The Tahoe Rim trail 55k was my first ultra in 2005, my first 50m last year, and I wanted the event to be my first 100. I thought it would be a good first try at a 100 since it was close by, I knew the course, and I could do some training on it. The longer the distance though, the more things that can go wrong, and it turned out to be my first DNF.
Preparing for a 50 mile, or even the one 100k I ran, was much simpler than planning for drop bags, pacers, and crew, plus being more careful about getting enough calories and hydration with a 100 miles. I poured over race reports others had written, and looked for gear lists for 100 mile runs.
I couldn’t find much about drop bags that was helpful for me. I ended up just setting out the bags and labeling them, then put clothes in them that I thought I might need if the weather turned bad, plus socks if I needed them. I put in bags of Tailwind to put in each and some trailmix I had been able to eat on long runs.
Coach Peter reviewed my list and I added a few things. I had a bag for 3 aid stations, a bag for the 50 mile point, and a bag for after the run, then a bag just to organize the things I would wear that day. He would send instructions to my pacers, too.
The check in before race day was helpful. I got some good advice. Jenelle told me it doesn’t matter if you got a good night’s sleep the night before, and that it had never been cold enough to wear long pants. I had some packed already for Tunnel Creek, but with the low expected to be about 50, maybe colder higher up, and in the wind, I left them just in case it got colder. Lana Kovarik, who I met and got lost with at the Canyons 50k 2 years ago and was doing the 100 mile for the 4th time, said that if I thought I wanted to drop at an aid station, to get to it and wait until the next station. Cheryl Lloyd told me she had dropped before because she hadn’t kept up on her nutrition. These were all things I kept in mind, and they helped me get as far as I did. I also talked to Mike Kreadon, who was driving the runner he was pacing to the start. He was nice enough to agree to let me ride along so that my husband wouldn’t have to drive there and back 3 times. My husband and son planned to come to the 50 mile point.
As it turned out, I didn’t get sleep. I tried, but I mostly just rested. My husband slept on the couch to improve my chances of sleeping. It didn’t help, and he hadn’t gotten much sleep either when I woke him up at 3:00 to drive me the 2 miles to catch the ride there, so I was grateful that he didn’t have to drive all the way to the starting line and back.
I started the race out slowly jogging, then mostly walking in the slow line after the first mile when we turned onto the single track. I planned to go conservatively for the first 50 to have energy for the second half. I ran where I could and took Tailwind every mile. I felt sorry for myself the first 20 miles for not having sleep, but kept remembering what Jenelle had said.
I got a caffeinated Cliff gel at Tunnel creek the second time (mile 18). I don’t like coffee, so the caffeine must have had a bigger effect than on a coffee drinker, because it suddenly really didn’t matter that I hadn’t slept. I was alert and well into the journey. It had been good to read in race reports that others had negative thoughts. When they crept into my mind, I could just see them there. let them pass by, and focus on the positive. I was moving, it wasn’t hot, I could do this.
It helped so much to see familiar faces. It was nice of Sean Flanagan to walk with me for a few minutes on the Red House loop. He had paced me for the last 20 miles of my first 50 there last year, and now he was running the 50m himself. It made the loop a little cheerier, and it went by faster. A couple of other Donner Party members passed me, along with a young man I had met at a trail work day. I stopped and talked to him for a minute. This all made the Red House loop seem a little more fun. I also saw Diana Schlaff doing her first 50m, although not her longest race, coming into the loop as I was going out. She was so encouraging and excited. Her enthusiasm was so contagious, it got me up the hill a little faster.
I was lucky to have Nora Turner to help me going through Tunnel Creek the first two times. I had done three Reno Tahoe Relays with her, and she was well organized. She couldn’t come into the aid station area to crew, but I gave her a list of things to remind me to do going through. Both times through I remembered most of them, but I had to go back in to do a couple of things like put on sunscreen.
The miles to Diamond Peak went quickly. I found myself chatting with Stacy Riddle, who I met at the Broken Arrow race, this time wearing her DPMR hat also. She had started an hour before I had for 50 miles, but she had been feeling the effects of the altitude and was now going along at a good pace for me. So, we shared several miles, and I thanked her for allowing me to tag along. At Diamond Peak (mile 30), I got ice in my bandana, Nora again reminded me of everything, and I got something to eat. I got hosed down before starting up the big ski run.
