Monday, September 28, 2009

The 2009 Tahoe Triple



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We just came back from another Tahoe Triple Marathon weekend. Here's the recap:

Pre-Race
Training and organization for the Super Triple started long before the actual race. I took a little break from running after a great series of spring races and kicked off my training again in July. My goals were to (a) run sub-19, (b) run sub-20, or (c) just finish the race. Goals a an b would probably be enough for a fourth straight win. A good run at the Lake of the Sky trail marathon two weeks before the race proved (to me) that I was ready. I put in the training for this target race. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my control, these goals will have to wait for next year to be realized.

Thomas and Sean Speak at the Pre-Race Buffet

Chris, Rebecca, and I headed down to the Horizon Casino for the annual pre-race briefing. There were lots of familiar faces to catch up with: RD Les Wright, Triple coordinators Angel and Lucia, fellow 3-time Super Triple finisher Keenan Follis, and many other runners that I had run with in previous years.

Sean Meissner and Thomas Reiss gave the now oh-so-familiar--but still very entertaining--pre-race speech about running the three consecutive marathons and most of the first-time triplers were soaking up the information. Speaker Bart Yasso told us some funny anecdotes from his long running career, and after the pre-race dinner, I met Russell Secker, who had recently run across Europe (check out his new book titled "Running through Countries").

Day 1
It was a pretty hot day (with temperatures near record highs), so I held back a little bit in the second half of the marathon, walking some of the uphills. I ran 3:30--a little slower than I had hoped for, but OK given the warmer weather. I was first in the Super Triple with Lambert Timmermans 15 minutes behind me.

I decided to buy some ice and soak my legs in the bathtub instead of standing in the lukewarm lake (less time in the sun). The rest of the day we spent relaxing. Vicky and the kids joined us in the evening and she brought some killer home-made lasagna for dinner.

Just before dinner, I decided to quickly check my mail and, just like that, my race was over.

Lambert Timmermans (LT) Lines Up for His First Super Triple

As it turned out, the Lake Tahoe Marathon (LTM) organization had applied for a permit too late and Cal Trans and NDOT, being the running fans they are, had denied the permit to run the race. For LTM to continue to host the race would be a pretty bad violation, so everyone was offered a refund or a "downgrade" to the marathon. Super Triple runners could simply run the kids' run, er I mean the the Triple, instead, since they had already finished Day 1. The only alternative was that runners could run an unofficial "72-mile jog" around the lake by themselves.

Rudy Montoya and I at the Finish of Day 1

Some other runners suggested I run the unofficial run, but honestly, that did not make sense to me. If I wanted to just run around the lake at night for fun, I could do that any time. I felt a bit confused; mad and sad at the same time. Mostly, I was wondering what I should do now. Should I go after a certain place in the Triple or just have fun?

The regular Triple, felt like a 5K in terms of raw speed. When I trained for my sub-3 marathon in April, I had done a lot more speed work. Now the focus for the Super Triple had been much more on long runs and perfecting long distance power-walking. I can now easily power-walk 12-minute miles for hours on end and I think that is one of the keys to Super Triple success. You know you're not going to be able to run the entire distance, so the key is to cover lots of ground while you're walking.

Day 2
I decided to at least finish the regular triple (this way, I'll have three regular and three super triple finishes), but--for once--have some fun with it, too. Why not back off the pace just a little bit, and enjoy the scenery, the mountain air, listen to some music?

Having Fun With Chris on Day 2

At the start of the second marathon, I did just that. The first 10 miles is mostly downhill from Spooner Summit to Incline Village. I cranked up some music on the iPod and flew down the hill. Suddenly, an rare runner's high kicked in that lasted pretty much throughout the entire run.

