Saturday, July 3, 2010


My friend, Lorena, sent me an email before I departed for Western States telling me that when you run with all your heart magic happens.

Every piece of this past week can best be defined as Magic!

As I was heading out and all final prep was done, I sent the following goals to my coach:

my goals for the day: 1) Enjoy EVERY Moment; 2) be appreciative of my crew, the volunteers, and kind to all around NO matter how I feel; 3) Not worry about anything/anyone I can't change or control; AND 4) trust my hard work, healthy body, incredible support and let all this and all the prayers and support behind me guide me to Auburn... I have been told many times that I smile more than anyone during a race. I plan to keep the trend of that alive on Saturday!!

Seeing the above brings such a warmth to my heart. How often can you say that you accomplished every one of your goals! Reading the above reminds me that I nailed it 

The amazing journey began in Squaw Valley in the days leading up to the race. Instead of being nervous, Paul and I had a wonderful time together. Lots of time to talk and just enjoy each other. It was such a treat for us.

One of my highlights of raceweek was getting to spend time with my friend Suzanna and getting to know Amy. There are few words to express how incredible the time with her was. We went for a very humorous pre-race run Friday morning, and had one of us not said something we would have been in a dead sprint for the run. But we talked and laughed and expressed how strong we KNEW we would get to the finish line. Her words let me finally take in my last breath and truly know that the day was going to be everything I hoped for.

After weigh in on Friday Amy and Paul came up with some fantastic engineering to get her leg across the water crossings. I love how prepped Paul is for everything. He had a caribener and Amy did some crazy stuff with our duct tape. There you have it…she and I were set to go!

Paul went and picked up Jamie and Pete arrived. My team was ready for the party to start! They were much more ready for the party after they went for a group run up the mountain. It was so awesome to me that they all genuinely were going to enjoy eachother’s company for the next days.

Now onto the race 
The start came so quick. Before I could blink we were heading up from Squaw Valley. The climb is a great chance to settle in. I settled into good conversation with Jenny and then Lee. Once at the top we hit the snow, and the friendly faces and hugs of Olga and Larry. Lee said to me, “at the top in an hour. Right where we want to be!”

And then came the snow. It was such a comedy show for me…slipping, sliding, skiing. The Texan just needed to smile and get through it alive. We laughed and laughed as I made my way through the snow. I was happier having this perspective rather than the grump that some others were having. When the snow would clear we would run through streams and mud. Fall #1: belly flop right into a mud pit; awesome! The good thing was the smooth landing. The bad thing was the level of filthiness I was now going to run with for the next 91+ miles.

Before long we made the turn onto the “new” route. We headed down to the Poppy and French Meadow aid stations. On the way down I showed Lee my filth. He laughed. We would come back to this look post race!

These next two sections were where I would need to remind myself that I was in a 100…and in foreign territory. I ran with the brakes on vs. racing as I would in shorter distances. I needed to run smart, which meant holding back. This was VERY hard to do because I felt really good and the terrain was REALLY good running. Patience, patience.

Once, through the mile 19 aid station we got onto a lovely single track around the reservoir, and then climbed a newly cleared (very newly cleared) climb into the Duncan Aid station. It was here that I hooked up with Layna. She was just wonderful to run with!

Coming into Duncan AS was great because I got to see my crew for the first time. We had a great laugh at my pigpen look, Paul cleaned my face off quickly, and off I went. I cruised down to Duncan Creek, crossed the water, and started the climb to Robinson. The climb up was fantastic because I had three others join: Layna and two guys. They were all happy to let me set the pace and pull the train up. It was great for me because I was able to get lost in short spurts of conversation as we went up…the climb flew by. We came into the roar of Robinson. I didn’t have my crew come here because I knew I could move through faster and would rather see them at Duncan and Dusty vs. just Robinson. I ran in with a huge smile on my face, got weighed, bottles filled, and hea

ded out. It seemed the happier I was the more the crowd went crazy. It was an awesome high!

I was so thrilled for the high because out of Robinson we hit the snow for the last time. This section was a grinder. It was about 2 miles of climbing slugging through the snow. I knew the fun of the canyons was coming, so I decid

ed to take it very easy through this and save my legs vs. getting fatigued fighting the snow…a battle I would not win.

Once we got to the top of Little Bald and started to descend, we finally for sure had clear trail. Let the real fun begin!! I headed down with great happiness to Miller’s Defeat. The sun was shining and I was feeling great. This day was flying by!

After Miller’s Defeat, it was a great quick downhill to Dusty Corner’s and my crew! I hooked up with Suzie here and we chatted about an email string we were on together. It was awesome to meet her in person (we would come to spend many post-race hours together). I came bouncing into Dusty Corners and thrilled to see my crew. I traded bottles, and Paul walked me out soaking me with cold towels on the way. I was having a blast and he could tell!!

