MUC 50 Mile Race Report

It started innocently enough…

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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.

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scenes from a typical training run lately

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.

 

The race began with a climb, and we quickly rose above the fog and witnessed a spectacular sunrise.

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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.

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our friend Stacie leading a group of runners up the single-track
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The city, the fog, the sun, the bridge

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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that’s me in the gold shirt and pink shorts. (Lucas took this picture – so maybe he could have ran the race a lot faster considering he had no problem sprinting to catch me after this prime photo op)

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).

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steps on the Dipsea trail. Photo by Lucas

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.

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photo from the drive out – sitting in traffic for EVER – but great views from the car

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.

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Naomi, me, and Julia at Marin Brewing Company

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.

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.

Running in an Endless Winter – Truckee

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.

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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.

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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.

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One lane had been plowed on the streets in Schaffers Mill, but at the rate it was snowing, it was quickly filling in.

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I continued on to Martis Camp, and enjoyed checking out the beautiful homes buried in snow.

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About an hour in, the snow stopped and the sun almost came out. I thought the worst of it had passed.

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buried stop signs and street signs almost gone
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Finally seeing my shadow. gear: Altra waterproof trail shoes, Kahtoola Microspikes, insulated running tights from Athleta, and mis-matched gaiters. Kept my feet warm and dry the entire 4.5 hours.
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The Family Barn at Martis Camp. FYI – there are no animals in the barn.

The sun disappeared, the snow was back, the winds picked up, and white-out conditions resumed.

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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 –

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They were all buried.

At long last, I found shelter in a porta-potty that had been shoveled out.

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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.

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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”.

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Just after the gatehouse, I saw a warning sign about the Icy Roads – they were not joking.

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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.

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The connector path back to my neighborhood was filled back in, and the sign marking the spot seemed appropriate:

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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.

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my yard. the tub is actually on a 6″ platform. The snow is DEEP. And we work very hard to keep this baby shoveled.

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?

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Baker, the neighbor, and Avian and Stephen playing in what’s become of the yard.
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Stephen trying out my backcountry skis and skins in the yard. He was able to ski right over the tops of the fence and into the neighbors’ yards.

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 snow stopped by Tuesday morning, and I was greeted to spectacular sites on my early-morning run.

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Lamp posts covered in sparkling snow in Lahonton
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Lahonton drive sunrise
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Northstar, as seen from Lahonton
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Schaffers Mill

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.

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ps… shout out to the mail carriers – thanks for digging out my poor mailbox (again)

A Day in the Life… Truckee

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.

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Moving snow on Brockway Road, downtown Truckee

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.

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Ponderosa drive, which was closed last night due to downed power lines
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“Where the streets have no names”
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this vacant lot is so much prettier when it’s buried
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looking South towards Cottonwood Restaurant from Brockway Road
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Truckee River
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Truckee River
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Commercial Row
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mural on the Post Office building, Bridge Street
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The Truckee Hotel, with a massive pile of snow on Bridge Street
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Snowy Totally Board on Bridge Street
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Jibboom Street
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corner of Spring and Jibboom
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Flower sculptures near the New Rec Center
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my neighborhood, Ponderosa Palisades
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JP’s house up the street
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Ponderosa Drive (the snow this morning was the perfect depth for running fyi)
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Home Sweet Home (and  I’m happy to find the mailbox again)

Plowed running trails in Truckee

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Avian and her pup Beverly enjoying the Truckee River Legacy Trail, just west of the pedestrian bridge

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.

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Even after record-breaking snow, the Town of Truckee continues to maintain our 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.

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Ridiculous amounts of snow on the Legacy Trail. But, the path remains plowed.
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The Truckee River from the pedestrian bridge on East River Street, Downtown Truckee

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.

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Trout Creek Trail near Downtown Truckee
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Trout Creek Trail, near trailhead at Northwoods Blvd

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:

  1. 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.
  2.  From the parking lot at the  Resort at Squaw Creek, 400 Squaw Creek Road, Olympic Valley.
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Running under the Olympic rings in Squaw Valley
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Squaw Valley Bike Path, obviously, not this season

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!

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Happiness on the Trout Creek Trail

Squallywood with the kids

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.

