It was a beautiful day on the trails of Cool for the Way Too Cool 50k. This would be my second time running and I was looking for a PR. My goal was somewhere between 5:15 and 5:30 finish. It was possible and the trial conditions were awesome, it was sunny, the trail was going to be fast, the creek crossing were low, and I was ready.
At the start I lined up with my good friend Dustin who was running his second 50k, but first trail 50k. He is a fast runner so I knew deep down that when he said he would stick with me for a bit I knew it was only going to be for a mile or two. It was maybe 1.5 miles before he pulled ahead. I was feeling good at the start, calm, I had my fueling plan, and I was ready for this. The first few miles were a bit fast but that is to be expected and I slowly found a comfortable pace, well not really. But I well get there.
The first mile or so is on the pavement and I set a quick pace, once I arrived on the single track my pace slowed down a bit but that was to be expected. I arrived at the first creek crossing and saw a huge line of runners wanting to walk across on the rocks and not get their feet wet. To me I thought that was a waste of time. The water wasn't that high and the worst that was going to happen was my shoes would get wet, but I would be moving forward. I followed the same path Dustin took as he crossed a few seconds ahead of me. Thanks Dustin! Next was a climb, I ran most of it but hiked the last little bit and than quickly transitioned into a run. I steeped in line behind some guys who were setting a nice pace and I just relaxed and went with it. At the mile 4ish mark I took in my first gel knowing that fueling was going to be key today along with salt and water.
During this loop I noticed that my legs felt sluggish and really heavy. The turnover wasn't there and it felt like I was lifting a ton of bricks with each step. This could be a long a day if this kept up. Slowly my friends from the Fleet Feet Training group passed me. They looked strong each and every one of them and I thought to myself I will never see them again. But how wrong I was, as I saw and passed them all except two. Soon I arrived at the first aid station at mile 8, and I grabbed a quarter of PB&J and took off. I was quick through the aid station. I headed back out and I knew that the next few miles was pretty much downhill as I make my way to Lower Quarry Road.
The downhill section I knew I could tear it up, but that was if my legs responded. It seemed my legs would respond sometimes or when they wanted. But luckily they responded and I slowly picked up speed and passed others on the trail. I was feeling good, I was in my element and I was focused. I arrived at the highway crossing and made my way across and headed down to the aid station. At the aid station I knew I would need some water so I had my pack ready to be refilled and grabbed a quarter of PB&J and was out of there.
Next up was the fire road of Quarry road. This section is very runnable, but my legs wouldn't work. I tried to put something together but my pace feel off. Not a good feeling, but I knew I had to deal with it. I quickly took in a gel and some salt and started to drink more water. I ended up taking it easy on the hills, running parts of them and then hiking the rest. This of course made me feel defeated and I slowly saw my goals for the day escape me. I know there is still plenty of racing left but at the moment it didn't feel that way. Not only was I mentally defeated but slowly more of my friends started to pace me looking really good. Two of my team mates on the Fleet Feet Ultra Racing Team caught up to me. Dan, spent some time with me trying to get me refocused. We ran side by side, step by step. This little bit of company was what I needed. It may not seem like much but that started getting the juices flowing again and I could feel my running edge come back. Slowly both my team mates carried on with their own races, but those few minutes with them was great.
Slowly things started to fall back in place. I was running once again, but I knew I had a few more major climbs to tackle and the beast of them all goat hill, but that wasn't for a bit. I was making my way to ALT aid station and was back on the single track. I was just running my pace and focused on fueling and moving forward. The climbs I tackled as best I could, power hiking when I needed to and than transitioning back into a run after the climb. Parts of this section is very runnable and I attempted to take advantage of it when I could. I mustered up a strong pace and kept myself focused on the task at hand.
Soon though the wheels started to fall off and I slowly found myself hiking, no walking up the hills. This climb just kept going, I was making my way to third gate and I was doing the math in my head and I knew that once I rounded the corner it would be about 2-3 miles before the aid station, where once there I was going to enjoy some coke. Sugar, I needed sugar for the immediate energy spike my body was looking for. Now, I had been fueling and taking salt and drinking water, but my body just wasn't processing it fast enough or maybe I needed more fuel. All I knew is I needed some sugar. As I was making my way up I could hear cow bells and people cheering and than I heard Daisy and Kuni.
I yelled up to them and they start cheering me and than I heard Daisy ask me if I needed some candy? Yes, I replied, but I think all I could do was nod my head yes. Out of her pocket she pulls out some hard candy. I grabbed the peppermint flavor and pop it in my mouth. I don't think I even had the energy to say thank you, but that candy tasted very good and was just what I needed. As I rounded the corner I hear Daisy yell "You look good girl!" She shouted that a few times to me and it slowly dug it's way into my brain. Than she shouted "See you at the finish!" With that I pointed back down the hill at them knowing that I was going to finish this thing looking strong.
