Note From Heidi: This is one of [hopefully] many race recaps I’ll be able to share for Meaghan…as well as other runners who don’t have a blog-like platform to share their recaps on. This recap is 1000% from the mouth of Meaghan, I just placed photos and added a few links. If you’re looking for a place to share your race accomplishments shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to share your story!
I did it. I ran an ultramarathon.
This is a short blurb about my entry into the world of ultra running. Back in the spring of 2014, I decided that I was finally going to take the leap from marathon running to ultra running. I decided that a 50k would be the best option, after all, how much more difficult could 5 more miles be? I searched for a local race so that I wouldn’t have to worry about travel accommodations and could potentially be familiar with the course. The Indian Creek Fifties somehow caught my attention. I had run Waterton Canyon a few times and done sections of the Colorado Trail several times. Perfect! Mitch, Danielle, Allen, and I decided to do a “test” run in the summer at Roxsborough. After the run, I was immediately onboard to sign up for the 50K.
I ran a lot to train for this. I became very comfortable on all of the trails near my house. I was running on the dirt 4-5 days a week and cross training 1-2 days a week. My longest training run was scheduled as a 26 miler so I found a marathon that fell perfectly on that weekend. I actually placed 3rd in my age group at the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. This was a month prior to the Indian Creek 50k which left me extremely confident in my abilities to complete the 50K.
I wake up about 3:30 to head over to meet with my friends. I am carpooling with Heidi, Marissa, and Val. It was a great way to start the morning. I had paced Heidi for a section of her first 100 miler a few months prior so it was interesting to hear how she was recuperating. I had never met Val or Marissa. Val and I talked about her experience at the Leadville 100. Her story was inspiring as I’ve only done the Leadville Marathon and thought that was plenty. I was in good company hearing everyone else’s stories. Everyone has such a different perspective; it’s very interesting to hear their take on a given race.
I met up with Allen at the start line. Allen reminded me to think of it as another one of our Sunday runs. This helped me a lot. He and I started running and chatting about what is going on in our lives. It was dark and we had no idea of how many, if any, people were around us. We didn’t care. We were just busy talking about wondering what the weather was going to do.
We were both bundled up before the start of the run, but decided to wear the least amount that we could deal with as it should warm up soon. Fifteen or twenty minutes into the run, he and I both wanted to remove our jackets. We were baffled. All of the climbing must have warmed us up quickly. We decided to wait until at least the sun rose before we took off any layers. We breezed through the first 8 or 9 miles without slowing down. I was feeling strong. I recall making a joke at mile 13 that we could be done by now if we were doing a half marathon, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be done. I was in my happy place, on the trails.
Around mile 14 or 15, we were at the main aid station. It was a good thing because we both needed some adjustments. Allen ditched his pack. Mitch grabbed my pack and refilled it for me. Heidi applied some anti-chafe cream to my shoulders in order to prevent my pack from becoming my enemy. And with that, we were off again. We were doing well! The miles seemed to fly by.
Around mile 22, we were at the next aid station. I forgot everything that I had wanted to get at that aid station (drop my trash, grab some salty food). The good people at the aid station recognized that Allen and I needed food, but we didn’t recognize that. They took great care of us by packing up half sandwiches and putting them into Ziplocs for us. They said you have a lot of climbing ahead of you, you will need this. Thank goodness we listened to them! Almost immediately after the aid station, we went straight up. Allen and I stopped talking. We both FOCUSED on eating. It was SO difficult to chew and swallow your food as you are out of breath from climbing. We both knew we needed the caloric intake, so we just shut up, ate, and climbed. It was a brutal long climb, but we made it.
The weather turned a few times while we were out. At the top, it was very windy. It looked like it was going to start to rain any minute. This motivated us to try to pick up the pace. The weather was another source of battle in my head. I wondered why I ever thought it was a good idea to choose a race that was long enough that the weather could change a few times over. I thought how was I supposed to prepare for all of these changes? I must have been crazy to think I could prepare for weather changes, multiple “meals”, and light variances (starting with a headlamp and having to take it over shortly into the race). It never did rain, and the weather changed back to perfect running conditions.
I recall looking down at my watch once again at mile 26 and still feeling relatively strong. I pointed out that we had run a marathon and we were still running at a decent pace which was huge. Allen and I ran together for about 27 miles. He slowly ran away from me. AND THEN THE RACE STARTED. I tried initially to keep him in my eyesight. Around 29, I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew where I was and knew I had more than 2 miles left on the course. I didn’t know exactly how far I was from the finish, but greater than 2 miles seemed impossible in my eyes. My foot started to hurt from the constant bending to climb and descent.
