was very near a pond that looked like it had a dam. I knew I had passed that on the way out, so with a little bush whacking, I popped onto a gravel road that took me right to the lake and across the dam. I knew where I was from there. 

The final descent was super steep and muddy. I greatly depended on my trekking poles for the remainder of the race--at least until I reached the paved road. The last wood bridge was slick as greased snot and I about hit the deck hard but caught myself.

I told Bryan, Jana, and Christine that they would probably catch me. Last time I saw them they had another lap around Devil's Bathtub to do. I was 7 miles or so ahead of them, and they had to do the long nasty hill twice to my once. They caught up with me when I had a quarter mile to go. With nothing left to go for but a finish, I waited on them, and we all crossed the finish line together--the with a hundred miles to their credit (actually 103.7.) I ended up with 68 miles or so, although my Suunto set to ping every minute instead every 15 seconds and it rounded off a lot of the switchbacks. This also skewed my pace readings, I realized later. 

Wow!! What a ride!! We made our way back to the motel, showered, and then hobbled next door to a Carl's Jr for some nutrition-dense junk food. And wow--did I ever sleep!!!

We took turns driving home. Jeremy snored. Didn't see any drool, but then again, I was in the front seat. We had breakfast at some little restaurant that looked like a nicer Waffle House. My egg was Mr.  Bill. I'm not sure what that means, but it has to be a message.

For just some scriggly lines, we sure worked hard to make them!

When I got home, I had this rash!! It didn't really itch all. It spread like crazy though. Each day I looked in the mirror it was worse. I took a round or Prednizone, and it seemed to get better, but now a month later, I still have a few faint red marks. Bryan got it too,  and so did Jana. I think mine was the worst of the three. It wasn't bed bugs--or everyone would have got them. Plss the bites are nothing like bed bugs. It definitely was not chiggers. They attack my ankles and lower legs. This was all on my torso. Mike wore his race shirt during the race, I did not. I wore mine home. We all ate the same food basically. I believe they were some kind of wood mite. 

Sorry--no foot blisters to show. All my toenails are about like they were before the race.

All in all, this was a most enjoyable trip. And a huge THANK YOU to Bryan Carpenter for putting this all together.