Friday, July 29, 2011

Back In the Swing of Things

Now that I feel as though I’m fully recovered from Tahoe (although I never really felt bad after the race), I’m starting to slowly get back into a more “regular” running schedule. I ran 8+ miles yesterday with friends at Eisenhower. The temperature at 5:15 was hovering at 100, and I was not pleased. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good the entire run and even managed to run more of the uphills than normal. The legs felt good. It’s just a matter of adjusting to being back in this heat. Next week will be another jump in mileage before 2-3 weeks of higher mileage and then a slow taper before Wasatch.

As a side note, I have to say that I am so lucky to have such a great group of running friends. It’s been a challenging week for me, and yesterday was exactly what I needed. Running is a great way to clear your head, and running with friends is even better. Thanks to the Rockhoppers!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Race Report


Great first 70 miles, tough next 15, BRUTAL last 15. Overall a great day with amazingly beautiful scenery.


PART 1 – The Plan

I originally signed up for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race as a backup plan, in case I struck out in the lotteries for Western States, Hardrock, and Wasatch. As it turns out, I missed out on WS and HR, but I did manage to get into Wasatch. Knowing that I needed a mountain 100 finish this summer to extend my qualifying for Hardrock another 2 years, I decided to run both TRT and Wasatch. My thinking was that if I ran only Wasatch and didn’t finish, I would be out of the lottery for next year’s Hardrock. Basically, I was planning to run TRT as “insurance” for qualifying to Hardrock. The more I researched the race, the more I realized that just finishing this race was not going to be easy. TRT boasts over 22,000’ of climbing and another 22,000’ feet of descent. Add to that an average elevation of 8,200’, and this race is no joke!

PART 2 – Training

I ran the Bull Run 50 miler in April and then did a casual double crossing (R2R2R) of the Grand Canyon in May. My legs felt pretty good, but I knew I would need more mountain miles to prepare me for TRT. My good friend Liza Howard was planning on running Western States (she got in by crushing the course record at Bandera 100K), and Chris and myself were going to pace and crew for her (she ended up not running because of an injury, which led to another great story that I talked about in a previous post). A college friend had moved to Bellingham, Washington, and a former student/runner had a house in Eugene, Oregon. Things were shaping up for a huge road trip out West. This would mean access to great mountain trails and cooler weather, both of which would be beneficial to my TRT training.

I’ll spare you the details of the trip (you can read those if you want), but all the mountain running had me feeling stronger than I have ever felt before. I knew that climbing up mountain trails would be no problem. My legs felt great, and the mental boost I gained from all this training was unbelievable. I was extremely confident heading into Tahoe. If anything, I was anxious to get it started and see how all the mountain running would pay off.

The hardest aspect of training for me was backing off the week of the race. Here I was surrounded by pristine mountain trails, and I was supposed to be resting! In some ways, that was tougher than the race itself. I worry about most everything, and deciding what to put in my drop bags is always a stressful process. I spent most of the day Thursday and early Friday before the race packing, unpacking, and re-packing my bags. I tend to put way more in these than I actually use, but I would rather have things that I don’t use than need something I don’t have. Anyway, I dropped my bags of at race registration, got my bib, weighed in (depressing to see that), and attended the race briefing. At the race briefing they warned us of lions, bears, flowing streams, and treacherous snow crossings. Great. This was going to be tough. I made some last minute adjustments, hit the hotel hot tub for a quick soak, and headed to bed for a few hours of (restless) sleep.

PART 3 – The Race

The alarm went off at 2:30, way too early for my liking, but I was anxious to get out on the trails and find some suffering. I guzzled a cup of coffee, hit the restroom, and headed to the start, about a 20 minute drive from the hotel. At the start I hung out with fellow Texan John Sharp, as we both tried to stay warm in the chilly darkness. The forecast called for clear but cool skies over the next 24 hours, perfect for me. With a 5AM start and an easy mile on a jeep road to start, I decided not to use a headlamp, not wanting to have to use it for 15 minutes only to have to carry it another few hours. I usually set 3 goals for a big race, and TRT was no different. My “A” goal was to break 30 hours, “B” goal was sub 32, and “C” goal was just to finish and get another Hardrock qualifier under my belt.

105 runners huddled around the start on the shores of Spooner Lake (where I had seen 2 bears 3 weeks prior), and at exactly 5AM the race director sent us off into the mountains. The first mile of the course is run on a dirt road, which I like because it is relatively flat and runnable, which generally gives runners time to separate themselves before the first climb. My goal was to take it easy early on, jog the flats and downhills, and power hike anything that went up. I carried 2 water bottles and a pocket full of gels, and I wore gloves to keep my hands warm. Other than that, it was shorts and a short sleeve (button down) shirt.

