The inaguaral race of She Rocks The Trail 50k was probably held on one of the hottest days that the Auburn area has ever seen. Temperatures reached well over the 100 degree mark and in the canyons the sun just sucked the energy from you like a vampire sucking your blood. It would happen so quickly that I didn't know what was going on. Julie Fingar and her team put on the best races I have ever seen. The support of the aid stations and volunteers is unlike anything I have ever seen. Without the volunteers and my team mates shuttle water out to us runners on the Olmestead loop and the water stashed about 2.5 miles from the finish this day would have been completely different for me.
Lining up at the starting line I was feeling calm and focused. I had my plan though I did adjust it after talking to Anthony. I had been hydrating more so all week as I knew the temperatures were going to be record breaking. In no time it was time to go and down the Damn hill I went along with about 200 other runners. I kept my pace comfortable and relaxed as I made my way to the base of Cardiac knowing that I still had a lot of racing to do. At the first aid station I grabbed 2 PB&J's and started the climb. I wont lie, cardiac and I have never gotten along, but today we were. I quickly found my rythem and put my head down and climbed. I even ran the sections that leveled out. Switch back after switch back, up and up I go. I was focused on what I needed to do and that was all.
As I crested the top I took a second to shake out my legs and then I transitioned into my run. It was along the canal that I took in 2 salts and Gel as I was feeling the effects of cardiac and the sun. Paula and I ended up running this section together and it was nice to have the company. We rolled into the start and finish line together and at the second aid station I refilled my water bottle and grabbed 2 more PB&J's and made my way to the single track that would take me No Hands Bridge.
This area of trail was shaded and it was nice to be out of the sun for a bit. I enjoyed the downhill and just let the hill take me. I was on point with my splits and I was feeling good. My legs were moving, my mind was focused. I had with me all my splits and the miles in between the aid stations. This way I could easily break down my goals and make it more attainable reather than look at the bigger picture of 31.1 miles. Instead it was aid station to aid staion, 4 miles here, 3 miles there and it kept me focused.
I came into No Hands Bridge aid station with a plan. But when I got there it was utter chaos as there was a ton of 25k's there and I quickly forgot what I wanted. I did refill my bottle, get soaked grabbed 2 PB&J's, 2 salts, and I started up the hill to K2. But before I went 5 feet I hear Dustin say "Melisa, your CANDY!" You see I had asked him to make sure I grabbed a piece of candy to suck on while I climbed K2, but with the chaos at the aid station I had completly forgotten to get one. Thank you Dustin for remembering!
Coming into No Hands #1; photo by Dustin Burgess
As I started the climb up K2 I could feel my energy levels plummiting. The sun was sucking me dry. I knew now that I was bit behind on fuel and I quickly sucked down a Gel and took in 2 salts. It was going to take some time for the fuel to hit me. This was going to hurt and hurt it did. How I came behind on my fueling I am not sure, but I knew that I needed to keep the fuel coming in as I had a lot of racing left to do. I climbed and climbed then I had to pause as my heart rate was so elevated I couldn't catch my breath, the sun and the heat was getting to me. I could feel the heat bouncing off of the ground and just attacking me. It attacked from the ground and from above. I started drinking my water from my pack and using my bottle to keep me cool. I kept climbing and climbing and then I hit the top and to my surprise there was a specator/volunteer there. He asked me how I was and I told hime "I am having a moment." I was in a low place and overheating. He told me I was in the top ten and that lifted my spirits, though I was rather surprised. I have never been in the top ten this early in a race and racing from this position also changed my mentallity and startegy.
Knowing this I kept my focus on fuel and fluids in and salt. I taking salt like it was candy, but it was working. I took in another gel and slowly transitioned into a run, but then as I hit the exposed section the sun just baked me again and my bottle of water felt like boiling water when I put it on me. I slowed to a hike as I was overheating again. I kept the fluids coming in though, I knew this was going to help cool me down and help keep me going. It was during this tiny 1.5 mile stretch that I was passed and now I was in 11th place. But I didn't let it deflate me, I let it fuel me. I also didn't push the pace here as I knew if I did I was going to really implode. I stayed nice and steady, with my strategy. Fluids in, fuel in, and salt.
I arrived at Cool aid station #1, and the volunteers quickly went to work. I had them refill my pack with ice and water and refill my bottle. I told them I think I am overheating, and Allyson quickly cooled me down and I felt the effects of the cool water immediatly. I wasn't so foggy. I explained that I hit a low on the climb up K2 but I had been working on my fuel to get me back. She told me I knew what I needed to do and to keep it up. She also put some ice in my sports bra and wow what a relief that was. I grabbed some PB&J and left with a lighter step then when I arrived. Thank you Cool Aid Station, you guys knew what I needed, cooled me down very quickly and got me on my way in mintues!
Now I was on the haul road and I had 2.4 miles of asphalt and the heat of the asphalt to deal with. I kept a steady pace and just focused on the next aid, a light aid station with fluids only right before I hti the single track. But before I could hit the single track I had to do a small out and back on the asphalt, which I dropped a few choice words when I heard that. The volunteer here though offered to hold my bottle for me and I said "how about my pack, it is only .5 there and .5 back right?" He said yes, so I quickly dumped my pack and put it in the shade and continued on the hot asphalt. I hit the turnaround, which was sign and a few cones and headed back. On my way back I saw that there were a few runners in behind me and that I needed to stay focused if I was going to stay in the top 10.
I arrived back at the light duty and I picked up my packed, soaked myself and refilled my bottle and started on the single track. But before I completly left the volunteer told me I was top 10. Again I found this hard to believe, but just took the information in and let it give that high. Now my focus and determination were on point.
The Olmstead loop is about 6 miles, but this was a long 6 miles. The heat was almost unbearable and completly zapped my energy levels dry. My pace slowed considerable and I was doing everything I could to keep myself together. I started uping the salt intake and my fuel. I was probably taking a salt sometime 2 every 15-20 mintues. I was fueling about every 20 minutes and I was constatnly drinking water and using my bottle to keep me cool. During this stretch I was passed and was now in 11th place. But instead of pushing the pace, I backed off just slightly. I kept the runner in my sights and continued my focus on fuel and fluids and salt.
Then a beatiful thing happen, I slowly felt a transformation from inside of me. It was like a light bulb came on and everything was clear. My focus was sharp, I was thinking more clearly, my pace increased and it didn't feel like my effort did. My brain was working and slowly making a plan on how to attack. Up to this point I was always running defensively and now I was going to attack. I was slowly catching the runner in front of me. I only had 3 miles to aid station, and I knew I wanted to pass her before we reached that aid. I slowly inched my way towards, 2 miles to go and my energy levels were at an all time high. 1 mile to go, and getting closer to her. I was still focused on fluids and I ended up draining the entire pack of my water and the water in my bottle was again boiling. Almost to the aid station. Then I see a bright neon green shirt and I notice it is one my team mates and another volunteer. They were running the loop in reverse and they had a water jug with them. A life line I so desperatly needed and the quick pick me up have seeing someone else and their energy level really helped increased my focus. I quickly emptied the little bit of boiling water I had and had them refill my bottle a little. I didn't need the entire bottle full as I was near the aid station. This is also when I was able to pass the runner I had been stalking. With the pass I quickly increased my pace and arrived at the aid station.
I knew what I needed, I needed water and ice in my pack and coke in my bottle. The volunteers here were awesome and again went to work to cool me down. This second trip though I was more mentally aware and my energy was high. I was cooled down with sponges and I even took a popscily. I was off and running in a few minutes and I managed to pass another runner who there. Now I think I am in 9 place. Allyson reminded me that Kirk and Fleet Feet crew were at No Hands and I knew what needed to get done. I was really excited to be on my way. I was feeling mentally strong.
I started my descent to No Hands, I was on the W.S trail single track right before the fire road when I went to drink some coke and instead of coke I ended up shooting carbonation into my throat which casued me to gag and stop dead in my tracks. I knew that if I got sick here it would be costly, I gaged and coughed and spit up, but thankfully I didn't get sick. But it was close. I continued on my way and hit the downhill single track. By now my legs were feeling the effects of all the climbing and downhills. I didn't bomb it but I did let it take me. I kept up with my fuel, and my fluids and salt and down I went.