I went up the steep climb in bursts, going from shade to shade, and turning around to enjoy the view. It was a delight to see smiling Julia Millon coming down the hill. Just knowing she was running repeats of this hill made doing it the one time seem not so bad.
I got to sit in a chair at the 50 mile, where my husband, son, and Lesley, who was going to pace me, were waiting. They got me ready for the second 50. I did use most of my things in this drop bag. I got on a new dry top, socks and shoes after wiping off some of the dirt. Still no blisters or chaffing, but it did feel good to have clean things on. I put my jacket in the back of my pack with gloves in case it got cold, and got the headlamp on my head even though it would be an hour before I needed it. Lesley was pacing behind me and we walked along, running when we could. We didn’t talk much, but it was so good to have her company.
At Tunnel Creek (mile 62), the carbonation from the soda I drank kept coming up. There was nothing to come out, but I needed to settle my stomach. The amazing Dr. Andy and Joann were still there each time I went through. I hoped they got to get some sleep! Joann made me some avocado and corn tortillas that weren’t on the table. I was able to keep them down, and they tasted so good. I also managed to drink a few sips of coffee. Gretchen and also Kim Utah were there too, Kim in a dinosaur tutu costume that just made me smile. It was a fun aid station.
Running-walking at night is so different than seeing the course during the day. Every time I had a low spot, I thought about how much nicer it was to be outside on a trail than inside the hospital lab in a windowless room trying to stay awake on the night shift, which I sometimes do. I also enjoyed the cool air and the mostly full moon. It was a sight over the lake where it looked yellow-orange before sinking behind the lake to the west, in the early morning hours. I mostly tried to think of what was right in front of me, not about how far I had to go, and just enjoy the journey.
We got through the Red House loop, and somewhere along the way I noticed that I was starting to lean to the right side. I kept trying to readjust and lean left, but I was going slower. By Diamond Peak, I stopped to rest and eat, and considered dropping there.
My next pacer, Kristin Henry, had brought my poles. Since my back didn’t hurt, I decided to try the poles to see if that would help. We were soon going up the ski hill, and Lesley went on to the finish.
Kristin, who is a preschool teacher, loves glitter, unicorns, and is so positive and has such a great sense of humor, that I had to keep going. The poles worked well going up the hill, but by Tunnel Creek, I was having trouble staying upright and straight and had to keep stopping to rest. Dr. Andy got some biofreeze lotion on my lower back. Another woman who I had been leap frogging with, Mary Ann, came in with a lean to the left. We both left about the same time and continued up the hill.
I was managing to stay upright with Kristin massaging the tight muscles in my lower back every so often, but Mary Ann was leaning much more. By the Hobart aid station, I took some Aleve and left there with high hopes that it would relax the muscles and let me continue.
At 1 mile before the Snow Valley aid station (mile 92), I couldn’t go any longer. It was too slow since I couldn’t stay upright or to the center. Kristin went ahead to get help. I kept going, so slowly, but managed to get another half mile by the time a couple of the guys from the boy scout aid station came to help me.
When I let go of the pole supporting me to hang onto their shoulders, my back gave way, and I almost collapsed. My back was at it’s limit. The aid station was getting ready to close up. We got a ride back to finish as I dozed off a couple of times. I was checked out at the finish line aid station and let go.
Lesley and my family had already collected my drop bags, and my family wanted to go home. I was still leaning the next day, and was able to get an appointment for the following day with a chiropractor.
My sacrum was out of place. I got adjusted and was upright when I walked out. I went for a massage a few days later and reviewed the exercises I was doing for the muscles that might have helped keep me upright. I wasn’t doing them quite right, and with a little adjustment, I might be able keep everything in place.
I’m glad I kept going. I went as far as I could, without pain, blisters or chaffing. I kept hydrated, cool and mostly fed. I did enough right and learned enough that I think I could have a better chance of finishing if I try running another 100 miler, or this one, again.