Michelle Lankey made the decision to run Pinhoti in March of 2017. She was conflicted on her focus for the remainder of the year. She had achieved a PR in every distance from the mile to the marathon and had her sights set on achieving a sub 3 hour marathon at the Savannah Georgia Marathon in November, however, for some reason she kept gravitating back to the idea of the 100 mile ultra. It was unfinished business for her. She knew that at some point she wanted to run the 100 but would 2017 be the year? She wasn't sure if she had an appropriate base to attempt the distance, however, so after debating it with her family and friends, receiving conflicting opinions and reasons for focusing on the marathon and/or the 100, she decided that the best course of action would be to test her body. If she could go out for a 20 mile run on the spur of the moment and recover quickly enough to run a 10 miler the next day, than she would sign up for the Ultra.
The course is a point to point trail run starting in Heflin, Alabama on the Pinhoti single track trail. Runners make their way over the highest point in Alabama while navigation over rocks, through creeks and across beautiful ridge lines of the Talladega National Forest. The course consists of 81 miles of single track, 17 miles of jeep road and 4 miles of pavement and finishes on the rubberized track in the Sylacauga High School Football Stadium.
Training in the months leading up to the race she had adopted a Keto diet to prepare her body for utilizing her fat stores as energy when she needed it. She used Accel Gel during training and Endurox for recovery although she tapered off of these for the final 4 weeks going into the race. Her weekly mileage varied anywhere from 60 miles to 100. Her long runs were on the weekends with back to back 30 mile/20 mile runs. She trained on the hills of Vista View to prepare her body for the intense assents and descents. Along the way she ran many miles solo and a few with friends.
The Moment Of Truth
Fast forward to 9 months later and she was on the starting line of the Pinhoti 100 located in the heart of the Talledega National Forest in Alabama. She felt calm and confident. There was a rush of excitement at the start of the race which was quickly stifled when the entire field of runners had to come to a halt at the entrance of the single track trail. It was actually pretty humerus and nerve racking for her. She was itching to get started and settle into her planned pace of 10 to 12 minutes per mile. She was certain that the field would open up soon enough, so she settled in and tried to enjoy the scenery. She had been given a lot of advice over the course of her training. One piece of advice that she kept hearing over and over is that you can never go out too slow. In this instance she felt that she was ill advised. She is certain that she went out way too slow. Way too slow and not due to her own devices. For the first 5 miles of the race she was caught in a conga line that was moving no faster than 17 minutes per mile. She wasted more energy trying to figure out how she could get ahead in the line than she expended running.The course was way more technical than she could ever prepare for in flat South Florida. There were sections that were so steep that she was either bear crawling or sliding. Around mile 17 she was still caught in a line of people that dictated the pace. It was at this point that she slipped and the knee pain began. She could power up hill, however, going downhill was a painful and slow task. She developed a borderline migraine and overall was feeling dejected. At aid station mile 29, she sat down. She contemplated quitting. Her head was pounding and her knee was concerning. She called her crew member, best friend, and fiance Kevin for advice. He listened to her concerns and after careful thought advised that she try to make it to the next aid station. She was able to get some ibuprofen from the aid station and off she went. After a few miles something miraculous happened; she began to feel better. Her mood improved and her speed picked up. She pushed on until she arrived at mile 65, 7 minutes after the aid station cut off. At that point she had to call it quits, but it wasn't because she wanted to. It was because she had to. She learned so much from this experience.
She will be back for another attempt at the 100 miler and is certain that she will succeed and succeed in good time. Ultra running is a combination of will power, preparation and knowledge. She had the first two factors keyed in. She was missing some knowledge that she could only learn from experience. She will be back for another crack at the 100 in the future but now she is focusing on her marathon goals. She has her sights set on a sub 3 hour mark with dreams of a sub 2:45. Recently, she helped pace me during a local 5K knowing that I had been trying to PR. After 2 earlier failed attempts running solo in the month, this time I had her help and achieved the PR I had been chasing. You can follow her on Instagram HERE.