Monday, May 7, 2007

Not Bad for a Flatlander

Forgive this is long, but so is my wonderful journey!

I had the great fortune of heading to The Bay Area this weekend for the Miwok 100K run. I had found out about a month ago that I no longer had stay on the waiting list, I was in. This made me feel very fortunate because the waiting list was long, and because this is the most beautiful race I have ever done.

I traveled to Oakland on Thursday morning, and was going to take the midnight flight back on Saturday night. My thought process was this: I would enjoy the area before the race and then get back in time to see my husband race on Sunday. I would also get to recover in the comfort of my own house instead of having to travel all day on Sunday. Genius plan, right???

I got to Oakland very painlessly, and headed toward Sausalito. It was cool, cloudy, and breezy when I arrived so I just knew raceday weather would be wonderful. I wandered around Sausalito for hours. I met this amazing artist and bought a framed picture of the Marin Headlands; where the race is held. She had the most beautiful photos and oil paintings. I really enjoyed my day just wandering around, but when I realized how many hours I had been on my feet I was just a bit concerned that I hadn't done the smartest pre-race activity. Oh well, nothing to do about it. I went to this Cafe for dinner, and had salad and cheeseless pizza with chicken, artichokes, peppers, and tomatoes. It was great, and I had leftovers for the next day!! On my way to the motel, I stopped at Mollie Stones, a great grocery, and got some fruit and other stuff for my drop bags. I also picked up some goodies for Paul and Clea, since she enjoyed the grocery so much with me last year.

It was drizzling Friday morning, but my plan was to head down to the race start and relax by the ocean. I did just that. I put my legs in the water and told myself that I would try to do it post-race. I also spent a long time just taking in the beauty of where I was. It was just amazing. After that, I went and had a big lunch. This was going to be my big pre-race meal since the race started so early. I would just have a small dinner, and some fruit and be ready to go for the 5:40am start. It is sooo much easier on my system that way. I must admit that I was just stuffed after lunch. I needed to get out and get my body moving. So, I went for a short 3 mile run around this lake by the motel. It was actually helped me relax and I didn't feel like a pre-race over-eating slug. (I know EVERYONE backing off on mileage and eating for a big race knows what I am talking about) When I got back to the motel, I saw Dana and told him that if he wanted company for dinner I would be glad to join. About an hour or so later we headed out and went to an italian restaurant down the street. I had a small salad, and he had his big meal. We had a great time catching up, and he told me about all of the latest exciting updates leading to Western States, he is on the WS board. I was excited for him because Miwok was his big race for the year. After dinner, I told him that I would see him on the out-and-back section of the race...he would be at least an hour ahead of me.

When I got back to the room, my friend, Mariela, had called me and we were going to settle on our last minute carpooling plans. She had come in with her husband, and I told her that I would be happy to drive her to the start so that he didn't have to get up that early. I went over to her room and met her husband, Frank. We spent time talking about our race details, dropbags, and just catching up. Her husband was very sweet, but definitely thought we were crazy.

I headed back to my room to get my final prep done, and get into bed; 3:30am was going to arrive VERY early.

I awoke in the morning feeling rested and ready to go. I was excited for the day, even if I was still half asleep. It was going to be my first race in my Montrail gear, so it felt a little more special than usual. Mariela and I headed to the race start at 4:30, and I was so glad she was with me. It was a great chance for us to catch-up, and visit about everything and nothing at all. That's the wonderful thing about Ultras...the day is about to be so long there is no need to have morning of jitters. Mariela was telling me about how she and her husband met; I don't know if we barely talked about the day ahead. We checked in for the race and dropped off our bags. We went back to the car to peel off layers and head to the walk over to the beach. All the racers do this together as a group. It is really great. The start is on the beach as the sun is starting to rise at 5:40am. We run for a very short distance on the beach and then hit the trail heading UP. At 5:40 Tia, the Race Director, said go and off we went. The minute we hit the trail we were walking because if congestion. It would loosen in a second, so not a big deal. Soon enough we were really off and running. After a moment on the trail we dump off to about a 1.5-2 mile climb on a road. I find this to be a great chance to warm-up and settle in. I settled in with a small group of guys. They seemed fairly friendly. Then I was just climbing with one. As we were going we were just chatting away. His name was Chase. We talked about Western States last year. He told me that his wife had already planned a trip to Africa, and that WS weekend she went to Africa and he ran 100 miles. But, she was there to crew for him at Miwok. We talked about work, he works for Brooks, training, family, and on and on. Before we knew it we had finished the first climb and headed down. He got in front of me as we headed down, and I started running with this very nice man. He and I chatted all the way to the aid station. It sure did come quickly. Off we went to the next climb. He stayed with me and said that he liked my pace. I was totally fine with the company. Before I could blink we came into Tennesse Valley at 11.6 miles, and the first drop bag spot. (I think I came through about plan was 2-2:30) I grabbed my 1/2 Chomp Cookie for the climb that was to come, a sip of coke, and off I went.

