Saturday, August 30, 2008
At the Ohlone 50k this year, a runner had passed out on the course because of heat exhaustion. His fellow runners quickly rendered aid and shielded him from the sun. The emergency call was made and a helicopter airlifted him out of the course. According to the family (sister in law goes to my church) the quick response saved his life. He had vomited before he passed out and some of it had come back. It blocked his airway momentarily, shutting down the oxygen to his brain, it also messed up his lungs causing pneumonia. He recovered and owes his life to his fellow runners and volunteers besides the medical personnel at Stanford. Out there in a place like the Tetons, you can hurt yourself and be a long way, a long wait for help. Imagine the manpower to walk someone out of those rocky fields. I don't even know where a helicopter could land there if someone needed to be airlifted. I guess it doesn't land, just hovers. I should ask my friend Greg, he's a Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot. He was transferred to Florida before Katrina hit and was sent to New Orleans to help with the operations there after the hurricane...but I digress.
What I'm saying is, thank God for these wonderfully natural places in our country. Kudos to those who go out and explore the outdoors. This includes all you cyclists too:) And lastly, thank you to the organizations that make it possible and who save our butts when we get into trouble cause really it can happen to the best of us. Meghan, Mike and Sarah all work for the National Park Service up in Yellowstone and I got a very small peep at what goes on behind the scenes so to speak. They help protect the environment and save lives and I was fortunate, blessed really, to have been out with experienced guides. I spent a part of my time reading their reactions to our environment while we were on that hike. If a situation made them nervous, like a steep, slick and icy snow field, I took note and followed their lead.
Anyway starting to ramble now so I should go. San Francisco has been blessed with good weather all week, it's our summer so I think it's here to stay for awhile. It's great here end of August till October. Foggy mornings, hot afternoons where I live. Run then hangout. Ran already, hungout already and now I'm going back out. Hope ya'll have a great holiday weekend. Staying off my bike because the roads will be choked with extra traffic, on bike and cars. Just gonna run and run some more.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Imagine the letter "T", our route simplified would look something like that. The trail head was around 7,000 ft. and we made our way to the "Saddle", the top of the "T", which was at about 11,000+ ft. To the right was the Middle Teton at 12,800 ft. and to the left was the South Peak which was at 12,000 ft. After we were done climbing both peaks we came back the same way we came in.
It was a tough hike with lots of scrambling to get at the top of these peaks. Good trails were only at the beginning, the rest of the way is through rocks, snow and scree fields, yum. Those rocks man, nature's own Wobble Boards. When you're climbing you have to be really careful not to dislodge any small loose rocks on to the person below and when you're following you have to be careful not to follow too closely. Going up was just as slow as coming down and in the case of the South Peak, coming down took much longer. I really enjoyed it. Plotting my way through the rocks was a thrill. I relished it. Scrambling to the top of these peaks was a great experience. I had never done anything like that before. Wish I could do more of that around here.
The views were amazing! Pictures don't do it justice but it's better than none. Just amazing. If you're into mountains and fantastic views you would love this place.
Who would like to guess what "Grand Tetons" mean in French? I found it out on the hike back down.
Enjoy the photographs. The photo set has 42 images. Whittled down from umm...well a lot. Here are my favorites. Not all of these are mine. Thanks to Meghan for sharing her images.
New friends, Mike and Sarah. The Grand Teton is in the background (one with snow), right below it, in the sun and looks like it's split in two at the top is the peak of the Middle Teton, the first peak we climbed. The Grand Teton is a technical climb, meaning you need ropes and all that mountain climbing gear. You also need to know how to use that stuff. I could show up with a helmet and all the ropes but never get any closer to the top.
Sarah and Mike at the top of South Peak. You get to the top of one mountain only to see other mountains, so crazy. Here if you get to the top of Mt. Tamalpais (2600+ ft.) the only other peak you'll see is Mt. Diablo (3600+ ft.). What we don't have in mountains however we make up for in repetition. Just ask the runners of the Mt. Diablo 50-miler, the Miwok 100k or the Headlands Hundred:)
For more, click here for the photoset.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I'm back now, no big mountains or super technical trails but it's nice to be able to run at full strength, unencumbered by altitude. I was constantly exposed to altitudes above 10,000ft. and I did fine but I could tell my body was not running at 100%. It was to be expected and I'm glad I was able to hang with my friends. I didn't slow anyone down, no throwing up on the side of a mountain and no wigging out. I couldn't ask for more.
So what's next?
Despite the fun I had on my little summer vacation I haven't really been running that much. The last big run was pacing at Headlands and my knee was still bothering me then so I made the decision to take more time off. As I mentioned I won't be doing any more 100s for the year because of the knee but I don't think it will hamper me for the shorter stuff, we'll see. My next race should be the Firetrails 50-miler. I've already told friends I was doing this event and I made up my mind while in Wyoming. I've got roughly 7 weeks to train. 1 week to get back in the swing of things, 4 weeks of hard training and 2 weeks for taper. That should be enough. Like in all my races this year, I don't want to just participate, I want to race and finish strong. I'm really enjoying the higher intensity of racing events and it's a blast to see personal records drop.
