All posts by Meagan

Dam Yeti 50k – Race Report

On Saturday, June 5 I ran the Dam Yeti 50K in Damascus. It was the first official event I’ve run since January and I was really looking forward to it! It’s always a fun time with the Yeti Trail Runners.

Photo credit: Charlotte

We stayed at our usual place in Damascus for the weekend. I arrived on Friday afternoon and met up with Lauren and her family and with Charlotte. Christine arrived soon after and the four of us girls headed over to Abingdon for packet pickup. We got there right as it was starting and got in and out pretty quickly.

On race morning I was up at 4:30 AM to have my coffee and breakfast (PB & J toast) and get ready to run. Charlotte and I were both running the 50K and Christine and Lauren were crewing us. This year the race started in Green Cove and Christine gave us a ride up there. It’s a curvy road and Charlotte and I both got motion sick from the ride. I was so thankful to make it out of the car without puking. Christine dropped us off “Kiss & Ride” style about 30 minutes before the race start at 7 AM. We wandered over to the long bathroom line.

It was really chilly up there! Later in the day, Christine told me her car showed 46 degrees when she dropped us off. I never made it through the bathroom line and opted to pee behind a tree before jogging over to catch the pre-race meeting.

Hearing about the race before the race.
Photo: Charlotte

As you can see in one of the above photos, Charlotte and I were standing at the back of the group during the pre-race meeting. At the end of RD Jason Green’s speech, this crazy thing happened. He immediately went “3-2-1… GO!” and then I realized we were at the front of the stampede! As we turned and started running down the trail, I said to Charlotte “oh no, we are at the front!!” She giggled and laughed while I squealed and covered my head. I can now empathize with Simba from that scene in the Lion King when the wildebeest stampede in the gorge.

Luckily the masses left me unscathed and I was able to settle into my pace. It was dark and cool and super green along the trail. Less than a mile into the race, this deer shot across the trail and nearly hit a runner. It was crazy and there was a whole group of us there that saw it. Someone joked “well anyone who didn’t already go to the bathroom just did!” Hah!

I had decided to use a 7 minute run / 3 minute walk interval for this race. The first 17 miles of the race are on a downhill grade and I tried to keep my pace in check since I have the Eastern Divide 50K on June 19. I took in the beautiful scenery that surrounds the trail and before I knew it I was rolling into Taylor’s Valley around mile 7.5. And this is where I have some explaining to do. But first, here is the sequence of photos.

Photo: The incredible Jesse Kokotek
Photo: Jesse Kokotek
Photo: Jesse Kokotek

So. Before you judge me, let me explain myself. As I was running through Taylor’s Valley towards race photographer Jesse, the girl in front of me fell. The sequence of photos above literally span 3 seconds, at most. It took 1 to 2 seconds for my brain to switch from posing for the camera to recognizing that she had fallen. I did stop to see if she was okay (she was!) and if she wanted help getting up. But I stopped past her because I have no concept of long lense cameras and I thought if I stopped even with her I would be blocking the photos of the people behind me. So that’s what I have to say for myself. Moving on…

Shortly after the Taylor’s Valley incident, I arrived at aid station 1 around mile 8. This year our crew was allowed to be here so I got to see Lauren and Christine! As I ran in, I saw some other friends who also cheered for me! I was still feeling fresh and was running strong and relaxed. I refilled water and checked in with my crew.

Photo: Christine

From there, I continued on my way down the trail towards Damascus. Along the way, I stopped for a bathroom break in Straight Branch around mile 10. In addition to the runners around me, I started seeing some bikers on the trail and a few Appalachian Trail hikers.

“Please do not feed the Sasquatch”

Before long, I rolled into Damascus at mile 14 and aid station 2. This aid station had a Dolly Parton theme, complete with plaid shirts and blonde wigs! I refilled my water again and also got a popsicle (popsicle count: 1). I was still feeling strong and effortless and was maybe running a smidge faster than planned. About a half mile later, I met up with my crew at the town park to refill Tailwind and fuel.

