Friday, July 26, 2013

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Race Report 2013

It was 4:14 am On Sunday July 21 and I had just completed 67.5 miles of the TRT 100, my second loop of the red house in my first attempt at the 100 mile distance. As I approached the aid station I could see the volunteers patiently waiting for me. I already knew what they were going to say even before I had arrived. As they told me that I had missed the cut, I told them it was OK, I know. It’s Ok, all the while smiling just as I had started.

The cut for Tunnel Creek #5 was 4:05am and I had just missed it by 9 minutes. I slowly made my way into the aid station as the volunteers removed my bib. It hit me as soon as my bib was removed, I was done. I would not be finishing my first 100 miler. I slowly sat down and it all sunk in…..the realization that my journey was done….with a heavy heart I just looked around trying not to make eye contact as I knew if I did the tears would start streaming and I needed to be strong right now, I needed to keep it together…All I could do was reflect on the past 23 hours and 14 minute while I waited seeing other runners coming through and pushing on……….

Start To Hobart:

The time had finally arrived; I was toeing the line of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler. I was feeling calm and confident in my training. I was about to embark on one of my biggest journey’s. In 3…2…1… and we were off. I slowly fell into a nice rhythm, slowly making my way to first climb of what would be many for the day. The single track trail came quickly and I immediately transitioned into my power hike, along with 226 other 100 milers. I knew that I needed to be conservative, because it wasn’t about how fast I completed the first loop, it was about being smart in the first loop, being conservative and consistent, finding my pace and not the pace of the runner in front of me or behind me. This was about me.

The climb to Hobart aid station wasn’t that bad, I was fueling with perpetuem and I was also taking in gels. I needed to stay on top of my nutrition. During the descent I didn’t open it up but I remained calm and collective, very relaxed. As I neared the fire road I just thought, wow I am actually doing this! Hobart aid station arrived, I was 6 miles into the race and I was feeling good, but who wouldn’t be feeling good at 6 miles? I knew that my pace was conservative and I wasn’t pushing it. I quickly grabbed some PB&J and I used the restroom, I was very excited at this and I took a mental note to tell Trailmomma (Pam) about the restroom stop when I saw her at Tunnel Creek aid station in 5 miles.

Hobart To Tunnel Creek:

I was slowly approaching on one of the many beautiful views on the day and I was excited. I was feeling good, my fueling was on point and I was focused. The view when I crested the top and rounded the corner was breath taking. I knew this section of trail and I knew that I would have about a nice 4 mile descent into Tunnel Creek with some very runnable switch backs. I was looking forward to it. I hit the switch backs and just enjoyed them, not hammering the pace but staying focused on my nutrition and staying relaxed. I was nearing Tunnel Creek and I quickly assessed my situation and what I needed from my drop bag. I was 11 miles in.

Tunnel Creek to Red House back to Tunnel Creek:

I arrived at Tunnel Creek and the volunteers grabbed my drop bag, I quickly  grabbed a small zip lock bag of perpetuem and refilled my bottle. I was in and out of this aid station and now making way down to the red house or “The taste of Hell.” This was a 3 mile descent, that could potential destroy my quads and my spirits. I took the descent nice and easy keeping everything under control. As I hit the bottom and started the climb to the red house I took in a gel, and continued to remind myself to keep drinking both my water and my perpetuem. The day was warming up and I could already feel the power of the sun just beating down on me.

As I neared the red house I remained focused on my day and not what others were doing. I power hiked the steep hill and slowly transitioned into a run during the flats. I hit the red house and grabbed some chips and continued on my way. Both of my bottles of perpetuem were doing fine and I had enough water. I power hiked the climb and continued on my way. Again, I could feel the heat of the sun and made a mental note to get wet at the aid station. I was now nearing the steepest climb thus far and just put my head down and kept my arms pumping and legs hiking. It was during this climb I noticed a weakness in my legs and dryness in my mouth, like cotton mouth. I didn’t think anything of it besides I am at elevation, that is the dry air causing the cotton mouth. I was nearing the steepest section of this climb and weakness was slowly traveling up my body, I kept moving forward. When the grade wasn’t too steep, but gradual I took out a MOJO bar and began enjoying some MOJO! Maybe I just needed a little bit of fuel, even though I had been fueling.

