Short version: Tahoe Triple 9/28-9/30, 2nd female, 7th overall (Day one 3:52-2nd woman, Day 2 3:46-2nd woman, Day 3 3:51-1st woman in triple, 8th woman in entire marathon field), Auburn Marathon all on trails 4:19, 2nd woman, 9th overall.
Long version: (Read it or leave it)
Ken and I left for California on Tuesday, 9/26 and were able to drive all the way to Susanville. Unfortunately, there was a lot of road construction, delaying us for almost 30 minutes at one point. They really know how to take their time-taxpayer’s money well spent.
On day two of our driving, we only had about 2-3 hours left to get to South Lake Tahoe, so we stopped at the Sierra Trading Post Outlet and I was able to get another pair of Brooks road shoes (last year’s model) for a great price. I also got a great pair of Saloman sandals. On the last leg to South Lake Tahoe, we ran into even more construction, this time actually on the course that we would be running. I was shocked by this but later heard that this is how it is every year. The roads apparently get pretty trashed during the cold winters and this time of the year is the prime time to fix them. We arrived at the Lover’s Leap campground outside of Lake Tahoe, which is right where Ken was going to be climbing with a buddy who would arrive the next day while I ran my first marathon. It was great that there was no fee at this campground. It saved us a bundle. Ken and I brought our cots, so I didn’t have to sleep on the ground for four nights. We picked out a great site with an incredible view of the rock face that he would be climbing. We set up camp and returned to South Lake Tahoe to pick up my number. We attended the mandatory race meeting that evening. Pam Reed gave a speech, mostly talking about her first Badwater experience. She also was also promoting her new book. She would be running the 72-mile ultra as was maniac Sean Meissner. I also learned that last year’s woman’s champ, maniac Laura Bleakley, would not be there. On the second day, a nice lady named Lori came up to me and said that Laura told her to look for Pigtails because I was going to win. Thanks, Laura, for your vote, but with the number of races I have run thus far, including 2-50Ks and a 100 miler earlier in the month, I didn’t expect to win. After the race meeting, which scared me more than it helped, we went back to the campground, which was a forty-minute drive away. I had to get my race stuff ready, including going to sleep with my race clothes on every night. I did not go to bed until after 10:30.
9/28/06-Tahoe Triple Day One:
Woke up 4:40AM, ate breakfast, left campground at 4:50AM, drove 40 minutes to the Horizon host hotel to catch 6:15 bus to the start. Had my Snicker’s bar on the bus and an Ensure before the start. This was my ritual every morning. The temp was about 30F and I was cozy at the start with a long sleeve, singlet, hat, gloves, and shorts. The race started at 7AM at Inspiration Point, which would mark the last 10K on the last day for us. Sean shot off the starting gun and we were off. The first 3 miles were downhill switchbacks on the main road around the lake against oncoming traffic. Because of the switchbacks, most cars were going fairly slow, but some were racing up that hill, even when there was not a shoulder for us to run on. It was hard to hold back on the first three miles of our journey. Deborah Hamberlin, the eventual overall female winner, stayed in front of me within sight for the first 10 miles. After the 3-mile downhill, we hit a nice bike trail and ran through Pope Beach area, a very nice trail but with some tiny inclines that I knew would tax me at the very end of day three where the triple ended. At mile 8, we re-entered the main drag around Lake Tahoe and had to deal with the morning commute. Since the sidewalk wound in and out and added extra distance, we all stayed on the road, running against traffic with ½ a bike lane’s width. I was thinking this was crazy and the driver’s probably thought so too wondering why we didn’t get on a perfectly good sidewalk. We were breathing all of the fumes from the cars and trucks and I worried about my asthma acting up, especially with the elevation that I was not used to. I realized early on that I had overdressed for this day. Although it was very cold at the start, it warmed up rapidly, and I was overheating. Half of the runners had a crew, but I had to carry everything with me (my waist pack, inhaler, epipen, water bottle, ID, e-caps, and 4 GUs). Then I had to carry my gloves and hat, and I didn’t want to take the time to take off my long sleeve shirt under my singlet. So I kept it on and got hotter and hotter. Before the ½ marathon mark, I started to have some cramping in my hamstrings and had to back off a little. I took my e-caps and was able to keep the cramps at bay. There was one fixed water station at mile 17. There was also a roving aid station. The terrain from mile 8-17 was mostly flat with gentle hills. Then the hills started to come. There were several before the infamous hill from mile 23-26. We also started to encounter the construction at mile 14. I don’t know if it was a blessing or not. On the one hand, the construction zone slowed the drivers down. On the other hand, once they got through those zones, and there were several, they would go screaming through, probably in an attempt to make up the time they lost in the construction zone. There was quite a bit of traffic, including large dump trucks. I have to say that I was not having fun. It wasn’t because I was bonking. It was because I felt very unsafe and had to work hard to pay attention to the oncoming traffic. The last 3 miles were the craziest. Here we were trying to run up this long, unrelenting hill on a 4 lane highway with the speed limit 50 but most driving over 60 