Wrexham along for the ride. Photo: Lauren

I headed off for the stretch from Damascus to Alvarado feeling good. But within a half mile I definitely started to feel the heat, and fatigue started creeping in. The stretch from Damascus to Alvarado always feels tough to me because a lot of it is exposed and you’re running on a gradual uphill. On top of that, I tend to hit a rough patch between miles 17 to 22 during 50K runs.

On the way to Alvarado, my stomach started feeling like I had too much liquid in it and I felt like I had a side stitch. I continued with my 7/3 run/walk intervals but I slowed my run down a little. I knew I needed to stay on top of hydration as it continued to heat up outside, so I took little sips of water each walk break and ate some solid food every 40 minutes or so.

The magical Pepsi machine

I tried to stay calm about how I was feeling and just focus on the things I could control. A little while later I was rolling into Alvarado at mile 21. At this point I had been running for over 4 hours and I was getting spacey. I met up with my crew again and they made sure I was stocked with fuel and reapplied sunscreen on me. My calves had been having those little wave-like feelings they get before they cramp, so I also picked up some salt pills from my supplies.

Photo: Lauren

I walked across the parking lot to aid station 3. The aid station was certainly stocked with anything you might need during an ultramarathon, haha!

The volunteers refilled my flasks with ice water and asked if I wanted a popsicle. Why yes, I do! The volunteer helping me asked me “What color makes you happy?” which is probably the best way I’ve ever heard of someone asking what flavor I wanted. My answer was blue, of course. And yes, it did make me happy. (Popsicle count: 2)

Popsicles are life.

From Alvarado I headed down the 5 mile stretch towards Watauga. This section of trail has my two favorite bridges. The first one is known as the “big ass bridge” and I crossed that around mile 23.

Taking in the view on the bridge. Photo: Jesse Kokotek
The big ass bridge. (Photo from a different day on the trail.)

It was getting really hot during this section and sometimes I cheated a little on my 7/3 intervals and would walk 30 seconds to 1 minute early. My hips started to feel really tired and sore, and both of my calves and my left shin kept trying to cramp. I was getting to the point where I was day dreaming about getting to sit down and take off my shoes. During this section, we crossed my second favorite bridge on the trail, but it was SO hot through this exposed section.

Between miles 24 and 25, I decided it was time to take some salt pills. I reached in my zipper pocket for them and found that the pocket was open and they were gone. Well, shoot! That was a major bummer, and I’m also not happy that I littered somewhere on the trail. I knew I’d have to make do without them and continued on.

I arrived at aid station 4 in Watauga at mile 26. Here, I ate some pickles and had a cup of Mountain Dew. Like in Alvarado, they had ice water at this aid station and it was such a luxury on such a hot day! All of the volunteers were so awesome taking care of us.

As I continued up the trail towards Abingdon, I started seeing more of the 50 milers headed back down the trail for their out and back section. We all cheered each other on as we passed, reveling in our mutual suffering. I gotta be honest, I was glad to be doing the 50K on that day.

During the final stretch, sometime after mile 27, I started leap frogging with another runner. We were talking about how our races were going and I mentioned my calf cramping and losing my salt pills. She said she had something to help and gave me two chewable tablets. I eagerly took them and only after eating them did I think to ask what they were….. I guess that’s kind of ultrarunning in a nutshell! And for the record, they were just chewable salt tablets. I think they helped some, but it was late in the race and I think I was already pretty messed up on salt levels. Each time I transitioned to a run, I had to keep my right knee kind of straight to prevent full on cramps in my right calf. But I was so thankful for her generosity!

I passed through mile 28 and knew I was getting close! I’m proud that I was disciplined in sticking to my 7/3 intervals even though I was very tired and feeling pretty sore. I basically lived within 7 minute chunks of time and my life was ruled by the beep of my interval timer.