I have been sucking on this hard candy now for a few minutes when I hooked up with a pair of ladies from the Fleet Feet Training Group. I was sandwich in between them holding on a nice steady clip as the lady in front pulled me and the lady behind me kept pushing me. I don't think they knew but they were slowly giving me my running legs back and the little bit of self confidence I needed. As the pace quickened I spit my candy out and held on for all it was worth.
As much as I holding on though the pace quickened again and I slowly fell off the back. But this time it didn't discourage me it motivated me. Another thing that motivated me was I had 11 miles to the finish. When I saw that it was like a switch went off in my head and I began to race. My focus was back, I zeroed in my next goal....the runner in front of me and then the runner in front of them. I was moving. It was the most amazing feeling, I almost felt slightly detached from my body. I was able to block out everything else that was going on, I was numb and I was racing.
As I came into ALT aid station I refilled my pack, inhaled 2 cokes, thanked the ladies who pulled me back from the dead and was gone in a blink of an eye. It was on now. I was on a mission, I tore out of there like my pants were on fire. My legs were firing on all cylinders and I speed off down the trail. I already had my next goal in mind and as I neared my goal I recognized my goal. It was Jim. As Jim heard me barrelling down the trail he asked if I wanted by and of course I replied yes. As I passed him I told him to hook on. I think he tried but I was moving with a vengeance. Nothing was going to stop me. I knew that this section of trail was supper runnable and I was flying, holding 9:20 to 9:30 minutes per mile.
I had some time to make up, but I also knew I had to be smart about it. I needed to stay focused on fueling, drinking and salt. I couldn't make a mistake. Soon I approached 2 runners and I hooked up with them. In the lead was Brian, from the Fleet Feet Training Group. I ran with them for a bit just to recover and than Brian stepped off the trail and the guy in front of me was in charge of setting the pace. I yelled to Brian, "Hook on Brian, you are doing great." I didn't want him to slow down and sometimes it is easier to run with someone else. But he needed to walk as he was recovering from a few weeks of being sick and not being able to run.
I continued on not wanting to lose any ground. The guy in front of me was going OK, he was setting a nice pace but I noticed on the small rollers he was slowing down a lot. I offered some encouragement, on the next roller as we approached I said "You are doing great, keep pushing, push, push, push.!" We crested the small roller and I noticed that his pace was slowing down so I asked if I could get by and he slid off to the left and I scooted around him. I saw not to far in front of me another set of runners and I hooked up with them. They were also setting a nice pace. In fact it was a good pace. I also recognized these runners as these two had passed me as I was making my way to third gate. Hmm how about that I was know making up some serious ground.
We were moving nicely over the rollers and I offered some encouragement to them as well. I was giving back what others had given to me that day. Offering encouragement along the way. Slowly though their pace also slowed down and I went around them. After passing them I hooked up with the next group of runners a group of 4 and they also were setting a good pace. Together we moved over the little rollers and held a steady quick pace. We went by my teammate Bill, who had stepped off the trail for second and I yelled his name "Bill Carr" for all to hear. I didn't know if he recognized me but I wanted him to know I was there and that maybe we could work together a bit.
Slowly our group of 4 caught up to a even bigger train. This time though the pace came to a screeching snail pace. The train was big about 12-15 of us and no one was making a move nor was anyone stepping over to let others pace. About third from the front I saw my teammate Dan. I also noticed that the little rollers caused the entire train to bunch up. The ladies leading the group were walking them. A couple of times I almost ran into the guys in front of me because it was so unexpected. I was also getting frustrated, as I knew Goat Hill was quickly approaching and this section of trail was runnable.
As this run/walk big train moved on I heard Bill say "Hey, Melisa do you want by?" or something to that matter. I was feeling really good, I wanted by and I yelled "YES!!!" Than Bill tried to get the lead runners who were walking to step over so we could pace. Still no one was making a move. I finally yelled to up to Dan, "DAN!!!! I need you take the lead." With some more words from both Bill and I the train slowly let us by. The four guys let us pass, than we were able to pass the ladies. Dan now had the lead followed by myself and Bill. And with that our race and pace quickly increased. Dan was amazed at how I had come from behind.
The three of us Fleet Feet Ultra Racing Teammates worked together, tackling the next few miles to Goat Hill. We were crushing it, quickly passing anyone in front of us. Dan was setting the pace and I just held on for dear life, knowing that Bill was right behind me and I didn't want to let up. I was pushing myself harder with each step, harder with each hill. My mind was screaming walk, but my legs kept on running. Dan was pushing the pace, Bill was pushing me. Team work at it's finest I do believe.
