Friday, July 27, 2018

Tahoe Rim Trail 100

I've had the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler on my list of "someday 100's" for a while now.  This year seemed like a good time to tackle it - driveable from the Bay Area, good timing for the progression of my training, a qualifier for UTMB, good motivation.  And as it turns out, a beautiful course, awesome volunteers, and excellent race organization.

Smoke from the Yosemite (and possible another) fire made the valleys hazy but I relied on last year's experiences in Wyoming and Oregon to judge what is just a little haze vs. what is actually unhealthy breathing.  This -- was not a problem.

I'm pretty sure dust from the trail was a bigger air quality factor.  And that's still not what limited me on the breathing.

Altitude.  All 7000 to 9000 feet of it.  A normal summer in the mountains would already have me acclimated.  A summer at sea level is a different story.  I started thinking about when I might have run a 100-miler in similar circumstances and realized that Bighorn fit the bill.  Another of my "someday 100's" -- because I need to go back and actually finish it eventually.  So yeah, maybe the altitude should not be underestimated.

OK, I set a goal to just finish, and hopefully the 35-hour time limit will give me plenty of leeway.  I figured I would start at a calm pace and not try to push until later if things were going well.

Packet pickup in Carson City was in a nice park, a pleasant afternoon until a windstorm blew through right in the middle of the pre-race briefing.  When a tree limb fell in the middle of the crowd, the race director decided to go ahead and wrap things up right quick.  Good idea.

What a pretty race number!  This was the first time I actually didn't want to cut it down before pinning it.  It even matched my race shirt:

Another neat visual - this Burning Man artwork at Comma Coffee across from packet pickup:

Happily John was able to join me for the weekend, I love having my Super Crew along.  He would only be able to see me 3 times on the course so he would also get time to do a bit of work and hike some trails.

Hanging out at the start, we made a new friend:

Runners milling around, enjoying the not-freezing temperatures:

Run long and prosper:

It was warm enough to shed the polypro and show off my favorite arm warmers; a runner later commented to me "I like waffles too" but I'm not sure how many westerners are aware of Waffle House:

And... go!

Well, that's it for photos for a while.  I have no reason to make this a long drawn-out report, let's see if I can stick to the highlights.

I thought I started out calm.  Now I'm not so sure.  I really just went by feel, and I was feeling pretty good.  The first climb is mostly gentle and the runners lined up the singletrack trail along a creek.  I managed to stick myself in a good position as far as pace, not feeling rushed or slowed.  Then when it leveled out a bit I started passing people and running.  Beautiful trail!  Easy terrain!  We really should be running.

On the short drop to Marlette Lake the 4-5 guys in front of me all stopped suddenly to pull out their cameras.  Yes, very pretty!  Now maybe step to the side of the trail while you take those pictures...

Interesting conversations around me on the dirt road along the lake.  Hey, a forest service bathroom!  Except there was a line, guess I'll wait for the aid station.

A couple steep spots up the road, then the first aid station (Hobart).  Day of the Dead theme, very nice.  Porta-potties, yes.  Drop bag, check (normally I'd skip a drop bag at 7 miles in, but I wanted to leave my light).  Little snack, yum.  A tiny shot of rum, yep, I decided to try out the walk-up bar experience.  First time for everything!  And it was something that had to be tested early, I suspected later would not be a good idea.  Plus they ran out of Bacardi by the afternoon...

I really enjoyed the next section (and I don't think it was just due to the pit stop and rum).  We finished the first climb and circled around above the little lake, with a view of Lake Tahoe in the background.  Spectacular in the morning light.  Maybe the race photographer will provide a photo eventually.  The current home page for the race website has a stunning image of that spot:

The switchback downhill toward Tunnel Creek aid station was fantastic.  Sweeping curves, fun trail, hardly technical, probably built with mountain bikes in mind, and I was passing a bunch of people.  Whee!

Tunnel was busy but at least I could stand off to the side and grab a Spiz baggie from my drop bag.  Water refill, grab a pickle (crunchy and yummy), move out.  I tracked my splits compared to a 29-hour finish and seemed to be banking time.

Next was the Red House loop, a big drop into a drainage and a big climb back up to Tunnel Creek.  Most of the trail was in the trees, lovely shade and a cool morning.  I was still running a comfortable speed, enjoying the downhills (even the steeper sandy ones) and hardly noticing the climbs.  The Red House aid station volunteers were super friendly, and I took advantage of the variety of fruit offerings.  Several fast women passed me on the way back up, but I chose to believe they were running the 50-mile race (starting 1 hour after we did).  I'm not racing, I'm not racing...

