Friday, July 27, 2012

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run, 2012

AND BEYOND !


Tahoe Rim Trail

This past weekend's run of the Tahoe Rim 100 was awesome... yet disappointing.  My race expectations were somewhat diminished with some troubled times on the trail, but I met some great folks and had the chance to see some incredible views and run some fabulous trails along the Tahoe Rim Trail in Nevada.

I first decided to sign up for this race some late night on the computer during the early winter months.  I had run, paced and crewed at the VT 100 every year since 2005 which was the same weekend but this year I was looking for a change of scenery.  The views from the Tahoe Rim Trail looked incredible so I went on-line to sign up .....only to be put on a waiting list.  It seemed like for months I wasn't moving along much on the wait list and then all of a sudden in February I received an email saying I was accepted!!  I was psyched, new race, new scenery.  I had been to the California/Tahoe area in 2006 for Western States but never explored the Nevada side.

Leading up to the TRT 100 I had a number of other races ranging from 5k's to 100 milers that I had run this year.  I had some good mileage under me and was working hard on heat training for the possible hot desert like conditions which I saw in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2006.  I felt good overall.  Looking at the long range forecast it was calling for temps near 90 and sunny down in Carson but I figured it would be a bit cooler in the mountains.

The alarm clock was set for 3:00 AM that Wednesday morning to get on the 5:18 AM flight out of Burlington.  But at 2:30 AM I was woken up by a phone call.  It was United telling me one of my flights had been cancelled.  A great way to start the trip!  Luckily I had some time in between flights and rescheduling the middle flight was not a huge problem.  Flying to Reno is no easy chore as it took 4 airports and 15 hours of flying time.  But with the change of time going west I arrived in Reno by 5:00 PM and had time to check in at the motel and get in a quick run.   I found a room just a mile north of downtown Carson City which was perfect.  Quiet room, air conditioning, refrigerator and free breakfast! As soon as I arrived I scoped out some hills to run off Goni Road, BLM land which was a 4 wheelers paradise.
Goni Road Hills
It was sort of like running up the Toll Road at Stowe but dry desert like conditions.  I saw some horses on the hillside which I learned later on were probably wild Mustangs.  I ran up for about 30 minutes reaching about 7000 feet in elevation and could see the sun starting to set so I turned around and headed back down. 




Thursday morning I decided to find part of the TRT 100 course to check out.  I drove past Spooner Summit near the start finish and continued north along Rt. 28 to Diamond Peak Ski Area on the north end of Lake Tahoe.  This section of the course had the steepest climb going up to 8500 feet in elevation.  I figured this would be good to see how I would do in the altitude.  The course ranged in elevation from 6,600 ft. to somewhere just over 9,000 ft.  Usually I'm good to around 10,000 feet or so and that seemed to be the case here.  It took about 40 minutes to climb up this sandy service road which rose about 1800 feet in elevation over about 2 miles.  About half way up were some letters written in the sand in orange, OMG! it said.  Then a little while later, orange letters again, WTF!!  I chuckled.

Diamond Peak Climb

I hung out on top for a bit trying to acclimate.  It was overcast and drizzling slightly but I found an open hut on top to hang out in. After about 15 minutes I had enough and decided to head down.  As soon as I started I ran into Deb from Seattle, also running the TRT 100.  So we had a good chat while running down together.

Friday I decided to hit the Spooner Summit area of the TRT 100.  I ran north from the trail head up for a couple miles to try to get some more altitude training in.  The trail head is at around 7100 feet so I figured I probably got up to about 8,000 feet.  I found a nice place to hang out on some rocks with fabulous views looking towards the east.

Later that day it was time for race check-in.  I quickly signed in and headed back to the room to prepare my drop bags which needed to be back at check-in a couple of hours later.  I had an idea of what I needed earlier and spend a bit of time the night before but needed to really understand drop bag areas and what they had for drinks and food.  This course was also a 2 loop course which makes it a little easier to figure drop bags and one of the aid stations you visit 6 times during the race so that would be ideal for most of the needed items.  I prepared a small bag for the 50 mile station with some extra socks, electrolyte pills and GU Brew drink mix.  But the Tunnel Creek bag had way more provisions including extra shoes, lights and night clothing.  I had it all calculated out where I could hit a drop bag about every 17 +/- miles.  I also calculated splits on when I would be at each station based on previous runners and results.  I was organized this time, (unlike at MMT where I was totally unprepared) and ready to run!  Also on course they had S-caps and Succeed Ultra drink so no fear of running out of electrolytes.  Just before the pre-race meeting I dropped off my bags, afterwards a quick pre-race briefing and off for dinner.  For those unfamiliar with Carson City, you can find all the Mexican and Asian food that you want but Italian food is rare.  The only place I found was an Olive Garden, luckily they had that which was fine.

