Date : July 15, 2006
Location : Spooner Lake Park, Tahoe (CA)
Race : Tahoe Rim Trail 50K/50M/100M
Finish Time : 16:44
Ah! A Glimpse of Heaven, A Taste of Hell!
That is what the Race Director promised.
In the next few lines I shall try and tell
The story about how the both I kissed.
Lovely Lake Tahoe lay spread out below,
With the little Marlette Lake in between;
The Sierra mountains, their summer glow
And streaks of snow, made for a wondrous scene.
For miles I labored, up there in the sky,
Breathing thin air into an aching chest;
I fought and fought rather than quit and die:
Pain was Hell but Triumph Divinely blessed.
Demon after demon of doubt I slew
And, one by one, away the dark thoughts flew.
The race was all that it had promised it would be - "A Glimpse of Heaven, A Taste of Hell". It was very, very hard running at between 8000 and 9000 feet above sea level.
Pictures on http://public.fotki.com/rajeevtherunner/tahoe_rim_trail_50m/
Friday, July 14
Anil, Rashmi and I set out from the Bay Area around 3:30 p.m. to head to the race hotel (The Plaza Hotel) in Carson City, Nevada. Anil and Rashmi had graciously offered to drive and we had fun talking and listening to songs all the way. We stopped briefly around 5:30 p.m. for coffee. This is when Anil and I decided to eat our dinner (we had picked up pasta to go from Pasta Pomodoro in the Bay Area). We were soon on the road. We stopped once again for a restroom break on Hwy 50. Anil and I shared a couple of Coronas.
We reached the hotel after checking out the Start/Finish area (about 20 minutes from the hotel). We were in bed by 10 p.m.
Saturday, July 15
I woke up at 3:45 a.m. in order to have enough time to eat breakfast and take care of my morning activities.
Anil did the bulk of the work in organizing our drop bags. Rashmi dropped us (Anil, me and Padma and Kiran who were running the 50K) off to the start.
We met up with Gillian Robinson. She was doing the 50K. Don, doing the 100-miler, had started the race an hour earlier. Anil and I picked up our bib numbers, went to the port-a-potties and then made our way down to the Start. I took some pictures of the runners listening to instructions from the Race Director.
We started at 6 a.m. on the dot. Anil and I were soon on our way. I had opted to carry a bottle in each hand and was wearing a Cool Off bandana (more on this later) that I had purchased from ZombieRunner (http://www.zombierunner.com/store/product152.html). The initial part of the trail was very sandy, almost like running on a beach.
We were soon directed onto the new trail up and then down to Marlette Lake. Anil and I walked most of this climb. We soon reached the top and then it was a nice run downhill to the Lake, glimpses of which we caught on our way down. We had met up with Gillian on the way up and she took off on the downhill to disappear from view soon after.
The trail soon wound its way around the lake before eventually reaching the Hobart Aid Station. I had the volunteers fill my bottles with water (to which I added Succeed) and Gatorade. That was the last time I drank Gatorade. From the next aid station onwards, I switched to Coke.
We then started up the ridge to Marlette Peak. That was a wonderful ascent with views that got better by the minute. The top afforded an unbelievable view of Lake Marlette in the foreground, over 1000 feet below, dwarfed by the massive but sublimely beautiful Lake Tahoe behind, with snow capped mountains in the background.
Next came the trail down towards the Tunnel Creek aid station. My breathing was OK and I was still running pretty well. This is where we crossed the first snowdrift.
We reached Tunnel Creek where Anil and I both drank a bottle of Ensure each. Gordy Ainsleigh was there, massaging Sophie Robinson's legs which were cramping. I had the volunteers fill my Cool Off bandana with ice cubes and off we went onto the 6.3 mile Red House loop.
We met a whole bunch of friends coming up. Sara Dillingham (100-miler in 32 hours), Julian and a host of others. I photographed Catra Corbett on her way up. The trail descended for about a mile and then levelled off before started to climb again. A 0.5 mile very steep climb was followed by a few miles along rolling hills. We eventually reached the Red House aid station. We topped up our bottles again and started out on the last part of the climb back to Tunnel Creek. This last part was brutal - 1000 feet in a mile. This was done with hardly any breeze in about 85 degrees. Tunnel Creek was a relief. I refilled my bottles and the bandana. The bandana worked like a charm. It kept my neck and lower back cool for over 40 minutes each time. Thank you Don and Gillian!
