Just some more pictures and notes to add to the previous triple posts from the day before, day 1, day 2, and day 3.
You would probably not believe it if you looked at the weather at the finish in the afternoon, but the third leg of the super triple (the 72-mile "midnight-express" ultra around Lake Tahoe) was run in some pretty bad weather conditions.
Around 30 runners started the 72-mile ultra run Friday at Midnight. On top of that, there were the Super Triple runners that had finished marathon #2 about 12 hours earlier. Immediately after that second marathon we had gone to lunch and straight to bed. At night, Vicky cooked a delicious, traditional pre-race spaghetti and buffalo meatball dinner in the hotel and we all set down for about an hour, discussing some final race strategy.
Last year, I had bonked pretty hard at the top of Spooner, 20 miles into the race and I was unable to take advantage of the long downhill to Incline Village. This year, we brought whipped potatoes and warm broth on top of the usual coffee, Hammer gel, and Gatorade, in the hope that the new fueling strategy would pave the way for a speedy downhill session.
The aim was to complete the first 46 miles in 8:30, so that I could run the final marathon with the regular marathon runners and perhaps even catch up with Sean and Rocky before the end. I think I might have made it this time, but mother nature had a different plan. I guess I'll try it once more next year :)
After dinner, we went back to bed and then we got up around 10:45, had coffee, loaded up the truck and we were off to the start. The start area was on the bike path that ran parallel with the highway, around Pope Beach. Sean Meissner was there, as well as Sam Thompson, and Akos Konya -- that was going to be an exciting race! It was already drizzling, but by the time the race started, it was actually snowing. Fortunately we had lots of spare clothes, shoes, and other gear in the truck.
Lucia Lake, the 72-mile organizer, did a great job of making sure the event started in time. She later drove around as the roving aid station, helping lots of runners and making sure everybody was safe.
The first part of the race runs right through South Lake Tahoe. Lots of cars honked and many (drunk) people cheered the runners on. However, as soon as we left the city, it became very quiet on the roads. I reached Cave Rock before 2:30 and power-walked most of the way up to Spooner Summit. My shoes had become soaked, so I quickly changed socks and shoes and then pressed on to Incline Village.
Another Super Triple runner, Jennifer Forman, caught up to me in this section. It had stopped snowing and it had become very cold. There was about an inch of snow on the road that had now turned into ice. Jennifer and I were slipping and sliding down the hill and at one point I slid from one side to the other side of the road. It was a good thing there were not many cars on the road!
My left eye was hurting from the snow and hail that I had been running in and I asked Rebecca for the sponge so I could wash it out a bit. We all broke out in laughter when Rebecca showed the sponge, which was essentially just a block of ice and frozen snow!
I made it to Incline Village and we were going to have a quick break at the end of Lakeview Blvd. The early morning sleep deprivation and the tough road conditions were catching up to me. At one point Chris handed me the chapstick and I applied it to my lips, only to find out later that I had forgotten to take the cap off! It was definitely time for coffee!
At the 33-mile mark, just before I had to head back onto the highway, I took a quick 10-minute break for coffee, some whipped potatoes, and just to warm up in general. A bewildered runner came by from the wrong direction and we pointed him back in the right direction. It was hard to get back out there, but once I was moving again for about 5 minutes, I felt better. The roads had not improved much though.
It was pretty clear that it was going to be hard to make it to the marathon start at this point, but we just kept moving forward. I finally reached Tahoe City (marathon start) around 9:10. There wasn't a marathoner in sight and Angel, the Tahoe Triple organizer, was already taking the mile markers down, so it looked like a ghost town. The one benefit of arriving late was that it was very easy for the crew to support me. Dave jr. called the crew and wished me luck in the final stretch (Thanks Dave!).
I made it to the 50-mile checkpoint in 11th place overall and first Super Triple runner. After getting this confirmed, I sent Chris and Rebecca back to scout out how the competition was doing. I had not seen the guy that was in second place (9 minutes behind me) at the start, but in the dark it was hard to tell. It turned out that the closest competitor, Keenan Follis, was about four miles behind me. It looked like Jennifer dropped out due to shin splints and there were a few more runners (but not the second place guy) about six miles back. I had a pretty good lead on the other runners already, so as long as I just kept moving, I would be fine. I power-walked the uphills and ran the downhills and caught up to the first back of the pack marathoners around mile 11.
The last marathon is the most scenic section of the course and I tried to enjoy the great views. I passed the half marathon start and wondered how Sean and Rocky were doing. We called Vicky. She was at the finish line waiting for the boys and a little before 2 p.m. she called to say that they had finished their half marathon together in 2:55. What a great accomplishment, given the tough course! I am very proud of them.
Sean and Rocky crossing the half marathon finish line
Upon reaching Inspiration Point, I knew the last six miles were all down hill. Traffic had just started to move northbound, so an endless caravan of cars was driving towards me. Amazingly, this very arrow stretch of highway that snakes its way down the mountain, does not have a guard rail, so this kept me on my toes. The last miles of the course are always a bit tough, but I knew I was almost there. As I turned the final corner, I dropped my extra shirt and water bottle and sprinted to the finish line for my second Super Triple win!!
We did not have a lot of time left before the awards ceremony, so we quickly took some pictures and headed out. We met Keenan Follis, who was running strong, as we were heading to the car. I ate a quick plate of Nachos at Sprouts (this has become my favorite post-race meal now), took a shower, and headed to the awards ceremony.
In the 72-miler, Sean Meissner had come in second, only a few minutes after Akos Konya. Amazing! Sean (crewed by Thomas Reiss) had caught up with Akos in the last six miles and they had a race to the end. Reno's Lynard Skynrod won the Tahoe Triple in 8:35. He did not break Johan's world record, but that's still an amazingly fast time.
After the ceremony, it was time to relax. We stayed one more night in Tahoe and had a huge breakfast the next day. As we drove home on the beautiful, sunny day, it was hard to imagine that it had been snowing and freezing cold the day before.
Thanks Chris, Rebecca, and Vicky for the awesome crewing support, and thanks Les, Angel, Lucia, and all the volunteers for putting on this great event. Thanks, also, to all of you who wished me good luck on the blog! We had a great time, and we'll definitely be back next year to defend the title. And, next year, I won't be running a double marathon the weekend before the Triple!