The Finish of Day 1 (Kids on the Sidewalk and the Other Runner Out of Sight Right Behind Me)

With about ten miles to go, a couple of runners passed me. One of them was running just the Saturday marathon (The LTM offers a-la-carte marathons on Friday and Saturday). With three miles to go, Vicky and the kids drove by and Rocky yelled out of the window that it was time to "catch some bogies." Sure enough one of the runners came back into sight. First 300 yards out, then 200. Maybe I could still pick up one more place.

With Vicky after the Race

We entered the downtown area of Tahoe City. Maybe too much distance to cover, maybe not. I sped up some more and kept inching closer and closer. With about 100 yards to go I surged past the other runner and blasted to the finish with Rocky and Sean running next to me on the sidewalk. I finished in 9th or 10th place overall and would have been first again in the Super Triple. I heard LT pulled out with some knee issues in Incline Village--I hope that heals up before you next 100-miler in two weeks, LT!

Blood and Sweat, and... Pavement

We had planned out a good routine for after the second marathon. In the Super Triple, you only have about 10 hours until the start of the 72-miler, so it is important to be efficient. Now that I would have a full night of rest, we could afford to take it easy. I stuck around and chatted with some of the other runners and I spent the rest of the day relaxing and icing the legs in the bathtub again.

With Chris, Rebecca, Rocky, and Sean

Day 3
The final marathon of the Triple is run with the regular (single) marathon and thus with a much larger crowd. Before the race started I caught up with Oswaldo Lopez, who looked like he was in great shape to go after a fast time in the 72-miler. Maybe he could even get close to Rae Clark's 9:06. His attempt will also have to wait another year, due to the 72-mile ultra run cancellation. Oswaldo was going to run the marathon instead.

With Oswaldo Lopez

Before the start, I met Gretchen and Turi. I had run with both of them only two weeks earlier in the Lake of the Sky trail marathon. Sean Meissner looked ready to go, but he would definitely have some tough competition. For example, Lynryd Skynrod, who was first in the Triple had been cranking out some very fast times (2:43 and 2:54 on days 1 and 2) and Ian, and English runner, had been pretty close behind him.

With Turi and Gretchen at the Start

I paced a few miles with Gretchen, who had been out with a cold all week. She was not sure if she was going to run until the day before the race. Well, it was a good thing she did, because she went on to win the marathon--Go Gretchen! (Oh, and I am now adjusting your target time for the Helen Klein 50-miler to sub-7:00, Gretchen!)

Sean Meissner Before the Start

I had fun chatting with some of the marathon runners, including a runner from Costa Rica, who was running his first marathon. I am pretty sure he made it sub-4. I also ran with Dr. Jeff Shapiro, talking about the negative effects of pain killers and too much food during a race. Jeff is a co-organizer for the 200-mile Relay in Napa, which might be a fun race to put on next year's schedule.

With a Runner from Costa Rica

Having fun and running three marathons on three days are not often found in one sentence, but I was enjoying the beautiful weather and the fantastic scenery. It was nice to run with one of the lanes of the highway closed for a change, too.

Female Triple Winner Leslie Stallings Powers Up the Hills

That said, It was bit hard to get a good running rhythm going on the flat parts of the course, but as soon as I entered the hills, things felt better. I would power-walk the uphills and run all the downhills hard, making up for the slower pace on the flats. Sure, the legs were feeling it after so many road miles, but overall I felt OK; the end was in sight.

Power-walking the Uphills

Troy crewed for me on day 3 and kept me fed and watered throughout the race. It was another hot day and it was nice to have some extra water and Gatorade between aid stations. The volunteers on the course and at the aid stations were also doing an awesome job keeping everybody hydrated.

With Jeff Shapiro (Napa Relay)

Once you reach mile 72 in the Triple, at Inspiration Point, you have run around the entire lake. The final 6 miles after that are mostly downhill. First steep downhill and then more gradual and flat.

With Switzerland's Nedis Della Chiesa, a Great Power Walker

I could still make it under 4 hours if I kept going steadily and I made it with a minute and a half to spare. I saw Turi at the finish, who had finished just a few minutes ahead of me. Gretchen had won the female title and, as expected, Sean Meissner had come in first in the marathon. A great win on a hot day.