After the initial mile of road, runners turn onto a beautiful singletrack trail that leads to Marlette Lake. This section is about 3 miles long. Runners circle around the lake and climb up to the Hobart aid station, over 6 miles into the race. I ate a gel every 20 minutes and washed it down with water, wanting to stay on top of my caloric needs and hydration early on. The plan was to do this until I couldn’t stomach gels any more and then move to solid foods. I felt really good on the climb up to Marlette Lake, passing a bunch of people at what I felt like was a conservative pace. I must have mentioned that I was from Texas because I was soon immersed in a conversation about Bandera and all of Joe P’s races. Although there were no clouds in the sky, the moon was full, and there was tons of fog rising off the lake, making for a really cool backdrop. Soon the sun was up and the mountains began to peak through the fog. Absolutely beautiful.

(Marlette Lake In the Early Morning)

(Mountains Peeking Through the Fog)

I arrived at Hobart aid station (mile 6), re-filled my bottles with water, hit the restroom, and headed off for Marlette Peak and the first snow section of the course. The race director had assured us that 90% of the course was free of snow, but he warned us that the 10% that had snow would be tricky and that we would need to be extra careful and look for course markings. I was amazed at just how much snow remained in mid-July. At this hour of the morning, most of the snow was still frozen, meaning the aid station volunteers needed to cut steps for us in certain sections. The snow would melt some during the day, making for an easier return trip, only to re-freeze overnight and become even tougher in the dark and early the next morning. I think it was painfully obvious that I was from Texas and not used to running in snow. I tiptoed through the icy mess and tried not to slip and fall. It was a neat experience, but this section definitely slowed me down.

(One of Many Snow Crossings)

(We Slid Down This Section Later In the Day)

Once we were through the snow, we were treated to great views of Marlette Lake below and Lake Tahoe over the ridge. The trail was in great condition (the late snow melt meant very few people had used much of the trail before the race) and very runnable (except for the climbs). There were 2 other races running in conjunction with the 100 miler (50K and 50 mile), and it was on this section that the faster 50 mile runners caught up to us (they started an hour later than we did). It’s always fun to watch fast runners run in the mountains. My legs felt decent, so I cruised the next few miles of mostly downhill singletrack into Tunnel Creek aid station (mile 11).

Tunnel Creek would be an important aid station throughout the race, as we would pass through here 6 times. It was also the first medical check of the day, but not until you came through the second time. They had a pirate theme at Tunnel Creek, and I’m pretty sure they drank plenty of rum there over the course of the race. It made for a fun atmosphere. I filled my bottles and headed out on the “Red House Loop”, which would drop us down to the low point on the course at 6,800’ and give us a “taste of hell” as the TRT slogan states. We would make a 10K loop and return to Tunnel Creek for weigh-ins. The initial drop down on this loop was nasty and full of sand. Once the sand ended, the creek crossings and mud began. So much for dry shoes (at least we had been warned of this). After a couple miles of downhill running, we hit the actual red house, where a couple volunteers had set up an extra aid station. Knowing I had a few miles left, I passed through without filling up. After a quick (but steep) climb out of the aid station, the terrain leveled out and turned into a series of flats and slight uphills, all of which I was able to run. My legs felt good, but I was experiencing some discomfort and tightening in my hamstrings, not a good sign with 85+ miles left to run. Soon I was back at the sandy section of trail that would take me back to Tunnel Creek (mile 17.3). I maintained a good hiking pace and was soon at the aid station. On the way up, a lady who was heading down turned to me and said, “hey I remember you from the Rubicon Trail” (trail Chris and I had hiked 3 weeks earlier. I guess 6’6” bearded guys are easy to pick out of a crowd.

(Entering the Red House Loop)

(Climbing Out of the Red House)

We had been weighed the day before and given a set of numbers. Each number represented a percentage of weight (both lost and gained) that corresponded to 5%, 7%, and 10% of your total bodyweight. Runners were permitted to be up to 10% on either side of their initial weight before risking being pulled from the race. For me, that meant I would have to lose (or gain) nearly 20 pounds during the race before the medical staff became concerned. When I weighed in at Tunnel Creek, I was down 7 pounds. The doctor told me to keep hydrating and sent me on my way. Knowing I had the longest stretch (what I thought was 12+ miles) without an aid station coming up, I had packed my Ultimate Direction pack in my drop bag here and planned on using it in addition to my handhelds for this next section. I filled up my pack and bottles, and I was off again, climbing up through the mountain forest.

