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Tahoe Rim Trail 50K

View near Snow Valley PeakThe tagline says it all — “A Glimpse of Heaven and A Taste of Hell.”   Officially 50K but closer to 32 miles all run at 7,000 – 9,200 ft. elevation.  The event even has a theme song dedicated to the crazy ones who run the 100 mile event.  I knew the scenery would be phenomenal, but this one would be a real test.  I signed up for this event with my Transrockies partner Kevin as a training run.  I knew if it wasn’t a disaster it would be a confidence builder and in my mind there wasn’t much in between.  I had trained well, but I was nervous about doing my first ultra at elevation.  The last 16-ml. training run at Yosemite a few weeks earlier did not go well.

It was a bit sobering to go to packet pick-up on Fri. and see so many people running the 100-mile event.  You could tell who was running 100 because they all wore white wristbands with their weight and weight limits scribbled on them.   A woman said she was running the “fun run” and I was surprised there was a 5K until I realized she was referring to the 50K. 

A group of four of us from my running club stayed at the host hotel in Carson City, NV.  We left the hotel in the dark on race day at 4:45 am.  The 100-milers would start at 5:00 am., followed by the 50K and 50M at 6:00 am.  It was fairly evident this event drew many seasoned trail runners, although by a show of hands, the vast majority of 400 runners were running this event for the first time.  I also couldn’t help but notice at the start the brand of choice these days for gaiters is dirtygirlgaiters.com.  I’ve been wearing them for years and love them.

Marlette Tahoe LakeMarlette Lake in the foreground.  Lake Tahoe lies 2500′ below in the back.

The spectacular setting for this event is high elevation alpine and sub-alpine regions of the magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains.  We had to stop several times just to look around at the jaw-dropping vistas.  I wasn’t expecting the trail to be almost entirely sandy dirt and lots of mixed chapparal areas, causing me to eat dust most of the day.  There were also some tricky rocky sections, which made us wonder how the 100-milers would negotiate some of the terrain at night.

I remembered someone at the pasta feed explain they had run into a 400-lb. bear during one of the training runs on this course just a few weeks ago.  But I was more worried about the heat and the elevation.  I knew it would soar into the 80s even at the higher elevation.  I would need to run a smart race.  That meant pacing and course management, hydration and nutrition, salt tablets, and taking advantage of everything at the aid stations. 

Finish LineHaving a doctor, especially a gastroenterologist, as a running partner and team mate is a phenomenal   advantage.  Kevin understands how the body functions better than I ever will, so I basically do whatever he says when it comes to hydration and nutrition.  Kevin was great at reminding me to drink constantly.  We crossed the finish line together in 8:25 but figured we could have gone under 8 hours if we were racing because we spent a leisurely 30 mins. combined at the aid stations.  We were really pleased that we had run a smart race.  We started easy and saved our energy.  I drank a huge volume of water–60 oz. an hour just as planned–to deal with the heat and elevation.  We took several salt tablets and ibuprofen late in the race to deal with cramping.  We were especially happy we were able to run at altitude without adverse effects.  We felt strong at the end and picked off close to 20 runners in the last seven miles, putting us in #68 and #69 out of 165.  We weren’t dehydrated, so we enjoyed the commemorative Rim Trail Ale we were handed at the finish line.

So how hard is the Tahoe Rim and would I do it again?  Consider it took Kevin three hours more to complete than Way Too Cool (50K) and my time was only 90 mins. less than what I ran at AR (50 mls.) last year.  There were many sections where just walking was hard.  The daunting Red House Loop in the middle of the course is the most punishing 10K section of an event I have ever run.  I came up out of that hell hole completely spent, not sure if I could finish.  Yes, I would do it again.  Maybe even the 50-mile.

We were stunned when we saw local ultra runner Peter Fain coming from the other direction about ten miles in.  He was already ten miles ahead of us, finishing in a mind-bending 4:39.  We also saw 5-time WS100 winner Tim Tweitmeyer out on the course who took second place nearly a full hour after Peter.

This event is jointly presented by the Tahoe Mountain Milers (Lake Tahoe) and Sagebrush Stompers (Carson City) Running Clubs.  Everything about this event is first class.  The pasta feed is catered by a local restaurant, the shuttles and parking is well organized, the events start exactly on time, the burrito bar at the finish is the perfect post race food, and I relished a full 30-min. massage after the race with three masseusse’s working me over at the same time. 

Hobart Aid StationThe aid stations are simply the best.  In my book, half of a good aid station is just about being stocked with the right stuff.  The other half is a crew that knows what they’re doing.  I’ve never seen a better aid station than Hobart at 8120 ft.  We hit it twice on the 50K.  Fully decked as an Irish pub, it was a high energy environment with music, men dressed in kilts, a dart board (I just missed a bullseye), a full keg of beer, a wide assortment of food and drinks including chicken noodle soup, and a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey.  The bottle had not been touched when I rounded Hobart the first time (it was only 8:00 am.), but on the second trip later in the day, some runners had clearly taken a turn.

SignThe crew at every aid station was incredibly attentive.  Someone always took my pack and filled it with ice and water for me.  A local Boy Scout troop crewed the Snow Valley Peak aid station.  One of the Boy Scouts had checked my bib number and came running out to meet me on the course, and said, “Lynn, is there anything I can do for you?”  How awesome is that?

About the Tahoe Rim Trail (from the official TRT web site)
The Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the world’s premier trails. It passes through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three National Forests, and three Wilderness areas. This spectacular trail is 165 miles of single-track multiuse trail, winding peak to peak around Lake Tahoe.  The Tahoe Rim Trail Association was formed as a nonprofit in 1981.  The trail was completed in September of 2001. Construction began in 1984.  49 miles of the TRT overlaps the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
TRT map


One Response

  1. Hi Lynn,

    Congratulations!! All of you SVRCers did a GREAT job. Sounds like it was VERY challenging!! And to think that the winner finished in 4:39–mind-boggling!!

    Tomorrow, I’m off to see Jorn Jensen to get an adjustment and to see if he has any tips for me now that my hamstring is HURTING!! Then on Tuesday, I have an ultrasound on my leg, and I’ll set the date for varicose vein surgery. I have put it off long enough!! I will probably have to take a break from hard workouts for awhile after the surgery. It’s all part of the healing process.

    Not too long until Transrockies!! I’m keeping you and Kevin in prayer.


    Jody :>}

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