A week ago, Debbie ran, but didn’t finish, the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run 100 miler. The race came at the end of an awesome family adventure to Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. It was disappointing for everyone, particularly Debbie, that she didn’t finish the race. She stopped at 68 miles with a really “bad gut.” She had just completed the infamous Red House Loop for the second time, was at the Tunnel Creek Aid Station, and was just out of gas.
When she stopped, she hadn’t eaten anything substantial in nearly four hours and she was barely hydrating. She couldn’t get anything to stay in her stomach and the sensation she described wouldn’t allow her to even try. It was a real bummer because she started the race so well. She was 2nd woman and running strong at 30 miles. She was third at 50 miles, and she was still in 4th when she stopped. Additionally, she put a huge effort into preparing for this race. She is in the best shape of her life, but that doesn’t always translate into ultrarunning results. There is a lot more to running 100 miles than just running…
The 50 mile course (you run it twice) is a beast with 20,000 plus feet of elevation gain. The low point is at 6,800 feet and the high point is at 9,214 feet. The terrain isn’t bad, but the trails were dusty. The temperature soared to nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit, even on the ridges, and the notoriously dry Tahoe Basin air, was even drier.
She certainly had some variables to deal with, but so did all of the other runners. The Tahoe Mountain Milers did a fantastic job with the race. It was a substantial production with a lot of very friendly volunteers. Our family got great support from our host, Tony Lillios, and my cousins, Tim and Sara Nelson. All three helped us with the kids.
I was able to take Debbie to the 5:00 A.M. start on Saturday morning while Tim and Sara stayed with the kids. I ran up to Tunnel Creek after watching her start and cheered for her at miles 11 and 17 after she finished the first Red House Loop. Then, I returned to the house to pick up the rest of the gang. We all went to Diamond Peak to crew for Debbie at the 30 mile aid station.
It was hard to find any shade at the base lodge, but we managed. I walked a little ways up the ski hill, encouraging Debbie all of the way. We saw her next at the 50 mile aid station back at the start/finish in Spooner Lake State Park. She was late getting to the aid and I knew that something was up. I went about 1/4 mile down the trail to meet her and we walked up the final hill together.
She made a quick change to fresh clothes and declared, “It’s a whole new race.” Unfortunately, the respite was only brief. Apparently, she was suffering again. Since, the original plan was to see her again at mile 80, back at Diamond Peak, and she was behind schedule, I called an audible. I decided to meet her at mile 61 back at Tunnel Creek and run with her to the finish.
To make that happen, we raced back to Incline Village. I showered the kids while Tim and Sara made dinner. We got them situated and Tim drove me down to the trailhead. We exchanged high fives and I ran back up to Tunnel Creek. I got there about 30 minutes before Debbie arrived. When she hit mile 61, she was hurting.
I got her up and moving, but the Red House Loop was brutal. It took a lot longer than planned. She had several emotional moments on the trail as she fought the inevitable. We got back to Tunnel Creek via headlamps since the sun was long gone. The moonshine was beautiful. It was nearly full. Several aid station volunteers (they were awesome) helped me as we tried to fuel and hydrate her over the next couple of hours. Everyone wanted her to get up and start moving again, but she couldn’t imagine going another 33 miles.
She described the prospect of climbing up from Diamond Peak again as “daunting.” She ended up on a cot in the med tent for another couple of hours until there were at least four runners who needed rides. We were way up on the ridge, so the only way out was with a four-wheel drive vehicle. The road was insane. It was loaded with rocks and switchbacks.
It got pretty cold up there, so we covered her with a blanket and just waited. Tunnel Creek was a cool scene with runners coming and going in all directions. It was fun to see our friends from New Jersey: runners Elizabeth Azze, Julian Vicente, Harry Hamilton, and their solo crew, Joe Azze. I was pretty tired too after a long day of Daddy Duty, crewing, and picture-taking. The 40 mile safety runner duties would have been fun, but by midnight, I was also looking forward to a ride down the mountain.
