Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heat and Humidity

Running in the heat and humidity can be really frustrating in the Southeast and I suppose any where else you sometimes feel like you are running in a steam bath.  It seems no mater how hard you try, you just can't get beyond a certain point.  You feel great at the beginning of the run and plan to run, for example, 5 hours.  Your first hour or two is good and you are running as strong as ever.  Everything is going according to plan.  Then the bottom falls out.

During the first hour, the temperature was in the 70's, fairly cool for the SE and you did not need to drink too much waster because you pre-hydrated.  (For me, that means after the early morning 3/4 cup of Starbucks Coffee, I drink some water at home and drank a little more on the way to Oak Mountain State Park.  By the second hour it is beginning to get a little warm but not bad.  You are soaking wet with perspiration and start drinking more water.  Normally, I don't drink much water in that first hour but try to up H20 intake to about 16 oz per hour by the second hour.  If it is "really" cool or cold I don't drink that much.  I mostly drink if I am thirsty.  I also drink a little at the time and drink constantly (every 4 or 5 minutes.)

You have now been running three hours and it is getting hot.  You seem to stay thirsty and your shoes are getting squishy because they are filling up with sweat.  You are beginning to have a hard time with the hills.  You ate an energy gel at the start of the second hour and eat another at three hours.  You will also probably begin eating an occasional cookie or Honey Stinger Waffle, (I really like those.) or some other type of solid food.  Despite all this the power wanes and by hour four it has become a real struggle to "just keep moving."

Hour four?  If you keep going, you are probably going so slow you don't think it is even worth the effort.  You have been soaking wet for three hours, you legs are beginning to cramp, you probably are having a little stomach discomfort, you haven't needed to pee for the last 3 hours and basically, you just feel lousy.  If you quit, then you really feel frustrated and think you will never be able to run another ultra.  Does any of this sound familiar?

The natural tendency is to get discouraged and think you just can't do this.  Well let me share a little story about my last few weeks of training.

I returned for running the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 on the weekend of July 23rd and 24th.  I did not run that weekend but Wednesday, the 27 I ran two laps (6 miles) at Veteran's Park, my usual mid week run location.  (I run in the afternoon at Veteran's, usually starting between 3:30 and 4:30 so it is HOT.)  Saturday the 30th, I ran 2.5 hours at Oak Mountain and run 2 or 3 hill repeats and felt pretty good.  Now we get to August.  I was still recovering and taking it pretty easy.  I ran at Veteran's Tuesday and Thursday for 2 laps each day and really struggled.  I was not sure if it was residual effects from the 100 miler or the heat or both.  Saturday I ran 3 hours and 4 hill repeats at Oak Mountain.  As I recall, I felt pretty good.  The next week on Tuesday I ran three laps at Veteran's thought I would die on the third.  All three were really hard and pretty slow.  Thursday I went out to Oak Mountain and swam for 40 minutes, then run one lap on the new Lake Trail, the site of the Run for Kids Challenge in 2012.  The run felt good but the trail is almost entirely in the woods and shady.

Saturday the 13th, I ran at Oak Mountain for 4 hours, 50 minutes.  I started with 6 hill repeats which take about 3 hours including 13 or 14 minutes each way to get to the hill and back to the car.  The first 4 were great although it was getting hot by the 4th and I was soaked.  The last two were really hard.  It was all I could do to keep running.  I returned to the car to refill the water bottles and headed out again for two more hours.  I struggled up the 1.5 mile series of climbs up the blue trail but had to walk up much of the hill.  I was so zapped by the time I reached the ridge crest, I was probably averaging 14 minutes per mile until I finally made it back to the car.  I came home and laid around the rest of the day with no energy to do anything.  There is no telling how much liquid I drank, starting with a "Bruster's" chocolate shake on the way home.  While I was driving home the thermometer on my truck read 100 deg.

That week I repeated the Tuesday/Thursday schedule with 3 laps at Veteran's Park and a 40 minute swim and 30 minute run at Oak Mountain.  The Tuesday run was awful and very hot, (100deg.)  Saturday, the 20th was almost a carbon copy of the previous Saturday.  Six hill reps and a two hour loop.  It was again very hot and humid.  The last two hill repeats were a real struggle and the loop was almost embarrassing.  This time the thermometer only read 99.  As before, the rest of the day I was really tired and didn't do much.

That brings up to last week.  I did not have time to run Tuesday so I ran at Veteran's on Thursday.  Do you happen to remember what was happening in the Atlantic last week?  Well, apparently by Thursday Irene was pulling the moisture out of the air in Birmingham.  The temperature was about 90 deg. when I stared the run but the humidity was very low.  It actually felt cool and the three laps felt great and were considerably faster than they had been the last few weeks.  Saturday as I started my usual 6 hill repeats followed by a 2 hour loop the air again felt cool and dry.  After 4 hill reps it was still cool and I still felt great and I was not even sweaty.

