Tuesday, October 14, 2014

24 Hours of Boulder 50K

Immediately after I finished the Bear Chase 50 miler, I started looking around for a spring ultra.  What I found instead was a race called 24 Hours of Boulder, which took place just two weeks after Bear Chase.  In an instant, I wanted to do it.

The Boulder race included multiple events: a 100 miler, a timed 24 hour run (i.e., how far can you run in 24 hours), a 100K, a 50K, or a 6 hour nighttime “fun run.”  The course was an out and back along the Boulder Reservoir, and the description said it included an equal amount of paved road, dirt road, and smooth single track trail.

This really seemed like my kind of thing.

What got me was the race director’s promise of the amazing views of Boulder’s mountains and autumn foliage and the enticing statement on the website: “Race under the sun and stars in the running mecca of Boulder, Colorado."

I had to do this.

My training for the Bear Chase 50 miler had left me with what I felt was pretty adequate base for a 50K, and my tibia had somehow, miraculously survived.  So the family cleared our schedules for the weekend, and I signed up.

The race was a lot more low-key than I’d been expecting, but low-key is fine with me.  What was surprising about the Boulder race was how few participants there were.  I mean, it is true that Boulder is a running mecca.  And this race seemed to offer something for everyone.  I was expecting there to be hundreds of participants, so I was really surprised when I showed up on Sunday morning and there were only 7 of us lining up at the start of the 50K.


Well.  I guess this meant I’d finish in the top 10.  Even if I came across the line DFL.


IMG_4957.jpg Mile 3, the day is young.  Also: I’m wearing a Wonder Woman costume.

The course consisted of an initial short (2 mile?) out and back, then 4 longer laps of about 7 miles.  There was a lot more pavement than I’d been imagining.  And I couldn’t say that my tibia did not hurt.

The dirt road felt a little better to my legs than the pavement, and I kept waiting to get to single track trail.  We never did.  The skinniest the trail ever got was still wide enough to accommodate maybe 3 people running side by side.  But that was okay.  The course was an out and back, so we were somewhat frequently meeting other runners (the 100K, 100 mile, and 24-hour races were still going on), plus it wasn’t closed to the public, so there were people out there just for their morning walk/run/ or bike ride. There was even one section that seemed to be really popular with dog-owners who were letting their giant dogs run and jump unleashed.  Nobody knew there was a race going on, least of all the dogs, who mainly viewed me as something to chase and bark at.  It felt a little bit like going through an obstacle course.

There was an aid station somewhere around 3.5 miles out, where we then turned around and headed back to the start/finish area again.  On the first full lap, I’d been running behind this guy on the way to the aid station, but on the way back I caught up with him and we ran together for the next 20 miles.

IMG_4962.jpg Mile 10 or so.

The course was becoming very sparse because all the other races (100 mile, 100K, 24 hours, 6 hours) had started the day before, and they were now winding down. It helped tremendously to have a running buddy.  50 kilometers in solitude would not have been fun.  I was still really surprised that there were so few runners doing this race.  It seemed pretty well advertised.  Maybe everybody around here just likes hard core trails too much to do this?  I’m not sure.  Anyway, I felt really bad for the volunteers, who were amazing, but standing out in the cold and occasional rain for just a handful of us out on the course now.

IMG_4978.jpg 25K. Oh, oh, we’re halfway there.

Working with my new running buddy really helped pass the time.  We kept a pretty even pace of around 10-10:30 minute miles, and I was doing the best that I could to stay on top of hydration and nutrition.  My tibia did not feel great, particularly on the sections of pavement, but it wasn’t appearing to get any worse as we piled on the miles.

I was still in really good spirits as we began the last 7-mile out and back.  There was only one other woman running the 50K, and I was pretty sure she was a ways behind us at this point.  Anything was possible— but at that moment it occurred to me I still had a 50/50 chance of being either the first or last female finisher.  I’ve run some fairly small ultras, but this was not a situation I’d ever been in before.  No middle ground here.

IMG_4983.jpg Mile 24, beginning of the last lap

The wind had really picked up by this point, and as we headed out for the last lap, we were running right into it.  I kept my wits about me and stayed calm, even as I was pummeled by tumbleweeds.  There would only be about 3.5 miles of this, then we’d head back to finish the race with one heck of a tailwind.

