2014 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs 100
It was a long road to get there but I did it. I completed my main goal of finishing the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs 100. It all started last year with my entry into the race, a race that ended with at 68 miles with 32 miles still to go. It was tough to bear the burden of dropping out and it hung over me for the last 12 months. There were a lot of things that went wrong last year. That is typical for a 100-mile race, but there were deeper issues that I did not know about. After last year’s race I came home and started to focus more on what went wrong, and the challenges that I had been experiencing during the year leading in to the race.
The problems I was having were stomach related issues in 50+ mile races, left ball of foot pain and numbness, left glute pain. and general fatigue. Coach Al, Dr. Kurt and I got down to business. The first step was to get a Comprehensive Metabolic Profile (CMP) done. The CMP showed severe dysbiosis (or in layman’ terms- too much bad stomach bacteria) as well as Omega-3 deficiency. I also got a blood test done which showed a B-12 deficiency and a magnesium deficiency, which most likely was a side effect of a bad gut that was not allowing me to absorb those nutrients. A saliva test also revealed adrenal fatigue.
So the plan to restore the gut and energy levels was to get on a regimen of strong probiotics, a good B-complex. and take Omega 3 tablets…and get more sleep! For my foot and hip, we decided to deploy orthotics in addition to a very focused strength training and bodywork plan. Dr. Kurt furnished me with a custom pair of footbeds and I began wearing them right away. They took a while to feel okay and a required a couple re-tools but I eventually got used to them and my glute pain vanished, though the foot pain remained. Flash forward now to Tahoe (take 2). I was determined to complete this thing. The temperature was better this year, I felt better prepared with fueling, and I was as fit as I could be. I could now split squat half my weight, get in three unassisted pull-ups and do continuous plank for 15+ minutes.
The start line was exciting especially since my son, Shepard, decided to wake up early and see me off. The race started in a flurry. It was cool but arm warmers and a tank were all I needed to stay warm in the dark, first hour. As I ran, I remembered the trail like I was there the day before. I kept a gentle rhythm while letting others pass, as they needed. I hiked some of the steeps but most of the climb to Hobart Aid Station is gentle uphill (which doesn’t feel so gentle the second time). I reached Hobart in about 2 hours and got to see a circus in the middle of the wilderness. There were jugglers and a unicyclist! What fun!
Between Hobart and Tunnel Creek Aid Station, there is much beauty; views of Lake Tahoe, flowers and lots of fun rocks to prance on. But the beauty of the place was being negated by pain in my left foot. It was not just pain and numbness but also a hot spot right in the metatarsal arch. I tried to change my footstep slightly to alleviate it but it was no use. I would need to change my shoes. Unfortunately, I told Scott earlier not to bother carrying a pair of shoes up to Tunnel Creek (it was a 3.6 mile hike up for him).
I truly did not think I would need to change that soon. I never had before. I rolled into the aid station and gave my crew the bad news but I remained positive and we decided to lube the foot with Vaseline and push on. I was very proud of Shepard for being there for me. Up at 3:30am and then a 3.6 mile hike up (and 3.6 miles back down) is quite amazing for a 7-year-old! Off to the Red House loop.
My crew of Scott, Danny Roy (Scott’s 1st cousin), and Shep waited for me to return to Tunnel Creek. I made good time, weighed in, changed my pack, and headed out after a kiss from my son. I enjoyed the scenery and trail from Tunnel Creek to Bull Wheel Aid Station despite my foot pain. I was eating well and taking in lots of fluids. Bull Wheel to Diamond Peak Aid Station felt long and I could not wait to change my shoes and all I could do was hope that the pain would subside. The downhill to Diamond Peak was not as fun as I remembered it last year, but it was so nice to get to the 30-mile mark. I took a bathroom break and sat down for a shoe change.
My entire crew, including cousins, Tim and Sara Nelson with their new baby, were there. I removed my La Sportiva Helios with orthotics and decided to go with Altras (which have a very wide toe box) and no orthotics. I lubed my feet again, changed both socks and shoes, soaked myself in the hose and headed uphill. And when I say uphill, I mean uphill.; 2,000 feet up in 1.8 miles in the blazing mid-day sun. The traction toward the top is sandy which makes you want to scream. I made it the top where Bull Wheel aid is again. I regained my stride and was relieved that was done for now. There was three miles of rocky running back to Tunnel Creek. I refocused on eating well. When I arrived, I refilled my hydration pack and ate some more potatoes but I forgot I had a drop bag and should have pulled some gels out. Luckily most aid stations had Endurance Fueling Systems (EFS) drink, which tasted great to me and was going down well.