The next 4.5 miles were spent walking uphill to the Diamond Peak aid station (just Gatorade and water there). Scott Dunlap (his race blog is here) passed us on his way back around here!
We were kind of getting worried about missing the first cutoff (8 hrs 10 mins) at the turnaround point. We left the aid station and climbed some more. We met Chihping Fu coming back. He told us that he was not feeling good. What a tough guy he is! He eventually finished his 100-miler in 31:31:31! Further along we ran into Don Lundell. He looked cool, calm and collected, as though he was out for a leisurely early morning walk instead of a brutal 100-mile race! He finished his 100-miler in an amazing 29:06!!
By now my breathing was starting to unravel. Under some pressure now to make the cutoff, Anil and I hurried to the turnaround aid station and made it 7 hrs 55 min into the race. What a relief! We were out of there in 10 minutes, with the next cutoff looming. 3 hours to make it back to Tunnel Creek. Adding to our problems was low blood sugar. Anil and I imbibed generously of our Coke and that did the trick.
A volunteer going the other way told us that the Diamond Peak aid station had closed (due to lack of water) so now we had the more arduous task of making it back to Tunnel Creek with only the water in our bottles and the hydration pack Anil was wearing. We managed to make it back somehow with 10 minutes to spare. By now my breathing was awry and I was unable to eat anything. I still managed to shove a few potato chips and some Ensure down my throat.
The next part was making the Hobart AS cutoff. So off we went. This part was the toughest for me with respect to my breathing. I could not get a deep breath at all and a decent breath only every 4-5 steps. Anil, in the meantime, was struggling with his own demons. His blood sugar rose and fell like a yo-yo all the way back. We trudged into the Hobart Aid Station feeling battered and bruised.
This was where I finally took off both my shoes, removed the dirt, put some tape on a developing blister under my right toe and enjoyed an Ensure smoothie one of the volunteers had made for the runners. We also met Chihping Fu again who had a lot of pain from blisters in both feet. He was determined to gut it out by walking all the way to the finish! What determination. This is about when we learned that there were truly no cutoffs for the 50-milers! We could take as long as we wanted! That helped us mentally and both Anil and I knew that we would finish now. Our plan was to walk as much as possible and run just the descents and the absolute flat sections.
The climb out of Hobart was easier than the volunteers had made it out to be. The last part was a bit steep but never as bad as some of the others along the course. We finally walked into the Snow Valley AS at about 8:05 pm. The view from 9000 feet was simply breathtaking. After eating a bit there, we set out to put as many miles behind us before darkness set in. Only 7 miles to go! We were treated to a beautiful sunset on our right, above Lake Tahoe, as we descended.
We ran down the ridge with the magnificent view on the right and our hearts in our mouths owing to the narrowness of the trail and the unsure footing. We finally switched on our lights around 8:45 pm and made our way, running off and on, to the last aid station (1.7 miles from the finish). Anil and I had done some night running a few weeks before the race so that part was no problem at all. The biggest problem was the distance from the summit to the last AS. It seemed to take an interminably long time. Anil even thought that we might be lost but we soon convinced ourselves otherwise.
The aid station finally swam into view. What a relief! We were out of there in a flash and soon running towards the finish. I did stop to photograph a 6 inch orange snake and a couple of dark green frogs, the first creatures of any note I had seen all day! The finish was upon us in another 20 minutes and it was a welcome sight. We finished at 10:44 pm. Rashmi was there to drive us back to the hotel. Whew!
Cold beer and hot pizza were on our dinner menu that night and nothing had ever tasted better.
Anil and I have developed an amazing bond running all the races we have run together. He is very strong, both mentally and physically, and we feed off each other. No unnecessary conversation. Instead an amazing companionable silence interspersed with words of encouragement for each other.
Thank you Anil.