I was nearing Tunnel Creek, and I again assessed my situation, mentally I was fine. It was just the sudden onset of weakness in my legs and the cotton mouth, but as I got closer to Tunnel Creek that all became a after thought as there was Trailmomma (Pam) my crew. She quickly started firing questions at me, when did you Pee? How do you feel? What do you need? Are you drinking? I was excited to see her as I had just missed her on my first time through. I told her I had peed at Hobart, and yes it was clear. I was going to get more perpetuem and use the bath room but other than that I am feeling good. She couldn’t come into the aid station with me so I was on my own but that was OK as the volunteers were amazing. I weighed in for the first time and my weight was spot on. I then refilled my bottles, my pack grabbed some jerky another MOJO bar and the volunteers took my bandana and filled it with ice and put it around my neck. I was like a pit stop at nascar, everything happened so quickly. It was here that I also took my shoes off and emptied out the little grains of sand that were in my shoes. Once I was done with that I walked over and used the bathroom and happily reported to Trailmomma that I had gone #1 and #2 and that I am happy about that and plan on taking the next section easy to allow my stomach to digest the calories I had been putting in. Trailmomma thought that was a great idea and quickly took a picture and I was on my way. Oh the things ultra runners talk about with their crew.

Tunnel Creek To Bull Wheel:

I was now on my way to Bull Wheel which was 3 miles from Tunnel Creek and 9 miles to Diamond Peek. This section was exposed and super hot. I was maybe at mile 18 when a huge wave of nausea came upon me. Before I knew what was going on I was vomiting, ugh this is not good. Hmm maybe that is way I felt weakness and cotton mouth not too long ago. Great, not what I needed is all I could think about. After getting sick, I thought it was best to slow my pace down even more. I needed to recover from this as well as try and push the liquids and calories back in me. But I needed to wait to make sure I was done being sick. I kept moving forward and could feel the nausea and unsettling feeling in my stomach. I was hoping this would pass. In time, I slowly and I mean slowly tested my stomach by sipping on some perpetuem. Ok, seems to be staying down…..ugh I can feel it coming back up….stay down….stay down…ok, it stayed down. Or not….I knew at this point I was going to have to trick my system, I needed calories. I took an even smaller sip. This time it stayed down. Ok, good. Big sigh of relief. Maybe that is all and I am good to go. By this point I thought I would take a gel in. Bad idea as this did not sit well with my system. I then thought maybe some solid food would help, but nope not working either. The only thing I could do was keep moving and keep sipping on my water and perpetuem to try and get some calories in me. This was a long 3 three miles. I arrived at Bull Wheel and decided to take my time here. I nibbled on some cashews knowing that they had a ton of energy and the salt tasted good and it stayed down. Good, maybe I am done????

Bull Wheel to Diamond Peak: 

I continued on my way and tried to remain positive, but a little seed was being planted I tried not to water that seed and remain focused on the task at hand which was to get to Diamond Peak. I slowly started running again and was feeling ok, not great, but not nauseas. I enjoyed the views and kept the calories coming in. At this point I knew that I was behind on calories but I also knew I needed to be very careful and not overload and ultimately upset my stomach again. I took calories in when I could and got sick when I couldn’t. It was a vicious cycle. But I was still moving, I was still clear mentally and I was still moving forward. I was running and slowly approaching the downhill. I hit the downhill and let me tell you what happened. I started feeling a lot better, I mean I was feeling so much better I started pounding the liquid calories and let my legs go. It felt so good to be running again, and it was such a huge mental boost to be running again. It was during this section I put my plan together, I needed to spend a little bit of time at Diamond to take in calories, change my socks, ect…but the most important thing to do was get calories in. Because at this point I was playing catch up and would be feeling great and then crash. I hit the pavement and made my way to the resort.

I could see Trailmomma and Rachel (my fiancée) approaching. I immediately told them I haven’t been feeling good and I left some on the trail and that I needed calories in me before I left. I quickly was ushered to the scale to weigh in and surprise surprise I was only down 1 pound. Which was pretty surprising to me, but hey I will take any small victory that I can take right now. I then used the restroom as Rachel tried to refill my pack, but the aid station was out of ice and water. I came out of the bath room and sat down. Daisy and Kuni were there and were a huge help. I took my shoes and socks off and sat there. Someone gave me an ensure (this was a last minute purchase and was in all my drop bags, thank goodness) I slowly drank it and I also ate some blueberries and grapes and I even nibbled on a PB&J sandwich. Wow this is great. I am getting calories in. Kuni jumps in and I tell him that my heel has been hurting. He looks and there is no blister, in fact I don’t have one blister and I am 30 miles in. Kuni dries my feet and changes my socks and I retie my shoes. At this point I am getting ancy and need to go; only I can’t find Rachel. Rachel was filling my pack with our ice and getting water from the hose. Pam filled my bottles one with water for getting me wet as I climbed up Diamond and the other with perpetuem. I also took some fruit with as this tasted very good and I carried/ate half a PB&J sandwich. I was ready to go. Daisy offered me some soda and I said sure, I gave Rachel a kiss and thanked my crew and I was off. Ready to take on this beast.

