The Tahoe Rim 100. I had been signed up for this race since early morning of January 1,minutes after the race registration opened. Tahoe was my goal race for mid-2010 and I was interested in seeing what kind of improvement I could achieve on the course where I ran my first 100 mile race (2009). I knew that I would run a better race in 2010 as I was stronger physically and more experienced/smarter at the distance than in 2009,but there were two unknowns in my head which made me unsure of what time I could actually pull off if I ran to the limit and my body performed well on the day;my fitness level,and the new section of course which was adding somewhere around 1750′of steep climbing per 50 mile loop.
Fitness had me worried early in the year post-HURT 100 as my body was wrecked for several months after running that race. I finally rebounded in April with some good training following with 100k and 50 mile races in May. The good training continued into June-July and my body was ready to toe the start line at Tahoe and perform to the finish. Thus I was relieved that fitness/health was not an issue come race day (outside of the thoughts that all of us have with regards to “if I just had one more good day/weekend/week of running…”). The open question however was what would the big,steep climb up and over Diamond Peak at miles 30 and 80 do to the times this year?..
Pre-race I thought the guys to look out for would be Erik Skaden,Jon Olsen,Bob Shebest,Thomas Crawford,and Victor Ballesteros. Plus I assumed there would be some other unknowns ready to pull off a great race and surprise everyone which I guess is the role that I played at TRT100 in 2009. At Friday check-in we heard that Skaden was out which was big news as he was defending champ for the last two years and was probably the best at trucking through the mid-day heat. The news really blew the race open for everyone.
I knew that Jon Olsen would have some of the best leg speed,but he mentioned he was short on the training and climbing that he felt he needed to truly challenge at the front and would be running pretty conservative the first 50,with the goal of finishing sub-24. Victor was coming off of Western States three weeks prior but is so talented I definitely thought he would be making his move later in the race if his legs felt good after the first 50. Thus Jon and Victor were my picks for guys that could surge late since they would run conservative early,and potentially pick off anyone that was fading.
Bob Shebest and Thomas Crawford were much more unknowns but for different reasons. I knew Bob would have the most all-around fitness at the start line and would be capable of a fast time with course knowledge of running sub-23hrs in 2009,but that he could potentially go out too hard at an unsustainable pace. Thomas was an unknown because he was definitely the fastest guy on paper and had just set the Leona Divide 50 mile CR earlier in the year. This was his first 100 miler however which really matters at the distance as it is so unique (in my opinion). That being said my goal on the day was to set myself up for a strong second 50 miles,and hopefully run well enough to finish top 3 and run at or around the 20:50 that I ran in 2009 (since the course had 3500′+ of additional climbing in 2010). However there was always the possibility that I could crash as anything can happen in 100 miles.. which proves to be both the beauty and the brutality of the distance.
Race Start to Mile 30:“Deliberate,steady pacing”
The 100 miler kicks off at 5am and per usual there was a ton of energy at and around the start line. There were a lot of hellos,and it was fun to see the nervous anticipation on the faces of some friends who would be attempting their first 100 as I remembered it well from TRT100 a year earlier. I felt really calm,and spent the last minute pre-race staring up at the millions(?) of stars visible in the dark Tahoe sky. From the start I set a comfortable pace and was joined by Jon Olsen and Thomas Crawford. It was fun catching up with Jon,and chatting with Thomas who I had not yet met but of course was a super cool guy. I was waiting to see if anyone would shoot ahead or pass us as we were cruising,and sure enough within the first couple miles we were passed by three guys looking to go harder than I was ready to this early. Thomas continued with us for about the first 14 miles and we shared some laughs about how we got into the sport and what we did with our time outside of running. Thomas has a pretty great “first ultra”story so ask him sometime if you ever get the chance. Sometime around Tunnel Creek (~mile 11) Thomas went ahead though I could still see him for most of the Red House loop (miles ~11-18).
