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The trials and tribulations of an elite level age-group triathlete.

2015 Tahoe Rim Trail 100

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I wanted to get into Western States but as everyone knows, making it through the lottery is nearly impossible with only one ticket.  I had a 4% chance and although I remained optimistic, I had a backup plan already in place -- the Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  That's probably not the best way to pick a hundred and in fact, some sound advice from someone I've forgotten -- when you're choosing a hundred, you better love what you choose. 

I didn't love it but after doing the training runs, I was amazed by the beauty and scared by the level of difficulty.  I can't say I ever made it to LOVE but by the start of the race, I was definitely in deep LIKE.  The video of the belt buckle really got me hooked on the idea so by the time I hit the starting line, I wanted to be there.

 

While planning my race execution, I wanted to go easy and I penned out the time / mileage on a piece of paper in order to figure out when I'd need specific items from my drop bag. 



After mapping out the entire day, my finish time appeared to be right around the 24 hour mark. 



That might have been a curse in disguise because it sort of planted a seed in my head that stuck with me at the beginning of the day.  Hindsight being what it is -- I pushed too hard at the start. 



At the time, it didn't seem like I was digging a hole.  Looking back though, I'm not sure you can go too easy on this course and my race went sideways far too early.

The day never really felt in control and I don't know if that's because I went out too fast, the elevation gain, the altitude or what but I just never seemed to find that groove.  I felt like I was constantly fighting one battle after the next. 

Beyond the physical, the real party was going on in my head.  Truth be told, I could have started walking at mile one and I would have made it to the finish line before the 35 hour cutoff.  For me, the distance is not an issue.  And if you talk to anyone who has done this race, it's not the distance.  This course is hard -- it's just downright mean.  There were times when I felt defeated and that was just the first loop.

Diamond Peak is a beast of a hill.  It's two miles but the demoralizing portion is probably no more than 3/4 of a mile.  It's practically vertical though and the ground is sloshy sand.  So not only do you have to deal with climbing what is essentially ladder, you have to be careful where you're placing your feet to keep from slipping.  Oh, and you end up at around 9000' -- so there's that.

During the training runs, we started at the base of Diamond Peak and we began running early in the day.  It seemed hard but it was doable.  During the race, we had our first encounter with Diamond Peak at mile 30.  When we arrived, we were in the heat of the day and we were already tired.  The first ascent was harder than I remembered and periodically throughout the day, I wondered if I could make the second ascent.  Really, it's that steep.

I would be lying if I said I didn't think about dropping.  There were lots of negative thoughts floating around my head and the swings were wild.  At the end of the first loop, an arrow points to the finish and another for the second loop.  I thought about it.  Hard.  But I took the left turn and I continued down the rabbit hole.

With 50 in and 50 remaining, I continued thinking about how much more time I'd be out there.  This entire race was going on between my ears and for a moment, I would feel like I'd get the race into control but then I'd get sucked back into the darkness.

Around mile 60, I felt like I'd finally turned a corner.  I wasn't in good shape but I could run the runnable sections, I had control of my breathing which seemed to be out of control at altitude and my attitude was positive.  As I got closer to the base of Diamond Peak, I really wondered if I'd have the strength to make the second ascent. 

When I arrived at the lodge, my original plan was to get in and out before I got comfortable but when I got inside, I had to sit down.  After a few minutes of chatting with the Mrs., filling my bottles and grabbing some food, I stood up and that's when the Mrs. said I didn't look so hot.  She and I have been through a number of races and when she called over the medical staff, I felt like she was making the right call.  I didn't think it was a big deal but I also didn't feel normal.  (What the hell is normal in a hundred???)

The first doctor asked me how I was doing.  I responded by asking him if he'd ever run a hundred miles.  But my mind wasn't so sharp at that point, I felt like I needed to get checked out and I figured I should play nice.  Another doctor came over, they put me on a cot, propped up my feet and started checking my vitals.  Then they put some food and broth into me while periodically rechecking my vitals.  Because I'd been on the cot for too long, my body decided it was time to shut down which is when I started shivering.  A sense of panic came over me and I knew I had to get out of there.

