Monday, April 23, 2012

Status Post My 50 mile Labor of Love

Firstly, in Case you don't read all the way to the Bottom: 

A special Thank You to The 6th Branch for allowing me to share my personal achievement with them in a way that I hope benefits many more than I could ever help on my own. I truly adore each of you, and the work that you do. Thank you for letting me be a part of it all! <3
I knew when I signed up for a 50 mile run it wasn’t going to be easy.  But after all of the training and the ridiculous amount of time and effort I put forth for 25 weeks endlessly pushing onward including 1 x half marathon, 3 x full marathon, 3 x 50k one of which was extended to  a 40 mile training run…. Well lets just say I was presumably more than ready for the distance.

Going into this as of December 1st, 2011 my fears included:
#1: failure to finish #2: failure to reach the start line due to injury #3:Failure to create an event/ journey that would mean something more than just that I completed a 50 mile run.
My Fears as of April 20th, 2012:
#1: Failure to maintain my body temperature #2: Failure to maintain nutritional/ e’lyte intake sufficient for the task at hand #3: Failure to finish/ failure to complete the journey I’d made so public and shared with so many in so many different ways. #4: To come home injured or worse to have had my 1st 50miler also be my last.
On April 20th I went for an easy 30min jog on the Vegas strip to get just a touch of what the heat would feel like…. After this run I was officially frightened of what I’d gotten myself into…. In 30 min I was parched, and could feel the effects of the sun on my skin…. How in the world I survive more than 10 times as much? I didn’t know, but everyone I sought advice from- 2 ultra runners, 1 father, and two other running friends offered me sound supportive advice: #1: hydrate/ e’lyte, #2: Follow you nutrition plan- no matter what #3: Listen to your body, and #4: You always worry, but I know you’re ready, you will be fine.
With these last words of advice among the other tidbits of advice including a hat, glide for chafing, 50spf sunscreen, a 20oz handheld bottle, goji berries and chia seeds on hand.  I was as ready as I could possibly be…. Would it be enough?

After talking Caitlin into getting up to take Pre-run photos for me at 5am… I hit the road heading away from Vegas into the gorgeous canyons. The sunrise was only beginning as arrived at the race area around 6am and as I drove my hopes of a cooler than planned day began to grow as the temperature dropped from 73 to 52 degrees, suddenly I was wondering if I’d be warm enough (but assumed the sun would heat things up, and fast).

I Parked the car at the lot 2 mi down the road and got shuttled up to the start/finish area where I placed my drop bags in the given “Mid-way(5.5mi)” and “Sky Ranch (11mi)” marked areas. And then went digging through my bag for anything warm… I had my hand warmers, gloves, and WOW… a camping blanket- (when did I figure out how to be so prepared?) So now I was cozy. Within 10 min, the sun had risen another 15 degrees  raising the the sun at least, enough to pull one sleeve of my jacket off enough to rub on my spf 50 … once I thought I was good to go, it was warm enough to lose the camping blanket and the gloves. It was beautiful in the sun, with just enough breeze to cause goose bumps.  I felt good and had met a few other runners most were ½ marathoners/ marathoners, but one was a 50 miler who had only attempted one other 50, and had a 100 in July, so he was really hoping to “get it right” this time.  He made me feel comfy and scared all at once. As much as I didn’t really know what I was doing , I was pretty confident I Could do it.

Loop #1(0-22mi: 3:15): Next thing I know I’m running a comfy 9min mile pace with Rudy- a long time ultra-runner with a lot of experience, wisdom, advice and just some great stories. I picked his brain for all that I could in those first 3 hours. He kept me calm, slowed enough and made the fact that I’d apparently been running uphill for 5 miles out-followed by a 1mi steeply declining hill and then 5 more miles of slowly climbing hill to bring us to the turn around seem totally doable. On the way back (out and back so if it wasn’t clear this is now 5mi downhill with 1 mi steep uphill, followed by 5 more miles downhill) we continued our steady pace. The temperature was beginning to climb as we neared 10am. I had the mental idea that I wanted to keep a calm pace, but move as swiftly as I could to get more milage out of the way before noon.  The constant downhill eventually took me as I began to separate from Rudy. I was hoping I’d slow up or he’d catch me as the company made quite a bit of difference.

Loop #2 (22-44mi: 4:25) : Headed back up hill…. (Did I really run this last time… OMG- I mean seriously... I did this 3 hours ago?… I was so caught up in Rudy’s stories and our conversations I hadn’t even truly realized that yes… this is literally all climbing hill… ughh… I caught up to the number one 100 mile Female and just as I did we shared a greeting and then she dodged to the side of the trail to vomit. For the first time it occurred to me I was doing well.. so far.

