Tahoe Triple Race Report – Bucket List Item Complete!
The first mention I can find on this blog of the Tahoe Triple was from December 2005. 2005!
I turned 40 this year, and determined that whole “I’m not getting any younger ” thing was true. So in February I signed up for this extreme race: 3 marathons over 3 days around Lake Tahoe.
Doing back-to-back events wasn’t completely foreign to me: I completed the Goofy Challenge in Florida and had doubled at Pikes Peak a few times. But never this distance, and never into a third day.
I was doing some fantastic training from the day I signed up in February right until past my birthday (August). I injured my foot a couple days after the Pikes Peak Ascent, and really never got back into a good training cycle.
As in, after the Jack and Jill Marathon on July 30th, the longest run I did before Tahoe was a 14 miler (I followed it up with a 10 miler the next day, but still…)
So, I was a bit nervous going into the weekend. But I told myself that this was about completing the distance, even if I did a lot of walking.
I prepared myself with my hydration vest and a new audiobook to pass the time 🙂
We flew into Reno on Wednesday before the race. We wanted to settle in and get our bearings before I started my grand adventure Friday morning. It was cold! The forecast was for temperatures in the 20s when we’d start running, warming up to the 50s a few hours later. Tough to pack for!
There was a small gathering Thursday night for the Triplers and Trifecta-ers. The Triplers were doing 3 marathons in 3 days, the Trifecta-ers were doing 3 half-marathons in 3 days.
We had booked an airbnb at the Marriott Grand Residence Resort, which was pretty cool. Like a hotel, at a steeply discounted price. It was about a quarter mile from the host hotel and the start line.
Friday – Lakeside Marathon
It was pretty dark when I left the hotel at 6:15 Friday morning, but dawn broke enough by the time we headed off at 6:40 that I never used my knucklelights.
Friday was a small race: 45 Triplers and 14 other marathoners were on the starting line. The race was along the highway, which wasn’t closed. The race director warned us that there was a chance we’d get stopped due to some road construction. If so, he would declare the winner of the race at that point.
… can you guess what happened?
Being from Colorado, I don’t think the altitude and hills (and cold!) affected me as much as it did other runners. Sara had said she’d be at the finish before the 4 hr mark, but I told her that definitely wasn’t necessary! This was a marathon (before two more marathons), not a sprint! I hoped to run between 9:30 and 10:00mm, but I wasn’t going to actually try to stay on any sort of pace.
Although the entire 3-day event had us run around the lake, Friday’s race was on the highway and not terribly scenic. As well, the narrow shoulders and trucks roaring by were a bit unnerving.
I had brought my own Tailwind, water and huma gels so I didn’t need to stop at the few aid stations along the course. Ok, I did stop at one to grab an Oreo, but I was mostly self-sufficient.
I was actually feeling pretty good as the race went on. I knew that the half-marathon (the second half of our race) had been billed as downhill, so I only needed to focus on the first half and figured the second half would take care of itself.
It was starting to warm up after a couple hours, and I had actually stopped to take my jacket off around mile 18 when I noticed a crowd of runners ahead of me, stopped by the side of the road.
Yup, there was that construction.
Remembering what the race director had said about finishing places, I found a volunteer who was writing down the order people arrived in. I’d never seen another female marathoner ahead of me, so that was pretty awesome 🙂
I met up with the male marathoners who were waiting. After a couple minutes of small talk, I asked if they’d kept their watches running. Several of them had stopped them, so I did as well.
After about 10 minutes, the Race Director announced that they would stop the traffic on the road and we would all go at once. For those who hadn’t yet made it to this blockage, they’d have to get a ride through the construction.
So I’ll be honest. By the time we started again (I waited about 10 minutes), my legs had stiffened up, and I wasn’t terribly motivated to take off like all the fresh half-marathoners around me. I’d “won” the race (even if it was only 19 miles, not 26.2). And I had two more marathons to go.
So, I took it a lot easier over the last hour or so. I no longer felt ANY pressure. My time didn’t matter, my place didn’t matter. Crossing the line did.
I crossed the finish line with 4:19:51 on the clock, although the race timers were willing to look at the watches of people who’d stopped theirs during the construction and adjust the time. So my posted finish time is 4:09:50.
Which is a pretty decent marathon time any day, much less given the course and circumstances!
