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.
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.
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.
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.