Somewhere just before the turn-around point, I lost my running buddy.  It was his first ultra, and maybe he was getting a little tired in the wind.  I still felt freakishly strong, and the best part of all was that I was experiencing no nausea!!

I didn’t waste time at the aid station turn around point—I just wanted to get this done.  With the wind at my back now, I flew towards the finish.  My last 4 miles were my fastest of the race, even though my quads and calves were beginning to hurt a lot.  I cranked it up even more as I got about a mile from the end, running about an 8:30 pace.

It was pretty unceremonious as I crossed the finish line in something like 5 hours and 19 minutes.  The RD (maybe that’s who it was?) and his wife and kids rang cowbells as I approached, and Will ran it in with me.  With only a handful of other runners still out on the course, the finish line was starting to close down.  The few who remained congratulated me and gave me a medal, a cowbell, and a 1st place finisher cookie (homemade by the RD’s daughters).  It was really nice.

The best thing by far was that I’d finished this race without puking or even feeling nauseated.  I wasn’t hungry at all, but at least I didn’t feel sick.  We waited around only long enough to congratulate my running buddy, who finished a few minutes after me, and then we started to pack up.  The temperature had dropped by several degrees, and rain hung heavy in the blustering cold wind.  It was time to go home.

Some thoughts on this event

The views of the autumn foliage and the mountains surrounding Boulder were amazing, as promised.  The bright yellow of the aspen leaves against the grayish blue of the rainy sky and the brown and green mountains were breathtaking.  I’ve never actually run a 50K (31 miles) before, though I have run Farmdale (30 miles) twice.  These were very, very different courses.  My fastest time at Farmdale was something like 6:40.  In Boulder, it was 5:19.  This course was definitely flat and fast, but that gave it a very “road marathon” feel, which was weird, because it was 6 miles longer than a road marathon and you had to pace yourself differently so you didn’t burn out.  I think I actually did pretty well with pacing because I never got myself into a dark, scary place, and I was able to speed it up at the end even though my quads and calves hurt a lot during the last 4 or 5 miles.  I could power through it because I knew I was almost done, but I was glad that I’d started out conservatively enough so that I made it that far without feeling any pain.  By the end I was way more beat up than I’d been at Bear Chase, even though the distance there was much farther.  The course in Boulder didn’t really have any hills, so there were no natural walking breaks.  I ran the entire time, and that really took a toll on my legs.

Nutrition: I didn’t puke this time

Of the 8 ultras I’ve run, this is only the second time I’ve managed to finish without debilitating nausea and/or puking.  I think this was mainly due to luck: the weather was cool, so I wasn’t depleted as much.  I raced with Nuun Hydration for the first time, which doesn’t supply anything in the way of calories, but it does give you electrolytes.  Maybe that kept me from falling off the edge so that I was able to take in nutrition from other sources. Here’s what I ate/drank during the race:

  • approx 1 bottle of water and ~3 bottles with Nuun tablets (~24 calories, about 48 oz total)
  • 1 Peanut Butter Gu (100 calories)
  • 1 Chocolate Peanut Butter Gu with 20 mg caffeine (100 calories)
  • about 1.5 oranges (slices throughout the race at aid stations)
  • about 1/2 a banana (slices throughout the race at aid stations)
  • about 1/2 a boiled, salted potato (I brought potatoes from home and grabbed some from Rob before I started the last lap.  This absolutely saved me).
  • 2 potato chips at the last aid station
I was definitely starting to feel a bit bad before starting out on the last lap, and that’s when I remembered the boiled, salted potatoes I’d packed in the cooler and brought with us.  These snapped me out of an impending funk.  Rob put some in a baggie for me and I ate them on the run.  They go down easily, give you potassium and sodium, and most importantly for me, they are not sweet.  Neither of the two Colorado ultras I’ve run have offered potatoes at the aid stations (though all the other ultras I’ve run have).  After I actually tried boiling potatoes at high altitude and realized how difficult it was, maybe that’s why they don’t provide them here. 

Would I do this race again?

A definite… maybe.  It was a pretty cool race.  The 50K distance intrigues me.  But having only 7 participants on the course was really kind of weird.  If I hadn’t randomly caught up with a this guy and run 20 miles with him, I would have been totally alone and had a fairly miserable time.  

What did I learn from this race?