Squaw One chair, much better than the funitel. Despite a full parking lot, we never stood in a line for more than 5 minutes.
Avian, who gave me tips for better posture and control
Stephen and Avian at Cupcake Island
Stephen taking a cookie break, with a prime seat by the fireplace
a new friend we met at the bar
Stephen and Avian patiently waiting for me. They both ditched their poles at the bottom for this run, which meant they were free to wave their arms through the air like they were swimming, among other tricks. 
Stephen next to the trail sign that is normally a lot taller than him
It might look like he’s wearing goggles, but they’re actually on the top of his helmet – he achieved his goal of not wearing goggles the entire sunny day. 
Avian and Stephen patiently waiting for me
Stephen having fun on Mountain Run
Avian right behind him
Stephen packed the snack bag for us- and surprised me at the end with a beer. Such a sweet (and smart) kid.

 

Postcards from Truckee

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.

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As we drove into downtown Truckee, the trees behind Commercial Row were glowing
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the old Catholic Church
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Flower sculpture near the new Rec Center
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from High Street, looking Southwest
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Train through downtown Truckee on a frosty (14 degrees) morning
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I think it’s pretty awesome that the path to the Rocking Stone is shoveled
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layer of fog below Mount Rose. Photo taken from the Rocking Stone on High Street
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quiet morning in Downtown Truckee
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My office is just below this picture
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view from my office

Truckee in the snow-January 23, 2017

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.

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Hard to tell how deep the snow is, but my mailbox is gone and I’m not sure where to look exactly.
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Car not going anywhere today. And there’s a big berm at end of driveway.
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running to work on Palisades… cheering on the plow guys, who rock.
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heading down Brockway Rd into old town Truckee – Cottonwood restaurant on the left.
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Had to hold the camera over my head to see over the bridge to the Truckee River
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Riverside Drive
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Dark Horse Coffee on Riverside drive – note the massive berm blocking access to the main road (Bridge St)
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Another hero plow driver on Bridge Street. Truckee Hotel behind.
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Sidewalk downtown Truckee – in front of Bar of America
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Squeeze Inn
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Cooking Gallery
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Pianeta
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Spring Street and Jibboom Street
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Corner of Spring and Donner Pass Road
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CoffeeBar
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CoffeeBar – like the benches carved out of the snow?
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California 89 shop
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sidewalk in front of Marg’s Taco
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El Toro Bravo
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Donner Pass Road in front of my office
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Our office on the right
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view from my office window

 

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That’s Susie (co-worker) down by her car, on Donner Pass Road

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…

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California 89 store again… this time a little more cheerful
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stopped by the train depot to see how they were holding up
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train coming into town with some crazy puffy clouds hiding Mt. Rose
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Truckee River in its bluebird glory
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Happy to see the sidewalk was plowed on Ponderosa
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My neighbors’ house (the one who had to crawl out her window because the door was blocked)
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our house. still no mailbox in sight.
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My beautiful daughter baked me a cake while i was at work
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And the grand finale… I just found the mailbox! And there was even mail in it!!

