Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Tale of a 100 Mile footrace

Tahoe Rim Trail 100M run
A Glimpse of heaven and a taste of hell!
July 21st/22nd 34 hrs 11 mins

How it happened?

To me each year starts with a goal. Last year I spent mostly trying to do a good race at Helen Klien 50M and qualify for WS 100 2007, I did finally a 9:45hr race to apply for WS 100, but with ever increasing number of Ultra participants my name along with Rajeev, Chihping and Alan didnt get called and then started a mailing thread on other 100M race options. Alan was the one who just didnt want to wait for another WS year, he signed up for TRT 100, and the enthusiasm spread to us as well and I registered on the spur of the moment and notified to my wife through my blog :).

History of 100M race
Gordy Ainsliegh started the 100m trail running culture in US, There used to be a Tevis cup on the course of WS 100M and in 1974 Gordy's horse was not well, instead he decided to run a self supported race. He not only finished the race but set a new standrd for completing 100M in 24hrs which till date holds a special place for all runners to do a 100M in 1 single day!

Why do it?
Since 2005 my first ultra I have been enjoying Trail races more than road running with each I have been building my base for longer or tougher races, 100M seemed to me a graduation run in the world of ultra running, like every road runner aspires to do a marathon, ultra marathon runner is not complete without a 100m attempt. And moreover for a slower runner like me the challenge of running through the night is both mystic and daunting, I wanted to explore the unknown. Basically to find if I can!

Course details:
TRT offers three races 50k, 50M and 100M. 50M is a out and back course from Spooner lake to Mt Rose (including a10k loop of a red house), and 100M runners do this all over all. The middle 25 mile section of this is in night for us so in a way it was like a different course, with some course knowledge.

(course map from event webpage)

How do I train?
Inspite of tough memories of TRT 50M in 2006, I couldnt imagine doing the same loop again! But considering me and Rajeev were planning to do it together I was opimistic and started my long training cycle in Jan 2007. I read quite a few racing reports, different training schedules, consulted some 100M veretans and wrote down my schedule for the 100M, mostly centered around some key shorter ultra's in and around bay area. One of schedules which was a useful reference was listed by Ultraladies website.

100M involves host of different aspects to be learnt. I felt footcare was one of the most important components(often ignored.) which could make or break my race. I sought guidance from Zombierunners and read through Footcare book by John Vonhof. I had my footcare plan in place.

My training idea was to do one 50k or 50M every month during jan-april and then do a long run every week during the month of may and june. By the end of june I had put on solid trail miles and I had covered almost all aspects of TRT 100M training (night running, back to back runs, v long slow run, altitude runs, some tempo runs). Another aspect of my training was to build core and upper body strength. I was well aware loosing weight which would be critical to my finish. so 6 months of running, weight watching helped me loose some weight before the race.

By end of June I was fully prepared more so mentally for the race, I trusted my training to work for me during the race.

Month of July was the most sought after one for me, I started a religious taper routine, day by day feeling fitter and readier for the race(slughishness from training wearing off) .

Crew :
Arul, Gayathri, Rashmi, Anu, Bharti, Deepak and Aruna all drove from bay area to crew and support us during the course. Which was a big emotional support for us. They all were experienced crew folks extremely caring of runner needs and mostly supportive of the cranky runner syndrome.

Vinod a Asha '03 running buddy, who inspite of running a tough 50miler a week before, volunteered to pace us for the 50-75 miles and then got tempted to do another 25 miles to see the course during day. What a strong runner he is, poor guy which minimal support he gave his best shot in supporting this slow sleepy runner. I cant thank him enough, but just hope to be there for his big race.

Pre race:
Thursday before race we drove to Carson city, Nevada. Rashmi was a kind enough to drive for us, that gave my legs a break, but didnt help my blood pressure :). Rajeev, Rashmi and myself took it easy and explored little placerville(gold county) on our way and reached Carson city by 8pm. Next day we had couple of race formalities like briefing, weight check-in etc.