Out of Tennesse Valley, I started running with this guy, Randall. He was great. He had actually been running with Chase earlier so he hopped into the conversation we had been having. I got to hear all about what was going on in his life: his wife had just been in a terrible horse accident...she was fine but the horse was injured. It was incredible to hear about what the horse did when it got spooked, ran down the side of a cliff, and how hard it was for both his wife and the horse. You could just tell how much he loved and supported his wife and everything she was going through. He even felt guilty for being out at the run and leaving her alone, even though they lived right in the Bay Area. He told me stories about the Tevis Cup, which is what they were training for, and how amazing it is to see what the horses can do. The Tevis Cup is the 100-mile horse race that takes place on the Western States Trail that lead to the start of the run.

Then at one point the subject changed to how we were kind of glad to be there on our own, so that we didn't have to worry about a crew when Chase chimed in that his crewed had missed him at the last aid station because he was moving along so well. It was kind of funny. The three of us were running along, again. We hit the aid station at Muir Beach, and I went through pretty quickly. I knew I would be walking most of the climb to Tennesse Valley and that they would catch me. At this point, I had on a long sleeved shirt with my tank underneath. Last year, I had left my long-sleeve on WAY too long and suffered for it. My plan was to take it off right before the climb started. I ran along to the base of the climb, and then stopped took my cookie out and took my long-sleeve off. The guys caught up to me as I was doing this. They started the climb first and I was right behind. I ran up to them, so that I could have company on the way up. It went soooo quickly. We walked, talked, ran, jumped over a huge tree that was down, and before very long we were at the top at the aid station. Chase had pulled a bit ahead, but Randall and I were together.

I got to the aid station in about 4hours, which was really close to plan (4-4:30). At the aid station Paul Curran, our Montrail fearless leader, was there. He grabbed my drop bag and helped me get in and out so quickly. I was VERY appreciative. Off I went, with Randall in tow. As we headed to the Ridges, he asked what my goal was. I told him that I wanted about 12:30. I told him that more than anything I wanted to run strong on the way back to mile 49. The Ridge section is not technical. It is a narrow path on the side of a meadow cliff. The view below is the ocean, and a ways above is the road. The climbs are not much, but if you are suffering all you see is forever of how far you have to go...from one end of one cliff to the next for 6 miles. Last year I felt horrible on the ridges on the way back. I was walking, sick to my stomach, depleted, and mentally falling apart as I kept getting passed. It mentally killed the rest of the race. I told him that I was going to run smart, even though I was feeling great, so that I would feel great on the way back. He told me that he might back off, but that he felt ok. We ran along the ridges into this crazy headwind. At one point, I was running and had to hold my hat down. On and on through the ridge section we went. The flowers were beautiful. A guy caught up to us, and passed. His name was Steve. He was moving gingerly through the ridges because sloped terrain was bothering his feet and ankles, so he stayed pretty close to us. Before long we hit the next aid station....mile 28.4 The race was just flying.

From here we head to the turnaround. If you look at the elevation you might think that it is downhill to the turnaround, but actually there is quite a bit of up and down before the almost 2 miles down to the turnaround. I headed out on my own. I was excited because I had such good conversations for so long that I hadn't even turned on my music yet. I love listening to my favorite songs as I go through a race, but will always take good company over music. This was my first time alone, so I would use my music for the last 1/2 of the race. I put my music on, listened to one song, and then SILENCE...that's strange, I thought, I just put new batteries in. I actually stopped and changed the batteries, and nothing. Then I stopped again. As I was stopped everyone I had been running with was passing me. This was ridiculous. I was in the middle of a running race, and I was STANDING STILL messing with my MP3 player. So, off I went. I took a deep breathe and let it go. There was nothing I could do about it, so I was going to be without music. The only thing that really annoyed me was: the time lost playing with it and the fact that I had been carrying it for 30 miles and would have to carry it for 19 more before I could put it in my drop bag.