Back at Tunnel, I picked up a soft flask that I'm testing out for extra water capacity with my vest.  I'm still figuring it out but it has potential.  But first, 3 miles north to the next aid station at the top of the ski area.  3 miles on the Tahoe Rim Trail, first on one side of the ridge and then on the other.  Views!  Pretty rocks!  All on a nice trail.  Reasons to smile.

Bull Wheel aid station had a small tent, water, and a few snacks.  Everything you could ask for.  I filled up with water for the next long (8 mile) section that ran several miles to the north before looping back around to the bottom of the ski area.  It seemed like it might get warm soon.

More beautiful scenery and I spent time appreciating being up here in the beautiful woods.  I should get out more.  Or we need to come spend time in the Sierras.

The next several miles continued the gentle climb on the TRT.  I knew we'd go through some drainages, but even that topography was rather vague.  We want to come back to the Sierras in 2020 for the rogaine championships, looks like it could be some fun navigation.

Then the turn down the second long hill, yay!  Another excellent downhill run, another trail built for mountain bikes that is also super fun on foot.

Hey, there's the ski area already, that was fast.  Almost too fast.  John beat me there by 5 minutes, as I was quite a bit ahead of my projected pace.  I had a drop bag and I had told him not to worry about meeting me at Diamond Peak, but he came anyway  :)

It's just as well, he got to see me at my highpoint of the race.  Feeling great, happy to have use of a real bathroom, getting a smoothie for goodness sakes.  Yep, mile 30 was a highlight.

Woo hoo!

And she's off... to tackle the 2-mile climb up the ski hill:

The climb started benignly.  A road winding across the slopes, in full sun but it didn't feel particularly warm.  I've been heat training for moderate temperatures, so 80+ degrees doesn't bother me right now.  It was only when the trail turned straight up a steep slope that things got real.

And I've been training for hills too.  It looked like the Dog Meat climb from Quicksilver, except longer.  Somewhat sandy, but it wasn't the footing that made it challenging.  It was the sustained steepness.  When you think you might be getting close to the top?  You're not close.  Not even.

I paused when I hit shade to catch my breath.  A few more feet, another pause.  Phew!  It's a big one!

One hour to climb it.  How is that possible?  Mission Peak takes me an hour, and it's higher and longer.

I was really glad for the Bull Wheel aid station at the top because I had sucked most of the water out of my bottle.  OK, that was crazy.  Now back to the normal business of running.

First I think I need to recover.  I had given back some time vs. my split chart, but the next 3 miles were overall downhill and I felt OK.  I gained a few minutes back and rolled through Tunnel Creek aid station efficiently.

Then the next big climb, and this one was up switchbacks so I wasn't too worried about it.  I guess that was a mistake.  Suddenly I had no climbing gear, just molasses body whenever I tried to walk strong up a slope.  The warmth of the afternoon wasn't helping by this point.  I sat on rocks in the shade a couple times, thankful to have trees through here.

Well, that was unexpected.  I decided to call it a "low point", something I don't often get, but it seemed to help to label it as such.  Eventually I topped out and found the saddle where Marlette Lake came back into view.  A breeze and beautiful scenery, excellent!

Hobart aid station was a little oasis.  Easy access to everything, a shady walk through the cool tent, plenty of chairs that faced the tables, and lots of volunteers bustling around grabbing things for people.  A few minutes there was well worth it, and I felt much recovered walking out.

One last new section of trail, a climb up to Snow Peak.  I wasn't looking forward to this, the highest elevation on the course and an exposed trail up high.  However, the route started through the trees with some easy running, and by the time I popped out above treeline there were clouds overhead.  How nice.

Also nice was that the brewing storm stayed east over Carson City.  John got rained on down there, and we heard a lot of thunder.  The sky to the west over Lake Tahoe was blue.  Too funny.

So I had an easy time of it up that section, enjoying reading the Burma Shave-type signs leading to the Boy Scout aid station.  I grabbed a bit of fruit and ice in my bottle, ready for the run down to the start/finish area and the halfway point.

Good timing on the sun coming back out, I made it back down into the trees by the time that happened.  We had been warned that this descent takes forever.  I had even been on it once before (2015) and remembered a few pieces of it, but it's still true.  It takes a ridiculously long time.  I kept myself entertained by picking out landmarks to look for the next morning.  There were a lot of them to work with.  You can see the highway and you're nowhere near down.  You can hear the highway, still nowhere near down.  You can see Spooner Lake, for goodness sakes, and you still have a couple miles to go before getting there.

Finally I found the Cub Scout aid station, thanked them for some water in my bottle, and set about to getting back to John.  One more little drop and then it was an easy trail around the lake.

