Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tahoe Rim Trail 100

Well, I made it. I finished my first 100 mile race: the Tahoe Rim 100. It was, you know, pretty hard. But I kind of doable too, even for regular guy like me.

Before I forget I should offer a few thanks: to Jasmine and Avery for making the trip and watching yet another race, and putting up with the long hours spent training. And to Dave Bateham for the awesome crewing and for pacing (or rather “Safety Running”) me the last 25 miles, to David Cotter and countless volunteers for putting this thing on.

The Summary in Numbers:

100 miles
10th place
1 Faint
2 liters IV solution at Carson City E.R.

The Long Story

I think I managed about 3 or 4 hours of decent sleep Friday night before the race. At 3:30 AM, we (Jasmine, Avery and I) left the hotel and headed up to Spooner Lake state park for the start. I was one of the earlier arrivals, but within 15 minutes or so it seemed like most everyone had arrived.

The Corvallis group of Sander, Todd, Scott, Dave and I, hooked up at the start. Dave would be crewing for us, and pacing me for the last 25 miles if all went well. Sander was the experienced 100 miler in the group; while Scott, Todd, and I were all attempting our first 100.

We were off at 5:00 AM. For the first six miles I hung with Scott and Todd, and we took it nice and easy, making crude jokes and laughing about being “100 milers” now. Sander was up ahead a bit, and slowly pulled away as daylight broke. I ran with just my two hand-held bottles and a few gel packets in my pockets.

At the first aid station, Scott and Todd stopped a bit, while I carried on. Soon after leaving the aid station, the trail climbed into the first of many high open meadows, crested a ridge, and offered a great view of Tahoe and Martlett lake. I felt really great at this point. The altitude wasn’t bothering me, it was early and cool, and I was having a blast.

I felt good dropping into the Tunnel creek aid station, but needed to hit the porta-potty. After some limited success there, I headed down the steep trail for the “infamous” Red House loop, which featured the steepest descent and then the steepest ascent of the course. I tried to keep it slow on the descent, so as to not ravage my knees and quads too early. It felt a bit awkward, but OK. At the bottom it flattened out for a while, and then climbed a bit up to the actual red house. I caught up with Sander at this point. He had been having some trouble finding a good groove, but seemed to be doing well now. We stayed together as the trail climbed up to the steep section near the top of the loop, where he pulled away again, just prior to the 2nd Tunnel creek visit at mile 16 or so.

I felt good leaving Tunnel Creek, heading to Diamond Peak then Mt Rose, but it was definitely starting to get warm (I later checked the weather almanac, and by the warmest part of the day it was 89 degrees at the 7000 foot level). A few miles out from Tunnel Creek, I poured most of my water over my head, thinking there was a water-only aid station within a mile or so, at Diamond Peak. I saw the ski lift at Diamond peak, and figured I must be close, but… no water. As the miles went on with no water, I was pretty concerned that I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere. It was only after some of the leaders were coming back, after the Mt Rose turn, around that I learned that the water aid station was missing. Well good, I thought, I didn’t miss any turn. But I was feeling pretty dry. I passed a spring, or maybe a small creek, and figured it was worth the risk of Giardia to have a bit of water from it. I guess I’ll know within a couple weeks…

I saw Avery and Jas at Mt Rose (about mile 26), coming in at just over 5 hours. I grabbed an extra water bottle & fanny pack, and kept going. I was a few pounds down in weight, so I drank as much as I could before leaving, and left with three full bottles.

I felt pretty dry, but otherwise OK back to Tunnel Creek (mile 35), and back over to Hobart (mile 40). By tunnel creek my weight was back up a couple pounds, and on the big climb from Hobart up to Snow Valley (mile 43) I felt fantastic. It was fun passing a bunch of the slowest 50km runners during this stretch. The climbs felt great, and the cool breeze was a treat. And the views just didn’t let up.

There’s a long downhill from Snow Valley to the aid station at mile 48.5, and it seemed to stretched on forever, and take a bit out of me. By the bottom I was feeling pretty tired again, and very warm. But all in all, coming into the halfway point at mile 50.2 I felt OK, and had no qualms about heading out for “just one more lap”.

Dave was at the ½ way aid station again, crewing for all of us. He had a frozen popsicle for me (apparently Jas had picked up a bag of them for the Corvallis runners), and did a great job making sure I ate and drank well before heading back out. My weight was down a bit again, but within OK limits. I asked about Sander, and Dave said he’d come through at ~9:30, and had eaten well while there, so that was good to hear.

I left the ½ way aid station at a little over 10 hours. It was definitely hot heading back out, and I was moving really slowly, trying to drink enough and trying to stay cool. I took about 3 hours to run the 10 miles past Hobart back to Tunnel creek (mile 60). I was feeling pretty knackered, and starting to doubt I could do sub 24 hours, but at least I figured it’d cool off soon, and I could ditch the extra water bottle and fanny pack, which had been uncomfortable around my waist for the last 40 miles or so.