Start/Finish Area

Race Morning:  I woke up about 3:00 AM and had a quick bite to eat, grabbed my gear which included my almost brand new electric blue Pearl Izumi Trail II shoes, new Pearl Infinity LD shorts with extra pockets and white singlet.   I figured with the higher elevation sun and dry conditions, a white singlet would protect me from the sun instead of running shirtless, at least to start.  I also sported the Headsweats Super Duty Race Cap for protection from the sun's rays. 
Pearl Izumi Tail II shoes with Drymax socks, the perfect combo!
I arrived just after 4:00 AM at the race start parking and had to get a quick shuttle to the Spooner Lake Recreation Area where the start/finish was.  It was cool waiting at the start but luckily I had some extra layers on.  By 5:00 AM it was time to go.  The start was at the tree and off we went.  I didn't recognize really any one except for maybe Matt Hart.  Once we started I heard the runners talking so knew it was him.  Everyone else was foreign to me which is kind of fun.  The first mile you go out on a mostly flat dirt road and then hit the single track.  I was in a pack of about 10 guys cruising along at a decent but not too fast pace.  The trail was gradually going up but not too steep so most was quite runnable.  I did have a headlamp on but most of those around me didn't.  I'm glad I did have it for those few rocks under foot.
Running through the Aspen Groves


The first aid station, Hobart, would be at mile 6.  We arrived there in about 1 hour, right on schedule.  All the aid stations on course were fabulous, some of the best I've seen.  I wasn't needing much so just topped off the bottle, grabbed a quick snack and on I went.  I think I was running in 3rd at that point.  Jon Robinson had taken off and was leading.  Matt and I had been going back and forth a bit but were close by and Victor Ballesteros was close by too.  Next up was the Tunnel Creek Aid Station, 5 miles ahead.  Once out of Hobart we started climbing in elevation and the views suddenly opened up.
Marlette Lake
This was why I was there, VIEWS!  We continued to climb but nothing too steep.  The trails were buffed out compared to the typical east coast standards of rocks and roots.  But there was a lot of fine grit and sand to get in your shoes.  Soon we arrived at Tunnel Creek, just under 2 hours and again right on schedule.  Jon was far ahead and Matt was just in front of me.  I didn't see anyone else behind but knew they weren't far behind.  I did a quick stop at the aid station and dropped off my light and refueled with some Ultra drink to check it out.  The next 3 miles would be a downhill to I think the lowest point of the course and then 3 miles back up to Tunnel Creek.  I knew Matt was fast on the downhill so I let him go.  Typical me, with the short legs I don't get the turnover on the downs although I can hold my own, but it's the long uphills were I typically excel over time.  At the bottom of this loop was the Red House Aid Station and the only water/mud to be found on the entire course which was minimal.


Red House Aid Station site

Coming out of Red House, Aaron caught up and we ran together out of the loop.  Near the end we also caught back up with Matt and Jon was still out of site ahead.  We returned to Tunnel Creek and this time I grabbed my drop bag and reloaded with electrolyte pills and GU and a refreshing of Body Glide.  It was starting to get warm now too so I ditched my shirt.   I also grabbed another hand held bottle trying to be smart for once.  After a short 3 mile climb to the Bull Wheel Aid Station there would be a longer 9 mile stretch without any aid stations.  So I would have 44 ounces of fluid for that stretch.

It was another gradual climb out of Tunnel Creek and then rolling along to Bull Wheel but short.  The views opened up even more, spectacular all along the ridge.  Bull Wheel was a quick in and out station mainly to top off the fluids then it was some more up but a lot of gradual rolling though the higher elevations of the course.  After a few miles of that it became a long section of fun single track heading down through the woods.  Awesome mountain bike trails through this section with banked turns and fun downhills.  And the trails were so soft on the feet even with 4+ miles of descending.  Finally I could see the Tyrolean Village of Diamond Peak and before long I pulled into the Diamond Peak Aid Station, mile 30.  Jon, Matt and Aaron were long gone and Victor was just behind at this point.  I topped off, got some food to eat and headed up the 2 mile steep climb that I had visited a couple days earlier.  I kept a slow but steady pace and just continued upwards knowing it would be about a 40 minute climb so no surprises.  OMG and WTF were still there in the sand on the climb.


