Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tahoe Rim Trail 100M - tough!

I ran the same 100M race in 2006, but decided to stop at 77M since I felt so tired. I have since come to understand, by doing other 100M races, that this is something to be expected for a 100M race...So this year I had set mind to finish this race all the way.
I went up to Carson City on Friday, the day before the start to check in and weigh in for the race officials etc. I felt better prepared than the previous year, but still was only able to sleep 4 hours during the night before the race - before getting up at 2 AM to get ready for the start at 5 AM.

Similar to the previous year I headed out at a brisk but calm pace in the beginning, The first 30 minutes are in early dawn and without headlamp it is sometimes hard to see roots and rocks on the trail ahead. But I stayed close to some other runners in the front pack. Instinctively I knew I was running at a too high pace, but it was fun and the running was easy even if we were climbing 1000 feet in the first 4 miles up to Lake Marlette. I ran a few miles with Scott Dunlap. After just over an hour I came up to the first aid station at Hobart, it was 2 minutes faster than last year. I filled up my bottles and continued up the next hill. It was a cool morning with a brisk breeze, in what would turn out to be a cooler day compared with 2006. I was glad I decided to wear a long sleeve jersey.

I climbed up and around the Marlette ridge, and rounded the photographers in their usual spot. I kept a steady pace along the next few ridge lines, until came down to the long zig-zag downhill section leading into Tunnel Creek. My time at Tunnel Creek was still a couple of minutes faster than last year – at just over 2 hours. I filled half bottles and started down Red House trail. The previous night I had been reading about downhill running technique, and this was a perfect place to fine-tune my downhill form. A couple of runners had passed me in the last hour but otherwise I was staying steady in the field, probably at around 6th place, as I was going down the hill. My time to Red house was faster than last year, and I ran all the way up to Tunnel Creek – except for the last steep section in the sand.

I was at around 3.15 into the race and I continued towards Diamond Peak. Last year I ran this section with a small group of runners which helped maintain a nice steady pace, but this year I was on my own. The section up to Diamond peak went quick as usual, but the last section to Mt Rose was felt very long. There are never ending series of seemingly similar twists and turns and it plays games with your mind – thinking that the final turn is just around the next corner. It would be really good to do a few training runs on this part of the course so to better know how to run this lengthy 6+ mile portion. A few runners passed me during these hours and I started to realize I probably had gone out way o fast. I started to have some pain in my knees which surprised me, and I as also feeling a bit tired and had to walk most of the last hill over the wide meadow leading into the Mt Rose aid station. I arrived there about 10 minutes later than the year before, at around 5:00 into the race.

I was doing fine on my hydration, weigh-in showed I had lost only 1 pound in the first 5 hours. I spent a few minutes resting, and had some sandwiches and then returned back down the trail. Now my leg pain was worse and I walked long stretches where it should have been an easy run down the trail. I arrived back to Tunnel Creek at around 7:00 hours. Last year I had felt a little bit of cramping in my thigh muscles at this point and had gotten some help to stretch it out. This year I was OK – except for the continued pain that limited my ability to run continuously. I was still only 10 minutes off my time from 2006. I filled up my bottles and continued the hike up the zig-zag trail to Hobart aid station, I did very little running since it is mostly uphill and I did not have the energy to really get into an effective stride among all the climbing. At Hobart I had a great milkshake (this is the best!). By now the day was starting to get really hot, but I was very

focused on my fluids since I did not want to repeat the problems I had previous year where I had to wait for a bit at Snow Valley due to too much weight loss at that point. The climb up to Snow Valley felt shorter than last year, I was power hiking all the way up and arrived at 9:29 into the race, I was now 15 minutes behind pace from last year. The following section down to the start at Spooner Lake is generally very runnable, but I walked large portions of this arriving to the Start/Finish area at 11:20, approximately 40 minutes later compared with previous year.

However, I did not feel too bad about this, although I had leg pain, since I had felt I had good energy level and was actually looking forward to the second lap and the night portion of the run. The volunteers at Spooner aid station were amazing, 100% service, and super friendly. I
changed shoes, socks, and shorts. I called home to my wife and let her know all was fine and that I was starting the second lap. After eating some more pasta soup I started the long trudge up the Marlette Lake trail. This climb always is so much longer and difficult the second time compared with the first lap. Halfway up to the lake I started to feel a little bit tired and had to pause a few times up the trail and catch my breath for a few moments. I sensed I was not getting enough energy so I had a big bar of chocolate – this tasted great!

