I think it might be worthwhile for me to evaluate my MO when it comes to racing. Six weeks prior to this race I was grounded with a quad injury. I cross trained for 3 weeks before being able to run again, but that didn't deter me from thinking I could still run a fast 50k. In addition to the injury, Brian was facing brain surgery in 2 days, so some might say we were under a little more stress than usual.
None-the-less, I was optimistic. My quad still hurt slightly, but I was happy to be on the start line with my friends and in the sunshine. My warm up was not good - I felt quite sluggish - but thought I would shake it off. The race started, and off we flew. The women's field was pretty stacked, and I watched Susannah Beck and Bev scurry off. I settled into a quickish pace, and was soon joined by Nikki Kimball. We exchanged war stories, and before long, she was off with Joelle Vaught and Annette Bednosky, where the theme was 'I am so happy to be here!' A real runner's post-trauma event. By the time we hit the first trail, they were out of site. I was already struggling, but reminded myself that the first 6 miles often feel that way. I was soon passed by Jeff and Tommy who thought they might see me later, plus a few women that I didn't know, and Jenny Capel and Luanne Park whom I usually stay ahead of. Next came Caren Spore, and we exchanged encouragement. At mile 5 we were greeted by our first big crowd, and I said to Brian 'I'm TIRED!' but was told that I looked great. The gentle but technical downhill into AS 1 was a bit of a relief, and I was caught by Graham Cooper who was surprised to see me running in a race so close to the Olympic Trials. We chatted and complained about our ailments, and soon were getting stocked up at AS1. I drank some GU20 and grabbed a gel, and was on my way. I looked at my watch - 42 minutes? Well, that was quicker than I thought, so maybe my day wasn't going to be so bad.
Single file on the trail, I comfortably trailed some runners. A guy wearing a Boston T-shirt was feeling boxed in and spent a lot of energy getting around runners. We passed a casualty - a young woman sitting on a rock with some blood running down her leg - unfortunately done for the day. I don't like passing women this way! Caren Spore was in front of me, and we exchange positions again - I was using the downhill to my advantage and beginning to think things were looking up. I pulled ahead for awhile, hoping to get up the first significant hill before Caren, but it was not to be. I was half way up, with Boston right in front of me, and here came Caren, piston legs just pushing her by like I was standing still. I never saw her again! She went around Boston and he soon pulled off to the side to have a stretch - and I never saw him again either.
The next section felt endless, but it was beautiful, as always. Winding single track, contouring the hills. I was running alone, and could occasionally hear voices ahead and behind, but kept my relative position. Just as I neared AS2, I saw Annette. I didn't expect I would catch her, but we encouraged each other in and out of the AS. Brian, Laurie, Laura and Carol were all there, and it was really nice to see their friendly faces. I had my bottle filled, ate a gu, and slowly jogged up and out. At this point I caught Mark Winkelman whom I had run with for awhile last year in this race. We chatted awhile, and as the course began to go downhill, I gained more and more momentum, leaving him behind. I soon caught Jenny chatting with her companions, and I was thinking how nice it must be to run relatively easy. She encouraged me as I went by, and my momentum really got the better of me as I flew down the trail. It was FUN but I paid for it. The next tiny climb my legs alerted me to this fact. Oops - I guess being conservative would have been a good choice. I trudged up each incline and staggered on the downs. I kept looking ahead, seeing if I was going to catch anyone. At a technical downhill that I crashed on last year, I was extremely vigilant, but my legs felt like rubber. I made it down without incident, and began the nice flat section before Ball Bearing Hill. Last year I really flew along here, but this year it was not happenin'.
Finally I reached Ball Bearing Hill, just behind Luanne. I started up the hill with earnest, and boy that did not last long. No little joggy steps, no big hiker strides. Luanne glance back, and upon recognizing me said 'well, that's pathetic - what are YOU doing back there?' She was hacking up remnants of a nasty virus, and all I could say was 'I'm tired!'. We hung together all the way to the top (I am sure it was longer this year) and into the next AS, and again saw the last of the Sunsweet groupies. I passed Luanne on the way out and tried to get my wheels rolling on this very runnable section. I was greeted by many runners on their way out, and continued to try and push myself. Every section where I was alone I found myself slowing down. Finally I heard footsteps behind me, so I picked it up. These steps were in more of a hurry than I, so I let her by, relieved that it wasn't Luanne. I know it is petty, but I wanted to win my age group and give my hat to Brian's brain surgeon (how many surgeons do you know who want to be ultra runners and envy you for being one?). I got after myself to run harder, and much to my surprise, I actually could. So, I pushed hard, and when I heard steps behind me again, I pushed harder. The steps were about 10 yards back, and I kept them at bay for sometime. Finally, I stepped off of the trail, and let him by, saying "I'm tired of trying to keep up with myself", to which he replied "I know the feeling".
I took a bit off the pace and finally arrived at the Goat Hill climb. I wheezed my way to the top, took an S-cap, drank some Sprite, ate a gel, and got out of there. My legs were shot, but somehow kept holding me upright. Finally I heard Jenny Capel catching up to me, and just before the Highway 49 crossing she caught up to me. We chatted as we crossed the road, only to get chastised by the volunteers for goofing off. Jenny strode on ahead of me, and on feeble legs I made my way up the last climb. Finally, I hear my New Zealand buddies telling me 'good one Meghan, you're almost done! Don't stop now!' It was tempting. I cruised around the fence to the finish, rather pleased to be done. I held my age-group win, and was able to present the hat to Brian's surgeon 2 days later. He was quite pleased.
And now, an epilogue. I hurt my back in San Francisco 3 days after Cool, from L1-L5 and my sacrum. As of today, April 7th, I can run, but still have some pain in my left butt. With the Marathon Trials only 13 days away, my only hope is to run around 3 hours, but I feel so honored to be going that I am doing everything possible to make it to the start line pain free. So, don't be looking for any great time from me, but do hope that I finish!
Some Western States Numbers
4 weeks ago