because they were driving downhill, with a narrow shoulder to run on, inhaling the fumes, and gaining altitude in thinner air! Even though the cars and trucks had two lanes to drive in, most stayed in the right lane next to us, even with the other lane open. I just didn’t understand it. I was thinking to myself that this was suicide and I probably would have been safer where Ken was, climbing a sheer rock face. I was also developing a hot spot on the ball of my feet on the left. I finally arrived at the finish in 3:52, seven minutes after Deborah. The finish was at Spooner summit, the highest point in the Triple at 7146ft. As soon as I stopped, I had an asthma attack. After sucking on my inhaler like candy, I was able to breath almost normal again, unless I did anything strenuous. I felt that I had spent a significant amount of energy dodging traffic, which may have drained my ability to push it in the end like I normally do. I got a ride with a guy who was doing the Super (26, 26, 72), Peter Lubbers. His crew helped me some on my first day and a lot on my second day. We drove to Cave Rock beach and soaked for 20 minutes. The lake was perfect. They dropped me back at Horizon hotel and I drove back to the campsite after stopping to get some Pad Thai. I took a shower at a lodge next to the campsite, ate my thai food, and waited for Ken and his climbing partner, Chris, to get back. I only had to wait ½ an hour. We went back to town and had dinner. Back at camp, I readied myself for the next day.
9/29/06-Tahoe Triple Day Two:
I woke just a little later on this day since the race did not start until 7:45. I did my routine of waking, eating, leaving in 10 minutes, driving 40 minutes to Horizon hotel, going into the hotel bathroom to brush my teeth, put in my contacts, braid my pigtails, and tape my feet before hopping on the bus. I tied my shoes tighter to prevent that hot spot from getting worse and it helped. Again, we were dropped off at the start (Spooner Summit) and stood there freezing for 30 minutes. The people who had crew were lucky to stay in their warm cars. Because I overdressed the day before, I wore less to start with and froze my ass off standing around. I was worried about my asthma. After my attack the day before, my chest hurt and felt tired. Fortunately, the first 10 miles were downhill, and my asthma usually does better, as there is less strain on my breathing. I had trained myself to breathe in through my nose to warm the air coming in (because cold air also makes it worse) and out my mouth. We were off at 7:45. Deborah took off on the downhill, along with another lady, who came in third yesterday, only 4 minutes behind me. I thought, “CRAP!” I didn’t want to work that hard that day. But I decided to run my own race and let those two girls go ahead. I knew after day one that I could not catch Deborah because her previous performances revealed that she became stronger with each day. So I made it up in my mind that I would go for second. But with this other woman taking off, I was starting to worry about my position. I still maintained my pace and was able to pass her before mile 10. She was going quite a bit slower when I passed her and saw her reach her arms above her head, indicating possibly stomach cramps. I asked her if she was okay and if she needed any salt tablets. She said she was fine. At mile ten, we turned onto a side street towards Incline Village, where multi-million dollar homes lined the streets. It was on of the nicest part of the triple for me since there was less traffic. It was also on this street that I encountered the front-runners for the 72-mile bike ride going in the opposite direction. The first group was a big pack of about fifteen, and they were flying! They had a police escort. I criss-crossed several other packs before seeing more solo bikers. After about 3 miles, we entered the main drag again. At times, it would get a pretty tight with me running one direction and a biker and car or truck approaching. Again, the cars did not slow down or give you an inch. I felt we were running into a headwind, which was compounded by the fast moving trucks that sucked all the air away from you. There were some hills from mile 14-20, but nothing too significant. I was still feeling good and thought I might be gaining on the people in front of me. But when I reached mile 20, all of the sudden, I couldn’t breath. I was taking shallow breaths and coughing. My asthma decided to make an appearance at the hardest part of the day at a long and steep hill. I had to walk the last half of the hill and lost quite a bit of time. I struggled in the last few miles and came in to the finish at Tahoe City 8 minutes after Deborah compared to the 4-minute gap (someone had told me) that I had closed in on before my asthma. I was so mad that I had to deal with a condition like asthma that prevented me from running my full potential. This day was as packed with traffic just like the first day, and the combination of the two days taxed my reserves. Everyone was really worried about me at the end because I was using all my accessory muscles to breathe. It took me 15 minutes to get it somewhat under control. Jean, the woman who went out ahead of me at the start, came in 10 minutes later. Then I had to walk three blocks to a climbing store to get Ken a guidebook. I came back to the finish and walked down to the beach to soak with the other finishers. After, I joined Peter and his crew again to get lunch at a deli and get a ride back to the Horizon hotel. I arrived back at the campsite to find that Ken and Chris had already finished. While Ken showered, I got ready for the next day. We went out for Thai food at the place that I got my Pad Thai the day before. Dinner was wonderful. Back to the camp to rest for the next day.