Diamond Peak back to Bull Wheel:

Such a big improvement from a few miles ago. I started hiking and I was feeling strong and focused. I rounded the first right turn and all of a sudden I was vomiting. Agh all those calories gone…SHIT….As I was getting sick a runner behind me told me she had some Tums and offered them to me. I gladly took them and she told me to take it nice and easy on this climb. I thanked her and we both continued on our way only I was now moving pretty slow. The wave of nausea was back and I was doing all I could to keep everything down. Slowly but surely I was making my way up the beast. Right, left, right left, one, two, three, four, five….I was doing anything to keep my mind occupied and off the fact that I was about to vomit again. I leaned over and dry heaved and kept moving. That is all I could do, keep moving. I have to keep moving. I knew back at Tunnel I had ensure and that was about 250 calories, but I also knew that I was playing catch up and it was going to be vicious roller coaster.

I neared a shade tree and I did what I thought I wouldn’t do, I went to the shade tree and sat down for a minute. It seemed to help my stomach and I took this opportunity to take in some perpetuem. I think I took in half the bottle. I knew I needed the calories. I also took in a salt tab. I sat here for another minute or two and slowly got up and continued hiking. I was getting close only a few more false summits and I would be at the top. I hit the top and ran down the few hundred yards to bull wheel, with a huge smile on face knowing I was a bit closer.

Bull Wheel back to Tunnel Creek:

I was once again back at bull wheel, I knew I was behind on calories and took in some cashews and they tasted great. I also ate some oranges and refilled my water bottle as I had used the water to keep me cool. I was hot, that climb took a lot out of me and I began to question how much longer I could keep this up. I quickly dismissed that thought and put a smile back on my face and thanked the volunteers and made my way to Tunnel Creek.

This section is a nice 3 mile single track completely run able section, only I was having to walk some here and there. I would put together a small section of running and then I would have to walk. I just didn’t have the energy and I feared taking in a gel as the last time I did I didn’t keep it down. I did what I could and I dug deep and shuffled along. I wasn’t about to have a pity party, I was still moving, I was still focused, and I was still able to shuffle/run forward. I knew that once I reached Tunnel I would need calories and it seemed that the only thing that was working was liquids. I made my way down, switch back after switch back and slowly arrived at Tunnel Creek.

Here I weighed in before doing anything else and I was still down one pound I think. I than was ushered to a chair as my drop bag was retrieved by the amazing volunteers at this aid station. It seemed that every time I turned around a volunteer was by side asking what I needed, if I was ok. It was here that Tina H. caught up to me as we were within shouting distance on the trail a few miles back. She knew I was having some stomach issues and offered me some pedialite.  I thanked her and was able to drink it all. I also managed to choke down an ensure. I also refilled my bottles, one with perpetuem and another with coke. I knew that the coke would help, but for how long I was not sure. I knew that the next section was going to challenging as it was a climb back to Hobart with very few down hills.

Tunnel Creek Back To Hobart:

I was 35.3 miles in on my 100 mile journey. I kept telling myself to keep putting calories in no matter what happens. I needed them. I thought that the waves of nausea and vomiting would stop, but it didn’t. I left Tunnel Creek knowing I had no other choice. I had to keep moving, I had put some calories in me and I knew that this low would pass eventually. I ran out of Tunnel Creek with one goal in mind to get to Hobart.
I power hiked a lot during this stretch of trail. At least I could still do that, but the nausea and vomiting where still with me. Tina caught up to me and together we continued on our way. We talked and power hiked and then an incredible thing happened….my energy level increased and I was able to increase my power hike as well as run some sections. I took full advantage of this and shouted out to Tina that we needed to run here, now let’s run to that rock, keep going just a bit farther and together we made up some ground. It is amazing how one second I am feeling like total crap and the next I am as high as a kite. Just like earlier though I knew that a crash was coming and sure enough it happened, but the good news was I was near Hobart. I arrived into the Hobart aid station and the energy from the volunteers was contagious. They grabbed my drop bag, and I enjoyed another ensure, this time not choking it down. I was starting to feel better and I left Hobart knowing I had 3 miles to Snow Valley and an amazing view ahead of me.

