Monday, July 18, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail 50k Race Report

At the start of the Tahoe Rim Trail I was excited, I said hi to other runners I knew and lined up next to Trish and Monica. The countdown began and we were off and running up the fire road to Marlette’s single track which would take me to the peak and back down.  I ran the entire fire road this year, last year I had to walk some of it. My legs at the start were feeling good, but the one thing that wasn’t feeling good were my lungs. With all those runners on the fire road the dust was unbearable. I was breathing it in and was having trouble breathing, yes some of that trouble was the elevation as we were probably at 7,000ft with the highest point on the course reaching 9,214ft.
Me, Anthony, Kuni Photo by Dasie

Once the single track came so did the conga line. This time I was able to run more of this first major climb. I did incorporate hiking breaks as now my legs were feeling dead from all of the climbing. I would run some hike some and repeat. The conga line wasn’t that bad; I just settled in and focused on myself not worrying about who was passing me as I knew I most likely would be seeing some of these runners later on in the day. Of course it wasn’t all positive thinking, I started to have those negative thoughts. “Why am I doing this race?” “I am never doing this race again, it isn’t any fun it is just a pure torture fest?” I know pretty extreme and I was only a few miles in.  My legs were still feeling dead I couldn’t find any rhythm and I finally told myself that I needed to do something about it; this dead leg feeling wasn’t going to fix itself. I took in some GU and also an S-cap and soon enough my legs were feeling better. Why I didn’t do it sooner I don’t know, just glad I did. Now that my legs were feeling better I was running smoother, the rolling terrain to the top didn’t seem that tough and my attitude changed. Just before I hit the top Monica and Trish came flying by me as I was hiking. I hooked on with them and Trish led us to the top and to our first descent. The interesting fact about Trish and Monica is this is the same area they passed me last year.   

The first descent isn’t that long, but it is long enough and gave my legs a break. I didn’t open up and fly down this descent because my legs were still feeling funky from all of the climbing. I just followed the pace of the others in front of me. As I neared the bottom though my legs were feeling a lot better and I was getting more comfortable on the trails.

At the bottom there is fire road, luckily this fire road was not choking me with dust. I ran when the road wasn’t too steep, but soon enough the fire road became steep. Now how I forgot about the steepness and how long this fire road really is I will never know. I must have had selective memory last year. The hill just kept going. While hiking up I fueled with my GU and just put my head down and kept charging up the hill. The hill does end, but my legs were once again dead.  I hit the single tack and am trying to find my rhythm but just can’t, I take another s-cap and that seems to have helped.
I arrive at Hobart aid station and quickly down a coke, grab another to help wash down my PB&J as my mouth was very dry and my gag reflex was in full effect.  I managed to wash the PB&J down and I was off.

I started climbing and had my first encounter of many through the snow.   There were steps built into the snow to help us out. I was very uncomfortable on the snow.  My feet kept slipping and I knew at any minute I was going to go down. I made it over this obstacle and kept on hiking making my way to Tunnel Creek where Kuni and Dasie might be.  I reached the peak and paused quickly to take in the view and then continued on.  During this stretch there was so much snow I had to cross over. I really had to pay attention to the markings so that I didn’t go off trail. The snow never ended and it started taking a toll on my legs. My feet kept slipping I couldn’t get any traction. I kept moving and when there was no snow I would run, but then not long there was more snow. Some stretches all I could see was snow. There was one very steep section where I had to crawl up it with my hands and legs and as I was doing this I wondered to myself, “How am I supposed to get down that?” I was so happy once my feet were back on the dirt. I moved a bit quicker knowing I had some time to make up.

As I reached the top and started my descent I opened it up knowing this descent would take me into Tunnel Creek aid station. Of course there was still snow on this descent. Switch back after switch back more snow and more snow.  I was cruising and getting a bit more comfortable in crossing the snow when my feet went out from under me and I was down. I tried to scamper back up and my feet slid out from under me again. I scurried off the snow drift and hurried to my feet. My right leg felt like it was just shaved with a piece of glass. It burned, but I didn’t have any time to think about it I had to keep moving.  I did tell myself that I would not be looking forward to the return trip through this section.
As I finished the descent the trail becomes relativity flat. My legs after that descent did not like the flat ground. I was having a hard time transitioning, but I kept them moving and eventually made my way into Tunnel Creek Aid Station. My time at this point was 2hrs and 45 minutes and my attitude was not positive. I was once again hating this race and wondering why I even signed up for it. Daisy and Kuni were there and I said hi to them and I am sure the expression on my face said a lot. I was not having fun, but I was hoping that Red House Loop of Hell would bring me back, just like it did last year. I grabbed a handful of pretzels as I didn’t see any PB&J and made my way down to Hell.
The Red House Loop is notoriously known as The Taste of Hell. I flew down because for some reason my legs were feeling great and my attitude was more positive, maybe from seeing Kuni and Dasie.