Winter Wonderland – Truckee

Scenes from the place I love…

Interested in a print? Contact me for pricing. 5304480144

Lucky 66.6 (or 67.8) on the PCT

The following is a photo essay from last weekend’s adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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We set out at 4:15am from the Pacific Crest Trailhead near Boreal in Truckee, CA. The goal was to complete [what we thought would be] 60 miles of trail down to Hwy 50 in South Lake Tahoe. Our estimated time was 16-17 hours, with a worst-case scenario of 18 hours. Stacie Riddle, Kathy D’Onofrio and I happily chatted in the dark for two hours, before Kathy turned around at Mt. Lincoln. She had just finished the Tahoe 200 (2nd female!) less than two weeks earlier, and only joined us for the first part. Stacie and I continued on to witness a beautiful sunrise on the ridgeline between Mt. Lincoln and Anderson Peak.
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Stacie, who ran her first 100 mile race one week before, the Kodiak 100 (which was “easy”). I wasn’t sure if she’d be ready for this kind of mileage, until I peeked at her Strava account and saw she already put in over 70 miles Monday-Thursday. Um, yeah, she was ready.
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Stacie running towards Anderson Peak, with views of the ridge we would be on in about 20 miles in the distance. Best not to think too far ahead though.
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Me, on the other side of Tinker’s Knob. No pics from the ridge because the winds were so insane.  Happy to be out of the cold in this pic.
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Dropping into Granite Chief Wilderness in Squaw
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Stacie climbing under the Granite Chief chairlift, with Lake Tahoe reflecting the morning sun
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Stacie running South on the PCT on the backside of Alpine Meadows
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The ridgeline between Alpine Meadows and before Barker was spectacular. Every bend in the trail offered another sweeping, breathtaking view.
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More views of the ridgeline with Lake Tahoe in the background. This is still on the PCT, a few miles before it merges with the Tahoe Rim Trail.
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I was surprised at how beautiful the section between Alpine Meadows and Barker Pass is – it was one of my favorite parts. Which was good, because this is where we realized that it wasn’t only 30 miles from I-80 to Barker Pass, it was going to be more like 33.5. Foolishly, I initially thought this must mean we were more than halfway – and it was only 26.5 miles to Hwy 50. Um, No.
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Fall colors on the climb up to Barker Pass.
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Barker Pass views
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Fall colors in Tahoe on the PCT/TRT
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At Barker Pass, about mile 33.5, we spent about 30 minutes hanging out with Helen Pelster, who ran the IMTUF 107 mile race the weekend prior (3rd female and 3rd fastest female time on the course). She brought my cooler with coke, water, and some food I had prepared before the run. Stacie and I were very happy to hear we had “beat” the boys, who started from the opposite end of our run, Hwy 50 in South Lake Tahoe. Sure, they started 2 hours before us, but we still thought they might beat us to the halfway point.
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Stacie and I leaving Barker Pass, over 9.5 hours into our run, ready for the 2nd half of our journey. Photo by Helen Pelster
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We found the boys! Peter Fain and Paul Sweeney, who proclaimed it was a lot slower going from Hwy 50 to Barker than it was going South – it took them a full hour longer than a previous Barker-to-50 run on the trail. We took this as a good sign – we had it the easy way! Unfortunately, they also let us know that it was another 33.5 or so miles to Hwy 50 – yikes!  Just as we were heading down the trail, the boys said “oh yeah, about your car… it’s not parked at Echo Lake. Go up the PCT another mile, and after you cross this crazy raging river, head left, and you’ll see the car” – we were too happy and high on endorphins at this point to really understand what they were saying. Raging river? what? must be joking. Shortly after we left them, we saw Jesse Wifely, who would join Peter at Barker to continue on to I-80. The rest of the run, they were on my mind – where were they? How long would it take them? Were they home in bed before we finished?
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The section from Barker Pass until the Meeks Bay turnoff was my least favorite. Too many trees and not enough grandiose views, in my opinion. It dragged on forever. And Stacie kept promising that any minute we would be out on the granite and back on the ridges – she lied. Here’s a boring lake that I stopped at to filter water.
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We finally passed the turnoff to Meeks Bay, and started seeing rocks instead of just trees. The terrain became significantly more beautiful.
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Stacie had remembered a lake near the trail – we were just about out of water, but passed by a couple streams anticipating the lake. We then found ourselves high above the lake we thought we needed, so we had to add an out and back, down and up, to our route.
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We saw several people camping here – preparing dinner, drinking wine, hanging out in warm puffy jackets. I was kind of dying inside, knowing that we still had 25 ish miles to go, and the going was starting to get tough.

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Filling our bottles with the Sawyer Mini filter. There was plenty of water to make it with about 2L carrying capacity and filtering more along the way.
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The miles became harder as we headed further into Desolation Wilderness

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The lakes in Desolation are over the top incredible.
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Stacie heading into the sunset
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Sunset over Emerald Bay
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I felt pretty grateful to see both the sunrise and the sunset from the PCT in one day. I wasn’t feeling especially grateful that we still had 20 miles to go.
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After about the 20th time I asked; Yes, we were finally heading up towards Dick’s Pass
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Dick’s Lake. Just before we reached the high point of Dick’s Pass, it became dark enough to get out our headlamps and put the warmer layers back on. It felt kind of crazy to start out the day running in 30 degree weather, then have it warm up to 80 degrees, and then drop back down to the 30s at night. Such is fall in Tahoe.
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Stacie coming down from Dick’s Pass into the darkness. As the miles barely crept by, it became exceedingly difficult not to get discouraged and negative. My watch stopped when we hit 17 hours and 56.9 miles. At the least, we had 10 miles to go, which could take 5 more hours at this pace.  An hour passed and I asked Stacie how far we’d gone now and she said 58.5 miles. Typically I never sit down during long runs, but now, I started sitting each time we stopped. Why not? We were barely moving. We might just fall asleep and die out here. I thought about how I only had 250 calories left for 4-5 hours. I reassured myself that I had plenty of reserves to survive, to settle the panic.
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As much as I was ready to be done (for the last 6 hours I was ready to be done), I still appreciated the beauty of the trail at night, and was entertained by the little illusions and tricks my eyes were playing on me. At one point, I had sat down to filter water and told Stacie to go ahead. As I jogged to catch up to her, I suddenly stopped, terrified at the cliff I was about to jut out on. I yelled “Stacie!! Stacie!!” There was no f-ing way I was going out on the edge of a cliff at this hour, feeling this crappy. I stopped. I’m going the other way. Just as I started back on the trail in the opposite direction I shined my light over the cliff (against my better judgement) and realized it was just a pond. There was no cliff. It was the blackness of a little lake that looked like a dropoff. I nervously laughed and caught up to Stacie. I can’t believe I had almost turned around and ran the wrong direction. I wanted to cry when I saw her.
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I had no idea how freaking L-O-N-G the trail was between Echo Lake and Lake Aloha. “5 miles” does not do it justice. The sign should instead say,  “2 hours of HELL”. One of our favorite parts was seeing the sign that said we were “Now Leaving Desolation Wilderness” Thank F-ing God. Along the way, we had been so excited to get to freaking Echo Lake. Now that we were here, we wondered out loud why in the hell did the boys park my car another mile up the trail, and not in one of these perfectly good, comfortable and happy parking lots near Echo Lake? We begrudgingly started UP the trail from the parking lot towards Hwy 50.
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After what seemed like forever, around 1:00AM, we finally heard the sounds of the river the boys had mentioned. It sounded like Niagara Falls. We got to the bank of the river and our conversation contained a lot of “What the fuck were they thinking?? There is no way we are going to get across this thing! WTF!?” I finally decided we should get some big sticks to self-arrest in case we were swept down. I told my plan to Stacie and she said “no way am I getting in that water, I’m crossing the log”. I looked up the river at the log perched about 5-6 feet above the raging river. I felt like I was in Bridge to Terabithia. I volunteered to go first – because the only thing worse than falling yourself is watching your friend fall. I had to be brave (totally against my nature here). I crossed with faked confidence. Then I had to watch Stacie cross – completely gripped. When she made it we hugged and yelped. We then wandered through the forest, a little neighborhood, and right around 1:15am when I was about to dial Peter and ask “where the f is my car” we saw it. It was the happiest moment of my life. (that I remember anyway).
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We made it!! 21 f-ing hours!! Stacie’s watch and phone combo came up with 66.6 miles. Mine added up to 67.8. I’ll call it 68.
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My feet felt like I’d just run 100 miles. In many ways, this effort was much harder than any 100 mile race I had run. During races, you go from aid station to aid station, with at most, 6-8 miles in between. There are other runners and camaraderie on the trail. Out here, it was just Stacie and I, and a smattering of hikers cozy in their tents, not offering us a beer or anything. On the 90 minute drive back to Truckee, while eating BBQ chips and drinking full-fat chocolate milk,  we discussed our adventure. We both agreed this was the “most epic thing” we had ever done. During the run, 20 hours earlier, we had laughed about someone using that term – now we had a legit use for it. We had done it. 68 (or whatever) miles in one day. And we decided we were glad the boys made us cross that fucking raging river at the finish. It just added to the adventure.
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The first section, Hwy 80 to just under Dick’s Pass. Hours 1-17, 56.9 miles
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Hours 17-21. Darkness. Despair. and ultimately… Joy. 10.9 miles

We later (Sunday night) found out the boys had all stopped at Barker Pass. Even though they were capable of running the entire thing at least 7 HOURS faster than us, on this particular day, considering we were the only ones who “finished”, we beat the boys. 😉

I’d like to thank Peter for putting this crazy idea into my head a few days ago, when I mentioned I wanted to do a 40 mile run somewhere (he said what’s 20 more?!), Stacie for being an amazingly fun and positive companion on the trail, Kathy for sharing the first 6 miles with us, Helen for being the best friend ever to give up most of her Saturday to cater to us at 7,700′, Julia for kicking ass at The Bear and then texting with me for company on my way down to Echo Lake (and celebrating with me on Sunday), and Lucas for the support throughout the endeavor from across the Atlantic. XO

 

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 2016

Thrilled to have my sister Lynette (aka Net or Netty) fly out from Michigan to crew for me at the 2016 Tahoe Rim Trail 100, I excitedly drove my “new” 1983 VW Westfalia down to the airport in Reno Wednesday to pick her up. This would be the ultimate crew-mobile!

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I learned to drive a stick shift the week before the race

Within 20 minutes of getting Net from the airport though…

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poor sad Westfalia

Lynette, Avian, Beverly and I got to take our first ride in a tow truck. The driver gave me his card, you know, “just in case it happens again”.

After getting the VW “home” (to a shop in Reno filled with other broken-down Westfalias), we squeezed into a tiny Porsche for the ride back to Truckee. It was so small that Lynette had to cock her head sideways to fit. We were grateful for the ride though (thanks, Jon!)

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this car doesn’t really have a backseat

I had high hopes of spending quality time and relaxing with Lynette in the days before the race, but life happens, and so Friday afternoon after a hectic week at work, we found ourselves racing down to Carson City, barely making it in time for runner check-in.

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hydrating at runner check-in

Friday night, 10pm, I finally put an email together to Lynette, Pete and Lucas (my pacers) with my race plan. It was ambitious, but I’d had many solid weeks of training and had run a mountain 50-miler PR (personal record) at the Silver State 50 in May (2F in 9:27). This would be my 4th time on the Tahoe Rim Trail course,

TRT100 2012; 3F in 25:12
TRT50 2014; 3F in 9:41
TRT100 2015; 2F in 25:10 

and the first time I haven’t had to use a treadmill  as part of my regular training routine (twins now old enough that I could sneak out for some early morning runs). It was time to shoot for a 24 hour finish.

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The past year in miles per week – Since April, I had 8 weeks in the 80-95 mile range

At 3:30 am Saturday morning, Lucas, Lynette and I left for the starting line at Spooner Lake, Nevada, which is also the 50 mile aid station and finish line, in this double loop course. The course consists of mostly single-track, breathtakingly beautiful trails along the East side of Lake Tahoe. Spooner Lake is about 7,000′ in elevation, and the majority of the course is over 8,000′, with a high point on Snow Valley Peak of over 9,000′. Each lap contains around 10,000′ of elevation gain.

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TRT100 course map. Courtesy TRT100 website

 

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Lucas and I at the start. Photo by Net
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RD George Ruiz prepares to send us off into the darkness

After the National Anthem and an exciting countdown, over 250 runners began the gradual climb towards Hobart. Around mile 7 I found myself running next to Caroline Barichievich, a talented South Lake Tahoe runner. We chatted with the other runners and the miles clicked by. A Reno runner asked if I was “Jenelle from the Donner Party”… I liked the sound of that.

I found myself cruising into Tunnel Creek, mile 11, happy to see Lynette and Lucas, who had made the 1800′, 3.5 mile climb up. I saw them again after a fun and easy-effort Red House Loop, and they said that only Roxanne (a super fast woman with the 3rd fastest time on course!) was ahead of me. I didn’t really believe them…

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Lucas filling my hydration pack at Tunnel Creek

As the temperature rose, I hit the Bull Wheel aid station, and they told me I was in 3rd. I decided that 3rd is better than 2nd this early on. It was going to be a long day and night.

There were many other users on the trail – hikers and mountain bikers, who happily told me I was one of the top women. Lots of “Girl Power!”, clapping and cheering. A group of mountain bikers told me “You’re burly”. I think that was meant to be a compliment. 🙂

Despite all the positive energy, I started to drag, felt waves of nausea, and it took forever to get to the Tyrolean Downhill (a 4 mile descent of 2,000′ down to the Diamond Peak Aid Station). This hadn’t happened to me since the Bishop 100k – which had ended badly, and I began to lose confidence. To make matters worse, I heard footsteps behind me, and they sounded too delicate to be one of the 50 mile men catching up (50 milers/55k racers start 1 hour behind us). On a switchback, I allowed myself a peak, and sure enough, it was Caroline. We ran and talked for a mile or so before she bounded down the trail towards the 30 mile aid station. I thought  I was now in 4th, and although 3rd had been better than 2nd at Bull Wheel, I decided that 4th was not better than 3rd at this point.

