Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tahoe Rim Trail 100

Finally a blog post, I needed something good to motivate me to write. Also, Mike's iPhone has allowed us to do all of our internet stuff while driving down the road instead of needing to stop at coffee shops to use our computers. Hence, we have not blogged a single time!

Short synopsis of the 2 months since my previous post:

Selah is walking. I have been training for my 100 mile race. Mike, Selah, and I headed out on our 6th annual summer roadtrip June 8th and have been to Yosemite, Lassen, Redwoods, Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, Seattle (Mike ran the Rock 'n Roll 1/2 marathon), Tahoe, and now Iowa. We have kept ourselves busy running, climbing, biking, visiting friends and family, and generally having a great time. We truly appreciate the fact that we have the opportunity to spend so much quality time with the people we love.

Selah spent her summer as any kid should: dirty and outside.

My training for Tahoe has really been years in the making, but most notably I did a 50 miler in May and a road marathon two weeks before the race. A quick note on the marathon...I was trying to use it as a training run, but just can't help but get competitive once that starting line gun goes off. It was a fast and flat marathon and I ended up doing the first half in 1:35, a little fast for me. There was an out and back from miles 5 to 18, so I could see that I was in 3rd place. Instead of being smart and just keeping steady, I decided to start surging to maintain my place. I paid for it later and had a slower second half for a finishing time of 3:24:17 (7:47 pace) and 8th woman of 190. A 6 minute PR, not too shabby.

Between the marathon and Tahoe, I ran only twice and did a few days of hiking. I think the rest was just what I needed, both physically and mentally. I tried not to think about the race and was able to sleep well and eat normally. When I think about racing too much, I tend to have a hard time eating and sleeping, so that was good for me.

Wes and Stef arrived a few days early, so we backpacked into the Incredible Hulk to climb and hang out.

My parents, brother and sister-in-law, and us all arrived in Tahoe on Monday, 6 days before the race. We rented a big condo and had wonderful family time full of laughter, conversation, hiking, lake time, climbing, and lots of food and beer.

We spent a day climbing at Lover's Leap. Here's dad on a steep and exposed pitch.

Found a natural waterslide at the end of the day. So nice!

Selah and Grandma playing by the lake.

Friday was the pre-race meeting in Carson City and Wes joined me for the drive. I shyly raised my hand when they asked who was running their first 100 and looked around to see just a few other hands up. They warned us about the heat (mid to high 80's), a large aggressive bear, and the strenuous new course that added about 4,000 feet of vertical. They weighed us and checked our blood pressure (I was a bit hypertensive with the nerves, 133/80). They put wrist bands on us with our pre-race weights and 3%, 5%, and 7% changes both up and down. If any racer was to lose or gain 7% of their weight, they had to sit at that aid station and attempt to get back to normal through hydration, etc. I dropped off a single drop bag and then we headed back to the condo for a spaghetti feast and some rest.

For those of you that are interested, here is what I had in my drop bag. Note that we went through this aid station a total of 6 times on the course and that my crew was at 3 other points on the course.

  • spray on sunscreen (it's easier to spray over very dirty skin)
  • baby wipes (SO NICE! I washed my face a few times, as well as other tender areas and I would highly recommend having these available)
  • headlamp and batteries
  • 4 peanut butter and banana wraps and a few pieces of homemade pizza (I ate only half of one wrap and 1 piece of pizza, they made me sick to my stomach)
  • electrolyte caps
  • ibuprofen
  • caffeine pills (didn't use them)
  • blister kit with bandaids, moleskin, skin glue, tape, topical lidocaine
  • two long underwear tops
  • 5 king size Snicker bars (ate most of them)
  • spare water bottle
I had the following items for my crew to have ready for me at check points:
  • shoes borrowed from El 1/2 size larger than mine
  • spare shorts, sports bra, and top (didn't use them)
  • extra socks (changed into new shoes and socks at mile 50)
  • super lightweight windbreaker
  • food
Thankfully, I was able to go to sleep around 9:30 Friday night in preparation for my 3:30 am alarm and 5:00 race start. Selah woke up a couple of times during the night, but otherwise I slept pretty well. I had the coffee pot ready to go the night before, so walked upstairs and turned it on and got dressed for the day. Even at 4:00, when we left the condo, it was already warm enough for just shorts and a T-Shirt. It was going to be a hot day.

