03 May 2010

The Miwok 100k

I was really excited to run the Miwok 100k – it was on some of the same trails as the North Face Challenge – San Francisco 50 Miler, trails that are so gorgeous you will (if you are me), shout to the nearest runner, “Oh my god! Isn’t that gorgeous?” It is that amazingly beautiful. It makes me want to pack up my cute little apartment and head to the left coast for a lifetime of amazing trail running.

The race started at 5.40a.m. on the Beach. Starting on sand was a little challenging, but fun. We quickly filed into one-by-one and headed up a trail. Some people had headlamps, but most didn’t. We all went on a short out-and-back, and I got to see some of my friends, which was really nice – and of course, be wowed by Kami Semeck, Anton K., Jen Shelton, among others.

The hills were tough, but I was feeling pretty good. However, I very quickly felt the heat. At mile ten, I dropped my long-sleeved shirt and gloves into my first drop bag, and headed on. Around mile 15, I realized I would soon be out of water. I’m usually fine at ultras – but I usually don’t run upwards of 7 miles with no water, and I’m usually not suddenly thrust into heat like this.

At the mile 19 or 20 aid station, I asked a volunteer if they had an extra water bottle. We improvised; she filled an empty plastic juice bottle with water.  I ran with this rather awkwardly the rest of the way.

The course was full of ups and downs…I got passed on those horrible, somewhat technical section leading down to the beach, but then felt strong going upwards. There was tripping, gasps at beautiful views of the water, of beaches, of rolling hills. I could not believe there were this many trails with phenomenal views, just outside one of the coolest cities in the U.S.

Mile 28.5 (and again around mile 40-ish) had a great Hawaiian theme, complete with leis, popsicles, potatoes, and very friendly faces. Scott Jurek was helping out; I think his girlfriend was running the race as well.

Everyone loved my all-pink ensemble: pink visor, pink tank, pink polka dot skirt, pink compression sleeves, pink gaiters. “The pink lady!” It cheered me up, but at the end, when people told me how good I looked, I ensured them that I felt like utter crap.

I tripped on the clumsy grass and fell. A man running behind me had me take a salt pill, and I stumbled on awkwardly. I felt like I was falling apart.

Around mile 49, I just wanted the stupid race to be over. That’s why 50 milers are my favourite race: just when you’re aching for it to be over, it is.

I continued on, mostly alone, as I was most of the race. I met some kickass people, but found myself running ahead of them or falling behind – towards the end of the race, it was mostly falling behind.

My shins were aching increasingly, on the lower anterior portions. I could feel blisters growing. I was very sunburnt, dehydrated, lacking salt, electrolytes, sugar. My asthma (usually quite in control) was not very stable and I found myself using my inhaler multiple times, especially whenever I tried to push it on an uphill. (At the end, I simply walked every uphill rather than run, for the mere reason that I was worried my asthma would not push me into a full-on asthma attack.) I was quite disoriented and was crying hysterically on and off the last 12.5 miles.

At the final aid station, not knowing there was another aid station (and hoping, oh please, we were almost at the finish), when a woman told me how much longer, I allowed myself to bawl in front of her.

“Take some ibuprofen,” she told me. “I can give you some.”

“I can’t,” I wept. “I can’t take ibuprofen.” Stupid surgery messing up everything. “I hurt everywhere,” I told her. “My shins hurt…my asthma is messed up. I have blisters and I’m so out of it. I hate this race.”

She listened to me cry. “Would you like me to run the rest of the race with you?”

I stared at her in shock. “That’s five miles!”


“No, you need to run your race.”

And that’s why I love ultrarunners…this woman, who did now know me at all, would throw her race (and any training she had put into it) to help me – a complete stranger. (I remember at The Boston Marathon when I paused to find my endurolytes, completely dizzy and not a single runner offered support. Road runners are a different breed.)

I encouraged her to go on, and was weeping as I entered the final aid station.

The volunteers were quite concerned. They made me take endurolytes, eat jellybeans, cookies. “Sugar depletion,” they diagnosed. They asked me if I was sure I was okay, told me I would be okay. Before leaving, I threw myself in a volunteer’s arms, completely bawling. I felt selfish for crying at a wonderful, beautiful race when I have so much to be thankful for in this world, but I just couldn’t stop.

I went on, crying, eating jellybeans. I stopped crying, and pushed it up the hills. The last 3.8 miles felt like 20. I used my inhaler, cursed my shins, struggled on the climbs, cried some more.

Finally, you get to the top and see the race down below. It looks so close – but it’s SO far. Much of the downhill was on asphalt, and I’m pretty sure the course is designed this way is so that it could torture my aching shins. I almost cried with each and every step, and tried to run in a very controlled fashion.

The finish was windy, but beautiful – waves crashing in, cheers. I crossed the finish line and began crying out of control. Karen helped me, along with some of the race volunteers. They covered me with blankets as I cried, shivering, suffering. It was over, but I still hurt. I lied down on the dirt ground in front of the heat lamp with a fleece blanket saying MIWOK 100k (BTW, great race swag: a t-shirt, hat, bottle, bag, bottle of beer, blanket, more), crying, shivering.

I woke up, sunburned, in pain, feeling horrid. I felt nauseas, almost like I had the flu. Was it sunburn? Was it hell? Who knows, but it sucked.

I got this feeling of being so selfish for not enjoying this beautiful race and wonderful opportunity (especially when I won’t be able to run post-recovery), but I just couldn’t make myself do it.

Overall, it was a beautiful struggle. I’m SO glad I finished, although the end completely sucked and was painful and unhappy. However, finishing when you’re in pain – it proves just how strong you are.

And just because I’m from New York and weak on the hills doesn’t mean I’ll let the hills conquer my soul.


Brandon said...

Wow, that sounds like quite an experience! Awesome job pushing through the pain though and finishing the race!

Peter.Shoemaker said...


Thanks for your write-up of Miwok. Truly inspirational stuff; congrats on sticking it out and getting it done. Perfectly wonderful read as I'm sitting here recovering from a brutal 50K this weekend.

SEXO said...

Though hard to explain, I am glad you went through this. Your optimism is bound to turn it around into a great moment in your life... I am proud of you for finishing!


Anonymous said...

Great race report; great job pushing through all that adversity. It's five days before the Quicksilver 50Mi and I am recovering from a heavy cold, so your struggle against the odds is inspiring!
--Jason Thompson
(also in training for 2011 Black Rock City 50K...(:)

Kevin Luu said...

Great race report! Trail runners and ulrarunners lookout for one another. Have a good recovery so that you can get back on the trails.


TonyP said...

Great report Cherie! Congrats on the finish!

Run100s said...

I was the volunteer at Tennessee Valley whose arms you threw yourself into. Glad you made it!

Stan Jensen

cherie said...

Stan, I love you. Thank you!

Ron Little said...

Congratulations on finishing such a difficult race, Cherie, and thanks for sharing your story.

Thanks for mentioning the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station and taking a picture of the sign that my running club put up. The Coastside Running Club staffs that aid station and I volunteered there the last two years, but this year I ran the race which was my first 100K. I thought that was a really tough course, but amazingly beautiful, too.

J.N. Ho said...

amazing! good job :)

Ken Swab said...

Great report on a great race on a spectacular day! I thought I suffered the last 8 miles or so, but now I know better. Great job toughing it out.
Ken S.