Lucas led me into the aid station and told me I was actually in 3rd, but I didn’t want to hear about that until later  -it was becoming stressful since I felt so crappy.

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Photo by Net of Lucas and I at Diamond Peak

Lucas and Lynette walked me up the Diamond Peak climb, a brutal, exposed, steep climb up a ski resort with about 20 false summits and 15,000′ of gain (not exactly, but that’s what it felt like). It was now really hot, I felt weak and nauseous, and to top it off, I found it necessary to start the Imodium regime. I felt defeated and dumb, for going out too hard, and blowing up at mile 31.

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Hot, weak, and nauseous
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Net and I heading up the ski resort

After a few of the long switchbacks I tearfully told Lynette and Lucas I should continue the rest of the way alone, or I would start crying and want to go back with them. In my prior TRT races and training runs, I was so proud of my fast DP climbs – I always felt strong and passed people, cheerfully even. Judging by how I felt at this point, I thought my dreams of a PR were over. At the top, I breathed a big sigh of relief, smiled and snapped a photo, to help remember that moment.

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fake it till you make it

Over the next 10 miles, I focused on making myself feel better, which meant slowing down, increasing my calories and fluids, and reminding myself how privileged I was to be out on this beautiful trail with people waiting on me and cheering for me. Around mile 40, I hit the Hobart aid station and caught up to Caroline. We ran together for the next 11 miles, over Snow Valley Peak, and down the long descent to the halfway mark. She had also been experiencing nausea and stomach issues, plus some major blister problems. We had a lovely time, cheering at the various landmarks – water drop aid station, our first views of Spooner Lake, and I was grateful for the company.

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running into the 50 mile aid station. Photo by Net

Lucas ran me into the fantastic 50 mile aid station to meet Lynette and Pete. The volunteers gave every runner a standing ovation, which made me choke up a little. My friend Mike served me a quesadilla, Lynette took care of my hydration pack and supplies, and my friend Spike convinced me to let his medical team tape up the hot spots on my feet.  I hesitated; I’d never sat down in a previous 100 miler much less taken my shoes off, but he assured me it would be worth it. I was so glad! The hot spots were non-issues for the rest of the race.

My coach, Meghan, was at the aid station waiting on her runner, so we chatted while my feet were tended to. She was so sweet she offered to trade shoes with me – in case mine were causing the hot spot problems.

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advice from a pro – Coach Meghan! Pic by Spike Wimmer

I felt good again, and ready to charge with Pete, who would pace me for the next 30 miles. We set off; I was back in 2nd place for the women, 32nd overall, and about 30 min faster than prior years. Things were looking up.

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Pete and I headed to Hobart. Pic by Net

We made our way up towards Marlette, and both commented that the conditions were quite pleasant – as far as the heat. Pete ran behind me and inhaled pounds of dust over the next 7 hours (but he didn’t mention that at the time).

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Marlette Lake
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cruising at mile 60. Photo by Pacer Pete

At Tunnel Creek, I was thrilled to see Lynette again – I couldn’t believe how much she had hiked/run to help me out. Throughout the race, she would put over 25 miles on her own feet crewing for me.  I also got the royal treatment at the aid station from incredible volunteers like my friends Gretchen, Marisa, Jackie, and Kym.

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my wonderful sister Lynette

I told Pete that I had never made it out of the 2nd Red House Loop before sunset. This became a new goal.

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Pete and I heading down to Red House – Photo by Andy Pasternak

On the descent, we came across Roxanne, the first female, on her climb up. We congratulated her, and she seemed eager to hear what place I was in. Pete quietly told me she looked to be about 1 hour ahead of us, which meant I’d made up nearly 20 minutes on her since the 50 mile mark. I took her asking what place I was in as a sign that she cared, and maybe she was getting tired, and maybe….well, it all made me run a little faster.