After 3 miles of hiking up, I was pleasantly surprised to see an aid station (Bull Wheel) set up on top of the hill. If it was mentioned in the race info, I must have overlooked it. Bull Wheel was a bare bones, water only, stop, but I really didn’t need anything anyway. I filed this info away for the 2nd loop.

The first 3-4 miles out of Bull Wheel are rolling, with a net elevation gain. I settled into a nice power hike (hamstrings still bothering me a bit) until I hit the final section, which was a 4-5 mile downhill that would drop over 2,000’ into the Diamond Peak Ski Lodge aid station (mile 30), where the real fun would begin. I settled in behind a couple guys who had run this race before. We tried to make good use of the nice downhill without going too fast and trashing our quads. I think that is one of the biggest mistakes people make in ultras. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and hammer the downhills. This is great, but the next 70 miles can be rather painful after that.

We cruised into Diamond Peak feeling good, and I dropped my pack and filled my water bottles. The sun was out, but the temps were still cool. This was shaping up to be a great day. There were lots of spectators at Diamond Peak, which is always fun. I knew we had a tough climb ahead of us coming out of Diamond Peak, so I made sure I was well-hydrated. I also grabbed a few slices of watermelon, a favorite of mine in ultras, and weighed in again (down 5 pounds, no cause for concern). One of the aid station volunteers looked at my shirt and awarded me the best-dressed” award for the day. This would be the first of many compliments I would receive for my shirt.

(Coming Into Diamond Peak Aid Station - Mile 30)

The initial climb out of the Diamond Peak ski lodge takes you up a winding service road, under a ski lift. The race directors warned us that we would be cursing their names here, that the 1,700’ climb in less than 2 miles (about 30-35% grade) was brutal. Hey, what’s a mountain ultra without at least one ridiculous climb! As we rounded the corner, I looked straight up and marveled at how steep it looked. “That’s not the climb we are taking. Ours is much steeper”, said the guy next to me, a veteran of this race. Oh boy. Sure enough, we made another series of turns, and there it was. This 2 mile section took me roughly 50 minutes to complete the first time through. Although I was gasping for air, the views I got when I turned around were spectacular. It (almost) made it seem like the climb wasn’t so bad.

(Initial Climb Out of Diamond Peak - The Worst Was Around the Corner)

(The Real Climb)

(Looking Back On Climb Up Diamond Peak)

After a false summit, I finally caught a glimpse of the top of Diamond Peak (nearly 8,800’). I tried to catch my breath and then made the quick quarter mile drop back to the Bull Wheel aid station. I filled my bottles here (we only had 3 miles back to Tunnel Creek, but I wanted to make sure I was topped off) and took off. I was approaching the 8 hour mark of the race, and I felt pretty good. Somewhere on this section, it happened – my “normal” puking session. It seems that no matter what I do, I always throw up around the 8-10 hour mark of a race. This one was no different. I felt fine, and then all of a sudden I was doubled over on the trail emptying my stomach. Afterwards, I felt much better, but I couldn’t run. Since I had experienced this before, I wasn’t too concerned. Frustrated, yes, but I knew I would eventually feel better and be able to run. Sure enough, a couple miles later I started to feel much better and was able to jog a bit. I was still making good time and was ahead of schedule, so there was no need to panic.

I hit the Tunnel Creek (mile 35) aid station for the third time, weighed in (same as at Diamond Peak), re-filled my bottles, and was off. We would return (through the snow) to the Hobart aid station, and then take a different route back to Spooner Lake, where we would do it all over again. I climbed up through the trees and over the snow, enjoying the cool weather and beautiful views. This section was especially difficult for me, not because I was tired or the terrain was tough, but because the trail markers were difficult to see. The ribbons seemed to blend into the trees, and the snow sections made it even more difficult, as some sections had us go off trail to avoid the heavier snow, only to re-join the trail somewhere else. The most fun part of this section was getting to slide down a snow bank that we had to climb earlier. It wasn’t huge (maybe 15-20 feet at most), but sliding down on your butt was one of the highlights of my day.

(Course Marking)

I rolled into the Hobart aid station (mile 40) feeling great, stopping only long enough to re-fill my bottles with water. I had long since given up on gels and was relying heavily on Clif Shot Bloks at this point, so I popped a few in my mouth and headed off towards Snow Valley Peak, the highest point on the course at just over 9,200’. The climb up to the peak was about 1,000’, but it was over 3+ miles, making for a very manageable ascent. We hit some exposed sections and more snow, but overall it was a pleasant climb. A local boy scout troop from Carson City was manning the aid station at Snow Valley (mile 43), and they were great. This aid station had the best views of any on the course, but they also had the most (by fart) wind. It was whipping pretty good, and these guys would be up there for 30 hours. Very cool.