We soon crossed the bridge and I knew I needed to fuel. I took in a gel and a salt tab. All the while Dan was yelling at me to keep running. We were on the fire road that lead us to Goat hill. It was steep, but not as steep as Goat hill. Dan kept shouting, now run to the tree, now the ribbon. He broke that fire road into runnable sections for me and all I did was put my head down and run not thinking twice about it.
Goat hill was next. This hill is a beast. Dan had me take the lead and I took off power hiking with Bill and Dan right behind me. I could feel Bill, he was a animal on the climb. He passed me and I just followed him. We hit the little "flat" spot and I saw Bill run. Dan said "now try and muster something here." Or something like that. All I know is he wanted me to run, but I was hurting really bad. I was having trouble catching my breath, my legs were burning. I let out a yell and next thing I knew I was running with Dan right by my side. I transitioned into a power hike and I kept hearing Dan, he said he wasn't going to leave my side we would do this together. He kept me motivated. Things started to get a little fuzzy and I started to weave on the trail. I felt Dan grab my pack and keep me moving in a straight line. I couldn't walk straight, I was all over the trail. We were almost to the top. I really just wanted this to be over. I was hurting. Only a little bit further I heard Dan say. Can you hear the people, can you hear the cow bells? Yes, I could hear them but I couldn't find the energy to respond. I crested the top of Goat Hill with Dan right there.
I walked into the aid station, grabbed two coke and drank the first one, as the second one went down everything came back up. So fast I didn't have time to step away from the table. I looked to my left at the volunteer and said "I am so sorry, I didn't mean to do that, so sorry." I finished off the little bit of coke Dan was trying to get me to get moving, he wanted me out of the aid station. He knew that a PR was still doable. I saw Bill leave and I followed, but first the volunteers soaked me.
We had 5ish miles to go. So close, I could almost feel it. At this point everything is like a snap shot, I still had the feeling of being detached and it is a very interesting feeling. I was numb, I had chills but I was also running. I was right behind Bill with Dan behind me. I stepped were Bill stepped. At this point I can form a thought, but I can't form the sentence to phrase that thought. I had been pushing it hard, harder than I have pushed before. Bill would yell out obstacles and I would point so Dan would know. Then Bill had to step off and I was in the lead. I slowed the pace down a bit so Bill could catch back up when he was finished but I never saw Bill. Bill you were a huge instrument that day and a motivator like no other.
It was just me and Dan. Dan kept pushing the pace and I did what I could to keep up. We were tearing up the descents and I did my best at keeping a steady pace on the climbs. I was slowing down, but I was still moving forward. Dan was true to his word and never left my side even though he was feeling stronger and faster. He stayed with me offering encouragement and motivation with each step. To this day I can still hear his voice in my head. He did everything he could to get me to run the climbs, some I did and some of them I hiked and some I ran hiked. He kept giving me small goals, the goal was 49 crossing aid station. I could hear the aid station and my emotions almost got the best of me as I was near tears just thinking that I only had 1.5 miles to go. Dan ran ahead and had my coke ready for me when I arrived. I was focused on one thing finishing.
I was able to keep both the cokes down, but as I started the last climb the wave of nausea came flooding over me. I got sick a little but kept on moving. Nothing was going to stop me. Again on this climb Dan gave me goals, run to the tree, only this time I ran past the tree. Than I ran past the rock. Only one more small climb and victory was near. We crested the climb and I could hear the finish line. I could see it. I was almost there. My pace quickened, I was going to finish strong. Almost there, I just need to round the corner and than the home stretch. As I rounded the corner I saw Daisy and Kuni and pointed at them I also saw the time clock. I was going to PR, my pace quickened even faster. Nothing was going to stop me. We crossed in 5:38 a new PR for me by 21 minutes. Dan and I crossed the finish line next to each other just like he promised.
This was a interesting day with many lows and highs. My friends on the trail helped me out so much and my teammates pushed me to stay strong. Dan and Bill were major factors in my PR today, along with Daisy and Kuni. I might have come a little shy of my original goal, but a PR is a PR is a PR any day.
I learned that I have more to give even when things are in the lowest of places. It is never over, just a temporary set back. Always keep pushing forward and never give up. I wanted to give up many times out there but the tides turned for me. I pushed even when I thought I had nothing left.
Thank you to my friends and family for believing in me. Thank you to Fleet Feet Sports for believing in me and thank you to my teammates.Thank you Lily for the great massage after and for always getting me race ready! Thank you Anthony for helping me in my training and for setting the goals that I eventualy set for myself. You believe in me and I believe in myself.