Monday, August 3, 2009

Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Miler

July 18 I ran the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Miler. 2 years ago I did the TRT 50KM as my very first ultra event and fell in love with the course. It's incredibly scenic and challenging and the next morning I felt like I had been run over by a truck. Did I mention that it's tough?

Last year I was hoping to run the 50 miler but was injured and volunteered at the finish line instead. That just served to fuel my desire this year. The timing couldn't have been better in my build up to the Leadville 100.

I drove up to Tahoe by myself allowing my family to sleep in and come up later. They would meet me at the halfway point at Mt. Rose Hwy and again at the finish line.

Milling around the start line

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was how comfortable the temperature was. Would this be a precursor to how warm it would get later? I checked in and discovered that my coach was volunteering behind the table. Finally, after 7 months, I got to meet him. After getting my stuff together I made my way down to the start line where I ran into Gretchen. She's been having a great season but I had no idea how well she'd do in this race.

We started promptly at 6am after being reminded by Dave Cotter to only do the Red House Loop ONCE. After sorting ourselves out on the dirt road we hit the wonderful singletrack that would take us to Marlette Lake. I did a walk/run on the uphills, feeling pretty good but saving myself for a long day.

Marlette is beautiful this time of day. It's a magical feeling to be making your way up into the high sierra knowing that you will run 50 miles before the day is over. It's a peaceful time of day with the flowers just opening up with the first rays of sunshine.

I made my way toward the first aid station only to discover it wasn't there! I kept running and finally it appeared through the trees. I wondered why they had moved it. I didn't need to fill my hydration pack and moved on quickly. I really wanted to work on keeping my AS times short.

After leaving Hobart AS you come across one of the best views on the course. I was still feeling good but I knew my pace was very controlled.

Marlette Lake with Tahoe behind

The section from Hobart to Twin Lakes is one of the most enjoyable for me and I started to push it a little. Once again, as I came into where the AS was suppose to be, it wasn't there. It was now up in the saddle with Tunnel Creek Rd. I filled up with water and a little food and started the descent into "hell". This 6.5 mi section has the reputation of being extremely tough but I actually don't mind it too much. I descended quickly and moved through the AS to the flume road. This road seems to go on forever so it became my goal to just keep running and I managed to pass a couple people here. As I hit the steep, sandy hill I was reduced to a walk.

About a month before, I had done a training run from Mt. Rose hwy to Twin Lakes, the Red House loop, and back to Mt. Rose. I was happy to see that today's Red House loop split was only 5 minutes slower than my training run, considering I was going to be running twice as far. After another quick stop at Tunnel Creek I made the split with the 50K runners (who headed back toward the start) and made my way north to Mt. Rose.

Meanwhile, Pat and the girls were also making their way to the halfway point of the race and getting things set up for my arrival. The job of a crew is pretty thankless though. You spend hours waiting patiently for your runner, only to spend a couple minutes them him/her before they're headed back down the trail. Even though a runner may not always show it, the support they receive from their crew is priceless and always appreciated.

The girls find ways to pass the time

The 9 mile section between Twin Lakes and Mt. Rose includes some wonderful rolling singletrack as it follows the ridgeline with the Tahoe Basin to the west and Washoe Valley to the east.

It was on this section that I passed a lot of 100 mile runners as well as the front pack of 50 mile runners heading south. I was impressed to see Gretchen so soon and as I checked my watch I remember thinking "wow, she may break 10 hours". Very nice.

Washoe Lake to the east

Gretchen on her way to a 9:57 finish

Coming into Mt. Rose aid station

I made it into the Mt. Rose AS in 6:15. I really wanted to be there in 6 hours but I was happy to see that my split time from Tunnel Creek was only 1 minute slower than my earlier training run. After getting my water refilled and enjoying an Otter Pop, I spent a few minutes visiting with my family. Back in April at the American River 50 Mile, my family once again met me at the halfway point to support me. However, I found myself getting very emotional when it was time to head down the trail and I just didn't want to leave. I spent some valuable extra minutes giving more hugs and kisses. As it turns out, I missed breaking 10 hours at the finish by 3 minutes. As much as I enjoyed spending that extra time with everyone, I didn't want to lose any more time than I had to.