Jon and I ran together for most of the first 27 miles which was a blast. Jon’s motivation in 2009 helped with having that transfer over into 2010,and it was fun to share some laughs and discuss our plans on the day as well as potential race schedules for the rest of the year. Half-way through Red House we were wondering when we would be seeing some of the runners ahead of us as we were running together tied for 5th,but some of the guys in the early first 3 were probably going out to hard. Sure enough on the climb out of Red House we caught two of them,exchanged some motivation with the guys on the climb,and then moved into a tie for third by the time we got back to the Tunnel Creek aid station at mile ~17.5.
For the next 8-9 miles we ran steady on the constantly rolling Tahoe Rim Trail until we finally hit the flagging the signaled the turn onto the new section of trail which was around a 4 mile descent down to the base of Diamond Peak at mile 30. At this point Jon moved ahead and was soon out of sight as he was running the downs really well. I didn’t want to push the descents too hard too early so I cruised and was waiting/expecting to have some combo of Bob,Victor,Joe Palubeski,and any other guys running well to catch me on the descent. I didn’t see anyone else on this section of trail and I cruised into Diamond Peak ready to refuel as this was the first easily-accessible crew access point and my crew would be ready. It was good to see buddies Randy Katz and Joel Lanz and we quickly exchanged Gel-bot tops (freshly loaded with gel) as well as some gels to stash in the pockets. It was a quick stop but I threw down some extra calories as I knew the big Diamond Peak climb was ahead.
Miles 30-50:“Fuel for the hunt”
A couple weekend trips prior to the race allowed me to see and run the Diamond Peak climb several times (however with near-fresh legs),but it was still an unknown what the 1700′+ climb/hike up Diamond Peak would add time-wise as the latter 2/3 of the climb is at a grade that is not runnable (and the footing is basically sand). From mile 30 I ran and hiked the first third of the climb,which in training I had run all of. The heat was really starting to show especially since most all of the climb is completely exposed. On the hike of the latter 2/3 I could see that Jon Olsen was a couple minutes ahead,and that Bob Shebest was not far back from me and was hiking really strong. Bob caught me by the top of the climb and we ran together for a few minutes catching up on the race standings. He seemed a little surprised when I told him there were 3 guys ahead and I hadn’t seen the front two runners for hours. Bob quickly shot off heading back towards Tunnel Creek (mile 35) and at the pace he was moving I figured he would probably catch Jon in a couple of miles if Jon was still cruising. I settled in,thinking about nutrition and hydration and what I would need to do to in the next 65 miles to hopefully move up from 5th place and make a charge for a top three finish. I wasn’t worried however as it was still very early,there was still A TON of climbing,and the guys ahead seemed to be showing their cards earlier than I wanted to.
In the 15 miles from Tunnel Creek to the 50 mile start/finish aid station there are two significant climbs,one of which peaks out above 9k’in elevation which is the highest mark on the course. There is then a long 7+ mile downhill back to the start/finish. I used this time to really focus on the trail and do my best to memorize the climbs,as I knew I would need to hustle and run most during miles 85-100 if I wanted to make a strong push and put up a good time. I also really tried to fuel and hydrate as much as possible as miles 50-56 were the toughest for me in 2009 due to lack of adequate hydration during the heat of the day. I knew that staying hydrated early would allow me to make up a lot of time vs. last year during miles 50-56. I cruised into the aid station at mile 50 in 9:04 hours,running in 5th place. The splits into mile 50 for the top 5 were:1. Thomas Crawford 8:43 – 2. Jon Olsen 8:53 —3. Chris Knorzer 8:54 —4. Bob Shebest 9:01 —5. Brett Rivers 9:04.
Miles 50-80:“Let’s go hunting”
The 50 mile aid station was kind of a blur as there was so much going on,but I quickly found my crew,weighed in,had my blood pressure taken for a study that friends Zach Landman and Geri Ottaviano were conducting for medical research,and then refueled. Bob told me post race that he heard me coming into 50 as he was leaving 50 and was a little frustrated I was still so close. I didn’t know he was there,but my crew told me that Chris Knorzer had been in the aid station for 10 minutes already and was still sitting down and looking a little rough. I wished him best of luck in my head hoping that he could continue on as it looked like he had run the first 50 at a pretty strong pace. I picked up my training partner Joel Lanz who was gracious enough to be my TRT safety runner for the second 50 miles (only 2 days after he and some of our buddies did 30+ miles running the Grand Canyon of the Tuolummne) and we headed out of mile 50 at 9:07 now in 4th place.
