A Race Report by HPRS Staff Columnist Christopher Mellott
This report is a follow up to Chris’ last submission: Into The Unknown
Badger Mountain 50 Mile Challenge
March 30th 2018
I had used the free ultramarathon training schedule generator from the Santa Clarita Runners at Ultramarathon Training Plan Generator for my first two 50Ks and felt that it had been pretty successful. I had also had a pretty strong 2017 in terms of racing. I raced two 50Ks, one marathon, a 30K and three different 25Ks. I had a solid sense of what a good training block would look like. I was going to run 40-55 miles per week, worry less about the long back to back runs (especially since those are not fun on a treadmill) and continue to run everyday. I focused on quality miles over quantity and dedicated Tuesdays and Thursdays for hard workouts on the treadmill. Tuesdays focused on speedwork and getting faster and Thursdays were for running uphill! I kept most of my runs faster than nine minute miles except on trails. I ran in the snow, mud, cold and in stuff gyms to get in my miles.
My goals as I prepared for this race were to not feel beat up and then immediately go back into another week. I run everyday so I knew my body could suffer but it was easier to keep my long runs in the 10-14 miles per day and back to back rather than the 20/10 long runs sometimes prescribed in the training plan generator. I also raced less. I walked more with Diesel and Chelsea and stood at my desk more. Little things that I learned from my second 50K where I averaged more miles on average in training weeks and put in longer days but felt tired even after two weeks of tapering.
I trusted that running everyday my body would know how to suffer well and would make up for the lack of really long runs. I was correct.
Gear and Nutrition:
Running everyday has its perk. I know what I really love and how it works. I had no surprise and all my gear and nutrition had been thoroughly tested during my training block.
My go to shorts that have held up since August 2014 ( thank you order history) is the Brooks 5″ Essential Run Short. These shorts are nothing fancy, they won’t hold your Iphone but they will last a really long time and be really comfortable. I wore them over a pair of Nike Pro Combat Compression Shorts (more like underwear really). I wore a basic Adidas Men’s Ultimate Melange Adidas Long Sleeve. I changed shirts at mile 30 just to refresh. I love the long sleeve because a little more protection from elements but the sleeve roll up easy enough.
I used the Nathan Vaporkrar 4l Race Vest for my race. I bought this vest in July 2017 and it has seen so many miles. I use it almost daily to carry my cell phone, dog treats, bags and all my nutrition. I changed the smaller bottles that came with the vest for some larger 20oz ones and it has served me well. I am probably one of the few people who love the stash pockets on the side of the vest. I carried 4 gels, cell phone, jacket, gloves, some Shot Bloks and my trusty Ipod, as well as 40 oz of fluid and never really noticed any of it.
I have been using Spring Energy as my gel like food. I say gel like because it’s more like applesauce. I find the sweetness isn’t overbearing and truth be told they just taste better. I recommend the Punchy Plum. at aid stations that I was downing tortilla chips and ginger ale I was getting some additional nutrients from Honey Stinger Waffles. I love the gluten free wildflower honey flavor and it made for a welcome treat in between gels. I drank more water than any other race and used more electrolytes to keep me moving strong. I used Nuun as my go to electrolyte and hydration product. I randomly assigned flavors to aid station bags so that it was a surprise as to which flavor I was going to get. My favorites are lemon lime and citrus fruit. The combination of these kept me feeling pretty terrific and energized.
As Jim Walmsley is quoted in a interview with Ultrarunning Magazine saying “A big takeaway early this year was how much of an eating contest ultras are. I don’t mean sitting around and picking at the M&M’s at the aid stations, but slamming calories while you’re still running, getting in calories with your fluids”. I went into this ultra with that in mind and as long as my body felt pretty good I continued to eat calories whenever and however I could get them.
I used Injinji socks and Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 and my feet felt great during and after the race. I trained in them and raced in them and could not have been happier. I had a second pair of shoes in case but it never even crossed my mind to change my shoes.
I only had three real goals going into this race.
- Don’t die
2. Don’t get injured enough to end the running streak
Those were the only goals. As I am almost two weeks past the event and writing this recap I can safely say I made it! The running streak is alive and I have the medal to prove I finished. I finished right around 10:56:00.
As the race director gave last minute directions to all the runners my Garmin chirped as it found the satellite signal. Just like that I was venturing into the unknown of my first 50 mile race. I had no idea how I would do, what my average pace would look like and if I had planned enough in case things got rough, but there I was running up Badger Mountain in the early morning light.
The first ten miles went over Badger, down Badger, up Candy Mnt, and then back down again before running through a culvert under the road and onto the dirt road around some vineyards. I met my crew at the 10 mile aid station where they refilled my water, gave me a waffle and sent me on my way to tackle the next eight miles.
