Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sierra Nevada Endurance Run Race Report 2011

I wanted this so bad, but it was a battle right from the start………

I was sitting at the table in the little gymnasium when I had this feeling that I needed to use the bathroom. I headed to the bathroom and as I was there my stomach was torn up. I dry heaved and gagged a bit trying really hard not to lose my breakfast. I came out and I felt a bit pale and clammy. I headed to the start with everyone else and told myself it was just my race nerves really taking over and that things would settle down.
I headed out and slowly and easily found my rhythm on the fire road. I knew that I had a long day ahead of me and that I didn’t need to fight for position. I hit the climb up Mooney ridge and power walked it and took the descent pretty conservatively. It seemed that things were settling in and I was nice and relaxed. I took in some GU and I was focused on my hydration. I knew that hydrating was going to be a key factor in today’s outcome. As I hit the single track and made my way to the first aid station my stomach started feeling a bit funky. It wasn’t bloated but it didn’t feel settled. I arrived at the aid station and grabbed a PB&J Square ate it and used the bathroom hoping that would help my stomach. Only it didn’t. I knew that I shouldn’t push too hard, I would need to slow things down if I wanted to finish.

My stomach pain would come and go and with it I would run and hike. Run and hike. I arrived at horseshoe and again tried to use the bathroom there hoping that that would help the situation. Nope nothing only a little bit of pee. At least I peed. I grabbed another PB&J square and slowly ate it, hoping that if I ate it slowly it would settle better. I made my way down the trail with a really upset stomach on my way to Rattlesnake and the first time I would see my crew, Dustin. I kept feeling like I “needed to reset my stomach” but nothing. My stomach was really upset and wasn’t settling down. I took in some GU knowing I needed the fuel, but that only upset my stomach further. I kept thinking that this was going to be a long day and if I was even going to finish with the way I was feeling.
I arrived at Rattlesnake, told Dustin I needed some water and ice in my pack and he switched out my sort of empty flask for a full one of GU. I also slowly sipped down 2 ginger ales hoping that would help settle my stomach. I told him my situation and he calmly told me to keep eating, during this next stretch try and snack on a waffle anything solid but to keep eating as I needed the calories. It was great to see him and he helped lift my spirits and he even managed to calm me with his words. Sometimes it is just the simple words from a friend that helped encourage me. He told me it was 3 miles to the next aid and to eat during this stretch, the next aid only had water and was self service. All very valuable information and information I retained. He would be at the top of the overlook for me. And with that I was off. I was maybe a few minutes there, but not much.

I left rattlesnake, I don’t think I ate anything but managed to get the 2 ginger ales in me. I ran and hiked when my stomach became too upset. I was focused on hydrating and took a salt every hour. It seemed that I arrived at Avery’s pond really fast and was a bit surprised to see it. Avery’s pond means much more to me. It brought a smile to my face and a brief memory of my friend Pam asking Anthony one day “so how will I know when I reach Avery’s Pond?” I chuckled a bit and ran around it. The trail wasn’t marked so I took the right because that is the way I usually go. This was the only area I noticed during the race that wasn’t marked, but whichever way you go you will get there.
During this stretch I slowly ate a honey stinger waffle because the last time I felt nausea it helped. It took a good 10 minutes for me to get it down. But I ate the entire thing, and a few minutes later I felt like I was going to get sick. Nothing was working, my usual fuel wasn’t working and I knew that I needed to keep eating. I was thinking that I would need to switch to liquid calories and that I would be picking up my hand held and drinking coke. But I had to get their intake first.

I breezed through the water aid station and made my way to Cardiac. I was hiking faster than some runners were running and I just kept my forward movement hiking when needed and running when things felt settled. It was working as I was slowly making my way to cardiac. I passed a few runners which really lifted my spirits and once at cardiac I downed some coke and started the grueling climb up cardiac.

I didn’t push too hard, I just kept it nice and steady, one foot in front of the other, remembering to breath and to just keep moving. Cardiac is called cardiac for a reason. I could feel my heart beat beating against my chest, I could feel my legs burning with each step up I went, but I never stopped I kept going until I reached the top. Once at the top I slowly transitioned to a run. I took in some GU knowing I had used precious reserve energy and that I was already behind on my calories. I was almost to the overlook and another chance to see Dustin plus my Fleet Feet friends. I just kept thinking about that and pushed out any negative thoughts and how uncomfortable my stomach was making things. I passed a few runners during this stretch and just kept on moving.

