Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 (Trail Running Blog Tag)

Just when I wasn't looking over my shoulder, Scott Dunlap tagged me to continue the fun blog-tagging game that Paul Charteris started. Here are my answers to the six questions:

1. the most memorable moment on the trails was…
Meeting my friends Grant, Marie, and their dog Artie at Mile 74 of the TRT100. I had walked by myself since mile 53 and it was cold and dark, so I was really looking forward to meet Grant and Marie at their campsite alongside the trail. However, I was not sure if they would still be up, because I had fallen behind on my projected schedule.

With Marie, Grant, and dog Artie (Photo by Alan Geraldi)

When I met Scott Dunlap on his way back from the turnaround point, I got a real boost when he told me that I had "a fan club" waiting for me about a mile ahead. When I finally arrived at the 74-mile point, seeing my friends and having a chair and hot coffee waiting was something I'll never forget. Ultrarunning is like that; it can strip you down to your core, leaving you with a renewed sense of gratefulness for the most basic and simple things.

Just when I thought about laying down for a bit, I was fortunate enough that Alan came by. We decided to walk the rest of the race together and the rest is history. Unfortunately, this would be one of the last times I would see Artie. Rest in peace, good dog -- you will always be in our hearts.

A close second (I know, that's cheating ;)) was running under the shooting stars at the 12 Hrs at Cool race. I had not fully recovered from TRT100 and started the race with a lot of Jet Lag. After a great first lap, I reached an incredible low and was reduced to simply walking, wondering if I would be able to run again that night. After a quick break, however, an unbelievable runner's high kicked in that just kept going and going. Combine that with tons of shooting stars, some good tunes, a great crew (Thanks Chris!), and an awesome RD (Nancy) and race volunteers it made for one of my most memorable runs ever (and yes, the stack of pancakes at the end also helped!).

2. The best new trail I discovered in 2007 was…
Tahoe Rim Trail Section 8 between Ward Creek and the intersection of the TRT and PCT at Twin Peaks. I hiked this section for the first time with Sean in November. The views in the area around Twin Peaks are simply unbelievable. We just could not get enough of the beautiful views that stretched out in all directions.

3. My best performance of the year was…
Although I had a great, first overall 10K victory at the Daffodil Run 10K and I ran my best 50K ever at Sunsweet Wildflowers 50K in April (2nd overall in 4:06), I would say that my best performance of 2007 was the combination of the Sierra Nevada 53-mile Endurance Run (1st overall) followed by the Draft Horse Classic 5K (3rd AG), and the Tahoe Super Triple (1st overall), all in a single week.
That string of races actually sums up my 2007 race year. The two series I was running in, as well as my favourite race, the Tahoe Super Triple, happened to have five events planned in one seven-day period: On the first day, a double marathon, on the second day, a 5K, on the 5th and 6th day, two marathons, and on the 7th day a 72-mile race. (Wait! This is starting to sound like a familiar Christmas song!).

Leading up to this, I had to think long and hard about what to do. Unlike runners like Chihping, running a 53-mile race five days before the Super Triple was not something I would have planned. In the end, I prioritized the races and I was going to throw everything I had into the Sierra Nevada double marathon in an effort to score top points in the series. I accepted that this would most likely cost me first overall in the Gold Country Grand Prix Series and perhaps the overall win at the Super Triple as well.

I tapered for a few weeks before the 53-mile run, ate extremely healthy, and watched my race weight very carefully. More importantly, I focused on visualizing that running and winning this series of events was possible, without going into unrealistic imagination. In the end it all worked out much better than I could have dreamed off, but I could not have pulled it off without the help of my family, my Tahoe/Indy 500 pit crew, and the support and positive energy from all my running friends!
4. I do not know how I previously survived without...
Bottle Lights, of course! If you have not tried these super handy lights on your water bottles (The Black Diamond Ions weigh less than one ounce), you don't know what you're missing in the early hours of the race. Actually, you will know what you're missing when you trip over a root or when you miss the course markings!

