If you've been around NRC during the past few years, you've probably run into race team member Beth Meadows. Whether it's catching her at 6 a.m. for RunWEST's group runs, joining her on Wednesdays at East Nasty, out on the trails with RunWILD, or just kicking back at the store--Beth is a vital member of the NRC family. This past month, Beth set out to race her first 100 miler back in her home state of Alabama. Read on to hear about Beth's journey from road to trails--
JH: What drew you to trail running? How did you go from a casual runner, to coach, to ultra marathon runner?
BM: I had never run trails until June 2013 – honestly, I had no clue trail running was even a thing until then. Before that, I had been out of the running scene for a couple of months and was looking for something new and different to motivate me. I saw on NRC’s website that it was offering a trail training group (my now-beloved RunWILD) and thought it might be fun to try. So, the first day of RunWILD on June 15, 2013 was my first time on the trails (I still remember that date because it basically changed my life). By the end of that first run, I was absolutely hooked. And not only did I love every second out there, I became really good friends with the people who ran trails. They talked me into running my first trail race – NRC’s Bowie Park 6 Miler, where Phil Zimmerman crushed me. I had a blast and wanted more. The goal race of that training cycle was StumpJump 50k & 11 miler. I had only ever done one marathon at that point (and it was years before) and had no idea people actually ran farther than 26.2 miles. After running the 11 miler, watching 50K runners finish, and just being in that trail race environment, I immediately caught the Ultra bug and decided that StumpJump 50K 2014 would be my first Ultra.
I was asked to start coaching RunWILD with Hunter Lane and Phil in December 2013. Coaching really helped fuel the trail running obsession. Not long after that, I hired Hunter (former NRC employee extraordinaire) to coach me individually for Stage Races and StumpJump, and I actually became pretty decent at trail running (and more obsessed). The end goal for me was always a 50K; I couldn’t think past that distance until I went to Utah to crew and pace Jeff Davis for his 100 miler in September 2014. As soon as it was over, I wanted to run one, and I hadn’t even run StumpJump yet. Once I ran that first 50K, it just solidified everything – I wanted to keep running ultras and just see how far my body would take me. So, that was the goal for 2015, and after 3 50Ks, a 40 miler, and a failed 108K attempt, I pulled the trigger on Pinhoti 100.
JH: Why did you pick Pinhoti for your first 100 miler?
BM: I picked Pinhoti for a number of reasons. It’s later in the year which meant cooler weather and more time to train. It’s relatively close so my crew didn’t have to travel super far. The finish line sits about 20 minutes from where I grew up and where my parents currently live – which meant they could watch me finish. Finally, it’s a Western States qualifying race, and I wanted to start earning those tickets into the lottery.
JH: How was training for your first 100?
BM: Training really wasn’t as bad as I expected, to be perfectly honest. Following my DNF at River of No Return over the summer, I wanted to make sure I really did training right so I got help from a coach. Save for a couple of heavy weeks towards the end, it wasn’t too different from 50K training. Obviously, there was more emphasis on longer and slower runs. I had to learn how to force my body to really take it slowly even when I felt good or thought I should be running faster – something that truly paid off during the race. I ran through StumpJump 50K this year and just made it a solid training run. That plus a Mini Tour de Rouge (6 red loops at Percy Warner) with my pacers Jeff and Ryne were the big confidence boosting runs that I needed.
JH: What are some of the highlights from race day? Struggles? Great moments?
BM: Honestly, the race went pretty well so, luckily, I have more highlights from the race than struggles (either that or I’ve repressed most of the struggles).
Highlights: I had such a great crew, and every time I got to see them at an aid station was definitely a highlight for me. Also, the “surprise” of seeing Hunter and Season at another aid station when I was at a low spot was pretty great. I had the best grilled cheese sandwich of my life at the mile 52 Aid Station. When I heard Bama won while I was changing clothes at mile 65 made the day pretty sweet, as well. But seriously, I think running those last 35 miles with my pacers, first with Jeff and then with Ryne, were the overall highlights for me. I felt the best I felt the entire race from miles 65-74 while I was chatting with Jeff as he caught me up on all the events of the day and we were just running through the night. And then the last 15 miles with Ryne “flew” by, and he even made me feel like less of an idiot when I got super sad upon seeing what I thought was a dead baby turtle - it was a leaf.
Struggles: There were definitely struggles throughout the entire race – it rained almost the entire time. Also, just fighting off thoughts such as “how am I ever going to run 75 more miles,” or “how can my legs keep going,” or “why aren’t we at the aid station yet?” The absolute hardest part was around miles 77-81. Jeff and I were running on a ridgeline where he estimated winds to be around 30 mph, and we just got SO. COLD. I’m so lucky Jeff was there because it would’ve been even worse to do that section alone. Great memories would have to be when entering the track to the finish line, Ryne looked at me and said “You’re a 100 mile finisher.” I didn’t cry, but emotions definitely swelled. And then actually crossing the finish line and celebrating with my parents and my selfless, selfless, super amazing, I can’t believe they stood in the rain for 25+ hours for me crew. It’s something I’ll never forget. Oh, and finally taking off my shoes – GREAT moment!
JH: What are your running goals for 2016? Any more 100s in your future?
BM: I want to take the first of the year to put some speed back on my legs – maybe run a few shorter races. I’ll definitely run River Gorge for my third year in a row – especially since it’s the goal race of this next RunWILD On the Rocks training cycle. After that, I’ll head back to run the Strolling Jim 40 miler. I definitely want to do more 100s. I’ve put in for Western States but with a 3.6% chance of getting in, that’s not likely. So, I’ll run Angeles Crest 100 in August with my buddy, Jobie Williams who can talk me into running just about anything!
Beth had a crew at Pinhoti to help her through the tough miles and to make sure that she was well hydrated and getting adequate nutrition. Her crew members were her friends Khette Cox and Steven McNeal, as well as her husband Steven Harland. To make sure that she was on pace and had company for the grueling miles, friends Jeff Davis and Ryne Anderson ran parts of the ultra with her. Here are some of their viewpoints on the day--
Jeff Davis said, "I paced Beth from miles 65 – 85, which was midnight until almost sunrise. Those hours and miles are tough in a hundred. She impressed me with her composure and positive attitude overnight. Especially since this was her first hundred. The rain was relentless and the cold wind was miserable on the last ridgeline, but she never complained. She got really quiet for a while, but never complained."
Khette Cox describes what crewing someone is like, " You have to make sure the runner has their nutrition available, dry clothes, change of shoes, whatever the runner needs to take care of themselves. We met Beth every so often at aid stations. My job was mostly to make sure she was feeling good and wasn't crashing. We offered encouragement, leg rubs, foot lube, football scores, whatever to keep her going!" Khette also goes on to describe what it was like being in the ultra-marathon atmosphere and getting to encourage her friend, "It's a community. There may have been people there concerned more about winning the race than completing the race, but I didn't notice that. Most folks that I talked with were concerned about 'their runner' as well as how everyone else was doing. We might help out Beth but we also might help out another runner who needed certain things that their crew didn't have or we just happened upon them when they needed something.
It was definitely a communal effort at success." With regards to seeing Beth, Khette recounts some fun memories, "My favorite memory of Beth was anytime I saw her come out of the darkness with her headlight on and hearing her say "let's go!" when she was ready to move on. She stayed pretty positive all the way through. I know there were dark times but she doesn't know the word quit."