On Saturday I ran my first ever 50 miler. The day was filled with nothing but positivity, which was amazing!! There was not one low point–never did I think I wouldn’t finish, and I never, never felt miserable. What’s the deal?? Maybe I was meant for this really really long distance thing.
*disclaimer* I’ve never written a race report so this one might be a little aimless. I could write a better, more detailed and entertaining one, but I’d rather get my thoughts out all at once. Be warned! It’s long and might bore you. Don’t let it deter you from continuing to read my blog If you want the short version, click here.
It all started Friday morning when my parents picked Tony and me up for the 2 hour drive to Sacramento. I’d been filled with nervous energy the entire week and my stomach was unsettled. During the car ride I felt like I was going to vomit, and the feeling didn’t leave me all day. I think it was the combination of being daunted by the task ahead, and feeling utterly and completely unprepared. Why, oh why hadn’t I trained more?? Would my knees hold up? Would I feel nauseous and vomit all over the race course? Would I fall down a mountain and have to climb my way up, losing precious time? So many thoughts were going through my head and messing with my stomach.
Fortunately, I was able to get about 6 hours of sleep. The Comfort Inn was kind enough to open breakfast up at 4 am so I was able to get in a toasted mini bagel and english muffin with peanut butter, and some apple juice. There were two other men in the room who kept to themselves. I was hoping for some nervous chit chat, but no such luck.
My parents took me to the start line at about 5:15. My mom kept offering to carry my water bottles and my dad kept offering his coat. At this point my nerves had disappeared turned into anticipation, but I guess Mom and Pop didn’t get the memo. I think they were more scared for me than I was! In fact, my dad was so nervous he must’ve forgot his camera to take hundreds of photos of me at the start line. It was OK though, he sure made up for it later. Time ticked by quickly and before I knew it people were lining up at the start.
At 6 am the race started and we were off. For many ultra veterans, 50 miles is no big deal. Especially the AR50, which is on a flat paved path for the first 20ish miles. So the pace set was pretty quick. My former employers Don and Gillian suggested walking for the first 10 minutes to get warmed up and to just take things in. Since they know a thing or two about ultras (over 200 between the two of them), I took their advice. After 5 minutes I let my energy get to me and started on a slow jog. I continued to follow the ratio of jogging 13 minutes, and walking 2, as per their advice.
I told my family (a.k.a. My Crew) to meet me at the second aid station at mile 14ish. I didn’t think I’d need them until then and I was right.
At this point, I dropped off my sweatshirt and took off my tank top. I had a lot of trouble deciding this morning what to wear, since it’d be pretty cold then pretty hot.. so I layered. I also overpacked my “crew bag” with back up t-shirts and shorts. But I settled on this outfit and ended up running the rest of the race like this.
The miles ticked by on the bike path. The one *minor* complaint I had was of all the cyclists. Most of them were cool, but some of them made snide comments of runners taking up the whole path. We’re on a race course buddy! And most of us are pretty lean, so it’s not like we’re really taking up much space. Learn to steer.
At mile 22ish there was another aid station where your crew could meet you. I told my family I wouldn’t need them there but looked for them nonetheless. I truly didn’t need them though. I was feeling fabulous, and just needed some water and PB&J’s from the aid station. Plus, there were so many WONDERFUL and encouraging spectators to uplift me. That was one of the great things about this race. EVERYONE was so genuine in their cheering. Like they really meant “You look great!” and “YOU’RE AMAZING!!” It only added to my feelings of positivity.
I saw my family at the aid station at mile 26. As per the last crew stop, my dad had backtracked the race course to take some paparazzi photos of me running in.
Or maybe this was the aid station where my mom ran me in?
Hard to remember.
I saw them again at mile 31ish. These middle miles kind of blended together. If I were a better blogger, I’d have brought a little voice recorder to remember every moment, or been more consistent with my iphone photos. However, I don’t really care enough to do that. Well, that’s not true. I think I wanted to make sure I took everything in without being distracted. I knew that I could never get this first 50 miler experience back. I remember Tony telling me to just enjoy the day and that’s what I was doing.
