Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Race Report (TRT 100)

Whew! I did it, last Sunday at approximately 1:40pm, I finished my first 100 miler - the Tahoe Rim Trail 100! The first two goals for the year are complete. So, here are the details . . .

Race Prep

Overall, my race prep was pretty decent. I ran the Miwok 100K in early May, and did probably 5 or 6 other 50Ks in preparation for the TRT. I also focused on losing some weight, eventually getting down to 188 the Thursday before the race. My normal weight for the last 5-6 years has been 198-208, and I think cutting a few extra pounds helped.

I also felt comfortable with my gear, lights, hydration pack, fueling, etc. The couple of worries I had going in were a bit of runner's knee that I had picked up about a month ago and the blisters I often get on the sides of my heels. I'd had some chiro and Active Release Therapy done on my knee leading up to the race, and I took the entire week prior to the race off from running in hopes of going in with a pain-free knee.

Heading to Tahoe

We rented a cabin at a place called Holly's Place. It's a really cool spot in South Lake Tahoe that is very homey and pet friendly. There were all manner of dogs running around, including Penny.

We got to Tahoe early Thursday evening and laid low. I wanted to get plenty of sleep while I could. We had dinner at Sprouts, a local hippie/health food place and hit the sack.

The next day, we headed over to the packet pickup and runners meeting in Carson City, about 30 miles away. Here's the big moment - me grabbing bib #622, the name I'd be called by random strangers for the next day and a half.

I then went to weigh in. I ended up weighing 191 with clothes & shoes on, which I was definitely happy with. At Rio del Lago in September 2011, I weighed in at 200 clothed & shoed. Here's me on the scale.

After they weighed you, they gave you a wristband with your base weight, and + and - 5, 7, and 10%. We'd get weighed about 6 or 7 times during the race to make sure we weren't under or over hydrating. Here's my wristband.

And then of course, what's a race without free schwag? I headed over to grab some free flip flops.

I also got a final look at my drop bag for Tunnel Creek as it was getting packed up. There it is in yellow with duct tape, the little guy would serve me well over the weekend!

We had plenty of time to kill so Ana and I went to a bar/restaurant across the street. I had a diet coke, some water, and some pretzel appetizers, and Ana had calamari. There were some other racers milling in and out, and I was itching to get things started. It finally got close to the 4:00 race briefing, so we headed back across the street to the Nevada State Legislative building, where the meeting was held.

Here's the RD and assistant RD giving us the low down.

The key thing I noted was the description of the snow patches between the Hobart and Tunnel Creek aid stations, a section we'd cross 4 times. The RDs said it may be difficult to see all the markers & confidence flags, and that we should keep our eyes peeled. I made a mental note to try to memorize/internalize as much of the course that I could the first time through, when it was daytime and I was lucid. The meeting convened after about 45 minutes, and Ana and I headed back to the cabin for an early night's sleep.

Race Morning

I set my alarm for 2:15am (5am start) and woke up without issue. I think I got about 4.5 hours of sleep, and they would be my last Z's until Sunday night . . . I had my normal race morning breakfast - some toast with peanut butter, a banana, and a couple of cups of coffee.

Here I am getting dressed race morning, being assisted by Walnut.

Well, it was time to get the show on the road so Ana and I headed off for Spooner Lake. She was my crew for the race (no pacer), so we went over the plan one more time on the drive in. She was going to meet me at Diamond Peak (miles 30 and 80) and the 50 mile (start/finish) area. We talked about what I might need, likely arrival times for the various stations, etc.

We arrived at the auxiliary parking and shuttled over to the Start/Finish area, which was a little walk down the hill. Here I am as 5am was approaching.

Here's one of the start line volunteers pointing us over to the start line as the minutes ticked away.

And one more picture of me at the start line.

The clock reached zero, and we were off . . .

The Race

The TRT race is structured around a 50 mile loop. 50 milers do it once, and us lucky 100 milers get to do it twice. There is about 24,000 feet of climbing to be done, and the race is at an average elevation of over 8000 feet. To add to it, there was snow on probably 1-2 miles of the loop (meaning 2-4 miles over 100 miles), and there would be a few unavoidable stream crossings on the course, guaranteeing some running with wet feet. So, we had our work cut out for us.