Each hill repeat in the white trail, where I normally run hill repeats, is about 3/4 of a mile of continuous climbing and gains between 500 and 600 feet. It is the best climb I have found without driving over an hour. By six hill repeats I was still feeling great and decided to tun a few more.  I ended up running nine repeats, more than I ran at any one time getting ready for the Tahoe Rim Trial Run.  I felt really strong on number eight but as I started 9 it seemed to get noticeably hotter and I decided that was enough.  After the ninth I continued along the crest for about a mile before heading back to the car on another trail just to be sure I got in the 5 hours.  When I got back to the car my shirt was only damp, not soaked as usual.  I didn't even have to use the "ski boot drier" on my trail shoes as I usually do.  I actually felt good the rest of the day although my legs were a little rubbery.  I did have my "Bruster's" reward on the way home.

As I got in the car to leave the park my thermometer read 92 deg.  Those few degrees along with the low humidity make all the difference in the world. Not only were the repeats comfortable they were the fastest I have ever run.  All were under 13:35 with three under 12:40 and one in 11:45, the fastest repeat I have run to date.  ( That was on repeat 7, I think, and I was trying to chase down another runner.)  My point is, don't beat yourself up if you are struggling with you summer runs not being up to you norm.  Do the best you can and you will be amazed what happens that first run on a really  cool day.

One additional note.  I ran yesterday, Tuesday, at Veteran's Park.  I ran my usual 3 laps and the cool, dry air is gone.  Even though the temperature was only about 91 when I got home at 6:10, the run was miserable.  My splits were 24:30, (about average on a hot day) 25:25 and 25:50.  Normally, I run pretty consistent laps. Not yesterday!  I was exhausted.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Upcoming 20K-50K in the Birmingham area

This is just a quick note.  There will be a 50K and 25K run at Oak Mountain State Park here in Birmingham in a couple of weeks.   It is the 3rd Annual Autumn Equinox Ultra - 9/18/2011.  This is a VERY laid back run.  It started as a birthday run and has evolved into to real event.  There are no shirts and  no awards, just a lot of fun and good food.  Entry fee is $15.00 preregister or $20.00 at the gate.  Here is a link to the Ultrasignup registration for the race

I have more pictures of Run for Kids Challenge trail and Start/Finish area.  I will post them soon.  By the way, if you come to the Autumn Equinox race you can take a look at the new  location for the RFK. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Run for Kids Challenge 2012

We have already started planning next years Run for Kids Challenge and have decided to make a few changes. First, we plan to move the race venue to Oak Mountain State Park. This is a beautiful 10,000 acre park located about 5 miles from the Veteran's Park location we used last year. Veteran's Park was great and everyone enjoyed the course (although not the heat) but the park is very expensive to rent.  We will still have the 12 Hour Challenge and the 50K Run just as we did last year.  

We will add a 50K relay and allow teams of any size from 4 to 9 runners. Our goal is to try to create more involvement from local businesses and organizations by encouraging them to sponsor their own teams. We also hope individuals will form teams with friends and family members. I plan to create a link where runners can find others interested in joining a team. The distance per lap will be just over 3 miles, almost the same as last year, a 5K.

The new course will be about 85% in the woods and circles Oak Mountains Lake (the swimming and canoeing lake). The course will pass along the beach area where, if you are hot, just hop in the water to cool down. The course has gentle rolling hills but no steep climbs like the wooded section on last years course. I have not checked the elevation gain per lap but it is probably very similar to Veteran's Park.

The new web page for the 2012 Run for Kids Challenge Is up and running, at least a couple of pages.  It does have a map of the new course at Oak Mountain State Park. 

Here are a few pictures of Oak Mountain Lake and the course.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Things You Might Want to Add to you Drop-Bag

The July issue of Ultrarunner had a couple of good articles on drop-bag supplies.  The first article tells about a box the author created with just about everything an ultrarunner could ever need during race.  Your crew keeps it with them and has it available at each "crew accessible" aid station.  Basically it contained a little everything anyone could possibly need.  Probably, most of us do that instinctively anyway.  Marye Jo keeps a backpack with her and brings it to each aid station.  I have extra of just about everything I normally use, electrolyte capsules, NUUN tablets, Perpetuem, socks, tape and so on.

If you have not read the article by Sammy Blende, it is a good idea to look over the list.  It might help you remember something you had forgotten or suggest something that might really come in handy.  One thing that I need to remember to add to my check list is a pair of scissors.  They also mention a magic marker to label anything you put in a baggie to carry with you.  Oh yes, extra baggies.  Another good idea is to put some "real" food in the box, like chips, soup, cookies and a sandwich or two.  I did that in my first ultra but they usually have most of that stuff at aid stations.