About 1.5 miles from the trailhead, I glanced up and noticed a steer on the wrong side of the fence. He was eating leaves at the top of the hill along the trail. A few feet down the trail, I saw where the fence was broken. I couldn’t really do anything about it, and I heard that later on several more steers found their way onto the trail. At last, I made it to the Abingdon trailhead, with a little over 30 miles on my watch! A volunteer told me to turn right coming off of the trail, turn right again at the red phone booth, and then head down the road.

I knew we were finishing at the brewery, but I didn’t really have a concept of where that was in relation to where I was or how far away it was. But all I could do was keep moving. A little over half a mile down the road, I could hear the music and then I looked to my left and saw the finish arch. Yay!

Apparently stopping my watch is still the most important thing. Photo: Christine

As always at Yeti races, I was greeted with a big bear hug from race director Jason Green at the finish line.

Photo: Lauren

I finished in 7:15 and change, which is my second fastest 50K. I worked hard out there, but I also tried to keep my overall race effort at a moderate level since I have two 50K races so close together. That definitely got harder the last 10 miles with the heat, but overall I think I had a solid day and ran a good race.

Christine and Lauren had some chairs set up in the shade and it felt SO freaking good to finally sit down! I also enjoyed some cold lemonade, a homemade ham sandwich, and a popsicle (popsicle count: 3!). After sitting with my shoes off for awhile, I got changed into dry clothes and we continued to hang out at the finish line and cheer in other friends. There is a certain atmosphere at Yeti races and the finish line is where it really shines. Exhibit A: Mr. Inspiration. Resident DJ and official welcoming committee for runners coming into the finish line.

Mr. Inspiration

We cheered Charlotte in and hung out for awhile longer, soaking in the post-race vibes and catching up with friends.

Photo: Charlotte

Then it was time to head back to the house. On the way back, I got super thirsty so we stopped at a gas station. I headed in with plans to get an ice cold Gatorade from the fountain drink machine. But I came out with both a Gatorade and a mango fruit slushie. All I can say is it was hot outside and I was thirsty!

Photo: Charlotte

Once we got home we got cleaned up, had a late dinner, and then I had another popsicle (popsicle count: 4!!!). We had a good time sitting around chatting and hanging out and stayed up entirely too late.

On Sunday, everyone got packed up and we all hit the road to head home. All in all, it was another excellent Yeti weekend with my Wild Mountain Chickens. On to Eastern Divide…. I hope there’s popsicles!!

Day in the Life 50K

I live in this funky ultrarunning community where things that may seem crazy to the outside world are totally normal. So I didn’t really think twice about following an unconventional 30 day training plan to lead up to running a 50K. What could be better than running all day with friends? Enter the Day in the Life 50K, an officially unofficial virtual race. Our race day started just before sunrise on March 6 at the Fries trailhead of the New River Trail.

Kim and I met up with Charlotte and Christine in the parking lot. I was feeling sleepy since it was so early, but I also felt good and was excited to take on the day. I was also particularly excited for Christine, who would be taking on her first ultramarathon.

Ready to run. Photo: Charlotte
3/4th of GinnySas – our Run for the Caffeine team. Photo: Charlotte

A little before 7 AM we were off and running. It was in the low 30’s at the start with a windchill in the upper 20’s, which felt a bit chillier next to the river. But it would warm up a bit throughout the day and we would have lots of sunshine. Overall, fantastic weather for March!

Off and running! Photo: Charlotte

Kim and I normally use an 8 minute run / 2 minute walk interval, but for this run we decided to modify it to a 7/3 interval. It ended up being an excellent fit for the day. Early on, the run segments felt super short and the walk segments felt long and luxurious, but we knew that would probably change later on.

We chose to do our run on the old New River Trail 50K course. The New River Trail is pretty scenic in general, but this section down in Fries and Galax is particularly gorgeous. In the early miles, we even had a few waterfalls along the trail.

About 5 miles in, we arrived at Fries Junction where we regrouped before doing a short out and back towards Pulaski. From there, we headed back through Fries Junction and towards Cliffview, where we got to cross what I believe is the longest bridge on the NRT.

