Thursday, July 26, 2007

2007 Tahoe Rim Trail 50k

I went to Lake Tahoe for the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k.

- My Tahoe Photo Album
- Event website
- Course Description

I tried to save some vacation time by flying out of Austin on Friday evening after work and returning on the Saturday night red-eye. First, I got held up getting out of work. Then traffic was backed up on Hwy 183. I got to the airport with only 30 minutes before the flight was to take off, which meant I had less than 20 minutes to the gate. I quickly re-packed only my essentials into my carry-on so I would not have to check a bag. Since I already printed my boarding pass online, I went straight to security. But my bag kept setting off alarms in the x-ray machine, so they took everything out and scanned it again. It still registered something the looked like a weapon, so they scanned it a couple of more times. The security guard was scratching his head trying to figure out what was setting off the alarm. After the 4th try they figured out there were some souviner magnets in a pocket left over from my last trip that were the cause. I re-packed my bag, and ran to the gate, 2nd to last to board with only a couple of minutes before they closed the door.
I got into Reno around 8:30pm Pacific time, and drove into Carson City, NV. At 9:30pm, I stopped by the Albertsons to get breakfast for the next day and a few items that did not make it into my carry-on in the last minute re-packing. The store was nearly empty except for me, but there were 3 people playing slot machines in the mini-casino at the front of the store. They looked like they were going to be there awhile. I don't know why they chose Albertsons over the casinos down the road.

I got up early, but since I was still on Central time it was not so early to me. I drove 20 minutes to the race site and took the shuttle from the parking lot to the startline. Here I realize I forgot my flashlight when I was transferring essentials to my carry-on, but I managed to stubble around following glow-sticks and other peoples lights to get to the startline just as the 100 milers were taking off. I saw HCTR member Fagan there. Then it was another hour until my start. I picked up my race packet and then took the shuttle back to my car to drop off the packet. I took the shuttle back to the start line, and then realized I forgot to pick up my GPS watch which was in the car. Fortunately I was wearing my regular watch.

By the time of the 50M/50K start, the sun was up and it was light out. I started near the back of the pack and took it easy for the first few hill climbs. About 3-4 miles in we got the first good view of a lake. At around 6 miles we got to the first aid station, which was well stocked. Most of the trails were smooth and not too rocky. This was nice after training on rougher Texas terrain, although I was not as used to running on the sandy surface that was found in places. A couple of poeple commented how nice the Bandera T-shirt looked before they realized it was a race shirt.

After the aid station, the trail went up towards Marlette peak. The trail took us up past the treeline and around the side of the mountain. This gave us the first real look at Lake Tahoe. The runner ahead was trying to take his own picture, and so I stopped and we quickly took each others picture at a good vantage point. The runner explained the first, smaller lake next to Lake Tahoe was a man-made lake some towns get their drinking water. Then I took off on a slight down hill section. This was a little rockier, so I concentrated on footing and passing people who slowed down for this terrain. Then there was a slight up-hill to get to where the event photographer was taking pictures. I wondered why he picked this point since there was beautiful view 3/4 mile back. I had not bothered to look back to realize I missed some of the best scenery while running. I would figure it out 10 miles later when I got back here on the return trip.

Last two photos purchased from event photographer
The first 9 miles had been mostly uphill for an altitude gain from 7000ft to just over 8500 ft. As I reach the top last pass before the downhill, the first 50K runner passed me coming back the other way, which meant he was 10 miles ahead. Then there was a gradual downhill across some switchbacks until the Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 11. After this, there was a almost 2 mile steep downhill. For those familiar with Ladera Norte hill in Austin, the grade was similar. I tried to let loose down this hill. It was more comfortable running on my knees that trying to put the breaks on, so I concentrated on running hard and not falling. I had to dodge people coming back up for the first half of the hill. I could see in their faces I was not going to enjoy the journey back up. After a little bit, the course split and I went a different route from the returning runners. I descended another mile or so still on the same grade. I did not see anyone on this stretch. I even stopped once to let some rocks out of my shoe, and no-one passed me. There was a quarter mile of flat jeep track, and then just after mile 13 we hit the lowest part of the course at 6700ft and then had an similarly steep uphill for a mile. This I took slowly, and it was not long before people started passing me. Should have done more Ladera Norte hill repeats in training.

Click to enlarge

After about a mile up the steep hill, the course came to a Jeep track that flattened out for awhile. But my legs were a little spent after all that, so I walked for a bit. There were 1.5 miles on this jeep track. I tried to start running, but each time I would start getting into a coughing fit and had to stop. Each time I coughed, it felt like someone was throwing a heavy medicine ball and hitting me in the chest. So I did not make if very fast through this section. Then I got back to the steep up-hill that took me back slowly to the Tunnel Creek Aid station. The 100M/50M course takes another out-and-back loop to add 18 miles at this point that the 50k course skips.

