Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile -- 9:53:58

A beautiful morning at the race start
I had a good week in Lake Tahoe, topped off by a successful finish to the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile race on Saturday, July 18. It took me 9 hours 54 minutes to run and hike the 50.2 miles in the mountains along Lake Tahoe, and that was good for 12th place overall (out of 140 finishers, but I don't know how many starters). It got tough and I felt weak for many hours, from about miles 22-25 and 32-40, as I struggled to get in enough calories and water and to get my heart rate and breathing under control. Also, my right big toenail did not get along with my shoe. All-in-all the race was a good tough challenge and I'm glad I did it. I was about 10 minutes slower than three years ago.

The weather was great for running -- nice and cool in the morning and never really too hot. The scenery was gorgeous, when I took a moment to appreciate it. The race was superbly well-organized, as usual, and had fantastic volunteers and course markings.

It was wonderful seeing so many friends from my Coastside Running Club. We only have 50-60 active members and yet we sent eight runners to this race, with six in the 100 miler! It's truly amazing that we have so many accomplished runners in such a small club!

I'm very grateful to my wife for supporting this endeavor, and to my friend, Mor, for renting a house with me and keeping me motivated and focused for 10 of the toughest miles.

I ran this 50 mile race three years ago (race report), and I really loved the whole scene, so much so that I did the long drive for the last two years in order to volunteer. I felt like giving the 50 miler another shot this year.

My friend Mor and I rented a great vacation house and opened it up to other running friends, in order to acclimate to the altitude. The elevation of the race ranges mostly between 7,000' and 9,000'. We checked in on the Sunday evening, six days before the race.
8.2 mile training run near Genoa, NV
Larry and Mor, at the vacation home
A beautiful day at Emerald Bay with my brother and two nephews

Emerald Bay
Bill and my nephews, enjoying some high altitude mountain biking!

Finally, race day arrived! I got to the starting area at Spooner Lake just in time for the 5am start of the 100 miler. I wasn't able to find any of my six friends from the running club who were in the 100 miler, but I walked around and took some pictures.
Start of the 100 miler

I used a porta-potty twice, without having to wait in line. I put on suncreen. I'm feeling good, all systems are go!  
Ready to run!

The race started at 6am, in the cool air and now partially overcast skies, with the 55K and 50 mile runners together. I felt at ease and just kept reminding myself to take it easy. I chatted with a guy named Jeff who casually pointed out the spot, around mile 6, where he broke his toe in the 100 mile the previous year, but he finished the race. Ouch!

By my pace chart, I was expecting the first aid station, Hobart, to be at mile 6, but it was very close to mile 7. (I had trouble finding good info about the aid station locations on the race website.) This is a steady climb and I walked little sections of the steepest uphills. At the aid station, I wasn't very efficient with filling my hydration pack; it's kind of a pain and I hadn't practiced on being quick about it. I vowed to improve at the remaining aid stations. I left with about 40 ounces of sports drink.

There's more of a climb after Hobart but then there's some fast smooth single-track trail down to Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 12. I got in a line with a couple of other guys and we were cruising pretty fast. I tried to keep reminding myself that we had a long ways to go! We passed a few of the slowest 100 milers.

At Tunnel Creek, around mile 12, I filled up again, probably to around 40 ounces. Then begins a very steep descent into the Red House loop. I decided to press my lap timer, so that for the future I could have more accurate distances between the aid stations, but in the process I dropped my very tasty Nutella and banana sandwich square that I got at the aid station. I picked it up off the ground and tried to eat it, but it was too sandy and I ended up spitting it out.

Dan Rhodes! I came across the first friend from my running club. I figured he was at least an hour ahead of me (6.5 miles, approximately), which meant he was running his 100 mile race at the same pace that I was running the 50 miler. We have similar speeds in the long races, and I had been acclimating to the altitude for nearly a week, so I was concerned that he was running too fast. He looked great though and was in good spirits. Onward!

Along this loop, I came across a morbidly funny scene. Someone had placed a fake skeleton on the side of the trail, dressed in a Miwok 100K shirt with a racing bib, running shorts, and running shoes. Funny!

Norm Armstrong! Way to go, Norm!

I got a fill-up at Red House Aid Station, and then it was time to trek back up to Tunnel Creek. While putting on my hydration pack, I awkwardly stretched my shoulder back and felt a twinge of cramping in my shoulder. Oh oh! I've only gone about 15 miles! I better be careful and slow down and eat and drink plenty.

Omar Droubi! Way to go, Omar!