We all crossed the bridge together and headed towards the tunnel, about a half mile down the trail. The tunnel is really cool to go through, but I also like that it’s not too long so it doesn’t get super dark in the middle.

Crossing the bridge. Photo: Christine

After the tunnel, Kim and I got back on our 7/3 interval as we headed towards the Gambetta access to the trail. This was the first spot that we would see Lauren, who selflessly crewed the four of us all day long with her three year old in tow!

Around mile 9, Kim and I rolled in to Gambetta. I was still feeling totally fresh and I was fueling well. However, with the cold weather I wasn’t drinking as much as I should have been. I had Tailwind in one flask and water in the other and both were still pretty full after nearly two hours of running. So I knew what I needed to focus on during the next stretch. The four of us regrouped again at this first crew spot before heading down the trail. We would next see Lauren in 7 miles in Cliffview.

Kim and I continued our run/walk interval and were chatting with each other as the miles ticked by. Before I knew it, we were already past mile 13. Along the way, we ran by a really pretty waterfall that I totally forgot about from the last time I ran this course in 2018.

We ran by the Cliffview Campground and made a quick pit stop at the vault toilet there before covering the last mile to Cliffview access. We rolled in to mile 16 and met back up with Lauren. Kim and I were glad to see her! We were about 3 and a half hours into our run and were both hungry and ready for some food. I enjoyed a PB&J on a tortilla and some other snacks and refilled my flasks.

Cliffview was also our turnaround point, so we all regrouped at this spot before heading back down the trail. At this point, it was the longest I had run at one time since December and I was happy that I still felt really good. I was definitely starting to feel the fact that I had been on my feet for several hours, but I still felt strong and like I had plenty of energy left. It had warmed up a bit, so I ditched the pants I was wearing over my capris and swapped out my warm gloves for a thinner pair. With that, and a fresh pocket of snacks, we headed back down the trail.

This time, we would see Lauren at two spots – mile 20 at Chestnut Yard and then mile 23 back at Gambetta. The later you get into a run, the longer the miles can feel sometimes, so it was nice to break up that 7 mile stretch.

Photo: Lauren

When we arrived at Chestnut Yard, I treated myself to some mini Starbursts which Lauren brought for us. I also decided to swap the long sleeve I had on under my quarter zip for a short sleeve. I think it had warmed up to the low 40’s and there was lots of sunshine, but it still got quite windy at times and felt chilly in the shade.

Kim and I continued on from Chestnut Yard towards Gambetta and mile 23. We talked about how we were in that part of a run where you’ve been running for awhile, but it’s still too soon to start thinking about the finish. When it gets like that, you kind of just put your head down and grind through it. We were both pretty quiet through this section as we focused on the work ahead. It wasn’t too long before we arrived back at Gambetta.

This would be our last crew spot before covering the final 8 miles to the finish. The four of us regrouped again here before heading back towards the tunnel and the long bridge. We all stuck together again to cover this section back to Fries Junction.

Back through the tunnel

Once we arrived back there, we just had 5.5 miles left to go. We all made use of the restroom facility at the junction before heading down the trail to the finish. At this point, I was definitely feeling it. Each time Kim’s watch beeped to signal the end of a walk break, both of us would groan as we propelled ourselves back into a run. When things get hard in a race, I always try to remember to embrace it instead of trying to check out on it. This challenge, this thing that’s happening right now is what I came for. If I spend my time wishing for it to be over, I’m in danger of missing the whole experience.

Those last 5 miles definitely stretched out a bit. But we knew we were going to run under 7 hours, which had been our goal going in, and that kept us moving well. At long last, we made the final road crossing and had about 1.5 miles left to go. We crossed a couple of little bridges and then had the finish line in sight as we ran behind the school. Lauren was there with her son to cheer us in. We finished our run in 6 hours and 52 minutes.

Photo: Lauren

Overall, I had a really fantastic day. I had times throughout the run where various body parts were bothering me, but those usually went away with time. As our run went on, the fatigue definitely increased, as expected. But for the first time ever in an ultramarathon, I didn’t hit any mental lows. The mental side of ultrarunning is an area I continue to try and improve.