So after getting a new full gel flask and replenishing my S Caps, I gave out a few quick hugs and kisses and got back on the trail. If I wanted to finish in 12 hours, I needed to pick it up a bit.

Caitlyn giving out helpful advice

During my training run I really enjoyed this section heading south. But I was fresh then, having already run 25 miles made it a bit more challenging now. I ran as much as I could but the last couple miles just seemed to take forever. It was along this section that I ran into Catra and Andy. We visited a bit and I asked about the aid stations being in different locations. Andy said it's because the new sites provided better cell site coverage. I made it back to Tunnel Creek with a split that was 9 minutes slower than my training run. I spent a few extra minutes here eating watermelon. Lots of watermelon. It just tasted so dang good. I finally tore myself away from the table to start the home stretch. This section is predominantly downhill heading north so I knew it would be quite a bit slower heading south. Looking back, I wish I had pushed harder on this section. I know there are areas where I could have jogged that I continued to walk. But I had already run 35 miles and with another 15 to go I didn't really know how much I had left in the tank. I'm still learning the art of pacing in the world of ultrarunning.

I made it through the Hobart AS and got ready to tackle my favorite challenge of the course, the climb to Snow Valley. I loved this section 2 years ago and it was no different this time. I found myself feeling and running very strong. I tackled the uphills like they were flat. I've never felt so strong before. I was in a groove. I passed quite a few people and they were full of encouragement. It was super windy at the aid station (is it ever not windy?) so I moved straight through after grabbing some M&M's and tackled the next 6 miles of downhill. I had 1:15 to cover this last section if I was going to beat 12 hours. But I kind of dreaded it knowing that it lasts FOREVER. By now my Garmin 305 battery had died so I was in the dark as to the time or distance.
Snow Valley Aid Station

I ran hard and soon my quads were protesting quite loudly. I starting catching up to the tail end of 50K runners and they were all very courteous about moving to the side of the trail as I ran by. I was running as fast as I could but I knew it wasn't going to be enough. My legs hurt so bad I really didn't know how I was still running. But I kept struggling, pushing my body to the limit. I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and the faster I could cover that distance, the sooner the pain would end. But it was a euphoric pain, the kind of pain you feel when you push a strong body.

After leaving Mt. Rose, my family headed to Reno to get Caitlyn a pair of running shoes. She wasn't happy with her slipper type shoes and she wanted something that she could run across the finish line with her mom. Not only did she end up with a genuine pair of running shoes, they had laces!

The girls right before the finish line

As I came out of the trees and into the meadow, I could hear my girls calling me. There's nothing like having your family cheering you on to give you one last strong push.

Caitlyn fell into step with me and then immediately went into a full sprint. I just laughed as I watched her go, there was no way I could keep up with her. Finally she slowed down and I caught up and she said "Mommy, running this fast makes my chest hurt". We fell back into step together and crossed the line together. I glanced at the timer and it read 12:10:41. Not the 12 hours I was hoping for but I was happy none-the-less. Results are here.

Sara finishing at her speed

Checking out Caitlyn's new shoes

After resting for a bit, I started making my way back up the hill when I ran into my coach, Howard Nippert. We hadn't been able to visit in the morning so it was good to finally get to talk to him and discuss plans for the next 5 weeks until Leadville.

Howard and I discuss running

Suddenly, without warning, I started feeling pretty queasy and light headed. I guess running for 12 hours and then suddenly stopping can do strange things to your body. After sitting for about 10 minutes I was able to walk up the hill to where the cars were parked.

Once again, this proved to be a wonderful event. The weather was perfect. Some people complained about the heat but I never thought it got too hot. I think all the Bikram yoga (hot yoga) I've been doing has been really helpful to getting acclimatized to the heat. Thank you Dave and all the wonderful volunteers. I've now done the 50K and 50M so maybe the 100M is on the horizon. But let's see how Leadville goes first.


Gretchen said...

Aweome job Catherine! I love that race.
So, are you excited for Leadville? You are so tough. I know you are going to do great! Run well and have fun!

Anonymous said...

Love all the pictures of the girls. You did a great job.
You know I am thinking of you and wishing you The Best.. Leadville Here You Come.!!! Again.. xoxoxo Love you. Mom

Scott Dunlap said...

Great report! Love the pics.

Best of luck this weekend. We'll be thinking about you!