(Marlette Lake in Foreground w/ Lake Tahoe Behind)

I filled my bottles again and trotted out of the aid station, ready for the 7 mile descent back down the Tahoe Rim Trail to Spooner Lake. The first mile out of the aid station is exposed and full of rocks (glad I run at Bandera), so wind was an issue. I was happy to jog where I could and power hike the rest. Once I hit the shaded section that marked the initial descent, I started running. At this point my legs felt awesome, probably the best they had all day, and certainly better than they had at mile 15. I actually had to remind myself that I wasn’t even half way done and that I needed to ruin conservatively down to save my quads. Regardless, I had a huge smile on my face the entire way down. This was heaven. This was why I signed up for this race and why we run these crazy things.

Somewhere on this section I came across a guy sitting on the side of the trail not looking so good. I asked him if he was ok, and he said he was fine but needed to throw up. I definitely know that feeling, so I wished him good luck and headed on down the trail. Along the way I received several more compliments on my shirt, along with a few queries as to how far I was running today. It’s hard to explain to people that you are running 100 miles, without sleep, in the mountains. There’s no good way to explain that one.

A few miles from the bottom, the same guy who I had seen sitting on the side of the trail trying to throw up caught up to me. He told me how much better he felt now (I can relate) and how he almost dropped at the last aid station because he felt so bad. This was his first 100 mile race, and he was now determined to finished. He told me his name was Kurt, and we ran together for a few minutes before he took off and disappeared around the corner.

I hit the Spooner Lake trailhead and jogged the mile to the 50 mile aid station, where I would pick up my headlamp and warmer clothes for the night. I had hoped to hit my 50 mile split in 13 hours or less, so when I cruised in in under 12:30, I was pleased, especially since my legs still felt pretty good (considering I had just run 50 mountain miles). I knew going into the race that I would most likely not have a pacer to run with, which worried me a little, mostly because I get a little spooked running solo at night in the mountains. Something about the lions and bears they talk about J I was also unsure about being able to follow the course markings in some spots. There were no glow sticks on the course like I was used to, just reflectors that were attached to the ribbons, which I had difficulty finding at times in the daylight.

(Coming Into Spooner Lake Aid Station - Mile 50)

I weighed in (still within the “normal” range), hit the restroom, and then sat down to empty the sand/rocks out of my shoes. I was wearing gaiters, but sand still managed to get into my shoes. This wouldn’t have been an issue for a shorter distance, but sand can cause serious problems over the course of 100 miles, so I decided to dump it from my shoes. As I was walking out of the aid station to start my second loop, Kurt was there waiting for me. He asked if I had a pacer, and since neither of us did, we decided to stick together through the night. It would be very helpful to have someone to run with, and I credit Kurt with getting me across the line as fast as possible.

On the jog/walk down the mile of dirt road, I could tell that Kurt was faster than me. I told him he was free to jog on ahead if he felt good, but that I needed a few minutes to walk and digest the soup I had eaten at the last aid station. He refused, saying he’d rather slow down and stick with me than be by himself all night. I’m sure glad he did.

Not too long after we turned onto the singletrack that would take us up to Marlette Lake, I told Kurt that I needed to stop for a second. Here came puking session #2. Again, I felt much better afterwards, but I was now behind on both calories and hydration. Nothing to do but keep plugging along, trying to sip my water and eat anything that I could (nothing sounded good at this point). It was nice having someone to talk to help pass the time. Kurt and I talked about our running backgrounds and various other things. I talked him into coming down to run the Bandera 100K, and he in turn convinced me to give the Where’s Waldo 100K in Oregon a try.

We hiked anything that went up and jogged the rest. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have run as much of this section (even though my legs felt good) had I not been with Kurt. Soon we were pulling into the Hobart aid station (mile 57). Neither of us felt especially great (stomach), but I knew I needed calories of some kind, so I opted to fill one bottle with Gu20 and another with Ginger Ale. If nothing else, I would be ingesting easy calories.

Another goal of mine had been to make it to the 100K mark before turning on my headlamp. To accomplish this, Kurt and I would need to navigate the snow sections in the fading light and then run most of the downhills into Tunnel Creek. Surprisingly, my legs felt good enough to do just that, and we were soon back at Tunnel Creek. We put on our headlamps, filled bottles (Gu20 and Ginger Ale again for me) and headed off for the Red House Loop.

