With two weeks to go before the Super Triple, it was time for a final long run at elevation, and as luck would have it, the Lake of the Sky Trail Runs, which is part of the ultrarunner.net series, was held on Saturday.
Matt Thau and Jethro Smith showed no signs of slowing down their pursuit of ultrarunner.net series points, so having missed the Hotter than Hell race in August due to a forest fire, it was important to pick up some points in this race. Also, it would be fun to chat with running friends, old and new.
I had run this section of the Tahoe Rim Trail before--once in the 2007 version of the Lake of the Sky 50K a week after the Super Triple and once during my TRT thru-run (mile 91-110)--and thoughts of this section were always associated with keywords like "pain," "suffering," "slow," and "exploding lungs." This time, of course, I was fresh, but I still had a healthy respect for the serious elevation changes on this section, especially the steep start.
My shoe choice for the race was, for once, an actual trail shoe--the Saucony Progrid Xodus. I had recently won a pair in Dave "Running Trails in Atlanta" Schoenberg's blog shoe give-away and this would be a good test. Typically, I run a lot of the trails in road shoes, but I knew this section of the TRT was going to be very rocky, so I wanted a little bit more support.
The Xodus shoes are very light for a trail running shoe and they provide excellent cushioning and traction thanks to their super-grippy Vibram soles. I was really happy I picked these shoes and will definitely use them again for trail races.
Just before the race started, I ran into Turi "Runnin' Round Reno" Becker, who is training for the Lake Tahoe Marathon in two weeks. Turi decided to run this race on a whim, instead of a self-supported training road run around the lake--a good choice (I think).
Like me, Turi was running "just-the-marathon." But wait, if that was the case, why did we have different bib colors? It was a good thing Turi noticed this, because I had accidentally been given a 50K bib. We straightened that out and it was time for the 7 a.m. start.
I tried to start my Garmin Forerunner, but it would not cooperate. It has been harder and harder to start it lately, but I think it has finally died for good. No worries though, because my plan was to simply run a nice, easy long run--I did not really need any mile splits.
Close to 90 runners lined up for four different events: the 36-mile "50K," the Marathon, the 2-Person Marathon-Relay, and an 8-mile race. For the first 7 miles, I paced a while with female GP points leader Lainie Callahan-Mattoon, who had recently won the Hotter than Hell 6-Hour run. We caught up on our fall race plans. Lainie is signed up for the Sierra Nevada Endurance Run (a double marathon), which is one of my favorite races. The only problem with that race is that it is usually held on the same weekend as the Tahoe Triple. Good luck at SNER, Lainie!
I paced a few more miles with Alan and Caroline Barichievich from South Lake Tahoe--two very strong uphill runners--and after the second aid station (9 miles), I ran by myself to the turnaround at Watson Lake.
Before I reached the turnaround, I met two marathon runners that were already on their way back. One of them was Tahoe City's Chris Luberecki. I had seen Chris's name in a lot of local race results and it was nice to finally meet Chris in person.
Chris was running in the relay with his wife Elisa, but unfortunately, she got lost on the way back. To my surprise, the volunteers at the Watson Lake aid station told me that I was the first non-relay marathoner on my way back. Mind you, this was a fairly small event with only about 20 runners in the marathon and about forty runners in the 36-miler.
The other runner I had met on my way to the turnaround had been part of Tyler Curley's winning relay team from Auburn (Their winning time was 3:57:59). Hmmm, running up front was not the plan. I was here to cruise in a training run, not to race. That said, there was only a half marathon left and I definitely had not gone out too fast...
I set my stopwatch to see how far I was ahead of the second and third place marathon runners and it looked like I had a 6-8 minute lead shortly after the turnaround--too close for comfort. I turned it up a notch and started going faster on the downhills and powerwalked the hills at a faster-than-normal pace. I knew that if I could make it to the 20-mile mark, or to the aid station at mile 22 in first place, I would have the win in the bag--I love downhill finishes--but I still had quite a few miles to go.
On my way back I ran into a runner going in the other direction. She shouted "I read your blog," but before I could register what she said, I was already 50 yards ahead. Thanks! I found out after the race that it had been Ivy "Strong Legs and Pancakes" Chastain--a runner from Reno whose running blog I've been following myself. Ivy is planning to run the entire TRT next year and she's scouting out a lot of the individual sections already.
I kept looking over my shoulder every 5 to 10 minutes, but to my surprise there were no challengers. I cranked up the iPod with some tunes from my favorite DJ (and fellow Dutchman) Tiesto (his Club-Life podcasts, available on iTunes, are great, free, and great for running).
At the 22-mile aid station, I grabbed some water and a last gel and continued to rocket down the final downhill section, covering 4 miles in less than 27 minutes. Like I said, I love those downhill finishes! Speaking of which, can't we reverse the Rucky Chucky 50K (at least every other year)?
I stuck around a bit and watched the other runners finish. I talked to Jefff Halligan who had come up from Idaho for a training run and I also met Erin Lenzi, who was also running the relay with her husband as part of her final preparation for the Tahoe Triple (they came in second).
As it turned out, my looking over my shoulder had been completely unnecessary, because the next marathon runner showed up more than 40 minutes behind me. Oh well, it had been good motivation to get done quickly!
I thoroughly enjoyed Linda's post-race buffet and talked to some of the other runners. Then decided to soak my legs in the lake and have a nice latte at Tahoe House Bakery, before heading home.
Thanks to Robert, Linda, and all the volunteers for the well-run event and special thanks to volunteer George, who spent 9 hours marking the course perfectly!
Next Up: The main event--The Tahoe Super Triple! Defending the title for the fourth time. Wish me luck!