So, I often refilled a flask at each aid station with EFS. Heading back to Hobart from Tunnel Creek, I began to realize that the pain and numbness in my foot was gone. The hot spot was still there, but no pain. I wondered how this could be since I had pain there for more than a year no matter what shoes I wore and with or without orthotics. The hot spot remained but I was doing okay. I also began to develop a front of ankle rub, but that was nothing compared to the first 30 miles of pain. The climb was long from Hobart to Snow Valley Aid Station.
The flowers were gorgeous there though, and the Boy Scouts that work that station come out of their tent to greet you by your first name and ask if there is anything they can do for you. It’s amazing. I knew it was mostly downhill to Spooner Lake, so I kept on rolling and assessing how I felt. It took me a few hours to reach the 50 Mile Aid Station. This was the half-way point and I was 11 ½ hours in. I was in good spirits. My weigh-in was spot on. I sat for a bit enjoying the help from my son and daughter, as well as Scott and Danny. I switched from my hat to my Buff, packed a visor, jacket and just in case; my headlamp. I had the premonition that I would need them. Dahlia gave me a big hug and kiss while everyone said, “Awww”. Scott ran with me out of the aid station and as we were saying our goodbyes I noticed he got choked up which made me get teary eyed. I resolved that I would get this done.
I still had a long night ahead of me. The climb back to Hobart is much harder the second time through. It feels much steeper and much more lonely. About 4 miles along, I began to hear rumbles in the distance and then felt drips on my arm. I threw my jacket on, added my visor under my Buff and the skies opened up just as the thunder roared. Holy cow! I pulled my hood over my head and kept marching forward. The temperature dropped quickly. I was no longer hot. The water rushed straight down the path. There are no water bars there like back east. In little time, I was soaked through and getting cold. Thank goodness I had the foresight to bring my jacket and Buff as I passed a fellow runner with his pacer, shirtless, huddled under a tree. I kept moving. At some point, hail began pelting me and the booms were so loud I believe the storm was right over me. I was mostly in the trees, so I felt I would be okay. I needed to keep moving to stay warm. And I ran when I could. Strangely, the wetness and cold felt refreshing. It revived me a bit but I hoped it would not last too long. Once the rain stopped, I focused on running more and drying out. By the time I made it to Hobart I was mostly dry. I asked how they fared in the storm, but it had hardly touched them! I was disappointed that the runners in front of me didn’t get the same experience.
I ate a few potatoes with salt and left. In a very short time, I was feeling really low. I walked a lot from Hobart to Tunnel Creek. This is where my stomach really went downhill last year, so I think I was extra cautious. I ate some more gel and potatoes and focused on my breathing and positive thoughts. I got into Tunnel Creek just as the sun was setting. Scott and Danny were waiting for me. Danny was planning to jump in as my pacer at this point and be with me for the remainder of the race.
I applied Vaseline on my feet, and said goodbye to Scott. Danny and I moved onto the Red House Loop. I was trying to run the downhill section but found myself getting sleepy and having trouble picking a line. I also had trouble getting over the two very small water crossings and slipped into the water twice. I was getting tired and sloppy. Danny was very good at encouraging me and assessing what I needed. I told him at one point that I wanted to take a nap.
He came back with the plan that I needed caffeine. I did not have any on me, so I did my best to get to the Red House Aid Station where we were lucky they had some Clif Shots with caffeine and not espresso flavor (yuck!) but chocolate cherry flavor (yum!). I began to take little nips of the gel. Low and behold my energy came back. I ran most of the way back up to Tunnel Creek. That was exactly what I needed! Scott was happy to see me in such good form at the top. We moved on quickly. It was dark now.
The sky was filled with stars and in the northeast we could see Reno’s lights. It was beautiful. The caffeine began to wear off about 3 hours later so I ingested more caffeinated gel to help with sleepiness and fatigue. My stomach was doing okay. I would feel a twinge of upset and needed to back off my pace once in a while. My original issue with pain in the ball of my foot still kept at bay but the sore spots on the front of my ankles were screaming at me on the downhill. Diamond Peak could not come soon enough. Scott was waiting for me. I took a longer bathroom break (flush toilets here!) and came inside to sit. It was about 1am now.
