The Tahoe Rim 50M was freakin’ fabulous. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. It was pretty much perfect and I have already decided to do it again next year.
It was all about location, running partners, patience, and some solid training.
Location – There is not a moment of this run that isn’t breathtakingly beautiful. Lake Tahoe is on one side. Washoe Valley is on the other. You run down fields of blooming flowers, and up brilliant ski runs. The race was incredibly challenging, but not more so than expected. The gorgeous location made the climbs not only tolerable, but enjoyable. You traverse 25 miles around the lake, hit Diamond Peak ski resort, and head back. It’s not an exact out and back as there is a descent into the “Red House Loop” that you make heading out, and a tough climb to Snow Valley that you hit only on the return.
Running Partners – My friend Kim ran this one with me. We have run more races together than I can remember, including Way Too Cool, San Lorenzo, Top of Utah, Bizz Johnson, … and the list goes on. She is a very seasoned runner, with over 20 marathons and multiple ultras to her name. She is also just fun.
Throughout the day, as tough as it might have gotten, we just kept chugging along. While it was physically exhausting, especially between miles 30-40, mentally we were both very strong. My husband had given us some advice, and I think it worked. He said, “When you are tired, just remember what Dori repeated in Finding Nemo, ‘Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.’ ” We actually found ourselves chanting this on more than one occasion, not to mention our duet of “The Hills are Alive” as we ran through a blooming meadow.
In addition to Kim, we ran a very large chunk of the miles with the same group of 3 or 4 people. I love that about ultras. You end up talking to people and getting to hear their stories.
One guy was trying to run the 100, but his thyroid went crazy! He had been in medical for 30 minutes when we found him. He was going to try to walk it in and finish the 50.
Another guy had run his first 50K only a couple months ago. He flew out from the East Coast just for this. He was very charming and fun to talk to as we climbed 1800′ over 2 miles. That’s a slow climb and plenty of time to learn each other’s story.
There was a gal from Austin, Texas, a woman who was more of an adventure racer (wish I could have spent more time with her), and a young man who’s parents were there cheering him on at various aid stations. He had a rough day, taking a 20 minute nap and then spending 30 minutes in medical before finally finishing not long after me.
My final partner of the day was a 12-year old girl named Lindsay who left the last volunteer station to tag along for miles 48-50. She stuck with me right to the finish line, chatting about her gymnastics, her mom who is a runner, and how she thinks running 50 miles is “pretty cool.” I named her my official pacer, which seemed to make her happy. She was fantastic, encouraging me by saying, “Only a half mile to go! Don’t slow down now!” I have to say, running with her was a highlight. I told her she had 50 miles in her future; I am sure of it.
Patience – I think this was the key to our day. Our entire race plan was to run conservatively. We started slow and pretty much stayed that way. The course is at altitude, 6800′-9800′, and we climbed 12,000′ up and 12,000′ down. That is the most climbing I have ever done, and we really weren’t sure how the altitude would impact us.
Our goals were modest: make all the cut off times, enjoy ourselves. No problem! We started mid-pack, which was important as you hit single track early and we didn’t want to be stuck in the back. Kim had run the 50K last year and was excellent as pacing us through the first part of the course. We kept a four-mile an hour pace (my target), including aid station stops, climbs, etc. While we got tired of course, we were really strong the whole time. There was not a moment of doubt that we would finish and finish strong.
Solid Training – It also is worth mentioning that my training has been very solid and I was definitely in shape for this one. I can see why a lot of folks DNF (the list of those who did not finish the 50-miler was surprisingly long to my mind.) This is not a race in which you can “wing it”. Many 50-milers decide to downgrade to the 50K at the turn around point. I wasn’t tired at all. I was actually really pleased I had signed up for the 50-miler, as I was in no way ready to call it a day come the 50K mark. I have a really good base at this point, with 10 ultras under my belt and 18 months of very consistent training. I often treat 50Ks and marathons as training runs, which is a good place to be when you run a race like this.
With all that is fabulous about Tahoe Rim, I would be remiss not to share my grievances. My friends can tell you that I had more than usual with this one. The Tahoe Rim organizers had a difficult time with permits this year, which apparently lead to them being less than totally organized. With that being said, I was extremely disappointed that they never posted a course profile. This is a very difficult course. Very difficult. It is also well know, and competitive. To not post a profile is irresponsible at worst, annoying at best. I am in no way an elite athlete, but even I run all my ultras based on the profile. It’s how I pace myself, mentally prepare, and plan my training.
I was also surprised to see that the aid station cut off times were inconsistent from website to registration to start line. Yes, you read that right. On the website the original cut off times were changed very close to the race to accommodate for a last minute course change (a good thing). The communication of the change was poor. When we got to the registration, there was one version of the cut off times, but when we got to the start, there was another version. The volunteers didn’t seem to know which version was right.
My other complaint is that I was told that 50-milers receive a commemorative beer (in a nice bottle) at the end. They make a big deal about it. Never got my beer. Nobody around me had one either. The beer in and of itself isn’t a big deal, except that you really start to look forward to it around mile 42. When nobody is there to hand your finish line treat, after everyone has talked about it, you are kind of bummed. It was just one more thing that I felt was disorganized.
As with all races, the volunteers were wonderful, especially the couple at the Red House, the team at Diamond Peak, and the Boy Scouts at Snow Valley. I loved the smoothies! Bring ’em back next year please!!
Speaking of next year, can’t wait to go back and do it again.