Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011 Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile

This: why I prefer to do this:

I peeled off my jacket at 5:55 and handed it to Heeva's dad. Heeva, Jim, and I stood near the front of the lineup which was loosely gathered around what was assumed to be a starting line.

7000 ft. Lake on the right. Blaring spotlights, and generator on the left, buzzing crowd at our gun, no siren. We caught the countdown as it rounded '4' and the RD shouted 'go' over the PA system which was competing with the generator. As is typical, a small pack explodes out the gate and starts churning 7's down the flat fire road leading up the north side of the lake. Some people around me bite--Heeva and I resist the urge, I more so than he. It isn't but a minute until the last glimpses of his platinum locks are out of sight.

2011 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run 50K & 50 Mile start from George Ruiz on Vimeo.

Going from a cold start to the time when I feel warm typically takes 30 minutes, but the fact that the start is a mile on flat certainly helps. We hit the single-track trail up to Marlette lake; 4 miles, +2100 ft. I tuck in behind a guy keeping a mellow but honest pace and we run comfortably in line. I notice he is running with a small evian water bottle and adidas basketball shorts, simple. People burn a lot of energy trying to get by on the left only to make the pass and then slow down--"odd" passes through my mind. Evian and I pass them a couple miles later and I never see them again. We crest the basin that encircles Marlette lake (7823 ft) and a small group of us find a good downhill gear and crank off some good miles down to the fire road that runs north on the east side of the lake. I put off that first gel until my conscience gets the better of 60 minutes I give in, my mental timer resets to 45 minutes for number two. The trail follows a small creek that feeds Marlette on the north side and hits an honest little climb that puts us up on the south end of the sub-alpine meadow that Hobart Aid resides in. It's a beautiful place to be in the morning.

Small Course Map. Large map can be found  here.
Pulling into Hobart aid (mile 6) I'm feeling pretty good--that aside from the fact that "California Girls" is playing entirely too loud on some misplaced stereo. The station is set up tits. Jeeps, tents, trucks, stereo''s a way-point now, later its impact will change, especially for the 100 milers. Apparently Hobart likes a theme; this year it's Pirates--pirates. I am excited for the year when it's Hooters, mostly cuz I like their wings.

I water and get back on it. My stomach starts to rebel a little, which strikes me as odd because I (almost categorically) never have stomach problems...unless it's 105 and I'm in Pozo with Dube-n-Dusty...

Right out of Hobart we round an east facing slope and are given a quarter mile on snow, it's novel. The short climb up this snow field puts me up in a cloud and the temp drops significantly--it's a good thing I have a pelt. I stay warm enough. The next section of trail is stellar; we pass Marlette Peak, we traverse north along trail and crest what I am told is Harlan Peak before hitting a bitchin' downhill to Twin Lakes (~mile 11). I put it in gear on the downhill and let gravity take over, it feels good to stretch it out a little...maybe a bit reckless this early on but I have a lot of quads to trash so I figured why not.

On the way to Tunnel from Hobart, Marlette lake in the background.
The quick pace on the downhill really stirs up my insides and pulling into Tunnel Creek Aid (~11.5m) I am needing to take care of some business. Somehow they managed to get a porta-john up here and I am thankful. It isn't exactly a NASCAR pit-stop but whatever. Just as I step out of the john and grab my bottles off the ground,  Thomas (current TRT 50 mile course record holder) pulls into Tunnel after coming up from the Redhouse loop on the front end of his blazing 100 mile trip. "Time to pick it up buddy" he tells me. He looks strong, like he is enjoying this...I laugh, "tell me about it" I respond and make way down the sandy road on my way into the Redhouse loop. My spirits lift a little as my insides finally start to feel better. Another steep downhill awaits, it's relatively technical and I have fun toying with the occasionally muddy footing. The descent into Redhouse is about 1.5miles, we drop about 1600ft to a low point on the course (6800 ft).

Course profile. Redhouse marked by the A after Tunnel. 100 milers do this 2x.
For some reason the Redhouse loop is on some level inspiration for the "A taste of Hell" portion of the TRT race motto. I don't really get it, but then again it's cool down in the valley--lots of water flowing, our feet get wet. I hear that some years it feels akin to Hanoi; maybe that's where the rumors come from. My shoes get river gravel in them along with a little sand. I am moving pretty well through the bottom of the loop and pass quite a few 100 milers who are being judicious with their pacing. I get stoked to see so many crusty old guys--"these guys are living" I remark internally. F-bingo. We start the climb out of Redhouse back up to Tunnel and break into the first sustained hike of the run. This part looked different coming down. I have a good hike and come back into Tunnel (~17.5m) feeling good.

