Friday, August 18, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail - first 100 M run

I participated in the TRT 100M race in July. This was my first 100 miler, and ultimately I was not able to complete the full distance, however it was a great experience and I learned a lot. This is a blow-by-blow summary of the run.

Friday July 14th: Early on Friday morning I drove up to Tahoe, to arrive to the runner check-in at noon. I stayed at the Plaza Hotel down town in Carson City. After weigh-in and regular medical, there was a runner orientation meeting where race directors walked through all the practical details of the race for all participants. I spent the rest of afternoon eating and relaxing. Carson City was very hot - an indication of what was to come the following day.

I had a hard time falling to sleep that night, in anticipation for the race next day. Wake up call was early around 2.30 am to get a solid breakfast in time for the start at 5 am. It was a dark morning - but the race organizers had done a great job preparing the starting area with clear markings and lights. The race kicked off and I got a good start, and actually led the field for much of the first 2 miles. I had decided to run without headlamp in the early morning so I stayed close to other runners for this section.

The course soon started climbing and then din a steady go up reaching Marlette Lake after approx 40 minutes. The course continued on forest roads, over a few steep rolling hills up to the first aid station. I filled my bottles and continued on the trail now leaving the forest road onto single track. Now the sun had come out and no light was needed. The trail crossed a few patches of snow as it continued climbing. The next stretch was very runnable with gradual climbs and nice trail. After another 45 minutes the trail reached a highpoint and started descending to the Tunnel Creek aid station. A seemingly never ending series of switch backs lead down to a flat area where the aid station is. I reached this after approx 2 hours.

I filled up my bottles and continued down the Red House Loop. This section is the lowest elevation point on the trail and is known to be challenging. This certainly proved to be true - the trail is rough, with sandy stretches, rocks, rough gravel, and long sections that are very steep. At this point I was running at around 4th place in the race, with some faster runners having passed me just before the first aid station. I actually enjoyed the Red House Loop, if one can enjoy something like this, it made for fast and exciting running. The climb up from the fluids-only aid station at the bottom of the loop was a steady grade and very runnable - arriving back to the Tunnel Creek aid station again at approx 3 hrs.

I left the aid station quickly and continued up towards Mt Rose - this is a beautiful part of the trail, following along the crest of the ridge line for much of the next 9 miles. At this point the day had started heating up and I was glad to reach the fluid-only aid station at the half-way point. The trail kept climbing slowly up towards the Mt Rose aid station at 26.5 miles. The last section was a little muddy, required jumping puddles and a few streams. I finally reached the aid station, did the medical check and weight check. I was down a couple of pounds so I reminded myself to watch my fluids as the day was getting even hotter. After refilling my bottles with ice and sports drink I started off down the trail again.

The way back to Tunnel Creek was nice - the steady decline made it quite runnable and I continued at good pace, and at this point I was probably in 6th place or so. I reached the aid station after approx 7 hours. At this point I was feeling some tightness in my left leg so I decided to get help some stretching/massage from one of the volunteers - this helped a little. The following climb up from the aid station was quite demanding, and my pace had slowed to a fast hike. Now it was mid-day and the heat was intense and so I was drinking continuously to keep my weight in order. I mixed walking and jogging for the next 5 miles until reaching the foot of the last major climb - the last push up to the Snow Valley summit. This turned out to be quite demanding, and I fast walked most of this section since it was steep and it reaches over 9000 ft elevation.

After the long climb it was great to arrive to the aid station at the summit - the volunteers were superb. I had continued loosing weight so I stayed here for an extra 5-10 minutes while I drank and ate to get back some weight. After a second weight check I filled up bottles with ice and started down the last long descent to the Start/Finish area. A long section of downhill with many switchbacks offered easy running and I could keep a nice pace for most of it. I arrived at the 50mile point at 10.40, a time I was happy with – especially considering the elevation, the climbing, and the continued heat.

The aid station at the start/finish was a busy place with many volunteers and friends waiting for their runners. I sat down and was served a big bowl of pasta, and I changed to fresh set of running shorts/shoes/socks/shirt. I also got my night gear out, and iPod.

I left the aid station after approx 10 minutes and started out the second lap. This definitely was a bit of a mental challenge, and having just finished a big meal I walked the trail for the next 2 hours until I got to the following aid station. At this point I started a slow jog up the trail, and I met quite a few stragglers from the 50 mile and 50K - who had DNF their races.

At this point I had passed my previous distance record at an official race (55 miles) so this was new territory, both physically and mentally - but I was keeping a steady pace and was feeling quite OK, arriving to Tunnel Creek aid station at around 7 PM. I left my night gear at the aid station and continued down the Red House Loop. This time the running was significantly harder and pesky mosquitoes made it less enjoyable. I walked the uphill at a steady pace and arrived back to Tunnel Creek at around 9 PM - right as I had planned.

The volunteers had made some pasta which I devoured while putting on head lamp and a light wind jacket as the air was getting a bit chilly. I started back on the trail - with 9 miles to go to next stop at Mt Rose. It quickly got darker and after 30 minutes I could only see the next 10-15 feet ahead on the trail. It was a quiet night without any wind - so conditions were perfect for night running.

This 9-mile section turned out to be surprisingly demanding. After a couple of hours I started to fade and my previously fast pace had slowed, and at around 11 PM I was feeling quite tired - and hoping to see the aid station soon (although I should have known it was still quite a bit left). I believe the reason for the increased tiredness was due to me eating too little during the night portion, something I now have learned for my next long race. As I got closer to the aid station I met the race leaders and the few runners coming spread out after him - at this point I estimate I was at around 10th place overall. Except for the lead runner - all the other runners had pacers helping them through the night. I had no pacer - and I now understand how helpful it is to have a person helping during the night - especially mentally.

During the last slog up to the aid station I got really tired, and I was looking forward to resting for a while. The volunteers were great and helped me with anything they could think of. At this point I felt very very tired - a feeling I had not felt before, and that is hard to describe - but then I mentally made up my mind that this was it for me that night. I felt good with 50 Miles at 10.40, and also good I had done 77 miles in 19 hours - so I called it a day. The remaining 23 miles may seem relatively short now - but sitting at the aid station in the middle of the night it felt too far away…

Some volunteers helped me back to my car, together with 2 other runners in similar situation. I felt really good physically, but looked forward to a nice rest and some food to regain my strength.

Overall, this was a really good race, well organized, excellent marked, great volunteers, and a demanding course to say the least - but with beautiful views during most of the way. Highly recommended.

I will be back next year - to do the full distance.


Some other TRT100 stories: