My second year running Paiute Meadows 50k brought all the feels to the front line: anxiety, relief, sadness, joy, disgust, and more joy.
Like last year, the race happened the day before Mother’s Day. Timing is one of the things I love most about this race. It’s a great mid-spring 50k for people who (like me) aren’t crazy about training in the winter. It also occurs when all the wildflowers are in full bloom.
There were times I felt like I was wandering through a fairy tale garden. The sky was clear blue, birds were singing, and the well-maintained trails were lined with flowers of all colors.
I made sure to take photos this year (click through).
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This is me standing next to superstar @runrabbitwood who went on to win @paiutemeadowstrailrun for the second year in a row! Big congrats to Molly! Of course, once the race started I fell way back. This year I remembered to bring my phone so I could take pics of the beautiful flowers along the trail. Thanks so much to Linda Powell and all the many, many cheerful people who brought this event together. Thanks @hammernutrition and all the other wonderful sponsors for your support! I saw a gentleman take a photo of me running through the finish with my dog- if anyone can help me get that picture it would make my dog-mother’s day complete. 💐🐾🏃🏼♀️🤘 #trailrunning #ultrarunning #50k #wildflowers #howihammer #raceday #paiutemeadowstrailrun #runwow
Anxiety and relief
I only registered for this race about two weeks before it happened, so my personal anticipation period was relatively brief. I had been planning to run McDonald Forest 50k the week before, but made a last-minute switcheroo for logistical reasons.
My feelings going into Paiute Meadows Trail Run (PMTR from here on) were a mix of anxiety and relief.
As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been a whole year since I ran a 50k. It’s been a whole year since I ran farther than 20 miles, in fact. One year leaves a lot of time for doubt to creep in.
There’s no way to know your own fitness level without testing it, so I agreed (with myself) to just let this one be fun.
I even thought it might be easy.
That was a mistake. No 50k is ever easy.
I did breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing I’d be running a familiar 50k with less than 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Not only that, but race director Linda Powell is truly one of the kindest humans I’ve ever met. She and her team are 110% on top of organization, communication, and all the many things that make or break an event like this.
What do I mean by that?
- All the runners received frequent emails outlining the race info
- Packet pickup was a breeze
- The swag bag was awesome
- The volunteers seemed genuinely happy to be there
- The course was marked with ribbons, flour, signs, and volunteers posted at any junctions that may be remotely confusing
- On top of that, they provided GPS maps for all runners to use on their smartphones
Don’t worry- I still managed to get off course! It’s what I do best.
Totally my own fault- I was blindly following the runner ahead of me instead of paying attention.
This year’s PMTR swag bag contained a photo of course record holder Derrik Jenkins, who tragically passed away last November in a trail running accident in American Fork Canyon.
I’m including this quote from Derrik’s own running blog, Finding Me in the Mountains:
“I am grateful for the support of my family and friends, the blessing of having a body and the ability to run, the beautiful trails and views. In the end, that is what matters. That we be grateful for what we’ve been blessed with and work together in pursuit of our goal to achieve eternal life. That is the journey we are on. We will have ups and downs, make wrong turns, and get ahead of ourselves and our abilities. It is important to remember to be present and appreciate how much more good there is than bad at any given moment. That feeling of accomplishment is going to be so much greater when we reach the finish line of life and are reunited with family and friends. Our finishing time or place won’t matter as long as we keep pushing and finish.”
Thank you for sharing your love of running, Derrik.
His wife, who ran the race herself, and best friend each said a few words at the race start. I thought it was really nice to pay tribute to a fallen member of the trail running community that way.
My home community of Mount Shasta also experienced a great loss of an adventurous and charismatic soul only days before the race.
Though I didn’t know Leif Hansen very well at all, the few times I met him left me with the impression that he loved life. I know his friendship was a blessing to many people I care about.
I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest condolences to all who are grieving over the loss of these exceptional people. I know their memories will continue to inspire you for years to come.