Looking forward to catching up on blogs and I've got more pictures and stories about mountains from my little summer vacation. The following images is from a potluck / outdoor movie night from this past weekend. We were in the small quaint town of San Anselmo, about 45 minutes from San Francisco. The movie was shown in a baseball field and the movie for the night was "Breaking Away". Who remembers the movie? It's great no?
Monday, August 18, 2008
Admiring the Grand Teton and the Middle Teton Peaks from the top of the South Teton Peak. That's actually two mountains in front of me. The Grand Teton is the highest one with the snow running down on one side. The Middle Peak is to the right and it looks like it's been cleaved into two at the top.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I got dressed, ate some of the finish line aid station fare, hung out with the volunteers and other pacers and had conversations with some of the 50-mile finishers. After 11-hours still no Lem, my runner. Well I hoped he was just going especially slow, saving himself for the night section. 11.5-hours still no Lem and I start to get worried. Finally Marisa Walker who was working timing with Wendell points out Lem at the top of the hill. The finish for this race, much like the Miwok 100k and the Headlands 50k, is sweet in that you see the runners coming down the last hill, switchbacking most of the way down. The runner she pointed out was walking slowly despite the downhill. We both had the same look - something was wrong. Sure enough, Lem pulls in and promptly drops out. He had tripped on a root or a rock and did something to his calf. He was getting sharp pains, muscle spasms and his IT band was getting sore. Not something you can really run through. He was done. Very unfortunate, he had trained hard for this event.
After hanging around a bit, talking with Lem and others, Karen Hanke suggested that I just pick up another runner to pace. Catra had just come in and suggested that I run the next 12 miles with her. She had pacers at mile 62 at the Tennessee Valley aid station and I could conceivably pick up another runner there to pace or just run back to the finish. I agreed. I've never run with Catra before but she's a pleasant friendly runner, in fact she was the one who entertained me with lots of stories, and I didn't want to miss out on some night running.
Just outside of the Tennessee Valley aid station at mile 62 we run into Donald who was on his way back to the start finish and he didn't have a pacer. I offered my services and off we went. This was about mile 71 for him. We spent the next few miles talking about his goals for the race and I offered my opinion as to how he could best achieve it. He looked very good at 71 and when he started his last and final loop at mile 75 he looked just as excellent and in great shape. We ran hard. I suggested he start pushing it now, in the areas of the course where he is strongest and most comfortable and not to wait until the final turnaround at Muir Beach at mile 91.
On the way to Muir Beach, around mile 89, my knee starts to throb and I get very tired. I remember thinking, "What am I doing here? I'm not fully recovered from my last race and Donald is much faster than Lem". Keeping up with him was tiring me out! However at Muir Beach I get my wind back and a couple of Ibuprofens help the knee. Curiously I didn't need any caffeine to stay up, helps not to have run all day:) Donald was feeling it at this point and I did my best to keep him motivated but he's easy to motivate. You only have to tell Donald there are lights in the distance chasing and he'll move faster:) There was a runner that was right behind us who we just couldn't shake. We'd pull away then he'd reel us back in then we pull away again and he'd reel us back in. With about 6 miles to go he passes us because we had to make a bathroom stop but I noticed how tired he was and communicated that to Donald; "He's exhausted, I got a close look and you can take him. When you do put some distance on him for good. Don't let him use us as a psychological tool to pull him forward". Donald doesn't say much but he goes at it. We pass this runner and put some distance on him for good. He was still back there but his lights were no longer visible. We do a very quick and fast stop at the last aid station at Tennessee Valley and march up the last hill feeling optimistic about our chances of coming in under 23-hours. One more hill to go and the finish. I suggested to Donald that he leave everything on this last section. He laughs and groans but wouldn't you know it he complies. Never at one point was he grumpy, angry or sulky, a hard worker with a good disposition even when exhausted. At this point I had taken the lead to pick up the pace. He was wearing down and could use the motivation. I walk run the sections just ahead of him and he followed as best he could. We made very, very good time. The last mile and a half is pretty much downhill on an asphalt surface and we go harder and faster. We meet up with one of his friends, Richard, who was waiting to cheer him in. We also pass runners Brian Recore and Dannielle Coffman who were just finishing their 2nd lap. Both would gut it out and finish as well. Way to go guys!
Donald and I at the finish. Look at that relief on his face. Ok I'm makin fun, he's happy too. Brian Wyatt and pacer Kevin Swisher coming in under 24-hours. Awesome Brian! Way to hang tough despite the stomach issues.
Donald crosses the line at 22:55:06 for 5th place overall. He looked relieved more than happy but I'm sure he was ecstatic about his performance. I hangout for a couple of hours talking to friends and other runners. Amazingly still going strong without caffeine. At 8AM I take a nap in the car before driving home, ending yet another successful day at the Headlands Hundred. Through Donald I was able to live the finish I had wanted for myself at last year's event. Maybe one day I run this thing again and do as well as he did. Great job Donald!