I felt good dropping down for the 2nd time into the Red House loop, though my knee was a little stiff and sore, so I kept it slow. I passed the Red House again, and soon after came upon Sander, who was walking terribly slowly. I walked with him a bit, and he explained he couldn’t get in any calories, and was bonked. I was bummed for him, as he’d looked so strong earlier, and I hoped a rest at tunnel creek would bring him around. I pushed on, and felt pretty good hiking up the steep bit back to tunnel creek, and even passed another runner and his pacer.

I tried to eat some solid food leaving tunnel creek (mile 66). I grabbed a headlamp and a handheld flashlight, and a granola bar for the way, and began the long 9 miles to Mt Rose. The first few miles I felt good, gradually ascending, and probably running as often as walking. A few miles in I switched on my headlamp, and kept moving. Sean Meissner and Nikki Kimball passed me heading the other way. Sean looked and sounded great, and I was pretty stoked that he seemed to be having a great day.

At some point along here my stomach took a turn for the worse. I tried a gel, and managed to keep it down, then I tried a tiny bit of granola bar. It all stayed down, but my stomach clearly wanted no more of it. Walking was OK, but every time I tried to run, my stomach felt worse, so I figured I’d walk as fast as I could for most of the last few miles to Mt Rose, jogging only occasionally. A runner and his pacer passed me here. They graciously offered to let me join them, but I let them know I needed to walk for a while.

It actually sprinkled a bit during this stretch, and once a flash of lightning lit up the sky, and the thunder wasn’t too far behind. I actually hoped it would break open and rain for a while, as I was still feeling over-heated, but it didn’t happen.

After a long slog I saw the lights of the Mt Rose aid station (mile 76). It was still a good walk up across the meadow, but I was excited to get there and see Jas and Avery, and pick up Dave, who’d be pacing me back to the finish line.

I took a long time (maybe 25 minutes) at this aid station, slowly forcing some food and liquids down. I managed some fruit, and they convinced me to gag down a plate of noodles. I made a rest-room stop, hoping that would encourage my stomach to move things in the preferred direction. I was nice to hang out with Jasmine and Avery for a while too. Jasmine told me I was looking and sounding great, and Avery seemed to be excited, and she let me know I was “almost done”.

I left the aid station at around 10:45 pm, I think (almost 18 hours into the race). Sub-24 hours was still a possibility, but I tried not to think about that, as I was concerned about staying in control so my stomach issues didn’t take a turn for the worse. Also, as I got up to leave the aid station, my left knee was really stiff and sore, and it took a bit of walking and stretching before it felt right to walk on it.

For the next few miles I did my best to power-walk at good pace. My energy felt OK, but every time I tried to run, my stomach went South. I wasn’t sure if I should just try to puke, or keep going easy and try to nurse it back. Dave and I talked this over a bit, and I opted for the latter. Before too long we ran into Scott and Todd heading toward Mt Rose. They looked to be doing great, and were determined to keep moving through the night, and run it in from the Snow Valley aid station later that morning. On the downside, they told us that Sean Meissner had run into Stomach issues and was now part of the DNF carnage at Tunnel Creek. Major bummer, but it served as a warning to keep it in first gear while I worked through my own borderline stomach.

At Tunnel Creek (mile 85), Dave had me take a few salt tablets, which seemed to help at least keep my stomach issues from getting any worse. I also managed to get down a few shot blocks, and a bit of Sprite. For the remainder of the run, pretty much all I managed to get down were occasional sips of Sprite, a bit of fruit, and a few shot blocks. But while things weren’t getting any better Stomach-wise, they weren’t getting any worse either, and I was pretty confident that I could just keep doing what I was doing, and get to the finish line, eventually. I left Tunnel Creek at about 1:20 AM (20 hours, 20 minutes into the race).

At Hobart (mile 90) they told me I was in 9th place, which really surprised me. Apparently there’d been lots of drops. (In hindsight, I think I was actually in 10th place at the time). Another runner had just gotten into Hobart, so Dave and I kept it quick and got moving, after downing some more salt tabs and Sprite. I wasn’t getting any faster, but I was still moving. I power hiked the ups as hard as I could, and managed to pull away from the lights of the runner and her pacer behind us. On the downs I was pretty slow though, as my stomach kept doing loops. So, in general, I think I lost time on the downs more than the ups, relative to the next runner back.

We kept it really quick at the Mt Snow aid station (mile 93), where I just grabbed a tiny bit of fruit and filled a bottle with Sprite and ice. Not long after leaving the tent, we saw the lights of the next runner and her pacer going into the aid station. I knew I’d been slower than her on the downs, and it was almost all downhill from here, so I did my best to pick it up a notch, despite my stomach and, by this time, my very sore and stiff left knee. I found that with a short, choppy stride it didn’t hurt much to run and my stomach seemed to put up with it. The trail was actually pretty technical in spots, with some nasty rocks to step around or down, which was tricky enough during the day, but extra tough in the dark.

