Monday, April 11, 2011

AR50 Race Report

In a blink of an eye my calm state morphed into nervousness. Anthony looked at me and asked "Are you nervous?" Guess I couldn't hid it, I was. It was a big day. I had goals I wanted to achieve and it was my first 50 miler of the season. But just as quickly as the nerves came on they were gone and I was calm. By now I was slowly making my way to starting line with Michaela who by the way was running her first 50 mile race. I had about 9 min before it was go time, I took in a GU and focused myself. I re centered and was in the zone.

The start for me was all about finding my comfortable pace and not getting caught up in the what everyone else was doing. I knew that I couldn't go out to hard or I would bonk and pay for it later on. I didn't work to hard bobbing and weaving I just went with it. When I saw a opening I took it and settled back in. I was feeling great, nothing was hurting I was focused and excited for this day.

I knew the first aid station was around mile 4 and I also knew it would only have water, so I told Michaela that I wasn't stopping, I was just going to keep on moving. I had worn my Salomon pack and I also had my flask filled with GU. I was running a very comfortable pace in between 9:15 and 9:30 min per mile. This part of the course is flat with very few hills, but I knew that by the time I reached Sunrise there would some hills. I started fueling around mile 5, I took in some GU. I knew that I needed to eat solid foods early on in the day because typically later on in a race solid food doesn't work. I planned on grabbing 2 PB&J at the aid stations.

As I approached William Pond I was still feeling good, I had a little tightness in my right hip but I just thought that was due to the flatness of the terrain, it would shake out eventually. At William Pond Anthony was there, I gave him my arm warmers and hit the aid station where Kirk, Jenny, and Paula were working. I grabbed my PB&J and was gone. It was probably a 6 second stop to get what I needed. I started running and eating. The sandwich tasted really good. That is a good sign.

The next aid station wasn't until Sunrise. After leaving William Pond as I ran over the "bridge with bad memories," I plugged my IPOD in and enjoyed the music. I was aware of my pace, I was still within my range I knew I could do in order to make it to Beals on time. I did notice that my right hip was getting tighter and tighter with each step. I decided to increase my speed a bit too see if that would help relax my hip. That didn't work, so the next thing I did was on the down hills to just let myself open up and not fight it. That felt good but didn't help my hip.

As I approached Sunrise I saw Anthony and made my way to him. He jokingly asked if he needed to get the elbow ready and I replied "Yes!" I think he was a bit shocked, but just like last years AR50 he dug his elbow into my butt. It was tight and painful. Lily came over and worked on it as I used Anthony to hold myself up. She worked on my back and that was really tight and it was also painful. Just as Lily was working on me Michaela came up and offered some icee hot. Lily put it on for me and we were both off. Having Lily and Anthony work on my pain helped because it felt a lot better and I wasn't in so much pain.

Fun Fact for you....I had the same issue last year at the same spot.....

The Sunrise Aid station was just around the corner. I had my pack ready to get refilled with water, I was making sure I was drinking plenty. I also grabbed my PB&J (2) and was off. Michaela and I were getting through the aid stations pretty quickly. It helped that we both knew what we wanted and needed so we weren't standing there staring at all the options.

The next aid was the fish hatchery about 3 miles. I was still on target with my goal time but I also wasn't worrying about it. I knew that it would work out in the end. In fact I hardly looked at my watch. I ran by feel. I ran what my body felt like, but I knew I wasn't pushing too hard. It was like my internal clock was firing on all cylinders for me today.

It was nice to have a few hills as my legs were feeling the flats and my piriformis was not liking the flats either. We easily sailed up the hills and made our way to fish hatchery. The bike path had a few cyclist out and one cyclist recognized me and called my name. I smiled and waved because it made me feel good. Just like the other aid stations I grabbed PB&J (2) and we were off and running. Just as I was about to go under the bridge I heard my name again. Only this time I didn't know where it was coming from. Michaela was funny and just said "wave" I did just that. It ended up being my pacer who I was picking up at Beals.

As we ran the bridge I gave Michaela my game plan on how I had planned to tackle the bluff. I was going to power hike. But don't get too close because you see that black speck up there, that is the photographer. She seemed good with the plan and we ran the bridge and once we hit the single track we started our first official hiking break of the race. It had been about 18 miles and this was the first time we were hiking. We only walked through the aid stations and the other time we were running. We were also 15 minutes ahead of schedule, but I knew that that the single track would slow us down a bit so we would be OK and still be on point with our goal.