As I mentioned,in 2009 miles 50-56 were the toughest for me as I ran out of water within the first two miles and pretty much had to hike/shuffle my way to Hobart aid station at mile 56. This year I was more prepared and threw on an ultralight hydration pack (a demo from Hydrapak,thanks guys!) for the next 10 miles so that I would have access to ~30oz of additional water on my back in addition to the one handheld Gel-bot I kept with me all race. This strategy/learning worked out really well and I made up a lot of time vs 2009 (and even had a little bit of spare water to dump on my head in the mid-day heat).
Joel and I caught up on the race and he filled me in on where the leaders were at as well as what was going on behind me. I asked if Victor,Joe,or anyone else was on my tail and would be chasing me down,but was really surprised and bummed to hear that both Victor and Joe had made a wrong turn at the top of Diamond Peak and were out of the mix at the front,and that Joe was dealing with food poisoning and may have already dropped. It was unfortunate news as I was really pulling for both guys to have a good race.
At Hobart Aid Station at mile 56 I saw Jon Olsen who was busy refueling but seemed a little down. We quickly shared some words of encouragement and then Joel and I continued on to Tunnel Creek and the Red House loop now in 3rd place. Halfway through Red House we got our first glimpse of Bob who looked to be a couple minutes ahead. Over the next several miles we steadily reeled in Bob who was running a little stiff. We caught him basically at the base of the climbing out of Red House loop and chatted together for minute before taking off. I really tried to hustle the climbs out of Red House as I wanted to put as much quick distance on Bob as possible. I knew he was going through a rough spot,but since he is such an experienced endurance athlete I knew he could harness everything again.
From Tunnel Creek to the Opher Creek turnoff ~8 miles later we again cruised the rolling trails of the TRT,moving well on the climbs,and looking over our shoulders every once in a while to see if Bob or anyone else was making a charge. We continued doing the same on the ~4 mile descent down to Diamond Peak (miles 76-80) and mentally this was somewhat of a low point as the section seemed long and I still didn’t want to push the downhills here as I needed legs for the three major climbs ahead and the big descent down to the finish.
Miles 80-93:“Running scared.. aka getting hunted!”
We cruised into mile 80 and I instantly saw Larissa. “Dang”I thought in my head,“I guess it wasn’t her day,I hope she is ok.” At the aid station we didn’t really have a chance to chat as I was focused on refueling as much as possible and grabbing gear for the hard push to the finish. Skaden was there which was awesome and he and Randy let me know I was an hour back from Thomas (I figured I was at least 45 back unless he had really blown up). I threw down a bunch of calories,Joel grabbed our headlamps for the night,and we were off.
As we were leaving the aid station we heard “runner coming in”and instantly my race mentality changed. Every expletive ran through my head as Joel and I started making our way up Diamond Peak. After turning a corner we could see it was Bob and his pacer Michael Cook right behind us,about a minute back. My mind took over and we started running the first 1/3 of Diamond Peak including the lower sections that I had hiked the first time through. I told Joel I wanted to get out of Bob’s line of sight asap and we pushed the climb HARD including the hike of the latter 2/3. We lost site of Bob who was further below and has soon as we crested Diamond Peak and hit the TRT we were off like madmen,as if the climb we just completed was an anthill.