For several miles, I mixed this choppy running with power hiking, until I petered out a bit and was mostly hiking. The downhill went on forever. 24 hours went by before we got to the bottom. I knew once we hit the bottom, there was one last aid station, followed by an easy 1.7 miles to the finish. But before the aid station, we again got a glimpse of a headlamp behind us. Again I tried to kick it up a gear. We got to the aid station, I took a few more sips of Sprite, and Dave urged me to push as much as I could, which I did. We were determined not to get passed this close to the finish. I think I kept up a good pace for a mile or so, before having again to start switching between running and walking. At least by this point, we could see a couple hundred yards back, and knew that nobody was about to pass, and that I was sure to come in under 25 hours and hold my place. I eased up a bit until I saw the finish, so that I could run through. I let out a yell, and finished in 24:51:10, in what I’d later find out was 10th place.

As luck would have it, Jas and Avery had just woken up (they’d slept in the car) and walked down from the parking lot to the finish area, and were there to see me finish and give out hugs. It was wonderful.

I sat down in a chair under the finish tent, and got handed a finisher’s glass and a can of beer. About 2 minutes later the next runner (Jenny Capel) came in, making me glad Dave had encouraged me to keep pushing for so long. After a couple minutes I got up and walked over to the finish line aid station tent, sat down by the heater, chatted with some other runners and crew, and sipped on some apple juice. Unlike shorter races I’ve been in, where the finish line is a big party, this was really quiet and mellow – a few sleepy people and a few tired runners, and lots of quiet.

Jasmine, Avery, and Dave tried to feed me, but I wasn’t really ready to try to keep anything down. Dave went off to try to find Sander, and Jasmine and I decided we’d head back to town, get cleaned up, and try to make it back to see Todd and Scott finish.

So I walked out of tent and started up a little hill toward the car, when I suddenly got quite dizzy. So I sat down, and just stayed there for a few minutes. After a while a couple guys offered to helped me up, and each held an arm as I tried again to walk to the car. But after a few steps, I got really dizzy again and then…. I opened my eyes, finding I was on my back, with quite a few people looking down at me. I had fainted. Dave and Sander were there, as were Jenny Capel and her crew, and of course Jasmine and Avery. They took great care of me – they propped up my feet, threw a blanket thrown over me, and starting forcing down Salt tablets and liquids. Someone found a doctor from someone’s crew, and she checked me out and took good care of me too. I felt a bit silly just lying there on the trail. I actually felt pretty good – I just couldn’t get up or walk on my own. But it was nice just lying there, nice and still.

About this time my mom called Jasmine to see how I’d done. She relayed the message that I’d finished, and had just passed out near the finish line. Sorry about that, Mom!

I had a nice little rest, right there on the trail, while people fussed over me. I got a few annoyed looks and comments as people tried to make there way past, not realizing what had happened. Sander and Jasmine brought orange juice and some hash browns (which Dave garnished with salts from an E-Cap). After a while I was able to sit up and feel OK. With Dave and Sander’s help, I stood up, and again tried to walk toward the car. I got a few yards before getting dizzy again, so they sat me back down, and I rested again. A chair was brought over, and we started a process of walking about 20 or 30 yards at a time, with Dave and Sander’s help, between which I’d sit in a chair for a few minutes. After a rest, I’d walk again while Dave and Sander held on and Avery moved the chair up the trail. We repeated this until I finally made it to the car.

Jasmine then drove me into Carson City, to the ER, where the nicest doctor and nurses you’ll ever meet took great care of me. They gave me two liters of I.V. solution, with anti-nausea medicine, ICE for my knees, and a blanket. They did a bunch of tests (EKG, blood tests, and urine tests) which involved shaving sections of my chest and poking me a few times. I think I fell asleep on the table a couple times too. And they spoiled Avery with juice, popsicles, and stickers. Eventually they had me stand up again, and check my blood pressure again, before sending me on my way, with a clear head and a huge appetite (it was almost noon by this time).

Special thanks to Dave, Sander, Jenny Capel and her crew, the doctor whose name I can’t remember, and the cool folks at the Carson City E.R. for all the help.

I’ve felt pretty good since the race, energy wise. My left knee is still really sore though. I’ve been icing it pretty regularly, and it feels good after a couple Advil. But I going to hold off running for a while and let it heal up well. I’m signed up for the McKenzie River 50k in 7 weeks, so I’m hoping to heal up in time for some good speed training in advance of that. But if I have to skip it, or skip training and run it nice and slowly, so be it. I’m willing to call the year a success at this point, but not willing to exacerbate and injury at this point.

