Tahoe Rim Trail 100 was an absolutely amazing adventure. I had the good fortune of being able to spend 2 weeks ahead of the race at my brother’s house in Truckee in order to acclimate to the altitude and to spend some time on the course. That time on the course and all of the insights from my friend Frankie Stone were instrumental in successfully tackling this race. I headed into the race the most relaxed that I had ever been ahead of a hundred miler.
Race morning arrived and we had perfect weather, cool and a nice bit of cloud cover. Felt really good at the start and had a wonderful time running and hiking. After Hobart and a bit of climb, we were treated to some of the best views of the course – it was an absolutely glorious way to start the journey. From Hobart to Tunnel Creek, I was in the flow and right on time into Tunnel Creek, where I was able to see my crew which was a real treat before descending into the hell of the Red House loop.
My hope was to complete the Red House loop before the cloud cover was lost. I was actually glad to not have previewed the Red House loop since it is the only part of the course that did not have breathtaking scenery. As I was coming out of the loop and just about to start the climb back to Tunnel Creek, I saw my friend Julian Martinez on his descent, as he was running the 50 mile race. That gave me a huge boost for the climb! Back at Tunnel Creek, saw the crew and headed out on the way to Bull Wheel quickly.
From Tunnel Creek to Bull Wheel was quite beautiful and a fun section. Reached Bull Wheel right where I wanted to be and we headed out. At that point, could feel both the heat and altitude so backed off a bit on pace, knowing that the Diamond Peak climb was coming. Enjoyed the Tyrolean downhill and reached Diamond Peak Ski Lodge feeling happy. Whole crew was there, and I took a nice lunch break with them to recharge before the climb.
The climb up Diamond Peak was difficult in the full sun and with 30 miles under the belt already. I got in and out of Tunnel Creek as quickly as possible. My climb back to Hobart was harder and longer than expected, but I thought that I could gain some time back on the section from Snow Peak to the 50 mile turnaround so I didn’t sweat it.
Even though it is a long climb to the highest point on the course, the trail to Snow Peak was one of my favorite sections. Snow Valley is simply gorgeous, with acres of wildflowers in full bloom. The Boy Scouts run the Snow Peak Aid Station and they had put out inspirational and funny signs all along the trail on the way to the Aid Station. As you approach the Aid Station, a Boy Scout runs to greet you by name and get you whatever you need. They were just superb up there!
I felt great leaving Snow Valley Peak! I ran the mostly downhill section solidly and was really happy to reach Spooner Lake and check in with the crew. TRT has lots of nice amenities which really make a difference. One of them was having little tents in which you pop in and change clothes which I loved at the 50 mile turnaround to get ready to run in the night. Had some food, changed socks and shoes, and got some love from the crew.
I left Spooner as the last light of Saturday was fading. Was by myself heading into North Canyon, but very much at peace and not worried. I was adhering to the Donner Party Mountain Runner motto #beunafraid. I was very confident in my plan to run without a pacer, in particular because TRT had safety sweeps on mountain bikes patrolling the course through the night. I saw them numerous times and always thanked them for being out there. I was by myself for a little while and then found my friend Irving sitting on a rock. From there, we shared the trail until Hobart, which was really great. The night-time weather could not have been better!
I found that I was a bit behind my planned pace, but was not worried. I knew that the Red House loop would be long and not fun so just went at it. Once I reached the one-way section, I was alone again but no fear. Soon I was climbing and a runner and his pacer joined me. At Red House Aid Station, the Aid Station Captain mistook the other runner’s pacer for my pacer. I told him, no I don’t have a pacer. He (wearing a multicolored afro wig) gives me a funny look, kind of sizing me up, and then just says, “Right on”. They had peeled hard-boiled eggs there, which were awesome, and they also made me a great cup of peppermint tea.
I was passed by about 3 folks on the nasty climb but just kept plugging along, knowing that I would not have to do that beast again. I came into Tunnel Creek very glad to be done. A woman dressed to run approached and asked if I would like a pacer. I was so surprised that I almost said no! My whole mindset was to do it alone so I couldn’t quite process the offer. I warned her that I was quite slow but that didn’t scare her off. Fortunately, I said yes! Roberta McGraw had appeared in the night as my trail angel and she was just fabulous. The runner whom she was supposed to pace had dropped, so she was looking for someone else to help and I was the fortunate one. I was pretty quiet and silent, focused on the task of getting to the finish, so I was not super company for her. Nonetheless, Roberta took me, a complete stranger, from Tunnel Creek at mile 67 all of the way home, from the middle of the night and into Sunday afternoon– ultra folks are just the best!
Roberta got me through the night and into Diamond Peak where my crew was waiting for me. Was so great to see them all! Another really cool TRT amenity was that a local dentist had donated toothbrushes with already applied toothpaste for runners to use at Diamond Peak. My teeth were so furry at that point (having forgotten to brush at mile 50 the night before) that it only helped a little bit but was better than nothing.
The Diamond Peak climb for me was again abysmally slow, but Roberta offered lots of encouragement. I could not power straight through, and took numerous breaks. Roberta’s confidence in me never wavered and that was awesome as I had some doubts, particularly as my feet were starting to bother me. I had no blisters, just an increasing overall pain in both feet.
Noe Castanon gave me great encouragement at Tunnel Creek and told me he would see me at the finish line. Sunday was warmer and offered no cloud cover and that, combined with my foot pain, definitely was slowing things down. Thankfully, Roberta’s presence kept me on the move and she continuously reassured me that I had plenty of time. I soaked in the beautiful views as best I could while keeping my eyes on the trail so as to not trip. I reached Hobart with plenty of time and was really happy about that, able to head for Snow Valley Peak with peace of mind.
I did not climb as well to Snow Valley Peak on Sunday as I had on Saturday, as it was much hotter. It was still absolutely beautiful up there, though, and I had the knowledge that I would definitely finish the TRT. We reached the Boy Scouts, and they made me a fresh, yummy grilled cheese to power me for the last 7 miles to the finish. On leaving Snow Valley Peak, I was definitely having more foot pain, which slowed my descent to Spooner Lake.
It takes what seems like forever to make your way around Spooner Lake to the finish line, so I just kept plugging away, hoping to get there under 34 hours. I was SO happy to get to the finish! My crew were all there for me which was super.
At the finish, George Ruiz (the RD) greeted me and I thanked him for a wonderful event. He congratulated me and said that he looked forward to giving me my buckle shortly. Hanging out at the finish area was great. I was really glad to have stayed for the buckle ceremony. That was quite awesome! All in all, a really great race, with superb race management and volunteers, spectacular scenery and huge challenge.