I started running again, and Chase came up to me....thank goodness. We started chatting about how happy we were with the way the day was going for us, and how we just needed to be smart to keep it up. We were very solidly on the 12:30 pace, and just needed to stay there. As we were going, we got to see and cheer for all of the front-runners as they were headed back. They were just amazing. I got to see my friend Jamie, and we cheered for eachother. She looked to be having a great day. Before we knew it we were headed down to the turn-around. Once we got there, I grabbed food and drink and started to climb. I knew I would be power-walking the climb so I thought I would eat and climb. I figured the guys would catch back up to me, but they didn't. I kept going and going thinking that I would get caught, but noone came until the end. A guy in a yellow shirt and Steve. It was right about 8 hours when we came into the aid station before the ridges. (my plan was 8-8:30) I spent some time there refilling, and getting some food. I wanted to be well fueled going into the ridges. I headed out with Steve and the guy with the yellow shirt was not far behind. Right away the yellow shirt guy got in front of us, and Steve got in front of me. I wasn't going to let it happen...I wasn't going to let the ridges win. I stayed close behind Steve the entire way through. We didn't talk at all, but I didn't let him go. As we came in to the aid station I thanked him. I told him that I couldn't have made it through the section without him, and I meant it!

We pulled into the aid station at mile 49, and I grabbed my bag. I pulled out my Ginger Ale and asked for a cup of ice. I wanted to drink it just to make sure my stomach would stay intact, but I drank it so fast that I it didn't go down so well. I sat down for a minute in the shade, and then grabbed some food and headed off for the downhill I had been looking forward to. Steve and I headed downhill together and we started doing the math...if we could keep this up 12:30 was in our grasp. As we were running downhill, I told him that I had really wanted to soak my legs after I finished. He said he would join. I told him that he had to make go, which was important because I knew I would finish and not want to journey down to the water. The downhill was great; even the climb back over the tree. We came to the bottom and crossed the road and headed uphill for about 2 miles to the next aid station. It was here that I noticed that I was working very hard. It wasn't my legs so much, which were tired, it was my breathing. I could hear myself weeze every time I would have to take a breath. There was nothing I could do but slow down and get my breathing under control. Steve took off ahead and I kept plugging away. I got to the next aid station, but knew I had lost some time. I grabbed a refill on my camelback, some cold watermelon, and headed out. There was a climb out of the aid station and then a great downhill to the last aid station. I ran when I could and then would walk and catch my breath. I had no choice, my chest was tight and I could constantly hear myself grasping for air. This is when I really missing my least if I couldn't hear it, I would have been able to tune out my breathing and I might have been able to run more. I arrived at the peak and stormed downhill. I was happy to still have my downhill legs and knew that I had made up some time on the downhill. I came into the last aid station with an older gentleman, and knew if I could push I could definitely still break 13 hours....I thought 12:30 was gone. I headed off for the last climb...3 miles up and then over a mile down to the finish.

The gentleman got in front of me, but I was still fighting so I passed him as I would run everytime the terrain would flatten even the slightest and then just deal with my breathing when I would hit a steep climb. There was a guy spectating who said that we were almost to the top and then it was all downhill. I looked at my watch and saw that if I pushed I might break 12:45...fine by me. So I pushed all the way down, down the stairs, to the finish...I stopped my watch at 12:43. It was almost 30 minutes better than last year.

The amazing thing was that coming into the finish a group was actually cheering for me. I had made so many friends on the trail, been so happy coming into the aid stations, had so much fun throughout the day that people had taken note of it and were actually calling out: "Go Meredith!" And when I had finished, this group of people who over 12 hours ago I had never known were there to share hugs and well wishes with me. This is what is all about: meeting new people; enjoying the day; letting people know how much it means to you that they are there to be part of your day; and loving every step you take!!

