All posts by Meagan

Hi, I'm Meagan! I'm a 20-something middle of the pack runner and I love running races. My favorite distance is the half marathon, and I recently completed my first full marathon this fall! I live in Southwest Virginia with my husband, Barry, and our two dogs. Aside from running, I love cheering on my Hokies, particularly in football.

The Four by Four by Twenty-Four

Hi! It’s been quiet around here since June. I unintentionally let my blog go a bit dormant since then… I guess call it another summer break?

A few summer highlights: Life has continued since the last time I checked in. In July, I celebrated another trip around the sun with a 31K “Fat Ass” for my 31st at our local state park. The course was a 4-ish mile loop, starting and finishing at a pavilion we rented for the day. I invited friends to come out and join in for all or part of it. We had a fun, but hot, day of running and hiking. My dad even surprised me and came out to hang out for the day! We followed the run with a cookout at the pavilion. All in all it was a really fun day!

Barry and I camped at the park for the weekend, and the day following my birthday run/cookout we enjoyed some time on the (lakefront) beach.

There’s always Gin Rummy in the mix when we camp.

Speaking of the beach, we also took our annual camping trip to Myrtle Beach at the end of September. The weather was good, and we enjoyed a relaxing week.

Camping at the beach
October at the beach.
Hank and Scout doing what they do best on a camping trip.

In running news, I’ve been running consistently all summer. I haven’t been following any regimented training plan, and have simply enjoyed running what I feel like each week. But with several races on the horizon, it was time to add a little structure back in, which brings us to this past weekend’s “four by four by twenty-four.” The 4x4x24 translates into running 4 miles every 4 hours for a 24 hour period. I got the idea from one of my Facebook groups, where another runner talked about doing something like 4 miles every 6 hours for a 48 hour period. So clearly my version is much less crazy. Right? Right. The intent was to get in some specific training for my upcoming 24 hour race. Here’s how it went…

Run #1 – 7:00 AM

I did my first run at a nearby park where 6 laps equals 4 miles. 7 AM isn’t all that early… but it was dark and rainy for most of this run so it felt kind of early to me. Despite the clouds, I did get a little peak at the sunrise towards the end of this run. And although I was sleepy, my legs felt fresh and ready for the training that lay ahead.

Hint of a sunrise – it was prettier in person.

Run #2 – 11:00 AM

My second run of the day seemed to arrive very quickly after run number 1. I did not really have my head in the game and was not feeling very motivated to be back out there running again. I headed to a different park, where there is a paved 1/2 mile loop. Today’s training was as much about mental training as it was physical, so I chose a lot of locations that would have me running loops like I will be doing at the Crooked Road 24 Hour. Once I got out there running, I felt good. My legs still felt fresh and this run actually flew by.

Run #3 – 3:00 PM

I chose to do my third run on the treadmill. I wanted to save as much time as possible so that I could shower afterward before we needed to drive to Roanoke. This one went alright. I was definitely starting to feel some soreness in my hips and my legs were feeling a bit fatigued. But the company was good…

Run #4 – 7:00 PM

Run number 4 was interesting because it was done at the Into the Darkness nighttime trail race in Roanoke. Because why not run a race in the midst of all of this? Barry and I ran together, which was fun. This run was the most technical and had the most elevation gain, so I was surprised at how good I felt. My biggest challenge was being too hot in my costume! Full race recap coming in the near future.

Run #5 – 11:00 PM

Similar to my 11 AM run earlier in the day, the time between run #4 and this run seemed very short. I was definitely feeling a lot of overall fatigue and sleepiness. Barry joined me for this run as well, and we completed it at a nearby park. Once again, I was surprised at how good my legs felt. That’s encouraging, since I was now at a total of 20 miles for the day. Run number 5 came complete with a random watermelon on the trail, and some fun glow stick bracelets that we were given at Into the Darkness.

Run #6 – 3:00 AM

This was my final run for this training weekend. I debated on whether or not I should do a final, seventh run at 7AM. But I ultimately decided that technically the training ended at 7 AM Sunday morning, and 24 miles was plenty. The worst part about this run was waiting. I was determined to stay awake until 3 AM to help simulate running while sleep deprived. It was not easy as I was so very tired.