I hit the pavement and my steps became lighter and quicker. I was close. I was moving know. I was thinking of what I needed once I arrived. I rounded the corner and I waved to Dustin. He came running along with Anthony. Then out of nowhere Pam is by my side. A huge smile comes over my face and I hug her. I am so happy to have seen her as my time at this point was way off what I originally predicted. I quickly started telling everyone what I needed. I needed to use the bathroom; I need water and ice in my pack and both of my flask switched and water downed some more as it was still too thick. I also wanted coke in my hand held and my stomach was still upset. I handed everything off and made my way to the port a potty, only it was being occupied. I did the unthinkable and quickly squatted behind the horse trailer and Anthony and Pam were my look outs. After that Anthony gave me 2 Tums for my stomach and I ate them both and then I had to spit them out as it became too chalky.

 Anthony soaked me and that really woke me. Dustin and Pam worked on my pack. I was ready to move. Anthony walked me down he reassured me that I had plenty of time as I was beginning to worry about the cut offs. I vaguely remember him telling me take it easy I knew how long this should take and to not push it too hard.

I was off with that. My entire crew did a fantastic job with this stop. I knew what I needed and what wasn’t working which made the transition easier. I was making my way down to no hands bridge. I was bombing the descent. I had a new found energy from the aid station. I didn’t eat anything there so I was running on everyone else’s energy.  It felt really good flying down and passing other runners. It was like a new life had come upon me. I hiked the small hills and drank my coke. I knew I needed to finish my bottle so that I could refill it at the bridge. Calories in, calories in was my mantra and my calories right now was coke. I knew coke would quickly burn off but it was better than nothing.

I was now running down Robbie on my way to the single track when all of a sudden I had to stop; I had just gotten sick in my mouth. It was little bit, but just enough to completely stop me in my tracks as I feared more was to follow. Luckily nothing else did and I washed my mouth out and continued on my way. I hit the single track and found myself all alone but moving at a nice clip. I suddenly heard what sounded like a very loud drunk person crashing through the woods above me. I stopped and looked really hard, and then I remembered what Jenny told me. This is what a bear sounds like. I quickly took off running harder knowing that I didn’t want to get stopped by a bear, one I didn’t know what to do and two, I was alone. I hit the fire road and as runners passed me I forgot to warn them about the bear, why I am not sure it had actually left my mind.
I hit no hands bridge and the volunteers there filled my bottle with coke, I ate 1 square of PB&J and was ready for my return. It took me 6 hours to hit the turn around.

I headed back and as I was hitting the single track some runners told me they had just scared a bear off the trail and to be careful. I told them “ohh that was what that noise was.” I am not sure what they thought of me. But they said it held them up for about 10-15 minutes. I started to make my climb when another came around the bend and told me she just saw the bear cub. I asked her where the momma bear was because I was sure that mamma bear wasn’t too far behind. And then I heard the bear right above me. The runner heading down took off and left me. I stood there for a second and then started hiking up hoping that when I rounded the corner I wouldn’t see the bear. The bear made so much noise but I could never see it. I never saw it, but trust me it was very near.
A runner passed me looking really fresh and I tried to tag along, but her pace was just too fast. I settled back in and continued hiking knowing how grueling this climb really was. As I was nearing the top I heard my best friend Anthony. He had come down to check on me. His booming laughter and voice are not hard to notice. That really lifted my spirits. I told him about my bear encounter and was really excited to see him. He asked me how I was feeling and I told him I was feeling pretty good, just tired. I had no cramping. He was pretty excited with my answers. He said that tired was doable and he could work on that. Cramping and having no quads would have been a totally different story.

We ran together for a bit and hiked the bigger hills. I told him what I think I needed when I arrived back at the overlook. I wanted more coke, I needed my GU even more diluted than what it was as it was still way too thick and very hard to get down my sensitive stomach. I was drinking my water and I had just taken a salt not too long ago. Things were on point. He ran ahead of me to get things ready. Before he left he told me he thought I was doing the smart thing and taking it smart on the return to the overlook. Most runners that came back looked like they had cracked and I wasn’t one of them. All good things to hear especially since I had still had a long ways to go.
Back at the overlook there was again a huge abundance of energy; the Fleet Feet Team was there. Kirk and Jenny came down to walk me back up, Dustin was by my side and taking my pack. I used the bathroom, but I was having a problem. It felt like I had to pee but nothing happened. Anthony told me not to worry, it was better to have the urge than no urge at all.

