Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tahoe Rim Endurance Run 100-Part 2. The last 50 miles

Halfway to Hobart- Miles 50-56

I took nearly a 20 minute break to take care of business, change my socks and eat some food so when I started to head back out my legs had stiffened up quite a bit. I was not happy to see that the skin on my left forefoot had peeled off, probably from some damage at the Boogie 50 miler last month. I could only hope that the tender new skin would hold up for the next 50 miles. I was looking at a cold night ahead with the forecast for the low to mid 30's so I put on a short sleeve shirt over my long sleeve to give me some extra protection. I had my vest stashed at Tunnel Creek but thought I could get there before it got too cold. The sun was setting as I began my journey into the evening and I began walking to get the legs to loosen up and then started running toward the Marlette Lake trailhead for the second time.

I was warming quickly once I began running so I took the extra shirt off and tucked it in my waistband. It didn't take long for it become dark enough for my light so I settled in for a long lonely night on the trail. The only sounds were my own breathing, the wind in the trees and occasionally the sound of rushing water in the small trail side creeks. Life was good. Just ahead on the trail I caught a deer in my flashlight beam and after standing his ground for a moment he moved off the trail.

The long climb passed without further interruption and soon enough I was dropping back down to Marlette Lake. I was surprised to see someone in a pickup truck that worked for what I think is a small fish hatchery on the banks of the lake, the only person I had seen since leaving Spooner Lake. From there the time passed quickly as I resumed climbing and soon I was back into Hobart. It was cold and windy again up here at 8,000 ft so I went inside their tent to warm up for a few minutes and get some chicken broth.

Hobart to Tunnel Creek- Miles 56-61

The extra shirt went on and I headed back out into the cold wind to continue the climb up Marlette Peak. I was shivering in the strong wind as I reached the top and was looking forward to getting back into the trees, but the view of the moon over Lake Tahoe was incredible. I was not looking forward to getting back into the snow and trying to navigate in the dark. The next few miles would be very tricky and I found myself losing the trail several times but I was very cautious to not wonder far and each time I was able to find my way back on track. I was very happy to find that some volunteers had cut some steps into the biggest snow drift that I'd had to butt slide down earlier.

It helped that another runner was around and we helped each other to find trail markers through this section. My little light was malfunctioning and he was kind enough to loan me one until I could get to Tunnel Creek where I had my main light in my drop bag. He and I would leapfrog for the next 10 miles or so. Once we cleared the snow and started the descent I was moving faster on the downhill and moved on ahead. Once I reached the aid station I picked up my main light and handed his back to him as he came in just as I was about to leave. I decided not to get my vest just yet because I expected it to be warmer and less windy back down in the Red house Loop.

Tunnel Creek to Tunnel Creek - Miles 61-67

Running down the steep quad buster was really not fun this time around. My quads were already so sore, the first time I think I've felt like I had DOMS in the middle of a race. This forced me to be much slower than I wanted to be because other than the painful legs I was still feeling pretty good overall. When I reached the first water crossing I was beginning to wish I had put on the vest after all. It was cold down here and there were some windy sections and the freezing cold water made it worse. Unlike during the day, the cold water made my feet numb and hurt like soaking in an ice bucket chilling me to my core. Fortunately I warmed up again once I got moving again.

I had to smile as I came back in sight of the Red House aid station. They had a generator going and had strung Christmas lights in a tree and several other decorations. They had also placed some Halloween decorations around to cheer up the runners. All but one of the volunteers were asleep so I quietly took what I needed and headed back out into the darkness.

I hadn't gone far when suddenly without warning I had a big blister form on my left big toe. The pain was intense and I couldn't believe this had happened to me. I rarely get those type of blisters and I really didn't want to deal with this kind of pain for another 35 miles. I was going to have to have it tended to and I hated to have to waste anytime. I hobbled along and amazingly the pain quickly subsided and I was able to return to my normal stride after just 10 minutes or so of intense burning pain.

I reached the steep climb back out of the loop and my flashlight friend caught back up to me so we climbed up together. I had to weigh in again at Tunnel Creek and I was back to my pre-race weight again which impressed the doctor. I grabbed my vest out of the drop bag and took off without bothering with the blister since it was now just a dull aggravation.

Tunnel Creek to Bull Wheel- Miles 67-70

With the Red House loop behind me now I was looking forward to the next 10 miles. I would be alone for almost of of this time and was enjoying being alone with my thoughts on this cold , dark evening. A recurring topic of my thoughts were that Karla was able to safely finish her 50k and hoping that Jenn was somewhere not too far behind me on her way to a buckle finish.