I guess I’m not super interested in running a “flat, fast” 50K.  It tore up my legs way more than a more hilly, challenging course (with natural walk breaks) would have.  It really made me realize how much I prefer course like Bear Chase, even though I had a lot of other problems there.

Technically, I was the first female finisher.

Technically.  But since there were only 2 of us, celebrating this would be as ridiculous as the other woman feeling disappointed about coming in second (I certainly hope she doesn’t feel disappointed about that).  It could have just as easily gone the other way for me.  So, don’t worry,  I’m not going to let this go to my head or anything.  But I guess it does make kind of a good story, and that’s why we do this, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Dear William (62 months)

Dear William,

Yesterday you turned 62 months old.  I’m a day late posting this. That’s never happened before.

We started the month off with a family trip over to Rocky Mountain National Park to see some foliage and snow covered peaks.



You took a picture of mom and dad.

Through Will's eyes

We did some light bouldering.


Love this kid


You liked bouldering so much that your dad took you around town a few times to go bouldering again.

Climbing boulders

In addition to bouldering, this month you also enjoyed attending a fundraiser that your school had at a local roller rink.  You refused to even try skating, though you did find you had a certain talent at ski ball.



One of the biggest events of your life thus far was your school’s walk-a-thon.  You were very excited about this.  You had no idea what it was.  You were given a t-shirt and you took off running.  You did 8 laps (2 miles) in 30 minutes.  There was only one other kid in kindergarden who went farther than you.  You convinced me to run a few laps with you (even though I had an injured tibia and a trail race the next day).  I was so proud when you crossed the finish line.  I actually cried.


IMG 4083


This was a big change from a a few weeks earlier, when you entered the kid’s 1-kilometer race after your dad ran the Black Squirrel half marathon.  Then it was you who cried.

IMG 4012

IMG 4013

You didn’t like it and said you were never running again.  I think maybe the walk-a-thon changed your mind about that.

Immediately after school on the day of your walk-a-thon, we all loaded up and headed for Bear Creek Lake State Park, where we camped before mama’s big trail race the next day.  You were very excited about our new pop-up camper.

IMG 4086

IMG 4092

The next morning you had to get up early so we could make it to the start line on time, and you entertained daddy all day while I was running.  I am told you were very good, even though it was a hot, hot, sunny, shadeless day.  You cheered for me several times as I ran by.

26.2 miles Mile 26.2

When I finally crossed the finish line, you ran it in with me.  That was the best moment of my life.

The next weekend, I felt so bad about how tired you must have gotten when you were waiting for me to run 50 miles, so we made it All About You.

I took you to a place called Cool Beans, which is a coffee shop that has an indoor play area for kids.  I had a green smoothie.  You had the time of your life.

IMG 4102

IMG 4105

Then we took you to the NoCo Mini Maker Faire, which was kind of a weird thing that I think if we go again next year, you and daddy would probably have more fun if you went without me.  But they did have a life-size robotic R2D2, and that made your day.

IMG 4099

William, we’ve all kept busy this month, but you’ve still managed to find time to play with your toys in your room.

Busy room

You’ve also impressed me by showing me how well you’ve learned to read and write.

IMG 4096

And by bringing home some of the work you’ve done at school:

IMG 4097

IMG 4110

We ended the month yesterday, with another trail race for mommy.  That’s probably why I fell behind here and didn’t get your letter posted.  This time, I only ran 50K instead of 50 miles.  It didn’t take nearly as long.  And the weather was cool and rainy instead of blisteringly hot and sunny.  You and daddy stayed inside the car to keep warm, and you came out and cheered every time I ran through to start a new loop.

Boulder crew1


Boulder crew2

William, thanks for being the best kid on this earth.

Love always, 



Monday, October 6, 2014

September 2014 Mileage: All or Nothing

My first and last runs of September were races, and I didn’t do that much running in between. 

If you really want, you can read about how I bookended the month here and here.

I plan on taking some time off in October, but only partially because I want to.

130.29 in September.  1099.91 year to date.  I’d run more, but I’m too busy folding laundry.


IMG 4094


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bear Chase 50 Miler


The Wednesday before Bear Chase, Rob and I went to Loveland to pick up our new pop-up camper for the station wagon.  After the guy finished installing it, he asked if we had any camping trips coming up, and Rob told him we were camping at Bear Creek on Friday night. The guy was like, “Oh, cool, how come you’re going there?” and Rob said, “We have a race this weekend."