For the complete photoset, click here.
Monday, August 11, 2008
What a big weekend. A report on the pacing job at Headlands Hundred is forthcoming along with pictures. Just came by to post this image. I promised Kelly that I would put in on my blog when I took this picture. Here you go Kelly and you deserve it too for your awesome win on the 50-mile event. Kelly was first woman with a 9:09:59 and 8th overall. Way to go. When I got there she was already on her way to the bathroom to clean up and change. A report on her race is now up on her blog.
Friday, August 08, 2008
One thing that is good though is the food. Las Vegas is the no.1 destination for people from Hawaii and there's this hotel in the old downtown that is frequented primarily by Hawaiian patrons - The California Hotel. It's like someone took a piece of Hawaii and crammed it in a hotel. The two restaurants inside serve Hawaiian food. In particular there's a type of chili that can only be found in the islands. It's unnaturally orange and a bit on the runny side but it's so good, if you spent some time in Hawaii you'd know exactly what I was talking about. I hear the Island's Pidgin English spoken and I see aloha wear everywhere.
I'm here for a wedding and ironically I've been spending my personal time resting and laying about. A bit backwards really. When you come to Vegas you stay up, party and sleep on the plane ride home. Well my life has been more exciting than a Vegas show lately and I need this ptime to catch up on rest:) It feels good to lay around in a hotel bed, watching tv and indulging a bit on some good food. When it comes to food I will apply the famous Vegas tagline, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". My scale doesn't need to know the details. Tomorrow I leave early in the morning for my flight back to San Francisco. I'll catch up with Olga who is crewing and pacing her guy Larry at the Headlands Hundred in the early afternoon. I'll be on pacer duty myself for the second half of the race. Now that's the kind of play I'm looking forward to. I'll be on the trails when the sun goes down over the Pacific and I'll get to enjoy some night running again. Like I said, I guess I've changed.
I'll leave you with pictures from the San Francisco Marathon Expo from last weekend.
I saw this woman working at a booth with a green Western States 100 shirt on and I said "did you run that race?" and she replied "which one?". My eyes quickly traveled down to her waist and saw the big ol Badwater buckle. Haha, yikes! We talked for a bit and she introduced me to one of her friends who crewed for her. Turns out she knew Mark Gilligan and Mark was talking with Julie Fingar just on the other end of the booth. Here they are; Marie Bartoletti, Mark Gilligan and Julie Fingar.
Looping back to Catra's booth I ran into Jonathan "Gundy" Gunderson. He too ran Badwater and is 3 for 3. I'm primarily a mountains and single track runner, I've no desire to ever do Badwater but I have much respect for the event, admire the runners and celebrate their accomplishments.
Alrighty then. Well I still have a pair of black shoes to polish and a best man's speech to practice. Have a great weekend everyone.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I left the apartment at 2am. A mile and a half later I had to circle back, forgot all my energy gels. Guess I wasn't firing on all cylinders just yet:) I had to run past folks coming home from their night out. I thought I heard someone from a taxi cab yell "freak". I was offended at first but then I realized that what I was doing wasn't exactly normal. I even had people looking at me from their cars. I had about 35 minutes of street running before I made it to the Presidio where it was quiet and deserted, except for the rangers on patrol and the fishermen fishing at the pier. I pretty much did loops around there before heading into the hills a couple of hours later. I had my lights but there really wasn't any need for them. There was no crossing the bridge, they close that to foot traffic at night to stop "jumpers". Sadly the Golden Gate Bridge is a popular suicide option. Not that I would go across anyway if it was open. I read somewhere that mountain lions are more active at night, like sharks they are.
It was beautiful and serene and it was certainly one way to greet the weekend sun. That will be last time I would leave that early though. Still too many people out at 2am with them looking at me like I'm crazy and you just know some of those cars on the road are driven by people with some measure of alcohol in them. I'm not crazy just a runner.
The quad muscle that bothered me at TRT is on the mend. I can do 1-2 hour runs fine. At Track last Tuesday I ran my fastest times yet but the long run brought back the soreness. It bothered me from the third hour on and I wisely pulled back on the effort and called it a day at 5 hours.
Check out the pics! Next post will be about the San Francisco Marathon expo. Getting my workout done so early afforded me the time to visit Glorybelle at her expo booth and in the process I met up with other ultra runners at the event, they were working at the booths or volunteering for the event.
I hope you all enjoyed the pictures!
Friday, August 01, 2008
The silver buckle of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. According to the website the coin centerpiece was created by a coin press that was manufactured in the 1860's. The 6-ton press arrived at the Carson Mint in 1869 and was painted "1" to signify the first press located in the coiner's department. More info on the buckles here.
JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS
The two weeks leading up to the race were not the best but I was glad to have the work which funds all my racing and training anyway. Raced through deadlines, one after the another, pulling all nighters like I was back in college. I did manage to get some sleep and by the time I left on Friday I had left things in good order. Friday morning was another race, from San Francisco to Carson City. What should have been a 4 hour drive turned to 5 when a coffee stop at Placerville took longer than normal and I got lost in the campgrounds of Lake Tahoe. The tight window for race registration is tough for people traveling the day of the race, 10am - 2pm. What they don't tell you is that during the race briefing which starts at 2:15 you can still check in and they keep it open until everyone has gone and all drop bags have been picked up which was about 3:30pm or so. Drop bags need to be dropped off on Friday however I found out from a volunteer that you also have another chance to drop them off the morning of the race. I got there just when the race briefing was just starting. Got checked in, got my race goodies and all that and caught the most important parts of the talk. After the briefing I chatted with friends. I spoke to Harry Walther in length about my leg issues and the race. He had done several training runs on the course. I bought and watched the DVD documentary on the race and he corroborated some of the things I observed; sandy trails, some above treeline, high enough altitude to make a difference, good running sections not all technical, etc. Including Western States this would be only be my second time trail running in Lake Tahoe. By the time I sat down for an afternoon meal at a Chinese restaurant around 4pm I was hungry and sleepy. An hour later I was very full and sleepier:) Thankfully there was a Starbucks next door.
The hour drive to the house I was staying at took 1.5 hours because of tourist traffic and me getting lost again. Might as well get in out now on the road, better on the road than on the trail. I was staying with a bunch of friends who were doing the Trans Tahoe Swim Relay. While I was up at the rim on Saturday I thought I saw the boats of the relay making their way across the lake, shadowing their swimmers. By the time I got in almost everyone was there and the kitchen was busy, busy, busy. There were meals, drinks, desserts and lots of conversation. Before hitting the hay I showered, taped my feet, got dressed in my running clothes and packed my bags. I also spoke with a friend on the phone who gave me that extra boost of inspiration. I was tired when I hit the couch. However when my head hit that pillow nothing happened. I am notorious for not sleeping much the night before a race, 2.5 hours at the most, but this was a new record. I fell asleep, woke up after 20 minutes and was awake for the rest of the night.
@#$%&!! EARLY STARTS
If you thought the window for race registration was tight and short, wait till you find out the time you have to be at Carson City to catch the shuttle to the start - 3:30AM. Even if you had your accommodations at the race hotel itself you won't be getting enough sleep. I left our place by 2AM, the drive over was the most peaceful relaxing part of the entire weekend. The full moon was bright and I took my time, driving just below the speed limit. There were barely any cars on the road and it was quiet. I reflected on the things I wanted to accomplish and got my head into the game. Lengthy drives to races actually work in my favor. I arrive mentally ready for the task at hand, cool, calm and collected.
I meet up with Adam Blum and his girlfriend at the host hotel and would end up riding together with him on the bus. We were at the start by 4AM. It wasn't that cold although people were wearing hoodies and jackets. I had on what I was going to race in, a sleeveless shirt, shorts and my buff. It did get colder right before the start, that early morning frost before sunrise but we started shortly after that - 5am. Chatted it up again with people and made new acquaintances. Met a few runners who were running their first 100-miler, kind of crazy now that I reflect back on it. Met up with Gretchen Brugman, a blogger friend who I had never met in person. She too was running her first 100-miler and she would finish! I read her entire report. She had passed out momentarily at mile 75 in Mt. Rose aid station only to get up and finish the race. Husband and her friend pacing were both EMTs so they kept a good eye on her. Ultra women are tough, so tough. Some really great runners were in attendance, in particular Nikki Kimball. I've never seen her in person but she looks fast just standing and walking around. She wasn't the only one, there were a lot of fast looking hardy people at 5am. You can feel the chained energy ready to start, like muscle cars idling throatily in the morning air. Eyes focused, body relaxed. RD David Cotter starts us and we were off, it was still dark and dust clouds rose in the trail as we made our way to our first trail head. My Buff head gear was already pulled up to my face to capture the heat of my breath, it also protected me from all the dust. New conversations start right away, people fall into their paces and start talking. I fall behind Karyn Hoffman and friends. Karyn and pacer would get lost in the middle of the night between Tunnel Creek and the Mt. Rose aid station, lose 45 minutes before rallying and getting it back together. She told me at the awards ceremony the next day that the first thing she did was get her mind in the right place. She didn't get mad, took control of herself and worked constructively towards getting back on track. That's a veteran for you. No one taught me that, I learned it the hard way. Lose your mind, crap on your race. She too would finish like her husband Mike.
UP, UP AND UP SOME MORE
The race tops off at 9000ft. which isn't even at the graduate level for high altitude races, it's not Leadville, Wasatch or Hardrock. There are 50-milers run at higher elevation than this race but all of that matters not a whit if you are suffering because you live at sea level and don't have or willing to spend the vacation time to show up a week early to acclimate for this race.