I ran into the heart of the vineyards wishing there was some kind of growth or vegetation as the wind and the sun took their punches. Some of the trail was dirt so fine that it hung in a layer around my ankle. I arrived at mile 18.5 feeling pretty good. I spent a short time eating some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and reloading for the McBee climb. The biggest climb of the race. I reloaded water, gels, shot bloks and took some tortilla chips to go and began the climb.
I raced up McBee (well race is pretty strong, I didn’t die getting to the top) and then began my journey to the turnaround point just over 23 miles into the race. I battled the roaring winds as i navigated across road/trail/piles of rocks. I hit a rock hard with left foot more specifically my large toe.. I stumbled, nearly lost my balance but managed to correct myself and carried on towards the furthest aid station where volunteers were hunkered down behind plastic tarps on top of this mountain full of smiles and positivity. I was so energized by them that I probably said thank you every third word they said. With a smile and another thank you I turned around and ran back the way I came. I clicked off miles quietly running mostly by myself listening to my playlist (Future note to self, Shuffle, say it with me now shuffle on the Ipod). I got to the mile 30.5 aid station.
I was so happy to see ginger ale and pickles. I ate these as greedily and yet as respectful as I could and then met my crew who reloaded me with everything. I took off my shoes and cleaned my feet and dried them and put thinner socks on. I felt 100 times better. I also had a ham sandwich which may have been the greatest basic sandwich of my life. I also picked up my Dad as my pacer and with a “I love you” to Chelsea and my Mom and we were off.
Dad paced me like he was a bunny and I was the hound which did not work for me. I asked him to slow down and just make sure we kept moving. For the next ten miles we walked, hiked, climbed, and even did some running. It was nice for someone else struggle with the course as I had. I run faster than Dad but there are not many people who power hike a hill like he does so we balanced out and enjoyed the course, and that damn sand again together.
We ran into the vineyards aid station again. Dad repaired his blister while I ate more waffle and rinsed my hair and washed my face. I had another cookie and we took off. We ran through the same culvert under the road, back up the same hills and down into the last aid station before the finish. At this point I am confident I am going to finish, I am confident that I can get to the finish line before dark and that I don’t need my headlamp. One last reload and I was out on the course again for the last 4.5 miles.
As I am climbing I start to see 100 mile runners starting their second out and am in awe of them. The spirit and energy they possess is incredible and I remember that that is one of the reasons running is so special, so important to me. Strangers telling me “good work”, “looking strong” and other positive messages as they are undoubtedly wrestling with their own struggles. One runner tells me I am close and to “punch it” to the top of the last hill. I decline feeling my legs begging me not too. I crest the hill right as the temperature starts downward and I feel a slight burst of energy as Dad and I take off downhill for the last two miles.
I run down the switchbacks knowing that the finish line is near, that Chelsea and my Mom are patiently waiting for us. I want to finish and finish as strong as I can with every fibre in my body and Dad is with me. This is afterall his longest run of all time. We descend the final staircase and enter the finishers chute together. Family is there, strangers are cheering for me and I am a dam about to burst. The rush of emotions almost overwhelms me with tears. I cross the finish line, collect my medal, share a few words with the race director and hobble over to the crew.
I had finished! I was exhausted but more alive and full of energy then I have ever been. It was this surreal feeling of being so energized but know that any minute you could fall asleep. I completed my third ultra and ran the longest one to date.
My toe that fought the rock at mile 23. It lost, and now looks like Mel Gibson in Braveheart with half of it blue and bruised and the other half completely unaffected.
I got back to the hotel, and cleaned up. I soaked in a hot bath, and then showered. After I felt like I was presentable we went to dinner where I unapologetically ate bottomless fries and diet coke long after everybody else was done eating.
I got back to the hotel room ready to sleep. Chelsea and I shared a few words. I thanked her for being out there for me, I thanked her for supporting my ventures in running, I thanked her for being an incredible crew chief and I asked her if she wanted the job for life. I asked her if she would marry me and she said…. Yes!
I adventured into the unknown. I am more than pleased with how I performed and am excited about what I could do with a flatter course or with more experience. I am excited to attempt the distance again and you know maybe go get myself one of those belt buckles ultra runners keep talking about.
Shout outs, thanks:
I am so fortunate to have had my parents and Chelsea out crewing and pacing for this adventure and I could not have done it without their support. I wrote them individual notes of thanks but I am so grateful for their support whether leading the crew, cheering me on, or running miles with me.
The Race director and all the volunteers were incredible. They made the aid stations so easy for a runner and all the directional signage was easy to follow without really thinking about it. At the turnaround point when I was trying to stop from getting blown over those guys were out there the whole time taking care of runners and I am deeply appreciative of the dedication and hard work that went into this race to make it a success.