I think Rob phrased it that way because he knew I was in such a state of panic that I couldn’t talk about it.  I was standing there, feeling the pain of my re-injured tibialis posterior tendon, knowing full well that there was no way I should be running at all until I let this tibia heal, which could be months from now.  It would have pushed me over the edge to publicly state that I was the one running the race this weekend, that it was 50 miles long, and that even attempting it was probably the stupidest thing I’d ever done.

Pop top

IMG 4076 Sometimes life leads you places you never expected.

On Friday, Will had a Walk-a-Thon at school.  In between frantic bouts of packing, Rob and I biked to school while the kindergartners walked.  Will asked me to do a couple of laps with him, and he took off running.


My leg hurt.  Not bad enough that I felt like I couldn’t run, but not good enough to give me any confidence that I could cover 50 miles.  I felt grim.

We went ahead with the plan, and as soon as school let out, we picked up Will and hit the road.  Packet pick up was my last chance to drop down to the 50K, which really seemed like the most reasonable thing to do, but I didn’t.  I finally decided, come what may, I was doing this.  If it hurt, it hurt—I would have to drop regardless of what distance I was attempting.  This race had a 15 hour time limit (very generous for 50 miles, could include lots of walking), and there was no other race on the horizon for me.  If this injury became severe and I had to take several months to recover, so be it.  At least I would never wonder, What if I could have done it?

It s going to be greatIt’s going to be great.


Home is where you park it Home is where you park it.

We quickly tried to make it to the campground and get dinner ready and everything set up before dark.  I had tried so hard to have my drop bag packed and to have Rob and Will’s stuff situated for while they were waiting for me out at the start/finish area all day, but in the end it all got so discombobulated. And then it was dark.

Story time Story time in the camper

The bed in the new pop-up camper was comfortable, but I could not settle down because my calf hurt… from running 1/2 mile around the track with Will at his Walk-a-Thon.  Ribbons of pain and tightness threaded their way from the back of my knee to ankle, on both the medial and lateral sides.  It felt like the way your leg feels after having a charlie-horse.  I tried to work out the knots as best I could, but really I just panicked and didn’t sleep all night long.

5:00am came early and dark.  This is the first time we’ve camped before one of my races, and it was a lot harder than I’d anticipated to get ready in the dark, outdoors, with sub-par bathroom facilities.

We were camping in the park where the race was being held, only about 2 miles away from start line.  However, we had found out that most internal park roads were closed “after hours” and not re-opened until 7am, which meant there wasn’t a good way to get from the camp site to the start line on time.  We solved this problem The Ragfield Way, which is to say, with the cargo bike.  Will and I sat on the back while Rob biked us (and all our gear) to the start of the race.  It was dark, cold, and uncomfortable.

Everything was taking a lot longer that we thought it would.  We arrived at the start area around 6:05 (25 minutes before race time), and I still hadn’t eaten, put on my race bib, set up my drop bag, or applied Body Glide.  I briefly wondered if this was some sort of bad dream and I would wake up soon, but it wasn’t.

I was nervous and sick to my stomach, and when I tried to eat, I couldn’t swallow.  I finally managed to force down a Clif Z-bar, which at only 140 calories, was not an ideal way to start a 50 mile run, but it was better than nothing.  I was so nervous I was shaking as I made my way to the start line.  It was time to go.

Sunrise Sunrise

Loop 1: There are some things medical science can’t explain

I started with the mayor.  Meaning, I was in the way, way back.  There might not have been anybody behind me, but considering that I was both injured and undertrained, this was exactly where I needed to be.

The sun peaked up over the horizon just as the race began.  My first few steps felt easy.  I tried to relax, I tried to breathe. This was better than I had feared it might be, but I was still nervous.

Meli Loop1 Photo by RunningGuru.com

The first few miles were the easiest part of the 4-loop course—mostly smooth dirt paths along the creek.  I wasn’t completely at the back of the pack anymore but settled into a comfortable pace with a group of 4 or 5 other runners.  Chatting with them helped ease some of my nervousness.  They were seasoned trail runners.  The woman who made up the back of our pack would periodically call out, “Does anyone need to pass?” and the woman in front of me would silently gesture with her hand if there was any hazard on the trail, such as a rock or root.