5. The person I would most like to meet on a trail in 2008...
My dad. He recently had a health-related setback, but fortunately he is on the road to full recovery again. The way he dealt with it has been very inspirational and I would love to see him back out on the trail during the August 2008 TRT Thru-Run.

6. The race I am most excited about for 2008...
That's the easiest question to answer: My TRT Speed Record Attempt, scheduled for 16 August 2008. I have wanted to run the entire TRT (165 Miles) in one go for a while now and I am going to focus my training exclusively on this event. Apart from trying to break Tim Twietmeyer's record, this event is just as much about testing my own endurance and having fun with friends and enjoying the trail.

I am super-excited that several fellow runners have already offered to run sections of the trail with me; that should help out tremendously! I'll be posting more about the TRT Thru-Run and next year's schedule in upcoming posts.
Now Tagging:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Take the Quad Challenge!

I recently read The Ultimate Hiking Skills Manual. This little book is well-written and filled with good tips about hiking in the mountains. The first chapter starts with a fun quadriceps strength test to assess your mountain running and hiking readiness. As you all know, your quads supply the strength needed to power uphill and bomb downhill.
So, similar to the Rogue Valley Runner's Park Street Challenge, here's a challenge that you can do from [the comfort of] your home or office -- just post a comment with your results.
1. Stand with your back against a wall. Shuffle your feet away from the wall and lower your body until your knee joints are at a 90-degree angle. Keep your feet facing forward, directly underneath the knees. Keep your head against the wall and let your hands hang to your sides (don't cheat by putting your hands on your legs). See Sean and Rocky's demonstration above and below.
2. Once you are in position, start your stopwatch. Stay in this position for as long as you can. When you can't handle the quad burn anymore and you fall down on the floor with your legs still shaking wildly from the pain, stop your stopwatch and see how well you did. Note: It's amazing to see what happens to your quads over the course of a few minutes.
3. See how well you did and post a comment below with your time and other comments. Repeat this as many times as you want.
  • Less than 15 seconds: Shocking, don't plan on any speedy ascents unless they are on a train.
  • 45 Seconds: Could do better, some more hill work needed.
  • 1 Minute and 15 Seconds: Okay, do three sets of 20 squats a day to build up your quads.
  • 1 Minute and 45 Seconds: Good, ready for some of the classic routes.
  • 2 Minutes and 15 Seconds: Impressive, you sailed through the pain barrier with flying colors.
  • 2 Minutes and 45 Seconds: Top notch, your quads testify that you're used to pushing yourself through the limits.

The Results (so far...):
  • Vicky: 1:15
  • Rocky: 2:21
  • Sean: 4:00
  • Peter: 5:45
  • You: ? -- Leave a comment below with your time!

Warning: Don't do this if you have knee problems.

Tip: Playing some music (or doing this during a conference call, provided you are on mute so others don't hear you collapse at the end) can help and won't be considered cheating.

Have fun!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

An Interview With Tahoe Rim Trail Speed Record Holder Tim Twietmeyer

When I was getting some alternate directions to a closed trailhead the other day at Tahoe Dave’s in Tahoe City, I explained to the friendly folks there that I wanted to run the entire trail in one go next summer. The girl behind the counter replied that her boyfriend had gone out and hiked the entire trail in eleven days straight and that was considered super fast! Well, you should have seen the stunned look on her face when I told her that Tim Twietmeyer had run the entire trail non-stop in just under 46 hours (45:58)!

To ultrarunners, you don’t need to explain who Tim Twietmeyer is. Tim is an endurance legend; he has completed the Western States 100 mile race an unprecedented 25 times (all sub-24; first place five times; current master’s course record holder). Tim is also the first runner to complete the Tahoe Rim Trail in less than two days. All this fame has not gone to his head though, Tim, who is a development manager at Hewlett Packard, is also a great guy and he is always happy to share tons of useful information about his running adventures.