The second article in the "Beginners Corner" and written by Gary Dudney really had some good ideas.  Several, I had not thought of I intend to employ during two races I have signed up for in October.
1.  Zip Lock Baggie:  Carry an extra baggie with you when you leave each aid station to put those used, sticky GU packs in.  This is a problem I have dealt with for years.  How many times I have stuck my hand into a pocket to find the sticky "GOO" has leaked out and is now all over my hand.  Lately, I have started sticking the emptied GU containers in a mesh pocket on my hydration vest.  Of course at the end of the run, I have to wash the entire vest.  What a simple solution.  Stick the empty GU pak in the baggie while running and throw the whole thing away at the next aid station.
2.  Throw in a Wash Cloth:  Place a damp wash cloth zipped into a baggie in each drop bag.  He is right, too.  That will be the first thing I reach for at each aid station to wipe off the dirt and sweat.  (Instant Perk-up)
3.  A Dry Shirt:  He suggests putting a dry shirt in every drop bag.  If you think a fresh shirt would feel good, there it is.  It is a good idea to put any articles of clothing in a zip-lock baggie if you are going to leave them at an aid station.  They are usually left outside and if it rains, everything gets wet, including you dry shirt!
4.  Carry a Tiny Flashlight:  This is almost too obvious to mention.  If there is a chance you could still be on the trail after dark, carry a backup flashlight..  When I am running a 100, I put a Fenix DL40 LED light in my pak and carry it with me the entire race.  (This way there is no chance to end up in the dark without a light) So far I have not needed it for myself, but it certainly helped another runner at Tahoe in July.  After leaving Hobart aid station at mile 56 we climbed to the ridge crest and followed it to Tunnel Creed about 6 miles away.  This is where many of the snow fields are located and in the dark they were a little trick to follow.  I noticed a runner in front of me way off the trail on one of the large fields.  I yelled to him that the trail was over here and he came on over a little way behind me, then passed me.  A few minutes later, he had again veered way off to the left of the trail and was looking around.  Again, I directed him to the trail.  This time I noticed his light was very dim.  I was carrying extra AAA batteries for my headlamps, but he needed AA.  We ran along for a while and I remembered my extra light and dug it out of my pak.  He said he had an extra light in his drop bag at the aid station so I told him to just leave it at with one of the volunteers and I would pick it up when I arrived.  We arrived at almost the same time and I he gave back to me.
5.  Carry Extra Batteries:  (My addition to the list) Carrying extra batteries for you light.  Even if you just put new batteries in, they may be old or defective an not last very long.   Put extras in your pak just in case.  There is another reason to carry an extra light, not just extra batteries.  One night in a training run I broke my headlamp.  I was testing several lights so I had others, but if I had not, I would have been in trouble.
6:  Always Carry a Shell:  During the summer I do not carry a shell with me for training runs or races unless thunderstorms are likely.  It just isn't necessary in Alabama.  Spring and Fall are another story.  If there is a chance of rain at all, I will carry a light shell jacket if the temperature is cool.  When you are wet, it doesn't have to be very cold to be really miserable.  One alternative that will work is to cut a hole for your head and arms in a garbage bag.  I did that many times in the 70s and 80s at the start of very cold races.  In the mountains, carry a light jacket all the time.

Do any of you have any ideas that might come in handy in a drop bag?

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Running Legend, Rick Trujillo

A few weeks ago I wrote about my experiences doing trail work for this years Hardrock 100 in Colorado.  Two of the days I worked with and got to know a man named Rick Trujillo.  He was fascinating to say the lest.  He had some amazing stories about his past, his approach to life and running.  Rick and I were walking down Bear Creek Trail (Telluride) from doing trail work on Ballard Mountain when we met Marye Jo hiking up to meet us.  We invited Rick to have lunch with us at Smuggler's in Telluride.  I could have sat and listened to him talk for hours.  He had grown up in Ouray, just across the pass from Telluride.  Over Imogene Pass it is 17 miles.  By road it is about 50 miles exactly.

Rick Trujillo
Rick Trujillo

One of the things I found interesting about him was that we shared a lot of the same philosophies and passions.       *  "Run for the sake of running."  * "A love of being in the mountains," especially the Western mountains.  And not to just look at them from a distance as my parents did, but do get up in them as far as possible.  * Run the hardest mountain runs and races you can find, and do it "just because you can."  * "The goal is to finish, not beat anyone, that is, (except the person in front of me."  That in me, not Rick.)  I can't help it, I am competitive.

Rick is also a storehouse of information on Colorado History and especially the mining history in the San Juan's.  We talked a lot about life in Telluride and Ouray in the past.  The gold mining days, the booms, the busts and finally the "white gold" days and what they have meant to towns like Telluride, Ouray and Silverton. He recommended two books, "Tomboy Bride" and "One Man's West" to find out more about what life was like around the turn of the century and the 30's and 40's in the area.  I have just finished the latter, and I had to keep reminding myself, this is taking place in 1935,  not mid 19th century.

I found out we share very similar dietary habits, too.  At lunch at Smuggler's I ate barbecue ribs while he ate fish and chips.  I have told people that I run so I can eat anything I like.  Actually that is not true at all.  I would run regardless.  The truth is I  eat pretty healthy most of the time, but I sure enjoy the terrible stuff (ribs, fish and chips, pizza, chili-cheese-dogs, hamburgers,  etc...) and on occasion I gorge myself without the slightest guilt.  And then there is my reward on the way home from every hard, hot, weekend run.  A stop by Bruster's for a Chocolate Malt.  I suspect Rick would do the same.

