Pinhoti Trail: Day 0 - By Eric

Posted by posted by Eric Charette

In the summer of 2009 I was privy to a conversation at would alter my life forever.

Either luckily, or to my demise, I had forgotten my wallet at a hotel in Rutland, Vermont while on a business trip.  I had driven all the way to Albany, New York before realizing this which meant I had to drive the rental car two hours back through rush hour and in the rain.  I coasted into town on fumes, and after picking up my wallet, Chinese take-out and filling the tank, I began the trek back to New York.  Due to the unfortunate situation, I would miss my flight home on Friday night and had to take the first flight home to Huntsville on Saturday morning.  The purpose of disclosing this story is that I chose an early morning flight that had me back at home by 9am so that I could meet my friends at Wheeler Refuge, where they were in the middle of a 8 hour training run in preparation for ultra marathons a few weeks later.  It was during this run that we first talked about running the Pinhoti Trail.  Had I taken a later flight that morning, I would have missed out on the conversation and the amazing adventure that would ensue a year later.

After hearing about Rob's dream to run the Pinhoti Trail, I was first filled with internal skeptism.  I had run several 50km trail races but aside from Strolling Jim, had never even run more than 42 miles at a single time.  How could I possibly expect to run several hundred miles when I have not even run a single 50 mile race?  Yet I decide to jump into this endeavour head first and approach it with the same zeal that I have for other crazy running adventures and verbally commit to the run.  My first mistake is believing that the Pinhoti Trail is completely contained within the state of Alabama.  When I initially push the idea with Rob, I thought that it would be a 4 to 5 day adventure of less than 200 miles.  When he informs me that it is actually extends into Georgia and is well over 300 miles long, I remain committed, but am less confident than previously.

Throughout the planning and preparation process, my nervousness builds and even as we work through the back to back to back long runs in early April, I can't think about the impending effort for more than a few minutes without feeling sick to my stomach.  I lack both the experience and mental tenacity of my team mate Rob in this adventure run.  Not only have I not run for more than 42 miles, I have only twice run longer than 6 hours, both of which came in May when we went on long runs at Sewanee and on the Appalachian Trail from Clingman's Dome to Fontana Dam.  Rob has run well more than a hundred ultra marathons and many 100 milers lasting up to 40 hours of continuous running.  Despite being over matched, my mind tells me that it is possibly this lack of experience that will help me along the way; not knowing what I am truly getting myself into might actually be better than knowing what the looming future has to bring along the way.  I am always trying to test my limits and have a tremendous amount heart.   This combined with a stubborness and refusal to admit failure might be just the recipe for success.  This is not a race with Rob, but I feel that I need to give it my best effort each day to stay with him.

Fast forward to the drive down to Sylacauga on April 30th, where Rob and I have plans to meet with Josh for dinner before getting some rest before the first day of running.  We talk nearly the entire duration of the two hours of travel, yet I am more quiet than normal.  The utter enormity of the run has finally gotten to my nerves, though I refuse to show any signs of weakness.  I am both excited and scared to death at the same time.  The only way I can contain my emotions is to be slightly numb to the situation.  To the on-looker I may seem to be taking a nonchalant approach, but it is the only way I can remain calm in the face of danger.

I have the following words memorized, and after a dinner at a local Italian restaurant and packing up supplies for the next morning, I recite the words over and over in my head.  I am trained to the best of my ability and now I must work toward being more head strong than I have ever been.  In several hours I will begin an adventure that will change my life forever, just as the conversation at Wheeler had done a year ago.

"A warrior prepares fully and purposely for war.  He focuses on the impending battle and trains his body, mind and soul to act with strength and cunning.  He lives a spartan existence, denying luxuries that would sap his resolve.  He has the desire, motivation, discipline, belief, self-esteem, confidence, courage and mental toughness to win in battle.  He prepares a wise strategy, dwells on it, and executes it while staying calm in battle and fending off pain and fatigue.  The warrior prepares to fight the ultimate fight and face the ultimate defeat." - Warrior Attitude