Saturday, October 15, 2005

The (Almost) Lake of the Sky 33 Miler

There were a lot of nervous faces this morning at the Lake of the Sky 33 Miler in Tahoe City, CA, as the first snow of the Lake Tahoe region began coming down just an hour before the 7am race start. Robert Mathis, the Race Director (RD), had a tough call to make - was this just a morning sprinkle that would pass, or was he going to have to cancel the race?

The snow was a surprise to everyone. Just two days before, Rocky and I had scoped out part of the course (see pic) and it was 70 degrees and sunny. But this time of year, anything can happen at 7000' feet. I had run into Craig, one of the race volunteers marking the trail, and he mentioned there was a slight chance of snow. We talked briefly about how that can make marking a trail difficult, but can also be a lot of fun if the snow wasn't falling too heavy. This particular section of the Tahoe Rim Trail had some exposed shale hills that were tough to navigate even without the snow. If there was snow and wind, it was going to be a tough call.
(Rocky and me scoping the Tahoe Rim Trail a few days before the race, photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

The morning of the race, the snow was coming down quickly (about 3" an hour). Christi, Rocky, and I drove to the race start packed with all my winter supplies (I had remembered from Rucky Chucky to always bring too much stuff rather than be cold or wet). When we checked in, they let us know the race had been canceled. The aid station volunteers (a few of them race directors themselves) were reporting near-white-out conditions and 20-30 mph winds. There was high risk of getting lost, meaning increased odds of hypothermia as well. This was not a morning to race.

As I spoke with Robert, I began to understand how tough it is for an RD to cancel a race. He and his crew had already put in hundreds of hours, and everything was in place. The entry fees were already applied to needed expenses such as permits, insurance, supplies, etc., so he couldn't start handing out refunds. And this was the second-to-last race in the successful Ultrarunner.net Series, so any cancellation would have a lot of questions. Robert knew as much as anyone the training and travel required by the runners and volunteers alike. Canceling a race is never an easy decision.

(Off for a training run, photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

But Robert made the right call and canceled the race.
RD's put safety first, and this race was posing too much risk. Many racers agreed that it was the right move, and came up to him to say thanks for making a tough decision. But a canceled race is not enough to discourage this crowd - they just dug into the delicious carrot cake, got to know each other, and hoped the afternoon sun would melt enough snow for an afternoon group run. I snapped a pic with Shane and Derrick and headed back to the Tahoe condo to do a training run in the snow in a more wind-protected area.

(Shane and Derrick at the trail head just before the race was to start, and it's coming down like crazy)

I took it slow, enjoying the quiet of Tahoe's first snow. The clouds parted later in the day, and after two hours of slush, the trails were clear again. I was thankful that Robert was looking out for us, and look forward to trying again next year. And if I know Robert and the Tahoe Mountain Milers, they are probably already filing the permits.

For the fans of Rocky the Pug out there, here's one more photo for ya. ;-)

(Rocky checking out the view)

- SD

15 comments:

  1. Those pictures are within two days of each other? Tahoe and Colorado are both having insane weather these days.

    Love the pooch.

    Chris

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  2. How far does Rocky run with you? Leslie

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  3. Hey Scott. I do like your site! You snapped a photo of Derek and I (Shane) at the trail head during the snowfall. No run today for me :(. I'll have a shorter run by Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake tomorrow!!!

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  4. You're right, I did snap a photo. Unfortunately a snow flake got in the way, but I'll post it anyway...so you can say you were there!!!

    I hope you're having a great weekend in Tahoe. It has certainly cleared up this afternoon.

    - SD

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  5. So what is Robert going to do about the points for the Series? I skipped the Folsom Relay to do LoS, but now the folks who did Folsom are going to be way ahead of me. Should I get some sort of credit for showing up to LoS?

    -Mike

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  6. your posts rock..Keep 'em coming..rocky seems a small pug...can it run as far as your training runs?

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  7. Regarding your questions:

    "what is Robert going to do about points" - update will be coming.

    "does Rocky run far?" - when I first got Rocky, he could go 8-9 miles at a pretty brisk pace (if you have a pug, I wouldn't recommend trying this - he's a bit of an anomaly). These days he prefers to chase a frisbee rather than do a long run, so we keep it to 2-3 miles max.

    You can read more about Rocky here --> http://runtrails.blogspot.com/2005/01/rocket-j-fastest-pug-this-side-of.html

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  8. So where's your playlist? Are you going to make a 7hr playlist for HK?

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  9. Beverley Anderson-Abbs10/19/2005 03:31:00 PM

    Scott
    Sorry I missed you at LOTS. I was hoping to say hi, and thanks for putting up the interview about Alan and me. It was definitely too bad the race was canceled, but, as an RD myself, I believe he made the right decision. We'll try to track you down at Helen Kline. By the Way, how come you aren't coming up here to do Whiskeytown 50k?

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  10. That's great that the RD made the call. I'm happy to forgo some fees rather than have hypothermia on a cold mountain somewhere.
    Janice D

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  11. Robert updated the Series by giving every registered racer the lowest score they had gotten in a previous race. I think that's pretty fair (although my lowest score is pretty damn low).

    SD

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  12. If only one race is canceled every year from snow, you californians have it too good! We cancel all the time in Utah, but that's the way it goes. I'm always cool with a canceled race - it's the RD doing his/her job.

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  13. Sometimes mother nature doesn't want the race to happen. It's how she forces you to remember to recover!

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  14. We just got a put 5 months ago. We started taking her on long walks around 12 weeks. She now runs 3 miles with us daily. Your website is the first one I've found with a pug that runs. Could you give me any advice on keeping the Pug running (safely)? I don't want to over do it, I'm worried that I'm causing too much wear and tear on her body. She seems to love running, and is never out of breath at the end of the run. Thanks! Cute pug!!!

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  15. Caroline -

    Sorry for the late reply. Rocky seems to do great as long as it doesn't get too hot or too cold (if either happens, you're going to have the "2 mile walk with 20 lb medicine ball" workout ahead of you). We don't go out if it's over 70 degrees, or below 40. I bring water and stop to give him a drink every 8-10 minutes, and he does great!

    SD

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