One of my favorite lines from a song is from Coldplay’s “Fix You”. The line is:
“But if you never try, you’ll never know just what you’re worth.”
And this is how we taste the different experiences of life: we try. We push ourselves outside our comfort zones into the unknown to see how we’ll come out the other side.
So this weekend I watched a couple people try to see what they’re worth and push themselves through the unknown and wonder how they’ll come out on the other side. I didn’t get much sleep but what a great ride.
We had race weekend up in Tahoe with Bob Shebest running his first 100 miler by competing in the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile run on Saturday and Pete Tanguay competing in his first triathlon at the Donner Lake Triathlon. Pete flew into Sacramento on Friday morning and Nicole and Dylan picked him up at the airport and then stopped at Fleet Feet so Pete could rent a wetsuit for the swim. Friday afternoon Pete and I drove up to Truckee and connected with Bob and Amanda. Pete took the bike for a short ride and then we all discussed Blogspot vs. WordPress and I played with Pete’s iPhone. (Bob’s a Blogspot user but I think we convinced him to make the switch. And I’m a Windows believer but I may be turning to the dark side.) I’m not sure when we got to bed but it wasn’t early enough as that 3:00 AM alarm went off way too soon. I’m notorious for cutting it very close at races. I’m usually good with pulling in about 10 minutes before the start and not planning for any delays. Bob is much more get there an hour ahead and make sure everything is ready and you have plenty of time. So Bob, Amanda and I headed over to the start around 3:15 AM and had a nice relaxing time in the dark morning hours to prepare for the day. Felt strange not to be running. Honestly, being there and watching all the nervous energy, I was happy to be cheering from the sidelines. I knew what was out there and it was nice not to have to go chase after those dreams up and down the mountains. This was Bob’s nightmare and I was happy to watch from a safe distance.
At 5 AM, they were off and Amanda and I headed back to Truckee. Amanda wouldn’t see Bob until mile 50 and then we would both see him at mile 75. One of the difficulties of this particular race is very limited crew access. You only have access to the runner at mile 25, mile 50 and mile 75. And the miles between 50 and 75 can be some of the toughest. Not having the support of your crew during this period can be the difference between a DNF and a finish.
Later that morning Pete and I drove over to Donner Lake so Pete could swim and test out the wetsuit. After about 30 minutes in the water, all systems checked out OK. Then we drove the first part of the bike course which consists of one big climb up Donner Pass Road. The 1,200′ climb (starting at an elevation of about 6,000′) is just over 2 miles. It’s an awesome climb with spectacular views the entire way.
Near the top, there are some abandoned train tunnels cut through the granite that you can walk through. I’ve always wanted to do a run through them so Pete and I climbed up to the tunnels and did some exploring.
These tunnels run a long way and we only walked part of it. I will definitely come back here and incorporate these into some of my Donner Lake runs. Boo! Gotcha.
Amanda and I were going to head over to the Mt. Rose aid station in the evening to meet Bob at mile 75. But Bob was moving incredibly fast, running in 2nd place after 50 miles, seconds behind Erik Skaden. Our plan of meeting Bob around 8:30 PM at Mt. Rose meant that we were going to miss him. So we moved up our plan, picked him up a cold Coca-Cola and drove up to Mt. Rose around 6 PM. On the way we received some race updates and the latest did not have Bob coming out of the Red House loop. The Red House Loop is notorious for putting the dagger in the tired runner. The Red House loop is just over 6 miles but drops about 1,200′ and then you must climb those 1,200′ on the way out. You run this loop twice in the 100 mile course. The first time stings and the second time will definitely leave its mark. Most runners drop at Tunnel Creek because they don’t want to descend down to Red House after already running 60+ miles or they drop after coming out of Red House with no desire to go on. I would call this section the graveyard of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. And Bob had been down there and they didn’t show him coming out. At Mt. Rose, someone had a laptop so we could check for updates. Still no sign of Bob having come out of the Red House Loop. Erik and another runner had already finished the loop and I thought maybe the officials had made a mistake and Bob was still right behind Erik but they had recorded the wrong runner. Then more runners showed up having completed the loop but still no Bob. And so we waited. Around 7:45 PM, Erik pulled into the Mt. Rose aid station and left a few minutes later with a pacer. Pretty soon Rob Evans came into view with none other than Jasper Halekas (just captured 4th place at Western States a few weeks ago) as his pacer. Crap! Jasper is running 50 miles only a few weeks after Western States and I am only running the final 25 with Bob after sitting on my butt for the last few weeks. What kind of friend am I? We checked Bob’s status again and still no change. This was impossible unless something happened during the Red House Loop. There’s no way it would take over 3 hours to finish that section. We asked one of the volunteers at the Mt. Rose aid station to radio Tunnel Creek to check on him. About 10 minutes later, we received word that he was on his way. He had left Tunnel Creek so all we could do was keep our eyes peeled for his headlight bobbing up and down across the meadow. Pretty soon, a little after 10:30 PM, we spotted him. He had been having some serious stomach problems and couldn’t keep anything down or his weight up and so he had waited at the Tunnel Creek aid station for about 1 hour until his body could start moving again. I was so proud he had not succumbed to Red House and Tunnel Creek like so many other runners. We took a few minutes to have him eat and drink some more calories since his weight was now down to 145 lbs after starting the day in the mid 150’s.
By 10:45 PM, we left Mt. Rose and were on our way to the finish. Bob ran the last 25 miles with his heart. Returning to Tunnel Creek, the volunteers couldn’t believe their eyes. This was not the same guy who was here a few hours ago! But it was. He was back from the dead. On the climbs he would push the pace and I would have a hard time hanging on. Sometimes we chatted but often just ran on the tops of mountains, above the distant lights and savoring being in one of the best places in the world, in the middle of the night, pushing yourself to the limit. He crossed the finish line around 2:44 AM and gave Amanda a giant hug. He beat my TRT 100 time by a few minutes. Awesome!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to hang around as I needed to drive back to Truckee so I could get Pete to his race in a couple hours. So we drove back to Truckee and I pulled into the cabin at 5:35 AM after telling Pete I would probably be home around 2 AM. I walked in and could see the relief on Pete’s face. He’d been Googling directions to Donner Lake thinking he would need to put his gear in a backpack and ride the bike to the race! I’d forgotten to turn my alarm clock off from the previous morning and so when it went off at 3 AM and I wasn’t there to turn it off, it woke him up and you can imagine all the scenarios going through his head as he was trying to get some sleep before his first triathlon but is in a new place with no transportation or directions or cell phone coverage.
A few minutes later, Pete and I were on our way to the start where we met Dave and Francie Campbell. Dave crewed for me at RAAM and was in the same wave as Pete. Perfect to see them both start the swim and bike.
Dave exited the swim first (very close to the lead swimmers) and zipped through T1 and onto the bike course. Pete came out about 20 minutes later looking fresh and ready to attack the bike course. Dave cranked and ran hard to finish 3rd in his age group (50 to 54) with a time of 2 hours and 38 minutes. And Pete, worried about the climb, finished his first triathlon with a very respectable time of 3 hours and 44 minutes. Again, nice to cheer from the shore and not have to partake in the madness. After watching Pete exit T1 on the bike, I jumped back in the car and drove home to Auburn with the intention of helping Nicole prepare for the party we were having that afternoon for all the friends that helped with RAAM. With no sleep the last 24 hours, I was pretty useless so I took a quick nap. Again Nicole comes to the rescue.
By 3 PM, people started showing up and we had a great time visiting with everyone and reliving some of the memories. I’m either still tired from RAAM or just from this weekend, but either way I’m tired so I’m going to end it here.