The 3 miles back to Tunnel Creek are at a slight downhill grade and we pushed them hard,hoping to put distance on Bob and stay out of his sites. We blew through Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 85 with nothing more than a water refill and 1/2 a cup of chicken soup while waiting the couple seconds to get my water bottle back. 15 miles to go and Bob was on my heels. The next 8 miles had two major climbs but it was the section that I really tried to focus on and memorize during the first 50 mile loop. Joel and I continued running like madmen,hiking when we had to,but continuing to move fast. Joel kept remarking “I can’t believe how fast you are moving”which was motivating to hear,but also somewhat true as I was somewhat surprised as well. I told Joel pre-race to get me to run scared during the late part of the race as I knew I would have some in the tank,but Bob did that for me by pretty much pulling up to us at mile 80.
We again blew through Hobart at mile 90,just a quick water refill and I threw down a gel. I had started feeling some cramping in my legs the prior couple of miles so I upped the salt tabs as well,hoping that it was not too late. We kept a strong pace while I mentally focused on relaxing my body out of cramping including some in-pace stretching on the sections of the climb up to Snow Valley Peak that we had to hike. The weekly early-morning yoga classes were truly showing their worth in several ways during this section as I focused on a hard pace while mentally relaxing the body,all while running scared at elevation up above 8000′. It is hard to describe everything that was converging mentally and physically,but if you’ve been there you know it.
Miles 93-100:“I have a chance to break 20hrs!”(was really 19hrs)
We hit the Snow Valley Peak aid station at mile 93 and it was great to get motivation right when I needed it from the Boy Scout troop who does a great job manning the aid station all race. One last cup of chicken soup broth,a last water top-off,and then we were off. Joel kept an eye out behind us but we hadn’t seen any headlamps or official sights of Bob since the climb up Diamond Peak,and at the rate we were moving I absolutely knew no one could pass us if they were not already on our heels,and even then it would be tough for them. I was ready to crush the last 7 miles to the finish,and felt invincible if anyone tried to make a charge behind me.
I took a quick look at my watch and tried to do some math:5am start,10:53pm at Snow Valley,~7 miles to go…Holy crap I have a chance to break 20 hours! Well,I really had a chance to break 19 hours,but the math brain was a little fuzzy and I didn’t lose a step while we hammered down Snow Valley Peak,headlamps glaring into the abyss. Hammered is what we did. I laid it all out on this section and pushed it harder than I knew possible. Every ounce of energy that I had saved earlier in the day I was letting out now. I was still running scared,but I felt 2nd was locked up and no one could pass me,otherwise I would counter even harder. What I wanted now was sub 20hrs (really sub 19hrs) and I wanted it bad. Turn after turn we kept it up. There were a few times when I could hear Joel fading further back,only to catch up again,probably knowing that he would “get the business”from all of us for a quite a while if I managed to pull away from him 90+ miles into the race. We didn’t even pause running past the Spooner Summit aid station 1.7 miles from the finish. With about a 1/2 mile to go Joel got really excited and I just tried to stay calm,as I had still not mentioned to him that we had a chance to break 20 (Joel knew we had a chance to break what was really 19,but neither of us were going to jinx it). I ended up running the last 7+ miles from Snow Valley Peak aid station to the finish in 60 minutes flat,which was about 7 minutes faster than anyone else on the day.
A few seconds after 18 hours 53 minutes I let out a yell as I read the clock and could see that I would be breaking 19 hours,not 20 hours. I crossed in 18:53.37,good enough for 2nd place and what was the third fastest time ever on the course (although a modified course from the 18:59 that Skaden and Wolf ran in ’08). I hugged everyone that was there and then collapsed into a chair. My body was done,I had left it all out on the trail. I couldn’t believe I had just broke 19hrs and ran about 2 hours faster than I did in 2009. That was the year-over-year improvement that I was looking for.
Re:the new section of course: (Opher Creek to Diamond Peak to Bull Wheel)
Going into the race I thought the new section of course would dramatically add time and difficulty to the course,possibly up to an extra 45 minutes. What I didn’t take into account was that the descent down to Diamond Peak actually saves time,and while the Diamond Peak climb is a bear,it wasn’t the beast that I thought it would be,especially at mile 80. Overall in my opinion from having run both courses,I think the new course is about 10 minutes or so faster per 50 mile loop for the front-runners vs. the old course. For mid-back of pack runners the new course definitely adds time though,depending on abilities and pace. No matter what I think Thomas’amazing 17:49 would beat out Jasper’s 18:16 if weighted (just my honest opinion,sorry Jasper!). I really like the added climbing of the new course,and if/when I am fortunate enough to run TRT again I want to improve on that 4+ miles downhill to Diamond Peak.