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Photo by Net

On the way out, we celebrated my first time of not needing the headlamp on the 2nd Red House Loop. We headed towards Bull Wheel, now in the dark, and looking out for runners to hunt. The trails are so interesting at night with the fairy-tale look of the foliage, spiders, field mice, and beetles by the light of the headlamp. We could see the nearly-full moon illuminating Lake Tahoe along the way.

Despite the fun, on the way down to Diamond Peak I started to feel nauseous again. When we reached the dark, quiet, 80-mile aid station, Lynette and Lucas excitedly updated me that Roxanne had just left about 40 minutes before I arrived, and I had now moved up to 14th position overall.

Around 11:45pm, Lucas and I headed up what would be my most challenging Diamond Peak climb ever. It was stop and go the entire way, and I had great difficulty talking or smiling. Lucas was very encouraging, patient, and made me feel like I was doing really well (even though I was basically taking 10 steps and stopping). We were passed by one runner – the only 100 miler to pass me since the last Diamond Peak climb at mile 30 [it would take 15 miles to pass him back]. Eventually I turned around and walked backwards up the climb, which somehow allowed me to keep moving without stopping.

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moonlight glow over Lake Tahoe. Photo by Lucas

Once again, as I finished that climb, I felt better. We saw many friends, like Jill, Tina, Kathy, and Candice, in a two-way section of trail. At Tunnel Creek Aid Station, we learned that Roxanne had increased her lead slightly, but was only 6 runners ahead of us. Time to count headlamps. I realized we had less than 3.5 hours to make it to the finish (16 miles with a climb over the highest part of the course- Snow Valley Peak) to break 24 hours – that was unlikely.

We reached Snow Valley Peak in 12th position, one of my favorite spots on the course, with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the moon reflecting over the sparkling water. I allowed my first peak at my watch since Tunnel Creek, and was disappointed to see it was just after 4am – there was no way I could run the last 7-8 miles in under an hour. I quietly accepted this and decided to still give it my best effort on the long, mostly downhill set of switchbacks that led to the finish line.

The final miles became fun again when we spotted a headlamp in the distance- the first runner we’d seen since mile 90. The chase was on. It took a few switchbacks, but we passed him and I was now 11th overall (Sorry, Paul :)). Lucas thought he saw another set of headlamps, and it became a race again. I could feel Lucas getting a little too close, and just when I thought he might accidentally knock me down, he tripped and did a perfect somersault, landing upright and continuing to run.

As we approached the beautiful lake, just before sunrise, we heard cheering in the distance.

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Spooner Lake. Photo by Lynette

It’s difficult to put into words the intense high I felt while racing around that lake, with glimpses of the finish-line lights, and Lucas cheering me on and supporting me like he had throughout the past 4 months of training. I’d visualized this moment repeatedly and it was all playing out better than I could have hoped. We charged to the finish line to a very exciting small reception of friends, in particular my sister, all the way out here from Michigan, to wrap up the most amazing race of my life.

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TRT100 2016 finish. 24:29:36

As it turned out, Roxanne had a phenomenal race and finished about 50 minutes before me, so the lights we saw turned out to be a new friend, Louis, who made sure I didn’t pass him in the final miles.  The 2016 race had 155 finishers and 75 runners who didn’t quite make it. I had several friends in each category, and realize how fortunate I was to have a good day. You just never know what can happen out there.

I’m eternally appreciative of the love and support I received before, during, and after the race from Lucas, Lynette, Pete, Meghan, my parents, my brother and his family, Betsy, Angela, Audrey, Helen, Gretchen, Diana, Holly, Spike, Chaz, Moné, Kathy, Jessie, Anna Mae, Avian and Stephen, and all my family, friends and fellow Donner Party Mountain Runners. I had so many quotes from each of you going through my mind throughout the race. I’m super grateful to my friend George Ruiz, Race Director, for putting on such a high-quality event, year after year. I’m also thankful for the hundreds of volunteers that gave up their weekend (or more) to provide us runners with the best experience possible.

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Lucas and I walking to the car from the finish.
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Later that afternoon, at the awards ceremony, with my badass friend Jill, who finished her 11th hundred miler in 5th place.
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Lucas, me, and Lynette at the awards ceremony
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