I’m now 32 days out from my 4th Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race, and last week, I was fortunate enough to get in over 18 hours of running, almost all of it on trails.
To make this possible, each night for the first 3-4 hours of sleep, I wore Recovery Pump Boots (aka “the pants”), which drastically reduce the amount of rest time needed between runs. I also spent some time in the hot tub, used a foam roller, and ate a LOT of food.
I loved every mile of those 18 hours. Some went easier than others (that’s an understatement), but I’m not afraid to slow to a walk (or stop and take pictures) when either conditions require it or my body deems it necessary.
My week started off spectacularly on Monday by seeing a beautiful bear on the Sawtooth Trail, on a hike after work.
Two of my favorite runs were on Tuesday and Wednesday after work – the only way I’d hit my week’s mileage goal was to run long a couple times after working 8 hours each day.
I headed out the front door with my Camelbak, some homemade beef jerky (thanks to my brother), and a headlamp and ventured out onto the neighborhood trails – The Sawtooth, the 06, Martis Camp Trails, and Northstar trails.
Each of these nights I put in over 4 hours of running, made near-perfect decisions at every trail intersection, creating near-perfect loops, and was pleased to have not been eaten by a mountain lion or a bear, as I finished after dark each night (and there are so many night-time mountain lion and bear attacks on runners in our area – not exactly – but I don’t want to be the first). I did see one bear cub around 8pm the first night, and heard something like an elephant hollering at me from a rocky outcrop (Mountain Lion perhaps?) after dark the first night.
My 6 day total after that 2nd long run was well over 100 miles, but for the current week (Monday-Sunday), I was only at 44 miles. I still had a lot of work to do.
Thursday and Friday I plugged away, running when I could, careful not to overdue it here as I’d need to put in a big day on Saturday.
Saturday morning, I was up an hour before my alarm went off and out the door before 6am, to get in 15 miles of the neighborhood trails, before spending most of the morning with my kids.
Saturday afternoon, Avian and Stephen had a birthday party at Donner Lake, so I dropped them off and headed out for 15 more miles, this time on the beautiful Donner Lake Rim Trail.
Sunday morning, between two shorter runs (when I could squeeze them in) I managed to round out the weekly total with 91.6 miles and 12,297′ of climbing.
And now it’s Monday, and I’m starting all over again. I really love this time of year.
This past weekend I ran my third consecutive Silver State 50 in Reno, Nevada. This race is a favorite of mine – due to the gorgeous scenery (a mix of high-desert, alpine, wildflowers, and views for miles), incredible volunteers, and an amazing Race Director (John Trent).
Course Map – Silver State 50 Mile
Course Profile – Silver State 50 mile
We kicked off race weekend with a bear sighting on a run with Linn (her first bear encounter, which appeared while I was telling her my crazy bear v. car story), followed by dinner and drinks with Linn and Lucas at Moody’s Bistro and Beats. I stayed up a little too late, drank a little too much, and hardly slept as a result. But the band was really good and I kept telling myself it was going to help me with the race somehow. I think it did.
Last year at Silver State, in his first ultramarathon, Lucas finished DFL (Dead F#$%-ing Last), in 14 hours, 16 minutes. He loved the experience and went on to race in 12 more ultras over the year (six 50ks, two 50 milers, and two 100ks (including one in Italy)), a 100 miler, AND a 360-mile solo circumnavigation of the Bay Area 3 weeks ago (in 8 days and 2 hours). Running a 50 miler so soon after would be a challenge, but he likes those.
Linn would be running the 50k at Silver State, in preparation for the TRT50 miler in July. Lucas and I did our best to encourage her to upgrade to the TRT100… hope that was effective…
Race morning, I woke up a little hungover and a little grumpy, but Lucas cheerfully got us out the door and down to Reno in the Westy.
The race began at 6:00am, and surrounded by happy, familiar faces, we headed out from Rancho San Rafael Park and began the 12-mile gradual climb up to Peavine Mountain.