The Climbing just went on and on, by 3mi back out I felt fine, except my quads begging me to break stride. Each water stop they received their wish as my pace paused and then moving again was refreshing…. Or had been until then. Now I saw the number one 100 miler and he was hiking it… I took a walk break…. And then kept running….. but the pain had gone from a dull ache to screaming with every impact. I hadn’t dealt with it much yet so I was able to pull through and just slow my pace, I was determined to make it to the Long downhill of “Recovery”-> or so my naïve mind thought.
I ran that whole downhill, it felt so good to get the breeze going and feel like I was running again… at the base of the hill was Mid-point check in. I grabbed some snacks and refilled my bottle. The comments began …”you’re leading the pack” “You’re killing it”…. My thoughts: I’m 27.5 miles in….and I’m pretty sure this course is Killing Me…. But thank you for your kindness- hope its enough to keep me in this game.

And off I went for the next 5 mile uphill….jog/walk… I kept trying, I mean constantly battling my mind to let me suck up the pain and run, but I was slowed to a walk. I tried to manage run 4/ walk 1 and that failed, I walked 5min and then got up enough…..whatever it is… to run to the next mile marker. With the same constant effort… and excruciating fail after fail after fail…At a water stop 1.5 miles away from checkpoint a very nice couple of women commented on how hot it was, all I managed was, “Yup, it’s getting hotter still….but if it wasn’t a challenge I’d be bored.” I made it to checkpoint- Mile 33.

Race Volunteer (on bike) “Meg, you’re flying out there, you’ve got ½ mi on everyone, 1 or 2 miles on the next 50miler”

Me “Thank you, but I’m not sure about flying, pretty sure I just walked the last 4 miles”
Race Volunteer (on bike) “Well, then you’re walking fast, keep it up”

I again grabbed food, ginger, heed, thanked the volunteers for their support and headed back out prepping myself to push my mind harder…. After all its 11 mi downhill with a little hike in the middle…. I GOT this… right? 


The next 11mi was the same constant strain as the last 5 had been. Yes gravity was definitely helping to pull me along but dealing with more than 1 mi at a time was nearly impossible for me. The being totally alone was the most excruciating part, I kept looking back for anyone else headed my way. The ppl headed on the outbound side were hurting just as bad as I was and nice cordial greeting was often the best we could do, at time it seemed just the nod of the head in acknowledging one another’s efforts was all we had. 
I saw one 100miler camped out sitting under a bush in the shade….I was so jealous! Haha, he had the right idea! By now the extra water stops had been sucked dry. The heat of the day shining down was maxed out at 95ish… but the heat coming off the pavement started to make you feel like you’re running in an oven.
(As I write this now I feel I’m missing so much…. There was so much thought and consideration to each and every sip, each electrolyte tab, each running step knowing that increasing energy meant increasing body temp, meant burning out faster……I don’t know how to judge something like that…. I’ve never had to…..).

Anyway as I hike the mile climb for the final time, I actually sat down for 30 seconds and stretched my legs before continuing onward, again- hoping that if I slow up enough, at least I wouldn’t be alone (probably just my mind’s excuse for weakening… but it made sense at the time… I wasn’t sure I could make it on my own… I’d never been this uncomfortable).

The next 5 miles would prove the hardest stretch of the course… as It stretched downhill, the temperature was at its peak- or so it felt… I was still fighting to run… afterall I’m a runner right? Not a walker…. How could I be so weak? I’ve felt much worse than this and still kept running before… I mean I felt Really good, hot yes, tired, of course, but nothing I couldn’t run 20 more miles on…. But when I tried to move my legs it felt like I was peeling the skin off my quads, raw, tight pain… the pain of muscle fatigue. The heat mixed with long up and the long downs had wasted my leg muscles through and through… didn’t much matter if you could still do cartwheels with my internal energy gauge, my legs weren’t going to go any faster.
I brought to mind all the reasons I run (not walk) and I tried my hardest to get back into the rhythm as walking was beginning to hurt almost as bad… my general rule is “if it hurts as much to walk as it does to run, you might as well run.” Believe it or not this did help and I was running a bit more.

About 41 miles in a car with someone hauling things out of the back was on the side of the road… I had about 3 sips of warm HEED left so I figured I could at least ask for water…. He had only ice (which would be water in NO time… so we filled my bottle and he handed me a chunk of ice). At first I didn’t know what to do with it, then common sense kicked in, I placed the chunk of ice inside my sports bra right over my heart… (from past experience I was a little concerned I’d shock my heart, but the idea of dropping my core temp sounded SO good). I felt good… for about 5 min I was running under 8 min mile, running… like actually striding a little bit….felt so good, but the ice melted and within what felt like only moments the fatigue was back.  