I first met Tim at a trail and ultrarunning presentation that he hosted at Fleet Feet in Sacramento this spring. I asked him a few questions about his TRT thru-run. Personally, I had thought about running the entire TRT in one go for years and of course it would be great to try to set a speed record in the process. That record had been around 55 hours for several years, which seemed fairly soft. However, Tim had come in and methodically knocked about seven hours of the overall time. After the presentation I drove home both inspired and impressed.

Always interested in how people plan and accomplish a thru-run of the TRT, I contacted Tim to ask him if he would want to takes some time out of his busy schedule to answer some interview questions on my Run Lake Tahoe blog. He graciously accepted -- yet another confirmation of how great and supportive the ultrarunning community really is; legendary professionals taking the time to talk to the amateurs. You don’t find that in many other sports! The following is my recent interview with Tim about his record-breaking TRT thru-run in 2005.

About the TRT Speed Record

PL: When did you thru-run the entire TRT in one go?
TT: August 27-29, 2005

PL: What was your exact time?
TT: 45:58; I started on Saturday at 5am and finished at 2:58 on Monday morning.

About the Run

PL: Where did you start?
TT: I started at the bridge over the Truckee River in Tahoe City (in the 64-acres parking lot).
Tim at the Start in Tahoe City

PL: In which direction did you run?
TT: I ran clockwise

PL: Why did you pick that course (start and direction)?
TT: No particular reason other that it was the easiest access from where I was coming from (Auburn). It’s also the lowest point on the trail. One reason that I went this way was to get through the driest part of the course (east side of the lake) when I was fresh(er). There’s about a 20-mile stretch of the trail without any close natural water, so I figured it would be better to do that on the first day than on the second. Also, it looked like getting over Dick’s Pass on day two would be better than trying to get over Radio (Relay) Peak (10,338'). After doing it, it would be interesting to pick an easier stretch to run at night. The south shore was very difficult in the dark.
PL: Why did you pick August to run it (sounds pretty hot)?
TT: I was hoping to do it earlier in the year so that I’d have more light to run with, but it didn’t work out with WS100 and some other events I was involved with. It was also the best weekend for my crew.

PL: Which sections were the easiest?
TT: Two sections:
First was Brockway to Tahoe Meadows, most because that section is absolutely gorgeous and I ran into some Reno runners along that stretch.
The other was From Echo Lakes to Dick’s Pass. The terrain wasn’t particularly easy, but I got two milk shakes at Echo Lake and then got a chance to meet a lot of hikers that were headed out of the wilderness as they headed back to their trailhead on Sunday afternoon.
Tim Enjoys a Milkshake at Echo Lake

PL: Which sections were the toughest?
TT: There were two very difficult sections:
The first was from Kingsbury South to Big Meadow. That was all run in the dark, it has some of the highest altitude on the lake, and it was when I started to feel the mileage. It’s at about 75-100. It’s also when I started getting an extremely dry throat from the dry air and I was having trouble eating solid food.
The second tough section was from the Velma Lakes to Barker Pass. Much of that is in forest and it meanders in several different directions. It’s very difficult to get a bearing of where you are and it just seemed to take longer than I expected. If any part of the trail is longer than advertised, that was it. It was also getting late in the second day and there’s very little consistency to that part of the trail, just a lot of random up and down through what is mostly low lying or forested areas. It was at this part of the trail where my pacer (Mark Falcone) started getting tired of my crankiness.
About Crewing and Pacing

PL: Some sections are hard to get to and trailheads can be many miles apart. What was the biggest single stretch you had to cover?
TT: There were two difficult stretches for crewing:
The first was Tahoe Meadows to Spooner as there is no natural water in that section, so I had to pack it with me (full 100-ounce pack with two hand bottles). My crew hiked up the trail a bit to meet me. It’s about a 4.5-hour stretch and you have to carry all your own stuff. Not only that, it was during the hottest part of the first day (1:30 to 6).
The other difficult section was from Echo Lake to Barker Pass. It’s over 32 miles. Although it has water that we could pump for drinking, we had to carry all our food and being through the middle of the second day, it took us a long time to get through there (9.5 hours).
At the Finish with Pacer Mark

PL: How many pacers did you run with?
TT: I started by myself and ran the first 40 miles to Tahoe Meadows (Mount Rose) by myself. It was nice to run that early morning stuff by myself, as it was extremely peaceful. At Tahoe Meadows, I picked up my first pacer, who ran to Kingsbury south. My second pacer picked me up at Kingsbury south and ran with me to Echo Lakes. My third pacer went from Echo Lake back to Tahoe City.

