Monday, July 18, 2016

TRT 50 Miler Race Report July 16, 2016

What an amazing day Saturday was! My first 50 miler in nearly two years. My third time to run The Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs. Although fit after a strong winter of skiing, I had not run much so training was ramped up quickly in April. Not easy to do I noticed particularly this year as another birthday passed. Very carefully I built my miles acutely aware of how I had ramped up too quickly last year and suffered from some Achilles and foot issues that lead to a DNF. I saw June this year with some good long training miles, but lacking the big back to backs that usually define ultra training that prepares me well.
Because of my minimal training, I planned a long taper with 4 days of rest the week before and very few miles. I call it the Mary Lindahl training method (because she has mastered this hands down!), but most folks will recognize it as common knowledge in the endurance training world: Training = rest + running workouts.

One minor issue nagged at me, but I pushed it away believing that I had it under control. In May I had some dizziness during two long training runs at altitude. At the end of one, I thought I was going to pass out. I didn’t but it scared me enough to look carefully at what might have been the problem. I determined that it was from not running at altitude despite all the skiing I had done that winter. But it was also because I had not fueled well during those runs. I thought I had it resolved after training exclusively on the TRT through June and July and making sure I ate well while running. Another new thing to deal with at “my age”??? I’d never had issues with altititude before, so hopefully I had resolved it. To top it off, one of those training runs where I had almost passed out was with George, the Race Director of TRT! I hoped he wouldn’t be worried about me and I hoped I would be ok.

My friend Cory Avery is a fast road runner who is dipping her toes into ultra trail running. She is a few years younger than me and is the epitome of sweetness. We went to packet pick up on Friday then Saturday morning I picked her up to drive to the start. Her calm presence and genuine caring helped to keep me focused and limited my usual pre-race butterflies. Dave was in Iowa City attending his Stepdad’s funeral. I struggled with the decision as to whether to race or not, but he and his mother didn’t want me to miss TRT and assured me they were ok with me not attending. So this would be the first time I’d ever done an ultra with no personal support. I prepared a drop bag for Diamond Peak, the 30 mile aid station, and a drop bag for the Finish Line.

My race strategy was to start slow, fuel and hydrate well, focus on ChiRunning form always and as usual, remain uninjured and finish strong and happy with a goal time of 14 hours. It would not be a PR day (13:12), but it would be a finish and that’s all I was after.

I ate well that morning! Wow, what a surprise. And ate again before the start.  Also very unusual for me. I saw Jill Trent, Stacie Riddle and Al Maestas at the starting line. Jill and Al running the 55K and Stacie full of excitement to run 50 miles. Cory, I predicted, would win our age group and place very well over all in the 55K. And she did just that!

A slow start and controlled 6 miles to Marlette Lake gave me confidence and time to get my head in the game. My ChiRunning focuses were relaxed ankles, cadence, passive and active pelvic rotation, and relaxed shoulders. Rolling into Tunnel Creek around mile 12 at my planned time was a good sign. The steep, rocky down hill at the beginning of the Red House loop reminded me to conserve energy. Keeping my stride short with a focus of my feet underneath me kept me from overstriding. My quads would thank me later. I pulled strength from high energy hundred milers Jill Anderson and EJ Maldonado as we passed each other while they were climbing out. A couple of creek crossings soaked my feet. A quick water refill at the Red House aid station and I was on my way back to Tunnel Creek.

The ever beautiful Marlette Lake with Tahoe behind.
The view at about mile 10 and 38.
On the wide road back up to Tunnel, I ran along contently listening to music in one ear. All of a sudden, I heard a squeaky grunt to my left, above me on the hillside. I looked up to see a medium size brown bear not 30 feet away! Surprised, I think he had been on his way to the road, saw me, and turned back to run parallel to the road away from me. Scared me for a moment for sure! But as he turned to run from me I realized he was probably more afraid of me! I yelled down to the runners below me on the road so they could see this magnificent creature – his light brown coat rippled as he crashed through the woods. A little adrenaline rush gave me and the man behind me some nice energy for the next mile or so!

As I ran the 6 mile Red House loop, I had some intermittent nausea and decided to back off on eating aid station stuff. I think it was the Ensure at Tunnel that wasn’t sitting well. (Too concentrated? It usually works well for me.) Arriving at Tunnel Aid Station I stopped briefly to empty rocks out of my right shoe. My feet were in good shape. Another thank you to Juan for taking care of me again, and a huge cup of ice poured into and held in place by my running bra (“you better do that, my wife might not like it if I did!” said the nice volunteer).

My good friend and ex-training partner, Ron, called me at Tunnel just as I was leaving for Diamond. Hearing his voice and encouraging words made all the difference. To my amazement, I ran out of Tunnel aid station. Easily. It was then that I knew it was going to be a good day! I smiled to myself. Yes, I remembered, you can do this.

I struggled with that wonky stomach, drank a lot of water and ate nothing at the Bullwheel aid station, about mile 22. Maintaining a regimen of VFuel every hour to hour and a half kept my energy high. My stomach began to calm down.

Running down the Tyrol was controlled, but steady. A short stride, high cadence and relaxed ankles kept me from tripping and I maneuvered easily through the technical sections. Mountain bike riders passed me politely and expertly when I told them I wasn’t stopping for them. I had marked this section of the course a few days before and took pride in the fact that directions were clear and the flags and signs were still intact.