At some point on the descent into this loop, I remarked to Kurt that this section wasn’t so bad and that I didn’t understand why they called this loop the “taste of Hell”. He agreed as we trudged through sand, mud, and cold creeks, shoes filling with more rocks and grit. We both stopped at the Red House aid station for a quick re-fill, and then we were climbing up. We were able to jog/fast hike the flats and rollers, but when we hit the steep uphill section of sand, all that stopped. This sucked. I looked at Kurt and told him to forget what I had said earlier about this loop not being so bad. The one cool aspect of this section was the moon! It was full and bright, lighting up Carson City (or Reno, we weren’t sure which we saw) in the valley off in the distance. It was really cool and would be with us the rest of the night.

We finally arrived back at Tunnel Creek (mile 67), weighed in (still normal), and grabbed a seat inside the warm tent. Kurt wanted to change into dry socks, so I decided to do the same thing. My feet felt good, but changing into dry socks is always nice. It’s like getting a new set of feet. While in the tent I saw a guy wrapped up in a blanket, hanging out by the heater. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was John Sharp. Last I heard John had been running strong and looking good. Seeing him here was not a good sign and caught me by surprise. He told me that he was doing fine but had lost the desire to run. As weird as that might sound to someone who has never run one of these races, things like that happen. 100 miles is a LONG way, and the body and mind go through a range of feelings and emotions. As great and motivated as you might feel, it can all change in a matter of minutes.

Kurt and I finished changing shoes, and I ate 2 cups of soup and filled my bottles (one water and one Coke – I needed caffeine). I was still feeling decent, but neither of us were able to manage much more than a stiff hike up to Bull Wheel (mile 70). I knew the next 5-6 hours would be the toughest of the race. With 70 miles behind us and the bulk of the night ahead of us, this was gut check time. I was glad that I picked up an extra jacket at Tunnel Creek because the night air was nippy, and any wind gusts made it downright cold. I was now wearing arm sleeves, 2 light jackets, and gloves. I would keep this on all through the night, alternating between periods of being too warm and feeling just about right. I never really got too cold during the night, but I did hear that several runners dropped due to hypothermia.

We filled our bottles at Bull Wheel and set off for the longest stretch of the race, 9+ miles in the middle of the night. Almost all runners in a 100 mile race will experience some sort of mental fatigue, often brought on by lack of sleep. Everyone reacts differently. Some people lose motivation to continue, others stumble around on the trail like a drunk, and others even hallucinate. Kurt and I fell into the latter category for the next few hours. At one point he stopped and pointed at a light, asking me if it was a star in the sky, or maybe a set of cougar eyes! I heard voices and noticed the lights moving, assuring Kurt this was no cougar, just a runner and his pacer. I myself kept turning around to let the runner coming up behind me by. I knew there was a runner coming because I could see his/her bright light shining. That bright light turned out to be the moon. This didn’t stop me from stepping aside and turning around at least 10 times. I also yelled up to Kurt excitedly when I saw the houses that marked the edge of the Diamond Peak station, only to realize soon after that the house I was certain were there were only rocks and trees. Oh the joys of running 100 miles, in the mountains, at night. To add to the fun, I had started wheezing when I breathed. I’m sure it was the prolonged exposure to altitude and mountain air that led to this. Nothing major, but quite annoying.

After what seemed like an eternity (probably over 3 hours since we had left Bull Wheel), we really did see the houses and really were at Diamond Peak (mile 80). Kurt had planned on picking up his pacer, Jace, at Diamond Peak. Since it was after 3AM, and we would only have a couple hours of darkness left, Kurt decided to let Jace sit this one out and just keep running (well, walking mostly) with me. We both decided that Jace (an accomplished and very fast runner himself) might not enjoy hanging out with 2 tired, stumbling, hallucinating runners who were lucky to be pounding out 20 minute miles. Jace would feel like the sober guy at a party full of drunks. Nothing we said or did would make sense or be nearly as funny to him as it was to Kurt and I.

