Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tahoe Rim Trail 100: a 30 mile DNF

  Back in December of 2011, my name was not drawn in the Western States 100 lottery.  So my friends and I decided we needed another race and the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 fit our needs.  Since then, three of my friends had their plans changed but Mike Maddox and I stuck with it through months of training (and a couple nagging injuries).  You might think that living a short 2 hour drive away from the course I was able to train multiple times on the Tahoe Rim Trail; I did once.  You might also think that given the magnitude of it being my first 100 I logged many miles; I did not (I averaged 30 miles a week with a 42 mile peak week).  Anyways, there were a myriad of things that eventually resulted in my DNF, but I believe that altitude and training were the two biggest culprits.

  Even if all goes well, this course is not easy.  Their motto is "A glimpse of heaven, a taste of hell."  It is so true.  I had a glimpse of heaven early on when we descended down to Marlette Lake as the sun rose behind the mountains.  A few wispy clouds were highlighted pink above the peaks from the sun and reflected on the water below.  It truly was amazing.  I had decided to save the camera batteries for after mile 30 so I did not take any shots myself (I DNF'd at mile 30).  Imagine this picture at sunrise:

Pic courtesy of
    The rest of the course that I saw was pretty much hell, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  I did have fun planning this adventure.  We camped in South Lake Tahoe for 3 days prior to race which allowed me to acclimate some and get away from all the people asking me if I was ready (how the hell should I know?)  I also had time to pack and repack my drop bag as well as go over some crew instructions.

Food packed at home

Packing the drop bag, again
Crew instructions

Friday was check-in day in Carson City, NV.  Regardless of the final outcome, that was a fun experience:

Checking in and receiving bib #617

Weighing in: 144 lbs

Um, just looking cool, tough and stuff

Drop bag added to the pile
some cool race schwag
  Bear with me here as the report will be short.  I don't have many more pictures and I didn't even run 1/3 of the race.  So prior to the race, the reasons why I would eventually suck were: lack of overall training, cram training the months leading up to the race resulting in dead legs race morning, sleep deprivation from camping and a lack of altitude acclimation.  Besides all that, I was set to go run 100 miles with about 17,400 feet of elevation gain!

  The race started at 5:00 am on a brisk Tahoe morning so we were up at 3 in order to get to the start.  This is what it looked like:

Me and Mike trying to stay warm.

Me and my mom

better shot

final preparations

no, I'm not about to poop in a crowd
  And we're off!  That's me yelling "Here we gO."


  I spent the first 5 miles mostly hiking uphill in the dark and making idle chit-chat with my fellow runners as we all had pent up energies from our tapers and hopes of a good day in out future.  At mile 5 though I already felt tired.  By mile 11 my quads felt tight and tired.  However, I had made it to my drop bag a little ahead of pace (13:19/miles) and felt relaxed and comfortable.  Then I began the infamous Red House Loop.  It consists of a 6.3 mile loop down to the low point of the race at approximately 6800' and then back up to 8000'.  That descent wore me out more than it should have and I felt like I needed to walk the flats at the bottom.  Then the uphill back put my tummy in a bad place that I would never recover from.  I'm still not sure what to pin that on.  Red House is hard on everybody, but I was only at mile 15 which I have done 2.4 million times.  The nasty climb was right about my usual 3-1/2 hour rough patch, which is why I gelled up at the top and pushed forward assuming I would recover eventually if I hiked out of the aid station.  I think the accumulation of my pre-race flaws caught up to me here.  

  I was still moving forward and on pace until some aspects beyond my control pushed me over the edge: heat and elevation.  It was only about 10:00 am, so the temperature had not yet reached its pinnacle, but the sun was blazing directly down on us and this section of the trail is exposed.  It was 13 miles until the next full aid station and the first eight miles climb up to 8800'.  For me, that meant about 2 hours of climbing, above 8000', in the hot sun.  This is where I lost my ability to re-hydrate.  I began vomiting and my expected 3 hour split turned in to 4-1/2 hours with a lot of sitting, laying in the shade and more vomiting.  I will say this, nearly ever runner that passed me by, and I eventually saw all of them, offered help or at least asked if I was ok.  Of course, I lied and said I was "ok except for a little tummy issue."  I eventually made it down to the aid station at mile 30.3, but my worried family had already sent my dad and wife two miles up the trail (in flip-flops) to meet me.