The first half mile is relatively flat then you climb, you come down a bit but then you resume climbing. A good part of the race happens between 8000 and 9000ft. Our first aid station which was Hobart at 6 miles took me 80 minutes. I'm a slow starter anyway so it's all in the plan. What followed was the Tunnel Creek aid station which was another 6 miles. On the way there Gretchen Brugman pointed out to me that all the fog I was seeing in the low lying areas wasn't fog at all but smoke. Wow that was a lot of smoke and I was glad it was over then and not here. After more climbing it was about a 2.5 mile downhill to the station and I was starting to really hit my stride at this point. I was careful to monitor my pace via heart rate not going any lower than 20-25 beats below my maximum. At this rate I'm moving quick but not going all out, saving energy for the second loop. I kept my speed and effort on a tight leash and I would hold this effort all through the first half. I was running well and starting to pass people especially on the downhills which is where I'm most comfortable at. I was very good with my drinking. I read somewhere that you need to drink more at high elevation and I sipped on those bottles thirsty or not. Tunnel Creek is special in that the hundred milers see this place a whooping 6 times which makes it a good drop bag location. Most of my stuff was stored here. I had an extra pair of shoes in case I needed it, my caffeinated energy gels, extra regular energy gels, a Starbucks Double Shot Espresso drink, my Camelback type pack loaded up for night running and extra clothes. I would end up only using half the stuff but it was good to have just in case.
RED HOUSE LOOP
House smouse. On the video this loop was hyped up as a very difficult part of the race, even a couple of the volunteers I met at Tunnel aid station reiterated this. If you're comfortable at climbing it's not that bad. First of all it's only 6 miles or so. You drop down and about half way through you start going back up again. It's something but really it's nothing to be worried about. The toughest part of the climb is the last mile when you have to go back up the sandy steep slope to Tunnel aid station. The people who suffer the most here are the 50k and 50-milers since they leave the start much later and hit this loop later in the day. For the 100 milers we hit this area early enough in the day and not again until much later in the afternoon. Going up the first time hurt, I was reduced to a slow walk but it was over before I could really start whining. Really it's not that bad. In my limited experience with 100-milers I can already think of much harder, pain in the ass sections; the "Wall" at Bighorn 100, the "Pirates Cove" climb that you have to do three times in the Headlands Hundred, the "canyons" of Western States. Anyway my thinking is that they hyped up the difficulty of this area to take your mind away from the real painful part of the section. This section hurt during the day and it was much worse during the night, the trip to Mt. Rose and back to Tunnel Creek. Maybe it was just me but I suffered through this section, both times!
DEHYDRATING ON MT. ROSE
I left Tunnel Creek running at a very good pace. If you looked into my eyes you would have seen nothing but fight and energy. I was mooovin. Now Tunnel Creek is around 8500 ft., the trip to Mt. Rose which was 9 miles away would take us past Diamond Peak which was at 9000 ft. It was on the trip up to Diamond Peak that I started really feeling the altitude. My heart felt like it was going to beat itself out of my throat. I started feeling a slight headache, shortness of breath and sleepy. Worse, 4 miles later the water only aid station at Diamond Peak was not set up yet. There was no water to be had. My water consumption up until this point was very good. I was constantly drinking despite not being thirsty, I was taking in more than I thought I needed because of the altitude. I left Tunnel Creek with bottles not completely filled because i didn't want the extra weight and had counted on the aid station for the refill. By the time I passed Diamond Peak I only had a couple of swallows left in one bottle and it had to do till Mt. Rose which was another 5 miles away. I started to dehydrate and combined with the altitude problems I slowed down considerably. For the next hour and 5 miles I was not a happy runner. The trail continues to wind and roll all the way to Mt. Rose. No big climbs and no big down hills, just meandering trail which drove me crazy. It was in this section that the eventual 50-mile winner passed me and I saw the 100-mile leaders led by Jon Olsen heading back to Tunnel Creek. He was followed closely by Erik Skaden and Mike Wolfe. Not too far behind them was Nikki Kimbal and Beverly Anderson-Abbs, these two looked more serious and in sync than the men. No smiles but no frowns either, just faces set with determination with running postures that screamed "I'm going to kick some ass today". Seeing them put some wind in my sails but I was in bad shape by the time I got to Mt. Rose. Gatorade doesn't sit well with me but I drank it anyway when I got there. It sounded like the best thing and tasted the best when I drank it. It was getting warm at this point but because of the heat training I felt okay. The ice in my bottles bugged me more. Despite telling volunteers not to put ice in my bottles I got them back freezing. They were too cold to hold. I ate and drank my fill and as I was leaving mountain bikers were dispatched to set up the water aid station. I left with two bottles and 40 ounces of Gatorade in my belly. I also took in some food and a couple of ibuprofens for the headache. Oh it was damned uncomfortable to be sure, I wanted to wretch it all on the side of the trail. Running with your gut full of liquid is not the most pleasant of experiences as you probably have already experienced. Fortunately one of my other talents is the ability to keep things in. This was a bad talent to have in college and post college days after long hours of drinking beer and tequila but here in ultra it's an asset. What you throw up you can't use and I needed that liquid, nutrition and pain killers. I'm still walking when I see Mark Tanaka, he was a sight for sore eyes. The last time I saw him on a race course was when we were both racing Kettle Moraine, he was on the way back and I was still on my way to the turnaround, good times, good times. He snapped my picture, we had our quick hello's and he yells out "I'm not racing" as he moves out of earshot. The trip back to Tunnel Creek was still slow but better. A half hour later I recovered enough to start running comfortably again. By the time I got back to Diamond Peak water was available and I filled up. In the space of an hour my body had absorbed the 40 ounces of Gatorade and gone through both bottles for another 40 ounces on the 5-mile trip back up to Diamond Peak. I was thirsty! I came down that trail back to Tunnel Creek in the same shape that I started, strong and moving well but done with Gatorade.