Three AM rolled around at last and it was time to run. For simplicity, I also did this run on the treadmill. I was so sleepy and I desperately wanted to go to bed. I really had to fight to make myself do this one. Aside from being really tired, I felt physically strong during this run. One odd thing was how thirsty I was during this run, even though I think I did a good job staying hydrated all day. I think I drank 20oz of water during this run. And just like that it was done. I grabbed a quick shower and then finally crawled into bed.

I also hit 1,200 miles of running for the year during this training block.

So that’s it! Overall, I feel like things went well and I think this was some good physical and mental training. I kind of felt like all I did all day was run, change clothes, eat, and then repeat. I’m glad it’s done. And for the record, running 6 separate times in one 24 hour period makes for a lot of laundry!!

Twisted Trail 10K – Race Report

The Twisted Trail 10K in Forest, VA took place on June 29. It was my first race after the Dam Yeti 50 Miler. Since the Yeti, I’ve been taking it easy and letting my body recover. So I went into this race without any expectations, other than to relax and have fun.

I met up with Charlotte on my way to the race, and we arrived about 20 minutes before the race start. We ended up parking a little over half a mile from the race start, because the closer lot was full, so it was good Charlotte had picked up our packets the day before.

We made it to the start area in time to catch most of the pre-race meeting. This was the inaugural year for the race, put on by the Blue Ridge Trail Runners, and they had a great turnout of close to 100 runners.

Ready to race!

Just after 8 AM, we were off and running! We ran down the gravel road behind Charlotte and me in the photo above, and then turned onto the trails. I hadn’t been on these trails before and I was excited to check them out! The first mile was primarily downhill and I was in cruise mode.

Charlotte and I were running fairly close to one another, and we linked up after the first mile to run the rest of the race together. It was a lot of fun running together as we chatted and enjoyed being in the woods.

Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

The trails were gently rolling, with a few predominant hills. They weren’t very technical, so I think this would be a great race for a first trail race. We ran by two water stops during the race, and I enjoyed some ice cold Gatorade at each one. We saw BRTR members along the course at intersections and the water stops, and they were friendly and encouraging. From race start to the post-race pizza, they really did a great job putting on this race.

Before I knew it, we were on the last mile. The race totally flew by and I was honestly a bit sad it was coming to an end. I was having a great time running on the trails with Charlotte.

Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

We crossed the line in 1:35:31. The RD, Rhonda, was there handing out some really neat homemade finisher’s medals. They were sliced from a piece of wood and had the race logo on them.

Afterwards, we hung out at the finish area. They had a good spread of food, water and Gatorade, and even had some pizza delivered. They also had a ton of raffle prizes! I was really impressed with the number of prizes they had, but unfortunately neither Charlotte nor I won anything. Boo.

Before wrapping everything up, we also held a moment of silence for Graham Zollman. He was a local Roanoke runner who passed away during the Eastern Divide 8 Mile trail race a couple of weeks ago. It was a shocking and sudden thing. The trail running community is a very friendly and welcoming place, and even in that Graham stood out as one of the friendliest. Happy trails to you, Graham.

Photo taking during the RVTR Turtle Memorial Run the following day.

Dam Yeti 50 Miler – Race Report

Fifty miles is a long way. Duh, right? But even after completing the Dam Yeti 50, I still cannot wrap my head around it. I tried not to write a novel in my attempt to capture the day. Tried being the operative word. But don’t worry… there’s plenty of pictures!

“Welcome to Damascus! Home of the YETI ULTRA RACES”

Barry and I headed down to Damascus on Friday afternoon. He would be crewing me on race day, and I was so excited to have him there for my first 50 miler. We met up with Kim and Charlotte and ate some Subway for dinner. From there, we headed over to packet pick up, where we grabbed our bibs, race shirts, and a few extra goodies.

With the Dam Yeti race director, Jason

There were several reasons why I chose the Dam Yeti 50 for my first 50 miler. For one, it’s close to where we live. Two, I liked the idea of running it on a rail trail to take technical trails out of the equation (although that ended up presenting its own challenges). But most of all, I hear such great things about Yeti Trail Runners and the races put on by Jason. He has so many special touches – from writing a message on the back of each runner’s bib to standing at the finish line ALL day to greet each runner. He truly wants every runner to have a great experience, and we continued to see evidence of that throughout the weekend. I think it’s safe to say I will be a repeat offender with the ‘Yeti Trail Cult’ in the future.