Sure, an easy trail!  Then why did that part kick my butt?  Something about coming way downhill and it being warm again and my stomach now having some issues, I don't know.  But it was a quick turn of events from feeling OK to feeling like crap.  Hi John!  Where can I sit down?

He pointed out the fun Flintstones theme of the aid station, but I was more interested in walking through it to locate a chair.

OK, wow, I should not be having issues at 50 miles into a 100 miler.  Slight dizziness (that went away quickly), slight nausea (that didn't).  I sat until I could slowly drink my Spiz and try to catch up a little on energy intake and liquids.  Runners nearby seemed to be having similar problems.  I talked through it with John, and he patiently helped me set up for the oncoming night.

Well, nothing to do but get up and see what happens.  I had plenty of leeway, just had to keep moving.  There wasn't anything obvious stopping me, it just seemed unusual to not be feeling great.  Maybe the cooler evening would help.

John sprayed me with bug spray and I wandered down the trail.  Thanks for the great help, John!

The first climb of the loop is long and gradual, a good way to start.  That went fine, nothing fast and no real improvement on the energy level or my stomach but my time seemed respectable.  Could have used a bit more bug spray was all, but even the mosquitoes weren't too terrible.

The forest service bathroom was free this time, yay for little things.

I put my head down and climbed the steep road toward Hobart.  Almost made it there before needing my headlamp.  The cooler air was quite refreshing.

Ah Hobart, my favorite place.  I was way past being able to partake of the walk-up bar, but that's for the best!  I sat with a couple women who were also feeling crappy and we commiserated.  Well, nothing to be done but to keep moving.

Such lovely sky over Lake Tahoe, even having missed the best of the sunset, still very pretty.

I was ready for my iPod, yep, some podcasts really did the trick for keeping me entertained and not thinking about how I was feeling.  Thank you Hidden Brain and Paula Poundstone!  The downhill switchbacks were still fun, just much calmer this time through.

At Tunnel Creek I looked for a place to sit with my drop bag and a guy offered me a nice chair.  It took me a minute to realize that I was sitting in the medical area, so I looked up to see if my friend Kristi might be around.  And she was sitting right next to me!  We met at Primal Quest Lake Tahoe in 2015 and had a lot of fun volunteering at the Rucky Chucky transition area that year.

Hi Kristi!!  We hugged and sat and gabbed for a few minutes, reminiscing and catching up a bit.  It was great that I wasn't in a hurry, so happy to have a chance to talk.  She inquired about the state of my race and offered some Tums as a possible help.  Sure, why not.  And I think it did help.  She gave me a few for the road, then I figured I really should get going.  See you later!

How cool was that.  I bopped down the big drop into Red House loop, feeling like things were looking up.  I made it across the little water crossings without getting any toes wet this time, and as long as the climbs weren't steep I was still moving OK.  The steep stuff, well, I got up them eventually.

Another pleasant stop at the aid station down there, and another easy traverse back to the big climb (this time with more walking than running, but I was still OK with how long things were taking).  Big climb, yep, still a big challenge, just keep breathing.  Thank you for the entertainment in my ears, Malcolm Gladwell.

I hadn't wanted to think too hard about the 2nd pass around the Red House loop, but it turned out to be OK.  It was a minor victory, I'll take it.

Kristi was asleep in her chair, but then I ran into someone else I knew at Tunnel Creek, Noe!  Hi Noe!  He was surprised to see me, as he had been there the whole time and we had missed each other 4 times already.  He's a runner too, and he had more good advice about what to try eating.  I was mostly just nibbling at this point, trying to keep my stomach under control.

I set out to the north along the singletrack, now needing to stop rather frequently to let the fast southbound runners by.  I'm sure many of them were having their own problems, and it wasn't easy for either of us to give way.  It was motivation to get through these 3 miles and back to the quiet of a one-way trail.

Along the way I pondered a bit about calorie intake.  Lately I've been trying time-restricted eating, waiting at least 12 hours between the last evening meal and breakfast the next day.  When I have a light workout planned I've been doing it before breakfast, up to an hour of running or biking or yoga.  So far I've managed to deal OK with the feeling of hunger in the morning and it seems like my body is happier.  That, plus a low-sugar diet the past couple years, has been a nice modification to our meal plans.

Supposedly you can train your body to run on fat for long periods of time, and while I haven't focused on this as much, I like the idea of having versatility when it comes to eating during long runs.  So if I couldn't eat much overnight tonight, maybe I would be OK.  Or maybe I would bonk.

It turned out fine, for whatever reason.  Not that I moved very fast (hadn't since the big ski hill climb) but I maintained a solid fast walk, occasional jogs, and relentless forward motion.

Bull Wheel aid station still had water - and watermelon! - contrary to reports back at Tunnel Creek.  I got some extra water, happy not to have to skimp too much through the next long section.