It wasn't until I got back home that I did a little research.  I wanted to find out a little more about him.  What I found out is that he is a true "mountain running legend."  Among his accomplishments are 5 consecutive victories in the Pikes Peak Marathon and setting the speed mark-15 days, nine hours, 55 minutes, for ascending Colorado's fifty four 14,000-foot peaks at age 47.  He won Hardrock in 1997 as well.


Here is a link to a Runner's World article about Rick.  It is worth reading.  
I didn't know it, but I have had a picture of Rick in my closet for several years.  His picture is on the back of the shirt from the first Imogene Pass Run that I ran.  He was the founder and first known person to run over from Ouray to Telluride.  He was training for the Pikes Peak Marathon.  That is the picture..

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Race Report, Lap Two. The second 50 miles.

One of the truly unique experiences of running 100 mile races is running all night.  Tahoe was my fourth 100 and therefore my fourth time to run from sunup to sunset to sunup the next day.  It is a surreal experience as the your world is slowly reduced to the area illuminated by your headlamp.  The brightness of the headlamp seems to make the darkness around you even darker, especially while running through the woods.  In mountains as high as Tahoe or Wasatch or especially Colorado it takes a long time for the ski to become totally black.  Several hours after sunset there is still a faint glow on the westerly horizon.  And of course, the same is true at dawn.  This glow is only viable from high ridges where the horizon is not obstructed by trees or hills.


This is a picture I took during the Wasatch 100 last September from the mountain ridge above Park City Ski Resort at the first light of dawn.  (Obviously the camera does not know the date.)

By the time it becomes dark in most 100 mile races, runners have been running for 15 or 16 hours or more.  Almost all 100 mile races are limited to between 100 and 250 runners and by night they are scattered over 30 or 40 miles of the course.  (Jorge Maravella, winner of the Tahoe 100 mile race finished in 18 hours and 48 minutes.  I met him and his pacer in the first snow fields above Hobart.  They were headed for the finish less than 10 miles away.  I still had over 40 miles to go.)  Runners were so scattered by then that I ran much of the night totally alone.  Occasionally I would meet one of the lead runners headed for the finish but mostly I was alone.  I came up behind a runner on the Red House Loop and there were usually several other runners at the aid stations, but on the trail, there was usually no one around.

  You are busy during the night.  The trail is often hard to follow in the dark and, although it is usually pretty well marked, one momentary lack of attention can send you off into the dark on the wrong trail for miles.  It is of course much harder to see rocks and irregularities in the trail at night, so you really have to stay focused or risk a fall.  You do not want to get hurt miles from the nearest road on a very cold night.  Tahoe had something I had not experienced in my three previous 100 miler races.  Race night had an almost totally full moon in a cloudless sky.  The moon did not come up until a while after dark but once it was up I could have almost turned off my lights and run in the moonlight.  It was so bright that at times when the moon was behind me I kept looking back thinking someone was coming up behind me.

I found this picture taken during the night.  That is what you see with a headlamp although I am sure this shot was taken with a flash.  Headlamps illuminate a small spot down the trail not a large area like this.

As I was heading up from Spooner Lake to begin the second 50 mile loop the sun was just setting.  The trail follows a deep valley all the way to Hobart but runners could see the mountains surrounding the trail on most of this section.  As I followed the trail up the 5 miles to Marlette Lake, the light slowly faded and the mountains began to disappear in the dark.  At some point I realized it was becoming hard to see obstacles in the trail and I turned on my two headlamps.  I know that sounds strange but I wear one on my head and one around my waste.

I use the headlamp (on my head) to shine where I am looking.  Generally I use it to illuminates the trail 10 to 20 yards ahead and to spot trail marking.  The one around my wast is a flood type and I angle it to light up the trail 10 or 15 feet immediately in front of me.  The problem with a headlamp alone is, it produces no visible shadows to the wearer.  Everything is flat or two dimensional.  The light around my waste creates shadows which adds a critical third dimension.  I can tell if the rock I am about to hop over in 1/2 inch tall or 6 inches tall.  That can make a difference.  Some runners use a handheld LED flashlight but I was using trekking poles on the climbs so I wanted my hands free.

As much as I enjoy running at night, an aid station in the middle of a cold night is a wonderful place!

Back to the race.  Everything was going great as I started the second 50 miles.  I made it up to Hobart with no problems at all.  However, about a mile past Hobart (mile 57) I started feeling sick at my stomach.  I wasn't too concerned.  I always get sick at my stomach at some point in a 100 mile race and even in some 50k's.  That is why I always carry a few ginger chews.  In fact, I had already had one bout with an upset stomach earlier that afternoon.  I had failed to add NUUN electrolyte tablets at an aid station when I added water to my hydration pack.  So at the next aid station I added extra.  I still didn't think I had added enough so I added even more.  In a few minutes I began to feel a little sick and soon was having trouble drinking the water.  I had probably added double the concentration of electrolytes in my water that I should have.  At the next aid station I poured the water out and added only water.  In 20 or 30 minutes I was fine again.