I loitered around the awards table until I finally just asked if the Womens’ Trophy was mine. They consulted their list and said “yup, take it”. (It wasn’t a very official ceremony!).
Sara met me with compression tights and warm clothes, and we headed back to South Lake Tahoe to rest and recover. I was a bit worried I’d gone out too aggressively this first day and would pay for it.. we’d have to see!
Saturday – Cal-Neva Marathon
Friday night we received an email from the race director. The Nevada Department of Transportation hadn’t been too happy with our race through the construction zone. The Saturday race was actually supposed to go through the same zone again, but now we were “not to run in Nevada”. Our course was changed basically mimic the half-marathon course, with a 5-mile out-and-back section at the beginning and a 1.6 mile out-and-back section at the end. Oof!
The race still started at 6:40, but our starting line was all the way at the other side of the lake, so we piled onto a bus at 5:15am. I sat with Julia and Christine, two fellow Triplers. It was fun to swap stories and get to know others on this somewhat crazy adventure.
I had brought three outfits for the three days, but ended up back in the same light jacket and injinji compression socks as I’d worn the day before. We got started, and right away it was apparent this Saturday race had some new entrants! I was definitely not the first female this time :0)
I won’t lie, this was a rough day. They had said that this was the easiest/fastest/flattest day of the three, but I was struggling. I text Sara around mile 10 to say that I was trashed. I couldn’t even listen to my audiobook because I was having trouble concentrating. Ugh!
Oddly enough, it was the tops of my feet that were hurting. Kinda weird.
I amused myself watching for other racers. I played leapfrog with a few other runners who stopped at the aid stations. I plugged along with my hydration vest (rather than a bladder, it holds two 500mL bottles), although I STILL managed to run out of fluid before the end of the race.
Because of my sad text about struggling, Sara drove along the course and actually jumped out to run with me a bit. I really appreciated it, though I definitely used it as an excuse to stop and walk :-/ It made me think of all those studies they do about will-power while under stress.
Surprisingly, once I saw her I had started to feel better. I tend to do a lot of mental math while running, and so I’d broken the race into 5-5-13-1.6-1.6. Once we’d completed our initial out-and-back, we just had the half-marathon (and then a bit more). Somehow, I convinced myself that was no big deal 🙂
Although – I will tell you, when we had to run past the finish line 1.6 miles to turn around, that was pretty demoralizing. At the time I ran by (just shy of 4 hrs), the first woman hadn’t come through yet, though I saw her shortly thereafter.
That 1.6 miles went on FOREVER!
Thankfully, once I got to the turnaround I knew exactly what I had in store for myself, so I think? I picked it up a little.
I crossed the line 4th woman overall, and the woman giving out medals said “you’re under 40, right?”. When I told her I was 40, she said she thought she may have an award for me! I lurked around for awhile longer but then eventually gave up and left.
My stomach hadn’t felt great on Friday after the race, and I hadn’t enjoyed my dinner so I hadn’t eaten much, so I was pretty hungry. Sara and I stopped at a cute little vegan cafe on the way home and I practically inhaled a lentil burger. Yum! A few hours later we got this amazing veggie burrito bowl from the Azul Latin Kitchen attached to our hotel and I was in heaven. I was cautiously optimistic that with this good food, compression tights and the ice water baths I’d been having, I’d make it through the weekend!
One more day to go!
Sunday – Lake Tahoe Marathon
Sunday is the day of the official Lake Tahoe Marathon, so there was much more support and participation. They actually moved the start time nearly 2 hours later due to the forecasted cold temperatures, although they were no colder than what we’d been dealing with the first two days.. however, this meant I could forego my capris and long sleeves!
So, you know DOMS? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, that typically kicks in 48 hrs after a hard workout or race?
I needed to use the railing to pull myself onto the bus to get to the start. Ruh roh.
Although I felt pretty stiff, the atmosphere in the bus and at the start was electric. People were swapping stories and taking photos. On the first morning I had befriended a couple from France (I had absentmindedly answered a question they’d had in French. They were so excited to meet someone else to talk to!) so they asked to take a photo with me. One of the other Triplers shared his SportLegs with me – I didn’t know you took that stuff before an event!
So, maybe it was the fact I knew I had nothing to prove. Maybe it was my fresh Hokas, or the SportLegs, but the day went overall MUCH better than expected!
Sure, it was slow. And some of those downhills reduced me to a delicate hobble. But I think I had a smile on my face the whole time.
