I stood at the start of the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run full of excitement and nervous energy. I had never attempted 200 miles all at once. My backpack was fully loaded to take on the challenge of running 200 miles in 100 hour limit with 40,000 ft of cumulative elevation gain, or was it 70,000 ft. I don’t know, does it matter? The longest distance I had gone was 138 miles continuous in the Himalayas at La Ultra The High race.
Bill Andrews, my husband and partner in this adventure was also toeing the line. We often run races together but usually don’t plan on staying together. Our pace is different and he is definitely the stronger runner.
The race begins at Homewood, California on the shores of Lake Tahoe. It ascends over the ski slopes into a remote area called Desolation Wilderness. In a counter clockwise direction the course circumnavigates all of Lake Tahoe. One big giant loop back to the start finish at Homewood.
The course was stunningly beautiful. At least the parts I saw until my unexpected finish. I also spent about 12 hours in pitch blackness but I am a head of myself! 5 miles into the race at the top of a steep mountain the views into the wilderness area are breathtaking. For as far as the eye can see it is wild untamed forests with scattered lakes. Then the bees came. I got stung early in the race. This year yellow jackets are ruling the forests. I hit a swarm of them and got stung on my leg trying to scamper through a bushy area. It hurt but wasn’t that bad until I hit more brush and branches and scrapped my stinger area which became an angry bleeding welt. I was wishing I wore long leggings like Bill. Onward….. The course continued to a remote lake that was so vast I thought we had returned to Lake Tahoe. But it was just one of the many lakes in an area that is so difficult to get to that few people visit. The lake and rugged shoreline were empty of humans. The day had warmed up and I was looking toward to refueling with water and food at the 18 mile aid station. We past the lake and I kept checking my GPS. I knew the aid station had to be close. Bill and I were both out of water. Arriving at the aid station we were informed that they had run out of water. I was bummed. We had to run back to the lake and use our water purification pumps to pump our own water to refill. It was very discouraging but come on, we are in a remote location and stuff happens. I refilled all my bottles and continued. The next aid was another long twelve miles but at least I had my water.
The course became more difficult at this point. Lots of jeep trails with huge boulders and rocks. The difficulty was that the rocks were covered with a film of thin dust that made them slippery. I found myself slowing down to keep from falling. It was technically challenging. We were winding through this for hours. My pack I realized was way too heavy. I was so worried about being caught in freezing conditions in the Sierras that I packed for the Himalayas. I wasn’t going to be able to see crew until mile 62 so I was trying to be self sufficient. With my shoulders aching as I tiptoed on granite boulders that never ended, I reached in to my hydration pack for my water and realized my bottle that I had refilled at the lake was missing. Somewhere along the last five miles my water bottle had popped out as I bounded up and down on the rocks and I hadn’t noticed. I had 2 bottles left but miles to go before aid. The 30 mile aid station found me dehydrated and my stomach was funky. I wanted some Coke. The aid station had no Coke. Bummed out again I felt like Murphys Law was following me. Everything seemed to be going wrong. I wanted a grilled cheese or tortillas and cheese but they had run out of cheese. I asked for a tea and they had none left. The problem with being a back of the pack runner is that often times you don’t get want you want because everyone else has been there before you!
I ate a hotdog which wasn’t my first choice but I was starving. It hit my stomach like a brick and I immediately felt awful. I continued the long trudge on endless rocks. The longest 14 miles I had ever experienced. I felt awful with my stomach churning.
At 2 am Bill and I were trying to find the reflective mile markers that were leading our way. The markers were well placed but we were in a very remote and dark section of trees.
Bill stopped and said, “Why are the markers over there?” He pointed to the trees then said, “Those look like eyes.”
That’s when I saw the animal.
“Bill” I replied calmly with the hair rising on the back of my neck. “That’s a cat”.
It was a rather large mountain lion crouched on a rock about 15 feet from us. As Bill turned his headlight on the animal it turned slowly towards us and moved into a pouncing position.
I whispered, “Bill, there is another cat to the left of him crouching behind the tree”.
We both turned our lights on the second mountain lion.
