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Female Athlete Friday: Micki Beth Colson

Today we bring you Micki Beth Colson who recently completed her first 100 mile trail race at the Hennepin 100 after overcoming an injury from a horrific accident. Here is her story and race report in her own words: I started running in my late twenties after having my two children as a way to find fitness and fight anxiety and depression. I also have a passion for fundraising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, so I started with half marathons and marathons and ran in Memphis each year to help meet my fundraising goal.

In 2017, after crewing for my younger brother at one of his 100 mile races, I was immediately drawn to the camaraderie of the ultrarunning community. I quickly found my way onto Ultrasignup and followed the usual progression through the 50k and 50 mile distances and loved both.

I got the nerve to sign up for the 2022 Hennepin 100 but was derailed by a freak accident the summer prior and had to defer. I experienced a crush injury when 800 lbs of building material fell on my legs. This resulted in a surgery to remove a hematoma inside my quad (which took some of the quad itself with it) and fix and internal degloving injury. After extensive physical therapy and learning to walk normally again, I was eventually cleared to run again, although I still cannot do a standing quad stretch on that leg due to the impaired range of motion.

I deferred to 2023, began running again in November and starting very slowly building my base back. If I could get to the starting line healthy, I was already meeting my dream goal.

11 months of training later, I found myself at the start line of the Hennepin 100.

We arrived at the start at Sinnissippi Park at 6:15, 45 minutes before the start of the race. My husband, our son and my father (my crew) and I made our way over to the start line as I nervously tried to keep my breakfast down. We spotted our friend Lindsey and her husband Tony and getting to give her a hug calmed my nerves a little. She's a seasoned ultramarathoner and is always so encouraging. We headed over to get a start line photo and saw our buddy Rich who was timing the race! I was gifted with another big hug and more words of encouragement. Then we saw Taggart VanEtten (who would go on to win the Hennepin 100 later that day!) and I got another hug and words of encouragement. My heart was full before I ever stepped over the start line. I hugged and kissed my Dad, Walker and Chad and made my way to the mid/back of the pack. Before I knew it, we were off! I settled into a comfortable run/walk just like I'd practiced in training and felt really good. When I got to see my crew at mile 14.9, my hip and pyriformis on my left side (where I had surgery on my quad one year prior) were getting a little sore. This was unusual for me and had not been a problem at all during training. I foam rolled and stretched and it thankfully went away. I could tell my body wasn't used to the asphalt/oil and chip surface of the trail, as I had trained exclusively on the soft crushed limestone of my hometown trail at Tunnel Hill. I was taking in 200 calories/hour using Tailwind and then adding whatever else I could stomach from the aid stations. None of the bars I brought sounded good and I would gag when I tried to eat them. Pickles, pickle juice and plain Lays chips were the staples of my day. I continued to hold my run/walk pace and made a few quick calculations... I was still on pace for a sub-24 hour finish if I could keep moving and I felt like I could do this all night. One step at a time, I was making my way there! At mile 47.5, I added some layers and told my crew I might need some soup when I came back at mile 53.9 to try to get in some more calories. As I was making my way back to them from the turn around at the halfway point, everything started feeling way off. My eyes wouldn't focus on the trail and it felt like I didn't have any control over the muscles in my eyes. Everytime I tried to run for my 4 minute interval, I started dry heaving and my head would spin. I had no idea how to fix it or what was going on, so I just tried to follow my waist light and walk forward. Chad had walked out to find me shortly before I made it back to the aid station, and when he saw me he knew something was wrong. He guided me into the aid station, talked with my coach and he advised him to have me sit for 20 minutes, take in whatever calories I could and then slow my pace down. I knew moving slower would mean I would get colder, so I changed into tights and added another coat. One of the aid station volunteers came over to check on me and insisted I take a few salt pills to try and help my vision. I took them, thanked him, and Chad changed clothes so he could help me get to the next aid station. Little did he know this wouldn't resolve quickly and he'd stay by my side for the next 20 miles. By 3 am around mile 75, my vision had cleared. I still wasn't able to run but I was walking quickly and I knew I could hold the pace. I was trying to stay positive, but I was so sad that my race was not turning out as planned. I know anything can happen in a 100 miler, but I had trained to run so much stronger than this. Regardless, I was going to finish what I started. Somewhere between mile 75-80 (a lot of it is fuzzy) I began to feel some really big blisters in the balls of my feet. They were so painful. I had tears streaming down my face... every step just hurt so much. Not my quads, my knees, my calves... my feet. They were so destroyed. The sharp pebbles on the trail seemed to jab right into my shoes, so I tried to stay on the grass on the side of the trail when I could. I messaged Chad and told him I wasn't sure I would make the cut off. I was trying as hard as I could, but I couldn't get past the pain to move any faster. In a few minutes, my phone rang. My sweet friend Joe had just finished his first 100k and he was calling to encourage me. It made my heart smile and I tried pushing a little harder. I was doing the math in my head... and it still didn't look good. Then, my coach called. "You know you're going to make this right? You are so strong." He told me to change my shoes/socks when I got to the next aid station and that would help at least mentally. Tears flowed and I told him I would keep pushing through. I prayed, cried, clutched a picture of my Pawpaw I had in my pack (thanks Mom!), thought of my kids... trying to draw strength from whatever I could grasp. At mile 88, I saw Chad coming down the trail. I must have had the pain written all over my face, because he had tears rolling down his face when he saw me. We marched it into the aid station with an hour to spare before cut off, changed my shoes like a Nascar team and hobbled down the trail together. I was going to have to drop my walking pace down by at least 2 minutes to make the next aid station before cut off and even attempt a finish. Chad set out with me to finish the last 12 miles of the race and help keep me moving. (He had never run over 6 miles before and I'd already had him out for 20 during the night.) I yelled and cried and grunted and pushed myself, and suddenly were moving at the pace we needed to. Sometimes, the blisters deep under my feet would move to a different part of my foot or up under my toes and it would make me feel like I was going to throw up. We had no time to lose, so I just kept moving. They were going to hurt if I stopped too, and I told Chad right then that even if I missed the cut off, I was still going on. Buckle or not, I was going to finish what I started, even if it was just in an empty parking lot with no finish line. We kept chipping away and before I knew it, we hit the aid station at mile 94.7 before the cutoff! The energy there was amazing and I trucked through without stopping, while Chad changed out my bottles. We had zero room for error and for the first time in several hours, I had hope that I might make it to the finish before the 30 hour cutoff. I kept moving like it was the only option, compulsively checking the time and having Chad do the math. "You're going to make it. You're going to get that buckle, but you cannot slow down." After 29 hours, 36 minutes and 51 seconds, I crossed the finish line with my husband holding my hand and tears running down my face. Although it wasn't the way I thought it would go, I'm so grateful for the experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything. The struggle made the finish that much sweeter and more precious. I learned so many things about myself. I learned that no amount of suffering immunizes us from more suffering to come, but it does teach us how to handle it. Because of the pain I experienced from my accident and surgery recovery last year, I had learned how to acknowledge and deal with an incredible level of pain. I learned that letting go of expectations and celebrating the outcome is a gift... as Chad reminded me more than once, this was a celebration, not a race. It was a celebration of making it out on the other side of my accident, surgery and learning to run again without a piece of my quad. I may not be able to do a standing quad stretch, but these legs can carry me for 100 miles... and that is worth celebrating.

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