Mike drove me to Spooner Lake State Park, the start/finish and 50 mile turnaround. Runners were milling about everywhere and everyone was getting excited. The race volunteers all wore bathrobes, slippers, and curlers in their hair, perfect for lightening the mood. We milled down to the start area and I found another woman that had raised her hand the day before. Off we went into the dark for the start of 100 miles! So anticlimactic, really, as we all started off by walking.

It was 6 miles and a 1500 foot climb to the first aid station above the beautiful Marlette Lake and I took it really easy, running any downhill, walking even the slightest uphill and running some of the flat. I talked to all kinds of people that I would see throughout the long day. From Hobart aid station, we got onto single track and weaved around the west side of Marlette and Harlan Peaks, then had a nice drop into Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 11. A quick weight check and some food in, and off we went on the notorious Red House Loop, a 6.5 mile lollipop type loop that ends back at Tunnel Creek. I was feeling great, so I booked it on the steep downhill to the Red House and power hiked back out, passing many people. To this Colorado girl, a 1200 foot climb in 1.5 miles wasn't as strenuous as they had warned. The only thing slowing me down was that I seemed to have to pee every couple miles.

From Tunnel Creek, the course took us north again towards Diamond Peak ski area. It was flat and rolling for about 8 miles, then 5 miles of downhill to the 30 mile aid station. I felt amazing and ran those 13 miles in just over 2 hours, fast enough for my family to show up 30 minutes after I had left the AS (they were watching live updates online). I think it was a mistake to go so fast, and I paid for it later. I must admit, I was pretty sad and disappointed when I showed up and had no cheering section waiting for me, but I decided I had to get over it and move on. I couldn't let my emotions get me down. Fortunately, Olga caught up to me at the aid station and we were able to climb the steep ski area out of there together, power hiking past guys like they were standing still. We both have some buns of steel to get us up those steep climbs! She was so wonderful to talk to! What an inspiration, with many many many ultras under her belt, a constant smile, and a charming Russian accent. At the top of the ski area, I took a little break in the shade and she took off ahead. She almost went off course at an unmarked turn, but this rookie had pored over the map for enough hours to memorize the course. Thankfully, I turned her around. (A few other runners weren't so lucky: the second place female came roaring past me at mile 40, stating she had gotten lost for 6 miles at that turn, and ended up DNFing in frustration).

From the top of Diamond Peak, the course heads back south to Tunnel Creek, back around Harlan and Marlette Peaks to Hobart Aid station, and then splits slightly east to the top of Snow Valley Peak, mile 42 and the high point of the course (9200'). I was feeling really strong at the top of the peak, had no blisters, had no GI issues, not even a sore muscle. As I left the AS tent, I looked right and heard "Boo!" and found my dad standing there! He had hiked up to meet me and run to the turnaround with me. What a morale boost!! I was so excited and just started talking his ear off, telling him how great I was feeling and how happy I was. In fact, I was feeling so great that he couldn't keep up with me and we were only together for about 1/2 mile. It's funny how an ultra is such an extreme emotional roller coaster, because by the time I got to the bottom of the descent to Spooner Lake, I had nearly talked myself into quitting at 50 miles. I wanted to sit on a rock and wait for my dad and was secretly wishing for some pain somewhere so I could have an excuse to stop.

Well, no such luck. I still had no pain at mile 50 and my brother was practically doing cartwheels in excitement to go back out for another loop with me. I couldn't stop or he would be too sad...so I went out again after 30 minutes of eating, changing shoes, and having Mike wash and doctor up a few hot spots on my feet. Wes and I left the turnaround at 6:00pm, 13 hours after starting the race, 50 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing down, 50 and 12,000 feet to go.