We quickly decide to pull out our pocket knives and pepper spray.
I felt surprising calm because I had Bill next to me. He’s 6’3 and a large presence on the trail. Although I never underestimate wild animals I felt safe having him next to me. I was hoping that they were more scared of us then we were of them. We started backing away, both Bill and I holding our weapons as we made our retreat.
Mountain lions are super intimating to see in person. It was surreal to realize how large they are and have them so near to us. I was seriously ready to take them on if I needed to. I was kinda pissed that I didn’t get my Coke at that last aid station and I planned on taking it out on the cat if it messed with me! Ha!
Anyway, Bill and I did tag team, each of us, one at a time, moving about 20 feet ahead while the other one watched to see if the mountain lions followed. It was a tense hour trying to get distance between us and the wild animals.
By then I was mentally done. My leg was festering with the bee stings. I was slow and dehydrated. I was freaked about the mountain lions and sick to death of the endless rocks I was trying to maneuver through without breaking a leg.
Mile 44 aid station came and I was totaled. I didn’t have enough time to regroup before cutoff. It was over.
Bill said, ” I have no regrets. It’s been a great adventure but I’m done”
I always want to finish a race I start. But the idea of trying to run out of the aid station to avoid cutoff wasn’t possible. I didn’t have time to regroup and get my body stable. I would have to run weak for another 19 miles with no aid station in wilderness. It would have been too much of a risk to push it. So the end of the race was at hand.
DNF ( Did Not Finish). I’ve had my share and they certainly aren’t as fun. Finishing an ultra race distance is always a gift. Everything has to click into place and the problems that pop up have to be solved to move on. It’s like a game of chess. Each move counts. Next time I would have a lighter pack, carry a Coke and be prepared for scrambling over miles of rock in the first portion of this race! Ha!
I have no regrets because I did learn and grow from the experience. Will I attempt it again?? Hmmmm, maybe?? Until next time Lake Tahoe 200……..
I signed up for the Salmon Creek 50K after a cold, snowy winter. My first winter in Reno, Nevada. I had never experienced living months on end in frozen conditions having lived in Las Vegas for 30 years. It was never too cold in Vegas to bundle up and go outside for a run. Reno was a new experience for sure. I moved to Reno for many reasons( my family and loved ones!) but also the incredible trails and mountains. Nestled in the middle of the Sierra Mountains Reno is a gem of rolling mountains and thick forests.
How hard could it be to run in the snow?
My first venture outside landed me squarely on my backside hitting the frozen pave-stone in eight inches of snow. This was tricky. 19 degrees was a shocker. How do people do this? I half heartedly ventured out, partly walking, partly hiking through fields of unending ice and snow. My running dwindled down to a crawl during that first dark winter. Right at the end of the season I discovered snowshoeing! Wow, movement in the white stuff was actually fun. But, alas, my weeks and weeks of un-movement made me sluggish and slow.
My first 50K in the Spring was a shocker. My legs felt sluggish underneath me. On the smooth trail I felt as if I was at a slow crawl even though I was giving my full effort. The first six miles was horrid and full of mindless worry. My daughter Taylor and my son-in-law-to-be Chad had screamed down the trail in front of me. Ah youth! Where did you go? My mind kept telling me that I wasn’t going to make it! The long winter had taken my strength! Where was my inner Superwoman? She was buried deep under negative emotions and fear. Fear of losing my strength, fear and worry that maybe my running days were over. For the first time that I can remember I was having seriously negative thoughts and finding excuses on why I couldn’t run.
I turned a corner and looked out over the vast, winding, beautiful trails tucked into a silent canyon of yellow wild flowers. I stopped and studied the landscape. I felt the wind blow back my hair and was surprised at the power that rose up through my feet on the ground. Then Superwomen rose up out of the depths of my soul. She said, “Shut up and RUN! Geezuz, SHUT UP! LOOK AROUND YOU! The world is at your feet. You are free! You are healthy! You have everything you need to move forward. MOVE!!”
And, I did!