We power hiked the bluff gave each other plenty of space for the photo opportunity and once on top started running and reconnected with the bike path for a bit before joining up with the fire road and more single track. I was fueling, I was hydrating and I was also taking salt. It was going to be warmer, the sun was shinning down on us. We hit the single track and the conga line. It didn't bother me as the pace was steady and consistent. There was no walking which was good because this section is runnable. We power hiked the hill to the top of the bluff and this is where I saw Tony. I asked how he was doing and just like me he was looking forward to the single track. He looked good and strong and running within himself.

On top of the bluff I was slowly passing other runners. Michaela took the lead. My right hip and back were screaming at me and I knew I had a blister on foot and my right ankle didn't feel right. But this is ultra running, just keep running because soon enough something else will hurt and I will forget the pain I am in now. I kept Michaela in my sights but I didn't push it. I decided to focus on my fueling in hopes that it would rejuvenate my legs. They were feeling a bit sluggish. With some GU in me I was feeling better and stronger. I reconnected with the bike path and made my way into Negro Bar.

Just before reaching the aid station I knew what I needed PB&J (2) and that was it. I had plenty of water to get me to Beals. On approach to Negro Bar Shannon yelled my name and that brought a huge smile on my face. I grabbed my sandwich and was gone. Only 4 miles before I see my crew and get to change my shoes and possibly some help with my hip and back. I was still focused and in control. I was running within my means and enjoying every minute of it.

Michaela caught up to me and again we talked strategy on how to approach the long hill leading into Beals. I told her my plan....we power hike some and run what we can. Power hike and run is just what we did. I gave myself small goals to reach before I hiked, and then Michaela said "You can make it farther" and we did. We have been helping each other all day and it was great to have someone challenge me on this long hill. We ran a lot of this hill, but the times we were hiking I was fueling. I told Michaela to fuel also and she said her stomach couldn't do it. I told her she needed to eat we had a long ways to go still and I believe she did eat some chomps.

We hit the 26 mile marker around 4:23 and had only a short ways to go. One final hill to tackle. I was running and filled with excitement as we rounded the corner and came under the arch in 4:33 right on time. We were both looking for our crew. We saw Dustin her husband and he said something to me, but I didn't understand because next thing I knew Anthony was running too me. He was directing me down further and asked what I needed I yelled "shoes". I had stopped at some random chair thinking it was mine, it wasn't.

Once at the correct location it was chaos. everyone was there helping both of us. I gave my flask to Pam who was in charge of refilling, Anthony helped get my shoes off, we changed my socks, he popped my blister, I was putting my sock on then my shoe, my flask was put back in my pack, then Pam said here is your waffle. I will tell you that was the best thing I ate all day. All the while Anthony was trying to get my blister taking care of and protected. It amazed me that the tape of choice was Duct Tape!!! It worked, it never came off during the second half. OK so my blister is taken care of, flask refilled, questions answered, eaten a waffle, socks changed, shoes changed, timing chip on, now it is time to get moving. Pacer ready!

Only my right foot and ankle blew up. It was swollen and felt very tight in my shoe. It was hurting, which meant I forgot all about my other pain. I stand and I have a ton of pain. It feels like I sprained it somehow. I am hobbling it hurts so bad. I hobble a bit, but the pain is bad, I had just taken a Tylenol at 4:15 so that should be kicking in soon. It was painful but I hobbled over to the aid station grabbed my PB&J and continued to hobble run. Anthony caught up to me and I could tell he was worried because he knew I hadn't hit my full stride. He asked how it was all I could say was "it hurts". He told me not to worry about the pain it will go away. I hobbled up to the levee and ran as best I could. What else was I going to do???? I wasn't going to stop I don't know how.

Michaela was running with us and she was looking strong. We hit the single track together and then the fire road on our way to Granite bay. Once on the fire road my ankle started feeling better, but that is because my quad was causing me some pain. That pain was probably due to my piriformis and back pain which trickled down to my quad and eventually to my knee. But the Tylenol was working!!!!

We power hiked the tough hill on the fire road and once on the single track started to cruise right along. We came into Granite bay in no time. At granite bay I saw Dan's parents who were out supporting the runners today. I was so surprised to see them I gave Dan Senior a hug and waved at his wife. I was so happy to see them. It really lifted my spirits.

