This was my fifth straight year of running the Lake Tahoe Marathon. 2007-2011.
This year, I finally beat the time I put down my first year at it. But it hurt.
Here's the run-down:
2007 - 3:54:14
2008 - 4:24:32
2009 - 3:56:02
2010 - 4:44:22
2011 - 3:41:16 (my watch time)
Funny. Good year, bad year, good year... Kind of reminds me of the Star Trek movies, where every other one is either great or a bomb. Ah, Wrath of Khan...
But I digress.
It was an early morning. While Tahoe seems like kind of a "local" race for Reno. it's kind of a pain to get up there. I woke up at 3:45, had a quick bowl of granola and a banana while I made some tea, did a couple of last-minute things, and was driving away by 4:15. That got me up to the Horizon Casino in Stateline in time to catch the 6:00 shuttle bus that took me around the east side of the lake to Tahoe City, where the start line is.
Despite the warning email that it would be cold at the start (near 34 degrees, it said) it was actually pleasant. That is, until the sun went behind a cloud and the wind kicked up. But that didn't happen too often. Looked like a great day to race.
Eventually we were called to the start by the bagpiper ( I liked it better when he was stationed at the top of the "Hill from Hell"), did the national anthem, and were started off by RD Les Wright and his shotgun. Always a bit of a bottleneck getting out of the Commons Beach area and up onto the road, but we all made it and were on our way. So this was our view starting out:
The early miles rolled along uneventfully. I was trying to keep my pace around 8:00 miles, but it kept creeping down - every time a second clicked off my cumulative pace readout on my watch, I cringed. I think the lowest it got was 7:48, and after a couple small hills, I hit the halfway mark with my average pace right around 7:50.
There were some characters out running this year. This guy was, apparently, " Endorphin Dude." He was either a tripler (3 marathons in 3 days) or a super tripler ( marathon, marathon, 72 mile ultra); not sure which.
And THIS guy. From what the announcer at the start line said, this patriotic ultramarathoner decided to forgo even the flag Speedo while it was still dark out, and run in the altogether. Glad he A) didn't get arrested and B) put something on before I saw him. Booty shorts indeed.
Not too long after the halfway point is when the hills start. There are a a few little rollers before you get to the Hill from Hell, which climbs from near lake level (6200 feet) to 6900. It was my goal to run all the hills this year - just put my head down, shorten my stride, and grind up them. Didn't quite happen. I made it pretty far, but there was a point at which I just had to stop running - took a 30 stride walk break, and wow did my legs feel weird. I think I took 3 of those little breaks on my way up that hill.
The course then does a few little rolls before a nice, scenic descent into Emerald Bay. Tried to hold some speed on the downhill there without trashing my quads. Then there's a short but STEEP uphill out of Emerald Bay - took the same 30 stride walk breaks on that, right from the start. But after that, you're rewarded with a scenic, winding downhill.
After you bottom out of that downhill, there are still 4-5 miles to go. This has always been the hardest part of the race for me, and this year was no different. After transitioning from the road onto a bike path, for some reason I lose motivation. I think it was with about 3 miles to go that I took my first little walk break. Didn't help that the guy in front of me was doing the same - we leapfrogged each other for a while doing that. But finally we passed Camp Richardson, made the turn into Pope Beach, and were on the home stretch.
At that point, I knew I wasn't going to break 3:30, or even 3:40, for that matter. Didn't care, I just wanted to get done, hear my name announced at the finish, and go jump in the lake. But about 200 feet before the finish I heard footsteps behind me, and someone blazed past - the half marathon winner blew by me and upstaged my finish. It was actually kind of funny - he was Japanese, came over from Tokyo, and had a name that the announcer tripped over a few times. So I didn't get announced through the line, but that was OK - after I stopped my watch, someone handed me a little blue slip that was my claim to pick up a top 25 finisher windshirt. Getting one of those had kind of been my secret goal for the race, outside of any time goal.
So I hobbled over and picked up my drop bag, then made my way back toward the finish line to try to catch Gretchen coming through. I had seen her briefly at the start, where she showed up with about 4 minutes to spare and spent that whole time dispensing hugs to everyone. Although she was introduced as a previous champion, she wasn't going after it this year. I botched the picture of her coming toward me in the finish chute, but managed to get this. Sorry, Gretchen, another picture of your butt...
I was getting weirdly emotional at this point - kept having little moments of being choked up and wanting to cry. Forestalled that by going for a soak in the lake. A guy that was coming out from having a dip told me that it was "really cold, but worth it." In fact, it wasn't all that cold (for Tahoe) and I spent about 10 minutes standing in it before I dove in to rinse off. Funny thing about doing the little standing-in-the-water dive-under thing - in order to come back up, you kind of arch your back and point your toes. Well, when I did that, both calves cramped up big-time. Spent a couple of minutes trying to get them back to the point where I could walk back up to the beach. Finally made it; got changed and grabbed some food - post-race hot dog, banana, cookies and stuff.
I kept checking back to the board where they had some results posted to see if the marathon results were up, but there was nothing. Finally, I found the awards table and asked them about it - apparently the computer had frozen and they were trying to get it fixed. Waited around for awhile to see if I had placed in my age group, but eventually gave up and wandered off to the shuttles.
Gretchen and I with our top 25 windshirts - and post-race hair.
After such an early morning, and a hard race, it was an interesting drive back to Reno. I made it thanks to a can of Starbucks Doubleshot Mocha and a CD of punk covers of 80's hits that I unearthed from somewhere in my car. Lots of singing along on the way home. I celebrated with a Full Sail bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, and a trip with the family to our local sushi spot.
Race results showed up this morning - looks like they clocked me at 3:42:44, over a minute and a half slower than the time on my watch. That's kind of disappointing, but I guess it's now my "official" marathon PR. Just as well that I didn't wait around for awards any longer, because I ended up fifth in the male 35-39 age group. Funny, that time would've got me second in the 30-34 group, and third in the 40-44 bracket. Oh well. 14th overall, which I'm pretty ecstatic about.
And it looks like the results have been tweaked slightly - that or I was completely looking at something wrong yesterday. Now they've got me at 3:41:12, which is much closer to my watch time.