We cheered Charlotte and Christine in and then we all celebrated a successful day. Kim and I realized this was the first time we have run an ultra together from start to finish, so that was pretty cool!

My next races are the Dam Yeti 50K and the Eastern Divide 50K in June. Officially, this past weekend kicked off my training for both races. There’s nothing like kicking off 50K training with a 50K, right!?

Four Weeks to 50K – Week 4

Here I will document my unconventional training to prepare for a 50K in four weeks time. Sometimes, you just gotta mix it up! For background, I’m coming off of a solid training block last fall and a solo 50K trail run in December. I had a lot of consistency through January and ended the month with a Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge.

Here is a recap of my final week of training!

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – 6 mile run

This run was another regression run. My intention was to slow down 30 seconds each mile. I mostly succeeded, except for mile 5 when I wasn’t paying attention.

I really enjoyed this run because it was such a pretty day outside. There was a hint of spring in the air with temperatures in the low 50’s and lots of sunshine.

After this run, I got my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Wednesday – Rest

I was feeling pretty crummy after my second dose of the vaccine, so I spent the day resting and napping.

Thursday – 4 mile run

About mid-morning, it felt like a switch just flipped and all of a sudden I went from feeling crummy to feeling totally back to normal after the vaccine. So that was kind of cool.

After work I went for a 4 mile progression run, where I sped up about 30 seconds each mile. It was supposed to be 6 miles, but my legs felt kind of heavy and tired so I just kept it at 4.

Friday – Cross training

Gentle yoga/stretching routine

Saturday – 10 mile run

I met up with Kim for an out and back on the New River Trail. The weather was very reminiscent of Crooked Road 24 Hour – 30’s and raining with a wintery mix at times. Yuck!

I felt a little tired and sore on this run, and kind of continued to feel that way throughout the day.

Sunday – 5 mile run

This was the final run on my training plan and it was supposed to be a 10 mile run. But after giving it some thought, I decided to cut it in half. I’ve had a rotation of several things that have been bothering me a little and I was feeling tired. Since our 50K is this Saturday, the shorter run felt best.

Total miles: 25 miles

So that’s it on my four weeks of training for a 50K. My race day will be this Saturday, March 6. I’ll spend this week doing a short taper towards race day with some light cross training and a few short runs.

Four Weeks to 50K – Week 3

Here I will document my unconventional training to prepare for a 50K in four weeks time. Sometimes, you just gotta mix it up! For background, I’m coming off of a solid training block last fall and a solo 50K trail run in December. I had a lot of consistency through January and ended the month with a Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge.

Here is a recap of my third week of training:

Monday – 6 mile run

It was another gray, cold, and rainy day so I opted to run this one on the treadmill. It’s been awhile since I “gave in” and ran indoors, but I enjoyed spending my run watching my latest tv show obsession: Homeland.

Tuesday – Rest

I was ready for a rest day, coming off of three days in a row of running. I’m pretty sure it had been several weeks since I strung three days of running together back to back.

Wednesday – Runner’s choice miles

This run was free choice on the miles, and I planned to run somewhere between 3 to 5 miles first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, the park where I like to run still had their gates locked even though it was after their posted opening time. So that stunk. I drove to a different park and only had time for 1 mile at that point, but I was treated to a spectacular sunrise.

It was only 18 degrees, but I dressed appropriately and wasn’t cold! After work, I headed back out for another 3 miles on the trails. Nothing spectacular to report. The miles got done. So here’s another sunrise photo from the morning.

Thursday – Cross Training

More yoga for runners. I need to do more of this stuff when I start my Yeti and Eastern Divide training. Stretching is good for you and it makes you feel good – did you know that?

Friday – 3 mile walk

During week 1, I did two 3 mile speed walks with the focus of improving my ultramarathon walk. The goal throughout was to improve my time each time. My first 3 mile walk averaged 15:40/mile and the second one averaged 15:19/mile. I wasn’t sure if I could beat that time, but I managed to knock another minute off of my pace and finished this walk with an average pace of 14:08/mile!