From Dusty Corners it is this beautiful and soft trail to Last Chance. I had run it during training weekend and really loved it. I was enjoying it all the same today! I was looking forward to getting to Last Chance because I knew Dennis was volunteering there. It is always great to see friendly faces all over the course. Dennis had taken care of me at the aid stations at Quicksilver. I came in and Dennis was more than just a friendly face. He helped get my bottles ready, grab fuel, and walked out with me. I now had a chance to get some great refueling while continuing forward with the race. What a gift! Again, I was just lifted out of the aid station.

Off I headed to the nice descent and then the climb up Devil’s Thumb. I passed a few folks on the way down, crossed the swinging bridge, dipped my hat the in stream, and then up I went. I settled into a nice tempo and climbed. I passed two guys, but not for pushing just because I was moving steady. Before I knew it I was at the top. I weighed in, reloaded my fuel, grabbed a popsicle, and headed out. I knew I would want to take a moment and regroup, but I figured best to do it moving forward eating my popsicle! I shoved the stick from the popsicle in my bottle and headed down to Eldorado Canyon. It had gotten hot, so instead of pushing hard down I decided to ease off and just cruise down. I drank down my bottle and just took it easy. As I approached the bottom I passed Whit. It was great to see him, but I was sad to see him having a bad day. He is such a steady fixture in a 100, so it was just hard to see.

At the bottom I refilled my bottle and started the climb to Michigan Bluff. I knew this is the longest climb left of the day, and it was also the heat of the day. Again, instead of pushing I opted to just stay behind Eric and hold his smooth pace. We had a great time and really just kept things steady. I would come to later fully appreciate the lack of effort I put forth on this climb.

I came into Michigan Bluff, thrilled, but definitely feeling the efforts from the day. Fortunately, my crew was ON IT! They had cool towels ice cold drinks and food ready to go. They cooled me down and got me out. I had the team of all teams!! I was lifted and raring to get through the point I had NEVER crossed.

I headed down to Volcano Canyon and remembered running this in training and how great it felt. I got to the bottom and spent an extra second in the water before the climb up. It felt great. I climbed up knowing that Paul would be at Bath Rd to climb up with me. I was so excited. I hit the road and am greeted by a very pregnant Jennifer, huge hug, and a quick top off of my bottle. I start to climb and Paul comes smiling toward me! We chat about nothing important, hit the top of Bath Rd, and run it in to Foresthill. I am on top of the world. I can’t believe I have done it!

For me, this was the moment I waited for, get past 62 and the rest is icing! Now it was time to enjoy time with my pacers and go on the victory lap. Pete and I head off.
We head toward the river. I have very few memories of this section, so I am just guessing as far as effort. If there was a regret to have, it was not knowing exactly what this section would be like. I just didn’t know where or when to give effort and I kept fearing the bottom falling out. If I pushed would I be done after the river? Truly this whole section all I could think about was getting to the river.

We get to the river aid station, and I breathe a sigh of relief as we hit perfect timing for the boat crossing. We get to the other side to the greetings of Jamie, Paul, and Rick! He is video taping us, but I am single focused on climbing to Green Gate. I have a plan!! As we climb up I tell Jamie that I want to take a minute to refuel at the top before we head out. Paul is happy to hear this. We hussle up, and get me quickly through the aid station. On the other side I take a seat, eat, and drink, and prepare to keep it together to the finish. Everything seems so surreal. It feels so weird to really be so on top and clear-headed. Maybe it’s easier to be in a fog?

After a quick few minutes, I was checking my watch, Jamie and I are off. We head down the trail talking much about how much time I have to make 24. All of a sudden this is going to be our focus…or so I think. I try to run, but am having a problem. It’s not my legs, no unfortunately I am really badly chafed. What the heck?? I have never had this happen, so it is kind of a foreign pain, and boy is it painful. Jamie and I talk about it and decide the best I can do is get to the next aid station, get some vasoline, and then move on. It becomes a much slow move to the aid station than desired. I want to be running, but we just have to go with what is given. Finally we get to the aid station, I grab a bunch of vasoline and run behind a truck to take care of things. Quickly, we head out of the aid station and start to run. CRAP the vasoline didn’t work!

This is the first time all day that I feel the time slip away from me. I feel the look on my face showing this. We walk for a second, and I refuse to give up. I tell Jamie that I am going to rip the liner under my skirt. She looks puzzled, even offers me her shorts, but I come up with the power of hulk and literally rip the seem of the fabric. I still don’t know how I did it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fix the problem, but Jamie plainly said, “you know what, it isn’t going to get any worse.” I completely bought it, and started running. My form is so pathetic that I start giggling at the thought of what I must look like. Jamie gets a huge kick out of me giggling, and are finally moving.

We both get giddy as we start to pass people and start running like a normal person. We talk about how anyone who has seen my splits will be in for a good surprise when I hit the next aid station and am moving. We plan how quickly we need to get through the next aid stations and how to approach the course as it is coming.