Lucas and I both pushed the pace harder than last year, and as we headed up the service road near the summit I pulled ahead. I spent the rest of the race wondering when I’d see him again, hoping he was having fun (he always has fun, so I figured that wasn’t an issue).
After summiting Peavine, the course provides miles of downhill running into beautiful Dog Valley, which is more Alpine than the somewhat barren hills around Peavine. The trails were pretty chewed up from the insane winter we had, with massive ruts and crevasses that you did NOT want to fall into.
One of my favorite stops was coming up, the Dog Valley Aid Station at Mile 23. The first year I ran this race, the theme was “Bachelorette Party” and they had male dancers to entertain the runners. This year, the theme was “Blazing Saddles”… and they really outdid themselves.
Pacers could join runners from River Bend Aid Station (mile 32) to the finish, and one of my best friends/heroes, Kathy D’onofrio, agreed to meet me there. Throughout the race, I focused on staying hydrated (it was hot and fairly dry and exposed), taking salt pills and gels each hour; with the goal of reaching Kathy in prime condition for her to get me to the finish. All of this played out well and by the time I met Kathy I was on pace to beat last-year’s time of 9:27. The River Bend Aid Station was a happy meeting spot, thanks to the volunteers from DPMR and the Canyons (Sharon, Abby, Chaz, Chris, Dan, and everyone).
The climb back up to Peavine was rutted out, technical, muddy in places, and in some spots, the trail was gone altogether and we had to climb up an animal trail. As I realized it would be near impossible to make my time goal due to the course changes/conditions, Kathy made it equally impossible for me to get down about it. Her encouragement was unending and contagious, she kept my spirits high, calling out things like “oh, you love this kind of stuff!” when we’d hit a terrible muddy section or “yay, now it’s sandy, like the beach!”
When we reached Peavine the second time, I sat down to empty the rocks and sand out of my shoes that had been building up for 39 miles. Thanks to George, JP, Joel, Lesley, and the other awesome volunteers, we made a quick turnaround and headed out to my favorite part of the race- 11 miles of mostly downhill, mostly single-track, glorious, fast running to the finish.
All was going well until mile 45, just after the Ridgeview Aid Station, when I took off particularly fast down the single-track, because another runner had caught us. I raced down the trail and clipped a root with my toe, which sent me flying into the dirt and rocks, hitting both knees, legs, arm first and then bouncing over and landing me on my back. I could taste the dirt in my mouth, could feel the whiplash, and my knees and arm and shoulder all burned. F@#$. I was covered in dirt and speckled with blood. I seriously questioned my ability to continue.
Kathy, ever cheerful, gleefully exclaimed, “That’s great, you rolled, you’re ok, it’s ok!” and to the runner behind us: “She’s ok, just step right over her!”. The runner attempted to help me up, but I needed a moment to lay there and assess the situation. Kathy helped me up “Up you go! Shake it off!” and I slowly jogged down the trail, audibly crying and gasping. Telling myself “I really blew it this time!”
But, no. I did NOT want that runner to remember seeing me go down, and then later, sympathetically watch me limp through the finish line. I decided I wanted him to remember the crash, and then remember me fly past him and not be able to catch me. A sudden rush of adrenaline, and I was off. (I realize this line of thinking is slightly evil and narcissistic, but hey, it got me to stop crying and RUN)
I crossed the line in 9:39:47 (I worked HARD to break that 9:40 mark in the last mile!), as 3rd female behind Amy Sproston in 9:08 and Angela Shartel in 9:26. It was my 3rd 50 mile finish in 3 months, 3rd year running this race, and 3rd time placing in the top 3 at Silver State (it’s a small race; this doesn’t happen too often for me 🙂)
Linn, Helen (3F in the 50k!), and other friends who ran the 50k met us at the finish, and we cheered the other runners in – sadly, my favorite nemesis, Paul, took a wrong turn after racing the first 40 miles or so near each other- I had really hoped for a rematch after he crushed me at Lake Sonoma last month.