Part of the problem is that it is very difficult to add an exact amount of water to a bladder in a backpack.  It is hard to see the scale printed on the bladder, especially at night.  Aid station volunteers tend to put  more water than you ask for and so on.  I have a tendency to add additional NUUN tablets to compensate.  What ever the reason the stomach thing was happening again on the second lap.  This time it did not register that I was again adding too many electrolytes and I started eating ginger chews but did not fix the real problem.  By the time I reached the Tunnel Creek AS at mile 61, I was feeling pretty bad and having to walk a lot.

As I started down the Red House Loop after Tunnel Creek I could not run at all.  I walked all the way down, almost all the way through the creeks at the bottom of the loop, and most of the way back up to Tunnel Creek again.  I was becoming really frustrated at the amount of time I was loosing.  I had another major concern.  The only thing I had been able to eat since leaving Hobart, probably 3  hours before was a little soup at aid stations.  I was concerned that soon I was going to "bonk."  (That is, totally run out of fuel for my body to burn and come to a complete halt.)  I have been experimenting with a product called "Vespa," a concentrated amino acid supplement, that helps you burn fat as a fuel instead of carbs.  Apparently it works because I was not able to eat enough the rest of the race to keep me going with carbs and I felt strong all the way to the end once I recovered from the stomach problem.

One of the creek crossings on the Red House Loop (Photo taken by James Plant)

I finally reached the Bull Wheel aid station and by then I had figured out that I had once again messed up the electrolyte balance.  I again dumped out the water and added plain water to my pack and found a few electrolyte capsules for later.  It had about 3 more miles along the crest of the Tahoe Rim Trail to where we started down the long, 2,000 ft descent called the "Tyrolean Downhill" by mountain bikers to Diamond Peak Resort.  By the time I reached the descent I was beginning to run a little.  As I hit the steeper section of the  trail I was feeling pretty good and ran the final 4 miles down to Diamond Peak.  I cannot imagine riding my mountain bike down that descent.

It was getting light as I reached the mountain bike descent and I actually enjoyed the run  down and occasionally looked up at the spectacular view of Lake Tahoe.  I met a number of hikers coming up the hill for an early  morning walk and even passed a few fellow runners.  I was really glad to see Marye Jo at the aid station.  She had all my stuff laid out inside the resort building where it was nice and warm.  I sat down and relaxed for a few minutes while sorting through what I needed.  I pulled off my running tights and jacket, left my headlamps, gloves and toboggan with her.  I also left the Nathan belt that held bottles of Perpetuem drink.  I had not been able to dink any of it all night and I saw no point in continuing to carry it.  It was still cold outside but the sun would be up and warming the air pretty soon and I would create a lot of body heat on the ridiculous  climb up to Bull Wheel.  I also decided to do something I have never done before in an ultra.  I changed shoes and socks.  My feet had been wet or damp for the past 22 hours and I decided it would feel good to have dry feet again.  I probably spent 20 minutes at Diamond Peak but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Diamond Peak volunteers were out in the cold cooking all kinds of breakfast burritos, or just about any other breakfast dish but I only ate soup again.  It was really difficult to get up and go back out into the cold, especially facing that two mile climb up to the top of the ski resort, but it was time to go.  I kissed Marye Jo goodbye and told here I would see her in 20 miles, at the finish.

Amazingly, the climb was much easier on this second ascent after 80 miles.  The only thing I can figure is that it was a hot during the first climb up yesterday and there is no shade at all.  Now it is cold.  I also started doing crossover type steps (much like an ice skater does in a turn) all the way up on the steep part.  That is, take 10 steps with my feet turned about 10 deg. to the right, 10 steps straight ahead and 10 steps with my feet turned to the left, then back right again, etc.  This technique constantly switches the effort to different muscle groups.  It works.  The first trip up, I zig-zaged.

Another picture of the Diamond Peak climb (by James Plant)

You know it is funny, but once I reached the Diamond Peak Resort I knew I would finish even though this climb was still ahead.  By the time I reached the top, I felt like I was almost there, the finish that is.  Even though I still had 18 miles to go, that was just a formality.  I just had to keep going and that is exactly what I did.  I added nothing to my water the rest of the day and ate one electrolyte tablet each hour.  I ate a cup of chicken noodle soup and a little fruit at each aid station and that was all I ate.  I felt better the longer I ran. 

 As I left the Tunnel Creek aid station I thanked everyone for their hard work and said good by.  I had spent a lot of time there in the past 26 hours (six stops.)  When I reached Hobart I thanked them too.  I had been there 4 times since the start of the race.  Then it was off to the final 1,000 foot climb to Snow Valley Peak, then 7.1 miles to the finish.  That was all sort of a blur.  The descent from Snow Valley was were the race began with the "Too Dumb to Quit" man.  That was what it said on the back of his shirt and the first time I saw it I remember thinking, "he is not the only one!"  His name is Joey Anderson, from North Carolina. He passed me the first time about 5 miles into the race on the run up to Hobart.  We passed each other back and forth all during the race. I remember him because of the shirt and the fact that he was wearing "Bright Pink" gaiters.  Look closely at the man in the gray shirt coming up the hill in the picture above.  That's him.