I only had about 20 miles remaining and I wanted to move on. I drank a cup of warm veggie broth and we were off. I told Scott to go home and get a bit of shut-eye. We would be fine to the finish. As I crossed the timing mat Scott noticed I was missing my chip that had been attached to my shoe. It must have come off somewhere between Tunnel Creek and Diamond Peak. We alerted the timing guy and headed out. Oh, that climb was a monster. I did turn my headlamp off a couple of times to gaze at the stars and the lights of Incline Village.
I thought of how my little guys were sound asleep in their beds down there. We continued back to Bull Wheel and then across to Tunnel Creek for the last time. I drank more broth at the aid station and ate a small veggie burrito filled with sweet potato, black beans, rice and avocado. It was so nice to have something solid. As we were running the flats and downhill and walking the uphill the sky began to brighten up. The sun was rising and so were my spirits. I told Danny I wanted to reach a higher point soon to see the sun rise. We pushed a bit.
We had a spectacular view of the sun cresting the ridgeline. My stomach went in and out of feeling queasy but I kept any real upset away with good management skills of smaller bites, sipping water and electrolyte drink. I also started having the issue of dizziness and being light-headed as I ran. I suspect it was from the altitude. After a quick stop at Hobart and a handful of M&Ms I took off to Snow Valley. I could “smell the barn” now and my stomach was feeling great! Snow Valley came without huge effort and my legs were feeling good. We surmised I would be done by 9am at the latest.
Scott called Danny to check in with us and he gave Scott an estimation of 8:30am – 9am finish. My pace was steady and strong. The downhill and flats were coming easier now. I was able to walk steady on the uphill. I thought that maybe I could catch one of the girls that I was with back at Diamond Peak. I also wanted to be sure no one caught me after all this time. As we clicked off the miles it became clear that I would be much earlier than 9am and would even come in before 8:30am. I was hoping that Scott would get to the finish in time but I was running so well (as well as one can run at the end of a 100-miler) that it was likely that I would beat him. At one point in the last couple of mile I heard a female cough. I didn’t want to hang around or let up to find out if that cough came from a racer or a pacer, so I pushed hard to the finish. The clock showed 27 hours 17 minutes and 49 seconds. I told the wonderful people working the finish about my lost chip and they wrote my time down right away.
I did not want all the effort to go undocumented! A minute later Scott came racing down the hill with the kids. I was a bit sad that they missed the actual finish but I was so happy to see them and be done running that the bit if sadness was trumped by my joy. Once I stopped, I realized I had some pretty bad blisters that I would need to deal with and of course my muscles began to stiffen up. I limped back to the car to drive home and wash up. Scott took care of my blisters, which made me light-headed. Once in the shower, I got dizzy again had to sit down, and promptly threw up a couple of times. Of all the places, the shower is probably the best for that! I felt much better, dried off and wrapped myself in bed. I fell asleep immediately and woke up 2 hours later feeling refreshed but stiff.
Later, as we were driving to the awards ceremony back at Spooner Lake, a storm rolled in again. This time it was not short-lived like the day before but persisted into the night. The race timing had to shut down and the ceremony was cancelled. It was a bummer to not be able to celebrate with my fellow runners and race staff/volunteers but I did get my buckle and boy is it beautiful!
This was my toughest 100-miler yet. I did not do it alone. I am very fortunate to have so many supportive people in my life. My biggest fan and support is my husband, Scott. Without him I could not do these races. My kids, Shepard and Dahlia, cheer for me and inspire me. Cousin Danny is a fantastic pacer and athlete. I am taking booking fees now if you would like to use him. Coach Al and Dr. Kurt of Pursuit Athletic Performance are committed to making (and keeping) me mentally and physically strong. I am very lucky to have them on my team!
Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you about how I cut my finger pretty bad the night before the race. No stitched but lots of blood!
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Great race report and congratulations on a bit of redemption. I have similar foot issues and have found that the Lynco 405 insole with a metatarsal pad is the solution. My podiatrist inspected the insole and gave it high praise. If your problem is similar to mine, it would explain why the Altra shoes helped — they allow the toes to splay and relieve the pressure on the nerve. Best of luck.