October 26, 2017
My name is Meredith June Edwards and I am a mountain endurance athlete based in Jackson, Wyoming. I am a lover of mountains, adventures and my dog Moe. Aside from being a professional athlete, I’ve spent the last 9 years working as a residential counselor for kids with disabilities.
UTMB is unlike any other race I have ever seen or heard about. The level of competition, the excitement of the supporters, and the terrain is one of a kind. For years I’ve worked my butt off just to qualify and get to the starting line, and it’s been an unbelievable journey. Years of crewing points and racing in the UTMB series has proved to be beneficial. Finishing 10th at CCC in 2015, and landing 2nd place on the podium last year in TDS, set me up for what I thought would be a great UTMB in 2017. Here’s how it went down – real and raw like a journal entry for each painstaking and amazing day:
August 21 2017 –
I don’t feel good. I work at residential school for kids with special needs, and all of my clients are sick. I’m nervous knowing I leave the 24th for Europe. I drink lots of lemon water and eat garlic.
August 22,2017 –
I’m sick. I have a low grade fever, and my ear is blocked after running a quick workout up the local ski hill here in Jackson, Snow King. I leave work early due to my fever and head to the doctor. They tell me I have a sinus infection that has moved into my ear. They place me on antibiotics that will last for 10 days. Not stoked on this issue, I have no choice but to try and get better.
August 24 2017 –
I feel a little better, but I’m just excited to get to France.
August 31, 2017 –
I set off on my last run before UTMB and feel excited. My legs feel great. It’s a bittersweet moment to know after 5 years the time has come. “Am I ready?,” I ask myself. It doesn’t matter because no matter what, at this time tomorrow I’ll be toeing the line.
September 1, 2017 –
It’s weird to wake up around 9:30am for a race. I get up, eat, and go back to laying in bed because I don’t have to be ready till 5:30pm. I lay in bed reading a book, trying to not to think about what’s to come. I take a shower and slowly start to get myself ready. The time has come! I look at myself in the mirror and notice how far I’ve come from the CCC 100k. I’m not the same from when I started this goal, and I don’t think I’ll be the same person I am now when this race is done.
I get to Chamonix and make my way towards the start. Crowds and crowds of people are everywhere. Music is playing and my senses become heightened. As I enter the coral, I have Jason Schlarb to the right of me and both of us go down towards the start. With people lining the whole way, everyone is cheering. I hear my name being yelled and I wave. It is the moment I will never forget. I find a close running friend Amanda Basham. We met in China during an FKT project and became close. It was comforting to stand next to her in a sea of amazing athletes. We talk and make sure our backpacks are ok and wait for the countdown.
photo: Ugo Richard
September 31, 2017 6:30pm
The race starts. It’s intense. Everyone is yelling, and I can’t stop high fiving everyone. The first 8k is pretty flat and I catch myself going out way too fast. My legs start to feel awful, and I notice I’m achy. On the first climb, my legs don’t want to move. I become scared because this is not how I want to feel. I make an effort to slow down, but I’m still not happy, and of course my ear is blocked and won’t pop. It makes me feel off balance and just plain annoyed.
On the first descent, my legs cramp and I’ve already gone through 1 liter of water. I remember not liking the 19 miles to the first aid station at Les Contamaines. Unlike CCC and TDS, UTMB had a lot of rough terrain in the beginning and with my legs and even my arms cramping, my body was not happy. In Les Contamaines, I meet my Jax crew. I was already crying because of the way I feel. She looks at me and says “no, you just keep going”. We switch out my bottles and she puts food in my backpack. As I leave the aid station, I get a hug from Celia(GU Manager) and I’m on my way.
For whatever reason, I feel better and my legs want to work. I start up a huge ascent to Bonhomme. On my way up, the weather gets intense, and I need to put on another layer to help with the high winds. Somewhere in that transition, my food to get me to Courmayeur falls out of my backpack. I’m not sure when I notice this, but when I do, I try not to freak out and work with what I’ve got: one Gu chocolate Waffle – dang!!! My nutrition is pretty specific: one gel every 30 minutes, one waffle every 3 hours.