Chris Hawthorne! Way to go, Chris! We did a two-handed high-five ("high ten?") and congratulated each other. He was doing his first 50 miler and we were going in opposite directions. He was descending into the Red House loop as I was climbing out of it.

I got back to Tunnel Creek, at mile 18.5, and was feeling good. It's only 3 miles to the next aid station and I didn't get any more sports drink, so that saved time. I grabbed a bit of food. The wonderful volunteers double-checked that I already did the Red House loop, and it's time to head north and split with the 55K runners.

Cesare Rotundo! (I think I caught up to him before Bull Wheel, but I'm not sure.) He was in great spirits on his 100 mile journey and he filmed a little bit with his GoPro camera on a stick.

I arrive at Bull Wheel at mile 21.5 and get a full fill-up of sports drink -- 64 ounces. Now begins the longest leg between aid stations, somewhere between 8.1 and 8.5 miles. (Again, it's hard to find accurate info about the distances.)

Not too long afterwards, I begin to deteriorate. I feel much weaker and my breathing is more labored. Oh, no, it's much too early to feel like this! I stayed calm and told myself to be patient and to just take it easy and walk the uphills. I knew it's possible to recover if I give myself some time. Finally, I finished the climb and then begins a long descent into Diamond Peak Lodge, at mile 30. I was able to run well on this downhill and I was steadily passing hundred milers. Someone asked if I was the lead 50 miler. "No, definitely not, but thank you for asking!"

Then I suddenly felt sharp pains in my right big toe nail on every step. "Ouch ouch ouch !@$%". Something was really wrong. I curled my toe downward and that seemed to help. I almost stopped to check out the problem or maybe tighten my shoelaces since it seemed like my foot was sliding forward too much in my shoe, smashing my toenail. I thought of my friend George Miller who is an expert on foot care who would be at Diamond Peak Lodge. Then the pain subsided. I decided to not work on the problem until I finished the race, so there was no need to tell anyone about it at the aid station.

I recalled being on this same trail the previous year, as a "sweeper". This is a volunteer in a race who follows the very last runner (who is usually not doing any running at all by this point). I was grateful that I was able to cruise along well rather than slowly walking behind someone.

Diamond Peak Lodge!!! Amanda! Larry! Kristin! Mor! It was great seeing a bunch of familiar friendly faces.
Feeling OK at mile 30

Getting a quick refueling at Diamond Peak Lodge, at mile 30.

A quick fill-up later, and we're off! It was good to have Mor's company. We power-hiked up the entire 2 miles underneath a ski lift. There were some very steep sections. Almost none of it was runnable in a long race like this.

Photo by Amanda:

Photo by Amanda from later in the day, when she paced Chris:

After the long long steep uphill climb, we got to Bull Wheel again. (Photo by Amanda.)

Then we had soon had some nice downhill, which was good, because I started feeling weak again. My breathing was quick and heavy. I couldn't seen to catch my breath, so I needed to walk nearly every bit of uphill. I could run OK on the downhills, though.

Mor and I, around mile 33. (Photo courtesy of Sam.)
We got to Tunnel Creek again, at mile 35. I was struggling.

Jill Cole! Way to go, Jill! We clasped hands briefly and wished each other luck. She was rocking the 100 miler.

Finally, we got to Hobart at about mile 40. Still struggling. They had a great sense of humor. It amazes me that these aid stations can have so much equipment and supplies in the middle of nowhere.
Hobart aid station had a good sense of humor! (Photo courtesy of Amanda.)
Having Mor there was great. He led the way. "On your left!" "Passing on your right!" "BIKE!!!" I was like a VIP with a bodyguard. One of the 100 milers we passed and possibly some of the bicyclists were a bit put-off by Mor's forcefulness, but I didn't mind, and I thought it was funny. If you're reading this, thank you again, Mor, I really appreciated having you there. This was a long low period for me.

Shortly after Hobart, I was feeling better and was able to run more of the uphills. I urged Mor to go faster. But then he said he's having a problem. I asked him if he was safe. He said "yes" and that I should go ahead. I told him he would catch me soon. And then I was off, alone again, but moving pretty well, doing the last hard climb, up to Snow Valley Peak.

Dan Rhodes! I caught up to him. He was walking and had seriously bonked and had an upset stomach that kept him from eating or drinking much. He was cognitively and emotionally in good shape and realized that he just needed to take time to regroup. There was going to be a lot of walking in the hours ahead, but he was in no danger of missing cut-offs and he planned on recovering at mile 50 (the start/finish) for a while. He was going to have our most experienced ultrarunner, Franz, for the second half. We wished each other luck and I was on my way.

