This was the hardest run that I’ve ever done! It was also the most beautiful run I’ve ever done. Eight and a half hours after I started, I crossed the finish line. Here is the story of the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run 55k.
The alarm went off at 4:00 am. Long before the sun even started creeping over the horizon, Brian and I dressed in our race gear, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and started out on the 40-minute drive to Spooner Lake for the 6 am race start. We arrived to a full parking lot, so we made our way to the second gravel lot, parked and gathered our gear, and hopped in the bus line. After the minivan to the race start picked us up, we walked down to Spooner Lake for the 55k and 50 Mile start. A few minutes before six the race director gave a few instructions, played the national anthem, and off we go.
The first aid station was located 7 miles in and that was my first mental milestone. The seven miles were slow going, with most of it being a climb. The first mile or so was a very dusty, but runnable on a wide, forest road. Once we hit the single track trail it quickly went to a crawl. Most of the next 6 miles were bursts of running with lots of power hiking. It was almost impossible to make headway and try to pass people, so we chatted with those around us and took in the sights. At the first aid station we hydrated and prepared to make the last bit of uphill to the first vista peak. After another mile or so we reached the crest to be greeted with sweeping views of Lake Tahoe. It was so pretty!
The next section of the race was a great downhill portion that lead into the second aid station. As we walked through I heard someone tell me ‘See you at mile 22’. I had a long way to go before looping back around to this point! Little did I know what the loop around Red House was going to hold. As we left the second aid station we had a looped part of the course that would take us back to the point where Brian and I would split off and he would head out for a big climb for the 50 mile course and I would start the journey back to Spooner Lake.
So…Red House Loop. Ouch! As we started the loop there was an out and back section that took you to where the loop began/ended. The out was a steep downhill. I was practically forced to run. I think even if I wanted to walk it, I couldn’t have. That only meant coming back up it was going to be hellish. As we took the loop, we had a rest stop for a quick water refill and food. Shortly after the stop, I saw something I’ve never seen up close – a bear! A scary, big cinnamon colored bear was minding her own business and walking through the woods about 50 feet from us. We stopped to gawk and then kept running. Shortly after came the climb. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other on the sandy path. After almost an hour I made it up the hill and back to the aid station. At that point, the rest of my run was solo.
I knew I had one more big climb and it turned out to be my favorite part of the race. I meandered up towards Snow Valley Peak, going through two great aid stations before peaking out to see all of Lake Tahoe. The view was clear and serene. I saw Lake Marlette and Lake Tahoe. The nicest boy scouts were manning the aid station at the top of Snow Valley and made the trip up there worth it with their scores of dried mangos and peanuts! I stopped for many photos on this leg and tried to take in all the climbing, knowing the last seven miles would be downhill. I was so ready for that!
The wind at the top of Snow Valley was crazy. It had to be gusting to 40 miles an hour. The time was around 12:30 pm at this point and I was hoping to cross the finish line by 2:30 for a finish around the 8.5-hour mark. Having never done a race at elevation, or anything close to this much elevation gain, I thought it was a nice sounding number – nothing scientific about it at all! Back to the race, I made my way down the mountain meandering across sandy trails, rocky single track, and then on towards Spooner Lake where the trail turned more forest than sand. The downhill went a good 5 miles before it started to level out again and I knew I was getting close to the finish. I had one more water stop to go. As I entered the last couple of miles, the heat really started to get me. I had lost the wind of being up at higher elevation and the wide open meadow landscape, and now the pine trees of the forest with their Christmassy scent were keeping out the breezes. I also started to battle some heat tummy issues as I made my way through the last aid station and towards the lake.
As I turned the last corner I could see the finish tent. I thought, awesome, I’m almost there. That is until I passed a hiker who said, ‘Great job. You’ve got about 15 minutes’. What the eff?! (yes, at this point I did have a few choice words running through my mind!) I thought he surely had to be mistaken. It turns out he wasn’t. I kept going around the lake and it seemed I was running away from the finish tent. Argh! I was getting a little mad at this point, but also knew I was so close to the 8.5-hour mark. I did end up taking one quick walk break to give myself a ‘you can do this’ pep talk and then picked up my feet and willed them to move. I was at the 34.5-mile mark – longer than I had ever run. I rounded the last bit of the trail and had less than a quarter mile to the finish. A surge of adrenaline and accomplishment washed over me and I crossed the finish line in 8 hours and 32 minutes.
I was proud of this race. I had pushed my limits. Doing something you thought you would never do or be able to do is truly a good feeling. I was proud, hot, tired, hungry, and ready for a shower. It was 2:30 pm and I had done more in the last few hours than many people do in a week of running. It was a good feeling and now I’m ready for more! Oh, and state #30 is now complete!