I came up behind him about 5 miles from the end and the race was on.  We both ran continuously, except that I walked up a few short hills, until about 2 miles from the end.  He had some problem and had to stop.  I continued but was pretty sure he was coming back up behind me because he had been running so strong.  I couldn't slow down and would not look back so I just ran as fast as my crumbling legs would carry me.  I really was beginning to wonder if someone had moved some of the course markers and I was headed for Carson City instead of the finish at Spooner Lake.  Finally I came out of the woods and saw the small foot bridge that crossed the marsh at the south end of the lake.  I knew I was almost there.  I hit the gravel road and I could see the  gates that lead to the finish.  Then I saw Marye Jo and I think I hopped up and down as I ran.  I am not sure, but I did try.

 It took a minute to get weighed and remove the bottom tab from my number.  Them we remembered we needed a picture by the clock, one minute and 17 seconds late.

I actually felt pretty good as I finished.  I got a big hug from MJ.  My time was 33 hours, 17 minutes and 07 seconds.  We walked over to a chair in the shade, removed all the junk I was carrying and sat down.  I considered never getting up again.  Marye Jo brought me a coke.  I took off my shoes and drank the coke.  I realized I was hungry so I did get up and go get real food.  (I actually do not remember what I got to eat, but it was good.)  We hung around, talked to a lot of the people we had met over the weekend and waited for the awards.  After an hour or so of resting and eating I decided I needed to go find my drop bags that were deposited up in the parking lot.  The lot was about 1/4 mile up a hill form the start/finish area.  As I started walking up that hill, I realized, for the first time, just how tired I really was.

Finally, at 4:00pm they started the awards ceremony.  This was the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) National Ultrarunning Championship.  If they had had a "Great Grand Master" (60 and above) I thought I would have won it.  Turns out they did, only I not only did not win it, I was not even close.  Tom Hicks from California ran a 30:42:38.  He is 67 years old.  That is a humbling experience!

This is the trophy!  The center is actually a coin minted at the Carson City Mint.

We spent the rest of the week in Tahoe at a wonderful little bed and breakfast called the Shore House at Lake Tahoe.  Barb and Marty are great hosts and the breakfast is great.  And the view...  We lounged around Monday, ate a lot and drove to South Tahoe to see Heavenly Ski Resort.  Then we came back and ate more.  Tuesday we hiked up to Marlette Lake from the Tahoe side.  This was a 4 mile fairly steep hike but my legs didn't complain too much.  We actually ran most of the way back down.  Another day we drove over to Emerald Bay, a beautiful area on the southwest corner of the lake.  Here are a few pictures from the the ares.

Those are pretty big Redwoods

Did I mention how clear the water in Tahoe is.

The pier at he Shore House

And the Shore House.
We have decided that we will go back to Tahoe.  I plan to run the race again, probably next year if I don't get in Hardrock.  We might even go to "just hang out."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Race Report, Lap One

At 6:00am we headed off into the dark.  By then the sky was beginning to get light but for about thirty minutes I was glad I had my headlamp.  The first 4 miles is a gentle climb of about 1,100 ft. so I alternated walking and running.  We reached Marlette Lake and the trail circled around the South end of the lake before starting the climb up to Hobart aid station at mile 6.

Right after Hobart we crossed the first two snow fields as we circled around Marlette Peak a couple of hundred feet below the summit.  Normally, this is one of the best views on the course.  We were 1000 feet above Marlette Lake and  Lake Tahoe is 2,500 feet below us.  Unfortunately the view was mostly obscured by thin clouds so I got few pictures the first morning.  Here is a shot I took on the way up before ascending into the clouds.

Here is a short video of the section in the picture above.  In the video you will see Joey Anderson in
front of me taking his video (Linked to below) and James Plant about to run over me at the end.

Here is a link to a video posted by Joey Anderson, The guy I ended up racing with the last 5 miles of the run.  I am right behind him as he was shooting the part crossing the first snow field and videoed him as he was filming this and the next shot.  YouTube - Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  Joey's video starts at daylight and ends at the Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 11.

At about mile 11 we reached the Tunnel Creek aid station for the first time.  Runners in the 100 mile race will pass through this aid station 6 times.  The course looks like a double ended lolly-pop with an appendage off the right side.  We reach Tunnel Creek at miles 11, 17.3, 35.3 on the first lap and miles 61.2, 67.5 and finally at mile 85.5.  We get to know the aid station volunteers pretty well by the final visit.  Outbound is when we ran the Red House Loop.  On the return trip we ran straight back on the TRT ( Tahoe Rim Trail) to Hobart aid station and skip the Red House Loop.  Below is the course map.
After Tunnel Creek (outbound,) the course drops down the 6.3 mile Red House Loop.  It starts with a very steep descent of about 1,300 feet followed by numerous stream and bog crossings.  Then we start the long climb back up culminating in a 700 ft climb in about 3/4 mile near the aid station.  Finally we reach a gentler part of the climb for the last few hundred yards back to Tunnel Creek.  We are weighed upon the return to Tunnel Creek to be sure you are drinking enough water, but  not too much.  Both are bad.