To the disappoint of the folks having a party at Brown’s Bar, we don’t stay. They tried to entice us, but I had a finish line to get to. We watched the clock and knew that we had just enough time to donate to the climb up to 49 and the climb up to Robie Point. I kept telling her that I needed 20 minutes from Robie Point. I knew there was a climb before shooting down to the finish.

The plan was to run everything except for the steepest parts of the climbs. I had only done this section of the course as a pacer, and it had been 5 years earlier, so I kept telling Jamie that the climb up to 49 was steep. I guess my memory failed me, but we kept running waiting for the climb to get steep, and then we saw the 49 crossing…hmmm, I swear it was harder?

I quickly run in a weigh and the aid station crew tell Jamie, thinking I can’t hear, “she can break 24 if she moves.” We can do that! Two funny things happen on the way to No Hands. First, in the meadow we pass this guy and his pacer. There is a guy standing about 50 ft up the trail from the other guy. He comments on how much we are enjoying ourselves. We say, of course we are, and ask if he is ok. With a loud disappointed sigh he says that he is waiting for his runner to go to the bathroom. As we continue on Jamie and I laugh about badly we feel for this guy having such a sad time with his runner. We, in the meantime, are having a party!! As we get almost to No Hands, again, I think we are about to face a long steep climb. I know we don’t have a moment to waste. It has been my long awaiting dream to cross No Hands Bridge, and while I want so badly to savior the moment, I tell Jamie we have to hussle across and have “no emotion.” I was worried that if she got emotional about it that I would crumble. So with this laser focus we cross no hands. Reflecting back, the moment to savior is the fact that it was mile 97 and I was able to run across it feeling strong!!

With just enough time to make it happen, we start to run up to Robie. About a mile into the climb, moving with determination, we come up on Ed (I would later learn his name) and his pacer…his 15 year old daughter. I ask to pace as we come up, and for whatever reason we collide and I go down HARD. For anyone who has fallen late in a race, you know that every muscle feels this impact. My right quad KILLED. I look up at Jamie, get up, and with all the adrenaline left in my body start to run…if that what you can call what my now broken body is doing. This also lights a fire under Ed’s ass. He and I are going to fight it to the finish. I had this moment of worry as his daughter led the charge that she was going to slow us down, but not one bit. She was incredible. She was running and pushing us up to Robie. It was awesome. With determined force we come out onto the road with what Paul said was 19 minutes to spare. Paul and Pete are there, and ready to go. I ask Pete to go to the top of the climb so that I have a focal point, and the minute we crest I push my way to the track. I can’t believe it is happening. I can’t believe I have done it.

We run down and enter the track. It is a total blur, except I remember the smile that was still on my face and the couple of fist pumps I have as John calls my name.

I cross the finishline in 23:56 to a big welcome hug from our longtime friend, and WS Board member Dana Gard. He had gone on my first training run on the WS course with me so many years ago. He knew what this meant to me. He was proud and I could feel it.

Next came Paul. This was for him as much for me, and we both relished in the shared moment. This was OUR moment. I could not be standing at the finish without him. This is his journey, too.

Then came celebration with Pete and Jamie, Olga and Larry, Dennis, and so many others. But, it was more than that. Everyone…all of my friends and loved ones who had loved and supported me through this journey, I could feel the warmth of their love all day and in the end this finish was for them as much as it was for me.

The smile on my face ALL day, the gift of this run, the joy I felt…this was the result of all of the love and support that had been unending. I am so very blessed and share this day with all of you!! Thank you!


Photos courtesy of: Paul, Olga, Jamie, and more :)


mikeINaustin said...

luv it!

olga said...

It's a bummer I forgot how exhilarating it feels with so many times...but I do remember my first WS finish (even though not my first 100) - and it was just as joyful..I also cried a bunch:) Mer, this recount shall stay with you for as long as you breathe. It is a beautiful one. As much as your run was. Congratulations again. It was a pleasure and a priviledge to witness your insane smile (I was afraid the corners of your mouth will never come back close again). It is a true celebration of a hard work and belief for you.

Jamie Donaldson said...

What an amazing journey you had from the time you were picked out of the lottery till that finish line! I am so proud of you! You are amazing!

meredith said...

Olga - you nailed all of it, and very special to talk to you at the finish!!

Jamie - thank you for sharing the journey with me! We have some of the best adventures!!

brownie said...

Woohooo! Great job!

Sophie Speidel said...

Soo happy for you, Mer! Thanks for the awesome report, and the inspiration. Your attitude IS everything in 100s, I so believe that. You are a perfect example.

Rest and recover well!

Nancy said...

Mer - You are an amazing woman. Keep smiling and enjoy your life. I have learned some valuable lessons from you by reading your story. Thank you so much for sharing your life with me.

meredith said...

Thank you so much! I told Paul that there is nothing quite like this recovery vs. the others. This one has been such a pleasure while the others have been laced with such deep disappointment.

I have never been able to just relish in the joy :)

Sunshine Girl said...

Just plain cool, Meredith! Yay for you!

clea said...

great took me a few days to read it all, but I felt like I was there. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!