After a few miles of running and chatting with them, I found out that they had travelled to Colorado for this race from—of all places—St. Louis.

4 miles Mile 4, photo by Rob

We gradually split up, but I stayed with the woman in front of me.  We were very easily, comfortably, running about 11:30-12:00 minute miles.  My leg did not hurt.  It had hurt when I ran with Will at his walkathon, it had hurt all night long in the camper, but now that I was out on the course, it strangely, miraculously, did not hurt at all.  There are some things medical science just can’t explain.

My St. Louis running partner really seemed to know what she was doing with this 50-miler, plus I enjoyed talking to her, so I resolved to stay with her for as long as it seemed reasonable.  She was going exactly the pace I had told myself to stick to.  This may have been the first time in an ultra that I haven’t started out too fast.

We stayed together on the climb up Mt. Carbon (approx 5 miles into the loop) and the descent as well.  I’d been worried about this part— on the reconnaissance mission Rob and I had taken last June, the descent had seemed narrow and rocky, and I’d been concerned that there was no place for me to let other runners pass if they were coming up fast from behind.  But it was fine. The trail was much more smooth than I’d remembered, and everybody was taking it easy.  

A mile or so after Mt. Carbon (about 7 miles into the race), we hit the 3 stream crossings that we would encounter with each loop.  I was glad that my run in June had prepared me for what this would be like.  Although the photos don’t quite do it justice, the water reached my knees at the deepest sections.  The cold felt wonderful on my calves.  Once out of the water, my shoes, socks, and feet were completely dry within about a half a mile.

Meli Stream1Photo by RunningGuru.com

I split up from my St. Louis running buddy somewhere on the back half of the loop.  She was using a run 15-minute, walk 1-minute strategy.  A lot of runners employ similar tactics, but I had decided I didn’t want to time my walk breaks by a watch for this.  There were parts of the course that I would definitely have to walk, such as the stream crossings, Mt. Carbon, and the many jagged little hills. I was confident that the trail would keep me honest so I didn’t burn out out like I had at the Frisco Railroad Run.

Meli Loop1 2Photo by RunningGuru.com

By the time I finished first loop, I felt more relaxed than I had in weeks.  I'd seen the entire course now, and it was much easier than I remembered.  Much easier, even, than many of the training runs I did on a daily basis.  Plus—I couldn’t describe how or why—my leg felt fine.  There was still a long way to go, and anything could happen, but for the first time since I re-injured my tibia, I allowed myself to feel cautiously optimistic.

2014 50MCourse

Loop 2: Running easy

I came into the start finish area somewhere around 2 hours and 20 minutes, which is exactly where I’d hoped to be if everything was going well.  Rob was waiting for me, with my drop bag and everything I could possibly need.  I remained focused and efficient.  I had him fill up my hydration pack with more Tailwind and water while I quickly changed my shirt—somewhere around mile 10, my pack had started chafing my shoulder, and I didn’t want to take any chances.

I ate a couple orange slices and Fig Newmans, and took off for Loop 2 without wasting much time.

Meli Loop2 2 On top of Mt. Carbon, running with my crazy gait.  Heel striking with the right foot...

Meli Loop2 1…and forefoot striking with the left. (Photos by RunningGuru.com)

I was doing pretty good on hydration, but I knew I wasn’t keeping up with calories, because I never do.  I’d managed to eat 1 gel on the first loop, plus I’d been drinking sips of Tailwind from my pack and orange slices whenever they were available at aid stations.  Orange slices were the only thing that seemed remotely appetizing.  Tailwind tasted sweet and terrible to me, even the unflavored version, but I managed to force myself to keep drinking it.  I hoped that would be enough.

17 milesMile 17

My right foot started bothering me during this lap—it felt like a blister was forming on the ball of my foot.  This early in the race, that could spell disaster.  I tried rearranging my sock, but that didn’t help much.  I wished I’d had more time to put Body Glide on my feet in the morning, and I hoped I could make it back to the start/finish area before too much damage was done.

Meli Stream2“This is not my most graceful moment,” I said to the photographer. (Photo by RunningGuru.com)

The back half of the course was unpleasant and exposed, and by this time, there were a lot of slower 50K runners that were sometimes difficult to get around. Eventually I got tired of trying to pass them and just went a slower pace.  I didn’t really care because I was still making decent time and feeling good.  And most importantly, I was getting excited that by the end of this lap, I would reach a significant milestone:  the halfway point.