(Friday night pasta dinner: Peter, Rajeev, Cory and Alan)

After some last minute drop bag work, we hit the bed.

(From l to r, myself, Chihping, Peter, Alan, Rajeev)

On Friday we caught up with Ultraholics Alan, Chihping, Peter. Each of us had different goals.

A veteran of couple of 100M events, A super strong runner, known to sleep outside parks before a 100M event!. A little jet lagged from taiwan trip, but hoping for a sub 30 finish.

A fast runner, who won Tahoe super triple in 2006 and host of other shorter distance races this year. A first timer at this distance hoping for a strong finish , preferably a sub 24hr.

a.k.a greek god by many, a veteran of Triathlons and ranked among top 20% most of the Ironman events. A first timer at this distance and hoping for a sub 24-26hr finish.

A veteran runner,very knowledgeable and thinking runner, always accessing situation and making decisions to run to his optimum capability. A Runner with extreme mental strength.

Just hoping for a official finish(32-33hr is a bonus)

(alan, peter, chihping, steve, cory, christine)

We also met many of our other ultra runnning friends Chuck Wilson, Christine, Chau, Mylinh, Pavan , Fred and Jim to name a few.

Race briefing:
Race directors David Cotter and Kevin described in detail the course marking, aid stations and all other details, it left no questions unanswered.

Peter, Rajeev and myself came back from briefing and shared some of our goals for the year, it was interesting to chat with Peter and his background in Holland. It was also interesting to know that his father was a avid race walker and holland had a culture of organizing log multiday walking races. Peter seemed to have built his endurance through those race walks covering most parts of Holland. What a way to enjoy the country side.

my parents generation seemed to have walked a lot during their childhood days too, but that seemed more out of the remoteness of the villages and infrequent buses.

Race day (July 21st):
I did manage to get some sleep but not as much as I would have liked. Got up at 2:30 am and quickly finished the morning ritual. Rashmi offered us to drop to start point, Alan, Cory joined us to start. It was good to see her till the start.

After picking up the bibs we did some photo shoot out and patiently waited for the start. It wasnt cold so we were expecting similar weather the next morning as well. After a short briefing we started off at 5am.

Miles 0-26.2 ("I am enjoying the race, I am having fun" section):
As usual we (myself and rajeev) had decided to walk the uphill 4 mile section, for most parts we were leap frogging fellow runners Joe, Linda. At the end of the climb followed by a small downhill we reach Lake Marlette.

(Lake marlette from Marlette Peak, Lake Tahoe at the back)

Soon we reach Hobart Aid Station(AS), after a quick refueling, dropping our headlights and jacket, we head towards Tunnel. A 5 mile section with a lot of runnable section. Hobart and Tunnel are the most vital aid station of this race, we pass this AS 10 times, so packing the drop bags smartly makes a big difference.

For the first loop we were trying to run a 32hr pace so we reached tunnel ahead of time, this year tunnel didnt seem that hot, soon we headed towards Red House loop which has couple of steep downhills followed by steep uphills. This is the first time we get to see some of the faster runners, Scott, Peter and Alan, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the race so far. Good to see friendly faces and exchange energies from each other. we ran a nice and easy pace till red house, where 2 volunteers explained us the protocol for the night(We were supposed to mark our bib during the night loop).

(Rajeev: master color coordinator)

With Red house loop behind us we headed towards Mt Rose, where we met almost all our 100M and 50M friends. Going to Mt rose was slow this time, with a small stop at Diamond peak. Diamond peak is often a tough AS to setup as mountain bikers help out with AS and act as Safety patrol for all of us. What a service to ensure safety of runners.

(Tahoe meadows and Mt Rose AS from far)

We reached Mt Rose almost as expected at about 12:30pm, Rush, Arul and Gayathri waited for us with our Subway's। which worked great for me. It was rejuvenating to see all of them there. It was the first point of Socks change(later I realized the socks were'nt right for me). Meanwhile Nicole too was waiting for Eric, who had already left the aid station, looks like AS folks had not marked his number rightly, she helped us at the AS so that we get going quickly.