From there we continue north along the Tahoe Rim Trail about 6 miles further.  This section is probably the most scenic of the entire race.  The trail traverses back and forth on one side of the ridge line then the other for miles.  The views of Tahoe to the west and Washoe Valley to the east are beautiful.  We pass the Bull Wheel aid station (at the top of Diamond Peak Ski Resort) and on to the Incline Creek trail junction where we drop down the mountain toward Lake Tahoe and the Diamond Peak aid station.  

View of the Washoe Valley side, Lake Washoe and a little of Carson City off to the far right.

 One of many ridge crossings through huge granite boulders. 

 And back over to the Tahoe side, looking down at Incline Village and the north shore of Tahoe.

The Bull Wheel aid station is a vary basic aid station.  Everything must be brought up form Diamond Peak Resort.  I am not sure how they got everything up there.  The resort may have provided some type of vehicle that could climb the road straight up a ski run, but I certainly don't know what type.  From there we continued on across the TRT for about 3 more miles before dropping 2,000 feet down the mountain in 4 miles to the Diamond Peak aid station located at the main lodge at the ski resort at mile 30.5. 

The picture of Diamond Peak Aid Station shows just a part of the "spread" which including everything from soup to sandwiches and quesadillas made to order to"veggie things" and a lot more.  I arrived here just about 12:30pm.  Good place to be at lunch time. (I borrowed this picture.)

Marye Jo had all my gear out on a table ready for me when I arrived.  I gathered what I needed and in about 5 minutes was headed out of the Diamond Peak AS.  It was now early afternoon and the sun was intense as I started the climb up from Diamond Peak  I was carrying a coup of soup, a 1/4 sandwich and an orange (or maybe a banana, I can't remember which.)  It is a lot more efficient to eat while walking rather than wasting time sitting in a aid station.

I don't know who took this picture but I had not started using the poles yet because I was still eating.

After leaving Diamond Peak we started the steepest climb I have ever done in a 100 mile race, with the exception of about 100 ft of Chinscraper at the top of the first climb in the Wasatch 100.  We start up a resort service road, shown above that climbs steadily for a while then joins the Crystal Ridge ski run and heads straight up the run.  The road climbs 1,700 feet in just under two miles, which isn't to bad, except that the first mile is a reasonable climb.  Here are a few pictures.  

Down low on the reasonable section of the climb.

Note how people are doing all kinds of zig-zagging up the hill.
This in NOT  a REASONABLE section!

Of course, in the video it doesn't even look steep.

Here is Part 2 of Joey's Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  It starts with the Red House Loop and ends with the climb up from the Diamond Peak Resort Aid Station to the top of Diamond Peak.  At the top you can see Bull Wheel aid station down the hill.

It probably took close to an hour to make the climb to the top of the Crystal Ridge lift.  This section is totally exposed to the sun and it was hot!  It was quite a relief to finally reach the top and be back on the trail again.  We started back along the TRT, this time headed south, past Tunnel Creek AS for the third time that day and on to Hobart,at mile 40.3, for the second time today.  All along the north side of the ridge line we climbed over snow field after snow filed.  Some were small enough we could bypass but most were not.  The largest fields were along the trails on the north side near the ridgeline.  When we crossed them this morning, they were still frozen.  On the way back in the afternoon they had become soft, slick,  and treacherous.  One step out of the dirty path or chopped steps would at best, land you on your butt in very wet and cold snow.  At the worst, send you sliding down the the hill in a hurry.  Here is a nice example of what we spent a lot of time running and hiking over.

There is one other disadvantage to running through wet snow.  Your shoes stay wet.  My shoes were dry until the stream crossings at the bottom of Red House Loop early in the morning.  They were still a little damp as the snow fields began to soften as the temperatures rose in the late morning.  They never dried completely by the time we were tramped across the snow in the afternoon.  Actually, they never fully dried out the rest of the afternoon and all night.  One of the larger snow fields near Hobart was very steep and steps had been chopped into the side for about 20 feet.  By the time I reached this section in the afternoon the steps were gone and all that was left was a "slide."  There was no way down except to sit in the snow and "schuss" down the slope.  Warning, this can be a little unpleasant in running shorts.

After Hobart the trail splits and we head to the left for a gentle 1,000 climb over about three miles to the Snow Valley Peak aid station.  As the name suggests, there was a lot of snow.

Snow Valley Peak is the high point of the course at about 9,000 feet.

The Snow Valley Peak aid station is run by the Carson City Boy Scouts and they do a super job.  They greet you way before reaching the AS to find out what you need.  They have everything you could need despite being in a very remote area, located right on the ridgeline.  I don't know how they ever secured the shelter up there because the wind was howling both time I passed through.  They even had "sorbet."

