Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tahoe Rim Trail 100

DSCN0229I didn't take many pictures this past weekend. During the race itself I only carried the camera until mile 12, took just enough pictures for the blog. Of the pictures that I did take however I had a hard time choosing a cover. I chose this one because of the great comeback this athlete has had from injury and the amazing year he is having now. This is Kevin Swisher, we met on the trail at the Ohlone 50k back in 2006. We spoke as I passed him in the later stages of the race and got reacquainted with him at the finish. It was his first ultra. Last year after posting a great time at the American River 50-miler he was injured and missed most of the year. In October of that year I passed him before the halfway point of the Firetrails 50-miler. I almost didn't recognize him, he gained weight, he looked off his game and I believe he didn't even finish the race that day. Well he has made his comeback this year, coming in 4th overall at Ohlone 50k amidst a very competitive field on a very hot day that saw two runners airlifted with heat related injuries. This past weekend at TRT100 he came in 6th overall, posting a sub-23 hour run. A sub-24 would be an accomplishment on that course. His comeback is an inspiration and it couldn't happen to a better and gracious runner.

For the rest of the photos, click here.

TRT100, hmmm... well it was at least a good first half, haha, ouch! It was another sufferfest. The course was not the toughest I've seen but the way things unfolded for me personally it was the toughest event I've ever experienced. That stinkin race beat me, beat me some more and beat on me some more for good measure. It was hard on all of us, only 60% completed the run despite good weather. I'd hate to see that course in the heat or rain. I had my problems out there, more than the usual and there was a moment during the night when I wished I did have a pacer. I don't begrudged people who use pacers or crew, I've used both and have fulfilled both roles myself for other runners, it's just that lately I've wanted that extra degree of difficulty in my events. I'm also being cheap! I didn't want to pay for lodging and transportation for a pacer. Anyway the low's were deep, dark and long and no music for inspiration or distraction. There is a no headphones policy for the entire event. That hurt me more than not having a pacer or crew. Regardless of the difficulties and the setbacks I did finish. On this weekend at least I was still tougher than the course, I survived my mistakes and weaknesses and finished not too long after first light on Sunday morning. It was the hardest mental battle and it took a whole lot out of me but it's nothing a few good nights of sleep, a few beers and good food won't cure.

Overall I'm not too disappointed with how the day turned out and I'm thankful for the small victories along the way that made it such a positive experience for me. I could have done better but considering the day I could also have easily not finished. The several problems I had really slowed me down and hurt me mentally but two of them I overcame with the help of fellow runners and fantastic volunteers. By mile 75, 17.5 hours into the race I still had a chance to come in under the 24 hour mark. However the return of my knee problem, same one that forced me to a shuffle at KM100, forced me to call off the time goal and simply survive. Exhausted, fuzzy brained and with a bum knee, I walked it in from mile 77. I knew it was going to be long, slow, lonely and torturous but the prospect of a dnf was even more unappealing. It's a heck of a thing to look at your watch, tired, exhausted, miserable and suffering and think to yourself, "if I'm blessed I get to do this for another 8 hours and finish".

I was convinced that I wouldn't try the course again any time soon, as I publicly announced to several volunteers but at the awards ceremony, as I was looking at my silver buckle (your time is imprinted on the back), I was already thinking of next time. Typical no? My overall time was fine but I didn't finish the race under my own terms and that's what matters most. I can't have a trail dictating to me when and how I will finish.

Despite my day I finished in the top 20 with a time of 26:23:49, that's not a testament to my speed and strength but the high attrition rate and the number of people who were having worse problems than I had. I'll have a blow by blow report to follow for you folks who like the gritty details. Thanks for all the support and I'll leave you all with this mental image:

It's early in the morning before sunrise and a very bright almost full moon is shining. You are on the rim and exposed, the wind is gusting and howling in your ears. It threatens to go right through your shell and you are thankful this one came with a hood. There is no sign of running lights in front or behind you. You take a deep breath, your vision is fuzzy and you are bone tired. Despite all that you take another step, fix your eyes on the trail ahead and think to yourself, "I am going to finish this!". Most of all you feel fragile and insignificant yet blessed and more than human at the same time.

That was me around mile 92, looking for my last major aid station, the last weigh in and the final push for home amidst the first signs of a lightening sky.


  1. Rick, you are amazing. And such an inspiration to me. Congratulations.

  2. Gooosebumps!!! You so seriously rock!! I am sorry you had to walk so far though. :<(

  3. Awesome job, Rick. Way to hang tough and make it to the finish. Don't hang your head too much about the trail "beating" you - that's part of what ultras are all about, right? Success isn't never falling down (or, in this case, getting a beatdown), but in rising up after each one. Job well done, dude.

  4. Rick,I'm so proud of you. I can't even imagine where I'll muster the strenght and resolve to finish if I were in your place. It does not matter whether you walked,crawled or skipped your way to the finish line. The point is,YOU DID IT..that in itself is a huge victory in my book.

  5. Dude, you are killer! I can't even imagine what you had to have dealt with out there. Crazy! But on the up, you 2 homies are looking hawt in that pic ;-)

  6. Incredible, Rick! Absolutely incredible. You are such an inspiring person. My sincere congratulations to you. I greatly look forward to reading the whole report!

    Way to go!

  7. Rick, What can I say that has not already been said. Your resolve is absolutely incredible. I am anxious to hear about the details. Great job!

  8. Rick,

    You have a well-earned buckle, I have to agree with the others. Congratulations!

    I don't know much about this ultrarunning thing, and I only know a little bit more than that about life. It seems that with all things in life, ultrarunning included, we're not always in control of what's going to happen next. Some things just happen, whether you've put those things on your path, or not. That said, it seems that it's almost impossible to run a race your way every time out there. This all probably sounds very annoying to that control-freak side of you, so I'm sorry that your race didn't go your way this time. ;)

    Congrats again and take care of that knee!