Lucas finished in 10:43 – about 3.5 hours faster than last year – a truly remarkable race, considering his 360 only 3 weeks before, and that he stopped and sat down at most aid stations (and earned a sheriff’s badge for sitting on the saddle and taking a shot in Dog Valley).
How could I say no to a free entry? I got Coach Meghan’s blessing (a 50 mile training run in prep for Lake Sonoma 50 next month was not really on the schedule), and tried not to worry about the race, as it was just a “fun training run” with Lucas.
Six days before the race (Marin Ultra Challenge 50 mile), I ran just over 20 miles on snow-covered, icy roads, and wondered how my training (or lack thereof) was going to translate to the unforgiving climbs of the Marin headlands. I’d been getting a decent base of 50-60 miles for the past few weeks, but mostly on pavement covered in snow and ice, with little elevation gain.
I drove to Emeryville Friday night after work, and stayed with Lucas on his boat. After 3-4 hours of sleep, we left the marina at 4:30am and drove to Rodeo Beach for the 6am start.
at the start
Helen ready for the 50k, which started at the same time
The race began with a climb, and we quickly rose above the fog and witnessed a spectacular sunrise.
Our initial time goal was to finish in 12 hours, but as the miles clicked by, I started to think we would finish in closer to 10 hours, if we could keep pace.
Many friends were on course, as the 50m and the 50k started at the same time, and since I was wearing my hideous gold old-school DPMR shirt, several people recognized me (or the club) and it was fun to talk with friends, old and new, along the way.
By mile 7, we had already climbed over 2,100 feet. I clearly remember this was the total climbing I had done in my “long” run Sunday of 20.5 miles. That was a daunting thought.
Stacie and Lucas on a short paved section
Photo of me by Lucas
During a glorious downhill section before Tennessee Valley (mile 10-ish) my knee started hurting. Then it started throbbing. Within a few minutes the pain was almost unbearable- I told Lucas I might have to drop at the aid station. We looked for KT tape but no one had any. Too soon to take drugs? yes.
Only option was to trudge along and see if I could work it out. I found that the pain went away on flat sections or whenever we were climbing. Fortunately, there was a lot (10,500′) of climbing in this race. I also discovered I could run downhill on steps without pain, so I tried to mimic the motion of running down steps.
We heard talk (during the run) of a big climb out of Stinson Beach around mile 23. I was glad to hear others discussing it because I felt prepared when it came. We marched up the 2-mile climb, and enjoyed the views.
Coming down from the climb into a very mellow, very runnable downhill section, the knee begged for relief. I took a celebrex and hoped for the best.
The celebrex kicked in within 20 minutes and I was happy for the next few hours (but feeling guilty for cheating, and wondering what the cost would be for masking the pain instead of fixing the problem).
Lucas and I hit the halfway mark around 5 hours 10 min. The prospects of going sub-10 (our new unspoken goal) were looking slim considering we would still have to do a significant amount of climbing and pull off a negative split (and the course detour this year added about 3/4 of a mile to the race). I tried not to think about time and instead focus on catching and (eventually) passing runners for entertainment.
It became a game of chasing red shirts, as nearly every guy in front of us was wearing one. When we finally saw a woman in front of us, around mile 40, I got so excited that I didn’t look where I was going and crashed hard on the trail. Lots of dirt and some bruising but nothing serious. Lesson learned. (we still passed her)
No more time for photos during our race – “It’s a race all the way to the finish, Jenelle” as my wise pacer Audrey once said). I should mention here the course support – aid stations, volunteers at road crossings, intersections – was top notch – incredible volunteers and perfect trail markings (and we tend to get lost often).
The last woman we had a chance to catch was at mile 47 – she saw us moving in on her and turned it into a 3 mile all-out sprint (as much as you can sprint 47 miles in that is). We actually ran up the last climb (not sure how) and as I caught her on the pavement, running down at a 6:50 pace, I smiled and said “Great Race!” and she laughed and said “I fold”. It was at this point I looked at my watch and saw we could break 10 hours. Lucas and I pushed hard to the finish line and crossed together in 9 hours, 56 minutes; as 22nd and 23rd overall (and 7th female for me). A kiss and a beer and our perfect running date was complete.