The actual "Red House"...
Next up, Bull Wheel. 3 rolling but generally uphill miles with a fair amount of snow. My switch flips and I go back to feeling mediocre. It's disheartening. The trip to Bull Wheel is more arduous than it should be. This portion of the Rim Trail though is as picturesque as one might imagine--views of Lake Tahoe abound west, Washoe valley in all of its high desert splendor to the east. Turn your head, pick your view; it's stunning. In spite of my roiling insides and lack of sentimentality I think to myself, "I love this". 

I pull into Bull Wheel (~21m) after getting handily passed and dropped by couple of ladies who are moving well...served. I throw down a couple of cups of coke, burnt on gels already. I am determined. Except not 100 meters out of Bull Wheel that familiar feeling comes again and I hike off trail to answer the call...I'm glad that I brought some baby wipes with me. Again I start to feel better and move well over the next 4 miles of rolling trail until we hit the intersection of the Incline Peak trail and bear left...I pickup momentum and start to feel really good. I cruise this downhill noting that I am pretty close to my desired split to get into Diamond Peak Lodge at mile 30. I was shooting for 5:30hrs, given my intestinal setbacks I am happy to note I will probably arrive nearer 5:45hrs. This section of trail is made for a bike; serpentine bermed turns, jumps, perfectly groomed. Parts of it are playful on foot and I ride up the berms but skip the jumps. After a few miles I start to notice the gravel in my shoes and my wet socks but I am intent on hitting my split to Diamond Peak so I ignore it; my family is waiting.

Incline Peak trail dumps us off on the road just above Diamond Peak Lodge. We stopped here yesterday on our way to packet pickup just to have a look--there were some people getting set to hike up the trail for a beaver dam tour. We pass close to Incline Creek as it flows out to the lake I take note of what I guess are beaver dams; I think it's the first time I have ever seen a beaver dam. I pass a couple of families out enjoying the midday warmth and get excited to see my kids. Just down the road from the trail head the orange arrows on the road point us toward the Lodge. I round a row of cars and see Holly and the kids bouncing with excitement, I want to bounce too and as I approach them I hold back tears. I don't really know why I had the urge to cry but it came and went after I passed some salty kisses around. My mom is snapping pictures and I hand my dad a water bottle and ask him to dump a redbull in it. Holly brought a gear bag I had packed the night before and I sit down to clean my socks out, "Why don't you just change your shoes and socks" she says...right, my brain is working slightly sub par at this moment. Heaven comes in the form of dry feet as I pull on my Peak II's, the laces creak as I pull them tight--must be that Montana de Oro dust. My mom puts more sunscreen on my shoulders--it's nice being able to ask something to get done and just let it happen. Holly hands me a turkey/avocado wrap and I scarf it down, the fat tastes right, washing it down with redbull seems like a good choice. I jam my pockets with 6 more gels. We walk over to the aid station, refill water, say our goodbyes and I step off the deck at the Lodge and begin the climb.

Head down, feeling recharged. The longest 2 miles on the planet coming up.
I had heard stories about the climb from Diamond Peak Lodge back up to Bull Wheel. ~1800ft, 1.9 miles. It's hard to fathom just how steep it is. Maybe a mile of it is runnable. The rest is laughable. I fall into a hike and I see Scott's wife come trotting back down the trail. She hiked with him for a bit and indicated he was not too far ahead, Scott is doing the 100 mile--she thinks he's going too fast. Scott's reputation as a hammer when it comes to the ultra-hike is not understated. I put it in gear to try and catch him so we can run together for a bit. No dice. 1.9 miles, 49 minutes. I didn't figure this into my pacing plan.

This is the climb up from Diamond Peak Lodge....I shamelessly poached this picture off of this guys blog, but since I  somehow happened to be in it I figured it was cool...don't get mad Greg...somehow I think it might be cool.
I get to the top where the end of the chairlift waits mockingly and attempt to shake my legs out. My quads are hammered from the run down to the lodge, my hamstrings are firing from the climb. I hobble to get going and barely dance down the 200meter decent to Bull Wheel (~32m). "That worked me" I tell the guys drinking beers casually in the wind...they ask if I want to sit down for a minute, " thanks". I grab a couple orange slices looking for sugar. Slowly I start to move and things loosen up a bit...a little faster and it isn't long until my body feels like it's working again. The climb took its toll though. Next time I am buying a lift ticket.

