As Dean Karnazes puts it " run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up....". What great advice and boy, was it true of the Tahoe Triple Marathon!
Kristen, Maya, Henry (Maya's husband and our crew for the weekend) and I flew out to Reno on Thursday morning. We stopped off to buy supplies in Reno before hitting the road to South Lake Tahoe. On the way, we drove through Carson City, NV state capital, a town I spent much time in during my former life in Corporate America. Not much has changed, life seems to go on.
The pre-race meeting and carbo-load dinner was at Horizon Casino Resort on Thursday evening. The guest speaker was running legend Dick Beardsley whose amusing tales had everyone nice and relaxed. Feeling good so early to bed, early to rise.
Day 1 Emerald Bay to Spooner Lake
I woke Friday morning with a pounding headache and stomach cramps. Nerves I thought as I headed for the shuttle to the start line at Emerald Bay. Boy, was it cold at Inspiration Point (for a So CA girl that is)! Magnificent views of the lake though.
time for a couple of group photos and the gun went off with a bang. A VERY LOUD bang.... it was a shotgun! Scared me half to death.
Downhill for 3 miles, flat(ish) for 19 miles, then a long, long hill climb to the finish area near Spooner Lake. Miserable. Hot. Pavement pounding, braving oncoming traffic. How I hated that hill. How I hated the race. Thoughts that crossed my mind: "Why can't the semis just pull over a little so I don't get blown into the guardrail?" "Whose bright idea was it to enter anyway?" Did I say miserable?
I should add that my headache grew and grew through the race so that every step was like a hammer pounding away and the minor gastric discomfort I had been experiencing the previous day became a major deal. The problem with running a race with "limited aid" is that there are no porta-potties or aid stations every couple of miles, you have to carry everything you might need or hope that your crew is at the agreed-upon place at the time you manage to crawl there. Hats off to Henry for the awesome job he did supporting 3 runners. Hats off to the other "triplers" for their camaraderie and support. Whether we finished strong or crawled across the line, we were made to feel like we had just won the race.
Day 2 Spooner Lake to Commons Beach
Same drill, up early and onto the shuttle bus to the start line (yesterday's finish area). Not so cold today, no pounding headache, and surprisingly, no aches and pains. My strategy today was to fuel better; drink more often and try to get (and keep) calories in. Henry had his instructions and again did a splendid job of crewing (how he remembered what all 3 of us wanted when is beyond me!). We had been warned that today's course was the easiest physically but toughest mentally. True enough. Gentle 13-mile downhill to Incline Village with plenty of opportunity to view the magnificent lakefront properties, then rolling 13-miles with one big hill and slight downhill into the finish area by Commons Beach, Tahoe City. A fleeting glimpse of a bear crossing the road ahead of me. Day 2 was also bike race day so at times it was a little unerving to see a flock of brightly-colored riders swooping down the hill towards me. How come they got to ride down the hill when I had to run up it? Had the race organizers never heard of mechanical advantage? You know you're tired when even your favorite playlist on your iPod irritates you.
Day 3 Commons Beach to Pope Beach (Lake Tahoe Marathon)
By now we had the "up early, off to shuttle bus" drill perfected. Didn't even have to think about it. Get there just in time to get in line for the potties, drop our bags and bang went the starting gun. Today we joined the regular Marathoners. You know, the folks who run one marathon in a weekend, not the crazies who think running three is fun.
Mostly flat first half with a couple of moderate hill climbs and beautiful lake views. The Half Marathoners, 72-mile Ultramarathoners and Super Triplers joined us for the "Hill from Hell" at mile 15. Roughly 500' elevation change over 1.6 miles, not steep compared to what we face in ultras but boy, did it feel like climbing Mt. Everest! The race organizers tried to make the experience more enjoyable with signs like "Purgatory ahead", "Heaven 100ft" and it worked. I got a chuckle out of the signs. The volunteers were amazing. There was even a bagpiper towards the top of the hill, urging everyone on! Downhill for a while then flat to the finish.
Great crowd support, enthusiastic aid station volunteers, breath-taking views. All in all, a great marathon course. Problem was that I was just a little tired from the previous 2 days so I finished a little slower than I had planned. Still, great experience all around.
So to summarize: not an easy race, but tons of fun. Great group of runners, terrific camaraderie. I learned so much from talking to other ultramarathoners and made so many new friends. I even learned that a 15-lb dog is capable of running 3 back-to-back marathons at a 10 min/mi pace. Who'd have thought it?
I not only survived the Tahoe Triple, I had a blast! It just goes to show that my friend Kirk is right - I AM a better runner than I think I am.
A very special thanks to Henry for making this experience happen.... and to Kristen and Maya for sharing the fun! Super Triple anyone?