Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lake Tahoe Marathon - South Lake Tahoe, CA

This marathon is the highlight of a weeklong sports festival of bike races, triathlons, running races including a Triple Marathon (three days in a row of marathons) and a 72 mile ultramarathon, which starts at midnight and finishes with the final day of marathons.

I was originally signed up for the Triple Marathons on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But running engineering at a startup can interfere with the bestlaid plans. I only managed to get out of the office late Friday night, and took the last flight out to Reno from San Jose. Driving over the Mount Rose pass from Reno, we hit a bona fide snowstorm and had to slow to a crawl over the mountain. Finally getting to Tahoe City (where the start of the marathon would be) around 1am, we got a few hours of sleep before the marathon start.

The day broke bitter cold as we went to the marathon start around 7:30am. I picked up a bib and went to Sid's bagelry for bagels and much needed coffee. The elite women started at 8am (to make their marathon finish more interesting I guess?) and the rest of the marathoners were sent off at 8:30am.

The road was very icy. If I had known I would have worn my trail racing flats. Instead I had on some Brooks T4 racing flats with very little grip. I skittered precariously over the ice trying not to fall.

After a few minutes of running I got a call from Kim. Somewhere along the drive the rental car had bottomed out and was damaged and barely drivable. I ran along and tried to give advice on what to do for her to get to the half marathon start. I felt pretty good given the lack of sleep, but I still haven't mastered going much faster than eight minute miles while on the cell phone and sliding along on ice patches. Over the next hour and a half I still managed to have four more phone calls, and not fall, and eventually we got the car problem solved.

We had some nice views of the lake and the lovely homes on it for the first 10 miles or so. I wasn't feeling the effects of altitude as I normally would. I got to the 13 mile point at 1:54. I stepped up my pace as we approached the hills past mile 15. It was billed in roadside signs as the "hill from hell". It really wasn't bad by ultra standards, but it was probably the biggest hill I've seen in a regular marathon. No longer worried about broken cars or making phone calls, I started truly pushing going up the incline and felt very strong throughout. At mile 18 a bagpiper celebrated the completion of the first climb. And we were treated to beautiful views of Emerald Bay. After descending for a bit a mile the climb began again, and peaked round mile 20. I got there right around three hours. We then pounded down three miles of highway, before turning left onto a paved biked path around mile 23.

Hitting mile 24 at 3:35, I started pushing hard, wanting to get a sub 3:50 finish. As I got to mile 25 I started passing quite a few people and entered the straightaway after mile 26 at a full sprint. I finished in 3:49:53, second in my age group and 32nd individual finisher out of 422. For some reason I don't understand they did give me a nice top 25 windjacket though (top 25 male finishers I wonder?).

Presumably due to the extreme cold and ice, most of the runners seemed off of their historical times (Mike Miller, winner of the 50-59 age group, did 3:24 this year and 3:14 last year). First in my agegroup was Sean Sweeney in 3:28. That would be a stretch for me to do. But with a good shoe tread, less ice and less phone calls, I would hope to be able to run 3:30 in the marathon next year. But, hmmm, that 72 mile ultra run does look interesting....


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