12th Place: 8:00:02
Men 1st : Adam Brady of Reno, Nevada – 5:45:35
Women 1st : Caroline Barichievch of South Lake Tahoe, California – 6:24:20
The Lake of the Sky Trail 36 started under a typical Tahoe morning, slightly cool and perfectly clear. A varied group of entrants milled around the starting area waiting for Linda Mathis’ pre-race briefing, as I pinned on #856 (Darren's Leadville #) and Des and Tephra joined me at the trailhead start. Nothing much to the briefing, just follow the red, yellow, and blue flags, basically stay on the Tahoe Rim Trail, thank the volunteers, and have a good day. At 7:00 am, we were off.
I’d planned on taking it easy climbing from the Tahoe City trailhead, for the first four or five miles it’s a pretty steady ascent until just after the Cinder Cone aid station. There were about 30 in the 36-mile event, but we were combined with a marathon and an 18-mile group, so the first part of the rocky single-track was a bit crowded. I fell in with a couple guys, an 18-miler seemed to pacing a 36-miler, but they were going at a very comfortable rate so I stuck with them for a while. I could tell this 13-minute pace was perfect, and that my guess of a 17-minute pace for this first climb was way too slow. When the two guys pulled off for a break, I went ahead and joined a senior runner, a guy who’d been running ultras, he said, since 1973. I kept steady, occasionally walking the steep sections, and Frank kept with me. But he had some trouble in the rocky terrain. While he was telling me of his exploits, his voice would be interrupted by a crash and I’d turn to find him, his bottles, and sunglasses strung out on the trail. I was surprised the first time, but kind of got used to it after the third. At one point I just kept going, but I eventually slowed up to see if he was still on the trail. He was OK. Then I decided to leave him and the forming group as we topped that first climb. Without thinking too much about it, I was 20 minutes ahead of my splits as I reached Cinder Cone.
The aid stations were well-provisioned for this type of event; even so, at Cinder Cone I forgot to fill the one hand-held I carried. I had simply checked the goods, so I could tell Des, who would meet me at Painted Rock station, what I might be short of – nothing much as it turned out. The about 5-mile spacing between stations meant I could simply carry the hand-held and a few GUs and I’d be good. Except for this first mistake, I downed a bottle between each station and ate a GU every half-hour; I’d supplement that at the station with odds and ends that looked good, always adding a couple cups of the electrolyte drink. Thanks go to the volunteers at each station.
I gave my shirt to Des at Painted Rock and moved quickly on, a full bottle with me this time. The trail was perfect. Four of us were basically together, spreading out between stations as I typically moved ahead and re-grouping at the stations. At Watson Lake Station, the marathon turn-around, I was still 20-minutes up on my splits and feeling very good. Des kept me loaded with a few GUs and counted the empties to make sure I was fueling. All was good. Just past Watson Lake, Adam Brady passed me on his in-bound, running nicely on the way to his 5:45 finish. Only a few others passed me before the Turnaround.
I probably spent a little too much time at the Turnaround station chatting with Des, Marta, and Sharon (who’d we’d seen at Leadville). But I felt great as I started the in-bound, figuring I was in 8th place after almost 20 miles. To my surprise, I ran into my brother Darren taking my picture as I ran through Mile 21. I had caught Derrick Tsang and we created a partnership that would last for about nine miles. Darren would run past taking pictures and an occasional video from behind a tree or rock. By the time I hit Watson Lake station again, I was 30 minutes up on my splits. But a look at my Garmin stats shows that I after Mile 16 my average pace had dropped to a lower plateau, even while catching a few people and being happy to run into Darren on the trail. As I enjoyed the gradual descent into Painted Rock I thought I was feeling great, but my pace had begun to slow (the Garmin tells the story). At the aid station I was still in 8th or 9th; I grabbed some more fuel, put on a shirt, and moved on. Thunderstorms grew over the Escarpment at Squaw Valley but they stayed there and rumbled for the remainder of the afternoon.
As I ran through the rollers to Mile 30, I noticed a chipmunk perfectly still and staring at me from the trail. As I touched him with a toe, he squeaked but didn’t move. Other runners were coming so I pushed and encouraged him to the trailside where he jumped and chirped a few times but moved awfully slow for a typical little rodent.
Just beyond the chipmunk scenario, Derrick caught me again, and then passed me for good, though he said “you’ll catch me on the next climb, I’m sure.” I wasn’t. The IT on the outside of my left knee had started to flare and eventually caught fire. This fire soon engulfed my right IT, so with both knees aflame the downhills became very difficult. I slowed way down, getting very close to the 17-minute pace I’d predicted for the outbound on this same section, but now it was a descent! I started to force myself to run for a couple minutes, following that with a few minutes of walking, being careful on the rocky sections because I’d lost stability with the growing pain. I kept this up over the last six miles, losing time and position. I’m happy I kept at it, and I constantly reminded myself that I was enjoying the day and that I was performing beyond my expectations. I managed to keep a good attitude, even though I was surprised at the pain – I’d never experienced any IT problems in all of my training to-date.
On the final descent Michael Silva caught me; I’d been pacing with him just after the start many hours ago. He’d finish in just under 8 hours. Soon I saw Des and Marta at the finish and the small crowd seemed be counting down, “five, four, three…” I wasn’t going to make it in under 8 hours, but no big deal. I’d made it back to the Tahoe City trailhead with a time of 8:00:02 for my first ultra finish. 12th place. 5th in the 40-49 age group. Derrick, who’d paced with me for a long time, finished with a time of 7:42; curing the IT issues will get me under that time. Twenty-seven runners finished this year’s Lake of the Sky 36.
A great event on a wonderful section of the TRT. Nice massage station and a big burrito awaited me in the finish area. It was great to redeem #856. Great to see Darren on the trail and at the finish; and I’m really happy he got me into this. Now to prepare for the Firetrails 50 were we’ll run together.
Thanks to Des for joining me on this first of many…
Gear: La Sportiva Electrons, Patagonia software, Injinji socks, Garmin 110, Ultimate hand-held bottle, 14 GUs, 4 Endurolyte tablets.