Loop 3: In which I encounter Kaci Lickteig, make less of a fool of myself than that time I met Amy Ray

My blister, which had been bothering me for most of Loop 2, didn’t feel as bad anymore when I came back through the start/finish area. I decided to put a small tube of Body Glide in my pack and deal with it out on the course if it started hurting again.

I asked Rob to put more water and Tailwind in my hydration pack. What I was thinking was that I wanted very little Tailwind (I knew I needed it, but it tasted terrible) and much more water (I was drinking a lot, and it was getting very hot). But I didn't tell him any of that, and I didn't check the proportions of what he put in my pack.

26.2 miles“Go Melissa!” Will shouted, as he and Rob rode the cargo bike to cheer for me at the 26.2 mile mark

There was an aid station about 3 miles into the loop, and all the volunteers on the course were so incredibly kind and helpful.  We chatted as I stuffed my face with potato chips—no longer able to eat the sweet stuff and needing salt—and they asked if I needed any water or ice in my pack.  I declined, since I’d just had Rob fill up the pack at the start/finish area.  As I ate chips, another runner came into the station, and I immediately recognized her as Kaci Lickteig—one of the fastest ultra runners in the world.  The volunteers treated her with the same kindness they had treated me.  In fact, I’m not sure if anyone other than me knew who she was.  As we stood side by side eating potato chips (actually, it may just have been me eating potato chips), I heard myself ask her, “Are you Kaci?” (I didn’t say her last name because I’m not sure how to pronounce it).  She smiled and nodded, looking fresh as a daisy.  I told her she was awesome and that she was doing a great job.  She looked so touched and said something like, “Oh my goodness, thank you!  You too!”  Because it was a loop course, she was on mile 40, whereas I was only on mile 28.  We both left the aid station around the same time.  She bounded down the trail like a gazelle, and within a few minutes, she was gone from my sight.  She went on to outright win the 100K race (meaning, she beat all the men too) in a time of 8:40:45 (nearly an hour and twenty minutes ahead of the second place runner).

Shortly after my Kaci Lickteig sighting, I tried to take a sip of water from my pack and nothing came out.  Shit.  I realized that Rob must have filled the Tailwind side fuller than the water side (knowing that I needed to keep drinking the calories and assuming I would get water at the aid stations), and I’d already drained the water in just 3 miles.  I wished I would have actually told him what I wanted instead of being too out of it to ask.  This was a really stupid mistake on my part.

Unfortunately, it was a long way to the next aid station.  Almost 5 miles, in fact, and that included the difficult, dusty climb up Mt. Carbon.  I was thirsty and it was probably over 80 degrees by this point, but I tried not to panic.  I went over my assets: I still had tons of Tailwind in the pack.  And that would provide everything I need (calories, electrolytes, hydration), just as long as I could force myself to keep drinking it.

But I couldn’t.  I was so done with anything even remotely sweet.  When I tried to drink it, I just gagged.  It tasted exactly like the suero a pregnant Chilean girl had given me in Nicaragua when I lay dying of the vortex, and in that particular instance, I had decided that death was preferable to drinking suero.

Volunteers were ready and waiting when I arrived at the next aid station. They asked what I needed and I tried to say, “Water,” but my throat was too parched for any sound to come out.  I took off my hydration pack and saw that there actually was still water in there.  Not a whole lot, but at least 10 ounces.  What the hell!  I felt a wave of some kind of unpleasant emotion I couldn’t name.  Maybe there had been something wrong with the tube leading to the water reservoir and it just wouldn’t come out.  I don’t know, whatever.  The damage was already done.  

A volunteer quickly filled my pack, and I guzzled water as fast as I could. I set out for the ugly last 4 miles of the loop.  My St. Louis running parter (the one who was doing the 1-minute walk breaks) passed me during this section, and I cheered for her as she went by.  I didn’t see her again—she ended up finishing an hour ahead of me.

Loop 4: In which the wheels fall off

I arrived back at the start/finish area still feeling okay, but knowing that I was walking a fine line between holding it together and letting all hell break loose.  I was seriously depleted—I simply could not eat and was in deep caloric deficit.  My throat wouldn’t work.  I’d tried to take an electrolyte pill but ended up spitting it out because I couldn’t swallow.