Hobart To Snow Valley:

I had about 10 miles until I saw my crew again and that sparked me. I was off, power hiking and pushing it up to Snow Valley. I was actually feeling good and getting use to the nausea and vomiting. It was an interesting cycle, I could feel it coming on in waves so when I felt I backed down a bit and when it passed I would push. I wasn’t done and this wasn’t going to stop me.

The climb to snow valley is challenging but I have had worse climbs today compared to this. I think the hardest part was seeing the signs and knowing I had still about 1.5 miles to go and then 1 mile and then .5 is when the juices really started to run. I arrived at Snow Valley, and refilled my coke bottle, took in some broth which tasted great and also another ensure. I knew once again that I needed the calories and I was hopeful that they would stay down.

Snow Valley to Start/Finish:

From here it was all downhill so to speak. The first mile or so I couldn’t put anything together and it was frustrating. But I knew it would open up and I would be running soon. When it opened up I ran knowing that I had less than 5 miles to go in this first loop. I started to put a plan together for when I saw my crew and what I needed. I knew I needed my feet fixed, I could feel the blisters. I also knew that just like every other stop I needed calories only I wasn’t tolerating solid foods and it was getting challenging taking in perpetuem. But I had no choice I had to get calories in me. The hard part about this section for me is when I hit the bottom, I could see where I needed to be, but I still had at least 1.5 miles to go. I just put my head down and remained focused and calm.

As I rounded the corner and saw the bridge I knew I was close. I saw my crew and though I may have looked unsure I knew that I was going to continue on in hopes that the cooler weather with the night will bring me back.

I saw my crew and they quickly ushered me to the scale in which by some miracle my weight was spot on. Either I wasn’t processing my calories or I am just lucky. I then immediately sat down and told them I needed calories but I didn’t know what I could keep down. Rachel went to work on my blisters, I had blister on the inside of my toes (pretty much each toe) and the back of both heels. Trailmomma (Pam) focused on refilling my pack and bottles and my safety runner Jenn also focused on blister repair. My feet were in bad shape. I changed my shirt as well as cleaned my face off and I took in an ensure and attempted to eat some fruit. My crew was awesome, all I did was sit down and they went into action. Mentally I was fine; I wasn’t loopy or confused I was focused on what I needed to do so that I could get back at it. By now I knew that this second loop was going to even more challenging and that I might be racing the cuts.

In what felt like no time, but in reality was longer then I remember I was ready to go. I hugged and said thank you to Trailmomma as she had to get back home, and I thanked and kissed Rachel telling her I will see her at Diamond Peak. I didn’t know how long it would take but I was determined.

Start/Finish to Hobart:

Jenn and I left the start/finish area and I was in great spirits. I was talking up a storm as the cooler temperatures felt great; I was having a huge runner high. As we started on the single track trail I told Jenn that this is the farthest I have run ever. She was amazed that I was power hiking so strong. I still had legs which was great now all I needed was for my stomach to settle down. At that thought a huge wave of nausea came over me and I dry heaved stopping me in my tracks. Ugh I wasn’t feeling good, but I had to keep moving. Just keep moving is all that was on my mind, well that and the Klondike song somehow managed to get stuck and loop through my brain.

We passed a few runners here and there and not once was I passed which was a huge morale boost for me. The nausea and dry heaves were still present. We hit the descent and I took it nice and easy. Still having legs was great. We arrived at the fire road and this climb took forever. Just when I thought we were near the top surprise we weren’t. It was during this section that my dry heaves became more violent. So violent that tears came to my eyes after each incident. The fire road took a lot of out of me, but we crested the top and arrived at the aid station.

Jenn did a fantastic job keeping my mind occupied and she stayed real positive even when the violent dry heaves hit me. I was concerned, but Jenn wasn’t. At the aid station, I immediately sat down, I was spent I was running on fumes. I took in some broth as well as a bottle of ensure. Only this time it took awhile to get the ensure in me. Every time I took a sip I thought it was going to come back up. I used the restroom before moving on and Jenn and I were off to Tunnel Creek.

Hobart To Tunnel Creek:

I was 56.2 miles in and just doing whatever I could to keep moving forward. I remained focused on getting to the downhill section as I knew I still had legs and I could let the trail take me. The climb up to peak was brutal, it was long and each step forward was tough. I was again running on fumes. I was just hoping that the ensure would kick in soon. We arrived at the peak and I just dropped my bottles and told Jenn I am spent. This is where I wanted to throw the towel in. I was empty. Jenn wouldn’t let me though. She told me to try and take a gel in, let’s see if that works. I listened and managed to choke the gel down. I picked up my bottles and we continued on our way.