First Loop

The first aid station was 6 miles in, at Hobart. The race started in the darkness, and there was a little stretch of dirt road before we reached a gently climbing trail. The trail made its way through a nice stretch of woods, and it was good to be running after a week off. Marlette Lake is about 5 miles in, and the sun was up at this point, making for a great view. I made it to the first aid station feeling great, topped off my water, and made my way on.

Heading to Tunnel Creek (2nd aid station) is where we first encountered snow. The first bit was a drift on a sidehill. It wasn't particularly dangerous, but I took my time. Over the next mile or so, there were a few more areas of snow to negotiate. All in all, it was pretty reasonable - I'm glad we did not have the amount of snow that folks at Western States had to tackle. I soon made my way into the Tunnel Creek aid station, topped off, and took off to the Red House loop.

The motto of the race is "A glimpse of heaven, a taste of hell". The heaven bit is for the views, and the hell part is referring to the Red House loop, which features a pretty good climb heading back to Tunnel Creek. I didn't think the loop was particularly difficult, but this was when my feet first got wet. There were 2 or 3 creek crossings that couldn't be taken without submerged feet. I ordinarily don't mind wet feet but I was trying to keep my feet blister free. At any rate, I had shoes back at Tunnel Creek but was saving those to change the next time around (at mile 67). I got back into Tunnel Creek still feeling fine, and went in to get weighed for the first time. I was only down a pound, so I quickly gathered my stuff and moved on.

The next stretch was only 3 miles to the 20 mile mark of the race, at the Bull Wheel aid station. This was a nice section of singletrack with lots of big boulders, which are a hallmark of this course. I made it in to Bull Wheel, which was staffed by 4 or 5 guys who were camping for the weekend. By the time I got there, they had already tapped their keg and were enjoying some adult beverages. Nice! The RD mentioned this aid station might be self serve at night, with the volunteers passed out, and I could see why! I had picked up an extra bottle from my Tunnel Creek bag, since I knew the next section was about 9.5 miles without aid and I wanted to make sure I had enough fluids. I loaded up and was off to the Diamond Peak aid station at mile 30, where I'd meet Ana for the first time.

This section had lots more single track, boulders, and climbing. Apparently, this entire stretch is over 8000 feet, and I could feel it. I've never had altitude issues, but I definitely felt a bit off. Not sick, headache, etc., just "off". In addition, I could feel a blister starting on my right heel.This was my least favorite stretch of the course (both times). I planned on changing shoes and fixing my blister at Diamond Peak. I made it into Diamond roughly on schedule (about 7.5 hours in) and was happy to see Ana waiting for me and cheering me on my way to the weigh in.

Here's me on the scale. I think my lowest weight of the day was 185 (6 lbs down), so I was never in any of the 'danger zones'.

I spent probably 15 or 20 minutes at Diamond Peak loading up, fixing blisters, changing shoes, etc. There was lots of activity at this aid station (one of two main crew access points), so it was nice to get a little second wind from all the second-hand energy. I headed out soon enough . . .

The hill after leaving Diamond Peak is the steepest on the course. I believe it is 2000ft of elevation gain in about 2 miles. The picture above just shows the very beginning, it is not even close to how steep it gets. The RDs had warned us about it on Friday, but as is often the case, words don't really do it justice.

It was on this climb (mile 30-32) when I started noticing some breathing problems. It was like I couldn't get enough air in my lungs and would get out of breath after maybe 15-20 steps up the hill. I wasn't too worried given the altitude and steepness of the terrain, but this definitely cost me some time.

After about an hour climbing this hill, it was a quick downhill stretch to the Bull Wheel aid station. I passed through quickly and headed back to Tunnel Creek, which would be the 35 mile point of the race. From there, it was back through Hobart (across the snow fields), which was mile 40.

From there, the course diverged and went up to Snow Valley Peak. This may have been my favorite part of the course (miles 40-43.3). The first part was some singletrack through the woods, but you eventually get above the tree line and start climbing up the peak. There were some great views up here, both to Lake Tahoe and east to Nevada. Also, Snow Valley Peak was home to the best aid station on the course, manned by a boy scout troop from Carson City. They had set up a bunch of 'Burma Shave' like signs leading to the station, which provided a bit of entertainment and diversion. As you closed in on the station, one of the scouts would come out to greet you by name, ask what you needed, etc. They helped get my jacket unbundled from my pack (it was on their pretty tight and there was a lot of wind on the ridges and peak). I chatted for a few minutes with the crew and then made my way toward the 50 mile mark.