The trail climbed again for nearly all the 3 miles to the Bull Wheel and was almost all above 8,000ft. The wind was very strong and it was very cold but I was loving it. As long as I was moving everything was fine. As the trail crossed over to the East facing side of the ridge line I could see the lights of Carson City to the Southeast and way off to the Northeast Reno was glittering, both cities about 3,000ft below me.

This section seemed to pass quickly and after another trip through the boulder garden I was back onto the Bull Wheel. The wind was really howling over the ridge here and all the volunteers were sleeping in their tents now at about 4:30 am. I quickly refilled my bottle and moved on to get out of the cold wind.

Bull Wheel to Diamond Peak Lodge- Miles 70-80

I enjoy running in the night and the full moon was spectacular but by now I was ready to have some natural light to run by. The next several miles were mostly a steady climb to the 2nd highest point on the course around 8,800 ft so progress was slow. The good thing was that I was still feeling very good overall. After a few miles I began catching up to and passing a few people, Dawn was just beginning to break when a woman ahead shouted back and asked if we had seen any markers. She was concerned that she had missed the sharp left turn to head down the mountain. I remembered the turn was very well marked and had a big sign and I knew I hadn't missed it so I kept moving confidently ahead while she continued running back down the trail. Soon enough a man ahead said he spotted a marker and within another 1/4 mile I came upon the turn.

It had now become light enough to turn off my flashlight and I was eager to begin running this sweet section of trail again. Despite having a good energy level for running, my quads hurt so bad with every step that I had to take many more walk breaks than I would have liked to give them some relief. Once again the early morning views of the lake down below were spectacular. The moon was still above the lake and the sun behind me was just casting a golden haze onto the distant snow covered peaks on the California side.

I was getting hungry and I was hoping that the aid station would have some type of breakfast food as I made my way down through the parking lot and onto the deck of the Lodge. While being weighed once again and still at my pre-race weight, a volunteer ask me if I would like a pancake. Yeeeeesssss ! Oh happy happy joy joy, exactly what I wanted. I scarfed it down and begin to prepare myself for the 2nd trip up that awful ski slope.

Diamond Peak Lodge to Bull Wheel- Miles 80-82

I was really not looking forward to this climb again but I felt if I could get over it without losing too much time and using up too much energy that I would have no problem finishing under the cut-off. I began slow and steady and was surprised at how relaxed I was climbing in the early portion. As I began to climb higher I was looking back down toward the aid station and hoping so much to see Jenn come into view. I was also wondering if Jim would catch up to me again on this climb. He was doing so well the first half and I was hoping that he would continue to have a good race and claim his buckle too but as I climbed higher I never saw either of them.

Just as I began the steeper section I was surprised to see Rob Apple coming down the mountain. I thought he was in the race but he didn't start and was just out on the course. I spoke to him briefly and he was very encouraging as always and then I trudged on. For a while I actually thought I might climb faster this second time but as I neared the top it was getting to me again and my progress slowed considerably. Several people were passing me and by the time I made it to the top I was beginning to think I may be in last place.( I think I was told at one point I was 3rd from last that were still in the race)

I was so happy to finally reach the top and make the short run back down to the Bull Wheel. They were packing things up after a long cold night and morning so I thanked them and hurried on my way.

Bull Wheel to Tunnel Creek- Miles 82-85

I had recovered quickly from the climb, I was feeling great and looking forward to this nice predominantly downhill section back down to Tunnel Creek. The morning was gorgeous and warming up nicely. I felt confident now that as long as I didn't do anything stupid that I was going to finish this things in good shape. I was moving along well and passed a couple of folks that had moved by me on the ski slope and in no time I was heading back into the aid station for the 6th and final time.

Every time I had come through here I was happy and smiling, even when I had my hand bandaged and when I climbed on the scale for the last time and weighed in exactly at my pre-race weight once again the doctor just said I love you man. You are awesome. I thanked everyone one final time, emptied all the stuff from my pockets and dropped off the extra shirt and vest. Traveling light the rest of the way.

Tunnel Creek to Hobart- Miles 85-90

Heading out I had some easy running for about 1/2 miles before some steady climbing back up Marlette Peak. It was really starting to get warm now and I was very thirsty for the rest of the race in the dry high altitude. It was during this next section that I began to have some really cool hallucinations. I knew what was going on and have had the same thing before so I was just going to enjoy them. The only other 100 that I had this experience was at Massanutten and they started there at about the same time in the morning of the second day. As each one would occur I knew they weren't real. Well one of them had me fooled. I was convinced that the guy sitting in the Gator 4 wheeler was real but he too turned out to just be a debris pile.