Photo credit: Charlotte

We also met up with Kelly and her husband at packet pickup. Kelly was running her first 50 miler, too. It was so nice to finally meet her in person, although I felt like I already knew her from interacting through Meg’s Miles. From there, we headed back to Damascus to the house Kim, Charlotte, and I rented for the weekend to settle down for the night.

I headed to bed around 10 PM and did not sleep a wink the whole night! Okay, so I did doze off briefly at one point – just long enough to have some bizarre dream about walking to the race shuttle still in my PJ’s. I got up a little before 4:30 AM, before my alarm even went off. Race morning had finally arrived.

One of many entertaining signs we saw along the race course.
Photo credit: Kelly

Despite my sleepless night, I was feeling pretty calm on race morning. I had a checklist of things to follow (braid hair, breakfast, sunscreen, etc.) and I just focused on that. At 5:45 Barry drove us over to catch the shuttle.

Photo credit: Charlotte

The shuttle ride took about 30-35 minutes, winding our way up to Whitetop. I’m glad I don’t get carsick! Once we got up there, I saw the very long line waiting to use one of the two bathrooms at the trailhead. So off to the woods I went to find a spot to pee. My pre-race bathroom spot even had a lovely view of a Christmas tree farm!

Pre-race bathroom view.

With business taken care of, I reconvened with Kim, Charlotte, and Kelly. We enjoyed a funny pre-race talk from Jason and before I knew it we were off and running! No turning back now. Dam Yeti was really happening.

Photo credit: Kim

I was nervous as we started out, but I was also excited. My plan was to focus on running aid station to aid station, instead of thinking about the race as a whole. I think that’s how you get these things done – one step at a time. It was cloudy, cool, and overcast. The trail meandered in and out of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, as we made our way down the mountain. Being surrounded by the dense forest helped me settle and find some inner peace about the challenge that lay ahead.

I started the race using a 30 minute run / 5 minute walk interval. My main focus was to run conservatively during the first 18 miles to Damascus, since they were all downhill. I didn’t want to have too much pounding on my joints. Before I knew it, I was rolling through Green Cove at mile 3.

Photo credit: Charlotte

I continued to follow my plan, and a little over two hours into the race I was coming through Taylor’s Valley. I arrived at the first aid station just beyond Taylor’s Valley, between miles 10 and 11. I still felt fresh and was running steady. The volunteers at the aid station were enthusiastic. They even offered me Fireball! Sadly, I turned them down. One time, I thought it would be a good idea to eat cinnamon bears while running and it made me sweat profusely. I didn’t want the same thing to happen with cinnamon whiskey, especially with 40 freaking miles still to run. So maybe next time!

Gorgeous Taylor’s Valley
Aid station 1

From here it was another 7 miles to Damascus – the second aid station and the first time I would get to see Barry. On the way there, my right hip and right upper hamstring started to bother me a bit. It would come in waves, and I hoped it wouldn’t become a lingering issue.

Photo credit: Charlotte

My plan was to arrive in Damascus no sooner than 4 hours, and I came in around 3:57. Good enough!

Photo credit: Jordan

Barry refilled my water for me while I dropped off my trash, put my next round of fuel in my pack, and reapplied chafing stuff and sunscreen. I think I spent about 4-5 minutes here before heading back out. I also got to see some of my Blacksburg peeps on my way out, which was cool!

Photo credit: Charlotte
Photo credit: Jordan

As I made my way towards the third aid station at Alvarado / mile 25, I started seeing the 50K runners on their way back. Alvarado was their turnaround, so the further down the trail I got the more runners I saw. We were all cheering each other on, which was fun. It was starting to get warmer and the trail was more exposed through here, so I was happy for the distraction.

I held on to my 30/5 interval for one rotation on the way to Alvarado before switching to an 8 minute run / 2 minute walk interval. It kept me moving well and helped me deal with the heat and the pain that was still coming in waves in my hip and hamstring. We were also running on a gradual uphill now (for the next 16 miles!), so the shorter run segments were more manageable for me.

