Clear skies and 70-degree weather awaited us at the 6am start. The forecast was for heat, but not "deadly" heat like at Western States. The centurians (aka, 100-milers) had started an hour ahead of us, and were well on their way. I knew somewhere in that pack were the familiar faces of Don Lundell, first-time 100-miler Chihping Fu, Mark Tanaka, Tracy Bahr, Catra Corbett, and many more who had been talking about this race all year. I looked forward to catching up! As the sun came up, Race Director Dave Cotter sent off the 50k and 50m runners in a blaze of dust.
Within the first two miles, we found ourselves on the new single track trail up to Marlett Lake. This is the one course change from last year, and a significant improvement if you ask me. It's a wonderful trail that avoids much of the mosquito-infested marsh land that the previous trail cut through. But it also means you hit single track much earlier, so we had some back up of runners. No worries - always best to start slow!
We finished the first climb and circumnavigated Marlett Lake. Fisherman were posted everywhere, enjoying the first year that Marlett has been stocked with trout and open for catch-and-release. The sun was coming out now, and I took the opportunity to pull out some new trail running gear that I had bought just for the occasion. After running out of water between aid stations last year, I decided to give the Camelbak a try. I had also been training with Salt Stick Caps electrolytes and a Cool Off Bandana that holds ice when needed. One thing I didn't bring this time was my iPod - for TRT, it was going to be nature's soundtrack.
We climbed for a couple more miles and hit the Hobart Aid Station around mile 6. I grabbed some m&m's and pretzels, and hit the trail again, pacing with Vance Roget up to Marlett Peak. We caught up to some of the 100-milers as we crossed one of the few remaining snow fields, and wished them a good race. We picked up the pace over the next few miles and criss-crossed our way down the Valley to the Twin Lakes, and the Tunnel Creek Aid Station.
As we approached the aid station, the front-runners in the 100 mile race were already coming OUT of the Red House Loop. That meant they were more than an hour ahead of me, and setting a phenomenal pace! Chris Chromczak (Rensslaer, NY) was just coming out of the Red House Loop, with Jasper Halekas (Oakland, CA) and Ron Bien (Bend, OR) not too far ahead. We all shook our heads in amazement. Gordy Ainsleigh filled my Camelbak like a NASCAR pit pro while I snacked on some PB&J's and Coke. The sun was bearing down on us, so I took a minute to wax my beak (aka, apply more sunscreen to my nose).
I descended down the steep Red House Loop, shouting good wishes to the 100-milers on the way up. Last year the Red House Loop was a brutal 90+ degree humid mess, but this year it didn't seem so bad. I crossed a few creeks, splashed some water on my face at the Red House, and began the climb back out. There were lots of 100-milers on the way, all smiling and having a good time.
coming out of the bottom of Red House)
With one more top off of the Camelpak at Tunnel Creek, I headed out towards Mt. Rose on a 9 mile out-and-back section. This trail switched from the west side of the mountains to the east, alternating spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and Washoe Lake. I caught up to Don Lundell and diggered just as I said 'hi', which was worth a good laugh. About three miles from the aid station, the 100-mile leaders were coming back - Jasper was leading the pack, with Rod 30 seconds behind and Steve about 5 minutes behind them. Tracy Bahr was leading the ladies, with a smile as bright as the sun. Not too far behind her was Jeff Kozak who was SMOKING the 50-mile course with an 8-hour pace. Whit Rambach was not to far behind, and looking very strong.
I hit the turnaround at Mt. Rose in just under 5 hours, just as Molly Zum (Reno, NV) went flying by, leading the 50-mile women's division. Chihping Wu was just heading out, saying he was feeling the altitude but going to press on. My stomach agreed with Chihping - the altitude made nothing look appetizing at the aid station. I did my best to choke down some potatoes and a few more m&m's, and headed back out.
I jogged down across the meadows and headed back along the TRT. I crossed the 50k mark in 6:08, which was faster than my 50k time from last year. But I knew that Snow Peak (9800') was still ahead of me. Plus we were at high noon - no shadows, no cover. On the lake side it was still quite cool, but the Reno side was getting hot. I tagged along with a few of the 100 milers who kept a good pace on the downhill, then let me pass on the uphills.
I ran out of water just before reaching Tunnel Creek on the way back. I calculated I was drinking about 40 oz per hour on the way out, and about 50 oz per hour on the way back. My hydration felt good and I was keeping up with my electrolytes, but the thought of food was making me woosy. This was a first for me, and I couldn't decide what to do - force down some calories, or just bypass the food for now? I grabbed a potato and stared at it for 5 minutes. There was no way it was going in my mouth. I guess I opted for "pass".
The next few miles are what I consider the toughest part of the course. The TRT climbs quickly from Tunnel Creek to Marlett Peak, but you don't notice it right away so it sneaks up on you. I was glad I screwed this up last year so I knew to slow down. As I approached Hobart (mile 38), I ran into Rajeev (see his race report here) and a few other 50k runners stocking up for the final ascent. Vance Roget flew by with the energy of a 20-year-old. Although I didn't feel like eating, my stomach was growling. So I sat down and forced some PB&J squares down with water.
A few miles later, I paid the price. Just I was cresting Snow Peak, I got dizzy - my 2 second warning that I was about to blow chunks. A quick inspection showed both undigested food, water, and undissolved electrolyte capsules. I was sure I just set myself back an hours worth of calories, but it's hard to say. I walked up to the Snow Valley aid station and let them know what happened. The volunteers asked a few of the 100-milers up there what they would recommend, and I soon had a Tums and chicken soup cocktail in my hand. I rested for a few minutes, and got the question from volunteers that puzzles every ultrarunner at some point - "do you think you should stop?". Let's see...feet good, legs good, stomach no good. Two out of three ain't bad. Then I realized every other runner at the aid station was going to make a SECOND loop to finish the 100. Honestly, what do I have to complain about?
I walked for 10 minutes or so. The Tums and chicken soup cocktail calmed my stomach, and before too long I was back to running again. Of course, the last 7 miles is mostly downhill so it's a bit easier to keep pace. As I descended my head felt more clear, so perhaps the altitude had something to do with it. I splashed some water on my head at the last aid station, and hustled in to finish in 10:36:22, roughly 16th place or so.
I caught up with Jeff Kozak at the finish, who had successfully defended his title in the 50 mile with a time of 8:47. Jeff said he kept his course-record-breaking pace right up to mile 38 or so, but had stomach issues of his own. Whit Rambach finished about 10 minutes behind him, and Molly had held on to win first female. Somebody let me know that LA-based Sal Bautista (legend of the Malibu Creek Challenge) had won the 50k, and Kitty Marcroft (who got 2nd last year) won the women's division, holding off Western States star Annette Bednosky. Later I found out that the 100-milers had finished close to the order I last saw them, with Jasper Halekas winning in 20:18, Rod Bien coming in 2nd in 21:30, and Steve Roarke passing two people in the last couple of miles to get third in 22:53. Diane Van Doren (Sedalia, CO) won the women's division in 26:56. Chihping survived the altitude and insane blisters to finish his first 100-miler in 31 hours. Rock on, Chihping!
I hit the massage tables (niiiicccce), and nibbled on tortillas to get my appetite back. I was really happy with my finish, oddly because I had struggled through stomach issues but found a way through it thanks to the advice of fellow runners. As I reviewed the pictures, I reveled in the epic scenery and was already thinking about coming back.
My thanks to Dave Cotter, Kevin Bigley, the Sagebrush Stompers, the Tahoe Mountain Milers, and the many volunteers who put on a fantastic race. Next year, the 100!!! (ha, ha)