Diamond Peak Climb





Near the top, Victor was right there with me.  From there it was a minute or 2 down to the Bull Wheel Aid Station again to top off and go.  Tunnel Creek wasn't far from there and would be another drop bag stop so no need to stop for long at Bull Wheel.  It was definitely getting warm in the sun so I had backed off a bit and was just doing my own thing and totally enjoying the scenery.  At some point Victor had gone by too.  What I discovered was that the views heading back or south from Bull Wheel were even more spectacular than going north earlier.  The entire panorama of Lake Tahoe and the High Sierra's was right there in full view.






Shortly I was back at Tunnel Creek, mile 34 or so and running in 5th place.  I got rid of my extra water bottle, refueled, ate some solid food, filled my Headsweats hat with ice to keep the core cooler and off I went.  I was also making sure I had an s-cap every hour now with the warmer temps.    Initially I was ok every 1 1/2 hours but then I resumed my 1/hour schedule.  I was having difficulties swallowing those but was getting it done, barely.   Lately the act of swallowing has been setting off a gag reflex which has in turn flipped my stomach into severe convulsions and the last attempt had started some of that.  Too early for that and too far to go!  Next up was Hobart Aid Station again.   At Hobart they had a bar which I refrained from but they also had the best banana/strawberry/ensure smoothies.  That looked perfect so I enjoyed a cold smoothie and immediately got an ice cream headache.  It was worth it!  After that it was a good climb up to the Snow Valley Aid Station, the high point of the course somewhere around 9,100 feet.  Coming into Snow Valley were some of the most spectacular views of the course with high alpine meadows and full views of the lake and mountains.  This is what it's all about.  I was totally enjoying the run!

Views from Snow Valley Peak



Arriving at Snow Valley I knew it was time for another electrolyte pill but thought I would try another way to get'r down.  They had this great watermelon there so I opened the pill up and spread it on the watermelon.  Not the best tasting but it worked, for the moment.  I was able to fool the brain but I knew it wouldn't fool it again that way.  Onward ho, the views just kept coming.






More views from Snow Valley Peak




It was mostly all downhill and rolling for the next hour plus.  Once out of the alpine zone I was back in the trees running on soft switchbacks through the large pine groves.  On this side of the mountain there was no mountain breeze and the sun was baking the trails to a point where it was like running through a furnace where the sun was shining through.  By mile 48 I looked at my watch and knew it was time to attempt another electrolyte pill.  If not, I stood the chance of major cramping which I've had way too much experience with.  But this time I thought I would try another way.  So I opened up the pill and poured it in my mouth.  Not so bad I thought and then took a drink to wash it down.  NOT GOOD!  I felt like a humped over dog who just choked on a bone.  Immediately I hunched over and puked.  Oh that so sucked!  After a few more bouts of hurling I put myself back together and started running again.  Just 1.5 miles to the start/finish 50 mile aid station.  Just around the corner I passed Victor.  I guess he was having similar issues and wasn't looking so good.  I kept moving along and got in to the 50 mile aid station in about 9 hours and 22 minutes, right on schedule and was still upbeat.  I weighed in and had lost almost 6 pounds since the start, which for me is not bad but I also knew I had to start eating more.  I grabbed my drop bag and replenished my electrolyte pills (not sure why since I couldn't swallow them) some fresh GU gels, a re coating of Body Glide and then munched on some great treats at the aid station.  The highlight was the Popsicle!  Nothing like a Popsicle on a hot day :)  With some additional food in hand, I was on track again.  The stomach was not feeling great and the heat of the day was upon me so I figured I would take the next mile slowly, eating and regrouping until I hit the single track trail again.  In the sun it was HOT but in the shade, not as bad.  Still the movement was slow.  As I hit the single track moving any faster was not happening for any long periods of time.  I was unable to ingest any fluids as the stomach was totally out of whack at this point.  So I resorted to doing the walk/run mode.  I was also dizzy and looking for a potential place to stop off trail to take a quick nap.  I think the loss of electrolytes due to evaporation and puking was taking it's toll on me.  I needed fluid and carbs soon but kept moving forward.  So the trip up to the Hobart Aid Station was a long one.  At one point I thought of retreating back to the mile 50 aid station to end it but then again I thought, no I can't do that.  My next goal was Hobart where I knew they had some incredible smoothies.  Basically I walked with a few bouts of running.  I found a rusty stream at one point and stopped to stick my face in to cool down a bit and yes, it felt great.  Finally I arrived at Hobart, beat up and in another world.  I immediately found a seat under the tent and ordered up a smoothie.  The devil was running wild at Hobart so I had to watch out.