 I sat down and emptied the tiny pebbles out of my shoe, Jenny helped me with that, I than ran over to the canal and soaked myself and washed all the salt off of my face. That was very refreshing. It was almost like I was rinsing away everything that happened earlier and starting fresh. After my “cleansing” I needed more body glide.

My rear end was chaffing. It was a pretty quick stop everyone was helping and I was ready to go in no time. Anthony and I were ready and off we went.

Anthony’s main concern was calories. I needed calories as I was really behind since I hadn’t been able to eat much all day. He became my voice in my head, “drink coke, ok now some water, how about my spizz” Calories in was our mantra, coke, water salt, coke, water, salt and repeat. At one point on top of the canal I had to stop as my stomach really was upset and I had just gotten sick a bit and we walked for a bit until my stomach calmed down. We hit cardiac and I ran down it remembering not to blow up my quads. Running down is so much easier than coming up. We hit the aid station at the base, filled our bottles, soaked and were off to the sweet runnable single track.
The section of trail is very runnable and it will pull you if you let. Well, I did just that. It pulled me with ease and I even ran a few of the shorter hills without any extra effort. Anthony kept telling me how good I looked, keep it easy don’t push. We even were catching up to all those runners that had passed me earlier in the day. We would run on by and keep going and never see them again. What a huge lift to be running so well at this stage of the race. I stayed in front of Anthony and ever so often I would hear “ok keep drinking, are your legs ok?” and then I would drink more coke and take some more salt. He even had me taking 2 salts an hour and wow what a difference that made.

The single track pulled us all the way to the outpost where we refilled our packs with ice and enjoyed some more coke. My stomach was pretty upset and I grabbed 4 saltines and Anthony grabbed some as well. It was really tough to get the saltines down, but I did. We even gave my extra saltines to a runner who was getting sick on the side of the trail.
We hit the water pump and then not to long Avery’s Pond, which this time was marked. I had to walk a bit here because my stomach did not like the saltines and I was ready to get sick all over the trail. I was bent over and Anthony told me to keep moving, it was better to move while being sick than stand there as that surely would cause me to lose everything. I listened and kept moving.

We were quickly approaching Rattlesnake and were discussing what I needed. I wanted more coke, no ice as it was getting watered down too much and I needed more ice and water in my pack. I was drinking up my water like it was going out of style. As we neared Anthony took the lead and increased the pace as this section was completely runnable. I just focused on his feet and when his feet moved mine did as well. We ran the short little hills ran over the bridge and then hiked the big hill but we transitioned back to a run very quickly. It felt like I was doing 9 minute miles but I am not sure, I was just focused on Anthony’s feet and that was all.
Anthony pulled ahead of me to the aid station and I followed a few minutes later. He had my bottles filled and Dustin worked on filling my pack and the Ultra Runner Podcast team cooled me off. Anthony applied some Vaseline to my neck as it was chaffing from my pack and then we were ready to run. Only 10 miles to go. But first I had to get through the grinder.

My legs were still feeling really good, I would occasionally shake them out and when I did that Anthony would suggest another salt and more coke. I made really good time through the grinder, even running some of it and some of the hills. I was on auto pilot just keep moving, just keep moving, keep drinking and taking salt, keep moving. I hiked when the hill became too steep or the terrain became too rocky. But I was running just as soon as I could. I made it through the grinder in one piece and even managed to pass a couple of runners who I never saw again.

It was 5:30 now with only maybe 5ish miles to go. I told Anthony I really wanted to be in by 6:30, that would be a 6 hour second half. He said it would be close and I pushed the pace even faster. I picked the pace up knowing how close I was, but I also knew that could crack myself if I went to hard and then really struggle the few miles. I was running, pushing myself and the entire time my voice in my head keeps me on track with fuel and water and salt.

As I neared twin rocks the spot where I had to drop last year I became very chocked up as I said to Anthony “That is where I dropped last year.” I ran by it in seconds. I was running further than I have previously gone in this race. I was running from my heart I was doing whatever I could to keep the pain barrier at bay for a bit longer. In my mind I knew I only had a little over 3 miles to go. 3 miles that is all, and earlier today I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I thought it was going to be a slug fest just to finish. And then just like that excruciating pain ripped from my foot.