Frustration and Joy
I can’t break these two up because the emotions are so intertwined.
I’d like to think I had pretty realistic expectations going into this race. I wanted to take photos of the wildflowers and enjoy the experience as much as possible.
But still, a race is a race. Ain’t no walk in the park.
Having run it last year, I knew there was a relatively flat loop followed by a monstrously steep one. I tried taking the first loop a bit slower to conserve some energy for the second, but that didn’t quite work out for me.
My fueling and hydration plans went out the window, which was a big mistake. I only started drinking my Hammer Perpetuem about two hour into the race and then quickly got too hot on the second loop to eat or drink anything.
The cloudless sky meant soaring temperatures as the sun rose higher.
I was so hot that drinking warm water through the plastic hose on my hydration pack seemed disgusting. When I finally tore open one of my Hammer gels about 18 miles in, the packet exploded and spewed sticky goo all over my legs.
Shortly after that, my GPS watch began vibrating to let me know it was low on battery.
Great, I thought. It’s a million degrees, I’m carrying all this fuel and water I can’t bring myself to eat or drink, and now my friggin watch wants to bail on me.
Right about that time, I heard music blasting through the woods. I turned onto a dirt road and was immediately greeted by loud cheers, clanging cowbells, and Journey (or maybe it was The Who? I can’t remember) turned up to 11.
Enthusiastic aid station volunteers always brighten my day. I grinned, pumped my fists in the air, and politely declined the beer I was offered. Although, looking back, I could’ve really used the calories.
In the miles that followed, I was passed by two women.
I wasn’t surprised, considering the pace I was moving along at could only be described as a trudge.
They both stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed anything.
I must’ve looked awful.
Dehydrated, covered in dusty energy gel, and probably slouching.
The second time help was offered, I actually paused and considered asking the woman to stay with me for moral support. I was in a rut and had begun to seriously consider dropping out.
What actually came out of my mouth was, “I’m okay, thank you. Have a good race.”
My watch died around mile 25, which was an improvement from the constant alerts that it was about to die.
Although I was slightly delirious, I had the brilliant idea to ask for ice at the next aid station.
The volunteer was generous with the frozen chunks of life-saving goodness. I filled my water bottle, hat, mouth, and sports bra with as much ice as would fit.
Within a couple of minutes, I was able to run again.
That particular aid station is at a funny point in the race. You do all this climbing and then think it’s going to be an easy cruise to the finish, but you actually have to go up one more peak before the downhill.
They even have a sign that says “It’s NOT all downhill from here!”
At least they’re honest!
I managed to open another Hammer gel without making a mess and got most of it into my mouth this time.
Between the ice, the gel, and a little help from gravity, the last five miles of my race were awesome.
I even caught up to a couple of people on the way. One guy told me we were at mile 28 when I passed him.
Believe it or not, there were two more water stations between mile 28 and the finish. I stopped at one to refill on cold water as the warm stuff in my pack was basically just dead weight.
One of the volunteers at the final aid station had the biggest, brightest smile I’ve ever seen in my life. It really amazes me how these people can maintain that energy for eight hours.
They are the true endurance heroes here.
I smiled back.
How could I not? I was about to finish the race I feared would be my first DNF and it was largely due to these absolutely wonderful aid station volunteers. I would’ve kissed their feet if my dang legs weren’t so sore.
When I got close enough to see the finish, all the pain melted away. I passed two ladies who cheered me on and told me I had less than a quarter mile to go.
Then, I rounded a corner and saw my husband in his cowboy hat, standing near the finish with three of our dogs.
I love those guys.
He handed me Bruce’s leash, and we ran through the finish together. It was Bruce’s first 50k finish and I think he knows he did something special. He was very proud of himself afterward.
In summary- great times at PMTR. I highly recommend it to anyone. You’ll be welcomes with open arms, beautiful flowers, and tasty beers.
Cheers to a happy first ultra of the year!
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.