We were still moving forward but the demons were in my head and I knew that I couldn’t keep going like this for 40 more miles. It was time to talk about what we as in I was going to do at Tunnel that is if I even reached Tunnel. Not the greatest attitude to have right now, but I was empty, I had been nauseas and vomiting most of the day and I was just physically spent. Jenn of course would not hear of it and talked me into chocking down another gel. Hmm, she may be on to something here. I managed to keep both gels down, a good sign and also a small much needed mental boost.

Soon we arrived at the downhill section. I actually started running/shuffling. Again, I still had legs I was moving really Jenn commented so well in fact she had to put her light on the brightest setting. Amazing what a few gels can do and some positive motivation. I was digging deep, deeper than I have before. I even started to think that I can do this. I am coming back, I am keeping gels down this is a great sign. Then ever so slowly the wheels slowly came off the bus. I was once again empty. I could hear the aid station and that motivated me to keep moving.

We arrived at Tunnel Creek and I sat down. A volunteer grabbed my drop bag and I can’t remember if I was able to get an ensure in me or not. I did manage to eat 2 triangles of quesadilla and I didn’t have to choke them down. Then I hear a volunteer shouting if you are going on you have 5 minutes to depart the aid station. They had a hard cut. Crap!!! I looked at Jenn and asked her if I could complete the red house loop before the cut which was at 4:05? She said wouldn’t it better to try instead of giving up? Wow, those are fighting words. As I am reaching into my drop bag and looking at here I say something to the point of 2 hours to do this loop seems not doable. She looked at me chuckled a bit and said; well it looks like you are ready as I shove some gels into my pack. I stand up and am ready to go.

Tunnel Creek to Red House back to Tunnel Creek:

I had about 2 hours to complete this loop which is challenging especially in the dark. We hit the descent and my quads are yelling but not screaming at me. I kept going, knowing I had to get down. We arrived at the bottom and start the climb to red house. I took in a gel and am power hiking like it is the beginning instead of 61.2 miles in. I am feeling great; hey I just might do this.

We arrived at the red house I refill my bottle with coke and we are off. Only the next climb drains me and I find myself walking the flat section. My legs are getting really stiff, so I take in a salt and keep moving. At this point I have maybe 25 minutes to get back to the aid station. I hit the climb and just power hike my little heart out. I knew it was going to be close. If I made it I would be fighting cuts all day, and Jenn just kept reminding me that it will get better with the sunlight. We kept moving and as I see the aid station I look down and it’s 4:05am, and I still had a bit to go.

As I approached the aid station I could see the volunteers patiently waiting for me. I already knew what they were going to say even before I had arrived. As they told me that I had missed the cut, I told them it was OK, I know. It’s Ok, all the while smiling just as I had started.

The cut for Tunnel Creek #5 was 4:05am and I had just missed it by 9 minutes. I slowly made my way into the aid station as the volunteers removed my bib. It hit me as soon as my bib was removed, I was done. I would not be finishing my first 100 miler. I slowly sat down and it all sunk in…..the realization that my journey was done….with a heavy heart I just looked around trying not to make eye contact as I knew if I did the tears would start streaming and I needed to be strong right now, I needed to keep it together…All I could do was reflect on the past 23 hours and 14 minute while I waited seeing other runners coming through and pushing on……….

As I am writing this I don’t have any doubt that I did what I could even when the elements were fighting against me. It isn’t a journey that ends when I cross finish line but a journey that is only beginning. Every step I took that day was a step into the unknown. The unknown of endless possibilities. It is amazing what the body can do, the body’s ability to rebound. It was a roller coaster of emotions all day, but this I know….I completed my farthest run to date and with that is the victory.

As my good friend told me “Your victory was in the fight you gave, not the outcome.”

Well, I be back you might ask? Yes I will be back; I have redemption on my mind.

I send a great big thank you to my fiancée Rachel, who supported me during training and the race. She always has confidence in me. Thank you for making me pancakes, eggs, and sausage before each long run. Thank you for your patience during training and for your understanding when I would leave and not return many hours later. Thank you for your support during all my races leading up to this.

Thank you to Trailmomma (Pam) who gave up her weekend to support me. Thank you for hiking into Tunnel Creek and for your support and energy all day. I look forward to training with you once again in 2014. 

And thank you to my safety runner Jenn. You were calm, motivating, and pushed me when I thought I had nothing left to give. I enjoyed every minute we spent together.  Thank you to my friends and family who believed in me and supported me. 

My journey is not finished and I will be back.