I looked at the Mrs. and I said:  "I need to get the f*** out of here!"  I started to get up but still didn't feel right.  Back down I went.  After a few more minutes, I told her I was leaving but I gave her my word that if I didn't feel right at the top of Diamond Peak, I'd drop at the aid station.  It was only two miles away and I left with another runner I'd passed earlier on so I felt like it was safe.  With that, I told the doctors I was ok and I just left.

Climbing Diamond Peak for my second ascent was hard but easier than I had expected.  Part of what makes it so demoralizing is that you can see what you're about to climb.  And when you think you're at the top, you go around the corner and it continues on.  When you're ascending it at 2am, you can only see three feet in front of you.  It was actually kind of nice.  When I arrived at the top, I felt ok, better than at the lodge for sure, and even though the highest point on the course was still to come, the hardest part was over. 

With over 80 miles in my legs, I felt unsteady on my feet in the dark.  I power hiked the next 10ish miles but I felt like I'd be ok to run once the sun came up.  Given the challenges I'd already gone through, it seemed like it was best not to take any chances.  And to be honest, my dreams of time goals were completely out the window -- finishing this damn thing seemed like a big accomplishment now.

Around 5am, I could see the sky turning a dark red-ish color.  As the minutes passed, the entire horizon was a burnt red and it was amazing.  When the sun came up, I felt stronger and more confident about running.  With another runner in close proximity, I asked him if he thought he could move quicker.  At first, we were fast hiking but then we started running.  We didn't have a good estimate of time or distance since his Garmin had died much earlier and I was on the my THIRD Garmin.  Yes, three.  The first one died around 15 hours.  The second one had battery life remaining but reported 'low battery' and died and then the third one from my wife was still going.  But it only had data from Diamond Peak so we were just guessing.

When we hit the final aid station, we were seven miles from the finish.  



Coming down the final descent, we guessed we were closer than we were and it became obvious we had miscalculated.  I was nervous we weren't going to make it under 28 hours and I started driving the pace.  When we made it through the woods, at the far side of the lake, I saw the finish.  I looked down at the watch and we had 45 minutes to cover whatever distance was remaining.  According to the watch, we had a mile but I knew it was much more than that -- I felt like we had time though.

As we made our way to the side of the lake with the finish, I told the young lad to go ahead.  He'd done a good job of keeping us on pace earlier and I felt like he should lead us into the finish.  He crossed and moments later I crossed.  Official time:  27:32

Prior to the race, several people had asked what I was racing and when I told them TRT, I was properly warned.  I get it now.  This race will push you to your boundaries.  To quote the race director:  "This is the real deal."

Some interesting stats:

203 Starters
154 Finishers
84 DNF (about 41%)
The winning time was:  20:49
The first female finished in:  22:27
15 runners went sub24
Prior to the cutoff time, the last person crossed the finish at:  34:44

Some random photos:

Prior to the race, gathering my gear...



These little snack bags are really convenient for storing my drink mix...



This has become a ritual in order to be certain I have everything I want to wear.  Funny thing -- at R2R2R, my buddy Tom and I sent each other photos at almost the same time with this setup.  Great minds and such?  -- 



Technically, the race is not 100 miles...



You can never be too obsessive about checking your gear.  It seems that different formations are required.  :)



Up and down and up and down and up and down... 



In case that wasn't clear...



The Dimaond Peak climb begins just outside the lodge, the Mrs. snapped this photo as I walked to the base on my first loop...



You never get tired of seeing the lake from up on top...



Prior to the race, I passed this shop and this is their sign...



But this is what I saw...



My buddy Scott gave me this shirt, it seems to go with my everywhere and it continues to be funny as I take photos with it...



After the race, the Mrs. and I found a wonderful restaurant.  Enjoying the finer things in life...



Thanks for reading.