9/30/06-Tahoe Triple Day Three:
This was the last day of the Triple, which coincided with the full marathon field. The Super Triple runners (5 of them), started their final day at midnight and would run all the way around the lake, finishing with the regular marathoners and the regular triplers, who would start at Tahoe City (where we finished day 2). Also, the 72-mile ultrarunners had started at midnight as well. I did my usual ritual at the Horizon Hotel. I hopped on the bus, now with many more runners, and took the long ride to the start. On our way, we saw the 72-milers. The first ones we encountered had about 8 miles to go before reaching Tahoe City. We saw Pam Reed, who had about 4 miles to go. Apparently, Sean Meissner and Sam Thompson had already passed the start, so we never did see them. After I got off the bus, I was walking to the start when a bike came around a corner to tell everyone to get out of the way as the elite women marathoners were coming. I was surprised to see Deborah and Jean (the 3rd woman in the Triple) in that pack of 5 or 6. I didn’t think we’d be eligible to run in the elite pack since I didn’t expect any of us to run an “elite” time. The requirement was that you had to have run a 3:30 in the past. So Deborah and Jean signed up at the expo the night before. At first I was disappointed because I wanted to keep an eye on Deborah and Jean, but then I decided that I just needed to run my own race. We started with the elite men at 8:30. On this day, I wore a blister Band-Aid under my hot spot. The adhesive was very sticky and it worked like a charm. I felt pretty good, but I also went out conservatively. I knew that the big hills came after mile 15, but so did the other girls as they had run this before. The Triplers wore their special singlet on this last day, so all the runners and spectators knew who we were. It was great getting encouragement from the field. Although the road was supposed to closed off to traffic in the lane that we were running on, there were still some cars on the course. That annoyed me, perhaps because I had become overly sensitive running the first two days with crazy traffic. I was looking forward to a day finally where I didn’t have to think about anything but running. When we reached the hills, I felt strong. My breathing was good and my hot spot was protected. I did not walk at all the entire race, even the hill from hell that climbed 540ft over 1.5 miles at mile 15. I ate and drank regularly to avoid bonking, since doing back to back to back marathons will burn any calories immediately as soon as you took it in. I never had any stomach problems on any of my marathons. I was gaining on other marathoners and was being passed by relayers and half marathoners. My goal was to reach the 20 mile mark without bonking, because that last 10K was something I had already run, which was downhill and flat from Inspiration Point. As soon as I crested the steep one-mile hill from 19 to 20, I ran as fast as I could to the finish. I think I averaged 8-minute miles. I felt like I was running faster than that. Unfortunately at this time, we were encountering the half marathon walkers who walked 5 abreast. So instead of taking the tight curves down the switchbacks, I had to run around them, and there were a lot of them! Still, I had a strong finish, with 3:51, 38 overall out of 377 runners, 8th woman of 158, and 2nd in my age division 35-39. The first woman was 3:24, which just shows you how hard this course it. The first guy was 2:42. Deborah finished 3:53 and Jean in 4:12. So I felt I had a pretty good day. I did have a bit of asthma when I finished, but not as bad as day one and two. The top 25 women and men received a special top 25 finisher’s shirt in addition to a license plate holder that said 26.2 miles and finisher’s medal. I soaked in the lake for over 30 minutes, had something to eat, then waited in line over 30 minutes to catch a bus back to the Horizon Hotel. When I got back to camp, Ken and Chris had already finished. Chris wanted to go back to the Thai restaurant and I had no objections. Once again the food was fabulous. We went to the awards ceremony where all the triplers got a plaque, hooded sweatshirt, and license plate holder that said 78.6 miles. I came in second woman overall in the triple, less than 15 minutes from Deborah’s overall time. Age division awards were also handed out for the marathon. A guy from South Africa, Johan Oosthuizen, broke the Guinness World Record time for three marathons in 3 days. The previous one was set back in 1988 when that runner did Belfast, London, then Boston in three consecutive days. Johann ran 2:43:35, 2:43:31, and 2:44:03. Although the previous record holder traveled more, Johann ran much tougher courses and at elevation. Sean Meissner won the 72-mile race in a time of 10:27:48. That’s an 8:44 pace! Geez! Karen Wiggens did a great job of crewing him, which was so thoughtful of her since she had to drop out after the first day of the triple due to hip pain. She still managed to run Auburn Marathon in a great time. Anyway, back to camp again where I got ready for the last day of racing.