I let my Superwoman, Badass runner, rise up inside, past the doom and gloom and lead me fleeing through the forest, climbing mountains effortlessly, looking out over the horizon of green forests and down the shady path of life and abundance.
I choose running to always bring me back to the sanity of peace, happiness and self discovery over and over again. She doesn’t always stay with me, but I know that I can find her on the trails and paths of nature’s wilderness.
I rocked down the trails and just kept moving…..running and walking and filling myself with strength and clarity, fun and joy, power and kickass happiness.
It seems so simple but how easily I forget…Always keep moving. Walk, Run, Move!! Just shut up and MOVE!
My book, Running Past Midnight ” has been launched! Funny thing was having my first official book signing in South Korea!
The people in South Korea and Jeju Island are so warm and accepting. The language barrier was broken by the fact that health and fitness are understood Internationally. I loved every minute returning there, my second glorious visit. This time I was able to run up and over the dormant volcano with Bill. The friends we made there hand made us traditional Korean clothes called hanbok. It was an incredible visit filled with adventure!
It’s interesting how so much can change in just a couple of months. The end of last year, 2014, was full of challenges with the death of my adorable Dad, then a torn tendon in my ankle sidelined me. It was awful to force myself to slow down from running and all activity in a time when running seemed to be the one outlet I needed most.
Time does heal. After resorting to pool running and light exercises while I pondered life’s mysteries and sorted through the passing of my dad I seemed to move quietly through the dark transition into Spring and a great trip to South Korea ( see post below). After my return I headed to China to run the Great Wall Marathon with my two kids, 22 year old Taylor and 32 year old Devin. It was a rewarding trip simply to be able to run again in such an exotic place and to share that experience with my kids. It was a tough and demanding race…but so is life. The only thing to do is move through it with as much strength and grace as possible and, when you get to that finish line, or that quiet place of reflection, look back over the challenges you overcame and hang on to the confidence that you have gained. It will carry you through.
I was fortunate enough to get invited by Bill to Seoul, South Korea where he was invited to speak at an anti aging conference. I had never been to that part of the world and since I love to travel I jumped at the opportunity. We had planned to run across the 32 miles of Jeju Island while we were there. Jeju is south of Mainland Korea and I was anxious to run across the forests and streams in that subtropical location. Unfortunately when we arrived the dormant volcano in the middle of the island was covered in snow and the weather conditions were not accommodating.
Nevertheless we were able to get a great run in at the national Forest of Jeju at the base of Mt Halla, the 6,000 ft volcano.
South Korean people were lovely. Everyone we met was gracious and welcoming.
My book, ‘Running Past Midnight’ was delivered to Seoul while I was there and we celebrated the arrival of my first novel. The organization that invited Bill to speak asked me to come back with him in May to do my own presentation on running and fitness. They want to have my book translated into Korean.
The highlights of the trip were meeting an incredible artist named Lee Young Soo, an 80 year old revered national treasure of Korea. He created all the artwork years ago for the Seoul Olympics and is a highly acclaimed artist. He graciously invited a group of us to his home and showered us with gifts. What amazing energy for 80! He presented Bill with a painting he made of a white tiger and he presented both of us with his hand painted scrolls and fans. Incredibly beautiful art!
There were so many wonderful people that we met. And so many incredible wonders in that country. Like the Mysterious Road….a road where you put your car in neutral and it magically drives all by itself ( it’s a mystery but Bill says he thinks it’s a highly magnetic area)
After 2 weeks in Korea it’s hard to adjust to arriving back home in the states. Everything is changed!
I love exotic countries where traditions are so opposite from ours. You can learn so much about yourself as a person and you get such a different perspective of your own life when you travel abroad. Everyday stress is reduced because you realize that your problems aren’t that big. Life really does become more simple as you concentrate on the amazing planet we live in and the beautiful trails and forests of the world. Stress melts away and clarity is formed.
Returning to your own world seems different. You realize you have been changed by the situations that you experienced. I think that’s a good thing. Every now and then you need to be inspired and awakened by new adventures.
Hmmmm, when is my next adventure!? Ahhh yes, Beijing, China in 4 weeks!