A Salem doctor with a penchant for long-distance running competed the weekend of Nov. 2-3 in a 100-mile trail race event in Talladega National Forest in Alabama.
Dr. Gregory Maynard, the primary physician at Mercy Clinic on West Rolla Road since 2006, ran in the 12th annual Pinhoti 100, an ultramarathon through rough terrain that extended over rocks, through creeks and across ridge lines that included the highest point in Alabama.
“Unfortunately, it was a failed attempt,” he laughed. “I ended up getting timed out at an aid station 42 miles in, so it was kind of anti-climactic.” Runners are required to meet tight time intervals between aid stations to continue the race.
Maynard and his running mates took off at 7 a.m. from a campground outside Heflin. Twelve and half hours later, they reached the 42-mile aid station.
“The way it’s set up, there are some pretty tight time intervals between aid stations where you had to meet specific time cutoffs,” he said. “It’s a fairly tough event.”
His group hit the 35-mile station right on time, but had seven miles to go to reach the next one. Five of those miles were uphill. There were challenges right from the start.
“We took off from a little campground out in the woods and within the first 200 meters we hit a single track trail that’s no more than 20 inches wide,” Maynard said. “And we had 275 people that took off, so everything bottlenecks.”
The trail race also includes 32,000 feet in elevation changes. Runners have a maximum of 30 hours to complete it, but the top runners finish in less than 20 hours.
“I will definitely complete one at some point,” he said. “There’s not any despair. You’re just being honest with yourself about where you’re at.”
He’ll now be focused on consistently finishing a 50k race (about 30 miles) and maintaining himself both physically and nutritionally before attempting another 100-miler.
He battled through some leg cramps about 15 miles into the race, drinking more water and electrolytes to keep going. Runners have to be sure they’re getting enough calories and keeping up on their fluids, he said. They are weighed at the start and can be yanked off the course due to health concerns if they lose more than 10 percent of their body weight.
But his group was doing well before timing out at mile 42.
“We felt we could have easily gone on,” he said. “You’re not upset, you’re just learning. You compete with your body and put yourself through struggles to see what you can handle.”
The Pinhoti 100 is a qualifying race for the Western States 100 and the UTMB. Both are prime events that trail racers pursue the opportunity to compete in. The UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) is a single-stage mountain ultramarathon in the Alps mountain range between France and Italy.
The Pinhoti course features 81 miles of single track, 17 miles of jeep road and four miles of pavement. It finishes on the rubberized track in the Sylacauga High School football stadium.
Maynard, 49, didn’t really start running until November of 2016, when he was a crew member for the Pinhoti 100. He enjoyed the environment and camaraderie with his teammates and other runners.
“It’s an environment where people are pulling for each other,” he said. “I entered to improve my own health and fitness, and lost around 35 pounds. It’s not something I’d say I had a major passion for years ago. But through this I’ve also met some of the great people I’ve been around in my life. And the buddies I have in this are phenomenal.
“They’re salt-of-the-earth guys. We discuss things we’re going through,” he said. “It’s been a positive thing to be involved in.”
He and his teammates were proud of their showing in the race.
“Not a single person in our group quit,” Maynard said. “From a mental aspect, we didn’t feel like it defeated us. Physically that day we just didn’t get where we needed to be at a certain time.”
Before joining the Mercy Clinic, Maynard practiced at Bond Clinic in Rolla for two years and in emergency medicine full time for four years.