This is what my crew had been doing while I was on pace

keeping the kids entertained

with their Auntie Mary

I'm pretty much a walking piece of toast here
  At the aid station, I weighed 137.8 pounds.  At 137, I'm not allowed to continue on so it was my choice to gO lay down and attempt to settle my stomach.  I realized much later that my sense of time was not exactly crystal clear.  After what seemed like 15 minutes I was informed that I have been resting for an hour.

checking my weight bracelet (or maybe my pulse to see if I was alive)

yes kids, my tummy hurts; you should lean on it

  I had hoped to have some of my chicken noodle soup and get back on the trail within 20-30 minutes but my dehydration began causing muscle tension and a tingly feeling in my arms and legs.  I asked for medical help and they gave me some nasty, salty fluids and instructions to get healthy.  By the cut-off at 2:45, I had just gotten 2 pints of fluid in me and was able to pace in circles inside the ski lodge.  I decided to weigh myself again as an indicator of my current health and I had gained 1 whole pound.  The aid station captain said I could technically move on with the medics approval.  She said I needed to chug two more pints first.  I attempted to do so, but being back out in the sun instantly took an affect on me and my legs began to quiver.  I got 1/2 pint in me and then retreated indoors.  The trail out of the aid station is a two mile climb of 2000' on a ski maintenance road.  I have run this once before and it took about 50 minutes on fresh legs.  There simply was not enough time to recover enough in order to attempt that ascent and continue on.  My day was over due to dehydration.

  I did take some time to re-hydrate more and recovered quite nicely throughout the course of the afternoon and evening.  I was sick and tired of my family reminding me to keep drinking fluids but it was most likely their insistence that has led to my speedy recovery.  I was a real grump for a while as I wrapped my head around my first ever DNF but I have come to grips with it now and recognize that there is nothing left to do but work towards redemption.  I think now that stepping up to my first 100, at elevation, with all that climbing may have been too much for one race.  Perhaps, redemption will begin with the TRT50 next year.

  My buddy Mike did complete his first 100 the following morning!  He stuck exactly to his plan and would have finished under 24 hours had he not gotten lost twice.  He suspects he ran about 5 extra miles and 1 hour for a final unofficial time of 25:12:22 in 13th place overall.  Way to gO Mike!!  I believe I actually introduced Mike "the Beast" Maddox to ultra-marathons when I invited some friends to run 12 hours at Cool, Ca with me last summer.  Here are some pics of Mike:

closing in...

...almost done...

...he sees the finish...
...and got his BUCKLE!
  I'm real happy for Mike.  I hope to join him soon as a 100 mile finisher.  My recovery has been going real well since getting re-hydrated and I actually feel stronger now than I ever have.  I may not have logged many miles, but they were all tough, quality miles with lots of elevation gain.

  I also figured out what to do with race schwag thanks to some online friends from ultrarunnerpodcast and Facebook.  The hat was purchased prior to racing from their store so it does not imply finishing.  Therefore I will wear it proudly having done some work on the trails and nearly completing a 50k that day.  The 100 mile shirt I received at pack pick-up was properly marked up per the ultrarunner etiquette (rule #7) and will be worn this winter.  The 16oz glass I bought months ago and decided not to use until after the race will be placed on the shelf pending redemption.  I hope to earn it next year.  Until smart and tough my friends.

TRT100: a DNF

TRT 50 in 2013?
p.s.  TRT really does have the best aid stations in the world!


  1. Tough going bro. I had an eerily similar experience at the Rio del Lago 100k event last September. I didn't train properly nor did I heat acclimate sufficiently. I felt off from the get-go. I started puking at mile 15 and I don't know how I was able to drag my worthless legs up K2 to the Cool aid station at mile 31. I learned a lot from the race, however. I absolutely HATE the heat and wasn't prepared for it. I didn't drink early and often enough and it was my downfall. I've learned so much since then. When you're dehydrated, your stomach can't process food. And when you can't fuel, you can't run and the whole system starts to reject itself. It's a death spiral that's really, really hard to overcome. Just remember that it's the failures that lead to our next successes. Good luck Tim - hope to see you around my neighborhood (Folsom). Cheers.

  2. Thanks Brett! Sometimes it's good just to hear that you're not alone in your struggles. I'm sure I'll see you out there; I'm already planning my redemption!

  3. Can't wait to hear about next year's attempt! Good try though!

  4. Great report, sorry for your DNF . Good luck next year !