26.2-50mi("i am hungry" section):
With 26 miles behind and feeling strong we were now looking fwd to reaching the start before 16hrs and put some time for the 2nd loop. Going back to Tunnel was I guess a tough part for Rajeev, he had some Altitude issues which made it harder to breathe, but he didnt let him bother him, he has this ability to segregate the pain point and focus on the things working for me.

At Tunnel we were greeted by cheerful volunteers, and glad to see Norm and Helen Klien helping us out there, After knowing I have signed up for RDL 100M, Norm said "you are smart enough to run RDL, but not smart to run with this man" pointing at Rajeev. Norm and Rajeev get along very well. Th Kliens are such a great service to sport ultra running in northern california.

(Champion RD Norm and Super Athelete Helen Klien)

The runnable section going towards Tunnel AS turned into be a long climb towards Hobart, we met Wendell who was crewing for Eventual winner Jasper Halekas. During this section both of us decided to run without one of the socks, which worked great for me as my little tow was disturbed by smaller socks and additional bandage. Finally we reached Hobart, picked up my headlight and fenix for the night section and some warm clothes. Hobart to finish was a different route, through Snow Valley peak, one of the most scenic high points of the course, breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe, going up this hill didnt seem that bad. At snow valley we were weighed again, all looked fine. Snow peak to finish is a longggggggg 7 mile section, seems like a never ending section, didnt run too much of it as I wanted to save my legs for 2nd half. But the last 3 miles went past fast with some running.

(Lake Tahoe from Snow valley peak)

We reached the start 15hr 40 mins into the race, I was very thrilled to see friendly cheerful faces of Anu, Deepak, Aruna, Bharti, Arul, Gayathri, and our chief crew Rashmi; who had meticulously kept track of all things we need and made sure we attend to them.

Vinod the pacer was ready to pace the last 50 miles(25 miles initially). The Start AS break took lot longer than we thougth, but it was well worth the pampering we got from all our crew. The pizza worked great for us, heading out I was feeling very well refueled. 19 hours for the last 50M did seem enough time to complete in.

Miles 50-76("intro to 100 mile" section):
Going into the race I had thought till miles 75 I should hold up fine, I had done couple of night runs in past and that seemed to be a fun part, but I had excluded one tiny detail of doing the night run 60 miles into a race, that IS totally different.

16hrs into race we headed towards Hobart AS, it was 6 mile stretch and this time it was lot slower than before, reached hobart in a pretty slow pace, I got my tights and few more stuff from drop bags, after refueling we headed towards Tunnel. We had decided to push in this section as we had a good downhill section, once we reached top of Marlette peak we pushed till tunnel AS, at this point our weight seemed fine, got more clip2 and gels and headed towards red house loop for 2nd time. Again we were consiscious of our time for the next loop and were happy to finish the loop in 2 hrs,.

As we returned back to Tunnel at mile 67, we saw lot of middle of pack completing mile 85, Alan and Peter by then had teamed up and were planning to be together till finish, their partnership worked great and both finished within 28hrs. Alan looked pretty good at Tunnel. Also saw few runners taking nap at the AS.

We had a longish break at tunnel taking some of the required stuff, and headed towards this long section towards Mt Rose again, by this time I was walking the uphill pretty slowly, after crossing Diamond peak, I felt a intense desire to sleep, inspite of taking couple of No-Doz caps earlier, the caffiene didnt seem to work at 3am, I took a 5 min break to start with, but sleep didnt seem to subside, I was slowing Rajeev/Vinod a lot, couple of miles ahead, Rajeev suggested I take a 10 min nap on a rock, I didnt think twice, but just settled into a comfy position on the trial on the rock, it was the most blissful sleep I had. meantime I heard Nancy and her pacer Mr Williams passed as well.