Old Pepsi machine is rumored to have magical powers.
Photo credit: Charlotte

After mile 22, my right hip and hamstring went from protesting to outright screaming at me. I’m not sure what the deal was, but I was determined not to let it stop me from accomplishing my goal. As I got closer to the aid station, lots of bikers coming down the trail kept telling me “you’re almost to the turnaround!” because it was the turnaround for the 50K. I tried not to let it get in my head, but it wasn’t easy to hear that over and over again before I had even hit the halfway point of my race.

(This is actually from the early miles, but my expression was probably about the same.)
Photo credit: Jesse Kokotek

Just before I arrived at the aid station, I saw Kim headed back towards the finish for her first 50K. I knew I would be seeing her soon and I was so excited for her. Charlotte wasn’t far behind me, and she and Kim ended up finishing within a minute of each other. I came into the aid station and got to see Barry again. I was also surprised to see my friend, and fellow Meg’s Miles runner, Selina! She had come down, along with Kelly’s daughter, to surprise Kelly for the race. After refueling, rehydrating, and reapplying sunscreen I was on my way towards Watauga. I also put in a request to Barry to have some Biofreeze for when I next saw him around mile 33 or 34 to try and help my hip and hamstring.

Elevation profile for the entire race. Big downhill from miles 0-18, and a gradual uphill from 18-34ish.

This next five mile stretch of trail from Alvarado to Watauga was the most beautiful. But it was also really hot. Don’t get me wrong, we had phenomenal weather for early June in southwest Virginia. It definitely could have been much worse. But it was so sunny and hot through here and I started to drag.

My roughest section of the race was from miles 27-33. I was still running, but I was cheating on my 8/2 intervals by doing some extra walking. I rolled through Watauga aid station at mile 30ish, where I refilled water and drank a cup of Coke. From here it was just 3 miles to the turnaround in Abingdon, but it took forever!

Funny race sign in Watauga

Despite my fatigue and the heat, it was kind of exciting to hit the 50K mark on my way to Abingdon. Lo and behold, I ran my second fastest 50K time ever during the race!

About a mile from the turnaround I saw Kelly headed back down the trail. She looked strong and confident and I was happy to see her running so well! Then I finally made it to the turnaround where I got to see Barry again. There was no aid station here, but he had provisions for me – including that Biofreeze and some surprise Swedish fish (the best candy)! His parents were also there to crew and cheer me on. Kelly’s crew (her husband, her daughter, and Selina) was still there, too. They gave me some ice, which I put in my bra and against the inside of my wrist with my buff. It felt ah-mazing!!

Photo credit: Kelly
I had to share this… the unicorn man was our turnaround point.
Too funny!
Photo credit: Yeti Trail Runners

It was also here in Abingdon that I declared my distaste for peanut butter oat balls. They’re a homemade fuel I’d been using in training (oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, raisins, and dried cranberries). Somewhere past mile 25 I just did NOT want them anymore. But it was more than that. It was like they offended me for even existing. So I threw them down at the turnaround in Abingdon and told Barry not to give me anymore of them the rest of the race. Funny how stuff like that happens during a long run!

The offending peanut butter oat balls. Don’t worry… we’ve since made up.

With all of that taken care of, I was back on my way down the trail. It felt good to finally be at the turnaround and on my way back towards the finish. There were “just” 17 miles to go! I also totally forgot about having just applied the Biofreeze. I had a moment of panic when I couldn’t figure out why one leg was suddenly ice cold. But then I remembered. šŸ™‚

I was now running on a gradual downhill, and I thought I would start cruising again at this point. However, my quads had joined the protest party and I definitely wasn’t running the way I expected. But I kept moving as best I could.

I also discovered I could charge my watch on the run with a portable charger. The stupid thing started acting up 10 days before the race. So I had this plan in place, just in case, but I had no idea if it would actually work until I tried it at mile 34.

Charging on the go.

I ran back through Watauga, where I had some Mountain Dew and a couple of orange slices. From there it was 5 miles back through the open fields to Alvarado. I had been running for 9 to 10 hours, and I definitely started to get a little loopy at this point. I would think about eating, drinking, and taking a salt pill. And then a few minutes later I couldn’t remember if I had done any of it or not. The struggle was real.