Meanwhile, our friends Julia and Naomi had an adventurous time watching my dog, Beverly, who they brought for a 20 mile run while we were racing. We all met at Marin Brewing Company for dinner afterwards and shared war stories. I’ll spare the gory details but they didn’t have an easy day of it.
The next day, on a last-minute whim (should we walk into town, drive to the dog park, or ?) Lucas and I set out in his little zodiac to Treasure Island, across the bay. I used to be terrified at the thought of the little boat on the open water, but weather was on our side and we had a fantastic time exploring the island and found a great recovery spot – Wood’s Island Club, which had a cheesy but awesome fake beach with a brewery and empanadas. Treasure Island could be greatly improved with less fences and restrictions to access but we still managed to find our way around some cool spots.
Bev, not to sure about this idea
Bev likes Wood’s Island Club too
Wood’s Island Club
back in the marina
Home Sweet Boat
Now, it’s back to the grind until Lake Sonoma 50 next month, and trying to figure out how to fix this knee problem. Any and all suggestions appreciated.
Despite the biggest snow year in my 18 years of living in Truckee, I’ve managed to put together a pretty ridiculous racing schedule – three 50 milers and one 100 miler over the next four and a half months. The only way I’ll survive that is to run no matter what winter brings. Sometimes it’s beautiful and fun and I love it, and other times it’s more… challenging. But the challenge brings a sense of adventure, and I’m hoping the combination of shoveling and slogging through miles of snow and ice is making me stronger.
Saturday morning, I chilled in a snowbank watching the clouds whiz by overhead, while Avian and our Airbnb guests sledded and the dogs played.
I knew the window of clear weather wasn’t going to last, but my only opportunity for a long run would be Sunday, right in the middle of the next big Winter Storm.
The forecast called for 1-2 feet above 7,000 feet by Sunday afternoon (with 10-18″ at lake-level, where we live), but consistent with the weather-forecasting lately, this turned out to be grossly underestimated.
Sunday morning, I rushed to clean the house after my guests checked out, watching the snow pile up outside the windows and thinking “maybe it will lighten up a little if I wait”.
It didn’t, and when it was time to either go for it or chicken out, I went to the garage and gave the treadmill a long, hard look… maybe I should stay inside? Nope, this was my only chance to get out so I was going to have to make the most of it.
I set out on the un-plowed roads, heading up Palisades towards Schaffers Mill. Almost immediately, the gusting winds and blowing snow made it a challenge to breathe. I had to stop several times during the first climb to cover my face and catch my breath. There is a short connection between my neighborhood (Ponderosa Palisades) and the streets of Schaffers Mill. I was happy to see a backcountry skier and 3 dogs had already broken trail.
Schaffers Mill and Martis Camp (where I was headed) are both gated communities, and their streets are usually better maintained (with less traffic) than the ones in my neighborhood.
One lane had been plowed on the streets in Schaffers Mill, but at the rate it was snowing, it was quickly filling in.
I continued on to Martis Camp, and enjoyed checking out the beautiful homes buried in snow.
About an hour in, the snow stopped and the sun almost came out. I thought the worst of it had passed.
The sun disappeared, the snow was back, the winds picked up, and white-out conditions resumed.
One of the great things about running in areas with lots of home construction taking place is the abundance of outhouses. It was time to find one, but I was faced with a recurring problem –
They were all buried.
At long last, I found shelter in a porta-potty that had been shoveled out.
My feet were starting to cramp up badly from the microspikes, so I had to remove them for a mile, march along the super icy roads until I couldn’t take it anymore, put the spikes back on, and do my best to make up the time. After 3 breaks from the spikes, they stopped hurting, and running with traction became fun again.
I’d only seen 3-4 cars during the first 3 hours (one of the other reasons I like running in gated communities), and most of the houses looked to be snowed-in. I pictured the Martis Camp residents cozy in their mansions drinking hot chocolate and watching it snow.
