Monday, July 23, 2012

My Glimpse of Heaven and Taste of Hell: The Tahoe Rim 50k (July 21, 2012)

My Glimpse of Heaven and Taste of Hell
Tahoe Rim Trail 50k (July 21, 2012)

"Runners love a challenge. Their sport requires an internal drive foreign to most 'normal' people. They not only push through pain, but welcome it. They live to test their limits, and if a gauntlet is thrown down, they embrace the chance to test their mettle." ~from "Running the Edge"

January 4, 2012

Helen: "Ralph Keith threw down the gauntlet...i finally got on the crazy train...we're going to run this [Tahoe Rim Trail] 50k one week after doing the Death Ride..."

 Some of the comments in response to this post:
"oh my"
"better you than me"
"this is a new level of crazy for both of you"
"you're crazy"

Ralph: "This isn't crazy, it's pushing the boundries to see what we can do in a sane/safe fashion. We'll train properly, eat well. The goal is to finish with a smile on our faces and memories to last a life time."

Seven months later. . . .

By the time July rolled around, I felt mostly ready for both the Death Ride and the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) 50k.  All my training for all my crazy things this year has definitely built up my endurance in both running and cycling.  So, I did not really worry about not being able to finish the events. 

For me, the Death Ride felt like the end of my string of crazy cycling goals.  At the start of the year, my cycling goals were to get the California Triple Crown, participate in the NorCal Aids Cycle, and finish the Death Ride.  

At the start of the year, I had really wanted, hunger for, the California Triple Crown.  In June, I finished my third double century and became a California Triple Crown winner.  I had been pondering doing two more double centuries in the fall to get into the 1000 Mile Club.  However, a new goal, a new hunger, started to emerge:  Western States 100 (a 100 mile run).  

With the Death Ride completed, I felt I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish this year on the bike.  I felt satisfied with it all.  But now, I wanted Western States.  I thought about doing two more doubles but the desire isn't as strong as it was for the initial three doubles.  

Day before TRT, I got off the waiting list for the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile Race (in October).  This would be my first 50 mile race and hopefully, my qualifying race to get into the Western States lottery.  

So, for the TRT race, knowing that I would run this race a whole lot slower than I did at Way Too Cool, I made no time goals for myself.  I had no expectations of getting a PR.  My goal would be to be very diligent in my fueling throughout the race and try to finish the race feeling not so fried, feeling pretty decent, as if I could run more.  That was the goal for this race.  And of course, to enjoy the scenery and to have fun.  :)

July 21, 2012

In the wee hours of the morning, I wake up at a Motel 6 in Carson City.  My chest is a bit congested and my throat scratchy.  The air feels dry.  I get into my running gear and get my water pack ready.  Since I am already feeling congestion in my chest, I remember to pack my inhaler this time.  Not wanting to forget it like I did in the Death Ride.  I scramble to get all my things together.  

Ralph comes to my door and picks me up around 4:20 a.m.  After picking up Lisa, the three of us head towards Tahoe, to Spooner Lake.   
I hang out at the race start seeing numerous running friends here.  Some are running the 50 mile race and some are running the 50k (like me).  There are others who have already started the 100 mile race.  We hang out under a tent trying to stay relatively warm on this cool morning.  It is nice having the company of friends around before (as well as during) these big events.  

As it gets closer to 6 a.m., we all gather around and await the start.   The national anthem is faintly playing. 

Spooner to Hobart (mile 7)

6 a.m., the race starts.  All the runners start taking off into the woods away from Spooner Lake.  I run along with Scott for a bit.  The trail narrows a bit and the runners start to sort themselves about.  It does not take too long for my hands to warm up so I take off my gloves and stuff them into my pack. 

We start heading upward.  The climb is not too steep at this point but we are going upward.  My chest congestion is making it tougher to acclimate to the elevation today.  I am not able to run as fast I would like.  But, it is early in the race I am pacing myself.  

After a couple miles or so, I am struggling to keep up with Scott so I just stop trying to stay up with him.  My chest congestion is making this tough so I fall back a bit.  I let a few other runners coming around me and I keep going along.  I think, it's only 6 miles to the first rest stop so just need to get there.  

