I could write a short book about all of my thoughts and experiences from the Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run and the months leading up to the first ever single loop 200 mile race in the United States. However, I will just share a bullet list of highlights from the race, after some ramblings about the last year of running for me.
The funny thing is that I never really considered myself a runner until I completed The Bear 100 in the fall of 2012. Sure, I had run the Lake Tahoe Marathon a couple of times back around the turn of the millennium and completed the Silverman Full(Iron) Distance Triathlon in 2009 and 2010 just to check them off my list, but running was still only something to distract me in between climbing, skiing and biking. I always felt like running was really hard and didn’t actually enjoy it as much as one would think for how many miles I had run in my life. It always made me uncomfortable when people called me a runner and I certainly did not have running at the forefront of my mind like I do these days.
Shortly after completing The Bear, having let my mind and body heal from those nearly 26 hours of being on the move, I decided that I should probably start calling myself a runner. I also was tired of the dumb-founded looks people would give me when I would tell them that I am not really much of a runner, probably managing to offend a few runners in the process.
Not only did I become comfortable saying “I am a runner”, but I had become hooked on running and signed up for several races in 2013. After going into a few races over trained and suffering more than need be at the end of them of all of them, I made a very conscious decision about running in my life. I decided that every day I hit the trails for now on, whether for a race or just to get out in the woods, I would make sure that I was always having fun. If I was not having fun or feelin’ the trail love out there, then I would call it a day or turn my run into a hike or a peak bagging mission.
My new attitude about running seemed to have worked well as I went into my last race of 2013, Founding Member Sean Ranney’s infamous Euchure Bar Massacre, feeling rested and ready for some fun. This was a race I was excited for and scared of at the same time, because as near as I could tell from the vague info Sean provided on the FB event page, he was going to have us going straight up and down the trail less and cliff strewn mountainsides of the American River Canyons, provide us with no course markings and a couple of pages of written directions on how to navigate your way through the course. As the day and the course unfolded, I managed to survive the massacre better than most (less than 10 people managed to even complete the course)and made it out of the canyon depths and to the finish before everyone else.
Winning a race for the first time since middle school sure made running seem a lot more fun and fueled the competitive fire in me. Then along comes the Tahoe 200, a race and a distance that suited my strengths on a course that runs right through my backyard trails.
This is something I felt I could be competitive in!
So I started training like a mad man. I also volunteered to organize an aid station in exchange for guaranteed entry into this sought after event that went to lottery in its first year because so many people were interested in giving it a go. For those who have not heard the story yet, the AS became the catalyst for the Donner Party Mountain Runners.
I now was part of a running club to train and motivate with, made lots of new running friends and had an incredible race around our beloved Lake Tahoe to look forward to. Running was becoming more fun by the minute!
Enter the 2014 race year. My first race, The Me-Ow Marathons, went great. I was pleased with my results and despite getting lost several times on this unmarked, and often trail less course, I had more fun than I had ever had in a race. 1 for 1 on the year so far.
Next up, the iconic Western States 100 Endurance Run. Ideally, I would not have gotten picked in this year’s lottery because I already had a lot on my plate for the season, but who in their right mind turns down their ticket to States?!? I felt rested, confident and like a caged animal going into States, but my body rebelled only 34 miles into the race, and I ran/hobbled another 28 miles before dropping and barely being able to walk by that point. Sure it was disappointing, but I managed to keep things fun and enjoyed the full experience(minus the finish and the coveted buckle), sleeping on the track with everyone else and attending the awards ceremony. Helen told me I was the only person that stood when they asked all those who DNF’d to stand for an ovation. DNF’ing and the resulting injury were something that never crossed my mind before starting the race. 1 for 2 on the year now, with my first DNF.
After States, I was having difficulty walking and working, and running was not even a possibility for the next almost 2 months. That was definitely not giving me any confidence of being ready for the rapidly approaching T200. 6 weeks after WS100, I finally felt just slightly confident enough in my injured leg to not cancel the 2 week backpacking trip I had planned in the High Sierra with my wife, Liz. The backpacking was awesome and I felt like I was not doing anymore damaged to my injured leg, but I still could not fathom running yet. After 2 days rest from our backpacking trip, my leg was still talking to me and it really started to sink in that I might not be able to start the T200, that was now less than 4 weeks away. I mentioned to Liz how I was feeling and we decided I would continue resting and wait at least a few more days before making the call.
Two more days of rest and with a little too much time on my hands to kill before my next physical therapy appointment , I decided to spend that extra 30 minutes that I now had, by taking a walk in the woods. As usual, I tried running a few steps, but for the first time in almost 2 months, my leg felt OK. I ended up going about one and a half miles that afternoon, running probably 1/4 mile of that distance. Not bad.
I then went to my appointment with Physical Therapist and Founding Member, Kristan Walstad, and got the yellow light from her to start testing things out.
The next morning before work, I put in 3.5 miles on the trail and ran about half of it. Still no pain! My thinking changed and I began considering starting the T200. Later that morning, Sylas Wright from the Sierra Sun, gave me a call and put me on the spot as he is was about to write his pre-race article on the Tahoe 200 and is always good about featuring our local runners. Without really thinking, I told him that I decided I was going to toe the line and see what happened.
I felt mildly confident that I could at least, maybe go out and hike the 200 miles, but would drop from the race in a heartbeat if I felt anything even remotely close to an injury going on with my body.
Tahoe 200 Race highlights:
~ I ran more in those 49 hours than I had in 2 months! I did not suffer at all while out there in comparison to the MANY sufferings I have put myself through in life. Only 2 tiny blisters that did not show up until the end of my race at Tunnel Creek AS. The flare up in my foot/ankle that took me out of the race did not start talking to me until the top of Tunnel Creek Rd and did not cause me any pain until a few minutes after I stopped at the AS. It did not become an injury because I stopped as soon as it told me to!