As I neared No Hands I let out a shout and rounded the final turn and hit the bridge and almost ran right into Jenny. I quickly handed her my bottle and she refilled it with coke while Dusin and Kirk worked on getting me in the shade and cooled. I felt like a race horse at the starting gate. I was focused on the runner off in the distance. I can catch her was all I was thinking. I wasn't talking I was thinking "Ok, get my bottle and go. 4 miles from here to the finish I can do this. Just keep her in my sights." Then Jenny handed me my bottle Kirk and Dustin soaked me one more time and I took off with the cheers of Fleet Feet Aid Station. I was now on a mission, catch the runner in front me and don't get caught by the runner behind me. Focus, keep moving I can do this is all I said to myself.
I charged out of there like a raging bull, I was on a mission. I crossed the bridge and started the run up the fire road when all of sudden the sun and heat quickly sucked the life out of me. I took in a gel and a few salts and the coke. I transtioned into a power hike, just keep moving forward. Don't stop, keep moving. The wheels were slowly coming off. My energy plumeted so quickly from the scroching heat. I was baking in the canyon, every step I took was like a ton of bricks. I was no longer racing I was just surviving. My goal now was to not get passed behind, but I also did everything I could to keep the runner in front in my sights.
I was in bad shape and it happened so quickly. I kept the fluids going in and the salt and fuel. I arrived at the first climb and it felt good to be climbing, but it was long climb. I mustered up some energy to run the runnable sections. My heartrate was so elevated that I could feel it pounding through my chest. I needed to stop for a second to bring my heart rate back down. I hit the top of the climb and kept on moving. 2.5 miles to go, just keep it together until I get to finish line, just keep it together is all I kept telling myself. I was at the fire road that would take me around Robie and here is where I saw the jugs of water. I filled a pitcher and dumped it on my head. The fogginess went away and a new life was reborn with that pitcher of cool water. I was on the brink of heat exhaustion I think.
I kept moving and running where I could, but I was drained. I had only one more mile to go, I can do this, just keep moving what ever I do don't stop, I so desperatly just wanted to sit down and rest but I knew that would be the end. I had to keep moving. .5 to go almost there. I hit the final climb and see Lily. She is at the top and she starts clapping and motivating me to run and finish strong. I give her my pack and bottle and I muster up the last of my energy and start running. I hit the pavement and am showered with water, it shocked me but felt good. I see Dustin and all I want to do is lay down, I am so close. I keep on running knowing I am yards away from the finish. I cross the finish line and I am so relived to be done. I made it.
Finish is near; photo by Dustin Burgess
I am spent, I am overheated and not really understanding much of anything. I am handed a water bottle and some ice, which I ended up dropping the water bottle and I gave the ice to Lily who is by my side along with Dustin. I tell her I need to lay down, I need to lay down right now. She gets me to the massage table and I lay down. I am spent, I am exhausted, I am covered in salt and I really don't feel right. She goes to work on getting my core temperature down as I am burning up all over. My head is on fire and everything at this point hurts. I am cramping in my hamstrings and calves but all I can do is lay there. She works on me for a bit and then again has to cool me down as I am still very hot. She puts ice in my sports bran and then slowly pours cool water on my back when all of a sudden the biggest cramp of all happens and takes my breath away. I shout out "My back, my back!" my back is cramping. Lily works her magic and slowly I am coming back to my senses. It is the weirdest feeling being that disoriented and exhausted and overheated. But the best feeling of all was when I slowly came back. I could feel the fog being lifted from me and my focus came back. It took awhile for the fog to be lifted. I am able to coherently answer questions and I even manage to eat some salty foods.
Done! Photo By Dustin Burgess
Then it all hits me, I just placed most likely in the top ten and then everything comes back to me. Not only did I just place in the top ten, but I also came in third in my age group! I actually placed 7th overall and 3rd in my age group. Out of the 49 that registered ultimately 19 of us finished.
Completely Spent; photo by Dustin Burgess
Remember I said I had some high goals for this race, well I achieved them. I wanted to place in the top ten overall because I knew that with a smaller field I was capable of this and this would probably be my only chance to experience racing from the front. Which is a completely different mind set.
This was a epic race, I battled through the scorching heat, overcame the lows and battled on all day. I managed to race for the entire day at the front of the pack and gained a few positions along the way. I learned a lot during this and I learned that more often then not it is about heart. Having the heart and will power to dig deep to achieve the ultimate goal!