With the much soughted break, I was replenished with new energy, we came across Chuck, he alarmed us about the cutoffs and how close we were of missing it if we didnt rush. That was it, I was in emergency mode from that point all three of us pushed for another 3 miles, untill we could see Tahoe meadows, and Mt Rose AS. We saw Linda and Mylinch pass by as we neared the AS.

We reached Mt Rose at 6:35am, after a quick coffee, change of clothes some food, we headed off to last section, I though I have got over my sleep issue.. but much laid ahead. As we turned around we were glad to see Joe, who was still hanging around and was determined to complete.

Miles 76-100mi("Ok, let me get done with this" section)
After getting all the pampering from our crew we headed off towards Tunnel. Untill Diamond peak it was constant uphill, I was again feeling slugish and sleepy again, Vinod caught me sleep running couple of times and was on gaurd to wake me up in case I went off-course. From that point he never left my back, at times he seemed to be my supervisor on course, but I needed that push to get through my tough miles.

There was a point when I asked him to wake me up after 2 minutes, and he did so exactly after 120 secs.. he just reminded me of Nakshatraka (Yamraj's accounting assistant known to not leave your back untill all dues are paid). Well he was named that for future pacing duties and he graciously accepted that.

Seeing my sluggishness Rajeev suggested I take more sleep break if we make up sometime before Tunnel, at Diamond peak fortunately we got some more caffiene pills from Terry Rhodes, from that point we tried to shuffle till Tunnel, this section seemed to pass quickly. We reached tunnel 10 mins before 10am, we had 6 hrs to complete the last 15 miles. I promptly took a 13 min nap at tunnel AS near the drop bags, that was another of my sweetest sleep I ever had!

I was woken promptly at 10am, Rajeev said "lets get done with this", we quickly got all our stuff and headed towards Hobart AS, unlike as I expected the last 15 miles were more of a formality, with the 2 sleeping breaks, I had no complaints, but to just keep making progress towards finish.

The section from Snow peak to finish seemed never ending, it was one of the longest 7 miles we did, I wish we could have run more of it. As we crossed the spnooner AS the finish was abt 20 mins away, we were slowly marching towards the last 100yards to run to finish. holding hand in hand.

(Vinod, Anil and Rajeev at Finish)

What a effort it was. I was luckly to get help from not one but 2 pacers for the tough middle miles. Both Rajeev and Vinod were extremeley patient with my sluggish pace. I cant imagine how it would have been without them. Thanks guys I owe a lot to you guys.

As far my crew, they were super supportive on such a long race, it was a pleasure seeing them at various points. I cant thank enough Anu, Bharti, Deepak, Aruna, Arul, Gayathri, Vinod and Rashmi.

The race was perfectly organized by RD's Kevin and David Cotter, the support from all the volunteers where phenomenal. Espcially AS like Tunnel and Hobart were operating for more than 30hrs, which is very rare in other ultras. Next year if I dont run this rce I would like to go back and volunteer at those AS's.

(my happy wife Rashmi)

Such a long adventure requires equally long training, especially the first one, it wouldnt have been possible without the support of my wife Rashmi, she was considerate about my weekend training, infact it was funny when she started encouraging me to do RDL 100M this year considering that I have already done bulk of my preparation and dont end up preparing for yet another 100M next yr!

It was great to see so many friendly faces on the courese. Congratulations to all of you who finished. Scott, Pete, Alan, Eric, Chihping, Rajeev, Chuck, Joe, Mylinh, Linda, Tom Kaisersatt (50M), Christine (50M), Karen (50m), Marissa (50M), Norbert, Fred, Keith & Kay Blom .

Thanks to invaluable support from my friends, who kept calling to check our progress. Ofcourse ArunSimha's pasta was a total hit with me, I carb loaded more than 3 times with the same pasta parcel.

More race pictures are at:
TRT 100M pictures