~ I was 45th out of 90 at the first AS 10.5 miles into the run. Just where I wanted to be and running my own race. I had some good conversations en route and was really soaking it all in, including a few minute stop at a rock outcropping overlooking the Lake about half way up Homewood.
~ Spent some quality miles with Founding Member, Jon Arlien, out on the Rubicon/McKinney Trail and the most remote part of the course.
~ The first real break took place on a comfy and large log on the Rubicon with UltraPedestrian Ras, Willie McBride, Jon Arlien and another guy. No hurries and no worries.
~ Great time with Rob French, Mark Cangemi and Kent Dozier making our way to Sierra at Tahoe from Wright’s Lake. We decided to stay together through a large portion of this stretch for safety reasons, as it was so remote and Rob and I had gotten off course for about a mile at one point. Mark, Willie and I would continue to leapfrog each other all the way to Tunnel Creek AS where I dropped from the race.
~ Picking up my good buddy, Mike Ehrlich, at Sierra at Tahoe and having him pace me to Big Meadow. The stretch from Showers Lake to Big Meadow was my strongest in the race and I really enjoyed those miles with Mike. It had been a lot of years since we had spent that much quality time together.
~ 20 minute nap in the sand on the side of the trail during the heat of the day as I ascended out of Big Meadow and suddenly couldn’t keep my eyes open. I just hoped that no one would come along and disturb my rest and no one did. Felt great again after that.
~ Chillin’ at Armstrong AS with my friend, Tattie Baily (who was volunteering there on top of all the course marking and cleaning she did), Willie’s crew and my pacer/crew extraordinaire Mike.
~ Skinny dipping in Star Lake, moments before the sun went away for the day and while still warm enough to go for it.
~ Text from Founding Member , Jeff Brown, as I was dropping down into the Heavenly AS seeing if I wanted him to pace me at all since his runner, the current TRT Unsupported record holder JB Benna, had unfortunately dropped early in the race. “Hell yes, how about picking me up at Spooner?! I should be there around dawn”
~ 3 hour nap and half of a cold, yet gourmet, burger that I got to enjoy in bed before dozing off. Damn, that thing hit the spot.
~ Heavenly to Spooner section. Mike was back on pacing duty and I felt rested and strong. Fun miles with some solid running in between the fast walking.
~ Spooner to Tunnel Creek with my new pacer, Jeff. I have known Jeff and his wife for many years, but never had the chance to spend this much quality time with him. Good conversation sure makes the miles go by faster.
~ Hugging it out with Willie in the middle of the descent to Twin Lakes on the TRT just before Tunnel Creek Rd as he and his pacer, Yassine Doubin, passed Jeff and I on the long and gradual downhill. Willie is a good friend of Mike Erhlich’s, and someone that Mike told me I should look out for and hopefully meet while running the Bear 100. Willie happened to be the first person that I spent miles with at the Bear and after chatting for a few, we finally introduced ourselves and were psyched that at the small world moment of our meeting. Willie is also a climber, so we got to talk climbing while running 100 miles. Good times.
~ Gearing up mentally for what it would take to finish the race since everything was going so well up until the top of Tunnel Creek. My pacers and I both thought I had it in the bag as we ran from Heavenly to Tunnel Creek. That part was really fun and satisfying for me since it had been so long since I could really run.
~ My awesome wife and our good friend, Marianne Klemm, showing up at Tunnel Creek AS shortly after I arrived. I realized only about 15 minutes after being their that my foot/ankle had flared up on me and was likely going to force me to drop, so it was great to have them there for comfort and a ride. Surprisingly, Liz was not letting me pull the plug as easily as I would have liked, but she knew how important this race was to me and wanted to make sure that I was making the right decision for ME. Jeff was the perfect pacer to have at this point and put no pressure on me to continue as he understood what I had just been through with my injury at States. He understood that I was not going to let anyone talk me into continuing if I thought an injury might to occurring. I was in a fair amount of pain while at the AS, until the ibuprofen really kicked in. My foot/ankle was super sore to the touch and swelled to softball size. I really appreciated the Reiki work Marianne performed on me while there.
~ Putting in an approx. 24 hour shift at the Donner Party Mountain Runners’ Martis AS. That was an amazing and humbling experience on so many levels. I am so appreciative and proud of everyone that helped out up there and wound up working way longer hours than they expected. We were much busier up there than anyone could have ever imagined. Not one single person involved with the race could have ever guessed that 67% of the racers would have made it the 152 miles to our AS, let alone the 202 miles to the finish. Everyone I talked to, including myself, guessed about a 30-40% finishing rate. We had 62 runners with their pacers and crews come through. It was all handled smashingly well by the DPMR, with many “Best AS yet!” comments from runners and crews. However, we all learned a lot about what it really takes to run an aid/sleep station that is 152 miles into a 200 mile race and open for 45 hours.
~ Showing up to the finish line in Homewood with Liz, 2 minutes before the 100 hour cutoff, and witnessing Koishi do a head first “Pete Rose” slide across the finish with 4 seconds to spare!!!!!!!!
~ I am going into the end of the running season injury free! I have never injured myself like I did at States and will not be letting something like that again
~ THE DONNER PARTY MOUNTAIN RUNNERS!!!
Next Year? There is a good chance that I will attempt the T200 again next year. I have my own entry for helping out with the race beyond just our AS and the DPMR will still get a free entry for running our AS. I WILL NOT run, though, if my body is telling me “No”. So we’ll just have to see how she goes.