Running 200 miles is definitely out on the edge of acceptable athletic feats, right on the cusp of dropping into the abyss of insanity. Even for ultrarunners, the idea can be daunting—the hard-core competitors who had the guts to start the second ever Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run are running with one foot hanging off that edge. To most, they are a pile of weirdos taking unnecessary risks, but everyone lucky enough to witness the performances of incredible resolve and grit saw a group of athletes worthy of the utmost respect. This spirit fueled the hard work at the DPMR Brockway Summit aid station; a magical oasis where, after running 155.5 (POINT 5!) miles, someone will make you a sandwich while another cleans your feet. Open for a few days, the aid station, often referred to as Brockway Bed & Breakfast, saw awesome and dedicated volunteers—the aid station was up and running for more hours than the entire duration of most ultra events.
Over this long haul, aid station captain and culinary virtuoso Mike Tebbutt cooked up pesto-gouda sliders, breakfast burritos, and bacon bowls for hungry runners, who probably needed a snack after running three quarters of the way around Lake Tahoe. The ice chest kept all of the necessary refreshments chilled: orange juice, coke, ginger ale, chocolate milk, beer, and scotch. Others took stock of blisters, fatigued muscles, and wounds from trail attacks, and fixed them with care, hypodermic needles, and fancy tape.
DPMR members Liz and Mike Tebbutt, Julia Millon, and Jon Arlien all helped to finalize the Aid Station set-up, starting at midnight on Sunday, Sept. 13, toning down from last year’s ambitiously early start. Mike, along with friends Joe and Kat had already set up giant structures for the sleep station and the kitchen, which Joe and Kat hauled back from their equally festive use at Burning Man. The set-up this year also included a few “found” full-sized couches for lounging. In the early morning, Nathan Caceres joined the crew as runners approached. The aid stations only non-DPMR volunteer, Nathan stayed through Monday helping all of the runners with unwavering enthusiasm.
Lights were strung, the generator was checked, and the camp stove was fired up around 6 a.m. in anticipation of the first two runners who had been leap frogging. Jim Trout and Paul Romero were actually racing for 200 miles. Jim was in and out 30 minutes ahead of Paul, which would prove to be their final order.
First place woman, Suzanna Bon, blazed through third overall. Moving fast and in good spirits, she had some gourmet sliders, and rushed back out, knowing that DPMR board member Betsy Nye was on her heels, and a force to be reckoned with.
Betsy was the first DMPR through the aid station, and a cheery crew of family and friends welcomed her, and immediately started working to send her right back out again. Running in with her pacer and husband, Paul Sweeney, she had a commanding second-place lead over the rest of the female field, and was in 8th place overall. DPMR Lesley Dellamonica took over pacing into Tahoe City, 20.2 miles down the trail. In great spirits, Betsy joked and laughed with her crew as she powered down sliders and beer (Mike had previously hosted a taste test to decide which beer she would enjoy best) to gear up for the final quarter of the run.
Pete, Erin, and Siri Broomhall, Chaz Sheya, Stephanie Blum, and Michael Martinelli all helped with the increasing load of tasks throughout Sunday as runners became more frequent. Some took advantage of the sleep tent, located a few hundred yards outside of the aid station party, and recharged before running down to Tahoe City. The runners were also treated to an upgrade in restroom services with a port-o-john, a luxurious improvement over last year’s honey-bucket-in-tiny-tent deal. The crowds coming in to Brockway also needed more help with blisters and cramping muscles, and stuck around, enticed by the catering and refreshments.
All of the volunteers who had been at the inaugural event in 2014 agreed that across the board runners appeared to be in better shape, and the aid station saw far less carnage than last year. There were still the occasional four blisters stacked on top one another, but those are treated easily, especially when most of the runners were in great mental shape. One runner turned down a beer offer until getting one such masterpiece lanced—he quickly changed his mind jumping straight to requesting a shot of whiskey. All bases were covered.
Not limited to human care, Nathan and Liz even completed the non-traditional aid station task of rushing a lost dog with a mouth full of porcupine needles to the nearest emergency veterinarian. Ultra events are always unpredictable.
The ever-popular blue bunny came out Sunday keeping the sliders fresh and the spirits high. In the middle of Sunday night, a giant duck (Karyn Stanley) joined the zoo to take over cooking and dancing so other volunteers could pass out for a few hours. Joel Tebutt joined in the fun the following morning, and volunteered after pacing and crewing DPMRs in the race starting on Friday.
DPMR member JP Prince, who’s Tahoe 200 race had ended on Sunday after a personal record distance of 103.1 miles, embodied the spirit of the DMPR and trail running community by showing up to help Mike, Liz and Karyn with the aid station breakdown. JP brought with him an entourage-Jenelle Potvin, Michael Martinelli, Lesley Dellamonica, and a non-DPMR, Doug. All of these volunteers went above and beyond to assist DPMR competitors as well as the aid station over the days of the race.
Another DPMR member Diana Schlaf, unfortunately had to end her race at the our AS. However, she was perfectly content with her Tahoe 155.5 mile experience and in good spirits, also a personal best distance as she had previously never raced more than a 50k previously.
The volunteers closed down after the cut-off at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, tired and a little weird themselves, but basking in the spiritual riches bought with the time and missed sleep. Staffing the Brockway AS, DPMRs were privy to a secret slice of each runner’s race, personal journeys requiring guts, motivation, and vision, immediately evident in harrowed eyes, blistered feet, and dirt-crusted limbs. Three quarters through the distance, every competitor was an honest mirror of the adversity they had overcome. Looking through the keyhole of the aid station, the event seemed to take on a life of its own—while the final distance measured 205.5 miles, the spirit of endurance passing though Brockway seemed infinite.