It was difficult to pry ourselves from the warm ski lodge, but we knew that we wouldn’t get any closer to the finish by just sitting there. To make matters worse, we knew what lay ahead – the ski hill from Hell. Another 2 miles and 1,700’ feet. After having run 80 miles, I was not thrilled about the prospect of this, but I was excited about the full moon that was out and the thought of seeing the sunrise from the top of the peak. An hour and fifteen minutes later (that’s a whopping 35+ minute mile pace), we had summited the peak and looked down at Lake Tahoe, full moon illuminating its shores. After exchanging congrats and high five, Kurt and I stumbled down to Bull Wheel for the final time. I checked my watch and saw that we could still finish under 30 hours if we were able to keep moving at a decent pace. Upon leaving Diamond Peak, I calculated that if we could cover the remaining 20 miles in just over 7 hours, we would be sporting the silver-coined buckle given to all sub 30 hours finishers of TRT 100. In the bag. We had this! That, my friends, is why they make you run the entire 100 miles before handing out buckles. The next 17 miles would become the toughest of the race for me and some of the toughest I’ve ever run. At least I got to see an amazing sunrise coming up over the hills to the East. Wow.

(The Second Sunrise)

The beginning of my demise came in the form of chafing. Without getting too graphic, let me assure you that I had been applying liberal amounts of Body Glide in all the necessary spots all day long, but that was losing its effect. Good thing for me I had heeded the sage advice of Chris and Tom and thrown some Desitin in my drop bag. For those unfamiliar with Desitin, it is used for diaper rash on babies. I’ll leave it at that. So went my next 2 miles – waddle a few hundred yards, re-apply Desitin, repeat. At some point during all of this Kurt informed me that his aching ankle was bothering him the most when he stopped. I told him to go ahead and that I’d see him at the finish line.

When I pulled into Tunnel Creek (mile 85) for the last time, I finally felt like I had the chafing under control. My legs felt good (all things considered), so I was confident that I could power hike the rest of the course and still reach my goal of going sub 30. I weighed in (down 5, no problem) and chatted with the aid station crew, who appeared to have been enjoying the pirate rum – lots of it. They offered me a shot (I declined) and even offered to make me a rum and Coke to go (I declined this as well). I did, however, accept their offer of a breakfast taco. Hey, it was 6AM, and I was hungry. I never turn down breakfast. I took the taco and my full bottles (again one water and one Coke), and I walked off down the trail. No sooner had I eaten the taco that I felt like a wall had come crumbling down on me. I went from feeling decent to feeling TERRIBLE. My legs were fine, my spirits were good, but I had ZERO energy all of a sudden. My wheezing had grown worse, and now I was coughing violently, as if I had something stuck in my throat or chest that needed to get out. Unfortunately, no amount of coughing seemed to alleviate the discomfort. I would walk several steps and then have to stop, even leaning against a rock briefly at times. It was in this stretch that I knew a sub 30 hour finish was slipping through my fingers. I tried to rally, but I was beat. I staggered a bit on the trail and hallucinated some more. Remarkably, I never got low mentally here. I knew that, barring some major catastrophe, I was going to finish this darn race and get my buckle, regardless of color. This helped me push on. After what seemed like an eternity (probably closer to 2+ hours), I was at Hobart aid station (mile 90).

I knew now that I had no chance of finishing under 30 hours, so my goal switched to a sub 32 hour finish. I decided to have a seat and talk to the aid station volunteers, thanking them for being out here 30+ hours in the wind and cold. They brought me the best banana pancakes I had ever eaten, as well as a warm bowl of chicken soup with rice. I was in heaven. I almost forgot I still had 10 miles to go!

Thanking them for all their efforts, I pried myself out of my comfortable chair and hobbled down the trail towards the climb that marked the last ascent of the race, taking me up to Snow Valley Peak and the boy scout troop from Carson City. It took awhile, but I made it to the top, where the wind was blowing so hard I thought their tent would blow off the side of the mountain. One of the scouts offered me some mango sorbet. This sure tasted good. I thanked them and headed off, stopping briefly to admire the best view on the course one last time. Up to this point I had managed to keep my emotions in check, but this was different. I had just cleared the last aid station and had 7 (downhill) miles left. I would most likely finish under 32 hours, a good run by my standards. It also brought some closure to my trip, which I wasn’t thrilled about. Pushing these thoughts aside for the time being, I made my way down the mountain, determined to cross that finish line.

(Full Moon Both Nights)

Sunday was much warmer than the previous day, making the final miles even tougher. I stumbled my way down the mountain, legs feeling spry but body and mind not allowing me to run. I hit the Spooner Lake trailhead and could see the finish tent, about a mile away. I was still walking, faster now. I managed to trot the final 100 yards across the finish line and looked up at the clock, which read 31 hours, 47 minutes. What a fun race.