The climb back to Hobart was fairly uneventful, except that Wes was jumping around, hooting, yelling, and generally having more fun than I had ever seen. We left Hobart just before sunset and headed into the open above Lake Tahoe into one of the most fantastic views I have ever witnessed ever ever ever. Alpine glow on Marlette Peak, Lake Tahoe, Marlette Lake, a field of Arrow-leafed Balsam Root, Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Cinquefoil, Pentstemmon....OMG!! I had just run about 57 miles and was back on top of the world. Wes and I headed toward Tunnel Creek (by the way, we saw the first 100 miler heading back to the finish here, he was nearly 30 miles ahead of us!) and we were RUNNING!! We averaged about 9:00 pace through the rocks in the dark and arrived at Tunnel Creek to find Olga, who had unfortunately decided to DNF. We left Tunnel Creek towards the Red House with rocket fuel in our veins (remember that roller coaster analogy?).

The Red House Loop has gained the reputation as "a taste of Hell". I didn't think it was bad at all the first time around, but it seemed interminable the second time! By the time Wes and I arrived at the bottom of the loop, I had a couple of very sore blisters and started feeling really tired. I basically could not get the energy to run and just walked all the way back to Tunnel Creek. I sat at Tunnel for a while, weighed in (I was peeing literally every 20 minutes or so but had not lost any weight), and left the AS walking at 11:45pm. We ended up walking the next 13 miles, the longest 13 miles EVER. I had been warned not to get into a death march, ie run even though it hurts and avoid the urge to keep walking forever. I should have heeded that advice and at least tried to run, but I could not muster any strength. The 13 mile stretch between Tunnel Creek and the bottom of Diamond Peak ski area was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Wes turned music on for us and just stayed behind me, constantly telling me I was doing great and trying to encourage me. I remembered a couple of significant turns and kept waiting for them to arrive, but we just seemed to never get there. What had taken me 2 hours on the previous lap took 4:20 the second time. I essentially gave up, quit eating and drinking, and decided to quit as soon as we got to Diamond Peak. I could only imagine crawling into the bed in back of the van and having Mike drive me back to the condo while I slept. I only wanted to sleep, it completely consumed my thoughts. Several times, I sat down on rocks and begged Wes to run down and get Mike to come carry me to the van. I was done. Completely depleted. Over it. Thought it absolutely impossible to go out for another 20 miles. Pissed off. This is the stupidest thing I have ever done. I will never ever do this again and I don't care what anyone thinks. And on and on, you get the picture.

Well, the turns did eventually arrive and I actually did eventually make it to the ski area and immediately crawled into the van to go to sleep as planned. Mike, on the other hand, had been warned by me for months that I would try to do this and his job was to not let me do it. "This is different, you don't understand! I really am done! Quit being such an asshole and let me go to sleep!". Well, darn, he wouldn't listen and made me get out of the van "for a med check, I think you should get weighed to make sure everything is ok". He was totally working me. He wrapped me up in a blanket and helped me walk to the officials, whom I told I was quitting. Mike: "No, no, no, let's just go rest in the lodge for a bit". Me: "No, I'm quitting, you're such an asshole, why won't you let me sleep?! We went into the lodge, he made me eat some chicken soup and I fell asleep sitting up in the chair.

When Mike went to the bathroom, I sneaked back to the van and crawled into bed, ignoring Wes' pleas to have me try again. I dozed on and off between Mike and Wes trying to get me to eat and drink, and eventually the sun came back up. Then Mike pulled out the big guns, he called Sari, my uber tough Primal Quest winning friend. She knows what blisters feel like. She knows what exhausted feels like. She also knows what persevering through it feels like and what success at the end feels like. She told me to put on a new pair of shoes and "just try walking, just a little bit, just try" and I barely got out the words "I'll think about it" between sobs. Then Mike started gyrating his hips to "Freaky Girl" in front of me, claiming I was really going to miss out if I missed his special playlist.