    PS. Oh and one other thing, can you remind me of what I just wrote in about 10 days or so? Thanks.

  9. Congratulations on winning the mental battle out there. "Walking it in" from 77 sounds somewhat excrutiating and your mental determination is quite inspiring. I hope your knee is better now that its not out on the trail!

  10. I just reread your TRT blog entry. You told me Gundy (3 time Badwater Finsiher) was a tough guy. I put you in that tough guy catagory as well. Especially the mentally tough part. Walking the last 23 miles after being brutalized the previous 77 miles is unfathomable. I can only catch a glimpse of how dark it got from my own experiences. Your toughness is evident with you reconsidering this race in the future.

  11. It was great seeing you out on the course, Rick. You looked so good and so strong. I'm sorry that you suffered out there. Believe me, you were not alone. I suffered badly and I was only doing the 50 mile. I am in awe of you for hanging in there. You rock. Hope to see you running again soon. Rest up!!

  12. Loved the "mile 92 revelation", so much expressed in such a short paragraph...So proud of you! I am wit Mom and Meghan. Waddle on...oh, and do figure out your knee thing too!

  13. That's're tougher than the course! You've definitely got the mental thing figured out. Now just get that knee fixed! : )

  14. Great Job get ur knee back together we have many more trails to see :-)

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  16. Guys thanks for all the support and well wishes. You guys sure know how to extend the after race glow. I'm still basking in it right now.

    Jennie: always cheering me on

    J~Mom: thanks for the stalking me, haha I knew you wouldn't find any results because we got a note from the RD that the results wont be up until later this week.

    Donald: I wish you were able to experience the same at WS. Looking forward to your first 100.

    Mom: such nice words. Maybe I send you some chocolate when I mail back the items you forgot here on your last visit.

    Marcy: haha did you really say "hawt"?

    Jean: I could have used some of your culinary delights after my race, heck I could still use them now. Unlike KM100, my appetite is on patrol. I must have really dug deep on this one and my body is looking to food for comfort.

    Dave: Congratulations to you as well for finishing your 50k and dealing and surviving your first major issue out there. Breaking and fixing, breaking and fixing until you get to the finish. I really want to do this race again, the only thing that would stop me is entry into the other summer 100's. This country now has 50 100-milers. So many options, what to do? where to go? But I want to return, I know the course now.

    Kelly: it was good to finally meet you in person. You guys looked like you were having fun out there when we crossed paths at the Red House Loop.

    Olga: I was channeling you out there on the 23-mile walk. You can walk faster than some people can run especially at the end of an ultra. I put to good use what I learned from you firsthand at Bighorn 100 last year; pump arms, smooth long strides, walk like you're about to give someone a beat down or err...a good talking to:)

    Sarah: The knee, the knee, the knee. Thankfully the joint is just fine, only the muscles around it. I have no other big races in the summer so I will work on fixing up the hamstring, the real culprit. Once that muscle is back to functioning normally then my body won't overwork the quads and such.

    Bob: Hope the training for the Grand Tetons is going well. I was whining about 9000ft. but you have to go much higher than that. Thanks for the calls of support man.

  17. Meghan: I will be rootin' for you at Burning River 100. I can't believe it's almost here. At least they have a webcast, I guess thats a good and bad thing. When Bob was running the Grand Tetons last year I kept checking on that webcast like an addict to crack. You can't always run your race your way every time but you can do it and I aim for most of the time. With hard training and smart racing you can have better control of your race and not let the elements and the course dictate the outcome for you.

    Addy: I heard about this course for the first time from your report and Scott's. It's as beautiful as you guys described it. So nice. You were spoken about during the weekend too, met up with your pal Ernesto. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you and your return to the trails.

  18. awesome, rick. i could not even imagine doing a 100-miler when all i did was the 50k course and i was beat. after having a good night's sleep and waking up with my body all sore, i just thought, my god, there are still people running out there. i can't even begin to say the admiration for all the runners that attempted the 100-mile distance here. again, awesome!!

  19. Rick, good job on finishing. You are still tough as sh#t even if you didn't get your time goal. That bum knee of yours worries me. Are you going to get it checked? I hope you have a little bit of downtime coming, you deserve it! Can't wait to read your full report. And BTW, I did not know you haven't been using pacers for these crazy 100 milers recently! You are seriously hard core. Now, rest!

  20. Rick, Thanks for the sympathy. I still feel guilty for dropping, but at the time I couldn't "bare" the thought of forcing myself to eat something and then heading for the bushes, in the dark. I really wasn't that tired and I know I could have walked the rest of the way. It's amazing how I went from cruzing the first half in 10:20 and not being tired, to a DNF! But I don't see the point of running a 27 hr.100 miler. It just doesn't interest me at this point in my life. Naturally I have to go back to TRT in the future for try #3. My 100 mile run record sucks!I can't seem to run very well at night. This must change. As for states,I have a friend on the WS Board and he told me that the Forest Service is letting them add 55 more slots next year. Hell, I said they should be letting them add about 150 slots! Anyway, maybe I will see ya there next year. I'll be the one stumbling around in the dark on my way to Brown's Bar.

  21. It was good to see you out there Rick! I had a tough time myself, and both your quote about 8 hours to go, and your scene inthe final paragraph ring very familiar to me. Ouch! Nice job on the finish--you were definitely tougher than the course, and it was a tough one.

  22. Anonymous1:44 PM

    Wow. WOW! Rick, congratulations a million times over. What is that quote - the body goes where the mind wills it? Never more appropos than here. You are inspiring to the nth degree! And your storytelling is an art - thanks for sharing. :)Samantha