The last 7 miles of the loop is primarily downhill, but never too steep. The first section is on the side of a hill descending from Snow Valley and is quite pretty. The last 4 or so miles are primarily in forest, and there seemed to be no distinguishing points, just back and forth, switchback after switchback. Eventually, about 1.6 miles from the start/finish, there's a water only aid station and a guy pointing you to the Spooner Lake trail. You take this rolling trail around the lake and to the 50 mile mark. Here's me rolling in, looking relatively chipper for having run 50 miles.

By this time, my blisters had gotten worse, and I now had them on both heels. I was going to get them checked out by medical and see if they had any recommendations. I came in to the transition area, and saw Ana and let her know of my plans. She led me over to the medical tent so I could get checked out. Apparently I had an interesting case, as all three medical folk came to check things out.

Ultimately, they recommended against popping the blisters, and instead we covered them with a donut moleskin (pad with a hole cut out for the blister), covered by a blister shield. Unfortunately, I only got the blister shield on the right heel, and this would come back to bite me in a few miles. I ended up spending about 25 minutes in medical, and I was anxious to get going on. For some reason, my contacts were bothering me a lot, and my eyes were completely bloodshot. So, I decided to ditch the contacts and put my glasses on. I also grabbed my lights and changed shirts (took off my 2009 Skyline 50k shirt and replaced it with a long sleeve undershirt and my 2010 Skyline 50k shirt) and put on a jacket, as it was starting to cool down a bit.

I oriented myself again and was off and running for the next 50 miles.

Second Loop

It felt good to be more than halfway there. Even though I knew the second 50 would take me much longer than the first, it's a good mental milestone. As I headed back up to Hobart aid station at mile 56, I noticed my right heel (with the worse blister but blister covering) was actually feeling good, but my left one (without blister covering) was stinging quite badly. An unfortunate side effect of heel blisters is that they cause you to involuntarily change your running gait. I am a normal 'heel to toe' runner, meaning my heel hits the ground first, then rolls forward until I take off on my toes. The blisters started forcing me to land on my forefoot, which was causing a separate set of pains in the balls of my feet and knees from the change. A few miles into the second 50, I knew I'd be battling this pain the rest of the way.

As I transitioned through Hobart, it was starting to get a bit darker. I turned on my lights as I left the aid station and made my way through the snow to Tunnel Creek. On this stretch, the blisters were getting worse, and I decided to change shoes again & redo my blisters at mile 67 (after the 2nd Red House loop). I made it into Tunnel Creek at mile 60 and started Red House.

This loop was more miserable in the dark. I ran as much as I could but really ended up walking most of the way. I made it through the various stream crossings and into the Red House aid station (mile 64), which was a nice respite. I pushed on and made it back to Tunnel Creek and began my next blister fixing mission.

At this point (about 2am Sunday), Tunnel Creek looked like a war zone. Apparently, there were quite a few folks with hypothermia and they were huddled up in front of some sort of super blast furnace thing. Another guy was getting treated for an ankle/foot injury, and another couple of folks were laid out in various stages of disrepair. I heard more than one person mention dropping. I picked out an unused cot, got some moleskin from the doctor, and set about fixing my blisters (I had packed my own blister kit - I will add moleskin for next time).

The basic operation is:
  1. Remove sock & shoe, clean area with alcohol towelette.
  2. Cut moleskin in oval shape, with a hole in the middle.
  3. Apply Tincture of Benzoin where moleskin will meet skin.
  4. Apply moleskin bandage, rubbing it once applied to enhance adhesion.
  5. Apply Second Skin blister patch on top of moleskin and exposed blister.
I did this to both feet. It took me about 25-30 minutes to do this and get new socks and shoes on. I was starting to get a chill from standing still so long, so for good measure, I grabbed another long sleeve shirt from my drop bag before leaving. I then took off for Bull Wheel and Diamond Peak.

Reaching Bull Wheel was pretty uneventful. The folks manning the station were all passed out at this point, so I filled up on water as quietly as possible and started toward Diamond Peak. This was mile 70.

Getting to Diamond Peak was undoubtedly the hardest stretch of the race. I had been running on sore, blistered feet for 40+ miles, and I was barely able to run in the dark. Between keeping an eye out for course markers and navigating the trail, I could really only walk. The many hours of dark were getting to me, although I wasn't sleepy tired (I had taken a 5 hour energy shot at mile 67). With the cumulative toll of my breathing issues, painful feet, and nighttime depression adding up, I had just about conjured up reason enough to quit when I reached Diamond Peak at mile 80. With my breathing, I didn't think there was any way I could summit the peak again. And, with my feet, I thought I would have to walk so much that I'd surely timeout.