I tried not to laugh, cuz gosh darnit, I was determined to stay mad. But I laughed. And then I put on a different pair of shoes. And then I walked across the parking lot. And then I tried, just a little bit. Wes was still on fire and amped beyond belief, so he decided to stay with me and Mike instead of having Mike take his place.

Heading back out at mile 80.

As I walked out of the AS and up that ski area, Mike and Wes yelled and clapped and jumped up and down in excitement. By that time, it was 7:15 am, 15 minutes before the cutoff. We were the last people to leave and we started passing people within about 10 minutes of starting. By the time we topped the peak, my blister-induced limp had stopped and I was running again. We passed another party just before Tunnel Creek and kept running. We passed 6 or so more runners by Hobart and kept going.

Mike kept yelling "Bone Crusher Joy!"

We hiked and laughed and started having fun and got to Snow Valley Peak aid station, mile 93 and all downhill to the finish. It was then that I realized I was actually going to finish this race. We ran almost the entire way to the end, passing another several runners in the process, and ended up with just over 6 hours for the 20 miles, the same pace I had done it on the first loop.

I crossed the finish line in 32:19, 11th out of 13 finishing females and 47th of 60 finishers overall. 57 of 117 had DNF'd. I persevered. Then I drank a well-deserved beer.

My award. I will now start wearing a belt.

There is absolutely no way I would have succeeded without my mom helping me get prepped, my parents and Stef watching Selah, Wes indomitable spirit for 50 miles, Mike's excitement. This was a family affair.

Will I do it again? Yesterday I said absolutely not. Today I say probably not. Tomorrow, who knows. I truly think that marathons and 50s are more my thing, but i guess we'll just have to see.

What I learned:
  • Sitting still for a few minutes at every aid station to eat, drink, and recover was a good idea. When I blazed through, I paid for it later. When I took the time to rest, I felt energized.
  • Eat and drink constantly. I drank about 8 gallons of water through the course. I ate a few king-size snickers, several chicken and avocado burritos, a piece of pizza, a few cheese sticks, lots of chips, a couple of ham sandwiches, a grilled cheese sandwich, a breakfast burrito, loads of watermelon and canteloupe, a few small smoothies, a peach, a few cups of soup, M&M's, jelly beans, half of a gel (made me gag) and lots more that I can't remember right now.
  • Sugary electrolyte drink almost always makes me nauseous. I tried in the beginning and it had the same affect, so I took electrolyte caps every hour with water.
  • Sometimes it takes 3 hours and lots of encouragement to get moving again, but once you just get moving, you feel better than you think you will. Make sure you have your crew prepared to talk you into things you don't want to do.
If you're still reading, I'm impressed~!


Kate said...

I am SO inspired!! I just bawled my way through your story - you're AMAZING.

In the past year I've started doing some walking events - 2 half marathons, and my next challenge is to run an 11km in October, and then the Oxfam 100km walk in April next year. This is exactly what I needed to read, I am so excited to do it. Going to be reading over this post many times!!

Well done you! What an incredible achievement and all that lovely support! WOW!!!

Micheline said...

Congratulations on completing TRT! I captain the Tunnel Creek Aid Station, and I remember seeing you come through. I'm so glad you persevered, it truly is worth it. Congratulations again!

Joy Joy said...

Way to go on your walking races! I think that sounds harder than running because you have to stay on your feet for so long. I hope this can be an inspiration and give you some belief that you can complete your goals. I suppose that is the whole reason for doing things like this.

I intended to write about you TC volunteers because you were absolutely incredible. I have never seen aid stations where people just surrounded me with help and encouragement as soon as I walked in. Thank you so much for your help!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your amazing achievement! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I have co-captained an aid station for the Hardrock 100 for several years. This year, the race Dr. announced he had removed all the ibuprofen from the AS first aid kits because of considerable evidence of it contributing to renal failure. Just thought you might be interested - since ibuprofen was one of the items you listed as being in your drop bag. The weigh in system used at the TRT 100 seems like a great way to monitor. Again congratulations.

Mapp said...