Checkpoint was visible- this would be the last time I’d have to see the finish line without stopping.

I Grabbed more ginger, and my second bag of chips (the salt is amazing… and the bag takes me about 2miles to get down). And as I was about to head out… PEOPLE!!

The 100miler #1 guy (who was previously the #2 guy) was caught up to me.

Competitive Meg was like “Man, you slowed down a lot, L”… but I didn’t care… I had company for the last 3 mi hike!!!! Like Christmas morning! Only I couldn’t seem to express the joy, I kinda wanted to cry. lol!

Loop #3: (44-50!: 0:52min): We headed up the trek, both attempting to pull one another on running stretches of 100-200 yards… and both barely  holding on. I’d cut my walk pace to chat… but once we finished the conversational piece he jogged and I held my steady speed walk… I knew damn well at this point I could walk 4.3-4.5mph and only run 5.6-6mph up these hills and for the cost in pain and fatigue… I was better off walking. So I did, after about a mile of trying , I quit Trying and JUST walked. I was humiliated and angry with myself both enough to Keep me pushing as hard as I could go.
At some point the #1 100miler caught me again and said “You walk really fast” I concurred and said, “trust me this hurts pretty bad too… but I’m 4mi out now…. What have I got to Lose.” I tagged the sign for my turn around, grabbed one more water stop and pushed it….Those last three miles were a struggle, as the last 20 had been… but I pushed. I walked, I ran, I kept moving. Every time I walked something internal forced me back into a run, that would become a jog and then a shuffle until it was again a walk and this cycle repeated and repeated till the very highlight of my race.

With less than a mile between myself and the finish like, I could see the main road, as I’d been able to for the past mile…. But I knew I was close enough to the finish- I had to run…. Just then bounding along beside me was the most flamboyant guy I’d ever met,
(please imagine this convo in the most flamboyant voice)
FG: “HI!, Are you finishing right now?”
Meg: Yea
FG: “Omg… how far did you run today”
Meg: “50 miles”
FG: “Woooow, that’s amazing. You get it Girl!”
And with that he speeds off ahead ….yes bounding a nice fresh 6:30 pace I’d guess in the shortest short I’d ever seen, topless, with his hair in a little pony tail with the cutest headband. And honestly all I could I think was, “I want my legs to move like that… NOW”
So I took everything else I had and I ran, not jogged, I RAN. I replayed the finishes of authors of ultra-books and Friends who have mustered up sub 7min miles at the end of 100 mile races and what not and I just kept moving. Every 10 steps or so it was a new neural connection screaming… WALK!, that I chose to ignore. Somewhere still planning one last walk break before jogging in like a rockstar… but I couldn’t bring myself to stop that close to the end. So I ran up the hill/ small incline to the finish line.\

Behind my sunglasses the tears welled in my eyes, the pain was more than I’ve endured in quite some time. My pride had been devoured by the days efforts. I’d won, I was #1 in the 50mile race and managed to run sub 9 hrs, my original goal at the very beginning of this journey. 8hrs 32 minutes. So why did I feel so…. Sad?
I’d given it everything, it took everything? Didn’t it….. couldn’t I have done better? How could a runner, walk THAT much… I know deep down, that I can be better…. Or at least I had thought I could be….. But I guess that’s up to the future now. 

All in All It was a great experience and I am in fact proud of the accomplishment.

In Hindsight:
#1) I successfully managed my fluids, electrolytes and nutrition… certainly room for improvement but thrilled nonetheless.
#2) when applying sunscreen… Do not forget your neck….dumb mistake
#3) companionship on a really tough journey can make or break your attitude, which when you’re legs are done…. Its your heart is all you run with… nothing else matters.
#4) Thank you to Rich, Dave, Ryan, Cate, Alvaro, Caitlin, Rachael, Allison, Dallas, Beth, Robin, David, Mosi, Marc, Jess, Frank, Everette, Jim, Linda, Gina, Ali, Jen, The Genest Family, The Cicalese Family, My family Bren, Megan, Barb, Joe and Stella (at 96 she's still an inspiration!), members of MCVET Back on My Feet,  John Gibb (RIP), Nicole Boice (RIP),  and the many others who have touched my life, your kind words and presence in my life were the only things that made me able to make it to the finish line.
I could say more and more… as 8 hrs is quite a bit of time to think…. But this is enough.
I am not Done, there will be more….


  1. Great job Meg! There will be more...what's next? :-)

  2. Meg, that might have been me under the tree - was it about 1.3 miles from the start/finish?

    Great report and great run. Congrats on the win!