Congrats and Thanks:
Congrats to everyone who ran the 100 mile,50 mile,and 50k. A huge congrats to Thomas Crawford on CRUSHING his first 100 mile in course-record fashion in 17:49,simply amazing. First hundred,no course preview,no pacer,hopefully people take notice as in my opinion this is going to be a very underrated achievement for 2010 racing. Also a huge congrats and thank you to my buddy Bob Shebest for breaking 20hrs in 19:57,nearly 3 hours faster than in 2009,you really pulled it all together vs your struggles last year,way to go. And thanks for scaring the hell out of me at mile 80,it was the reason I was able to push it hard the last 20,beyond what I thought I could achieve. Jon Olsen way to cross Tahoe off your list! I look forward to seeing your results later this year and into 2011. Mark Tanaka way to get over your elevation apprehension and take 10 hours off your TRT100 time you sandbagger hahha! BIG congrats to everyone who conquered their first 100 milers (!) especailly friends Kathleen Egan (28:44),Preston McCaskill (29:25),Eric Wilson (31:19),and David Wronski (33:19 –in crazyass vibrams). That is a tough course,enjoy the achievement.
Thank you to the race organizers especially David Cotter,George Ruiz,and all of the volunteers. The race is well staffed and it would not be possible with all of the volunteers who donate their time so that a bunch of nutty people can run obscene miles on the mountains above Tahoe. Thanks to Joel Lanz for 50 miles of motivation,hopefully I can return the favor for you at a 100 miler in 2011 (or late 2010!). “Crew chief”Randy Katz,thanks for getting me in and out of the crewed aid stations,I also hope to return the favor when you go after a 100 Erik Skaden,your help and talk at mile 80 was a big motivator,a big thanks,and I also hope to return the favor. Thank you Larissa,know that you motivated me at mile 80 and I pulled some strength from seeing you. Zach Landman and Geri Ottaviano thanks a ton for the motivation all day and for lending a shoulder post-race so that I could get to a car. Ken Brunt thanks for organizing the housing for the weekend. Glenn Tachiyama thanks for the sweet photos! And thanks to all of my friends who were out on the course running or pacing.
There are a lot of long-overdue Thank You’s to people that were not at the race but helped to get there and across the finish line. Nathan Yanko, Devon Crosby-Helms, and the “Thursday morning ninjas”thanks for the miles of laughs,smack talk,and motivation. Jim Vernon and The Endurables thanks for the great training runs. Florencia Gascon-Amyx, Gary Wang and Tamalpa Ultra Racing thanks for organizing a great PA-USATF ultra team and supporting ultra running. Kate Clemens Yoga thanks for the great Tuesday morning classes at Planet Granite,you have no idea how much they help. Nina de Leon,thank you for the great body work,hurting me in a good way,and leaving marks. Lauren Hansen at Chinese Medicine Works for the great acupuncture. Charles Lantz at the TRX Training Center thanks for the fantastic workouts,and Kim Klinedinst and everyone at TRX/Fitness Anywhere,it is the perfect workout and training device for runners and endurance athletes. Michael Comerford and all of my co-workers at Zynga thanks for covering me for the long weekend and not picking on me too much when I was walking funny the following Tuesday. To my parents,family,and friends,a heartfelt thank you for all of your support and understanding while I pursue something I am passionate about.
Full 2010 results found HERE and Splits HERE
Race Website found HERE
Bob Shebest’s recap found HERE
Gretchen Brugman’s recap found HERE
Mark Tanaka’s recap found HERE
Scott Dunlap’s 50k recap found HERE