Down, down I go further into the depths of the Red House. I passed Monica and Trish and this loop we would be hop scotching, as they would catch and pass me on the climbs. Further down I go until eventually I make it to the bottom. The stream crossings this year were longer and deeper but the cold water felt really good on my feet and my ankles.
 By now it was time to start climbing; I would run some then hike. While hiking I would fuel, knowing I needed this fuel. My throat was very dry and it was during this loop that I thought I was going to get sick. Every time I took in some GU I would gag and have to quickly wash it down. I also developed a very dry hacking cough that made fueling difficult. This cough lasted the entire race. I would just start coughing uncontrollably, but I kept moving. I surely was given a taste of Hell this time around on the Red House Loop. Monica and Trish passed and I just tagged along with them for a bit. When they ran I did, when they hiked I also hiked, I just needed to keep moving and being with them gave me the motivation I was lacking on my own. 

The three of us made it to the Red House and what do we see there, but an aid station even after there was an email sent out saying there would be no aid in the Red House Loop. I looked at the table and kept on moving. I just wanted to get out. The climb kept going, I just kept moving. I passed Trish and Monica on the climb and just kept moving. I kept climbing, running when I could. My quads were feeling really sore and twitchy; I hope I didn’t blow my quads up because I still needed them. I was in survival mode. I didn’t care who passed me I just knew I needed to keep moving and that I would eventually see them again. The climb was brutal this year, I was hacking up a lung, gagging every time I fueled, Ialso found myself singing Go find it on the Mountain,  but I kept pushing forward making my way back to Tunnel Creek. I completed the Red House loop in 1 hour and 30 minutes.
I arrived at Tunnel Creek, re-filled my pack and also had to refill my flask. I was almost empty. I put some water in my flask followed by three GUs; I needed it more diluted so that it would go down easier. I downed some coke and was out of the aid station not too far behind Trish and Monica who passed me at the aid station.  I slowly caught back up to Trish and Monica and just hooked on with them. We were climbing back to the snow and the Hobart aid station. Trish let me pass and I just powered on, thinking in my head they were going to catch me. That lit a fire in me and I increased my power hike. I pushed myself my legs were feeling really good and alive. There was another runner with me and she told me I was setting a good pace. I appreciated that comment and kept it up, running when I could and hiking when it became too steep.  I had to let the runner pass me as there was a rock digging into my heal and it was painful, plus I didn’t want a blister which would just slow me down. I tried to get the rock out but to no avail. So I continued moving and the discomfort soon went away.

I was moving pretty well on this climb and moving over the snow better. But soon the huge area of snow patch was upon me and I had to really pay attention as there were foot prints going every which direction and the markers were hard to find. I was with another runner (Katy) and we chit chatted and helped each other stay on course.  Remember that really steep area, were I had to crawl up it with my hands and feet, well I arrived there and just looked at it perplexed.  Katy suggested going down backwards feet first, I thought about it and then decided to just slide down it on my butt. It was pretty fun and I only wished I had some video of it to share. We continued on our way over the snow and again my feet slid out from under me and I landed on my left side. This fall jarred my back and my hip some. I got up and continued on my way.

We were almost to Hobart Aid station with only two more snow drifts to conquer. I eased myself onto the snow and picked up my pace as it was a bit more runnable, one more snow drift. There was a volunteer redigging out the snow to make it a bit easier and I thanked him for his work.  I arrived at Hobart and just had 10 miles to go. I was excited, I quickly grabbed some paydays and some coke, had my pack re-filled. As I was eating my payday I had a coughing attack which lasted for awhile. I left the aid station still coughing making my way to Snow Valley which was a 3 mile climb.

I was feeling strong on my to Snow Valley, my legs were alive and I was excited as I had only 10 miles to go. Now instead of just surviving the race was beginning.  I started passing other runners the girl who ran some with me from Tunnel Creek to Hobart was with me to Snow Valley. But soon I started to slow down, I decided to let the three runners behind me to pass so that I could focus on fueling and that is what I did. I kept them in my sights though and fueled all the way to Snow Valley, I knew I would need this fuel for the descent to the finish. Snow Valley was now only 1 mile away. We had to cross some more snow drifts and as we neared the top the drifts became longer and slipper. Now only .5 to go to the aid station. Here one of the runners friends were waiting for him and he fell in line behind me, only when I turned around to see who was quickly coming up on me I had panic look on my face and a surge of adrenaline. He quickly told me he wasn’t in the race and I calmed down a bit. He helped distract me from the last climb and then the aid station was in sight. I ran into the aid station at 12:30. I downed two cokes and was off.