After the aid station it was another two miles up-hill along the same route that I had run out on. Here, the lead 100M and 50M runners coming off their extra loop started passing me from behind. It was another 2 miles uphill. I had been taking a bunch of E-Caps, and now my stomach was starting to turn and that made it hard to run consistently. Many people who passed offered encouragement, or asked if I needed assistance. A few suggested as they passed that more training would have helped me, and they were right. The steeper it got, the slower I got. I think altitude may have affected me here, but it is hard to tell if it was that or lack of fitness or both. In this stretch it gave me lots of time to think about the choices I made that got me here in this shape. I choose to go on a two week trip, 4 weeks before this run when I should have been peaking my training. I took a Friday night flight to save vacation time when I should have come a day earlier and had a good night sleep before the race. After getting back from my travel, I choose to cut a run short after encountering flooded areas in the greenbelt, when I could have found a safer route to get in the distance. I did not run enough in the last month before this run. I don't regret most those choices, but I should have been better prepared. I knew better than that. I guess the slow hike up the mountain gave me too much time to think here.

One of the consequences of spending the last month traveling, and then rushing to catch up with things at work and life after returning before the race, and then rushing to pack and get to the airport on time--- was that I had not studied the course map in over a month. So I had forgotten that there was a different route back. Also, I remembered incorrectly that the last aid station was around mile 19 when actually it was closer to mile 17. Since I had forgotten my GPS watch, I did not have the distance measurement to pull me into reality. With any time goal out the window, I figured I could make the cut-off time with a few hours to spare, so I took some time to enjoy the scenery and take some pictures along the way. Around mile 20 (at the time, I thought it was 24-25), I got back to one of the prettiest parts of the course. I realized I missed some of this the first time out because I did not happen to look back. Meredith, who was running one of the longer routes, caught up to me here at one of the best views and so I had to take a picture. I was going to try and take it while she was in motion so it wouldn't interrupt her momentum, but she stopped instead to pose. We chatted for a very quick visit. She asked if I had seen other HCTR runners, I either had not seen or did not know the other HCTR runners out there sicne I saw Fagan at the start. I think she tried to tell me I mis-understood how far it was to the finish, but I did not quite follow what she said over the wind as she moved ahead and out of earshot. I figured it out two miles later when I got to the aid station and realized there were 10.5 miles left instead of 6. Upon that realization, I put the camera up and pushed on with some renewed motivation.

Within the next three miles, there was a long climb up to the highest point of the course, and again I had to slow down to a crawl. Some mental calculations with the correct distance told me I might be in danger of missing the cutoff at this rate, so I tried to push faster, but started feeling sick each time I increased exertion. Finally I got to the aid station at the top, and the volunteers said the next 7 miles to the finish were all down hill. These miles went faster, but my legs were spent so I could not take full advantage. Quite a few people passed me but I did not see any 50K bibs, so I started worrying I'd be DFL (dead f-ing last). I must not have looked good towards the end. Just after mile 30, another runner passed me an made the comment "It helps if you train." Thanks buddy. Although accurate, it was not the motivating comment I wanted to hear at the moment.

Anyway, I got to the end with plenty of time, and I was not last. Although it was a couple hours later than my estimate. As I crossed the finish line, I was handed a large beer and a finisher's medal. The medal was actually a bottle opener. The beer was a local brew with a special label just for the race. I drank my beer, found a hose for a quick shower, got a little dinner, and drove back to Reno for my midnight flight home. The lesson learned here is to be better prepared and not rush the travel arrangements to be well rested. I did several things wrong here where I should have known better.

Here is a video from the race I found on the internet:

Two weeks later I did a sprint triathlon. I was a little bummed out after the 50k for signing up for more than I had made time to train for. Towards the end of the bike, after an up-hill section someone passed me and commented that I didn't even look like I was sweating. At the time, I took that to mean I either was not trying hard enough or maybe I was not drinking enough water, but later I figured maybe it was meant as a compliment. During the run I felt I was just barely moving. I did not push the speed, and just wanted to keep moving and get it over with. Afterwards, I saw the bike section ended up being one of my fastest average times ever in a tri. I was surprised to see that for the run I was less than a minute slower than the last couple of 5K's that I actually raced without biking and swimming beforehand. Considering I did better than I thought at the time without trying too hard, maybe the trail training I did before got me in a little better shape than I thought. If I had tried a little harder instead of just trying to finish I wonder what I would have done.

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  1. Congrats on the finish!!! And great photos as well :) Looking foward to the report!

  2. Hi, your travels and running are inspiring me. I'm feeling that running miles on city streets are just not cutting it any more for me and you're testing my resolve as to what I should do. The Tahoe run is beautiful. Keep it up!

  3. Great pictures! A beauty!
    BTW - How do you add that extra java script to your blog (+ read more) ?

  4. Kara, the "read more" javascript was taken from this page: Click Here


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