Gorgeous, but hot. So hot.

I won’t lie, it was rough getting back to Alvarado. I was so hot and tired. But I also got to see my watch click over to 40 miles on the way there, and that was really exciting! Apparently I looked pretty rough coming in to Alvarado at mile 42ish. Enough so to worry Barry. But they had popsicles at the aid station, and that made life better. Barry also had more ice for me which helped immensely. I was feeling rough, but mentally I was very much still in the game. Things were starting to feel real. I was really doing this! I had 7-8 miles to the finish, and it was time to get it done.

I’m not sure what happened during this final stretch, but something clicked. Maybe I found another gear or a second wind. Or maybe I just found a new way to embrace the pain and fatigue. I’m not sure. But all of a sudden I was running strong again. I was truly sticking to my 8/2 interval and sometimes I was even running through it. I saw a giant turtle on the trail along the way, but ain’t nobody got time for pictures after 40+ miles of running.

I was running with a purpose in those final miles. It probably wasn’t really all that fast, but I felt like I was cruising and even saw some sub-11 paces pop up on my watch during those run segments. Even so, it felt like a long way back to Damascus. Finally, I saw Barry coming out to run the last mile with me. He was excited to see me running well, and that gave me even more of a boost. I crossed that final trestle bridge and could see the finish and hear my friends cheering me in.

Photo credit: Charlotte

Kim and Charlotte made a tunnel for me to run through, just like my old soccer days, and Jason greeted me at the finish line with a big hug. Running 50 miles was so hard. It was a long day. I was in disbelief that I had finally arrived at the finish line – 12 hours and 10 minutes after leaving Whitetop that morning!

Photo credit: Jesse Kokotek

After Jason gave me my medal and finisher’s glass, Barry and Selina had to remind me to actually cross the finish line. Then I was engulfed in a big hug from Barry.

Photo credit: Charlotte

After a few photos, it was time to go in the creek! We’d been running alongside water on and off for much of the race, and all I could think about was soaking my feet in the creek. Charlotte, God bless her, helped me get my shoes and socks off. Surprisingly, my feet fared really well. I didn’t have a single blister. However, I did have heat rash on both of my feet. That was a new one for me, but it was gone within a few days.

The cool water in the creek felt incredible!!
Photo credit: Charlotte

After sharing our war stories from the day, Kim, Charlotte, Barry, and I parted ways with Kelly and her crew. I grabbed a shower back at the house, and then we grabbed some dinner at the Damascus Old Mill Inn. We even had a lovely view of the waterfall (photo taken the next morning).

Overall, I had an incredible experience at the Dam Yeti 50 Miler. I think it was the right one for me for my first 50. Running a rail trail definitely presented it’s own mental challenge – especially since I ran on my own the entire race. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this very long race report, Jason pours his heart and soul into these events. He wants everyone to have a successful race.

Kick ass medal

Fifty miles is a long way. Even sitting here days later, I can’t comprehend it. But even though I can’t wrap my head around it, I still freaking did it. I went through low points and learned how to keep going and push through. I discovered new capabilities in how far I can go. Running 50 miles didn’t hurt more than the 50K’s I’ve run, it just hurt for longer. It was awesome, and hard, and long, and beautiful, and one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.

Fierce AF women
Photo credit: Selina

When you boil it down, it’s ultimately on the runner to complete the race. But it would not happen without the support of others. I’m so thankful for my friends and family who supported me throughout training and who sent me words of encouragement leading up to the race. I’m also grateful for the awesome volunteers at the race who kept me fed, hydrated, and in good spirits throughout the day.

I couldn’t have done it without the guidance and support of my coach, Janice, who got me to a 50 mile finish practically 13 months to the day after getting out of my boot from a stupid stress fracture. And most of all, I wouldn’t have the guts to take on these challenges without the unwavering support of my husband, Barry. He believes in me even when I’m doubting myself. Seeing him proud of me when I reach a new achievement is always the cherry on top of every accomplishment.

Photo credit: Jesse Kokotek

Why

It’s one week until the Dam Yeti 50 Miler – the longest race I’ve ever attempted. I get a lot of questions from people who find out about my ultrarunning: How long does that take… Do you run the whole time… Do you eat during the race… etc. But the main question I get: Why?