I was thrilled to arrive at Diamond Peak on pace and feeling strong. I passed hundred milers Chet Fairbanks and Kevin Bigley as they strode into Diamond, Chet on his way to his 10th TRT 100 with Kevin, the original TRT Race Director. Chet yelled at me as I passed and reassured me he was doing well.

Checking my watch, I was determined to get in and out of Diamond quickly. I was on track with my goal time. A brief hello to Steve and Louise Fellar manning the barbecue then I headed to retrieve my drop bag. Mark Struble, master marathoner and past pres of TMM, quickly refilled my Camel with water. I sat and restocked my pack with VFuel while Grayson, a volunteer, supplied me with cold 7-UP. His helping arm up off the concrete, a cold spray of water from the hose while I yelled from its shock, and I was on my way up the monster hill that is the epitome of TRT’s “hell”.  Although I didn’t spend any time talking to anyone, I was happy I had gotten out of there quick. A 5 minute aid station stop!

That climb is a real test of mental strength. Sure it’s a tough physical hike, but it is seemingly endless with false summits that can demoralize. I didn’t stop. Short strides, sideways at times, active pelvic rotation with focused arm swing. Breathing. Relaxed abs, focus on belly breathing. Two miles in 55 minutes and I was happily at the top. I swore loudly at the monster having conquered it and trotted on trembling legs carefully down to the bullwheel aid station. Three miles to Tunnel and I was on my way home!

Once again, I saw Juan at Tunnel. Disappointed not to see my friend Ken (my pacer in my attempt at 100 in 2014 and one of the nicest people I know), I knew he was busy supporting the race so I moved through quickly, only refilling for water. A few pieces of fruit tasted wonderful. My regimen of hourly VFuel was keeping me moving well and my stomach was happy.

Next stop was Hobart aid station around mile 40, but first the climb up Marlette Peak. I used several runners behind me as motivation to keep going steadily. I ran as much as possible – always on the downhills and flats. The smoothies at Hobart were tempting, but I passed through quickly after a brief porta potty stop and a water refill. I saw 100 miler Michelle Edmondson sitting in a chair looking like she was having a low spot. She smiled brightly as she asked about my run though! I admired her character to be with me for a moment when she was clearly struggling.

A strong climb up Snow Valley Peak and I began to feel the creeping joy of knowing that I would be done within the next few hours. The welcome at the Snow Valley Peak aid station is always unique – “Hi Cheryl, what can I help you with?” said the cute, young Boy Scout as he walked the 50 feet up the trail to greet me. I quickly refilled for water and took off. The run down this mountain is my most favorite part of this race. It is a perfect pitch for running fast but in control and despite my quads beginning to have a serious conversation with my head about continuing this abuse, I eagerly pushed my speed and enjoyed the ride and the incredible views of Tahoe to my west.

VFuel was going in easily every hour and my energy level was outstanding. At the Spooner Lake aid station, only 2 miles from the finish, I waved and smiled, ran through and focused on the finish. The run around the lake can be painfully slow, but to my amazement, it went by fast and soon I could see the finish line area. Running across the bridge, I was so happy I could have cried. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t looked at my watch in a while. Holy Molie I was going to finish faster than 14 hours! I rounded the last corner and there it was – Finish line! George gave me a hug, Steve hugged me, Angela hugged me. Probably others, too. My friends. My family. Ultra running. “The best sport in the world”, Ken later said to me.
Yes, the best people in the world to share it with!
And now it was over. I was done. Joy joy joy.

Thank you to all who thought of me, texted me, phoned me, helped me during the race before, during and after. You know who you are and you truly made the difference for me while I ran.

For the record:
Total time was 13:32 something. 30 minutes faster than my goal time. About 15 minutes slower than my PR for this course in 2013. Third in AG, 21st out of 57 women, 64 out of 145 finishers. Not bad for an old lady middle of the pack ultrarunner!

Lessons learned:
1. Vfuel is the bomb. Essentially, the only thing I took after mile 20 except for a few pieces of fruit. This probably wouldn’t work for a longer race as VFuel is only 100 calories per dose. And it was challenging to do a VFuel every hour. I did no S caps. Had minimal hand swelling. Temps were mild, so felt no need to supplement with salt.

2. My training leading up to this was minimal, but smart. I started uninjured and that was important. My ChiRunning focuses were paramount to my success. I passed many people who were inefficient yet clearly stronger and younger than me. Once again, I am grateful to Danny Dreyer who created ChiRunning and opened the door to the gift of pain free, joyful running.

3. Altitude training is important for me now that I’m older even though I ski at altitude and live at 5000 feet. I need to make sure I run at least a few times per week during the winter while I ski.

3. I do love ultras.

Scroll down for more pics....

Chet Fairbanks finishing his 10th TRT 100!!
Leslie Wunder, extraordinary ultrarunner and pacer at the finish
Al, Lon and EJ (100 mile finisher)
Ron, Darren and Chris
George Ruiz, RD, being interviewed by Ken
Nora, finish line captain and Lindsey, 2nd place 50 miler
George and Mike

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