Funny thing: While running on the trails and passing by other runners, I kept wanting to say, “Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t it just such a wonderful day? Look at that view! Wow, these trails are so beautiful! Don’t you just feel so great??” Didn’t say anything though, because I’m sure not everyone else felt the way I did
***Well, one thing that wasn’t so great were the butterflies. I HATE butterflies, and this does NOT make me a bad person. (Weird, maybe, but not bad.) They were these hefty black butterflies that kept dive bombing everyone!! It was getting dangerous, too, because some of those trails are on mountain sides, and I almost threw myself off a cliff just to get away from them. Scary. But maybe having some adversity helped me appreciate the day even more.***
After mile 31 the rest of the race was on trails, mostly single track. I also noticed that most people picked up pacers. For those of you who don’t know, pacers are runners who can join you in the second half of an ultra-race. They usually provide encouragement and advice, and make sure you’re running on two feet and going the right direction. They can’t carry water or food for you, but they can be a great source of mental support to some people. I had thought for a moment that I might like my brother to pace me for the last 10 miles, but quickly dismissed that thought. I knew that if I were to run 50 miles, I wanted to do it alone. For one thing, I wanted to know that I was able to do this by myself. For another, I was afraid that a pacer might hold me back. I am a good self-motivator, and sometimes find that when I run with someone else I end up complaining a lot, walking a lot, and get discouraged in general.
So, no pacer for me. And I’m glad, because I don’t think some of the pacers were up to the job. In face, one was puking on the trail while her runner ran ahead. I think it took her a good 15 miles before she caught up to her runner.
I saw my family again at the mile 40ish aid station. This would be the last time I’d see them before the finish. I told them I estimated a 2 1/2 to 3 more hours on the race course (turns out it was only 2!). I said hi, grabbed some energy chews, gave a kiss to Tony, and kept running. I had expected that I’d spend more time with my crew resting, changing shoes, eating, complaining, etc. but all I wanted to do was keep running. I felt bad since my family went through such effort to be there for me at these pit stops and I barely spent time with them, but I had momentum and some good juju going for me and didn’t want to lose my mojo/juju. I hope they understood.
There were more pacers on the course for the last 10 miles. It was kind of funny, entering the trails again, to see fresh faced pacers hopping in place waiting to pick up their runners. I’m sure there were a lot of runners dragging their feet and feeling miserable who were SO thankful to see these smiling faces waiting to accompany them the last 10 miles. Pacers probably saved a lot of people from dropping out.
Like the ones before, the last ten miles were mostly a blur. The trails were beautiful and difficult to run, but rather than feeling tired, I enjoyed the challenge. I knew that the last 3 miles were supposed to be the worst. Rather than save my energy, I picked up the speed a little, hoping to tackle those miles as soon as possible!
After more trails and one more aid station, the beginning to the end finally came. The last few miles took place on a mostly gravel and partially paved road. This was a welcome change from the trails, even though it was a steep incline. It was easier to get traction, and the surface was consistent enough that I didn’t have to worry about my footing as I was running. The hill was NOT NEARLY as bad as people made it out to be. I alternated between walking for a bit and jogging 100 steps at a time. During one of these walking segments, a guy painted white (or who didn’t rub in the sunscreen enough) said to me, “looks like we’re gonna sub-11 [hours]. Barely, but we’ll do it. There’s a mile and a half left.” I looked at him and said, “Really? Thanks! I needed that,” and went on running up the hill. I’m not sure what I was thanking him for, but I guess hearing that my far-reaching goal wasn’t so far fetched was all the encouragement I needed to get the race done with ASAP.
The last mile was great. Every spectator was smiling, encouraging, and at least appeared to be in awe. About a quarter mile from the finish, I saw one my favorite ultra celebs Catra Corbett. She’d already finished the race and was sticking around to check out the finishers. She said, “Looking good! Nice socks!” to me, and then I heard her comment to a friend, “Wow, she looks so fresh!” I nearly died.
As I ran towards the finish, I kept looking for my family. Where were they? Fortunately, there were hundreds of faces saying great things to me as I ran by. And right before the finish, when the announcer called out my appearance (and almost fumbled my last name), I heard my family yell “MEGAN!!” and saw their smiling faces right by the finish line. It was the best feeling ever.
There are so many more thoughts I have about the race that I might have to do another random post. Who knows. All I know is that it was the Best Day Ever, and I can’t wait to tackle the next one. Next up: Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Miler!
I’ll leave you all with some random photos. Enjoy! And hope you had a great weekend too 😀