Turns out, they were skiing. After not seeing anyone outside since the skier in Schaffers Mill, I came across a very crowded ski lift line that takes residents from their neighborhood directly to Northstar. It made me feel better to see other people braving the elements.
During the run from the lift down to the gatehouse, I saw more cars (as in, 10 total), and even a snowplow here and there. It was a bit unnerving to not hear the cars coming behind me, due to the snow and winds (and my hat and hood) muffling all sounds. A kind woman actually stopped her car and called out to me as I was running “Are you OK??” It was hard not to laugh when I said “yes, I’m fine”.
Just after the gatehouse, I saw a warning sign about the Icy Roads – they were not joking.
It was time to head back to my neighborhood. All evidence that I had been through these parts earlier was now buried under the fresh powder.
The connector path back to my neighborhood was filled back in, and the sign marking the spot seemed appropriate:
It was comical to be trudging through this stuff, but at the same time scary, realizing that if I stepped off the somewhat beaten path (that still had 1-2 feet of fresh snow on top of it), I could easily fall in three or more feet of snow, and get stuck. Alone. In a blizzard.
Alas, I survived, and after 20.5 miles with 2200′ of climbing on snow-covered, icy roads, I rewarded myself with a beer in the hottub.
That evening, the snow continued, the Winter Storm Warning was extended overnight, the freeway closed, and the next day it was a snow day. Shocking, right?
After working from home all day Monday, I took a break to go for a shake-out run into town, to see how it looked after the latest hammering of snow.
The Truckee Hotel on Bridge Street
Casa Baeza on Bridge Street
Totally Board on corner of Bridge and Jibboom
The snow stopped by Tuesday morning, and I was greeted to spectacular sites on my early-morning run.
I hear we are in for a dry spell soon… I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I’m confident we will survive. And I’m definitely not letting a little snow get in the way of my running.
It’s Wednesday of “Ski/Skate Week” in Truckee, CA – this is normally a week-long break from school for families to take advantage of winter recreation, but since the kids have already had 12 snow days since January 3, the school district decided to schedule some make-up time Wed-Fri. In true Truckee fashion, a massive, 3-day storm system came through and wrecked havoc on the district’s good intentions.
The freeway has been closed intermittently for the past couple of days, many neighborhoods are without power, most of the schools had a 2-hour delayed start this morning, and one of the schools is closed due to power outage. Not many people got to ski/skate yet this week, as the mountains were closed off and on due to insane winds (Squaw clocked wind speeds over 190 mph Monday night!)
This morning we woke up to another 9″ of fresh powder since last night, which brings our 3 day total to about 3′ at the house. I went for a run this morning to check out the scenes around town, and make sure the office had power before going into work- it did, temporarily anyways.
Despite the inconveniences, we’ve been graced with the most spectacular bluebird day… and the power’s out (again!), so it’s time to head outside and play.
The Truckee area has a variety of town-maintained trails for winter running. Plowed trails in Truckee include the Truckee River Legacy Trail (5 miles one-way), the Trout Creek Trail (1.5 miles one-way), the Brockway Road Trail (1 mile one-way), and Martis Dam Road (1.5 miles one-way). In nearby Squaw Valley, we have 2.3 miles of paved trails.
Truckee River Legacy Trail
The longest stretch of plowed trail is the popular Truckee River Legacy Trail, which connects Truckee Regional Park with Glenshire, five miles one-way. Free parking is available in the following locations: 1. near the Ice Skating Rink (10100 Brockway Road Truckee),
2. near the pedestrian bridge at the end of East River Street, downtown Truckee, and
3. in Glenshire, just before the Glenshire neighborhood on Glenshire Drive, approximately 4 miles east of Donner Pass Road.