Keenan Follis and I, We'll Be Back for the Super Triple Next Year to Keep the Streak Alive

Florida's Leslie Stallings won her first Triple, even though this was her first ultra and her only goal was to finish. She pushed hard and it paid off. Lynryd Skynrod won his second Triple and smoked a celebratory cigarette almost immediately after crossing the finish line. Rumor has it that he is considering the much gentler and more lucrative sport of cage-fighting instead of running another Tahoe Triple.

With Blue Benadum (RD for the Malibu Marathon, 3rd in the Triple)

We hung out at the finish on Pope Beach for a while, catching up on race stories and picking up the awards. IRunFar's Bryon Powell was there as well, getting ready to pace Kilian Jornet's TRT-165 speed record attempt. I would have loved to come out to pace or crew for that as well, except, doing that the day after the Triple would probably not be the best idea.

With Ryan Flynn After the Race

Finally, a huge thank you to Vicky, Sean, Rocky, Chris and Rebecca, Troy and Zimfira, and Rory for helping me even though the event we planned for never happened. You rock and I simply could not have done it without you. Thanks!

Sean and Gretchen Finish First in the Regular Marathon. The Masters Winners Jim George and Vickie Lau Next to Them

Next Up: The Gold Country 50K This Saturday!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tahoe 72-Miler, Super Triple Canceled...

I just found out that tomorrow's Tahoe 72-mile run is canceled. Cal Trans and NDOT have denied the permit to run the race. Race organization will automatically convert all entrants into Sundays regular Marathon (so, Super Triple --> Regular Triple).

Since the 72-Miler is the last leg of the Super Triple, this unfortunately ends this year's attempt to win my fourth straight Super Triple. For what it's worth, I ran a 3:30 "warmup" marathon today (7th in the Triple, 1st in the Super Triple) and came in 15 minutes ahead of the next Super Triple runner, Riverside's Lambert Timmermans. It was a really hot day, with temperatures hitting near record highs around the lake.

It's a really weird feeling to be sitting here after so much preparation. At this point, I suppose I'll join the Tahoe Triple "fun run" tomorrow. Not sure if I'm going to go hard or just have fun. By the way, thanks to everyone sending me good luck wishes before the race--that really meant a lot to me!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ready to Roll! (Tahoe Super Triple 2009 Edition)

Well, it's that time of year again. Time for our annual running party! I'm excited and looking forward to another Tahoe Super Triple. Chris, Rebecca, and Troy will be crewing again and Vicky and the kids will join us on Friday afternoon (and she promised that she would cook her famous spaghetti and buffalo meatballs pre-race dinner!)

All Set!

I'll try to post some updates over the weekend and send me those positive vibes!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Lake of the Sky Marathon "Training Run"

I suppose the subtitle of this blog post could be "How a training run turned into a race." On top of that it turned into a race against... my own imagination.

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.

Course Profile--The Marathon Had 4050' Elevation Gain and Loss (Courtesy of LOTS Website)

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.

Cruising Down My Favorite Trail (Photo by Turi)

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 Saucony Progrid Xodus After the Race (with Balega Socks, of Course)

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.

Fellow TRT-165 Club Member Turi Becker (3rd in the Marathon) Before the Race

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.

Turi at the Finish

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.

Second Place Marathon Finisher Jamie Cogley (Watch for his Son in Future Races!)

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!

Lainie Before the Race

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.

Alan and Caroline Barichievich from South Lake Tahoe

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.

Tahoe City's Chris Luberecki at the Finish

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...

Elisa at the Finish After Getting Lost for an Hour

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.

Ivy and Chuck After the Race

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.

Ray Sanchez and Tyler After the Race. Tyler Hill Ran his First Ultra and Finished Strong in 6th Overall (He Might be Hooked on Utras Now)

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).