I took extra time at the start/finish area, this time making sure I had plenty of water, and doing what I could to get some calories.  I was slightly manic at the realization that I had covered 37.2 miles and was still pain free.  Even my foot blister wasn’t bothering me anymore.  I now knew that I was going to finish this, for sure.  There was only one loop left, and I could walk the entire thing if I had to.  This was essentially a victory lap.

But it was so hot and sunny.  There was no shade on the course.  And this time, the trail was going to be very sparse.  The 50K runners were mainly all done, and the rest of us 50 milers and 100K runners were incredibly spread out. This kind of isolation could easily let the crazies seep into your brain.

CloudyAs much cloud cover as we got all day.

Another woman pulled into the aid station about the same time as me and said she was running the 50M as well.  We decided to work together as much as we could, knowing there was safety in numbers and insanity in trying to go it alone.  I told her I was just thrilled that I wasn’t nauseated and throwing up yet by this point in the race.  She smiled and said, “It’s never too late for that.”  I knew she was right, but I also knew that even if it hit me right now, I could still finish the last 12.4 miles.

38 miles I’m the one up ahead, my new running partner is quickly catching up from behind

I wanted to cover as much distance as quickly as possible during the first part of the loop.  Though none of the course was technically difficult, the first section was much smoother and prettier to look at.  Once you got past the stream crossings about 8 miles in, the last section was narrow, rocky, v-shaped single track, with un-scenic views of a heavily trafficked road.  

My new running parter was awesome.  We chatted a lot, but I was having trouble keeping up my end of the conversation. Eventually, I told her I couldn’t talk anymore.  

42 milesMy partner in the lead now, at mile 42.

There was no more denying it—I was was nauseated.  But I didn’t panic.  I mean, for the love of god, I lived through hyperemesis.  I could run the last 8 miles like this.  

I was moving very slowly, not even trying to eat or drink anymore, almost looking forward to vomiting because at least after that, there would be some relief and I could probably take in some water.  I also kept thinking about Rob and Will, and especially how Rob had told the guy in Loveland, “We’ve got a race this weekend.”  


Rob and been completely unfailing in his support throughout the entire day—biking me to the start line, getting me water and ice (and whatever else I needed) each time I finished a lap, and even riding around the course to cheer for me at different locations.  As challenging as it is to run 50 miles, in all honesty, I’d rather be in my shoes than his right now.  He races much more frequently than I do, and I am all too familiar with the difficulty of crewing for someone out in the elements (cold, wind, rain, snow, sun, oppressive heat) while also trying to keep your child safe, entertained, and fed.  It was nearing 4 in the afternoon, and they’d been out since 6 this morning.  Some male athletes seem genuinely bemused regarding the “inexplicable dearth” of female distance runners in this sport, but when you’re not an elite, the only people you have to get you through the day (and sometimes night) are your family members.  That’s a lot to ask of your spouse, and in particular, of your child.  It is an incredibly selfish thing to do.

45 miles Mile 45. I’m not smiling—my lips are pressed together to keep from throwing up.

My running partner and I caught up with another guy around Mt. Carbon.  Even as terrible as I felt, I stayed ahead of them on the ascent.  When we began descending, I told them to go around me.  I could finish this, but I couldn’t stay with them anymore.

By the time I made it to the aid station after the stream crossing, my mind was completely gone.  I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything on this lap because of the nausea, and I started sobbing as I walked into the aid station.  Rob and Will were waiting there to surprise me.  I didn’t want Will to see me like this.

The volunteers were so amazing and supportive.  They sprang into action, getting me stuff, asking me what I needed.  I couldn’t talk.  I had my hand over my mouth, I managed to whisper, “Throw up."

The medic got me a ginger ale and poured 2 salt packets in it.  I forced myself to sip it while another volunteer put ice on my neck and in my hat.

Another runner entered the aid station around then.  She said she was supposed to be doing the 100K but had decided she would drop down to the 50M and this would be her last lap.  “Come with me,” she said, and I nodded.  I followed her to the path that led to the ugliest section of the course.

She stayed in front of me.  We mostly walked.  When she broke into a run, I followed.  When she stopped to walk again, so did I.  The many short, steep hills on this section didn’t bother me.  My legs were fine.  It was the nausea that hurt.

