broke my shoulder the day before the training runs, farther on another section of the TRT, a few weeks before race day: DNS (Did Not Start). Last year, I really enjoyed discovering the course in the first 50-mile loop but messed up my stop at the main aid station and got dehydrated and lost motivation in the next 12 miles, dropping at Tunnel Creek 4 (4th passage through that aid station): DNF (Did Not Finish).
This year, it was supposed to be "my" 100-mile scoring event (we can only score one 100-mile event in our Grand Prix) except that I later decided to fly back from Europe in June to run the 24-hour race which was added later to our list of events and where I logged 127 miles, getting the points of a 100-mile event. With that, my main goals became to improve the M50-59 age group record which was at 23:03.
Agnès and I drove to Carson City and arrived just in time for the check-in (I hadn't realized it was such a drive from the Bay Area with the long stretch on Highway 50). Quite a few familiar faces but also many runners coming from other states with a handful from abroad (Canada, Mexico, France).
For those following my blog, you might remember that I did run a "fat ass" in June with Guillaume Sautai in, or more precisely around, Rouen, France. Guillaume included TRT in a family vacation, touring the American great west. Here he is, at the start, between myself and Frederic, another Frenchman of the Bay Area and new teammate on our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team.
On the final switchbacks of the climb, we caught up with Bob, then he disappeared in the next downhill section, he is such an amazing descender! Just keeping jogging the last uphill before Hobart (mile 7), we caught him up again and I actually passed him to take the lead as he made a stop at the station, while I had enough fluids in my two bottles to cover the first 11 miles to Tunnel Creek 1. We were a group of 6 runners and, for what it is worth, that is nothing, I was the first to get to the "photo shoot" as we were passing a ridge with the sun rising. Bob passed all of us again in a down hill, then we passed him again on another climb. Sincerely, the pace felt ok but my plan wasn't to race against Bob so that got me uncomfortable. In the switchbacks down to Tunnel Creek I even told the group "I'm too hold to be at the front!"
We reached Tunnel Creek at 6:54 am, that is 4 minutes faster than the race plan I had printed out on Thursday, credit to Frank Schnekenburger's UltraSplits website. Despite power hiking the 3.5 miles and 1,700 feet elevation gain up to Tunnel Creek, my crew, Agnès and our friends from Incline Village, missed me by 2 minutes. The time I find my drop bag to take a Vespa, I was the last of our group of 6 to take the plunge down to Red House. I could still see Bob in the lead but, with 2.5 miles of steep downhill in which he excels, that was the last time I was going to see him that time. Here is Bob in a solid lead by mile 17:
It was a relief to see my friends at Diamond Peak, along with teammates Toshi and Sachin. Toshi had come from the Bay Area to pace me from mile 50. 2 weeks ago, he was already on this Tahoe Tim Trail completing an amazing feat, covering the entire loop, 165 miles, in 75 hours, solo and unsupported! They helped me refill my bottles and off I was on the incredibly steep 2-mile ski slope up to Bull Wheel. Not only steep but also sandy, making each step a challenge, especially under a burning sun now. By Diamond Peak I was still right on track according to the 20:40 pace chart, not far from my 2013 splits.
Including a long and painful "pit" stop near the summit, it took me 60 minutes to cover the 2 miles between Diamond Peak and Bull Wheel, yikes, slow motion! As I was approaching the end of the hill, Chris Calzetta caught up with me. Chris joined our team 4 years ago and had a few very successful ultras before getting injured then moving to Monterey and focusing on work and soccer. It was his return on the ultra scene and he seemed to really enjoy the day so far, power walking the steep hills with his poles. We ran together for a few hundreds yards after Bull Wheel but I told him not to wait for me and, indeed, I lost sight of him pretty quickly. I got passed by another handful of runners in the 3 miles to Tunnel Creek 3, on a trail which is both somehow technical with the big boulders and busy as we cross many of the 50-mile and 100-mile runners on their way to Bull Wheel 1 and Diamond Peak 1.
Again, I walked most of the next 3 miles to the next aid station, Snow Valley, at mile 43. That seemed so long, I was really not interested in spending all night moving at that slow pace. I enjoyed the great service and company of the Boy Scouts manning the aid station and stopped for another 15 minutes I believe, able to drink a cup of soup and a few chips. The intestines were now feeling better and I started jogging again but I couldn't even keep up with Mark Tanaka who was himself on a rebound after a tough morning.
Five miles from the 50-mile checkpoint, I got passed by two runners who were shuffling solidly and I decided to try to pick up their pace. It felt really great to be moving and running again and I felt better and better, passing other runners in these final miles getting us to the barn. It felt so great that, upon getting to the aid station, the idea of dropping wasn't so clear to me and I was confusing the volunteers and Agnès with my hesitation. Seems like I was even smiling when I reached the aid station... ;-)
Looking at the results, I'm amazed at Bob's performance with not only another win but in a blazing 17 hours and 38 minutes, a new course record (previous one was set by Thomas Crawford, 30, in 2010 at 17:47)! 2 hours and 45 minutes ahead of second place, Mark Austin, from Boise, ID (Mark who came last year to win the 50-mile race in 8:38). Chris placed 5th in 21:30, Victor 17th (23:28), Mark finished his 5th TRT just under 24 hours with 1 minute to spare (and "screwed" that is without any pacer or crew the whole day and night!); Amy Burton (QuickSilver) took 3rd in the women division in 24:08, 1 minute behind Jamie Frink, Guillaume placed 24th in 24:16 and Frederic completed his first 100-miler in 26:03. And Charles Cheya of Sacramento improved the previous M50-59 age group course record by almost half an hour (22:35:31). We were 10 QuisckSilver team members to toe the line and 8 did finish, quite a successful rate overall: Jill in 29:53, Stephen 30:36 followed 4 minutes later by Scott (30:40), Harris in 32:57 and Jeff in 34:08. And it was inspiring to see other team members stepping up to pace us: Toshi, Guy, David, Greg, Clare, Sandra, Lisa, Harris, kudos to you too!
Apart for the late afternoon storms, the weather conditions were much better than last year, at least not as hot (correction as I read some comments after my original post on FaceBook, the night was actually chilly and even the award ceremony got cancelled on Sunday afternoon because of lightning, rain and flooding. Good for another yikes!). This, plus the support of the volunteers all passionate about ultra running, contributed to many personal successes. It remains a tough course and the loop format is certainly part of the challenge of this event especially if you had a bad experience in the first 50-mile loop.
On Sunday, our friends, Agnès and I hiked up to the Tunnel Creek aid station again to get my drop bag, a good excuse for a morning exercise and some post-race stretching. It was so impressive to see the last runners going through the aid station before the 10:05 am cut-off at mile 85, and also the volunteers who had been up and busy since 5 am the previous day.
Victory Design drop bag (thank you Victor! ;-):
Congrats to all who succeeded at TRT, good luck to those who didn't, for a rebound, and I always enjoy meeting you on the trails, or the web!