Thursday, October 04, 2007

09/28/07 Tahoe Triple Day Two

Here I am just before the start of Day Two. If you haven't read the introduction to this weekend's activities, start here. If you haven't read the recap of Day One, you might want to start there.

Day One had ended on kind of a sour note. Day Two was a brand new day! The second day would turn out to be very different in two ways: not-as-nice weather (but not bad), and an easier course (though still quite challenging).

The weather on the first day had started out very cold. However, we had blue skies and no wind... and it warmed up reasonably quickly. It never got too hot. Day two started out warmer, or at least "less cold". However, it never really warmed up, it was gray and foggy, and then it got quite windy. With the wind chill, the end of the race was nippy.

What about that course? In a sense, it wasn't that different from Day One. The course on the first day was downhill in the first half, then it rolled for awhile, then it had monster uphills in the last 11 miles. Day Two's first 11 miles had lots of downhill too, and the middle miles rolled just like Day One's course. But while there were some challenging hills in the second half of Day Two, nothing was like the monsters in Day One. Another similarity was the traffic... both days required us to run against busy traffic. Day Two's shoulder was a little wider for running, and the traffic wasn't coming quite as fast (say 50 instead of 70). And while there was some town running on the second day, it didn't occur during rush hour... so I never had the same level of fear about getting tagged by a turning SUV as I had on the first day. It was still quite stressful, though.

I should also mention the bike race.

Race week at Lake Tahoe involved all kinds of activities beyond the marathons and the ultra. They also had kayak races on our Day One. On our Day Two, there were a couple different bike races. The main one circumnavigated the lake, with the fastest riders trying to hit the 3 hour mark. That's basically averaging 25 mph on a bike. And bikes travel in packs. And the bike race went in the opposite direction from our marathon.

What did that mean to us? It meant, starting somewhere around M8, bikes started flying at us. Fast. Really fast. I felt for these folks... they had to eat a lot more wind than we did, and they had to ride mixed in with automobile traffic. Nevertheless, as a runner, the bikes were not my friend. They wanted to hug the shoulder, especially when they were riding in packs. I was on the shoulder going the other way. Gah. It never became a huge issue for me, but because they kept flying by, it was stressful. It did become more of an issue for my friend Coconutboy. Somewhere along the way, he got clipped in the shoulder. Both he and the cyclist were okay, but yikes!

Some of the cyclists were very encouraging to the runners, and when I wasn't praying for my life, I tried to yell kind words at them. Alas, sometimes I wanted to yell unkind words. But I didn't.

Let me go back to the beginning for a second. Thanks to the coaching we'd received from Sean M at the pre-race dinner, I knew that Day Two would be easier than Day One. However, Day One had beaten me up pretty badly, so I had no grand plans of running aggressively. My goals were to 1) not miss any turns and 2) match my time from the first day. The first goal proved to be simple to achieve... there were only two turns on the entire course, and they both had the promised arrows/cones/person. In fact, I'm pretty sure that when the organizers gave me their flippant "just run next to the lake; you can't get lost" answer at the dinner, they were considering Day Two specifically.

Remember the shotgun start at the beginning of the first day? Luckily, we didn't have that... I think the gun went to start the bikes. But something odd DID happen. An early start! Most races start exactly on time, which is fine. Sometimes a race will start late, which affects me differently depending on the cause and how I feel that day. But early? That doesn't happen.

It did here :-). About 10 minutes before the race was scheduled to start, a cop pulled into the starting area. This was apparently THE cop, and he was ready to get moving. So our organizer told us "ok, the cop's here so we have to go!" and 3, 2, 1 off we went. I felt kind of badly for the small group of people just arriving as we left. Although we all had chips on our ankles, this was just for catching our time at the end. With no mat at the start, we all "started" at the same official time. Including the people just pulling into the lot. Whoops.

The race started at Spooner Summit, which is why lots of the first 11 miles were downhill. I stopped at the water station around M7. The next one was at 10.4 as we turned west to go around the top of the lake. My bottle was still pretty full, so I skipped it. This was a tragic error.

M14 was the next scheduled water stop. It wasn't there. Hmm. I passed several 7-11s, and I could have stopped. I didn't, though, because I expected that the water station would be just around the next bend. The next one was supposed to be M17. Nothin'. By this point, my bottle was nearing empty. I passed more 7-11s and my money burned a hole in my pocket, but I stubbornly told myself, "it'll be around the next bend." Yeah, buddy.

By M21, the course started into some major roly polies. I kept telling myself that none of this was like Day One's monsters, and it certainly wasn't. But it WAS hard. M21's scheduled water stop? Nope. And I was now in an area with no 7-11s. Time to beg, just like people in Amazing Race who have lost or spent all their money.

Ok, really it was nothing like that. Every support crew I encountered on all three days was incredibly, well, supportive. They always had kind words for me. And the very first person I bugged for water was all "you bet!" I talked with him about the lack of official water stations. After I missed my turn on Day One, several people were adamant that the turn was marked. I was kind of wondering if the same was true in this race... maybe I had somehow blindly missed a secret turnoff to the water stops. The guy agreed with me - he hadn't seen any, and other runners had come begging. Huh. I thanked him as I left; he really helped me out.

At M23, there it was: the first official aid station I had seen since M10.4. Nice. It was Barefoot Todd. He also agreed with me that something weird had happened, but he didn't know what.

I was slowing a little by this point, and still afraid that I might miss a turn. However, I was sure that I was ahead of my time from the previous day, so I just tried to hold it together.

"You look like you're hurting!"

That's what another runner told me. YIKES. Hmmm, actually I felt ok - just a little stressed out from the bikes (all of which had passed, but I didn't know it), lack of water (which worked out), and the possibility of getting lost (which wouldn't happen today). That's not the best thing to tell someone. If a person looks like they are approaching death, I might not tell them "you look marvelous!", but I also won't give them any downers either.

"You look bad!"

Gee, thanks. All I could work up was a weak "Nah, I'm fine. Just ready to be done." And I was.

Big hill at M24. At M25, we entered Tahoe City. There was a marker for M25, wahoo. My time was alright. The finish would be in the parking lane of the road we were on, but at M25 I did not know this. I kept looking down the cross streets as I went through intersections. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I surely didn't want to miss it.

M26. Someone said, "We still have more than half a mile!" Huh? No we didn't. And then I spied (with my bloodshot eyes) some cones that looked like an informal chute... and yes, there was the official clock... so I sped up, finished, and there it was. Done. 4:15. Not a great time for me, but a full 11 minutes faster than the previous day. I was pleased.

Afterwards, I asked this person why he thought we still had more than half a mile when we didn't. It turned out that lots of people had been told that the second day was actually 26.7 miles. I don't think it was, and I missed that little point whenever it had been made.

The Coconut family (Coconutboy pulled a 4:00 despite getting hit by a bike!) cheerfully gave me a ride back to the casino, and I repeated the process from the first day. Bathtub, eat, eat some more.

In the evening, I went to listen to Sam Thompson's talk about running 51 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. Sam's the best. A few hours after that... at midnight... Sam and Sean M would start the ultra. 72 miles, all the way around the lake. During the night, they'd encounter bitter cold, snow, and ice.

The same snow and ice that I'd see the next morning for Day Three. I only got it for 8 miles. They had it all night long. WOW.

Next up: Day Three! An actual organized race! The hardest race of the triple!

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