I imagine many 100 milers reach this mental state at some point during the run, and I recall having some similar thoughts during Rio del Lago last year (I timed out due to being lost on the course at mile 70). I started to think about what I'd tell Ana at mile 80. But, then I remember how I had pre-coached her to not let me quit, no matter what. I started thinking of how I'd word my excuse, but quickly realized this would never work. She would make me continue. Luckily, this realization coincided with sunrise, and the last mile or so before Diamond Peak. I hatched a plan to have Ana walk with me up the ski run to keep an eye on my breathing. And, I basically said to hell with the blisters. They hurt like hell but were not going to prevent me from finishing this race.

With a definite second wind, I picked up the pace and ran into the Diamond Peak aid station at about 6:30am. You can just barely see my head in this one (I was running in with another guy who was having trouble, but we both ended up finishing).

I wanted to make a quick turn at Diamond Peak so I summoned Ana over hurriedly to relay my plan. I guess I sounded a little incoherent at this point. I told her it was 2 miles to the top of the peak, and she thought I meant 2 miles to the finish. She said, in her best condescending schoolteacher voice - "No Jason, it's 20 miles to the finish." I convinced her I wasn't batty and that I just wanted her to keep an eye on my to the top of the peak. She agreed and we were off after a brief stop and weigh-in.

Here are a couple of shots that give a sense of this hill. The little ants in the first one are runners heading up the multiple false summits. The second one shows the great views of the lake behind us.

After another hour or so of taking 4-5 steps at a time, we made it. We paused a bit at the top and then I headed into Bull Wheel, which was just a few steps from the peak. You can see me running downhill with awesome views into Nevada in this picture.

I stopped to chat with the folks at Bull Wheel briefly. They had floated their keg from the night before and were packing things up. This was mile 82 for me. At this point, I was feeling pretty good, knowing nothing short of a disaster or accident would prevent me from finishing.

With my breathing issues, I was pretty slow on uphills. I would usually trade places with a few different runners and pacers based on whether we were heading up or down. Eventually, at about mile 90 (after the last pass through Hobart), I had a bit of a breakthrough. I realized that if I inhaled through my mouth, I could get enough air in my lungs to not blow up on the inclines. This allowed me to speed up quite a bit (wish I would have realized it 60 miles sooner!).

I made it back to Snow Valley (the boy scout aid station) and stopped for a bit of lemon sorbet. From there it was 7 miles downhill to the finish line. On this last stretch as I closed in on the lake, I chatted briefly with various folks who were wondering what the event was, how far, how many days, etc. I stopped to pet a few dogs and just generally enjoy the last stretch. I saw the last aid station (1.6 miles to go) and began the final approach around the lake to the finish line. It was getting hot by this time (closing in on 2pm Sunday), but I could hear the music at the end, and finally made it across, 32 hours, 40 minutes, and 53 seconds after I started!

I didn't get any finish line photos, but here's me snacking on a burrito a few minutes after the finish.


We hung out briefly, but decided to head back to the cabin to shower and change before the award ceremony at 4pm. I checked out my blisters again, here's a shot for the not too faint at heart.

We headed back over to Spooner Lake for the awards. The winner, Jorge Maravilla, was running his first 100 and finished in just under 19 hours. They handed out some other awards, including a 500 mile belt for some folks that had finished 5 TRT 100s. They eventually called my name and I limped up to get my buckle from George Ruiz.

Yay, my first buckle - here's what it looks like.

So, it's a week after the finish and I'm feeling OK. I have not run yet, but will probably venture out for a few miles tomorrow. I have some continued soreness in my knees and I have a few toes with some limited feeling - a small price to pay I say!

Now I'm planning what's next . . . I will do the Run-de-Vous 50k in late August, the Quad Dipsea in November and likely the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 miler in October. I am not sure about my next 100 miler. I have qualified for the Western States lottery, so I'll definitely put my name in. Given there's about a 10% chance of selection, I won't hold my breath. I will likely shoot for the Headlands Hundred next year (my 'neighborhood 100') and possibly also the Bear 100.

