Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last year I ran the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 and failed miserably at 61 miles. I wasn’t injured, I was well under the time cutoffs, I just got a bad attitude in my head and quit. That really sucked and it’s bothered me ever since. Thus, I had to go back this year and redeem myself and finish the thing.
My main race this year is Wasatch, so running the TRT was more of some race practice and a really long training run. My mileage to date is higher than last year and I have more long training runs, so I was reasonably confident that I’d be able to finish TRT (never a guarantee in a 100 mile race).
Originally, my wife Karen and I were going to take our horses out a few days early and get in some trail riding on the same trails as the race. The area above Lake Tahoe is beautiful and I wanted to show these trails to her. Alas, her horse isn’t trail ready yet (he’s a 3-year old Mustang) so she decided to stay home and work. Davy Crockett had asked about carpooling this year like we did last year, but he ended up taking his family. I couldn’t find anyone to carpool with and I really thought it was a waste of fuel to drive myself out to Lake Tahoe. Then I hit on an idea, why don’t I go green and take the train? I checked the schedule, leave Salt Lake at 11:30pm Thursday, get into Reno 9:30am Friday. Leave Reno 4:00pm Monday and get back into Salt Lake at 4:00am Tuesday. Perfect. Cost? $116 round trip, less than what I would pay for gas for the car plus I don’t have to drive. Hmmm, now how do I get to Carson City and the race? I know, call my friend Meghan and see if she can pick me up since she’s running the race too. Meghan teaches Earth Science and is a big fan of going green so she was very willing to chauffeur me around for the weekend. It was settled. I might mention that I also have a UTA annual pass for the Frontrunner commuter train so I only had to drive to the Ogden train station (4.5 miles) and back.
Karen dropped me off at the train station Thursday evening,
I rode the Frontrunner down to Salt Lake. Amtrak was already there, I got my ticket and boarded the train. I love to ride on trains, but going overnight on Amtrak is not conducive to sleep. I think I managed about 3-4 hours total. I woke up the next morning as we were going across the Nevada desert.
I had time to get to the dining car for breakfast (ok, nothing to write home about) before the train pulled into Reno on time (rare for Amtrak). Meghan picked me up about 30 minutes later and we headed for Carson City.
The check in is on the State Capitol grounds and I saw a few people I knew and some that I had been wanting to meet. I finally met Monica Ochs, a fellow Wasatch Speedgoat team member. She and her pacer Annie went with Meghan, Dave (Meghan’s friend), and I to lunch. After that, it was relax and get ready for the next day’s race. I actually managed to get a good night’s sleep, roughly 6-7 hours. That’s rare the night before a race.
Meghan picked me up at about 4:00am and we made the drive up to Spooner Lake State Park, the race HQ. About 115 of us were nervously milling around waiting for the race to start. Finally, at 5am, the race was on.
I knew it was going to be a long day and night, so I tried to just hang back a little bit, but I felt myself running the uphills because I felt so good.
By the time the first aid station came into view, the field had spread out some and I was pretty much by myself (that’s how I usually like it). The first aid station (Hobart, 7900’) had an Irish pub theme, complete with a bar, a bottle of Jameson Whiskey, a keg of beer and a dart board. Runners could partake of any or all. Each runner got one dart to throw and scores were kept throughout the race (we went thru this aid station four times). After a quick dart throw, fill my bottles, drop off my sleeves and headlamp, I was off climbing towards Marlette Peak. The sun was just starting to come up and the view of Lake Tahoe when it came into sight was breathtaking. This section of trail is fairly easy, a gradual climb to around 8600’ then a switchback descent into the Tunnel Creek aid station (8100’). 100 mile runners go thru Tunnel Creek a total of six times so we get to know these people a little bit. Here I did the same, filled my bottles, downed two bottles of Ensure (600 calories, and headed out on the Red House loop. This is a 6.3 mile loop that takes runners to the low point on the course (6800’), then back up to Tunnel Creek. There actually is a red house on the loop with an aid station. Most runners don’t like this loop because it can get warm and the last half mile climb to Tunnel Creek is steep, but it’s no worse than what I train on around here, so no big deal. When I got back to Tunnel Creek, we started seeing the 50K and 50 mile runners heading out on the loop. They start an hour after we do. After another quick pit stop, I headed out on the long 18 mile out and back to the Mt. Rose aid station. This section is rolling terrain, but does climb to close to 9000’ at one point. There’s one water stop along the way and that’s it, so this was definitely a two bottle section. As I got closer to Mt. Rose, I started seeing more and more mountain bikers, day hikers and people out on the trail. Most everyone was very nice and would cheer us on and step off the trail to let us runners go by. I got to Mt. Rose and looked at my pace chart and saw that I was still on a 21 hour pace. Holy cow, way too fast I thought, but I still felt really good. By now I’d covered 26.4 miles and had 24 miles to go to complete the first half of the race. Once again, quick pit stop, downed two Ensures, and back out on the trail. I had my cell phone with me and called my wife from here. She let me know that I was in roughly 30th place and where Davy, Monica, and Meghan were. Davy and Monica were a ways ahead and Meghan was about an hour behind.
I headed out on the return of the out and back. By now the trails were getting pretty crowded in spots and I was glad once I got a few miles down and the crowds thinned out. The weather was also getting warm. It felt like it was around 80, but in the sun it felt much warmer. Running in the heat doesn’t bother me so I was fine. I got back to Tunnel Creek, fueled up again and headed out for Hobart. Now I had to climb those switchbacks, but they weren’t too bad. Across some of the higher ridges, there was a nice breeze to help cool us off some along with the gorgeous views to enjoy.