Sport Store Owner Jefff Halligan (2nd in the 8-mile race) and his Wife Jeni (50K) Came from Idaho to Run the Race

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)?

Gretchen at the Finish of the 50K

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!

Wicked-Fast: 50K Winner (Doctor) Cameron Berg After the Race

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!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Interview with Rae Clark--Tahoe 72-Mile Run Speed Record Holder

Rae Clark at the California International Marathon (Photo by Chris Hosmer)

Tahoe City, 1982. A group of runners toes the starting line of the Lake Tahoe 72-Mile ultrarunning race in front of the fire station. It is early in the morning, cool, and still a bit dark. The race instructor keeps the directions clear and simple: Take a left turn (on Highway 89 South) and run one lap--Go!

One of the runners at the front of the pack is Auburn's Rae Clark. He knows the course by heart, having run the race--but not won--the previous two years. He is ready and focused. Rae has his mind set on the win and a new course record. Will the third time be a charm?

Mentally, Rae has broken up the race into three pieces--the beginning game, the middle game, and the end game. In the first section, Rae runs smooth and in control. This section contains the steep hills around D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay, but it is early in the race and these hills don't phase him. He is now running by himself, far ahead of all the other runners.

The second section takes Rae through South Lake Tahoe, where he cranks out 6:15-6:20 minute miles, after which he slowly makes his way to the top of Spooner Grade, a relentless climb around mile 50 (he hits the 50-mile split in around 5:30). On the long climb, Rae feels the first signs of fatigue set in, but he pushes on.

Today will be his day.
Once he makes it over the top of Spooner, he opens it up, hammering the long 10-mile section down to Incline Village. Rae is tired, but does not stop or even slow down. He just puts his head down and grinds out the smaller hills on the final section, speeding up on the downhills.

In the final ten miles, he drops the hammer and he races to the finish, knowing he has left it all on the course. It was a good day. One lap around the lake in 9:06:11--first place and a new course record. It will be a while before the second-place finisher shows up. It will be a lot longer before anyone breaks that time.


27 years later, the record still stands.

Ever since I started running around Lake Tahoe (I ran my first Triple in 2004), I've been wondering about how fast I could make it all around the lake in one go. I've completed the 72-mile race three times now, with a 13:39 as my best time, although that was always part of the Super Triple (which includes running two marathons prior to the start of the 72-miler), so I know I could definitely go faster. The question is how much faster.

Since the Tahoe 72-Mile Ultra was revived in 2006 by Les Wright as part of the Lake Tahoe Marathon week events, nobody has broken 10 hours. The "modern record," if you will, is Oswaldo Lopez's 10:03:48--an amazing time, yet almost an hour slower than Rae's time. Four-time Tahoe Triple winner Sean Meissner has the second fastest time with 10:27 (2006).

Clearly Rae Clark was running at a different level. Even his great 1982 performance in Tahoe pales in comparison to some of his later successes: Rae went on to set the American 100-Mile Road Record (12:12:19) in 1989 and in the following year, he set the American Record for 24 hours on the track (165.3 miles). Just like the 72-mile Tahoe speed record, both of these records are still standing today.

What does it take to run such an amazing time? What are Rae's secrets and how do you train for that? I could not find much on the Internet, so I decided to get a hold of Rae to ask him these questions myself.

Rae is an old-school guy that is not fond of computers and likes to meet people face to face. Needless to say, it took me a while to track him down, but finally, with Tim Twietmeyer's help (Thanks Tim!), I got a hold of him. Apart from being an amazing athlete, of course, I was struck by his generosity and willingness to help other people; without ever having met me, Rae immediately offered advice and gave me a rare insight into his world.

I feel privileged to have talked to him and look forward to meeting him more often. One thing is for sure, it's going to take a lot to break that record and it is probably wise not to even give any serious thought about breaking that record until you can easily run a sub-10 or even a sub-9:30 lap around the lake.