After we shared hugs, I got my very cool finsher's stuff and we headed off for the promised dip into the Ocean. It was crazy tough, but it was worth it. I let the coooold water splash on my legs and I stood in there just long enough for my legs to get numb. I headed back up to the car knowing that this euphoria wouldn't last long and I would need to get myself cleaned up, packed, and to the airport. As I was about to leave, I saw Randall. He had dropped at mile 49 because of his stomach. I was sad to hear it.

I got back to the motel still feeling pretty good. I took a shower, and sat on the bed pondering my packing. It was then that I started to cough up all of the stuff in my lungs. I felt horrible. I sat on the bed just trying to will my things to pack themselves. I didn't know how in the world I was going to muster the energy to pack myself up, get dressed, and drive to the airport. Here I was a person who had just very successfully run 100K, but yet the thoughts of the upcoming tasks were about to bring me to tears. I took a deep breath and just went into robot mode....get dressed, pack, and get to the airport.

I did just that. I got to the airport, but like 3 hours early. I just didn't even care. I went to my gate, got my pillow out, covered myself with my sweatshirt, and fell asleep. Someone commented that I must have looked like a homeless person...I just didn't care.

I got into Austin at about 9:30 Sunday morning. My quads were fried from the race and sleeping akwardly on the plane, and I was a bit worn out. But, I grabbed my stuff and headed straight to The Maze trail race. By time I got there most of my friends, and Paul had finished. I was so excited to hear that Paul and my friend, Sarah had won!! Paul did great, but Sarah beat the course reacord by like 10 or so minutes....she is such a stud. I took pics of them getting their awards, and chatted with many of my friends who had just done their first trail race. It was so good to hear everyone had a great day.

We headed home, and I slowly melted into the couch. Sunday night/Monday morning were not easy, but I got back into the swing of things rather quickly. I had said to the guys I was running with that the suffering of the travel was going to be so much more worth it after a great day vs. a bad one. I really had a great day and a great trip. I am feeling good that I am strong, happy, and injury-free. I can only hope that all things continue in this direction for the next 46 days.
As always, I am truly appreciative for: all of the gifts I have been give; what my body is willing to endure; and Paul and all of my friends for their love and support. I cannot make this journey alone, nor do I choose to. I may travel alone, but I have thoughts of each of you in my head....especially when I am left without my happy music :)

God Bless and Have a Great Week!


Erin said...

You are so inspiring, Meredith. Thanks for a great race report.

MikeW said...

Wow! That's a great race report outlining a great day for you. Congratulations!

JohnF said...

Congratulations! and great report.

meredith said...

Awww....thanks for reading my long report. Erin, Mike, and John - I feel very honored that you took the time to read it.

Steph said...

Congrats!! Great race report. Maybe I will do one of those someday.:)

Larry said...

Excellent race report, Meredith! I enjoyed reading every part of it. Seems like you had a really great run. Take care and congrats.

amy said...

Wow. You're incredible, Meredith. I can't believe you were walking as well as you were on Sunday!

Couple pictures.

olga said...

Meredith, great race at Miwok! It is such a beautiful course and the whole communityt comes out to celebrate ultrarunning there...I miss it so much! Awesome job, and way to handle the travel to be with your hubby (congrats on his race too!)! Coughing up stuff is so familiar to me...although I get it at altitude, but anything over 3,000 feet does me in. Thenit lingers for a few days. I also sleep at the airport floor:) We do what we need to do!

clea said...

Glad it was another good MiWok. I loved my treats.:)

Eudemus said...

Meridith, great job and great report. Olga pointed me to your blog. It was good to meet and run with you (and dip legs into the Pacific with you). I'm glad I could help you through the ridge (even in silence). Also, thanks SOOO much for the S!Caps. They were a huge help. Good luck at Western States. I'm sure you going to be great!


meredith said...

Olga, thank you for your kind words and thank you for pointing Steve to my blog! It is so fun to meet new people on the trail and share such a wonderful day!

Steve - what an awesome day! I hope you decide to go for the 100 this summer.

olga said...

Mer. don't be scared to try Nitrus, they might just be too narrow for me and thus the foot felt squeeshed - I have wide feet. I've been thinking of their soles and will try them!

KP said...

Thanks for taking me along on your adventures via blog! It was great to see you at the finish of The Maze!