The scenery is absolutely stunning up here. (Photo by Amanda.)

Snow Valley Peak aid station, at mile 42 or 43. (Photo by Amanda.)

I became unfocused at the Snow Valley Peak aid station. I felt thirsty for water and so I got a fill-up to about 40 ounces, but I saw a large paper cup of water just sitting there that looked so delicious, that I drank it on the spot. Then I refilled it and drank it again. Then I looked over the food offerings before going for another two energy gels. All I really needed was the water and then I should have got out of there!

Then begins the blessed descent home. I was moving pretty well until I felt another sudden urge to defecate, but this feeling was too strong to ignore. I found a fallen tree off the trail to lean against and to offer some privacy. This added probably about 4 minutes to my time. I got back on the trail and a hundred miler said I looked like I had enough energy to do another loop. "Looks can be deceiving! I'm running on fumes and need to finish soon!"

Spooner Summit aid station! I had plenty of water so I waved to them and blew on by.

The last 1.7 miles is surprisingly tortuous, because the finish area looks like it's a half mile away, but the trail meanders around the shoreline, teasing you! At one point, a 50 miler runner in front of me kept going straight on the trail, instead of turning left to go over a small foot bridge. The route was well marked, but there was no chalk or signs in front of us, and it's easy to let your guard down and be on auto-pilot. "Left turn!", I yelled. He was very thankful as I made the turn and pulled away. I increased my effort, to have a strong finish, but then I felt light-headed and over-heated and "out of sorts". I didn't want to faint within a half mile of the finish! So, I walked up one short but steep hill. Some spectators cheered. I was guided to the finish line trail. I slowed down to get around a 55K runner. Then I picked up speed and crossed the finish line, hands in the air! Woo hoo!

I felt unsteady and light-headed and sat down for a bit in the finisher's tent. The very nice volunteer gave me the finisher's plaque and asked me my age, to see if I was an age group winner. (I wasn't.) I leaned over with my head between my legs to try to regain my composure (and maybe oxygen to my brain). I was happy to be done!

Larry! He had volunteered all day at Diamond Peak Lodge but he had come to the finish area. It was good to have his company.

A while later, after I got myself my drop bag, called home, and texted family, I heard from Mor and Dan. They had arrived and Dan was recovering up the hill a ways. I just didn't feel like standing, so I stayed where I was.

Mor arrived and we caught up on the events of the last couple hours. He had caught up to Dan and walked/ran him in.

Mor, enjoying the post-race massage!
After recovering for a bit, I did the long drive home (5 hours, I think). That was a long day! It was great to get home and see Claire and Jennifer again. Whew!

Coastside Running Club results
100 miler
Gary Lindberg 25:47:21
Jill Cole 25:58:25
Dan Rhodes 27:31:59
Cesare Rotundo 30:58:46
Omar Droubi -- apparently dropped at mile 67.5 at 3:31am on Sunday
Norm Armstrong -- apparently dropped at mile 50.2 at 8:56pm on Saturday

50 miler
Ron Little 9:53:58
Chris Hawthorne 15:22:45

I'm really proud of all of us, especially the hundred milers. This is a hard course.

What went well
  • I basically had a solid 50 mile race. I was only 10 minutes slower than 3 years ago and I placed the same as 3 years ago (12th).
  • Didn't get lost. No falls. No injuries.
  • No cramps! I had just a couple of twinges that warned of imminent cramps, but I managed to avoid falling off that performance cliff.
  • I only ran out of water once, for about 20 minutes.
  • No chafing. No blisters to speak of except for the bad problem with my right big toe.
Things to improve on
  • I probably ran the first 12 miles too fast.
  • Had to defecate during the race, adding probably four minutes to my time. I tried to not each much fiber the day before, but apparently I don't really know how to avoid this problem.
  • I should have gotten ice in my hat and maybe a spray-down at Diamond Peak Lodge. It's a hot brutal climb from there.
  • I apparently didn't take enough precautions with my right big toe nail. It started the race in a rough funky state. In some previous long run, it had gotten a blister underneath, but never fell off. I think the toe nail was raised and started catching part of my shoe on the downhills. I'm writing this the day after the race and I'm wondering if I need to seek medical attention for it.
Random data
  • I didn't wear a heart rate monitor again. I appreciated not having the hassle. I don't know if the info would have helped me run better.
  • I only urinated once during the race, around mile 20-25.
  • My weight six days before the race: 168.0 lbs. The night after: about 165 lbs. The morning after: 163.2 lbs.
  • My Garmin data.