Sunday, July 17, 2016

Post TRT DNF: amazing tales of the tail of the pack

Mind the valiant runners who finished this 100-mile beast in 30 hours or more, after a good night of sleep thanks to a painful early DNF/drop for me, my first wish when I woke up at 6 am this Sunday morning was to run up to Tunnel Creek and do that second Red House loop! And get a glimpse of the tail of the pack and the closure of an aid station which I'm not so accustomed to since my captain years at Last Chance in 2005-2006 (Western States aid station).

While the Hobart aid station remains opened even longer, it only sees the 100-mile runners 4 times, versus 6 for Tunnel Creek. And Tunnel Creek also gets the visit of crews which Hobart doesn't. That makes Tunnel Creek the busiest and hardest aid station to manage in my view, not to mention the hardest to track runners at with 3 ways to get in and 3 ways to get out. For instance, speaking about the time span of the station: on the 3.4-mile up to the station, I crossed one volunteer from the medical team who had been working for 30 straight hours! At the station, I got to know the doctor leading this team who was all smile after being up at the station since Friday 6 pm (42 hours total). Here is Andy with his wife, Joann Ellero, and mother in law, Mariza.
The other fixture of this station for the past years has been the amazing Noe Castañon, who volunteers everywhere if not running an ultra himself. Noe welcomed us, the front runners, before 7 am on Saturday morning and here he was helping the last runners still on the course at 11 am on Sunday. Seeing him yawning I teased him "Are you getting tired, Noe?" and he replied, with a big smile, that it had been a long day indeed, but so rewarding and exciting. But when I thanked Andy for all he did to keep the runners going, he turned to Noe and said that Noe was the man, and he was just doing what Noe said... ;-) Here is Noe listening to Chuck Amital.
I arrived at the station at around 8:25 am, just in time to see John Brooks taking a short break on a chair. John is part of our Quicksilver ultra running team and it was a delight to see him smiling with such great spirits before embarking on the final and still grueling 15 miles to Spooner Lake. John completed the two loops in 31:46.

John had run the whole race with Chuck Amital who, at 57, competes in our Grand Prix in my age group, like John.
Chuck is with Pamakids and was followed this morning by a couple of teammates whom I saw going through the station after I completed and swept the Red House loop.

Speaking of teams I want to point how friendly our team competition in the Grand Prix has become over the years. In the first years, starting in 2007, it was quite competitive between our club and Tamalpa, then Excelsior. But now, I find it completely flipped upside down: at the image of the ultra running community, it is much more about emulation and friendliness. We encourage each others though our struggles, our hearts our broken when anyone of us drop or get behind, and we enjoy seeing others striving. For instance, I was bummed to hear that Chikara Omine and Karl Schnaitter had dropped mid way. Our team had our fair share of misfortune with Stuart, Frederic, Marco, Joe and my DNF. With 138 finishers and about 80 DNFs, the outcomes of the race were very different across the board. Special congrats to teammate Mark Tanaka for completing his 6th TRT 100, screwed (without a crew!), and Jill Cole for taking 4th in the women division in 27:26. Big shout out to Paul Broyer (Excelsior) who finished 5th overall in 22:41, he is the one ramping up the fastest among our Bay Area ranks in my opinion. And, on the women side, I was blow away by the win of Roxanne Woodhouse who finished in 23:38 and 8th overall, at the age of 53!

Back to my recovery run, before going down the loop, I asked the night captain of the aid station if they needed me to take off the ribbons and marking and he replied that it had all been taken care of. Well, 1 hour and 20 minutes later, look at what I came back with! 4 ribbons, 2 flags and 7 direction signs, not a bad harvest! ;-)
Despite her hip pain, Agnès did hike up to the aid station with our friends Todd and Janet, to get my drop bag. With the time I spent sweeping and connecting with the volunteers and runners, they had already left when I finished the Red House loop. Before flying down, everybody at the aid station was treated with a cool visit of a guy hiking the whole TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail) with 3... lamas!
Elite ultra runner, Jennie Capel, was among those enjoying this zoo experience!
On the way back, I met my club mates Karen Bonet and Nattu Natraj. Nattu was pulled out by the medical staff at his second passage through Hobart yesterday. He was suffering from asthma, couldn't get his heart rate to slow down and had a low level of oxygen in his blood. At mile 40, a bummer. Karen is also an accomplished ultra runner, and right now preparing for 2 more iron(wo)mans.
With such a perfect weather, the views of the lake going down were breathtaking (a matter of fact when running at this altitude anyway)!
Big thanks to Agnès for carrying my drop bag, allowing me to run down to Incline Village and get such a great 18-mile recovery run before driving back to the Bay Area.

One day has passed and I still think TRT 100 isn't for me but we'll be back in the area for sure, and maybe run one of the 'shorter' ultras. It is such a scenery and event and, again, I'm so in awe with the back of the pack runners I saw this morning toughing it out to get to the finish line under 35 hours. And grateful to all these volunteers who gave us their entire weekend so we could enjoy these trails and ultra challenges in a safe way. More amazing and personal tales were formed throughout the weekend thanks to all of you!
PS: more pictures of this valiant runners fighting the 11 am cut-off at Tunnel Creek

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