A couple of 100 milers I passed on the climb up to Bull Wheel pass me as I am trying to recompose just outside the aid-station (see that pic above--that's them behind me). I let them go and try to work the kinks out. Ok, time to go. I head off down the trail and run into them again, I am happy to have some heels to hang on to. We run together back to Tunnel at a nice pace. It's nice to listen to their conversation. The lady in front is talking about how she did Hardrock a couple weeks back. My balls all of the sudden feel smaller than usual.

We cruise into Tunnel (~34.5m) and they are taking their time. I water, throw down a couple cups of coke and head out. I know what's coming. That nice descent from Hobart to Tunnel earlier on is replayed in reverse. I mix a lot of hiking in with a moderate pace on the flats and downs. Coming over the trail back to Hobart is a lot of snow. I catch a guy doing the 100 who's positive attitude is contagious, he's in no hurry--he's hooting and hollering, taking pictures of everything in sight; on hindsight who could blame him (turns out he's the guy I poached that pic from above). We get to the back of snow drift that has a 10ft drop down to the trail, the steps that are cut into the face of drift look dangerous. The Hooter plops down on his ass and slides down, of course I am compelled to do the same. We smile and laugh together. It's a nice respite from thinking about salt, water, gel, time...after regaining our feet he keeps his hike up, I pick my feet up and try to capitalize on some good vibes.

I move into Hobart (~40m) knowing that the high point on the course is coming. We bear south-east out of Hobart and spend the next 3 miles going from 7800ft to 9200ft. There's a couple of decent snow drifts along the way once we climb above the tree line. The route starts up the east side of Snow Valley Peak and before summitting circles around to the west face, we traverse a couple miles south along the west side of the ridge. Lake Tahoe dominates the view to the west. The wind makes this portion of the run uncomfortable. The south side of the traverse leads to a quarter mile downhill section of trail that leads to Snow Valley aid. Only Boy Scouts would man this aid station and be having fun. It's windy, cold, and less than half way over. I fill one water bottle, throw down some mountain dew, and follow a giant swedish guy out of the tents back into the wind.

Mile 43. 7 to go. All downhill. Ikea sort of flits down the trail ahead of me, oddly he runs with his arms down by his sides--there's a lot of large rocks and I am sort of worried for him but he seems comfortable so I retreat back to my own issues.
the start of the descent down to the finish....7 miles down. Lake Tahoe facing.
My quads are talking to me but I ignore them because at least I can get a good rhythm and it doesn't mean I am redlining. Ikea lets me pass and for the next 45 minutes I battle the voice inside asking to walk. Below the tree line things warm quickly and I eventually pass a guy who is obviously not feeling well, I notice he has a 50k number on...he's been out for a long time. I encourage him and tell him he's almost there--maybe 3 more miles. I should have given him a gel; but that doesn't dawn on me until I am drinking a recovery beer.

Surprisingly I run into Dusty. He's running back on the course to catch a runner he is supposed to be pacing for the 100. She's apparently not feeling well and is in need of assistance. Dusty runs 15 miles back to get her, then they short cut it back to the car...yet another reason ultra's are awesome. Camaraderie.

I am determined to push from here on out. For the first time I look at the total elapsed time on my watch. I'm discouraged but not surprised that I am an hour off my goal. The final 1.7 miles around the east shore of Spooner Lake is amazing...and flat. The aspen trees are almost glittering in the late afternoon sun, this might be the best section of trail that I have ever run.

rounding Spooner Lake, you can just make out the white tent at the finish through the trees at left.
Rounding the lake I occasionally look over at the tents on the shore indicating the finish line and they never seem to get any closer...5 minutes I tell myself. The trail makes a quick step up and we run 100meters on a fire road before dropping to the right down closer the lake on a small section of single track. The finish comes into focus I see my parents standing in the scrub along the side of the trail. There's Holly...there's the finish.

my wonderfully patient family...

There's probably more to say but blogging is approaching tedium on my, thanks for reading my long winded account of one day. In close, it was a very special event in a very special place, surrounded by some very special people. 



Heeva said...

Great write-up, B. It was cool to read your take on that race. We'll hit it again next year, buddy!

Anonymous said...

Inspiring! Well done Brandon. (Megan S.)

Anonymous said...


Drea Soderin

Anonymous said...

Incredible B!

The Calamond Connection said...

You rock. Amazing.

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