Now, for record keeping sake, here are some stats & notes on gear, etc.

Shoes Worn
  • La Sportiva (three different pairs, for 30, 20, and 33 miles respectively)
  • Montrail Continental Divide (for 17 miles)
Clothes Worn
  • Patagonia 9 Trails Shorts (best shorts ever - this model is a few years old)
  • Skyline 50k shirt (first 50 miles)
  • Patagonia undershirt & Skyline 50k tank top (second 50 miles)
  • DryMax maximum protection trail socks (4 pairs)
  • Stevens Creek 50k handkerchief
  • Ana's headband, commandeered as snotrag
  • Brooks hat (first 50 miles, last 20 miles)
  • Sugoi skullcap (miles 51-80)
  • Tufosi sunglasses (first 50 miles)
  • Patagonia lightweight shell (miles 43-50)
  • Nike running jacket (on and off for the second 50 miles)
  • REI gloves (on and off second 50 miles)
  • Mountain Hardwear gloves (some of second 50 miles, then I lost one before Diamond Peak)
Gear Used
  • Nathan hydration pack (awesome)
  • Fenix flashlight
  • Petzl headlamp
  • Ultimate Direction handheld bottle
  • Amphipod handheld bottle (horrible, would have thrown it into a campfire if I could have - kept detaching from the handle)
  • Body Glide (anti-chafing, awesome)
  • Hydropel (minor hotspot)
  • Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap (super duper quadruple excellent, no runners knee pain at all through the race)
  • Blister kit with Second Skin, Tincture of Benzoin, and alcohol towelettes

As usual, I ate pretty much what felt right during the race. I didn't overload at any point and tried to stay even throughout. I think of everything, the GU and Clif gels worked best for me.
  • Gels (many, primarily GU and Clif)
  • Chews (many, GU chomps, Stinger brand, and Sharkies brand)
  • Water (gallons)
  • Electrolyte drink (some, mostly in the last 50 miles)
  • Coke (a bit)
  • Salt Stick electrolytes (roughly 1 per hour for most of the way)
  • Tylenol (took 12 max strength caps throughout the race)
  • Haribo Gummy Bears
  • Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
  • PBJ Sandwiches
  • Grilled Cheese sandwiches
  • Goldfish crackers
  • PB-filled Ritz cracker sandwiches
  • NuGo Energy/Protein bar
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Lemon Sorbet
  • Black-bean & sweet potato quesadilla
  • Ana - #1 wife & crew of all time, would not have finished without her. Also a photographer extraordinaire
  • Other family & friends - thanks for your encouragement and well wishes
  • Volunteers & RDs - thanks for giving selflessly to help us get across the finish line
  • Ultralist & ultraholics list - for advice, inspiration, etc.
  • Coastal Trail Runs - for providing many opportunities for training and racing throughout the bay area
  • ZombieRunner and Zombie Gillian for gear and good advice and instruction on blister fixing


Baked Spaghetti said...

You didn't give a shout out to Coco and Sue...


Kelly said...

Congratulations! That's an amazing accomplishment. As someone who has skied Diamond Peak twice, the views are absolutely breath taking, and I can't believe you went UP the ski hill.

Also, Walnut is too adorable for words.

Kevin Luu said...

Great job on your first 100miler Jason! And on such a tough course. I did the 50miler TRT last year and that Diamond Peak hill made me cry. Great race report. Hope your blisters get better and your recovery goes well. I'm doing quad dispea this year too, so hope to see you out there.


Baldwyn said...

Congratulations!!!! Fantastic report, solid run, and one heck of a gorgeous buckle!

RunnerChick said...

I really enjoyed your blog! Congratulations! I did the 50 miler at TRT, my first ever. I'm hoping to do the 100 someday! Ironically, my little sister is in your start line photo! (she would be the one in the rather loud outfit...)

Jason said...

Congrats to you as well Runner Chick. I may have some pics of your sister - let me know if you want them and I can send them your way.

SwissRunner said...

Congrats on your finish on a tough race. I'll run TRT100 this year for the first time but it's my 16th 100 miler. Your race report helped me a lot to better understand how the course is. Especially the pictures coming out of Diamond Peak are amazing. Being a uphill fanatic I can't wait to shuffle up those hills LOL. Thanks again for your race report.

SwissRunner said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason said...

Thanks SwissRunner - good luck out there! I think I'll be back to do it again in 2013!