Tulsa, Oklahoma runner Russell Bennett decided to experience his first 100 mile adventure at the Pumpkin Holler 100 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Russell went on to earn a finish in 28:35:53!
Enjoy as he shares his journey.
About three months ago I was alternating between signing up for the 100k and the 100 mile at the Pumpkin Holler Hundred Trail Race. This year the race happened to coincide with my birthday so I was hoping to make it one to remember. Whichever distance I chose, it was going to be my longest run to date. I chatted with Ken Childress (Race Director) about my consideration; he was surprised but reassured me that I was capable of doing the 100 mile.
This race, in its second year of existence, is run on scenic gravel back roads North of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The course runs along portions of the Illinois River and was originally labeled as a “relatively flat” course. Anyone who has ever run this race can attest to the fact that it is not flat and has many hills! Now, I suppose one could compare it between Leadville and Rocky Raccoon and consider it “relatively flat”. The race had a 63% completion rate for the 100 mile last year. Having ran the 50k there last year and being aware of what I would encounter with the course, I had a decision to make. Do the 100k or 100 mile?
Finally, with two months till race day I pulled the trigger and signed up for my first 100 mile race. You did what? Are you trying to kill us? (That’s what my body was screaming at me) Immediately I started second guessing my decision. I was lucky though, as I have a lot of running friends who gave me encouragement, advice and support. Of course there were the non-running friends, whose jaws hit the floor and started questioning my insanity. (Asking, why? What’s the point? How can you do that? I can barely run to the mailbox.) My decision had been made though; there was no turning back now!
After two months of training, preparing mentally and coming up with a game plan, it was race morning, time to smash the pumpkin. Many miles were logged, tons of carbohydrates consumed, drop bags packed and now butterflies setting in. Race morning was chilly with temperatures in the mid 30s at the start but I knew it would warm up quick. I started out wearing shorts, long sleeve tech shirt over a singlet, stocking cap and gloves. After consuming a little pre race meal and a Vespa, I made my way to the start line where everyone else was gathering.
After the mingling and well wishes were said the countdown started followed by the bang of the stating pistol. We were off! We made our way through the campground and out to the road before crossing over Combs Bridge. After the bridge I found fellow Badgers and first time 100 milers Christy Davis, Wes Rupell and Rachael Regier and ran with them. Shortly after splitting from the 50k and 100k crowd on the 8 mile out and back we lumbered our way up one of the biggest hills on the course. Luckily this would be the only time we would lay eyes on this one!
Once out of the valley there was a dramatic increase in temperature and I was rolling my sleeves up and shedding my gloves. It was just a short distance before we hit the turnaround where Mitch Drummond was serving up waffles for breakfast. (One thing is for sure, Mitch knows how to do an aid station right!) From there it was back to the start/finish. Wes and I decided to bomb the downhill heading back. As we made our way back into the valley it started getting cold again. I had to roll my sleeves back down and throw my gloves back on.
Back at the start/finish I ditched my long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves. I was quickly out of there after putting on some sunscreen. On the way out I passed a couple and soon found myself on my own. At that point I settled in and ran a nice steady pace. It was not until mile 15 that Christy, Wes and Rachael Caught back up to me. I was able to run with them for the next 8 miles to the Savannah Corner Aid stop. Once there, they were in and out while I got into my drop bag and got some nutrition. From there it started warming up quite a bit. I maintained a good steady pace back to the start/finish at mile 39. I was starting to get a little tired at this point.
Dana Childress met me as I came through and made sure I ate well. She also made sure I was staying hydrated. I took this time to down a Vespa, get a change of attire and take care of some chaffing issues. At this point I tied a long sleeve icebreaker shirt around my waist and was heading out when Dana asked if I had my headlamp. Uhm, no, was my response (thanks, Dana). That would not have been fun as it would be getting dark soon. Feeling rejuvenated and headlamp in tow I headed out for my third lap.
The next aid stop was just over four miles down the road and I was soon running with nobody in sight. I was just cruising along, enjoying the awesome beauty of the course. Occasionally a local would drive by stirring up dust. The dust was starting to become an issue, causing a lot of coughing from that point. I made it to the out and back aid stop just after dark where I ran into Rachael as she was leaving for savannah corner. She was starting to have a rough time at that point. After giving her words of encouragement we left in separate directions.
At mile 48, I Passed Kathy Hoover as I was coming back on the out and back. She told me that she was trying to catch up with me so we could run together. That was welcome news as neither one of us had a pacer to get us through the night. I continued on and was still feeling good at this point, running a lot of the hills. I was starting to pass some runners that seemed to be running out of gas. It was not long after that that everything changed. At mile 58 I felt as if I had got some pebbles in my shoe. After stopping to clean my shoes out twice, it became apparent to me that damage had already been done to the bottom of my foot.
The next two miles to the Hard Up Ahead aid stop was slow. I filled my water bottles and sat down to eat a cup of soup. While I was sitting there I happened to look up right as Kathy was coming in. Talk about a welcome sight! After she got some nutrition in her we headed out. On our way out she gave me encouragement and told me that the pain would not get worse (yeah Right). After making a stop at the next aid stop to tape my foot up we proceeded on, every step feeling like a nail was being driven in my foot.
At 2AM we made it into the start/finish at mile 70. By this time both feet were in the same shape. With one more lap to go I knew it was going to be difficult. Dana and Shannon McFarland were there and kept encouraging me, letting me know I had this. They were going to make sure I kept on going. After taping my feet up and getting me some nutrition they sent us on our way for the final lap.
The final lap was slow but we managed to get in some spurts of running. We became focused on making it from one aid stop to the next. The only human life we came across was at the aid stops. We were both getting tired as we were traversing the roughest section between out and back aid stop and Savannah Corner. By now every step was feeling like a knife was being shoved into my feet! I’m sure Kathy heard a few choice words come out of my mouth. It was starting to get light out once we hit Savannah Corner. With daylight came some new found energy.
At mile 85 my calves had became so tight it was all I could do to muster a fast limp. After each aid stop it was getting harder to get moving again. By mile 90 Kathy’s feet were in as bad a shape as mine and we were both depleted of energy. I made the decision that I would not stop at the last two aid stops. I knew if I did then I would not be able to get moving again. At Bathtub Rocks, Kathy sent me on and said she would catch up with me. She caught back up with me four miles out from the finish. When we hit the Last Gasp aid stop we handed them our bottles to fill and they ran them back out to us.
At this point we saw Rachael up ahead. We were able to run a little to try and catch up to her. Her pace picked up at that point and we were unable to catch her. As we came across the bridge for the final time, we came into view of everyone at the finish line. They started to cheer us on, wanting us to run it in. As we entered the campground, we dug deep to find every bit of energy we could to run it in. We made the final turn to the finish line, too tired to cry. As we approached the finish line, Kathy and I, grasping each other’s hand, held them up as high as we could get them and crossed side by side in a time of 28:35:53!
Without the help of Kathy Hoover, Dana Childress, Shannon McFarland, Susan Westmorland, Brynna Schelbar, Stormy Phillips and all of the aid stop volunteers, I would not have been able to finish this race. They all made this a birthday run to remember! They were all life savers! I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Christy Davis, Wes Rupell and Rachael Regier for completing their first 100 miler. Way to smash the pumpkin!
Congrats to Russell on his first 100 mile finish!
Any questions for Russell on his Pumpkin Holler 100 experience?
Posted on 29 Oct 2012
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