PL: Did you use spots other than the regular trailheads to resupply? (That is, are there any places where a crew could get pretty close to meet you in the middle of a long section)?
TT: Yes, my crew met my on Martis Peak Road. It’s not a trailhead, but it is vehicle accessible. That was it for help between the roads other than my crew hiking up a bit from Spooner Lake.
Tim and Mark Leaving Echo Lake

PL: I noticed there is no cell phone coverage everywhere. How did you stay in contact with your crew/pacers?
TT: We didn’t. They just waited. We made a cell phone call from up on Dick’s Peak, but that was it. Cell phones could come in handy, but we had everything we needed in the crew car, and we weren’t in any big hurry, so we had time to stop, eat, and then continue.

About Night Running

PL: I guess you ran straight through for two nights. Did you sleep at all?
TT: Nope, no sleep at all. It would have been tough to stop, sleep, and then get going again. The best time to sleep would be during the day, as it’s warmer and you wouldn’t need to bring a sleeping bag. That’s also the best time to run, so we just kept pushing to finish without a prolonged rest.

Tim Leaving Tramway (Kingsbury South)

PL: Did you try to time it to be at specific sections for the night runs?
TT: Nope, the night running, particularly on the south shore was a lot slower than expected. That’s where I lost a lot of time. It took me 7 hours to run 23 miles. There’s a lot of uphill in that area, quite a bit of it is above 9000 feet, and it was some tough running in the dark

PL: What time did you start and end?
TT: What sort of nightlight/headlamp(s) did you use? I was using headlamps and a hand light. I had a Petzl Myo and an LED hand light. My pacers had the same lights.

About Trail Marking

PL: How well is the trail marked?
TT: I thought the trail was extremely well-marked. The only time I got confused was in the ski resort at Heavenly. It was dark and the single-track came off a road, but it was difficult to find the junction. It was nice we had a GPS with us to find that location. Other than that, we didn’t need the GPS. We didn’t take it with us from Echo Lakes, which was probably a mistake as there was a couple of times when we questioned where we were going, but it was more out of my dopiness from being up for 40 hours than it was that the trail wasn’t marked.

PL: Was it hard to find the trail in the dark?
TT: Mostly not. On the south shore we had no problem once out of the ski resort. On the approach to Tahoe City, there was one intersection that had us a bit confused, but we figured it out pretty quickly.

PL: Did you use a GPS system (if so, what kind?) during certain sections?
TT: I had a Garmin Legend with me during the first night, but didn’t use it other than to get out of Heavenly.

PL: I have been recording different sections of the TRT on my Garmin Forerunner and have glued some tracks together. Is there an official TRT GPS track that you can buy/download anywhere?
TT: There’s a downloadable route on the National Geographic TOPO sharing site. I picked up my route and some printed maps from TOPO, and then downloaded the routes to my Garmin.

About Trail Gear

PL: What type of hydration pack or other water supply did you use?
TT: I used a 100-ounce The North Face hydration pack on the longer, drier stretches and hand-bottles on the shorter stretches. In the Desolation Wilderness, we pumped water at Fontanellis Lake. That was the only time we used naturally available water. The rest was carried from trailhead to trailhead.

PL: What type of nightlights did you use?
TT: Petzl Myo 5 headlamp and Streamlight LED hand lights.

Tim Climbing the Trail At Brockway Summit
PL: What kind of clothes did you wear (Running clothes, extra layers, etc.)?
TT: I had some custom sleeveless shirts made for my crew and me by Fleet Feet. It was standard tech-fabric stuff. At night I had a long-sleeve and took arm warmers and tights. It was very cold the first night and into the morning.
PL: What kind of shoes did you wear?
TT: The North Face Ultra 103’s and Nike.
Did you use trekking poles?
TT: Yes, during the night on the south side of the lake I used trekking poles, but ditched them once it got light again.