It did seem to take forever to reach the top of the next ridge.  Then more time through the drainages.  But I still had plenty of time.

Along the way I came across a baggie in the middle of the trail, full of trail mix.  Hmm, I suppose someone might be missing that.  Or maybe they left it in case someone else was running low on food.  I sampled a couple M&M's and a raisin but decided to leave it.

Then further on I came across a handheld running bottle sitting upright in the middle of the trail.  Is someone trying to shed items to go faster?  Weird.

It was getting light on the way down to Diamond Peak.  Cool, I can leave my lights with John at the bottom.  Hey, there's the bottom.  Hi John!  So glad to see you!

He said I looked better, and yes, I did feel significantly better at mile 80 compared to mile 50.  I wasn't looking forward to the 2nd haul up the ski slope, but besides that  :)  The cool nighttime temperatures surely helped.

Ready for my trekking poles, yay!  I need to work out a waist belt light system so I can more easily use poles at night too.

A shoe/sock change with fresh RunGoo on my feet?  Why sure, I don't mind if I do.  My feet had just started feeling sore on that last descent.  The new set got me within a couple miles of the finish before they started hurting again, very nice.

I was finally able to down a half serving of Spiz, my first in a few hours.  Stomach was improving - not enough for the waffles they offered though, that's too bad!

John ran around getting everything I asked for while I swapped gear from the vest to the pack.  It was quite a luxury having the help, plus plenty of time to work with.

Then he offered to come climb the ski hill with me.  That would be awesome, of course!  We checked out and started up the hill.

Thank you, Diamond Peak ski lodge!

Up, up into the sky.  It took me a bit longer than the first time, but not overly so, and was a better experience.  Having John's company was really nice.

It's steeper than it looks:

Lake Tahoe is somewhere back in the mist:

View off the other side of the ridge:

I'm about to go that-a-way (yay pretty!):

And since the camera is out anyway, here's the Bull Wheel aid station, thanks guys!

I made my way south while John had his own adventure.  He offered to run sweep behind the last runners on the 8-mile loop out and around back to Diamond Peak.  The race organization was like, "sure!" so off he went.  No planning (as far as I know), just a water bottle and a desire to see more of the trail.  That's my husband!

He also found the trail mix baggie and water bottle, carrying them down like I perhaps should have (I left it for you, babe).  Along with all the trail flagging and signs along the way.  Since he hadn't brought anything to carry them in, he ended up looking like this:

John called it "a practical matter":


Back up on the ridge, I came through Tunnel Creek for the 6th and last time.  Hi Kristi, great to see you again!  Hi Noe, yes my stomach is doing better, thank you!  The volunteers were all even more on the ball, motivated to keep everyone moving on toward the finish.

Somehow the next climb was tough again.  Sunshine.  Neverending switchbacks.  I guess it's just my nemesis spot on the course.  Sigh.  I took breaks in the shade and eventually made it to the top.

Marlette Lake on another pretty morning.  Speed-walking around the top, happy to return to Hobart.  A volunteer filled my bottle and asked if I had a filter in it?  Why yes, I actually do.  Hey, that's why all the water this morning tastes so good!

What also tastes good - smoothies in the middle of a 100-miler.  Thank you Hobart!

On my way to the last climb of the day.  Which went well.  Views down to Tahoe and Marlette and places I'd been several times, just lovely.

I spent a couple minutes chatting with the Boy Scouts.  Quite impressive that they give up a weekend to help runners.  They offered some sorbet, why yes I would love some.  Raspberry sorbet on top of a mountain, how often does that happen?

OK, one last long eternal downhill to the finish!

Yep, still a long way.  This time I took it easy, took a couple breaks, ran most of the downhills but didn't try to do it all at once.  David Sedaris told me stories and I settled in for the long drop.  I even sort of appreciated the little uphills in the middle roller section as something different.

Finally the teepee wood piles, must be getting close.  Yes, one more little aid station, thank you Cub Scouts!

Only 1.7 miles to go, just one short descent and then the trek around the lake.  Somehow it still kind of sucked.

But then there was John, yay John!  Let's walk this thing out.

Almost there, where does this trail go anyway, back to the lake, what?, where's the finish line?

Ah, here we are:

Woo hoo!

I'm pretty sure this is the Swiss flag and not the medical area:

Just a little dusty out there:

It was an up-and-down race in several ways, but I was so happy to stick with it and get it done.  It's my longest distance since working through the PF issue and a good next step in my training.

And apparently I didn't run enough because my legs recovered super quickly this week.  Pleasant surprise, that was.

Thank you to the race organization, incredible volunteers, and especially to John my Super Crew!

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