At the aid station I tried to rub down my quad and I must have looked like I was in some distress because Chuck's brother who was out helping was there. He called out to me to see if I needed anything or help.He taped me up at the SNER back in September. I was stubborn and just said my quad hurts. This aid station is where I ate my last solid food. I small square of PB&J and it was also here that I started drinking coke (2). I was holding out as long as I could on the coke, but I needed it. I knew what kind of terrain was up head. From here on out it would be GU and coke! It was so great to see some familiar faces and to hear my name when I came into this aid station. It was so unexpected but really put a smile on my face.

We left Granite bay and were on our way to Buzzard Cove which is about 3.5 miles out. Of course this is where the course gets technical and things slow down a bit. I came into twin rocks and had to hike the section with nice step ups. Michaela was feeling really good and just took off. She was gone in a blink of an eye. My pacer told me that I am just as strong as her, and that sparked a gear in me. I tried harder and ran more of that section then I thought I could. We did hit the conga line and the hiking which was fine because I used this as an opportunity to fuel. It had been awhile and I was beginning to run low on energy. My pacer kept me on point with fuel and salt and encouraged me along the way.

I saw a familiar face in this section. I had caught up to Mark. I ran with Mark for a bit who told me Michaela was just ahead maybe 10 minutes. In me head I was thinking I will never catch her, and then Mark stepped off and let me pass. I used this as to add fuel to my fire.

I pushed harder now passing others when I could. I was growing tired of tip toeing around the mud and wasting valuable energy. I ran threw the mud and embraced it. I almost lost my shoe a couple of times but luckily it stayed on. I knew I was approaching Buzzard cove but I blew through that aid station. I didn't need water and I didnt' even slow down to see if my pacer needed anything. I knew she would be able to catch up to me.

I was on my way horseshoe bar, and this section is very runnable. I ran, I was pushing, I was motivated, I needed that aid station. I took in more GU and then the hill to aid station. I arrived. I downed 2 coke took a salt refilled my pack and was off to rattlesnake and my crew.

That was my driving force now to get to my crew. My right hip was beginning to get real tight and I had to keep pressure on my quad so I could swing my leg forward not to mention every now and then my knee felt like it locked up but I was in the zone. I had my eye on the target. I just kept plugging away letting my music and knowledge of the trail carry me forward with a quicker pace.

Rattlesnake was near, I crossed the road and expected to come to the aid station. But I was wrong, I had a few more major climbs to make. Ugh, I just want to be at the aid station. I had to recenter myself, I needed to stay calm and then the familiar turn to the aid station and there is Anthony. He yells " What do you need." I knew what I needed. "GU" I was out of GU, I had finished my flask which holds 6 GUs.

Pam gets my GU ready for me, Anthony then asks if I was just going to keep going or sit down. I sat down. I had a few cokes and Anthony and Lily just keep giving me coke. I tried to stand and when I did I couldn't. I was having a major back spasm. I couldn't move. I grabbed onto Anthony and Lily came over.  She had my pacer come over so I could lean on her and Lily worked on loosening up my back and hip. I focused on Pam, I made eye contact and she said "keep breathing, let it relax." It was painful. I still couldn't stand because every time I tried to put weight on my feet my back would spasm. I was trying to stay calm, I then started feeling sick.

Pam kept telling me to breath, keep breathing. I don't know how long I was there but I stood up and walked a bit. Anthony adjusted my back and told me to get wet I felt to dry. Before I knew it I waved good bye and was on my way to the finish. I looked back on more time and Pam yelled "just think about Avery's Pond!" I smiled and was gone.

I hiked the hill and at the top started running. I knew I was close, I could taste it. Just keep running. My music was blasting it was propelling me forward. My pacer took the lead and I told her "run and I will keep up. Run a pace to get me to the finish and I will do it." She took off and I was right behind. We were slowly passing other runners. I wasn't going to let anyone pass me. We hit Avery's pond to both of our surprise surprisingly fast. Then the power pump station we just kept moving. I was running up the hills I wasn't going to walk. I was pushing myself, willing myself, seeing myself on the trail. I was running, clocking 8:30 9:00 min miles.

My pacer made me zero in on the other runners and challenged me. She would say"there is your next target, go get them" and I would. Once I passed them I would zero in on the next target and catch them. I was feeling stronger. I was getting stronger with each step I took. I wasn't slowing down. I wasn't going to let anyone pass me. I was running the hills still, but then I started tripping over the rocks and my pacer told me to eat something and to take a salt. I listened this time. Slowly my stride came back and once again I was zeroing in on my targets and one by one picking them off.

It seemed that we arrived at Manhattan bar really fast. I saw the tent in the middle of nowhere and raised my hands in the air and shouted "YES!" One small victory. I took in 2 cokes and was gone, not even waiting to see where my pacer was. I had my eyes on the next goal Last Gasp and then the finish. I was still running after other runners and passing them. A set of runners did pass me, but I just hitched on with them and let them pull me. Then I saw it.....I yelled, "there it is the dam hill." I could see it and I knew I was close.

As I approached the base of the dam hill tears started to swell up in my eyes because I knew that this section was going to hurt. I was going to go all out. My hip was hurting, my back, my quad, and my knee but I knew I could do it. I just needed an extra life. As I hit the base I one up'd and found my focus and center for the final task at hand.

My pacer took the lead and we power hiked the first hill, I fueled as I hiked knowing I would need it. I gave her my pack so I was free. Then I saw Anthony, he was going to help get me to last gasp. He poured some water on me to cool me off and to wake me up. It worked, I was more alert now.

 He gave me goals to reach for, "run to the sign, now keep running to the ribbon, now keep running to Jack." Who the F%$^ is Jack is all I thought. Is this some kind of joke. Anthony had Jack raise his hand and I ran to Jack. Then I power hiked because it was getting steep. I started running and Anthony told me "You know this hill, run when you can" Those words stuck with me. I ran, I hiked the really steep part right before Last Gasp. I downed 2 cokes and kept moving. Up ahead I could see Michaela. Some how I had caught back up to her. She was my new target. I can do this.

I ran with my pacer right there, motivating me, she wouldn't let me stop. I was cutting the corners keeping my mind on the task. I was slowly gaining on her. I yelled "Power Girl" but she didn't her me. I kept pushing. 2 miles to go, I can feel the emotions rising, keep running. I hiked a little bit then I remembered it levels out and has a nice down hill. I found that gear and motored past my pacer and I just kept going. She was right behind me. Maybe 1.5 miles to go I looked back and she was still there then with 1 mile to go I had a significant lead on my pacer. Now I was really motivated. I kept thinking, I can't let her catch me, get moving, run faster, run harder, don't stop, keep moving. I was so close. The final hill I powered up it I hit the street then the finish chute. A huge smile on my face as Kirk appeared and yelled out. I crossed the finish line in 9:44:48. I did it, I ran 50 miles, I pushed my body and I dropped my pacer again on the Dam hill. I own the Dam Hill!

What a feeling, I was all smiles. I saw Paula and Jenny and Michaela who had a fantastic race and was so excited. I think the first words out of my mouth were "I dropped my pacer again." My pacer pushed me over 24 miles. She pushed me to keep moving at a fast pace. She did her job, she never let me slow down.

It was an incredible journey. I PR during this race, I pushed myself and set goals that I knew would be challenging but attainable. I ran a smart first half and pushed myself physically and willed myself to keep going when my body was hurting. I fueled well and hydrated through out.

Thank you to my crew for their support and sacrifice and to my awesome coaches and friends Anthony and Kirk and Jenny. Thank you for pushing me during training and a special thank you to Lily who always gets my body ready for my races and who kept me together during the race. Thank you to my pacer Suzanne who pushed me and kept my eye on the target.


Me and my pacer


  1. Congrats! What a great accomplishement!

  2. Excellent report as always.

    You killed it, one race down in the Year of Redemption.

  3. Congrats! You were not at Rattlesnake very long at all which was impressive considering your back spasms!
    Great race report! Now recover.

  4. Awesome race and as always, I'm amazed by your memory & detail. Next target, SNER!!
    Miss P

  5. Amazing race report Melisa! I don't know how you are able to remember everything w/such intricate detail! You are very inspiring! Congratulations!!!

  6. Another great race! Congrats on your effort, pace, strategy, time and results. Killed it.

  7. Loved reading this...and yes, you OWN that dam hill! Nice job!! - MB

  8. It was great to see you out there! You looked awesome!