An entire book could easily be written about Rae and his amazing accomplishments, but here, at least, is a small chapter. The following is my interview with Rae about his amazing 72-mile speed record.

Peter Lubbers: What do you do these days, Rae?

Rae Clark: I am a teacher and a coach in the Placer County area and I work a lot with special-needs children. I coach athletes of all levels. Not over the Internet though--just face to face. I still do a lot of bicycling and running. For example, I am a marathon pacer at the California International Marathon. Basically, I just like helping people.

Peter Lubbers: Apart from your success in road and track racing, I see you also raced Western States 100-miler multiple times. Do you prefer the trails or the road?

Rae Clark: Yes, I raced Western States and did OK there, but I have always been a track and road guy, that was my specialty.

Rae (4th from the right with black cap) at the start of the 1983 Western States 100 (Photo courtesy Western States 100 Archives)

Peter Lubbers: Tell me a little bit more about your 72-mile Tahoe speed record. Was it part of a race?


Rae Clark: I ran the 72-mile record time in 1982. I finished in 9:06:11 (averaging about 7:35 minutes per mile). I ran it as part of a race. In those days (the late seventies, early eighties), the Tahoe 72-Mile Ultra was an annual race that started in front of the Tahoe City fire station and circled around the lake counter-clockwise. It was a fairly small event, but it drew in some pretty good runners like Jim King.

Elevation Profile of the Tahoe 72-Miler

Peter Lubbers: Had you run the race before?

Rae Clark: Yes, I had completed it twice. In 1980, I finished top-five in about 9:37, which was good enough to break Don Choi's existing course record but not good enough to win. In 1981, I led the race for 62 miles until I was passed by Jim King with 10 miles to go. Jim and I went on to finish 1-2, running around 9:30, which prompted me to train even harder for my third try.

When I showed up in 1982, Jim King was not among the starters, but even if he had shown up, I was ready to give him a run for his money. I led the 1982 race from start to finish. Jim and I still joke about that time--if he had not beaten me in '81, I might not have trained as hard as I did.

Peter Lubbers: Did you ever run it again?

Rae Clark: Actually, no, I thought I'd let the record sit for a little while, wait until it was broken to take another shot at it. I love the race and the distance, so I had always expected to come back to it and break 9 hours. Then I started racing in Europe on the national 100K team and I also started focusing on other distances. Even at that time, there were many races to pick from and I simply could not run them all. To my surprise, the record was never broken.

Peter Lubbers: You set the national 100-mile road record in 1989. How would you describe your running shape in 1982?

Rae Clark: In 1982, I was 30 years old and I just started coming into my prime, but I had not peaked yet. In the following years, I gradually became faster. I ran my fastest marathon (2:28) in 1988, and then had my best races in 1989 and 1990 (the 100-mile road record and the 24-hour track record). In the mid-80s I also ran a sub-7 100K and a 5:17 50-mile PR. My marathon time in '82 was somewhere in the 2:35-2:36 range.

Peter Lubbers: So, if you had run Tahoe in the late eighties, you could have easily broken 9 hours?

Rae Clark: Yes, but of course that is just talk and talk is cheap. Talk does not break records; running does. Still, I know for myself that I was a lot faster in '89 and '90. I did not run it then, but I had always thought that a time in the 8:30 range would be a possibility for me.

Peter Lubbers: What was your race strategy?

Rae Clark: Whenever I went for a speed record, my motto was pedal to the metal. I did not want to give a half-hearted effort and then have to come back again--I basically wanted to walk away feeling I had given it my best possible effort. Giving it a 90-95% effort, that was my approach to all of these races and in this particular case (and a few others) it worked out well.

That said, I did have a definite race plan. I divided the race in three stages and ran easy and in control for the first third, harder on the second part, and I really hammered the last third. This race has a lot of hills, so most of the time I would run based on perceived effort. For example, on some of the flat sections in South Lake Tahoe I ran 6:15 miles, then on the hills I would focus on maintaining the same breathing pattern, the same effort. Similar on the downhills, I would speed up a lot, so the pace would vary a lot, but the effort was similar for each stage.