I finally got most of the climbing behind me after being harassed by a Stellar's Jay for a couple of hundred yards and was soon back in the snow fields. I was just being careful but also noticing if I looked higher up to the ridge just how much snow there was still up there. Sure glad we didn't have to try to climb up there. Once I was out of the woods and back over the treeline I was enjoying soaking in the views once again and since I had been over all this part several times now I could really look around and figure out where I had been and where I was going over a lot of the course. I could actually see the bull wheel off in the distance now, 8 miles away by the trail.

A little dip back down into Hobart, feeling great and looking forward to just one more climb as I once again refilled and fueled quickly one more time.

Hobart to Snow Valley Peak- Miles 90-93

As I ran out of the aid station I was feeling a lot of excitement. Everything was going great, I felt as good as one expect after 90 tough miles and it was a beautiful day. It just doesn't get much better than this. Just one more long but not too steep of a climb back to the high point of the race and then I could cruise it on down to the finish.
I was careful not to poke myself climbing over the twin dead trees blocking the trail this time and continued on my way passing a few more people now. Funny but I don't think I saw a soul between Tunnel Creek and Hobart.

As I climbed back out above the treeline towards the summit I began to look back down the mountain still holding out hope that I would see Jenn come into view. I wanted her to finish almost as much as I wanted it for myself and it would have been so cool to run this last portion together but she was nowhere in sight.

Over the last snow drift and into the aid station I was now a man on a mission. I refilled quickly and was out of the aid station in less than a minute, even turning down the offer of some sorbet that they are famous for.

Snow Valley Peak to Finish- Miles 93 to 100

Alright ! No more climbing and some sweet downhill single track running down the mountain to claim my buckle. And it was looking like my finish time was going to be a lot better than I had figured 20 miles earlier as I climb the ski slope.
I began running carefully down the narrow rocky section along the side slope of the mountain when suddenly my race nearly came to an end barely half a mile from the aid station. I was having a hard time lifting my tired legs over some of the larger rocks when I felt my foot snag on a rock and I knew I was going down. Normally I know how to fall to avoid injury but as I was going down I knew I was going to land on a big rock so I tried to land on all fours. I was successful but the force of the fall caused me to slam the side of my face into the rock.

Which brings us back to the beginning of this long winded report. Fortunately what could have bee a disaster turned out to just be a deep bruise so I put my glasses back on straight and stood up slowly assessing the damage. Once I was sure everything was ok and I was steady on my feet I began moving again. I decided to walk the rest of this rocky section but as soon as the trail smoothed out I was off and running well once again. The next several miles are just some awesome trail gently moving down nearly 2,000 ft over the next 5 miles.

I was almost giddy with excitement as I tried to push the pace a bit. A guy caught up to me and was pacing off of me and we had planned to continue that way when out of no where with just over 2 miles to go I had another blister bomb go off, this time on the left forefoot. How does this happen !! No warning that a blister is coming on, just wham OUCH !!!!!!. The pain was so bad I couldn't walk normally. This was ridiculous ! I really didn't want to have to hobble the last two miles especially considering how good I was feeling.

I tried running slowly on the side of the foot for awhile and then finally the pain eased off enough that I could resume running normally if not comfortably. I came into Spooner Summit and was happy to see they had a cold water cooler there because I was really dry and hot now but there was only 1.7 miles of flat running to go. As I approached the lake I could see and hear the finish line on the opposite shore and I tried to savor the moment. Over 4 years since my last 100 mile finish. I felt that now with probably my hardest one yet, I was officially back to being Ultraman.

Half a lap around the lake and then the trail went back into the woods for a distance before once again heading to the shoreline and 100yds to go. I could see Frank taking pictures and there was the Lovely Marathon Princess cheering for me. And somewhat sadly Jenn the Beautiful Ultra Angel was waiting there for me. I would much rather have seen her come in behind me soon but it was just not to be.

I ran across the line and was greeted by some nice hugs from the ladies and a hearty handshake from Frank. I found a chair and sank down into to it wondering immediately how I was able to just run 100 miles and now I'd be lucky to walk far enough to get something to eat. The ladies took good care of me as we moved over to the medical tent. I wanted to get a clean bandage on my hand and sit in the shade for a few minutes and get my shoes off. Ahhhhh, it just doesn't get any better than this !

Here is a link to the photos I took along the way

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