So there I was, just pushing through for almost 3 hours on little bites of my waffle. With no aid station anytime soon, I just tried to keep my cool. Fortunately, I came across Sally McRae – I was so happy. She tossed me two small snickers, and I couldn’t be more thankful. It lifted my spirits, and I finally made it to an aid station and stuffed my backpack with cookies, bananas, and downed a ton of soup.
I knew the descent into Courmayeur was steep, long, and technical. I slowed down to save my legs, but I was feeling great. Coming into Courmayeur, I was feeling strong and determined, which is way different than when I started. But, this is where my first big mistake happened. I had picked up quite a bit of spots, and feeling excited, I didn’t take a long enough break and came out of Courmayeur way too fast.
I picked up 2 more girls on the ascent and started to feel a little dizzy. This is when I think my energy bonk from the previous incident kicked in. I was down over 400 calories and could not catch back up. I lost my down hill legs and this is when things started to get real. From what I remember, I felt really dizzy and was not quite with it. At the Bonatti aid station, they asked me if I was ok after swaying around trying to drink soup. Of course I said yes and just carried on my way. By the time I got to the aid station at Arnouvaz, I fell apart. When I saw how people were looking at me, I got scared – apparently I was very pale. The medics would not let me leave until color returned to my face. So I ate a bunch of food, I changed into warmer clothes, and eventually just started to cry knowing I lost all my momentum. The medics comforted me along with Magda Boulet, Amy Sproston, and Major Srnik. As I watched everyone leave with me still sitting there, I wanted to quit. I just kept crying. Finally, after sometime, they let me go.
The weather was horrible. It was -9°C(15°F) at the top of Col Ferret, and the wind was blowing hard. It was such a struggle, and all that food they made me eat decided to come back up. On the 30k descent into La Fouly I threw everything up. In my mind, I had decided to drop when I saw my crew next at Champex.
I cried so hard. Even on the little downhills I couldn’t move. It was mentally derailing, and I hated it. When I arrived at Champex, I was so happy to see Jax. I sat down while she ripped off my socks to change. I tried eating but kept dry heaving. I was snappy but I realized I couldn’t stop. I wanted to but I’m 100% sure Jax was not going to let that happen. Getting up was hard but on I went. I decided I could run for 20 steps and walk for another 20. I kept throwing up my food every time I ate, but I kept moving. The weather was so hard to deal with. One minute it’s raining, another minute you’re sweating, and then it’s freezing. Like the weather, my emotional state was just as unpredictable. One minute I’m crying, laughing, then singing out loud. I had lost it. I was convinced at one point I had a fever and I was going to pass out. I had to call Jax on the second to last climb just to keep me going.
After running CCC two years ago and knowing the terrain, I was so upset at how I could not run anything at this point . Who have I become? This is not me. I looked for the muddiest part of the trail to run in, so I could just slide a little bit with each step. It was purely survival mode and saving face at its finest. I was in a dark head space on the last climb and had so much anger towards myself for allowing this to happen. I cursed every step and fell completely apart. These were the hardest final hours of any race I’ve ever been in. When I got to the top of the last climb there was a sign saying 8k. I couldn’t believe it. Really? 8k!!!!!! ehhhhhhhhh. I told myself I have to run. Get it over. I was angry, then embarrassed, but I finished. As I made my way into Chamonix, my dad was there smiling. He grabbed me by the hand and ran me in. It was over. I was mad but didn’t have enough energy to keep it up. But it was over, and I had finished.
September 15, 2017 –
I’ve had some time to process this experience. It’s been hard, but I realize so much good has come out of it.
You are always stronger than you think. Don’t ever give up and remember things worth achieving are always worth the fight. I will be back stronger, wiser, and ready to test my limits again.
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