I knew the descent was going to be where I would pick up some time. It was 12:30 I had an hour to get to the finish by 1:30 which would 7.5 hours my target goal. That fired me up and ran as fast as my short legs would go. I pushed myself fired up and on a mission. My mission was to pass as many runners as I could. The runners in front of me were my targets. My focus was like a razor beam. I was on a mission. My legs were feeling awesome. I would approach a runner and they would step off as I neared, one by one I passed each runner that passed me on the climb to Snow Valley. Each time I passed a runner I became faster not wanting them to pass me later on. Down I go, down, down the rocky single track trail hopping over rocks, side stepping other boulders pushing off of the boulders moving like a runner on a mission.

I kept moving and I kept passing runners, as I neared the bottom there was a bit of a climb. I power hiked this climb and fueled knowing I would need it. I took in a s-cap so my legs would stay together. Once I say the top of the climb I ran and continued my mission. Another little climb but I ran it now not wanting to lose any time. Keep moving, I kept checking behind me to see if anyone was closing in on me, but there was no one in sight. I saw a runner ahead of me, my next target. I pushed harder and passed them and I kept pushing even though I had a bit of a climb. I told myself it was just like running up to Cool keep my legs moving and arms pumping. Soon I hit the hard right turn gave my number to the volunteers at this “aid station” and kept moving.

I knew this 1.5 miles to the finish was going to be tough as it was flat. I couldn’t slow down but it was inevitable. I kept looking behind me, but didn’t see anyone. I had to walk to stretch my quads out, but I walked for a short time and then I was shuffling. I could see the finish tents and knew I was close, but dam I had to go around the lake first. I was almost to the wooden bridge; I knew it was about .5 from there. Before I hit the wooden bridge I ran through some aspens and my foot caught a huge root and I was doing the super man pose. The pose where my face is almost in the dirt, my arms are held behind me and my legs are pumping as fast as they can to catch up with my falling body. I managed to recover and keep on running but it took some wind out of my sail. I crossed the bridge and the end was near. Then I heard it, the footsteps of runners behind me.  I looked behind and it wasn’t just 1 runner, but there were 2 male runners. I pumped my legs harder, I could hear the cheers but I was so focused on not letting those guys pass me. I pushed harder I was in a dead sprint oh my God I hope I don’t fall. Faster and Faster I went I could feel them right on me, but I wasn’t going to let them pass me, not after all the work I did on this section. I reached the finish line and a step behind me they crossed. It was close, but I held those 2 runners off.
At the Finish and still smiling photo by Dasie

I crossed in 7 hours and 44 minutes and 20 seconds. It was PR for me. by 34 mintues, I had the biggest smile on my face. The 50k was actual 34.4 miles. I am very pleased with my results. Will I do this race again next year???? Probably not, I say that now but when registration comes along who knows. 

Fuel: 15 GUS
          1 PB&J square
          Handful of Pretzels
          Coke-not sure how many
         My all time Favorite-Chap stick-

Blisters: Zero

Toe Nails to be lost: Looks like 1 due to the tree I tripped over with less than .5 to go to the finish.
Hacking Cough for 24 hours

Brand new PR: Priceless
2011 Repdemption is on!
Time to head home!


  1. AWESOME race report! I love reading your recaps!! My heart was pumping reading about the two guys closing in - so happy to hear you didn't let them catch ya! Congrats on a great race and your PR. You're awesome!!

  2. Congratulations Melisa!!! U are such an inspiring competitor! I love your approach the last 1 1/2 hours...focusing on 1 target and cathching it, till the finish!!!!

    Roxana, AKA Jumping Beans :)

  3. Awesome Melisa!! Love reading your race reports!! Melissa S.

  4. Great job!!! I was thinking of you and sending every ounce of adrenaline I had all the way from EDH! :) I have to say, your detail of the race really makes me NOT want to do it! HA It sounds so so brutal!!!

    So no 2012?? Really? Even if a trailmomma decides to try and run it? We could tackle it nice and easy & together! :)

  5. Thanks for once again letting me experience your race without having to run it. Your detail & memory I envy (along with your finish times). Great job.