Congratulations!!! What a fantastic achievement. Selah will be so proud of her mum when she is old enough to realise. Obviously, she may also be tempted to think you're a little bit crazy (but that's ok). Enjoy the rest (pun intended) of the roadtrip.

Olga said...

I think what most best describes your adventure are the pcitures of Mike and Wes being around you. This is what all of us whould have in life! And this is why you are who you are, and why I kept sneaking into your blog from time to time. This exuberance for life is what your family shares. I want to be adopted:) Anyhow, all the lessons learnt are certainly absolutely right, and most likley you'll forget one or few of them, or will need another dozen:) It don't matter - you rock! It was a pleasure to spend time with you.

Olga said...

p.s. oh, and the sleeping picture - priceless. Check out Gretchen's blog for her sleeping arrangments:)

Anonymous said...

This is probably blog stalking but at least I have a purpose! (All I did was google Tahoe 100 and recognized your photos) I saw you at DP AS and tried my best to get your feet in shape for the last 20 miles. It was my first time assisting at an ultra and am trying to determine what works/does not for long distance runners in the dirt. So if you don't mind shoot me an email (uracard at gmail dot com) and please be brutally honest on what worked/did not work. Did the tape I put on fall off, make your pain worse/better etc.
Thanks for any feed back you can give
Congrats on the finish!! I watched you guys head up the hill and figured you had in you.
well done.

Gretchen said...

Oh Joy! This race report was awesome!! I am still crying. I love the perseverance, and the crazy, awesome, enthusiastic determination of your crew. totally inspiring! I see people say this a lot, but it really is true - it is so much harder to run a 100 when things don't go well rather than when it's al smooth and you go fast. But this is so much more rewarding. We get so much out of overcoming the challenges you overcame. You should be so proud of yourself! I am totally inspired. And next time you're in Tahoe, drop me an email and let's go running, or climbing. (Or both!)

sea legs girl said...

Yeah, still reading! What a great summary of what has been going on in your life recently. Selah is so adorable and it makes me really happy to see her growing into such a beautiful girl.

Awesome marathon PR! Always a good idea to call target races training runs.

Your description of the crisis you had a mile 80 was just so vivid and made me really wonder whether or not I'll ever do a 100. I like the way you said your training was years in the making, by the way. Such a true statement. THINK of how many years we run before we can take on an ultra. Very uderappreciated.

Anyway, the picture of you sleeping is on my list of the 10 best running pictures of the year. Talk about a "normal" woman turned trail bum who REALLY needed some sleep.

Congrats! You did it!

Morgs said...

Congratulations!! That is incredible! It makes my feet hurt just reading it! Hahaha! This is something that you will carry with you forever - what an accomplishment! Be PROUD!

Also, I can't believe how much Selah has grown in the past two months! What a big girl! Adorable!

Dave and Kasey said...

Great blog post, Joy! I was so looking forward to reading about your 100 miler experience. It did not disappoint! You are amazing. I love that Wes and Mike ran with you the rest of the way. I can totally picture Wes whooping and yelling his way down the mountain. Amazing job persevering, even when you wanted to quit. Love the belt buckle!

lanerdoo said...

WOW! You are amazing. I love that you had people along side you to encourage and motivate you to finish. I feel like that about life too, we are so blessed to have such an amazing family of supporters. I am proud of you!

Hannah said...


Sultonic said...

Nurse Joy! I sport my buckle all the time. Awesome work getting it done, especially 15 months after having Selah, amazing. See ya out there again sometime...

Hannah said...

Okay I read it all over again and I really LOVE LOVE LOVE the photos of your baby girl! Second runner up is the sleeping shot of course, but that little Selah seems to be one of the happiest, cutest little girls I've ever seen, Oh and the blond whispy hair, I just can't wait to see her and You in August, great job on your achievement mama!

Greg said...

Great report Joy. I almost dropped at DP also. We left at about the same time and I was impressed at how you cruised up that slope. Congratulations on a great finish.

Dianna said...

Wow, I can't tell you how impressed I am that you completed 100 miles! Incredible!!
Dianna Rucker