From here, we had a long, 5.4 mile descent to Spooner Lake trail head, then a flat 1.7 mile sprint to the halfway point at the Spooner Lake aid station at mile 50.2.  (I thought that was the longest 1.7 miles I had ever run, that is, until the second lap.)  About 2 miles out the lake comes into view and the trail drops down along the shore line for a short distance.  The aid station is visible just across the lake.  You can even hear people yelling and music playing.  You don't seem to ever get there thought.  But I finally did and I was quite happy.

I was really glad to see Marye Jo.  She gives me a reason the "get there!"

I was at 50.2 miles (HALF WAY) and running on a 30 hour pace.  I knew I would loose some time over night, but I was still hoping to finish close to 31 hours.  I added an additional layer of clothing because I knew it was going to be cold along the ridge line.
It was going to be a long, cold night, but I was ready.
Next Installment, Lap 2.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Race Report

We arrived in Reno on Thursday, July 14th and drove straight to Tahoe.  Reno sits in a dry, arid basin just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range at an elevation of 4500 ft.  Lake Tahoe has a surface elevation of 6,225 ft, and is 1,645 feet deep.  The lake is 22 miles long and as much as 12 miles wide.  It seems strange that a lake can be over 1700 feet higher than a substantial part of the land to the east of the lake.

After leaving Reno we drove about 15 or 18 miles along the valley (desert) to the Tahoe turnoff on 431.  After a few mile more the road abruptly turns uphill, right up the side of Mt Rose.  After a couple of more miles we found ourselves in a pine forest.  ( I mean in the distance of about one mile we went from driving in the desert to driving in an alpine forest.)  The drive up Hwy 431, (The Mt. Rose Highway) past the Mt. Rose Ski Resort and then over the pass and down to Tahoe is as beautiful as any place I have ever been.  On the way down, there is an overlook that truly is amazing, especially if you have never seen Tahoe from the ground before.  The overlook is probably 1000 feet above the lake and you can see almost the entire lake and all the snow capped mountains surrounding it.  (I say from the ground because last January we did fly over Tahoe in route from San Francisco to Salt Lake City.)
Here are a couple of shots from that overlook.

We found a really nice restaurant with a deck that was right next to the lake and ate a late lunch.  I had really good (and healthy) fish and chips.  Later Thursday afternoon we drove up to Diamond Peak Ski Resort so Marye Jo would know where to find me at mile 30 and mile 80 during the race.  We saw a nice restaurant near the resort and stopped in for a very light dinner.

Friday morning we got up early and found a great little place called the Log Cabin at (King's Beach) for breakfast.  I had pancakes, sausage and eggs.  We then went back to the room and finished I packed my drop bags.  We hauled them down to the car and headed over to Carson City about noon.  We picked up the race packet, got weighed (171lbs,) and left the drop-bags but it was still a couple of hours until the mandatory meeting at 4:00pm.  We went over to a restaurant across the street and had a snack and desert and ice tea.  I decided it was time to be a little more healthy.  I had peach cobbler.

Check-in at Legislative Park in Carson City. 

The meeting was held in one of the state legislative chambers in the capital building.  Carson City is the Sate Capital of Nevada.  It was definitely the nicest surroundings for a prerace meeting I have ever been to.  Here is David Cotter, RD  (with the beard) and George Ruiz at the meeting.  If you look to the left side, the guy with the gray hair and the gray shirt, that's me.  I hope Jason Chan doesn't mind me borrowing this pictures.

After that we headed aback to North Tahoe.  We stopped on the way back to the lodge at a bakery and got a few things for breakfast.  Then we found a really nice restaurant, Gar Woods Grill and Pier.  This is a picture of  Marye Jo taken at about 7:30 am the morning after the race.  That is the restaurant in the background.

We then went to our room and went to bed about the time the sun set.  One advantage of going west for a race is the time change.  The race started at 6:00am.  We had to get up at 3:00am to be at the start about 5:00, but 3:00am California time is 5:00am for me, Alabama time.  That is my normal time to get up anyway!

 The Start
 We arrived at the parking area for Spooner Lake State Park about five and sat in the car for a few minutes.  Then we decided to go ahead and catch the shuttle to the start area.  We probably got there about 45 minutes prior to the start and ran into Larry Sandhaas who we had met the afternoon before in Carson City.  We all stood around freezing in the cold waiting for the start.  Here are a few photo I took while waiting.

Marye Jo got a picture of Larry and me.  We don't look nervous, do we??

Marye Jo and Me

Everyone at all the major aid stations was dressed according to a theme.  For Example,Tunnel Creek was a pirate theme and the half way/finish was Hawaiian.  But the Start, everyone was dressed like this.  As if someone just got them out of bed in the middle of the night.  Actually, I guess they did get out of bed in the middle of the night.  This may be Renee Gorevin, but I am not sure.  She was giving final instructions then she said she was going back to bed.  This is another of Jason's pictures.

A quick jacket change and I am ready to go a few seconds prior to the start.

To be continued.