Yes, I came into this race differently than the rest. I had a whole new outfit (Hokas, non-compression socks, lululemon shorts, t-shirt, hat and hand-held water bottle). I decided that if I was running around Lake Tahoe, I was going to take photos and enjoy the scenery!
I was pretty sure that because I was the first overall female on Friday and first masters female on Saturday that I’d won the masters division for the Triple, but I wasn’t completely sure. I lined up with Christine and her cousin, but we separated pretty quickly. Around mile 4 or so Christine told me she was struggling with some IT band issues, so she was doing a walk-run combo. When they walked I’d pull ahead, but then they’d run by me. I let them go on a large hill, expecting to catch them again. I never did, although it definitely was something I was watching out for.
In all, I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I could run this day. Especially considering how the stairs on the bus felt! The second half of the course was mostly downhill or flat, which helped a lot.
After probably 20 miles of gorgeous views, the last few miles were back through town, which was less than gorgeous. I realized around mile 21 that I had apparently hit “stop” on my watch, so I didn’t know the right time or distance anymore. Not that it really mattered; I was pretty sure I’d make it in under 5 hours, which seemed just fine to me!
Right as I passed by the “4 miles to go” marker (the mile markers in this race count down, not up), I felt something on my left pinky toe. Yes, I’d made it ~74 miles without a blister, but I’d tempted fate not wearing injinji socks this last day. Thankfully, we didn’t have too much further to go.
I forget that the average marathon finishing time for women is 4:45. So although this time was slower than I tend to run, there were plenty of folks around me to cheer on and talk with. It had the feel of the last few miles of any marathon: a lot of walkers, just trying to finish. I think I felt pretty good compared to some of them!
I will admit, it felt pretty good to round that last corner and see the finish. I found a final kick and sprinted down the line. Another woman heard me coming and picked it up, so we got the crowd cheering as we tried to outrun each other.
Sara was waiting at the finish, having completed the Emerald Bay Half Marathon herself. We wandered onto the beach, where I got my finishers trophy for the Triple. We sat down for awhile to relax and wait for awards. It was warm – nice for sitting on the beach, a little warmer than ideal for running. I chatted a bit with other runners. We’d been through a lot together!
Because I’d stopped my watch, I wasn’t sure of my exact finishing time, nor place. They weren’t posting results and finally around 2pm, the Race Director got on the mic and sheepishly announced that the timing system had crashed around 12:10. He still had the results, but couldn’t access them from his laptop. So, no official awards or times could be announced.
We SLOWLY walked back to the hotel. My feet had some weird random pains in them, but really nothing as bad as I’ve felt after faster races.
We headed back to the Vegan cafe to refuel. I called my Mom and I think one of the first things I told her was “I know now I could do a 100-miler”. The hardest part of this race was the getting started after a night of non-movement. I felt like the running got easier after I warmed up. I didn’t feel crazy depleted, and because I carried my own liquids I didn’t feel dehydrated or beat up at all.
I did it!
3 marathons in 3 days: 78.6(ish) miles.
Sure, every day got slower. But I finished with a smile on my face and a contentment in my heart.
Someone asked if I’d do it again – don’t think so! I’ve done it once, and there are many more exciting adventures to take!
I’m so grateful that I’m able to do things like this, and I have a supportive wife to cheer me on, bring me compression tights, wait patiently while I … walk… slowly and just want to relax and not do anything.
I’m still waiting to find out if I won the Masters division for the Triple. I don’t see how I couldn’t have, but the confusion around Friday’s finishing times means they still haven’t made any sort of formal announcement.
I’ve now completed 45 marathons. To some extent, the novelty is gone: it’s what I do. But this event was special. It was pretty. It was challenging. I didn’t worry about my time or pace. I just enjoyed the 13 hours I spent in the beautiful outdoors, on foot.
And I got a lot of swag!
Next up? A fun 5K in couple weeks, then in February Mom and I are going to break that 5 hr mark, darnit! Boston in April, but I don’t have anything else on the books (yet). Although I feel pretty good (went for a couple mile run on Wednesday), I’m going to treat myself to a good recovery break.
This has been a great year for me, running-wise. 6 marathons, with 2 1st place finishes. A huge post-surgery PR. But rather than trying to ride that wave and risk injury, I’m going to slow down for a bit so I can be fresh for next season.