At 28 years of age, I started to throw a tantrum on the middle of the trail. I looked around me and saw that there was no one near me. I started to pout like a 2 year old. I became angry. I was angry at the race director for a course that was over the distance advertised, I was angry at myself for signing up for this, and I was angry at my foot that didn’t want to cooperate. Today, I’m not really sure why this seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect, it just seems like wasted energy. I truly started to fight with myself. I then remembered how my training had gone so well which meant that I had to complete this strong.
I tried to rationalize that walking was all I could do because my foot hurt so much and that I only signed up for a 50K, which should be 31 miles. I was already past 31 miles. I wasn’t exactly sure what my distance was anymore. My watch had died around mile 32. My watch only dies after very long races so I knew I was in trouble. I then tried to think of how great it will be to finish because I will never have to do this distance again. I thought about the people waiting for me and how I needed to hurry up. I passed a volunteer that informed me I still had 1.5 miles to go. I thought he was the worst person alive at that moment. I said “No, that can’t be right”. He said to just keep going. I figured I had no choice, so I went back to the basics, “left foot, right foot, repeat”.
I saw cars! I knew I had to be close. I started running again. The pain in my foot diminished with the thought of the finish line being so close. I then saw the finish. I heard people cheering my name. I crossed the finish! Heidi caught me in a hug at the end of the finish chute. I burst into tears. I’m still not sure whether those were tears of angry or joy. She was amazing. She asked me what hurt and sat me down. A nice woman then started working on my calf to help my foot. It hurt very bad to have her work on my leg, but I knew it would help me in the long run. Jason, Mitch, Krista, Katie, Anita, Heidi, and my loyal pup were all surrounding me as this lady worked on my calf. I felt so supported and loved. I said never again. The course was 34 miles, which is 3 miles too long. I couldn’t comprehend how I could’ve gone another 16 miles. This race was supposed to be used as a gauge to whether I wanted to run a 50 miler. I said hell no after the race.
A week later, I still said hell no. Three weeks later, I think I will look for a 50 miler for the spring or summer of 2015. In retrospect, I think the race got to me mentally more than physically. The day after the race, I was limping much less than I have after a marathon. I started to feel a sense of accomplishment. The time wasn’t the time I expected (8:31), but I DID IT. Granted there were that many participants, I also managed to place 3rd in my age group. This race was for me, and only me BUT putting my time against others (whether they were better or worse) helps to show what a tough course that was.
I can now reflect that the course was beautiful. The majority of the course was single track which was also amazing. I love the feel of dirt under me. I had a great time enjoying the outdoors in my happy place. There were times I went slower than I wanted, but that only gave me more me time to stop and enjoy the beautiful views that were around me. I loved the breathtaking views of the red rocks in contrast to the Colorado blue sky. I loved that the weather seemed to be perfect. Heat is my enemy and running in the cold can be difficult with too many layers. I am proud of all the things I was able to see on my run.
Did you know there is an abandoned house somewhere around 2 or 3 miles from the finish? Things like that gave my mind something to think about. I wondered what it would have been like to live on the mountain in one of those houses. I thought how awesome it would’ve been to hop right onto the trail. It has to mean something that even while I was in a lot of pain, my mind still thought about how awesome it would be to be able to wake up and be on a trail in your front yard. The volunteers were awesome. As I mentioned before they knew what I needed even though I didn’t. The race director didn’t actually have it all against us, contrary to my thoughts. There were so many people out there doing what they loved in beautiful Colorful Colorado.
The sunrise on race morning that all the runners got to watch unfold!
I wouldn’t change anything about my training. I think it went well all things considered. I have a sticker on my car “26.2 miles, what could possibly go wrong?” The answer is EVERYTHING. The race is conquering whatever those things are. I did conquer all the issues that I had. I couldn’t have prepared for the mind games that my brain put me into. The inability to know how much longer I had to go was killing me. I wanted to be done. I’m so glad my legs kept going beyond their comfort level. I am now looking for a 50 miler course, ideally where I know if the course is slightly over 50 or slightly under 50, just so that I can mentally prepare for it. This is an experience that will not soon be forgotten. SO I guess it’s official, I’m an ultra runner.
Heck yes, Meaghan is definitely an ultra runner! And she’s fitting in quite nicely on the dark side where the “selective memory” kicks in awfully quickly. Have questions, similar stories or encouragement for Meaghan? Share it below – we have to keep her thinking a 50 miler is a good idea, because that is what #runablers do!