I got back to Hobart still feeling pretty good. My pace had slowed some here, mostly due to the climbing. Had another inch of beer in a cup, shot a dart, refueled and left heading for Snow Valley Peak. This aid was at the highest point on the course, right at 9000’. It’s a gradual climb and actually runnable for the most part. As I was going up, I came across a 50 mile runner that had just sat down by the side of the trail. I asked her if she was ok and she said something about stomach issues. I gave her a couple Tums and she decided to follow me into Snow Valley Peak. The Tums must have done the trick because she left out of the aid station and I never saw her again. Now it was my turn to start feeling kind of off. For the next 10 miles to the start/finish I felt like I was bonking some. Even though it’s downhill for 5.5 miles, I couldn’t get a run going, just no energy. Mentally I was fine, but physically I wasn’t. I decided that once I got into the start/finish, I would take a few minutes and take care of myself. I hit the start/finish in 11:30. Here I ate, sat for a few, emptied the dirt and dust out of my shoes and took a breather. When I finally left, it was right at the 12 hour mark. Ahead of last year’s time, but not where I wanted to be. Oh well. I left and while I couldn’t get a run going uphill to Hobart, I was able to get a fairly fast walk going. Once into Hobart, another inch of beer, another dart, fix the chafing and get going. Last year I got into Tunnel Creek after dark. This year I knew I would get in before dark. Good deal. Once in Tunnel Creek, I grabbed my headlamp, put on a long sleeve T since it was cooling off some, and headed out on the Red House loop for the second time. By the time I got to the red house, it was dark and the light was on. A few minutes here and I was gone back uphill to Tunnel Creek. I had been wondering how Meghan was doing. Every once in awhile, my wife would call me with updates. As it happened, as I got back into Tunnel Creek, there was Meghan with a couple of new friends getting set to head out on their second Red House loop. We chatted for a few minutes and I found out that she was having a great time. She said something about me being afraid while running alone in the dark and I told her I wasn’t and I preferred running alone. I asked if she was afraid to run in the dark and she said she was, I told her that was because she was a girl. Not a well received comment but I thought it was funny.
I headed out on the long 18 mile out and back to Mt. Rose, I got out a couple hundred yards and realized it might get cool and breezy, so I headed back into Tunnel Creek and grabbed my windbreaker. Good move I found out later. I managed to see Davy filling his bottles at a creek. I think I startled him a little when I called his name. He’s one of the few runners to use a green light so I figured it might be him. As I crossed the meadow to the Mt. Rose aid station, the temperature really cooled down. This ended up being the coolest part of the night, but it still wasn’t too bad. I stayed at Mt. Rose for about 20 minutes. I was starting to get a little sleepy (duh, it’s 2 in the morning). I drank some coffee, had some rice and beans, drank my Ensure and headed out again. By now I was walking with no thought of running, but the walk was still pretty strong. I got to the top of the switchbacks that descend into Mt. Rose and was so sleepy that I set my cell phone alarm for 20 minutes and just lay down in the dirt beside the trail. That 20 minutes was all I needed to get going again. As I was going along the trail I was amazed at how warm it was. The temp. had to be close to 60. I don’t like running in cold weather and I’m usually dressed pretty warm when going thru the night. This time I was still in shorts, a long sleeve T, windbreaker and gloves. Even the windbreaker was unzipped and eventually I took it off. After 9 miles, back into Tunnel Creek for the final time. I was wanting the race to be over and the mosquitoes were biting now, so the stop was short. Daylight was coming on as I started back up the switchbacks to Hobart. I got into Hobart I think at around 6am for the last time. I shot my dart, had a beer and asked for some eggs and bacon. That really hit the spot. I left there feeling pretty good. The final climb up to Snow Valley Peak seemed to take forever, but eventually I got there. By now the sun was up and it was going to be warmer than the day before. I ditched the warm clothes and headed out after a short stop. I could “smell the barn” and I wanted to be done. I finally got to the last aid station, only 1.7 miles from the end. I barely stopped. They asked if I wanted anything to eat, nope, I wanted to get done. I filled my bottles and was out. 30 minutes later I came out on the dirt road to the finish and had to run across the finish line. It was nice to be done. 30 hours 46 minutes, 39th place out of 115 starters. That cold bottle of beer at the finish line never tasted so good. I wanted nothing to eat or drink, just the beer.
After a few minutes, I found a chair to sit in and wait for Meghan and her friends. I set my alarm so I could take a little nap, but they really made up some time and crossed the finish about an hour after I did.
Aftermath – One thing that slowed me down some was a bout of asthma that hit me for the last 20 miles or so. I used to think it was altitude related, but I now think it’s all the dust. Even when I was by myself during the night I could see it my headlamp beam. This seems to be an issue with me for any 100 mile race that’s dusty. I wore my La Sportiva Fireblades. Very comfortable and perfect for this type of trail, but I was left with blisters in some weird spots. Oh well. Liquid diet. The only solids I ate the entire race were the eggs and bacon, also, very little soda. Water, sportsdrink, lots of Ensure, Starbucks Frappucino’s, 1st Endurance gel, and a little soup here and there. No stomach upset and I seemed to be well fueled the entire time.
I had a great time. I redeemed myself after last year’s race. Don’t know if I’ll run it again, there’re other races I want to do, but I highly recommend this one. The scenery alone is worth the race, the aid is top notch. I still want to take Karen out there with the horses and do some riding.

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