I’m already thinking about what 100 miler to do next. :-)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Training, Climbing, Hiking

Lots going on since the last blog, but no time to write much. So here goes…

The Tahoe Rim 100 is in just 10 days. Yikes! I’m feeling well trained, but not well rested. Hopefully I can rest up well in a hurry! I think I’ve done all I can training wise, between the Mac Forest 50k in May and today: I’ve gotten in long runs of 45, 35, 54, and 42 miles, I’ve been up Mt Hood and Mt Baker for some good, high altitude, long night/day cross training, I’ve squeezed in some speed work during the week, I’ve had some big (for me) weekly mile totals, and lately even some good heat training. And I managed to not hurt myself in the process, too. So I feel like I did what I could… not we’ll see what happens.

I climbed Mt Baker last Sunday/Monday (June 29-30) with Vic ( We had hoped to try the North Ridge, which looks like a seriously “fun” climb with a long approach, lots of “fresh air”, and some steep ice. But the weather was seriously warm – nothing froze while we were there, and a steep snow/ice route pretty much warrants a good hard freeze for safe climbing. Also, the forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms. So we instead opted for the popular Coleman/Deming glacier route, which made for a fine climb in its own right, without the excitement level offered by a more technical route.

We hiked in Sunday afternoon, skipping the lower camp, and instead camping along Heliotrope ridge. There were lots of campsites at the base of the ridge, sheltered by the crumbly basalt cliffs. We opted instead to climb up 150 feet or so to the ridge crest, since the weather was warm and calm, and the views from the ridge crest were spectacular. We had views stretching from Vancouver, BC, to the San Juan Islands, to the city lights of Bellingham, and the Cascades to the South.

We also had zillions of glacier worms in and on the ice surrounding our rocky little campsite. They made for some extra work, trying to obtain “worm free” snow to melt for drinking and cooking. I’m not sure how many worms we ended up ingesting, but I’m happy to report no ill effects.

After a poor night’s sleep, we were up at 1:30, and on our way by about 2:30. We dropped back down off the ridge, then re-gained the boot path that led the way up the glacier, through occasional crevasses. It was still quite warm – I climbed in just a short sleeve shirt, shorts, and wind pants. For the most part the glacier was still well buried by this years snow, and not many crevasse detours were required. We quickly moved ahead of the one party near us, and had the mountain to ourselves. The snow was quite soft, and even with the previous days boot tracks to follow, we post-holed quite a bit. Early on I saw a couple flashes of lightning off to the east, which was unnerving. As the sky slowly lit up, we could see some spooky clouds over the mountain. At one point it even sprinkled on us, just a bit. But the summit stayed clear, and any real weather troubles held off.

By 6:30 or so we reached the summit crater. A wide, flat snowy sheet, with the true summit being nothing more than a 30 foot bump on its far end. It took 10 minutes or so to walk over and up. At the top was the only time we got cold, as the wind was blowing from the North and it was quite exposed. We bundled up, had a good rest and some food, and waited until the sun finally came out from behind the clouds. After that it cleared up nicely, and the weather stayed warm and pleasant.

The descent was easy, plunge stepping, practically running, down the warm soft snow on the "Roman Wall". We passed several groups coming up as we were heading down. It was sort of comical at one point, as a rope team of 4 or 5 was hammering pickets into the snow for protection, clinging to the slope, as Vic and I came literally running downhill, heading down the 30 degree slope in giant, soft, plunge steps.

We got back to our ridgeline campsite by 8:30 am or so, and had a good lunch. Or breakfast maybe. We had planned to spend another night out, maybe do some ice climbing. But it was so early, and the warm conditions were ill suited for ice climbing, so we decided to head home. By 1:30 or so we were back at the car, and by 9:00 pm I was back at home.
My pictures Here:

Avery and I climbed a mountain as well this past weekend. We hiked up Mt June, located about 45 minutes east of Eugene. The trail climbs about 900 feet in ~1.4 miles, and has a beautiful view from it’s rocky summit.

On the drive up, maybe ½ mile from the trailhead, we saw two bears (or maybe the same bear twice) cross the road in front of us. That was pretty cool – I’d never seen a bear in Oregon before. The first bear only offered us a quick glance, but the 2nd bear hopped onto the road, and ran casually up the road ahead of us for maybe 100 feet while we stopped and watched it.
I also saw 4 slugs along the trail. Avery saw five. It was very important to her to mention this.

The hike to the summit was tough, but Avery was willing to let me take a few breaks along the way. It took us about 70 minutes from car to summit, then, after a nice long lunch beak, about 30 minutes to get back down. Avery demonstrated her speed hiking skills on the way back down. She's super quick. She's been giving me power-hiking lessons to get me ready for Tahoe. :-)