Trout Creek Trail
The Trout Creek Trail connects Northwoods Boulevard near Coyote Moon Golf Course to Downtown Truckee at Bridge Street just north of Highway 80. This beautiful stretch of trail is approximately 1.5 miles one way, and also provides access to the trails leading to the Pioneer Center (not currently plowed all the way to Pioneer Center, but there is a foot path). Free parking is available at the trailhead on the East side of Northwoods Boulevard, just north of Coyote Moon Golf Course. There is limited paid-parking at the Trout Creek Pocket Park on the north end of Bridge Street in downtown Truckee.
Make it longer: From the Pocket Park on Bridge Street, you can continue south on Bridge Street, cross the railroad tracks, turn left on East River Street, and cross the pedestrian bridge to access the Truckee Legacy Trail (it is about 1.2 miles from trailhead to trailhead). If you start at the parking area in Tahoe Donner and run out and back to Glenshire (or vice versa), you can get about 15 miles in.
Brockway Road Trail
This shorter section (approx 1 mile) of plowed trail links Truckee Regional Park with The Rock (11253 Brockway Road). To make a 2.5 mile loop, start in the Truckee Regional Park, head south on the Brockway Road Trail, turn left on Reynold Way (a residential street, so use caution here), turn left on Martis Drive, then turn right on Ranch Way to access the Legacy Trail under the 267 bypass. Turn left on the Legacy Trail to make your way back to Truckee Regional Park and complete the loop.
Martis Dam Road
Martis Dam Road (located in Martis Valley, less than 1 mile south of Schaffer Mill Road on Hwy 267) is closed to cars in the winter, and is currently plowed 1.5 miles one-way (they sometimes plow 2.25 miles one-way). This full-sun road has sweeping views of the Martis Valley, with Northstar to the south and the Sierra Crest to the west. Free parking is available on Martis Dam Road off of Hwy 267 before the gate.
Squaw Valley Bike Path
The bike path in Squaw Valley, with 2.3 miles of plowed trails, can be accessed from a couple locations during the winter:
Free parking is available at the east end of the parking lot at Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Note- the first ¼ mile from the resort to the start of the bike path is along the heavily-used Squaw Valley Road, so exercise caution here.
From the parking lot at the Resort at Squaw Creek, 400 Squaw Creek Road, Olympic Valley.
Trails are plowed once after each storm, but some remain snow-covered and icy in places, so use caution. Have other plowed options for running to share? Please comment below!
My kids, Avian and Stephen, age 11, are currently taking a one-year sabbatical after being on ski team at Squaw since they were five. I am a beginner compared to them, but they still humor me once in awhile and agree to ski with me. I love watching them on the hill- so carefree and happy. And I learned some of their tricks, including how to avoid long lift lines, how/where to get free cups of whipped cream (yes, full cups of whipped cream), how to make boring runs a lot more interesting, and I got some tips on how to improve my skiing.
It was a near miss for me this morning – I ran while it was still dark, and the kids and I lollygagged a bit too long making breakfast and just barely missed (what I can only assume to be) a magnificent sunrise on the drive to school.
I’m in love with the tall snowbanks along our streets right now – I feel like a little kid driving or running around town. We used to have to drive up to Tahoe Donner to see snowbanks taller than the cars – not anymore.
Despite missing the sunrise, I still took some photos from our drive to work and school this morning. Because the views in Truckee are always pretty nice.
You know it’s bad when your sixth graders say “I hope it’s not another snow day tomorrow”
The record-breaking snow continues… Not sure how much we got last night, but I can tell you that my car wasn’t able to leave the driveway so I had to run to work. Wearing knee-high gaiters and spikes on my shoes, of course (the roads were somewhat plowed but I needed the gaiters to get out of my driveway). Today was Snow Day #10 for the kids…
We have no heat in our office (but the power works, so Mone’ brought us a space heater). My neighbor had to crawl out her window because the plow guy sprayed snow on her front deck and blocked her door from opening. I can’t find my mailbox.
It’s crazy here, but we love it. Here are some pics from my run to work this morning.
And there we were, at work, huddled around the space heater. None of the HVAC people could get to us, so I called on a friend, and JP (Prince Electric) made a special trip over to fix the furnace. As the office began to heat up, the sun came out, and my run home was even more spectacular…