We had another ice storm on Wednesday night and none of it had melted from the trees, yet. I’m so over winter at this point, but all of the ice in the trees looked really cool. It even looked like glitter when the sun hit it.

Saturday – 7 mile run

I met up with Kim on the New River Trail to join her for the last 7 of her 18 miler. It was clear and sunny, which I really appreciated. But still very cold with temperatures in the low 20’s and a windchill in the teens.

Narnia

But I managed to dress appropriately for the weather conditions, and that makes all the difference on a run. The sunlight made all of the trees glitter and it sounds kind of hinky, but we were really in awe running down the trail. I wish I had been able to really capture it in a photo. Kim said it was like trying to take pictures of a full moon – it’s never close to how it really looks in person.

Also Narnia
Not freezing, for once.

Sunday – 3 hour long run

This run was time-based instead of having a set distance. I headed back to the New River Trail to start this run mid-morning. It was in the low 30’s at the start of my run and there was still plenty of ice on the rocks and trees along the trail.

It was such a gorgeous day to be outside! It was sunny and warmed up to the low 40’s by the end of my run. The trail got increasingly sloppy throughout, but it was manageable. My shoes and lower legs were a mess by the end!

I ended up getting 15 miles done in 3 hours and 3 minutes. I hadn’t gone that far since early December and I was happy to find that I felt really good on this run. I hit a low around mile 12 or so but pulled out of it by the final mile.

Total miles: 35 miles

Four Weeks to 50K – Week 2

Here I will document my unconventional training to prepare for a 50K in four weeks time. Sometimes, you just gotta mix it up! For background, I’m coming off of a solid training block last fall and a solo 50K trail run in December. I had a lot of consistency through January and ended the month with a Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge.

Here is a recap of my second week of training:

Monday – 5 mile run

I did this run first thing in the morning before breakfast to help simulate running on empty later in a race. It was 10 degrees outside which felt SO cold! But one good thing was the wind wasn’t blowing.

Surprisingly, I had the park to myself on this frigid, pre-sunrise run. Go figure.

Tuesday – 6 mile run

This run was structured as 2 miles at 50%, 1 mile at 100%, 2 miles at 50%, and 1 mile walk. I took the 50% to mean marathon pace and the 100% to mean 5K pace. I made the final walking mile a steady effort, but not quite my speed walk pace.

I felt really good on this run and had fun mixing up the pace throughout. It was also a downright glorious day compared to our weather lately with some sunshine and temperatures in the upper 40’s. I ran in shorts!

Wednesday – 1 mile run

The assignment for today was to run 1 mile at a 100%, PR effort. That sounded pretty daunting. I did a 1 mile warm up and stretched a bit before getting started.

I ran hard and expected to run somewhere between 8 and 9 minutes. I never imagined I could run under 8 minutes for a mile, but I surprised myself and finished in 7:45!

The 1 mile effort was pretty scary to take on, but it turns out that running a 5K is still scarier and more painful.

Thursday – Cross Training

Three minute mountain legs routine (lunges and step-ups).

Friday – Rest

Saturday – 6 mile run

I met up with Kim to run this one on the New River Trail. She was running 20 miles (!!) and I joined her for the last six. It was not such a nice day outside…

As you can see by the trees, we had a lot of ice the day before. The trail was fine, though, and was just wet at muddy. But it was 30 degrees and raining our whole run. Yuck! The bridges were a solid sheet of ice, so we walked/shuffled across those.

Despite the weather, it was really good to see Kim. It had been awhile since we ran together. As always, the miles flew by and she’s a total rockstar for cranking out 20 miles in that weather.

Sunday – 6 mile run

I was really sleepy and didn’t feel like doing this one. But of course, once I got out there I felt good.

No rain, but it was another gray day. It was also foggy and I got soaked from running through the fog. I need to remember to wear a light wind breaker for running in fog in the future.

Total miles – 27 miles