SWIFT RIDE HOME
The next 15 miles flew by. I was feeling very good and running very well, all under 20-25 beats of my maximum heart rate. Caught up to some 50-milers and 50k folks. Some of them were not looking very good, walking slow and looking very tired. If you're not used to the altitude or distance this would be a difficult 50k/50m. No one was tired enough for a little cheering and "good job" yelled out now and then. It was much appreciated. Caught up to and changed leads with a 50-mile runner towards the end before he finally got his last wind and took off. Half a mile from the finish another 50-mile runner passed me, elated and happy to be done. he was all smiles and joking around. I told him he looked so good he should consider the 100 next time around. Oh he says "no" now but he might come around. Haha planting that seed, yeah right, I'm sure he's thought of it already. Well no need to rush things, just race/trail talkin' is all.
SLEEPY VERY SLEEPY
When I got in I was attended to right away, weight checks and all that. Ray Sanchez was on hand helping runners with food and beverages. Ray is a prolific racer, I've seen this guy many times.I stayed there for a bit. Towards the end of the 50 mile I started to get a little sleepy. Maybe it's the altitude but I had not counted on needing caffeine until at least mile 62. All my caffeine products were at Tunnel Creek, another 12 miles away. I asked around but no coffee was to be had at the station. It was only about 4PM or so and no one had coffee brewing. When I finally left I was feeling groggy and tired. I wanted to lay down for a bit. Instead I just walked and ate for a bit. What should have been a 10 minute break turned to 25. I walked with Grae Van Hooser who was also feeling the last 50 miles. Finally I just started running again so I can wake up. At Hobart aid station I caught up with Mark Gilligan who was pacing. Mark was second overall last year. I asked him if he had any caffeine and like magic he produced a caffeinated gel. I took it right away and was back in the game 20 minutes later. By the time I hit Tunnel Creek I was awake and alert once more. There I chugged down my single can of Starbucks coffee and embarked on my second trip on the Red House loop. I ran that loop faster than the first time however by the time I got back the clouded, groggy feeling had come back. I figured I just ran out of caffeine. I was out on the loop for about 1:15 minutes so that sounds about right. Soon as I got in I took another shot of a caffeinated gel, picked up my pack which had everything I needed for the night; a shell, lights, caffeinated gels, extra set of batteries for the handheld light, pepto bismol tabs, small blister kit and ibuprofen.
THE EVIL FOREST
I named the 18 mile down and back loop to Mt. Rose the "Evil Forest" in homage to a section at Cascade Crest 100 that runners have dubbed the same. They are nothing alike except that they are both sections you want to get done and over with as soon as possible. The 5 mile section at CC100 however takes longer to navigate than the one way 9-mile section to Mt. Rose. It's quite technical to say the least and like the second loop to Mt. Rose it is done in the dark. Soon as I started the short climb out of Tunnel Creek I felt foggy, loopy, and hazy. The best way I can describe it is like a flashlight at night. Where I focused my attention, it was clear but all the surrounding edges was fuzzy and blurry. I thought it was just insufficient caffeine so I took more. I felt a little better but the loopiness never really went away. Again this section, after a short climb, just meanders on and on and on. In the dark it seems like forever, the moon was bright however and it was beautiful in a way. My condition wasn't getting any better and it was at this point I pondered the wisdom of having a pacer. My biggest concern was if things got worse would I have my wits about me to just stop, get help, or even just sit down on the side of the trail or would I totally lose all rational thought, get lost and pass out where no one could easily find me. Would I know when to say when was the biggest question on my mind? Well I wasn't just going to ponder the question in the middle of the trail so I plodded on. A benefit of being so loopy and detached is that I was a bit numb to the physical act of running itself. I could just run and not really feel the exhaustion or discomfort. The problem was staying focused to keep on pushing. I noticed that I was easily confused like I was drunk. I could see the trail markings, the shoe prints in the sand but I would still stop frequently to make sure that I wasn't going the wrong way. Once I stopped to take a caffeinated gel and I couldn't remember which way I came. I was so out of it! I went with my best guess knowing that Grae and Ben was just right behind me. If I choose wrong I would run right into them anyway. This has happened before. My brain got so addled with the heat on one race that I got turned around and started running downhill and into the runner behind me. It never occurred to me that if I was running downhill trying to get to the summit of a mountain. Ouch, crazy times. This continued until I was about a mile out of the Mt. Rose aid station. Fortunately for me I caught up to a runner and his pacer and they would give me the cure. He was no longer running because of an issue with his leg but was determined to walk it in. He asked how I was doing and I told him I had problems with keeping my focus and he suggested salt. He said he had the same issue two hours prior and it cleared up with Gatorade and salt. I had been good about taking my salt but I spaced them out to every two hours in the afternoon when I stopped sweating as much. I kept up with my drinking though, drinking the same amounts I had been drinking earlier in the day, paranoid about getting dehydrated again. Once he mentioned it, it made perfect sense. I had a similar issue with salt years back at a 50-miler that I had forgotten about. I started taking salt right away. At Mt. Rose I sat down and took some time to eat a couple of cups of chicken soup and having a cup of coffee before heading out. I felt better quickly and the fog cleared by the time I was well on my way back to Tunnel Creek.
