Pacing at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 – 7/17/2021

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler is a footrace that takes runners around Lake Tahoe and the ski mountains in the area.  This race advertises that the course will give you a glimpse of heaven, and a taste of hell.  They were not kidding when they say this.  The course wraps around parts of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side, then goes up and down rollers and certain peaks at various other lakes (e.g., Marlette Lake) in the area.  One will not be bored in seeing the beautiful sites.

My friend, Brian, (who is a friend of a friend, from Las Vegas, NV) ran the race and I volunteered to pace a section of it.  This is so that: #1) I can be his eyes and ears at night when he is already tired and weary, 2) help him finish, and 3) practice my pacing long distance running once again, since it has been a while.  My friend, Yvette, is our sole crew.  I really wanted to see her (since she lives in CA and it has been a while since I have spent time with her); hence I agreed to come to Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe:

I was greeted with beautiful views at TRT100; Lake Tahoe and the mountains never disappoint and always deliver.  The challenging climbs and altitude were some of the things that make this race very difficult and have a low finisher rate.  I was planning to pace for 35 miles, however, due to my own poor planning, I was dropped by my runner after 23 miles.  I told him to continue on without me, as I didn’t want to slow him down.  He did continue and finished the race in 33 hours, about 3 hours ahead of the cutoff time.  I was relieved that he finished, even without me.

The details on race day:

I arrived in Reno late Friday night, Brian was already sleeping in the hotel.  I did get enough sleep the night before, but we then had to take Brian to the start line at 4:30 AM for a 5AM start. We went back to the hotel after the runners started, and slept for a little bit, as later that day was when I started my pacing part.

We got to the aid station (Diamond Peak) where I would pick up my runner, and waited there for hours as we didn’t know, and Brian did not advise us, on his pace.  As Yvette and I waited for Brian to arrive, we set up Yvette’s massage table, and she provided free massages to runners and pacers.  She also worked on my shoulder and back, as they had really chronic tightness.  This was my first experience with her hammer, blades, and suction cups.

Yvette’s Torture Massage Table – she uses hammers and blades!

While we were waiting, we met a few nice people from San Diego, one of them is Cindy, who said that her sister was running the 100-miler, and she was pacing her later.  Cindy looked really  familiar to me, but I was not sure where I met her.  She was tall, beautiful, with long black hair.  They had other friends around them as well and we were chatting with them casually.  Yvette worked on Cindy to loosen up her calves, since we was going to pace her sister.  After a couple of hours of chatting with them in the spot and benches we shared with them, Christy, their runner arrived at the A/S.  I blurted out, “They’re the running skirts twin sisters!” I just realized where I know them.  They created and own RunningSkirts, Cindy and Christy.  I did not get to take a picture with them, Christy did not seem to feel well, so didn’t want to bother them.

Picture taken from runningskirts website

When our runner finally arrived, I was caught off guard.  I wanted to rest a bit.  I didn’t get my drinks ready.  This was not like me to be unprepared.  This was good practice for my next events. We had to service our runner so I took this time to get ready.

My pacing segment started at Diamond Peak, which takes runners and pacers up a black diamond ski slope at the beginning of this section.  The start was a steep 45%(?) grade with loose sand, so slipping backwards is a risk one takes, especially if without trekking poles.  After 2 miles of this slope we reached the top, which took us about 1 hour.

We continued on, going through groomed trails that feels like walking on pillow, and taking in the view till the sunset.  At nightfall, my runner started feeling more fatigue, and had difficulty breathing.  We were getting higher up in altitude.  We stopped several times, for him to catch his breath. At one point, in the dark, we were sitting on the side of the trail.

Medics riding on their mountain bikes rode throughout the course, going back and forth on the trail to help runners in distress.  One medic found us on the side of the trail, and gave my runner some Hammer Anti-Fatigue pills, as he was not feeling well.  We were able to continue on and reach the next aid station without stopping.  Those were probably the magic pills that gave my runner the energy to keep going.

On a side note, some of the aid stations were really fun at night, it was like a party.  One even had an open bar and dancing.  I think pacers appreciated this the most, as they partake in the drinking challenges.  I personally did not participate, since I felt responsible for my runner.

After partying at aid stations we continued on, again.  The hardest part of my segment was climbing up to Snow Valley Peak, apparently that may have been their second time up there.  After that ascent is a long descent on rocky terrain, the type of trail where I am not very good.  Four hours into my segment, I was starting to lose power on my headlamp as well as my waist lamp.  Now with renewed energy, my runner stayed ahead of me, even reaching the aid station before me.  I met another runner from behind me, he stayed behind me so I can have some light flashing from behind, so I can see the trail.  By this time my lights were really dim and I would not have been able to see the rocky terrain had it not been for the other runner’s light.  Two aid stations later, when my runner whom I’m pacing got ahead to the A/S before me, I asked him if he minds going ahead without me.  At this race, it is allowed to drop a pacer.  There was still 4 hours of darkness before daylight, and I have no more light (my headlamp and waist lamp were rechargeable but I had not battery pack nor cords to do so).  It was at Tunnel Creek aid station when my runner left without me.

Pacer, runner, crew – at the Finish Line:

I overestimated my capabilities. It has been a while since I have prepared for a long distance run.  This was good practice for me, as I prepare to pace another friend at a bigger race in August, Bigfoot 200 mile run.  I still had amazing adventures in the mountains.  I was able to visit and spend time with my friend, Yvette, which was a win situation.  Oh, and our runner finished.