The next aid station was around mile 47.5—just 2.5 miles from the end.  I lost my running partner just before this because I could no longer do anything but walk.  I started crying again as I saw the volunteers.  They put ice on me and gave me more salted ginger ale.  I took a few sips and then went to the side of the trail.  I threw up, again and again.

So close to the end.  There was a tiny modicum of relief, but not as much as I’d been hoping for, and I didn’t know how long it would last.  I took off from the aid station, wanting to cover as much ground as possible while I still could.

I walked most of the last 2 miles, and suddenly, I arrived at the park service road that led to the finish line.  A handful of spectators cheered enthusiastically.  I nodded, crying.

I rounded the corner and could see the festivities.  A group of 3 runners singing the Canadian national anthem sprinted past me with 100 yards to go.  I didn’t even care.

Rob and Will were standing there, and Will ran out to meet me.  I realized, he was going to run with me across the finish line.  I could see a race photographer up ahead and I didn’t want to be ugly-crying in the pictures.  I tried to get it together but couldn’t.  Will grabbed my hand, pulled me across the line, and the announcer said, “Melissa from Fort Collins, Colorado, finishing her 50 miles!”  I lost it, I was gone, gone, gone.  But at least I was done.  Beyond every conceivable expectation, I had finished.

Meli Finish1Photo by RunningGuru.com




My legs felt completely fine, but judging by the way my body shut down after I crossed the line, I guess I really had left it all out there.  

Although I'd only thrown up once on the course, I started throwing up without abandon now that I’d finished.  Rob kept trying to get me to eat or at least drink something, but I couldn’t swallow.  The race officials tried to get me to see a medic, but I didn’t think there was anything they could do.  Eventually I sat down in a lawn chair and occasionally leaned over the side of it to puke.

The sun started to go down and it was getting cold.  Will and Rob had been out all day, subsisting mainly on snacks, and they needed food.  The car was parked about 1/3  of a mile away, and we began the arduous trek to the parking lot.  It was one of the longest walks I've ever done.  I lost count of how many times I had to stop and puke.  Rob went on ahead, so he could get to the car and begin loading it with all our stuff.  Will stayed behind with me and held my hand.  I felt guilty, selfish, and embarrassed for putting him through this, and I hoped he wasn’t scared.

There was no way I could eat or drink anything.  I stayed in the car while Rob stopped to get something for Will and him to eat.  It was like when I had hyperemesis—I couldn’t even stand the smell of food.  I threw up into a large ziplock baggie because I hadn’t thought ahead to bring a bucket.  Rob asked if I wanted to go to the hospital for an IV, and I said no, even though I knew that was exactly what I needed.  We didn’t have anyone to watch Will, and I couldn’t put him through anything else today.  It was a very long ride home.

Once we finally got to our house, I made it to the couch and fell asleep while Rob carried Will to bed (his teeth unbrushed).  I wondered if the sacrifices we had all made so I could do this were worth it.

I was caked in 50 miles of salt and mud; I hadn’t even taken off my running shoes and socks. Rob helped me up and got me to the shower.  Then I crawled into bed, puke bucket in hand.

It was a long night, but somewhere near morning, I was able to drink some vegetable broth, and I think that’s what helped me turn the corner.  At last, I had found a way to get my electrolytes back in balance without consuming anything sweet.  Recovery wasn’t instant, but I could gradually feel the nausea recede as I sipped the broth.

Now I’m 4 days out from this, and most everything has returned to normal.  The crazy thing is that my legs never felt sore… not even my injured tibia!  My appetite is still a little off, but at least I’m feeling hungry again and able to eat.  And here’s the kicker: I’ve even started searching for spring ultras.

What I learned from this race:

1. Although my time was almost an hour slower than my finish at the Frisco Railroad Run, I actually prefer this kind of course.  The hills and terrain provided natural walk breaks and saved my legs from falling apart.

2. I am never going to be “2nd place female” ever again after moving to Colorado.

3. My legs can carry me a lot farther than my stomach will go.

4. I may be the only person on the planet who cannot tolerate Tailwind.  I have got to figure out how to eat and drink on the run.

Would I do this race again?


And another thing:

The answer to Anton Krupicka’s question about the lack of female long-distance ultra runners is really quite simple: most of us do not have the luxury to be that selfish.


Thanks for reading.