After climbing for a bit and feeling this day is going to be a long, hard, day, I come around some bend and turn to see a stunning view of the sun rising over Marlett Lake.  Just stunning.  And, as I am smiling at the sight of the sun just peaking over the mountains and glistening the lake, I remember why I am running this race.  To see such sites like this.  I come around a switchback and start descending down to the edge of Marlette Lake.  I stop to take a picture.  I am going to enjoy myself on this run and really take in the stunning views. 

I run along pass Marlette Lake and head along some trails lush with green trees.  Then, we start climbing upward again.  An hour has passed and I put down a gel and trek up the hill.  I am familiar with this section having gone a training run here with James, Steve, and Tim. 

I am hoping the aid station is near but I keep going and going and going.  I pass by a few volunteers dressed up as angels and a devil.  They really are getting into the heaven & hell theme.

Finally, I arrive at Hobart.  The aid station here has the heaven and hell theme also.  I get some soda to drink and munch on some potatoes.  Then, I head on my way. 

Hobart to Tunnel Creek

I head out of the aid station and follow the other runners up a hill.  We weave our way up and up and up.  Geez, the climbing is tough. 

Then, we curve to the right and BAM, hit with another specatucular view.  The view is Lake Tahoe and Marlette Lake and truly breathtaking.  Certainly a glimpse of heaven.  Everyone stops to take a few pictures. 

Then, we continue on our way.  We run through some meadow looking grassy area and then head into a forest area.  The trail takes you through some interesting change of scenery.  Nice looking.

After a bit, we start a little bit of down hill running.  I can pick up my pace a little bit as we run down and down and down.  Fun, though I get a little nervous on some rocky sections and can hear other runners right behind me.  At some point, I let a few runners past me. 

My phone plays a little jingle.  It's a text message from Craig.  I know it without having to look.  The sound of it makes me smile as I know it is him.  I know he's sending some encouraging message cheering me on. 

As I run along, I notice my hands are looking rather fat and swollen.  Almost like a cartoon character, they're puffed up so big.  Hmm.  I am not sure if this means I should be taking more water.  Maybe I should take more salt or have I taken too much salt.  I feel like I have been hydrating myself well enough.  My hands are so big!  I am not in any pain but I worry if my hands are swelling up that my feet might swell up too and I may get blisters. 

I eventually arrive to the Tunnel Creek aid station.  I see my friend Susan and ask her if I should take more salt or less salt sa my hands are really swollen.  She points to the medic tent and suggests I go there.  I go up to a couple guys and ask what I should do.  They ask me if I am thirsty, I say no.  Says I should cut back on the water for a bit and take a little more salt. 

So, I head to the food tables and eat some salted potatoes.  I pop some s-caps and then head my way down to the Red House loop. 

The Red House Loop

The Red House loop starts with a long 1+ mile descent.  Down and down and down I go.  I see the faster folks climbing up past me.  I catch sight of a couple friends as I fly down the hill.  Trying to twist my body so it is at a slight angle so I don't tear up my quads with this steep descent. 

Finally, I hit the bottom and we run through some lush, forest-y areas.  I have to run through a few little creeks.  But, I stop at each one and splash some water on my arm coolers and head.  This is refreshing.  Some, I have to run right through, getting my shoes wet.  Splash, Splash, Splash. 

My hands still look swollen but I don't feel much pain.  I keep taking gels and such on the hour. 

I think about how I did the Death Ride the weekend prior and about cycling.  My legs are feeling fine considering.  The cycling doesn't tear my body up quite like running does.  Though, I feel like the time to commit to endurance cycling and endurance running is a tough one.  And, I start to feel like I want to put more to running, especially if I want to run a 50 mile race and qualify for Western States.  I realize that though I did a lot with cycling this year that this is what I prefer, the running.  I think now that I have done what I set out to do in cycling, I may take a break from cycling and focus back on running.  I decide I do not want to do any more doubles this year.  I want to focus on my running goals now.  And, the big goal is getting into Western States. 

I run along letting my mind wander to various thoughts and in not too long, I arrive at the Red House aid station.  This aid station has a clown theme.  Many volunteers are dressed as clowns.  Kind of interesting.  I am not a clown fan.  But, the volunteers are friendly.   I also spot my friend Susan again. 

I eat some snacks and grab a cup of ice water as I start walking out.  I am going along with a cup of ice water.  I drink the water but still have the ice.  Not wanting to just dump it, I take the ice and throw it on my neck and down the back of my shirt to help cool me down a little.  I stuff the cup into my pack. 

