As we all know, getting into Western States 100 is hard these days. After looking at their qualifying races, Tahoe Rim Trail looked like a good choice, so I registered. I didn’t anticipate how amazing of a race it would be.
I drove down the day prior with my father-in-law, Norm. We checked into our motel and visited the race check-in at Carson City’s legislative gardens. It was a relaxing afternoon. I remember as we drove closer to Carson City seeing the mountains bulge up behind the city, almost smiling and welcoming me back. I could sense a good day of trail thrashing ahead. I got to bed early, and 3:50 AM did not come too awfully considering what I was about to do.
I had a huge bowl of oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast (I use Pure Protein powder and all-natural peanut butter with my oatmeal), then we drove down to the start. The race started promptly at 5 AM. Morning went well. Oatmeal was digesting nicely, I was alive-awake-alert-enthusiastic, and really just digging the countryside. This was my first time ever experiencing Lake Tahoe, and I got my first magical view of it about 18 miles into the race.
Morning continued on. The aid stations were spaced very close together, at least for what I was expecting. I do believe there were 23 aid stations on the course. Very nice for a 100! At the pre-race brief, RD George Ruiz told us the aid stations were “the best aid stations you’ll ever encounter.” The guy did not joke. I’ve never been to a race with aid station selections as good as what he had there.
I told my crew (Norm and my buddy, Fred “Wildman” Willet) that I would be to mile around 11 AM. I might be late, because of the altitude, by I actually ended up being pretty close. I ran into Diamond Peak Resort aid station around 11:10 AM. I felt really good. Norm had a couple nasty greasy cheesburgers and chippies for me, which I happily wolfed down. They threw a completely frozen bladder in my new Ultimate Direction pack (highly recommend, even considering the price) and my trusty “Cool Off” Bandanna around my neck. No, I don’t get sponsored by these people, but with so many ultras under my belt, I always am a little happy to see my competition have a fightling chance against my indomitable athletic prowess.
The hardest part of the race, for me, was the altitude. If you look at the chart below, you can clearly see that I was over 8,000 above sea level for a substantial part of the race.
As the afternoon warmed up into the eighties, my stomach plus the altitude decided to revolt. Now, it should be known that I have a cast-iron stomach and can affirm I’ve never puked from exercise, but keeping calories coming in took a substantial amount of willpower. I reasoned to myself that if I could continue a steady calorie and electrolyte replacement plan in place, I would recover when things cooled off and night began to fall. So I stuck with it. the climb out of Diamond Peak Resort (the third major climb in the profile above) was very tough. The top mile of it was over 1,000 vertical feet of climb per mile. I remember my lessons from Klone Peak at the Plain 100 and paced accordingly. One does not move too fast on a hard climb of a 100 with 70 miles to go. I took my time and was rewarded with some very nice views at the top.
I ran into old friend Linda McFadden at the top and said hello, then I was off again. I ran many long solo stretches during this race, but met many new people during the race as well. It was a “fun” time.
The afternoon slowly passed by as I made my way back to the start line. This race was a double 50 loop. I got excited as I neared the 50 mark, as it showed up on the far side of Spooner Lake from my vantage point on the trail. I still had two miles to go, but being within 1/3 mile bird’s flight was exciting. I remember remarking to myself “I wouldn’t actually mind doing that 50 mile loop again,” which is the definition of true insanity when you consider no one should want to run 50 miles–for fun–in the first place! There were lots of people on the trail the closer I got, and even a few cheerleaders I had seen around mile 20. They ran with me and cheered me on, hopefully a good way to cheer the spirits of those contemplating an easy DNF near their cars. I rolled in around 5 PM. If I could have a decent night race, I estimated I could finish in about 26-27 hours still. We’d have to see. Norm and Wildman were there again to help crew. I remember being in high spirits as I sat and gobbled down delicious calories.
