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.
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.
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.
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. ;-)