Editor’s note: This is part two of a four-part story that chronicles Frank Piner’s attempt to complete a 100-mile run in Alabama known as the Pinhoti Endurance Run. Piner, a 2009 Nevada Union graduate, enlisted in the Navy in 2012 with the intent of becoming a Navy SEAL. He decided a 100-mile run would give him a taste of what training and mental toughness would be needed to be successful as a SEAL. He searched for the most difficult 100-mile run he could sign up for, and the 2013 Pinhoti 100 in Alabama’s Talladega Forest was it. This is his story.
Cruising along, we went through small creaks, up and down hills, always looking for trail markers along the way to make sure we were still on track. When we arrived at mile 16, I called my mom to inform her of my progress, so she could update the rest of my friends to let them know where I was, in case they were not getting the web updates.
A little while later, my buddy said congratulations, we are now ultra-marathoners. We had arrived at mile 28, and I still was not feeling sore or stiff. The feeling that I would have from doing a normal marathon was just not there, and I did not understand why that was.
However, I did not really care why I was not feeling like I usually did; by that point I was just very happy that I still was not feeling the distance that I had gone yet. I remembered that other ultra marathoners and 100-mile runners said it’s a gradual pain that just slowly increases over the period of the run. In retrospect, it was because I was hydrating a lot and mainly because I was running at such a slow pace, my body felt like it was easy.
Along the run, we crossed over many more logs, creaks and rocks. When we reached the aid stations, Svenson’s support crew was there waiting for us. I really did not have a support crew because I was planning on running the race with him due to having identical goals. Goal one — finish the race. Goal two — finish the race uninjured.
As we reached mile 35, we knew what was ahead — our first big hill. I had expected to be just running along and hit like a wall, that we would have to climb about 160 feet up. As we ran and started climbing at mile 37, we realized it was only a gradual incline. That made it much better, but we still walked and shuffled on up. It seemed like the end never came as we were going on up.
Then we saw two young girls playing on a rock, and they said, “Good job, your almost to the top.”
We felt very relieved to hear that. Sure enough, the top was a few minutes later, and the view was breathtaking. After we stopped for a photo we continued on to our checkpoint. We ran along a boardwalk type of path. I really enjoyed running on that. Once we got to the aid station and checked in, we found out there were hotdogs, soup and potato pieces. I was so happy to have real food for the first time in the run. I ate two hotdogs and had a potato, as well as two cups of soup. That may sound like a lot, but it really was not.
Then when I had finished, I was waiting for my friend to get ready to go again. He was still eating, changing clothes, and stretching. I waited with the support team for about 20 minutes or so. I did not like waiting so long because my muscles were cooling down during that time. I did take a few seconds to throw on a long- sleeve running shirt because the temperature was dropping. I also borrowed one of the crew member’s head bands. It was finally time to go again. This time we had our first pacer with us, Candice Armstrong. What a great pacer she was.
We began our decent down the steepest climb of the race, and man, that was steep. I could have rappelled down! Once we reached the bottom of that descent, we hit paved road. I was thinking “I don’t remember reading this in the course description.” We continued on that for about three miles and then turned onto a fire road. We ran on that for about two miles and came into our next aid station.
I had some more soup and found out from the volunteer that we were about one hour and 45 minutes ahead of schedule. We were finally about 42 miles into the race, and I was still feeling really good. I was not fresh like I was at the beginning, but I was not sore at all, either.
As we headed out from there, our pacer swapped out with Evan Vanhoy, a very amazing soccer player who has an entertaining running stride. He runs of his toes constantly! Only a few minutes after leaving that aid station, the sun went down and on went the head lamp. I had no idea what fun I was about to be in for during that long night.
Check back Friday for the next stage of Piner’s attempt to tame the Pinhoti Endurance Run.