The Devil




Also it was the "Taste of Hell" as the sign boasted, another red flag!  I thought of bailing out here but then thought that I could at least make it another 5 miles to Tunnel Creek and see how it goes.  I had some food in, but will it stay??





A Taste Of Hell





So after about 20-30 minutes of sucking down a couple of smoothies and some sprite I attempted to get up and go.  Already a number of 100 milers had gone by which was discouraging... but that's the way it goes. So I refilled my water bottle and off I went.  As I was leaving an angel appeared.  But it was only a disguise.  It was really the Devil.
The Devil in disguise








So onward I went, up the trail towards Tunnel Creek.  I couldn't have been a 100 feet up the trail when the real angel appeared.  I heard a voice from behind asking, "You don't have a pacer either?"  I looked back and there she was, the real angel, Sofia from Argentina.  She didn't have a pacer or any crew and wanted to run with me.   I thanked the Gods above for this and let Sofia take charge and I followed behind:)

Sofia, my real angel leading the way.




Sofia had done a lot of running in Argentina but not much in the states.  We chatted a bit and I found out she had a longer flight than me, nearly 24 hours to get there.  She was determined to finish this race and was doing great.  I hung behind climbing the hills and enjoying all the scenery as we crested the ridge to see the views of Lake Tahoe and beyond.  I found I could climb the hills fine but the downhills were hurting my stomach which was just a mess at this point and I had to back off.  Slowly my angel disappeared and was gone. I was alone again in pain.  The rest of the trip was long to Tunnel Creek.  With about 2 miles to go I came across John from Canada who was also having a bad day due to sore knees and lack of training.  He was still on lap one but had decided to backtrack to Tunnel Creek to bail out.  We chatted a bit and he gave me some ginger to settle my stomach.  I figured anything would be better than the way it was so I ate some ginger candies.  This sort of backfired and came back to haunt me about a mile before Tunnel Creek.  All of a sudden the stomach erupted and I found myself hunched over again.  It was painful with the burning sensation of ginger coming back.  Sorry but that's how it was.  At that point I was ready to throw in the towel.  I spent some time on the side of the trail emptying my stomach and then moved on.  Finally I arrived at Tunnel Creek, mile 61.5 at around 6:30 PM.  That last section from the 50 mile aid station to Tunnel Creek took me over 4 hours averaging a 23:11 pace.  The first time around it took me under 2 hours averaging a 10:36 pace.  I was doing the math in my head and was totally discouraged.  I sat down and convinced myself I was done.  Some of the aid station volunteers tried to get me going but I was mentally down and out.  For me, the suffer fest was over.  I took the easy route and bailed, DNF, my first ever in a 100 miler.  It sucked but I was convinced at the time it was the right thing to do.  Dropping out and physically getting out of Tunnel Creek was no easy task either which I didn't realize until later.  So I hung out for 4 hours waiting for a ride out.  Meanwhile I had a half a beer, took a nap and was eating again after 2 hours, delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.  The next 2 hours I was watching other runners coming through and helping when I could.  I continued to eat, especially the hot quesadillas off the grill and hot tea which was just what the stomach needed.  So why wasn't I back on trail running?  Mentally I was done but why was I such a quitter?  Never done that before.  Finally the truck had enough passengers to get out  and I found out why it took so long.  The jeep trail out was a 3 mile adventure in itself.  We piled into a jacked up pickup and ventured down which took 25 minutes of maneuvering a steep downhill trail full of rocks, sometimes bottoming out.  Once we got to the road it was another 15 minutes to my car.  Finally I got back to the room around midnight.  I drank lots of fluids and off to bed.  



Duane Bliss Peak at 8658 ft.

I didn't sleep great and was up early.  I had a quick breakfast and was off to go run/hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail, south of Spooner Summit this time.  I cruised up for 2+ miles then ventured off to bushwack up some other peak, the Duane Bliss Peak at 8658 feet.  It was late morning and all I could think of was that runners were still on course, so why wasn't I?





Lake Tahoe



Afterwards I drove down to Lake Tahoe and went for a swim.  The water was so refreshing and clean!  I opened up my eyes under water and it was like being in a swimming pool, the water was that clear.  Again, I was thinking runners were still coming in.  In the end Matt Hart took the win finishing in 19 hours 14 minutes followed by Aaron Heidt in his first 100 miler and Jon Robinson.  For the women Claire Walton finished first in 21 hours 46 minutes followed by Candice Burt and Jenelle Potvin.


Final results for the TRT 100 are posted here.