It’s a simple question, but I’ve got a number of answers. Why do I run?

  1. First and foremost, I run because the world is complicated and running is simple.
  2. I like to try new distances to test my limits. I want to better my endurance, humility, mental toughness, and patience.
  3. I run to get better at getting older.
  4. Running allows me to escape the crowds, the noise, and the stresses of everyday life.
  5. I run because it gives me a purpose and connects me with a community in which I thrive.
  6. I run to explore nature, new places, and the limits of both my body and my mind.

Now specifically: Why run 50 miles?

  1. To see how long I can hold the palm of my hand over the proverbial candle flame.
  2. To push my limits and hopefully, in doing so, experience more joy and success than ever before.
  3. To accomplish something that at times seems impossible.

The ultrarunning community is quirky. But it’s also wholesome and deeply meaningful. Fifty miles or bust…. Let’s do this!

Dirty German 50K – Race Report

Where to begin….

I could just cut to the chase. This race report will be a little different than those I’ve written in the past, because the Dirty German 50K was my very first DNF (did not finish). But let’s start from the beginning.

Long sleeve, full zip race shirts

I signed up for the Dirty German 50K to get in a final long run before tapering for the Dam Yeti 50 Miler. Furthermore, I had heard great things about the folks at Uberendurance Sports and the events they put on. I was really excited to get in a supported long run on some new-to-me trails. Unfortunately, I woke up with a stomach virus on Thursday morning before the race.

The virus only lasted about 12 hours, but it took a lot out of me. I was able to keep ginger ale and Gatorade down on Thursday night, and nibbled on some Saltines Friday morning. By Friday afternoon I decided I felt well enough to give this thing a try, so my dad and I hopped in the car and headed up to Philadelphia.

We checked into our hotel, and headed out to find some dinner. Although the virus was gone, I still just didn’t feel great and food was not appealing at all. I ordered chicken and rice for dinner, and mostly just picked at it. Race morning rolled around and we headed over to the start. It was a large race, but we were able to find street parking easily. I grabbed my bib, and had just enough time to make one loop through mile-long bathroom line before the start.

WeĀ didĀ receiveĀ aĀ post-raceĀ emailĀ fromĀ theĀ RD aboutĀ theĀ portaĀ pottyĀ companyĀ droppingĀ theĀ ball.Ā ThisĀ issueĀ willĀ beĀ addressedĀ forĀ futureĀ races.

If you didn’t already notice, the race had a German theme, and we got to enjoy some polka music by an accordion player at the start line. Just 36 hours after the last time I puked, I toed the start line of the race. (Sorry if that’s TMI, but I keep it real. Just wait…) The weather was perfect for a race, the atmosphere was fun, and I was hopeful that things would just work out somehow.

Five pounds lighter, and ready to go.

At 8 AM we were off and running. My plan was to go out super slow and see how things went. As we ran across the grass and towards the trails, I really couldn’t believe I was there doing this. I couldn’t believe my body was actually functioning and running.

I was feeling okay as I ran towards the first aid station at mile 3.5. I was definitely a bit weak and lacking energy, and it just did not feel good to be hot and sweaty so soon after being sick. But at this point, I thought I might be able to get through this whole race. The trails were pretty, I had good company around me in the other runners, and I was happy to be outside.

Blurry, sorry.

I rolled in to the first aid station and they had an awesome spread – and I wanted none of it. I had sipped on water during the first miles and managed to eat a few Honey Stinger chews, but that was it. I grabbed half a pickle spear and walked over to catch up with my dad, who was biking around the course to crew me. I spoke with him briefly before heading up the trail.

This stomach virus had such bad timing. I really enjoyed running through Pennypack Park at this race. The trails were very runnable with a few fun, technical sections. There were times that I could look around and not even tell I was in the middle of Philadelphia. And then there were other times where we would run through areas with urban features and graffiti.