10/1/06-Auburn Marathon “Quadzilla!”
Woke up at 4:50 to hit the road at 5AM for a 90 mile drive to the start of the Auburn Marathon in Cool, CA. Ken would break down our camp and head to a different climbing spot for his last day of climbing. I would meet them later. I arrived at the start of the race with 50 minutes to spare. Sean was supposed to be there to run with me, but he never came. Perhaps he needed some rest from the 72-mile ultra. So, I put in my contacts, brushed my teeth, braided my hair, ate, and put on my gaiters and trail shoes for the day that I was looking forward to the most. And this race did not disappoint. We started at 8AM with over 60 marathoners. The half marathon, 9 mile, and 5K did not start until 9AM. We started on a dusty one-mile out and back. I started out slow, wondering what my legs would feel like. I had to wear my facemask to keep the dust out, worried that my asthma would start sooner than later. I probably looked pretty funny to other runners, but Ken told me later that they wouldn’t be laughing at me after beating most of them. Our out and back came through the start before heading off again on the trails. There was a one-mile stretch of rolling before we reached a downhill section. Now, I love the downhills and can cruise pretty good. I decided that even though I had run three marathons already, I didn’t want to wait for the others who were timid on the downs. So I passed a bunch of people and broke out of the crowds. There was a good amount of down before we reached No Hand’s Bridge and turned around. I had counted 3 women in front of me, but the 3rd woman was looking like she was fading already. Still, I kept my own pace and ran with a guy with a 50 states shirt on and red shirt guy, who would run up the hills in tiny switchbacks. I just ran straight up them and asked him why he was running extra laps up the hill. He said he had always run up hills that way and it worked for him. After the second aid station, I dropped those two guys. I was feeling so good that I didn’t want to slow down. Was I in jeopardy of going out too fast and bonking later? That’s what others might have thought as I passed them and probably thought I was a rookie trail marathon runner. But I never was passed by anyone. In fact, I passed three more guys. I passed the 3rd place girl, Vanessa, before the 13-mile mark. I ran the entire race except the very steep uphills, which probably measured less than a mile. This was the best I had felt in a long time. I had no muscle soreness or fatigue. I wanted the race to be a double marathon. I loved the single-track trails, weaving along the course, no traffic, and fresh air. I was alive! I ran most of the race by myself as well, but I would have preferred to run with Sean. Finally, I passed a guy and the second place gal at the aid station just before the 22 mile mark. In that last 4 miles, I gained 5 minutes on her and finished 9th overall, 2nd female in 4:19. This race just re-affirmed to me that trails are my passion. I hung around a little but had to leave to meet Ken, still 1 ½ hour drive away. Everyone got a T-shirt, belt buckle, and a vial of gold for finishing. I got a 2nd place woman trophy and also a 2nd in my division medal. Wow, just one race and I got almost as much as in the Triple! I highly recommend this race. I told the RD that I had to give this race my vote for my most favorite trail marathon, even more than Haulin Aspen, and that’s saying a lot. Both of those beat road marathons any day!
I met Ken in Truckee, CA and we drove to Redding. We had dinner, stayed at a motel and had a much needed shower (I hadn’t had one in three days), and drove the rest of the way the next day (about 800 miles). Other than being sleep deprived, I feel great. I’m looking forward to number 42 at Baker Lake 50 this weekend on 10/7.
Thanks for listening!