That night I celebrated my wonderful race success with some great local Mexican food and a visit with Jose Cuervo :)  The next morning I was up, packed and out the door to go run up Mt. Rose before departing from Reno later that afternoon.  While I was in the lobby checking out I met up with another runner who had successfully completed the Tahoe Rim 100 in 33+ hours.  Pushpa was absolutely thrilled with her accomplishment in her first 100 mile attempt and rightly so.  At that point I felt like such a looser.


Alpine Meadows
I arrived at the parking lot for Mt. Rose and met up with a young trail stud who had just come off the summit.  I asked how long it took and he boasted about it being his fastest time ever, 2 hours to do the 10.6 mile round trip. The hiking guide books claimed it was a 6 hour trip unless you were in good shape, then maybe 4 hours.  Needing to be at the airport around 4 PM I was a bit concerned.  Mt Rose summits at 10,775 feet with the first half of the trail following along rolling alpine meadows and then climbs steeply to the summit.  Anyway, I grabbed two bottles of water and off I went.  The rolling trails were amazing through the alpine meadows with lush wild flowers everywhere.  Once on the uphill climb the big black clouds appeared with thunderheads.  With about a mile to go I heard thunder and the big black fingers coming off the thunderheads were rather close.  I was completely above tree line with no place to hide.  All I could think of was my old saying, "It's all about fate", if it's your time to go, then so be it.  So I continued. 


Thunderheads on top of Mt. Rose, 10,775 ft.
I guess it wasn't my time yet as the clouds parted on top and went east and west.  I arrived on top in 1 hour and 8 minutes.  After a little snack I was gone and headed back down.  The rain kicked in a little and it actually felt good and the flowers along the way were just amazing.  I had to stop to "smell the roses" and take pictures a number of times.  Soon I was back to the car and checked my run time, 1 hour and 57 minutes, hmm, faster than the young buck.  But I bailed out of a 100 miler because I didn't feel good??? That was a problem.  


On the way back to the airport I had a little bit of time left so I hit the Grand Sierra Resort Casino to make my fortune.


Grand Sierra Resort Casino
Being such a gambler I first tried out a big $1.00 doing the 5 cent black jack.  I lost that quickly but figured out what to do.  So I invested another $5.  I worked on that for about 30 minutes first at the 5 cent level, then graduated to 10 cents then to 25 cents a hand.  As time was clicking away, I decided to go for broke, all or nothing.  It was nothing in the end.  I lost all of that $5.  Did I say I wasn't a big gambler?




It was a long flight home, starting around 5:00 PM in Reno on Monday.  My plan to have a couple of late night cocktails prior to boarding my 11:30 PM flight from San Francisco to Newark so I could sleep backfired as all the restaurants in the San Francisco airport closed at 10 PM so I was wired for the flight back and barely slept. I finally arrived home in VT around 2:00 PM the next day.  Just in time to unpack and head off to the Catamount Tuesday night 5k trail races on 2 hours of sleep.  So Tuesday night, trail races, Wednesday night the mountain bike races.  And more trail running on Thursday night.   All this post race activity really bugged me.  Here I am running and riding like I never raced yet I couldn't tough it out to finish a race I started.  So I had some very low points, but I also had plenty of time to make adjustments, take a nap and eat.  I wimped out, big!  The real hero's are the ones who stuck it out and finished or put in their best effort to finish even if they ran out of time.  Congrats to all those runners!!  I had over 21 hours to complete 38 miles but I gave up.  At that rate, I could have crawled on my belly to finish in time.  If the second lap took twice as long as the first, I would have finished in 28.5 hours, still well below the 35 hour limit. This DNF really hit hard the more I thought about it.  No more of this quitting!  I run to have fun.  It's where I find peace of mind and tranquility.  If I place well in a race, that's just a bonus but I'm there to run through the woods, look at incredible views and share experiences with those who enjoy the same.  That's why I run!   


And congrats to all those you ran the VT 100 the same weekend!  VT 100 final results can be found here.



Life's real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up.”








4 comments:

fruktoed said...

Nice report, Jack. sorry that you had to bail. Did you try throwing salt pills in your waterbottle and drinking your electrolites? It works well for me.

Denis M.

Jack Pilla said...

Hi Denis, thanks for your suggestions. Yes I've tried that but have some other ideas like mixing in a little sugar to break up the salt taste. Time to play the mad scientist this week and experiment. Congrats on a fine run you had at the VT 100!!
See you on the trails!

Mike L. said...

Jack, you never let an Angel pacer get away from you...

Jack Pilla said...

Hi Mike,
Yes, big mistake! Live and learn :)