I left mile 50 after about 10 minutes and set a goal to make it to the 100k mark before dark. I was successful in my endeavor. My first nighttime aid station was Red House, Mile 65. They had bacon-wrapped tater-tots, incredible. I should mention I’ve cut caffeine from my diet for the last 10 months or so. I had a big cup of caffeinated coffee there, which proved to be the golden ticket to a great second half. The aid station was weird. Lots of interesting lights, and a giant cheshire cat. I was not hallucinating yet, but I could see other runners wandering in later as if they weren’t sure it was all real. It doesn’t matter though, I probably beat them by many hours. I was excited to get my pacer, Jamie Hadden at mile 80. It was important to me that I not drop, as that would suck to keep my pacer up late just to let them down. I ran through the night, no longer afraid. Nighttime used to scare everything out of me, mostly from watching too many scary movies as a kid. I’m over it now, which is nice. I ran into fellow All-Guard Marathon Team member Torey Lasaster for the second time in the race, the first was about 60 miles earlier. She was doing this race as her first 100. We ran together for a little while, managed to get lost for a bit, then back on course. It’s not a true 100 miler unless you get lost in the woods for a little bit. Wakes you up, puts hair on your chest, in my opinion. I had great Trail Thrasher energy, so I continued to “bomb” towards mile 80. It was all good, until I heard a giant creature in the woods crash into the river very close to me. That was my only freaky moment of the race. I got excited as I saw the lights of the “Tyrolean Village,” the closest neighborhood to the aid station. I told Wildman and my pacer that I should be to mile 80 “between 1 or 2 AM.” I showed up at 1:52, just shy of losing some brownie points.
I sat down, ate some food, grabbed some caffeinated gels and Clif bars, and Jamie and I set out. He told me stories about working for SpaceX, which was awesome, and we generally just had a good time running along and trying to one-up each other on mom jokes. It’s amazing how short the night seemed after I picked him up. That 2nd climb out of Diamond Peak Resort, though was no joke. I was doing 35 minute miles on it. Once at the top, I just crashed and laid on a bench for a couple minutes, so completely exhausted. However, if you’re tired enough, laying down in a race can actually help you make up time if it’s what your body really craves. I remember after this moment just waking up again and moving really well. We plowed through the night, and I simply made it my goal to “run” fast enough he couldn’t just walk to keep up. I managed to pull it off. I was tempted to use the caffeine earlier in the day, but I was just a little too worried that I would get some GI issues from it. Nevertheless, I managed to run many of the uphills that night and make good time.
I remember the sun starting to light the sky around 5 AM. I was at mile 88. Yesssssss. Making good progress towards my goal of 26-27 hours. I told Jamie, “don’t be surprised if I drop the pace down to an 8 or 9 for the last 5 miles.” I hoped I could, with a lot of downhill. The last full aid station was a Boy Scout aid station. The sun was up, and I was ready to go. Even though it was an error, the last aid station told me I was in 24th place (I was actually in 44-45th place). I got a surge from that statement, and saw the next people arriving at the aid station as the bad guys who would take over the world if they beat me to the finish. I found my inner strength, and felt my Eagle, Globe, and Anchor glowing on my heart. We pushed. So much downhill to the finish. There were a few flat spots where I was simply too tired to run, but I was holding 8-9 minute miles. My horrible chafing burned with a powerful vengeance, that only the ancient city of Pompeii could understand. I passed many people, and just clicked off my numbers as I passed each one of them. Jamie called it “sniping,” which I’m totally stealing for my races from now on. As we edged closer to the finish, I urged him to run quickly to the finish line to grab Norm and Wildman so we could all finish together. Once I hit the last tiny water aid station with 1.7 miles to go, I can’t explain how incredibly hard I was running. Sweating everywhere, and I’m pretty sure I was going sub 7 at the time (my watch had died at this point). As I got close to the finish, The whole crew joined me and we finished together. A great symphony of music filled my head. Finished in 37th place with a finish time of 26:52:04. Not too shabby of a run.