Quitting was never a serious thought but I've never felt so much reluctance within me to continue than on my last trip over Diamond Peak back to Tunnel Creek. It was here that I felt the muscle on my left knee start to throb painfully. I was wearing a neoprene sleeve on it which worked great all day and I'm sure it prevented the muscle from totally seizing up like it did at Kettle Moraine. It didn't hurt to walk, I could walk as fast as I wanted with short jogs thrown in but running was out of the question. Running made it throb painfully and the danger that it would completely seize up prevented me from pushing further. Before this setback t I still had a chance for coming in under 24 but under the circumstances I had to let it go. I could have valiantly kept on pushing and DNF when the muscle finally threw it's final tantrum or pull back now and hope it's enough to make it to the finish. I opted for the latter and I walked, walked and walked. I thought of my good friend Olga and her fast power walk. I've paced her and run a whole 100 with her, I know the form. I've seen catch up to and pass people with that walk. Instead of my fast short running strides I was now taking long quick steps. When you're short with short legs this is kind of a pain:) but it was doing the job. I pumped my arms and off I went. Walking sucks when all you want to do is run but the thought of quitting even more unappealing, so I walked and walked, over the hills, roots, rocks and sand. I'm not a professional/sponsored runner, finishing is my prize, my only main goal.
After getting back to Tunnel Creek I quickly refilled my bottles, ate, thanked the volunteers for all their help. It was my sixth and last time through and I was glad to be seeing the last of that station. One more look back and I was gone. On my way back to Hobart and mile 90 I saw the last two runners who were still heading out to Tunnel Creek, both female. They were only on mile 60 or so, they still had the 6-mile Redhouse loop to complete before even embarking on the 18-mile round trip to Mt. Rose and back. Ugh! my heart just went out to them. They would both finish though. Ultra gals are tough! I said that already right, so damned tough. They line up, gut it out with the men and finish. They get just as dirty, just as stinky and grin just as wide when the going gets tough. My hat's off to the ladies of ultra marathon.
From here on out it was just a walk. The knee wasn't any better but not getting any worse. The biggest challenge was just staying focused and awake on the slower pace. It was hard to keep the powerwalk pace for too long. Eventually I would slow down to a walk before I would mentally crack the whip and get going again. I wrote it before and I'll write it again, it sucks to be walking when you'd rather be running. I was at peace though, no more major issues, no more new problems, just heading home with the fastest speed available. I knew I was going to finish at this point. I thought about toughness too, where do you get it and how do you build it up? Is it nature or nurture? My father's family are athletes, I could have gotten it from them. On the other hand my grandfather on my mother's side was a soldier. He fought against the Japanese in WWII and survived the Bataan Death March. I felt silly thinking considering such things but I imagined my grandfather not being very proud of me quitting a simple 100-mile race. Besides as hard as they were, 100-mile races are still safer and better than training. Hey I don't have aid stations in my training, spaced every 5 miles or so and staffed with eager helpful people.
At Hobart I was invited to sit by the fire, there was about 8 or so volunteers with chairs arranged in a semi-circle around the fire. I was given chicken soup and I was told I was in 14th place overall. They just confirmed what I already have been suspecting. I didn't see many people in front of me at the turn around at Mt. Rose or at Tunnel Creek and a whole lot of people behind me. I didn't think it was that bad though. Hobbled as I was how can I be at 14th!? They told me they had just taken down 16 people to the start/finish area, runners who dropped. It was wonderfully comfortable in there by the fire but with only 10 miles to go I was ready to be done.