The ice slides down the back and sits in my sports bra.  Kind of a funny feeling of ice there but it's also kind of refreshing too. 

I keep running along.  I stop along here and there where there are little streams to splash water on my arms and head.  

After a bit, I hit the hill to go back to Tunnel Creek.  The big hill I ran down a little ways ago.  I remember this hill being quite steep.  I trek my way up.  Hiking up and up and up.  I hike up sideways and backwards a few times just to change position and ease some pressure on some of my leg muscles.  As I trudge my way up the hill, there are others doing the same.  We give each other friendly, sympathic looks and nods as we drag ourselves up this hill. 

I start to see some spectators on the sides looking down the hill, looking for their friends and family to cheer on.  This is nice as it means, I am getting closer to the aid station.  I trudge along some more.  I see more people.  As I pass a crowd, someone sees my Java Jogger shirt and yells out "Java Jogger!  hi!"  I don't know who it is who yelled at me but I wave in that direction I hear it. 

Then, I see my friend Marc standing there cheering folks on.  He comes out to give me some encouragement.  I give him a hug.  Nothing peps me up quite like seeing a friendly face out there! 

Tunnel Creek Back to Hobbart

I get back to the Tunnel Creek aid station and have my hydration pack refilled with water.  I spot my friend Susan again.  She says to me "well, I guess you're heading back now."  Susan is running the 50 mile race so she'll be going in a different direction now.  I wish her luck as she heads out for a much much longer race than me. 

I then start my run back to Hobbart.  It seems to be a lot slower going back than it was earlier that morning.  I continue taking gels on the hour every hour.  I run when I can and hike on the uphills.  I see a couple girls ahead of me.  I get closer to them but do not really catch up to them as once I get closer, we start hitting an incline and we all slow down. 

I think about Craig and how supportive he's been with all my crazy adventures lately.  I feel pretty lucky to have him in my life.  I can hear him in my head encouraging me on.  I know he is proud of me no matter how fast or slow I am.  And, this gives me a little extra motivation to keep going forward, to get to that finish line where he'll be waiting for me. 

After a while, I make my way back to Hobbart.  Feeling rather tired now. 

Hobbart to Snow Valley

At Hobbart, a volunteer offers me an Ensure smoothie.  I take a cup and drink it.  It is cold and refreshing.  It tastes delicious and nice to have something different than the usual stuff I had been eating.  I take a couple gels for the next stretch and head on out. 

The Ensure shake seems to kick in and give me a little extra energy for the next section.  I feel a little boost and start running along pretty well. 

After a bit, I see the guy dressed up as a devil, same guy I saw earlier in the morning.  He directs me to take this left turn to head to Snow Valley. 

Then, it is off and on of hiking uphill and running a bit when it wasn't going up hill.  I do not see hardly anyone around me during this time.  I just trudge my way up towards Snow Valley through a forest area. 

My right foot toes are starting to bother me.  I feel a blister forming.  The wet sock is getting a little uncomfortable.  But, I keep going along.  My hands still look a little swollen but not as big as earlier. 

After coming out of the forest area, we come into a meadow looking area.  I feel like this isn't too far from Snow Valley.  But, it keeps going and going and going.  Up and up and up.  I had been in this section before in training and I keep going looking for something familiar so I can have an idea of how much farther to go. 

I get up one hill and my foot is really bothereing me that I stop.  I sit on a rock and try to take off my shoe.  As I am doing so, my right calf is throbbing, nearly ready to cramp up.  I can see the muscles pulsating.  I stretch it a little and take some s-caps.  I pry the shoe off and take off the wet sock.  I put on a clean, dry sock.  I get my shoe back on and get ready to run on. 

The dry sock has made a huge difference.  My foot feels much better.  I don't feel the blister forming anymore.  Thank goodness!

I am a little worried about potentital cramping as my calves were on the brink of cramping when I was sitting on the rock.  I make note of the time and make sure I am even more diligent about taking the s-caps now and more frequently now. 

I keep going and look at the elevation of my garmin.  I know around 9000 feet is where the peak is so I look at the elevation instead of the mileage.  I keep going and going.  But, it is getting warm out.  i am grateful for my arm coolers and visor. 

After awhile, I finally see the aid station.  In the distance. . . .