(Approaching the Finish - Don't I Look Happy)

A quick visit to the race doctor to check on my wheezing/coughing (no major issues) and I was done with the 2011 TRT 100. As I waddled out of the medical tent, I spotted Kurt. He had finished in just over 30 hours, a great time for his first 100 mile attempt. I went back to the hotel for a 15 minute nap on the floor (I had been up for 37 hours straight), then back to Spooner Lake to watch the last finishers come through and to attend the awards ceremony.

(Talking w/ the Doc Post Race)

(Chatting w/ Kurt)

In hindsight I am very pleased with how my race played out. I had a great first 70 miles, made new friends, never had a true mental low moment, and saw quite possibly the most spectacular scenery of any race out there. I had a blister on my right foot, and my ankles were swollen pretty badly, but I really felt good. The next day my legs didn’t hurt at all, no soreness to speak of. Now it’s time to turn my eyes to Wasatch in 2 months. Bring on the mountains. That’s where I belong.

(The Buckle)

Final Days

Days 37 & 38 (Lake Tahoe)

Ran 100 miles in the mountains. Report coming soon.

Days 39 (Lake Tahoe/Las Vegas/Flagstaff)

Began the long drive home. Stopped in Vegas to have dinner with sister and her husband. Made it to Flagstaff before sleep won the battle.

Days 40 (Flagstaff/San Antonio)

There is absolutely nothing fun about driving 16 hours across 2 times zones less than 48 hours after running 100 miles. Nothing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ready To Race

Day 36 (Lake Tahoe)

Went to packet pickup today in Carson City. The race director spoke of the 8200’ average elevation on the course, the ridiculously steep (30-35% grade) incline of the ski slope we run up, the sketchy snow sections we must traverse multiple times, and the numerous mountain lions and bears seen on the course every year. Sounds like my kind of fun!!! I feel good and am ready for the pain and suffering the Sierras will dish out over the next 2 days. At least they amended the iPod rule. Now we can use them as long as one ear bud is out. Game on J

Back To Tahoe

Day 35 (Sunriver/Lake Tahoe)

Nothing exciting to report about today, unless you consider driving 8+ hours from Oregon to Lake Tahoe exciting. The views were great, and I got to stop at REI in Reno. Otherwise, pretty boring J The snow has certainly melted a great deal since I was in Tahoe 3 weeks ago, but there is still plenty of it to be found. I love the contrast of the snow-covered peaks looming over the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe. It’s like a bigger version of Crater Lake in Oregon. Beautiful. If I can just stay sane during these final few days…

Day 35 (Lake Tahoe)

Woke up to cool temps and crystal blue skies in Tahoe yesterday. Went to eat at my favorite breakfast place, the Driftwood, and had the Chris Russell special – pancakes, eggs, and ham (he gets the bacon there). Loaded up and headed to Eagle Falls. Chris and I had hiked/run there exactly 3 weeks prior, and I was itching to get back. The parking lot was full (at 9:45AM), but the trail was not nearly as crowded as the last time I hiked this section, which was very nice. Hiked up to Eagle Lake and down to the shore. I could have stayed here for hours. Turned around and headed back, not wanting to give in to the temptation to hike to another lake (or 2).

(Lake Tahoe)

(Eagle Lake)

(Beautiful Tahoe Sunset)

The rest of the day was spent lounging around the pool and preparing my drop bags for tomorrow’s race. I’m nervous, but more so about my lingering head cold and the snow fields we will have to cross during the race. The race director sent an email warning of “several awkward side hill snow drifts” and that following flagging could be difficult in sections. Yikes!

(Section of the Course)

Pre-race check in, medical check, and briefing happens this afternoon. Until then, it’s back to the Driftwood, nap, and final preparations for my 30+ hour jaunt in the mountains of Lake Tahoe.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crater Lake

Day 34 (Crater Lake)

Words can’t really describe the beauty of Crater Lake. Pictures do it some justice, but not much. Of the 90+ miles of trail they have in the national park, only 1.5 were open on Tuesday. The rest were covered in snow. Here’s a look.

Rafting and Relaxing

Day 32 (Sunriver)

After waking up and driving up to Bend, 15 of us piled into a bus and headed 2 hours north to Maupin, OR, where we would raft down the lower portion of the Deschutes River. The water level of the Deschutes is controlled by a series of dams, but it was still raging like most rivers in the area. This is high desert country, so the scenery (once we were on the river) actually resembled the Texas Hill Country. We hit some nice rapids early, coasted for a bit, and stopped for a great lunch. After basking in the warm sun, we were off for the (longer) afternoon session, taking us over more rapids and allowing us a chance to swim a few. Overall I had a great time, but I was beat by the time I got home and had no trouble going to sleep.