PL: Was there anything else that you really needed?
TT: Not really. I had a good set of maps that I was using, including the TRT map available from Take it Outdoors.

PL: Did you bring music?
TT: Of course, I was running along for the first 40 miles, so I listened to music during that stretch.

About Nutrition

PL: I can’t imagine eating power gel for that long. What did you eat?
TT: Early on, I was eating real food like Clif Bars, PB&J sandwiches, and also liquid nutrition (Boost). Later I went to broth and Starbucks Mocha drinks in the bottle. Any chance I got, I had ice creams or a milk shake (Kingsbury, Echo Lake). That was the best energy.

Taking some S! Caps at Spooner Summit

PL: What did you drink?
TT: Water, Cytomax, Boost, chicken broth, and bottles of Starbucks Mocha. Most of my calories were from Boost as I had a hard time swallowing non-liquids after Kinsgsbury due to a very dry throat from the altitude and dry air.

About the Experience

PL: What was the most memorable moment of your race?
TT: The most scenic was the north shore from Brockway to Relay Peak. The most memorable part was running with my friends through the night and the next day and sharing the trail with them. We had some really good laughs out there, particularly when I kept falling down after about 150 miles. When you’ve been up for over 40 hours straight, you go from being ornery and cranky to laughing about ever 15 seconds.
Tim Leaving Brockway Summit

PL: Was there anything you would have done differently?
TT: I would’ve continued to suck on hard candy early in the loop as my throat got so dry it was difficult to eat solid food without gagging.

About Training

PL: How did you train for this event?
TT: I just used residuals from training for WS and two 100-mile bike rides I did with my local cycling friends. I also trained near my house on some steep uphills, practiced with my trekking poles and carrying a heaver pack.

PL: Was this the longest you had ever run before this run?
TT: 128 miles on the track in 1986

PL: Did you do anything different in training from let’s say training for a 100 miler?
TT: I trained with a hydration pack all the time and did a couple of trips to the trail to familiarize myself with the trailhead locations, particularly the start/finish and those that were easily accessible by car.
Icecream at Kingsbury!

PL: Can you give me any training suggestions?
TT: If I were to do it again, I’d go on one of my long weekend fastpacking trips in the Sierras, just to do some really long days of hiking and to get familiar with carrying a pack. If you plan to use trekking poles, practice, build up your arms and learn how to use them more efficiently.

PL: Apart from the physical training, were there other preparations you made (maps, reading, recon of the trail, mental preparation)?
TT: Yep, I scoured the site for information. I bought the maps, and read some of the TRT book, mostly for descriptions of difficulty and locations of trailhead locations and possible crew access other than at the road crossings. I also downloaded the trail from the National Geographic site to my Garmin Legend. I went on one trail recon trip to see how good the markings were. That wasn’t a problem; the trail was extremely well marked. The best resource is the Take it Outdoors map of the TRT. From that, you can easily assess strategy, crew access, and where it would be best to start and end.

About the TRT

PL: I recently read an article in a Tahoe Forest Conservation magazine about your involvement in sustaining the trails around the lake. Can you tell me how you are involved in trail and forest conservation?
TT: Mostly through the Western States Endurance Run Foundation. We have a partner organization (the Forest Foundation) that works with us to repair trail, understand forest management, and to help reforest areas that have been damaged by fire.
Tim At Snow Valley Peak

PL: How long have you been a member of the TRT organization?
TT: Just since before my run. I’d never been too familiar with it all before then.

PL: How can we get involved in caring for the trails, specifically the TRT?
TT: Go to the TRT web site and volunteer or make a donation. With much of the trail in wilderness areas (Desolation Wilderness, Mount Rose), those trails cannot be maintained with powered equipment, so it requires all handwork, which is very labor intensive. Go contribute on a trail work day. If you’re interested in the Western States Trail, there are trail projects going on almost year round. Just go to the web site and find the trail projects section. It’s a lot of fun. A half-day of work, then barbecue, and go home.