Snow Valley to Spooner Trail Head

I get to Snow Valley and it's just past mile 26.  I am into the ultra part of this ultra marathon now.  Boy am I tired.  And, I know it is still a long ways back.  But, it should mostly be downhill from here (so they say). 

I find a bucket of water with sponges to sponge myself down a bit and put more water on the arm coolers (this helps keep my arms cool).  I squeeze some cold water on my head and neck. 

There are boy scounts manning this aid station.  They offer me some food and I eat something (can't remember what they gave me).  All are enthusiastic and giving all the runner encouragement. 

I then drag myself out of the aid station and continue my way back to Spooner.  This section is a mostly gentle decline but there are some tricky sandy parts with the edge of the mountain to your right side.  I have one foot slip a little at one point.  I don't come near to to falling off the edge but I certainly think about it.  I look down the side of the mountain and am grateful I am not afraid of heights. 

I continue going and going and going.  I know that the course is long.  Some say it is around 34 miles but I am hoping it is closer to 33 miles instead. 

At some point, I attempt to take a gel.  I have to force it down as I am sick of gels by now.  It is so thick.  I wash it down with a lot of water.  Ugh.  These gels.  You need them but oh, how I do not want to take them anymore. 

I run along.  My garmin alerts me at mile 30.  I keep going and going. 

At mile 31, I am running along pretty well thinking I wish the course ended right now, at the actual 50k distance as I am feeling pretty good.

At mile 32, my legs are getting really tired and heavy.  Oh, how much farther!  I am starting to get into my longest run ever, both in distance and time on my feet.  I am so ready to be done.  I keep going. 

I see some volunteers at the Spooner Trail Head aid station. They come out and offer me water.  I decline and ask how much farther to the finish.  My tone may have been snappy at this time.  They tell me just a mile and half further.  A mile and a half more!  Good grief! 

Spooner Trail Head to the Finish

I run pass the last aid station and hope to near the finish. 

Mile 33, my legs are really tired now.  I go through a rather lush forest area.  Very green.  And, I had enough of running that I start walking a bit.  Another girl I have been seeing off and on during the race is near me.  We chat a little bit as we trudge along. 

My phone finally has cell reception and the messages from Craig start coming through.  I send him a message that I am a mile way.  I see Spooner Lake to my right. 

I start to see where the finish area is across the lake but I have to run around to it still.  Oh, I am exhausated.  It seems so far.  I walk and shuffle run here and there. 

As I get closer to the end, someone tells me I am close so I start running (slowly).  "You're almost there" someone says.  I run along looking for the finish line. 

Then, it appears and I run by a crowd of people, hear some people yell my name but I do not see who it is as I just want to finish this thing.  I cross the finish line and relieved to be done! 

Thoughts After

The Tahoe Rim Trail was the toughest event I have done so far.  The elevation made it challenging.  The views were spectacular.  I felt that every time I was feeling weary of the challenging course, I would turn and get some breathtaking view.  The views are exactly that -- breathtaking.  I am glad I decided to just enjoy the sights and not worry too much about the time.   Though, the extra distance to the course made it extra tough.  Those few extra miles to the course were really rough. 

Overall, I felt I did better fueling and mentally did not feel as fried as I did after this 50k than I did after Way Too Cool.  And, I didn't cramp up as badly as I had at Way Too Cool so I guess I must be doing something better. 

But, I did find through this and the Death Ride that my passion is more tilted towards running than for cycling.  The Death Ride did not have too much of an impact on me doing this event other than it did lessen the amount of training I would have preferred to have done for this event.  But, I am glad to have done both. 

Also, I would add the that support at the event was great!  Wonderful selection of items at the aid stations and great volunteers!  That really helps in a tough event! 

Official Finish Time: 8:12:57


I would like to thank my usual running groups Java Joggers and Folsom Trail Runners. Always fun people to run with and everyone always provides great support and encouragement! 

Thank you Eric S., Melissa S., Suzi, Karen, Kate, Claudine, James, Tim, and Stephen for some fun training runs together!  I couldn't have done this without some good running folks taking me up on the Tahoe Rim to show me some of the trails prior to the race!

Thank you to the organizers and volunteers of the TRT event!  Great support all around! 

And, of course, thank you to Craig for supporting and cheering me on throughout the race and traveling all the way out to Tahoe to watch me finish!  :D


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