As you can see, this year's Tahoe Super Triple was a real blast!
I ran the first two days a little faster than expected. Really, I did not know what to expect, because I had not run any actual marathons since last year's Super Triple. I had noticed that my endurance had improved quite a bit since the big TRT-165 run; I was simply able to keep a good running form for a lot longer. I was also logging some fast training runs on paved roads with about 8% incline and I won the Draft Horse Classic 10K the weekend before the Super Triple. So, coming in I knew I would be faster, I just did not know how much faster.
With Chris at the Midnight Start
I felt recovered from the 165-mile run six weeks earlier (in fact, I had planned it with the Triple in mind) and this year, I did not run a 53-miler the week before the triple, but a major deadline at work had kept me working till deep in the night in the two weeks leading up to the race, preventing me from getting all the sleep I really needed. I guess there's always something, but at a minimum, I'd be used to doing something in the middle of the night!
The Start of the 72-Mile Race and the Last Leg of the Super Triple
I was surprised that, compared to last year's times, I was able to knock 22 minutes off of my first marathon time and 16 minutes off of my second marathon. As it turned out, I really needed to have those minutes in the bank for the final 72-miler, which came down to a duel with San Francisco's Jon Burg, who had run a fast time in the Vermont 100-miler (20 hours and change) only two months earlier.
Sean "4-Minute Mile" Meissner Can't Believe I am Wearing Tights
Jon had trouble with heel spurs during the first two marathons, but showed up fresh-as-a-daisy at the midnight start of the last leg--the 72-mile loop around Lake Tahoe. This year, I really wanted to make it to the 8:30 a.m. start of the regular Tahoe marathon. I had been unable to get there in the previous years and it is a bit demoralizing to just follow the trail of empty Gu-wrappers and water cups for the last 26 miles while the aid stations are being broken down just ahead of you.
Jon Burg, Going Strong
Still, covering 46 miles in 8.5 hours at night after two marathons is easier said than done. My aim was to go out very easy and run and power-walk the first 20 miles to Spooner Summit without ever pushing it. I watched Jon disappear into the dark. From one angle this felt a little bit risky, but on the other hand it was too early in the race to make any sudden moves, departing from the tried-and-true race strategy--so I decided to just stick to the game plan and get to the top of Spooner as planned.
Tony Torres (Three-Time Winner of the Tahoe Marathon)
I reached the Cave Rock tunnel at 2:00 a.m. and Spooner Summit at 3:15. Next was the long downhill to Incline Village. That went pretty well considering I was running in the middle of the night. I reached the highway (at the end of Lakeshore Blvd) at 5:40 and took a quick 5-minute break to change shoes and drink some coffee. With 2 hours and 45 minutes left and 13 miles to go to Tahoe City, it dawned on me that I was really going to make it by 8:30, even though Chris and Rebecca had been assuring me all along that I was on track.
I reached the 46-mile mark (the marathon start) at 8:13 and immediately took off for Pope Beach (Ultra runners don't have to wait here). Chris and Rebecca told me I was trailing Jon by 12 minutes.
Lynryd Skynrod Flies by at His Early 5:55/mile Pace
Soon the marathoners started passing me. First the front runners: Lynryd Skynrod and eventual winner Tony Torres, and then the two top-Triple runners: Marathon Junkie (Chuck Engle) and Blue Benadum. Chuck and Blue had two (or more?) glasses of wine the night before the race and they were flying. They would end up in 3rd and 8th place in the regular marathon and first and second in the 78-mile Tahoe Triple respectively. Way to go guys! Very impressive. I might just have to try that wine-and-race strategy soon!
Blue and Chuck With 20 Miles to Go
After the rabbits disappeared, a steady stream of runners passed by. The remainder of the race was accompanied by a constant stream of cheers and support from the crowd and the hundreds of fellow runners who passed by. Running those last 26 miles in a bright orange Super Triple singlet, I felt like a (minor) celebrity! Most runners that passed by actually seemed to know what the Triple and the Super Triple were and some people even wanted their picture taken!
We'll Get There Eventually!
reached the 50-mile point in 8:52 and noticed I was gaining on Jon--the gap was down to only 6 minutes. About four miles later, I finally caught up to Jon and we power-walked for several miles together. Jon had been running a very smart race and though I pride myself on being able to out-walk most of my opponents, it was immediately obvious to me that power-walking was also one of Jon's strengths. We were consistently walking faster than 5 miles an hour (between 11:30 and 12:00 miles) and even passing some of the slower runners. On a long, paved course like the Tahoe 72-Miler, that is a key ingredient to success.
Triple Finisher and Her Cute Dog "Cherrio"--Possibly the Only Dog that has Completed the Triple (There Should Be an Award for That)
Eventually I started running some of the steeper downhills again. Jon said he was going to walk the downhills due to some residual heel pain, so I slowly pulled away only to hit the "Hill from Hell." which forced the entire field to a crawl. Then, after the downhill from hell with one final uphill section to go to reach Inspiration Point, Jon caught up to me again, courtesy of Tylenol.
Paul Piplani, Drove to the Super Triple Race Start From Arizona And Heads Back Right After the Race (Wow!)
I assessed the situation. Having made it to the start before 8:30 and now having a 59-minute lead with 6 miles to go, I had the win locked up as long as I would just power-walk to the finish. At this point it was hard to find the motivation to race Jon to the finish. My body was telling me "Well, we gave you what you wanted (the 8:30 start and the overall win), so stop asking for more!"
Inspiration Point (Mile 0 and Mile 118)
Of course Jon and I were not aware that we were trailing the leader of the 72-mile ultra (the runners who were "just" running the 72-miler) by mere minutes. Apparently, the early leaders that were gunning for finishing in the neighborhood of 10 hours had dropped out of the race. (Sorry it did not go well for you this time, Sean). If we had known that, we might have shifted to a higher gear. As it turned out, Jon finished only one minute behind the 72-mile ultra winner, Randy van Dusen! (Next year, we need some walkie-talkies with up-to-date race intelligence!)
With 72-Mile Director Lucia Lake
I power-walked/ran to the finish and arrived in 13:39. Wow, another Super Triple done! I iced the legs in the lake and picked up the awards, which were on the beach this time (it was nice not to have to go to the casinos again for a change). We said goodbye to the new friends we had made over the last few days, stopped in Truckee for Pizza and beer and drove home for a good night's sleep.
Awards Ceremony--Reserving That Spot for Next Year!
A huge thank-you to Chris and Rebecca for crewing for me (and lots of other runners on the course) for the fourth straight year. You're awesome! Also a thanks R.D. Les Wright, Triple Director Austin "Heavenly" Angel, 72-Mile Run Director-Extraordinaire Lucia Lake, Barefoot Todd, and all the volunteers that made this race possible! Congratulations to the other Super Triple and Triple finishers--See you next year!
With Les Wright (RD)
Next up: The Run Through the Colors 10K in Nevada City on October 19th (to get one of those Sierra Club calendars!) and then, I am not quite sure yet, but I am thinking of running the San Francisco One Day 12 Hour run after that.