What’s Next?

PL: You seem to like these sorts of solo adventures. Do you have any other epic long runs planned for the future? What about Capitol to Capitol (C2C)?
TT: Yes, this summer. Carson City to Sacramento, probably over 4th of July.

PL: What about a PCT record attempt?
TT: Nope, takes too much time. Maybe in pieces when my kids get older.

PL: Are your boys planning to do anything like this with you?
TT: This year I’m sure they’ll be out there for C2C. I want to finish in Sacramento and have a cigar with Arnold.

PL: Final question: Is there anything else you would like to share about the TRT or about your TRT run?
TT: Go do it, even if you do it in sections or have to backpack the entire thing. Each section has its unique beauty. Even a night run/hike might be just the ticket to experience the grandeur of the lake and mountains. One suggestion would be to do Mount Rose to Brockway on a full moon. That would be spectacular.

At the Finish with Pacer Dave and Tim's Father

PL: Tim: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share all this with us, Tim. You’re a true ambassador to the trails and ultrarunning! I wish you the best of luck with your future running adventures.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Walking in a Winter Wonderland (on Section 7 of the Tahoe Rim Trail)

I got up really early this morning to take advantage of what could have been the last snow-free weekend this year. I wanted to hike section 7 of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) from Echo Lake to Barker Pass in preparation for next year's thru-hike. This 32.5-mile section is the longest single stretch of the TRT (between the official trailheads) and travels for about twenty miles through Desolation Wilderness.

As I drove up to Echo Summit on Hwy 50 around 6:30 a.m. I could just see the faint outlines of the massive mountains and for a moment I felt like I was in a different country. I had packed a lot of clothes, because the weather forecast had predicted a cold and dry day. They were right about the cold; it was FREEZING! The dry weather, well, that's another story.

I found my way to the Echo Lake trailhead. There was only one other car, which looked abandoned. This in stark contrast to the last time we went her on Memorial Day; we could hardly find a spot to park that time. Today, however, the Chalet was closed for the season and the boat service that normally runs on the hour had also packed up for the year. Everything looked abandoned.

The first flocks of snow started to fall I was putting on my different layers. I had enough water, coffee, pb&js, pretzels, and other goodies to make the 32.5 mile hike, but the sky looked ominous. I took off right around 7 and made it to the start of Desolation Wilderness (after about three miles) in about 45 minutes. The snow was just starting to stick a little bit, but by mile five, I was already walking through about two inches of snow.

Upper and Lower Echo Lake (Photo from Memorial Day Hike, the camera was frozen)

For sure, I was not going to be able to hike the entire distance. I would need to get my truck off the mountain or face having to live in the public restrooms at the trailhead until May. I pushed on past Lake Aloha to Mosquito Pass and it started getting pretty slick on the rocky sections. The snow covered several icy rocks and I barely caught myself from wiping out completely a couple of times. This was not a good time to get hurt -- even with all the extra layers (two pairs of pants, two pairs of gloves, and five layers on top), it was still freezing cold (Even the water in my CamelBak froze!) and there was nobody on the trail.

I headed back after about 6.5 miles and took it slow on the way back. I had some coffee and a few sandwiches while taking cover from the snow behind one of the many weathered, old pine trees. Sitting there and taking in the winter landscape was truly spectacular.

I made it back to the truck and was able to get back to the highway without any issues, but I don't think I could have waited much longer. I'll just have to check out this section next summer. Before going home, I checked out a few of the other trailheads nearby and of course I could not pass up a scrumptious plate of nachos at Sprouts.

I also picked up a pair of new trekking poles on my way home and I am eager to try them out in some mountainous terrain (trying lots of new things these days). I am also thinking of picking up snowshoeing this winter (the poles will work for both snowshoeing as well as trail hiking), so I can do something other than sit around and drink coffee while the kids are out snowboarding. We usually go to Squaw Valley (kids 12 and under only pay $10), but I don't know if you can snowshoe there. Does anyone know?
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