Peter Lubbers: What did you eat and drink?

Rae Clark: In those days, I did not eat all that much during race that would last 12 hours or less. I've never been a big fan of the liquid food like the gels they eat these days. If I ate, I would tend to stick to solid foods, especially boiled potatoes (I like the small red ones) and power bars, which were not too bad those days. I carried a water bottle and a friend of mine drove ahead on a bike and would give me a new water bottle at the different aid stations, so I could just blow right through and not have to slow down.

Peter Lubbers: Did you run the entire way, or did you walk some sections? Did you take breaks?

Rae Clark: I never stopped running. In fact, I never stopped running on any record attempt for that matter. Well, actually, that's not true--I did take a 5-minute break while I set my 24-hour track record. I had a quick leg massage at the 100-mile mark and then went on for another 65 miles. Again, pedal to the metal, all the way.

Peter Lubbers: What was your secret to success? What sort of training did you do to get ready?

Rae Clark: I specifically attribute my success to two things: Strength and Hill training.

First, strength training is important so that you can keep your running form in the later miles. I feel this is a critical element that is often overlooked. In ultras, it is more important that raw speed. You could run a 2:20 marathon, but that would not necessarily mean that you could do any better in ultra runs [Note: Rae's best marathon time was 2:28]. Upper body and core strength is critically important so that your body does not collapse 40 or 50 miles into the race. The longer you can remain upright and focused the better. You don't have to be a body builder though--Just working out with light weights and your own weight (push-ups and sit-ups) is all you need.

Second, it is important to train in the hills if you're going to run in the hills. I don't mean short hill repeats, but long mountain miles. Tahoe is at altitude, so it is important to get some altitude training in, too. I loved mountain climbing, so I would go for long runs in the mountains. For example, on weekends I would run 30 to 35 miles on the trails in Yosemite. To break it up I would climb Half Dome, or some other mountain. I loved doing that and it gave me the base I needed for the long-distance races.

Peter Lubbers: How many miles did you run per week, leading up to the race.

Rae Clark: I built the mileage up higher and higher over the years. In '82, I would start with a week of 100 or 110 miles and then build up to 140 miles over 4 weeks, put in an easy week, and start all over again. When you put in the high miles in your training, it prepares you well for the later stages of the race.

Later on (in the late eighties), I would routinely run 150 to 160 mile weeks and in the months before I ran my 24-hour record I ran more that 200 miles on several weeks. Racing was almost the easy part then, since I had already done the homework I simply showed up and hammered it out.

It works differently for different people though and I would not recommend running that many miles to everyone. It's very personal. Also, you can't rush this. You must build up your mileage gradually.


Peter Lubbers: What was the hardest part of the race for you?

Rae Clark: Spooner Summit. Mainly, because starting in Tahoe City, you get there around 50 miles, which is a natural point for your body to start aching and slowing down. There is a relentless three or four mile section to the top of Spooner. I kept running, but that was a hard section.

Peter Lubbers: OK, here's a different kind of question--I am 39 years old and I can run a 39-minute 10K, a 2:59 marathon and an 8:34 100K (and like to dream big). Realistically, could I ever get close to or even break your 72-mile time?

Rae Clark: Yes, it's definitely possible. You're probably not going to get a whole lot faster at the 10K distance, but you can greatly improve in the longer distances. If you can shave another 10 minutes off your marathon, it would make a world of difference at the 72-mile distance. You also need to work on upper body and core strength and you're going to have to ramp up the miles. You'll have to do this gradually though, but it is possible. You'd probably have to do this in the next 2 or 3 years, too. I hope you'll give it a try. Treat any race with due respect and you can make it.

Well, I guess that means there is hope for me yet!
Thanks for the interview, Rae! It was great to talk to you.

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