Day 33 (Sunriver)

Today was pretty much a rest day, spent sleeping in, walking around Bend, napping, and a short (but fun) run through Shelvin Park in Bend. Aside from losing the trail a couple times (totally my fault), the run was fun. Lots of mosquitoes, but still enjoyable. Ate at a local brewery (Cascade Lakes) and sampled the micro brews on tap. Another easy night to retire to bed early.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Freaks, Fairs, and Beautiful Runs

Day 30 (Eugene)

I liked the Ridgeline Trail so much that I met up with Calvin for round 2 on Friday. We again ran to the top of Spencer Butte (a 1,000’ climb), but this time I remembered my camera and took pictures. A nice jog down and then more exploring (we took the wrong trail) on the other side of the road. Total was just over 7 miles with nearly 2,500’ of vertical change. A quick shower and then headed to the Oregon Country Fair, which can only be described as the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Imagine thousands of hippies in the woods of Oregon at a music/arts/crafts festival. Words can’t do it justice. I loved it! I definitely plan on going back. Saw some good bands, did lots of people watching, and ate good food. Not a bad day.

(Ridgeline Trail Headed Up To Spencer Butte)

(Looking Down On Eugene From Spencer Butte)

(Calvin and I On Top Of Spencer Butte)

(Typical Oregon Fair Wackiness)

Day 31 (Eugene/McKenzie Trail/Sunriver)

Saturday began with a trip to Eugene’s Saturday Market, which is an arts and crafts market held every weekend. There is also a great farmers market across the street, where I bought some local honey and cherry jelly. Can’t wait to try it! A quick bite to eat and then on the road to Sunriver, a resort just south of Bend. Calvin’s parents were gracious enough to offer up their place, and I was excited to see it. Before Sunriver I had to make a stop for a nice 7 mile run along the McKenzie River on the famous McKenzie River Trail. This trail was every bit as beautiful as the reviews made it out to be. Pristine singletrack along the river, smooth in places but with enough roots and rocks to keep you focused. After seeing the waterfalls in Telluride and Yosemite, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by the falls of Oregon, but I was wrong. What struck me was the crystal clear water cascading down. I had never seen such clear water. Amazing. There was even some lava rock to negotiate. Hopped back in the car and drove to Sunriver, stopping to admire the snow-capped peaks all around. What a beautiful place.

(Typical McKenzie River Trail Terrain)

(Falls Along McKenzie River)

(Running On Lava Rock Was Interesting)

(The 3 Sisters - Near Bend, OR)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Updated Totals

for all of you stats geeks...well, really just for are trip totals so far...

21 runs
316 running miles (average 15 miles/run)
111,200' vertical change
5,115 driving miles
2 bears (3 if you count the one Chris saw at Yosemite)
4 snakes (2 rattlers, 1 king, 1 garter)

Back To Eugene

Day 28 (Seattle/Eugene)

Nothing exciting happened today. I woke up (still very tired from concert and sleeping on a cot) and drove to Eugene. I wish I could make it sound more glamorous, but that’s really about it. I did hit 5,500 miles of driving, so that was fun.

Day 29 (Eugene)

I met Calvin this morning for another run. This time it was on my turf, the trails! We drove to the Ridgeline Trail and headed up to the top of Spencer Butte, roughly 2 miles and 1,000’ vertical away. I knew my only chance of staying with Calvin would be to hammer the downhills, since he is more accustomed to running on road rather than trails. I was surprised at how beautiful the views from the top of the butte were. I forgot to take my camera but will go back tomorrow and post pictures. Sweeping views of the mountains to the south and rolling green hills all around. We added an extra out and back section to give us an even 8 miles on the day. I then dropped Calvin off and went to get a haircut at South Eugene barbers. Getting a haircut at an unfamiliar place can be tricky, but I’m not too particular about how I look. Short hair and don’t mess with the beard. He obliged. Dropped my car off at the Subaru dealership (shares parking lot with my hotel) to get my oil changed (yeah, it’s been a long trip) and grabbed a shrimp and chicken pizza nearby. Did some laundry and have been trying to organize my car ever since (no luck so far). Just another nice day in Eugene. I love little college towns like this. I’ll be here until Saturday morning and then will head to Calvin’s parents’ house in Sunriver (via Bend and a stop to run the McKenzie River Trail along the way) for a few days. Then back to Lake Tahoe for my 100 mile stroll through the woods. I can’t wait. My legs have never felt this strong. I’m curious to see how it translates over that kind of distance.