THE LAST CLIMB
Snow peak aid station a mere 2.7 miles away from Hobart is mostly climbing, I'd guess that 2.2 of it is climbing. When I got to the top I was greeted by ferocious gusting wind that had me going back to my pack for my shell. I had been using it intermittently during the night and needed it the most now. It's also that time of the morning when it gets colder before the sun rises. I climbed and searched for the aid station as soon as I got to the top. Finally seeing it, bright and welcoming at the peak. brought a new wind in me, my last until the finish. I was weighed in for the last and final time. I was up in my weight as I had been since Tunnel Creek. I had over compensated and taken too much salt this time but aside from weighing in 1.5 pounds heavier and being constantly thirsty I was just fine. I did not linger long and was soon on my way. I was in the single digits now and would be home soon, by my calculations another 2.5 hours. A long time really but compared to what I had already invested, not so much.
I would get passed about 5 times on these last miles. The next 5 miles after Snow Peak is downhill, a gentle drop but technical in some parts. Think big rocks embedded on the trail. This section felt close to forever. I had started anticipating the end and every minute I wasn't there was torture. Fortunately I was tired enough that I'd lose my focus even on the negative stuff. I just bumbled along. I would re-focus get a good spurt in then fall back to an easy pace. On and on I went. The runners who passed said their hello's and asked about my state. Might nice no? They cheered me up on their own way and I bemoaned the fact that I couldn't follow. It sucks to be only able walk when you want to run!
ITS DARKEST BEFORE DAWN
There was a small aid station a mere 1.8 miles from the finish. I filled up one of my bottles and one of the volunteers asked if I'd consider running the race again in the future, I said no way. A few yards after the station my mood turned very sour and negative. All my frustration came to surface at the point. I remember swearing and thinking that if I ever have to walk in a hundred again I would just quit right then and there, why go through the slow torture, the prolonged agony. I swore I was done with slow struggling finishes. No more I said! Run or DNF. "I'm tired of this!" I screamed in my head! No smiles coming in, just glad it was over with no desire to ever return to the course. This was my last and final dark moment. I walk through relieved but dejected at 26:20.
I come in they rip something off my number and I promptly plop down on one of the chairs. They bring me water in a glass printed with the logo. Another race schwag I get to keep. Slowly I return to normal. Before I even took a sip, I got back up and headed for the drop bag tent to retrieve my phone. I had messages to retrieve and messages to send. On the way there a waking Brian Wyatt gets up from his nap and starts attending to me. He had paced Kevin Swisher from Mt. Rose back to the finish, 25 miles or so. He told me how aggressive Kevin was on the final quarter of the race coming in under 23 hours. The good news cheers me up and the phone messages pulls me out of my funk completely. He proceeds to look after me, all of a sudden I had my own crew! He got me my drop bags, got my water that I left at the finish line and offered to get me some food. He then offered me a ride back to Carson City at my convenience, now or later it was up to me. I opted for now since all I could think about was bed. How's that for support? I've known Brian for several years now and we are always racing against each other. Some days I never catch him, some days I succeed in sneaking up behind and passing him on the last half of an ultra. Oh c'mon he loves it. It's a friendship born out of competition and that morning he was my finish line crew and my ride back to the race hotel.
I bumbled around a bit, looking for my drop bags and gathering my stuff. A truck pulls up and Grae Van Hooser was on the passenger seat. We talk for a bit. He looked a bit dazed, probably what I looked like to him too. He had stomach issues and had to pull at mile 90 or so. He had a tough second half after a great first half, finishing the first 50 in 10:20. Last I heard from him was at Tunnel Creek after the Mt. Rose loop, said he couldn't keep anything down, didn't realize how bad it was. I finished gathering my stuff and got into Brian's car. On the short ride to the hotel I could barely keep a conversation going and I made the decision not to drive the hour back to the house in Lake Tahoe. I just saw myself falling asleep on the wheel on the drive back. I rented a room, chatted with some runners and crew, the desk clerk and promptly crashed. Thankfully seeing my condition the desk clerk got me a room on the first floor. Bob would wake me up and I mumbled a few words before crashing back to sleep. Mom would wake me up too and I did the same. After a couple more hours I was golden. Made a phone call and proceeded to take another shower before heading out for some food and the awards ceremony.
NO BLISTERS! That has never happened before. My legs were a wreck though. Lunch was good despite taste buds not working properly, things tasted a bit dull. Got my buckle, shuffled around with the other runners and got more food and drink. Many faces were familiar now but there were also many familiar faces that was missing from the crowd. Only about half of us finished the race, incredible considering the weather was good. I'd hate to see this course on a heat year or a storm. When I got my buckle and saw my time etched in the back I was already going through my mind the things I would do better for next time.
Went back to the hotel, crashed for another hour before finally leaving Carson City at 8:30PM. I wanted to wake up in San Francisco besides the car rental was due at 9AM Monday morning. Monday morning traffic was nothing to mess with either. It was raining when I left, good thing there was no rain during TRT, nothing I felt anyway. Overall it was a tough race put on by a great organization. I'd like to come back and finish under 24 hours on this course one day. It won't happen anytime soon though, this country has many 100-milers to experience. Many!
Tahoe Rim Trail 100-Miler
19,788 ft. Total Climb | 19,788 ft. Total Descent
2 loops of the 50-mile course.
A good amount is run between 8000-9000 ft.