As I came closer to the Hobart aid station I felt the energy slowly returning. A few runners passed me when coming down to Tunnel Creek, where I arrived at about 15 hours. My pace during the second lap was virtually same as in 2006, and the Red House loop was even slightly faster, probably due to faster down hill running. I had taken a couple of Ibuprofen and it magically helped numb the pain and I was feeling much better than earlier in the day. I was still 45 minutes off the pace from the previous year – but I kept moving steadily and I felt it really helped to have done the race previously so to know what to expect during the second lap.

Last year I stop the race at mile 77 in Mt Rose, it was my first 100M race ever, and I had become amazingly tired. Ass the night had progressed, I had difficulties to mentally keep myself going in the last stretch up towards Mt Rose aid station. With this in mind I had decided that this year I should go carefully but really tough it out and to really keep an eye on how I was feeling as I proceeded up this section of the course. I met some of the lead runners returning when I got closer to Mt Rose. This gave me some energy even though I realized that I had 30-45 minutes remaining before I would reach the turn around point. Route finding was easier this year, the race director had used a better reflective marking and it showed perfectly in the dark.

At Mt Rose aid station I sat down for a while and had plenty of food and drink, 2 peanut butter sandwiches, chocolate milk, pasta soup, and one can of Red Bull. I was relieved I was feeling much stronger mentally compared with the previous year, even though I was about 1 hour later overall at this point. I had planned to take another dose of painkillers here but I had lost my pills, so I had to continue on without it. It didn’t occur to me that I should have asked to get some at the aid station. It was really cold at Mt Rose and especially the meadows area was literally freezing – and I saw several other runners struggling due to too little clothing on. I was fine with a long-sleeve running jersey + wind breaker. But it would have been nice to have had a cap for my head. At this point I knew that I would be able to complete the race and I was starting to calculate how many hours I had remaining if I wanted to qualify for the 30 hr belt buckle.

The next few hours were quite interesting as I grew increasingly sleepy and tired. I knew this would happen so I was not surprised when I had to stop to sit down on a nearby rock a handful of times and just collect myself and focus my energy. I had no pain any more and I was power hiking much of this section. Several times I found myself sleeping while walking – amazing. I passed a few runners during the night – so I realized I was not the only one feeling tired at this point, and I was able to run some portions of the trail back to the aid station at Tunnel Creek , arriving at 23:30 hrs (4:30 AM). It was still dark, but I was relieved I had completed the demanding Mt Rose loop and that the night now was almost over.

At Tunnel Creek I layed down on floor in the aid station tent. The volunteers brought a couple of blankets, and I asked them to wake me up in 5 minutes. It felt really great to get a few moments of rest. I had a couple of bowls of soup, and then started out along the trail again. In some strange way I was relieved that I had the long uphill zig-zag section since this meant I did not “need” to run, and it “was OK” to just power hike. I was able to switch off my head lamp half way up the hill, and I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise while coming up the crest around Marlette Peak. I arrived at Hobart aid station at 25:30 and had some more soup, and bread, and some pain killers. I knew the last long climb to Snow Valley Peak was just ahead, but I was glad it is a short section – just under 3 miles, and from there it would be mostly an “easy” downhill to the finish line.

I crested to Snow Valley aid station at 26:30 and felt great. The aid station volunteers were friendly and helpful as always, but I only stayed a couple of minutes before continuing on. This second time down the hill I ran, or rather shuffled, most of the way down trail. In fact I did this section in 10 minutes faster compared with the first lap – about 17 hours earlier. It was a great feeling to see the finish line, and I forced myself to run the last ¼ mile leading into the finish area – arriving at 28 ½ hour. Kevin and other volunteers greeted me and gave gifts, including a great bottle of beer!

At this point I did not feel that tired or much pain, clearly endorphins were in play! Physically I felt as if I could have continued on for another lap, however mentally I was glad it was over. I phoned my family to let them know all was OK and that I would get a few hours of well deserved rest before I would head home. As I picked up my drop bags and walked back up a hill to my car I started to feel that in fact I was a bit tired and that my legs and feet had gotten a beating – with a 1 inch sized blister under the front of the left foot, and with a stiff feeling in both legs.

Overall, the race was a great experience and with no doubt the toughest ultra run I have done this far. I was happy with my race logistics, and my night running, and the fact I was able to push a negative split for the last 2-3 hours on the second lap. However, I also realized that I need to continue to learn to pace myself better in the first 5 hours of these races. Had I started out with less of a frenzied pace I believe I would have been able to lower my overall time by 1 or maybe even 2 hours. This need for better pacing early on in races is no surprise, as the same happened at American River 50M this year where I was racing at a 7 min / mile pace for first several hours, and as a result then had to suffer through the last 20 miles with a lot of power hiking.



Peter Lubbers said...

Congrats on finishing this tough run!

John Fors said...

Thanks peter - it was great fun!