The pain was overwhelming the fiery burning sensation as the blister on the bottom of my pinky toe exploded. It was all that I could do just to keep moving. It was so painful, I hadn’t been in this much pain all day and then slowly the pain started to work its way up my toes to my ankles to my legs and into my groin. Ohh no the pain was slowly making its way up my body. The fire pain ripping through my toe caused me to walk. I was hobbling, with less than 3 miles to go. I hobbled into the Granit Bay aid station downed some coke and continued hobbling. I had about 2.8 miles to go.

Anthony calmly asked me to push past the pain barrier for a bit longer. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was hobbling so slowly and then a runner came blazing past me. I tried to run and slowly I began running. Calmness had come over my entire body and I told myself I was going to push hard the last bit no matter what. The pain went away within a step, it was like nothing had happened and I was out for a 2 mile run. I had managed to block out the pain, I was going to finish strong.

I was running and I was slowly catching up to the runner who had passed me. As I was rounded the corner getting ready to climb Mooney ridge the one last big hill of the day I heard Dustin. That brought forth another gear. Anthony quickly stopped to get me some coke and I just kept on motoring. I was 1.5 miles from the finish. I ran half way up Mooney Ridge and overtook the runner who had passed me. I heard Anthony yell up to me “don’t crack” I quickly transitioned into a power hike and continued to gain ground on the runner. Anthony quickly caught back up to me and I took a few swigs of coke. We hit the top and continued running. I wasn’t going to slow down I was so close to the finish. We hit the descent and I just kept on moving.
Now we were on Cavitt road only a few more rollers to go. I was running 10 minute miles and it felt like I was only getting faster. I ran up the hills, Anthony being the calm steady voice in my head like he had been all day, “now run to that ribbon” I would do just that and keep going. He blocked the wind for me as there was pretty decent breeze coming off the lake. Anthony calmly told only two more rollers and then it is all downhill. I ran those rollers and as I crested the second roller I spotted off in the distance Dustin. He had come out; I ran faster, my legs pumping.

Then I saw Julie Fingar; no that couldn’t be her? But it was. She had come out to run me in. She knew that this race was about redemption for me. That brought another gear I didn’t know I had. I heard Anthony say I was running 6:30 pace. Julie called out to me “Great job Melisa, this is all for you!” and with that another gear was found, I quickly sprinted past her and she had to work to keep up. She pushed ahead of me and said “We can race to the finish?” and with that another gear was found. I was moving, my breathing was really labored and I was just focused on the finish. I heard Julie say “relax Melisa, relax” I rounded the corner and heard the cheers from the spectators at the finish.

Just a bit longer, keep pushing, I was running as fast I could, I hit the pavement with Julie right by my side, only a bit longer and the announcer called out “Melisa Mahon #41, redemption is complete!” I crossed the finish line and took a few steps before my legs buckled; I almost went down from the effort I had put in. I quickly zeroed in on Michaela and then Lily was by my side. I heard Anthony call out “Don’t lie down, whatever you do don’t lie down” I was pale and having trouble catching my breath but it was all worth it as Redemption was mine today!

Redemption never felt better. I did it, I overcame stomach issues that lasted all day and I ran the last 25 miles or so on coke and 3 GU’s. My last real food was at No Hands Bridge a small PB&J square, besides the 4 saltines at the outpost. No other runners passed me from the overlook until Granit bay, but I passed that runner on Mooney Ridge. I still to this day have a huge smile on my face and when I think about the race and the effort it took to get the finish I am just amazed. What a way to end this season.

Thank you to Dustin for crewing me and being there when I needed you. Seeing you on the course throughout the day was awesome. Thank you to the Fleet Feet Team at the overlook. Knowing they were there made me push on and keep going. Thank you to my pacer Anthony, the voice in my head. You kept me moving and helped me that a thank you is not enough for what you did. Thank you to all my friends at the finish who were there when I came in. Thank you Lily for taking care of me while my body shut down and for believing in me when I called you that Thursday in tears and in a panic. Thank you to race director Julie Fingar for coming out and running the last ½ mile with me to the finish. That really made my day and allowed me to find another gear that I didn’t know I had. What a day!!!

Turnaround: 6hours
Finish: 6:20:19
Total Time: 12:20:19


  1. Awesome report, awesome race, and totally awesome effort! You were a rock star...consider yourself redeemed.


  2. What a great race report!! You did awesome and redemtion is yours!

  3. Tears in my eyes for you man. Congrats. I wanted this for you so bad and I am happy to have seen you run some of this. Last year I missed it and I felt awful ... redemption is sweet my friend. You did amazing.

    What an awesome crew you had too! Rest up!