The first part of the stretch from aid station 1 to aid station 2 got pretty congested. We were running along singletrack trails, and the lead pack of 25K runners (who had started 30 minutes after the 50K) were catching me. As they were zooming by from behind, I also started to encounter the lead 50 Mile runners on their way back (they started 30 minutes before the 50K). And I was the turtle in the middle of the highway. šŸ™‚

We finally got off of the singletrack and onto a wider trail along the creek. Some parts of this trail were swampy, with some big mud puddles. They were fun to run through, but I can definitely see where this section could get miserable when the city has had a lot of rain, like in years past. I was having fun, but things were starting to go downhill for me.

As I neared aid station 2 at mile 7.5, I started to feel pretty bad. I felt like I might need to go to the bathroom, and my stomach was feeling like it was full of air. I kept having waves of stomach cramps that were so painful I wanted to curl up in a ball. I still hadn’t given up on this race, though, and I drank a cup of soda at the aid station (Ahem… Pepsi instead of Coke. Come on, man.). But again, I couldn’t bring myself to eat any food. My dad was there, and he said I needed to eat something. I don’t think I was rude at this point, but I made it clear I did not want anything. I headed back out on the trail towards aid station 3 at mile 12.

The course was a 25K loop in the shape of a figure eight. So even though aid station 1 and 3 were in the same spot, we only backtracked on a small portion of trail (that congested section from earlier). The 50 Milers and lead 50K runners were on their way back out again, so there was some traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. I kept trying to appreciate being out there, but my entire GI system was in the process of taking me down. Here’s some more TMI – I would have severe gas pain, would pass some gas, would get about 45 seconds of relief, and then the cycle would repeat. I don’t think this was remnants of the virus, so much as just trying to run a trail race on a system that was empty and out of whack. But who knows.

I made two pit stops on my way to aid station three, but it didn’t make much difference. I was feeling so awful, and was also getting dizzy on the uphills. I started to realize my day was probably over. The frustrating part is that my legs and feet felt great. They were ready to run! I finally made it to aid station three, where my dad was waiting. I bent over with my hands on my knees and moaned and complained, passed more gas, and day dreamed about laying down. But there was a tiny bit of resolve left in me. I thought if I could get some ginger ale from the aid station maybe I could get through this still, somehow. But they only had water, Pepsi, Gatorade, and Mountain Dew. An aid station volunteer was so encouraging – she recommended some potatoes with salt (I did have one small piece). She also encouraged me to focus on hydrating while I finished the loop, and to not give up.

It’s okay to laugh. I laughed at this photo when I saw it after the race.

I trudged on, determined to at least finish one loop. By this point the effort of going uphill was almost more than I could handle. And I couldn’t stand to run downhill because of all the air in my stomach. I wish I had been able to figure something out for this, but it was so different from other GI-related adversities I’ve faced during other races.

Again, how can this be in the middle of Philadelphia?

The final 3.5 miles took me forever. I could hear that accordion at the finish line playing for nearly a mile. I finally arrived at the finish and wasn’t sure what to do, having never DNF’ed a race before. I ran through the loop side of the finish line and informed the race staff that I was done. They sent me over to the timer so he could mark my bib number in the system. And then it was done.

After I finished speaking with the timer, a race official gave me a finisher’s medal. I was surprised and asked “I still get one of these?” And he replied “Yes, you completed the 25K.” The medal is a combination medal for all three race distances, so I guess I felt okay accepting it. I did not complete the race I signed up to run, which is disappointing. But I feel like 15.5 miles was an accomplishment in itself, given my circumstances.

After the race, my dad and I hung out in the post race area. There were lots of people hanging out, and it was a fun and festive atmosphere. As promised, they were cooking up some fantastic German food. I had been so looking forward to bratwurst at the finish. But it didn’t appeal to me at all, and I could barely even stand the smell. I managed to eat a couple of fig newtons and a few pretzels.

The race had a long cutoff time, and I practically had time to walk another loop. But to what end? I felt terrible, and there was no point in pushing my body further just to get an official finish. It was’t going to be beneficial training for Yeti, and I don’t know how long my recovery would have been if I had forced myself through another 25K.

So there you have it. The story of my first DNF. I’ve always been afraid of opening the door to DNF’ing at an ultramarathon. I feel like once you do it the first time, it will get easier to do in the future. However, I feel like this was a special case. And it was probably the right call. Fifteen days to Yeti!