Eventually, we got the necessary quota and piled into a huge Dodge pickup truck. The trip back to Spooner Lake took more than an hour. When we got there it was past 2:00 A.M. I had left drop bags for both of us containing dry clothes, a blanket, sandals, hats, eyeglasses, and Debbie’s iPhone. I couldn’t find them where I left them. I searched frantically with my headlamp, but the entire area where I left them had been cleared out. Only the picnic tables remained. I searched the finish area, the 50 mile aid station, and the lost and found. I even searched the dumpster.
It was a terrible feeling. Debbie was able to muster some strength and joined me in the search, but we just ended up retracing our steps. After 30 minutes or so, we gave up, bewildered, and wondering where our stuff went. The few people hanging around the finish line had no ideas where the bags may have gone. We had left Tim’s car at the finish so we took it back to Incline Village.
On the way, Debbie used my iPhone to activate the Find My iPhone feature. As soon as we got a signal, we discovered that her phone was in Carson City on the other side of the mountains. It wasn’t far from the race registration in town. We suspected that it was in a vehicle, but we didn’t know. Did someone steal our stuff? Did they pick it up by mistake? How could that be? The phone wasn’t moving, so we got back to the house, washed up, and crawled into bed.
Morning came quickly. Debbie was hurting, but moving, so we put stuff together and went to the beach after breakfast. It was another gorgeous day. Our plan was to go back to Spooner after spending a couple of hours at Sand Harbor. We figured that whoever had our stuff (assuming they weren’t criminals) would return it to the start/finish.
Periodically, we would check the app and track the iPhone, hoping that it was still in the bag with the other stuff. Thankfully, the battery was fully charged the day before, but the app shows a battery indicator and it wouldn’t last forever. It was already being depleted because we had it set to beep. It also displayed a message with my contact information. All of a sudden, the iPhone was on the move. We tracked it up the mountain and into South Lake Tahoe. It bypassed the park, left Nevada, and was on its way to Sacramento.
All afternoon we helplessly watched the iPhone travel across California. Eventually, it was east of San Francisco and headed south. We still went to Spooner to search for the bags. Maybe the iPhone had been removed from the bags and everything else had been left behind. After all, who wears someone else’s eyeglasses, underwear, and sandals? The iPhone was really the only item of value to a stranger.
We reported our drop bags as lost to the race volunteers and returned to Incline Village to pack and prepare for our departure on Monday. Tim and Sara had already hit the road for San Francisco where they live. Our hopes of intercepting the iPhone were dashed when it headed south. We were hanging out at the house when my phone rang. I immediately yelled when I saw that it was Debbie’s iPhone calling. I answered the phone and was greeted by a woman who identified herself as a member of Team in Training. They had a large group of runners in Tahoe for the 50 kilometer race.
When they packed up all of their runners’ bags, ours were nearby and got packed with them. Debbie and I let out yelps of joy. Thank goodness an honest person took them by mistake. We got ahold of Tim and Sara. They were in Auburn for dinner. They agreed to drive south to San Leandro and get our stuff. I emailed them a detailed list of everything in the bags and we accounted for all of it. This would have been a real disappointing ending to a great week. It was bad enough that Debbie was a DNF, but to lose all of our stuff would have been a disaster.
Tim and Sara are heroes. I was wearing my eyeglasses again by Tuesday, thanks to a UPS Next Day Air shipment. Debbie got her iPhone back and they will bring the rest of the stuff when they visit in August. We highly recommend that you register your Apple devices, download the app, and read these tips. They were a huge help!
As for the race…it became an afterthought after our little saga. The disappointment is lingering, but Debbie is focused on investigating the stomach challenges that have caused so much suffering at her past two 100 milers, including Pinhoti last fall. In the past week, she has gotten a ton of support from friends and family. We all know that she has many great races ahead. She is doubting herself a bit right now, but she will get to the bottom of the issues and take another shot at the ultra distance again.
She wasn’t the only runner who suffered at TRT100. It was a tough day for many. I think only 118 of 210 finished. It was a very high attrition rate, primarily due to the heat. The belt buckle eluded a lot of runners. The winners were strong. Bob Shebest led home the men. He was followed by Michael Stadnisky and Eric Toschi. Emily Judd was the first woman. She was followed by Amber Monforte and Roxanne Woodhouse.
Something tells me that we will be going back to Tahoe…