TRT 50…A Taste of Heaven…A Glimpse of Hell

Seeing as it’s Throwback Thursday, and I’m so far behind on my recaps, I figured it was time to recap my experience at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler.  Just an FYI – this is going to be a long post!

Spoiler alert…it was the best race ever. I had a blast!  But if you want more detail than that keep reading.

First off, a little background on how to get into the race, there is a lottery on January 1 for spots in one of the three TRT Endurance Runs, 100 miles, 50 miles & 55k.  There are some requirements for the 100 mile race but none for the 50 & 55k.  There is also a waitlist for all 3 races for those who don’t get in via the lottery or decide, like me to get on the waitlist months after the lottery.

I initially put my name on the wait list for the 55k but then after signing up for Cuyamaca 100k, I decided to add my name to the 50 mile wait list as well.  I started the wait list at 103 for the 55k and I think somewhere around 90 on the 50 mile wait list.  I think I signed up back in May? I can’t remember exactly, but I would periodically check Ultra Signup and the 50 mile wait list moved a lot faster than the 55k one.

It was a little nerve-wracking because Sean was also on the wait list for Hardrock 100 and as a lot of us know, it’s almost impossible to get into Hardrock so if he got in we would have definitely gone to Silverton.

Fortunately when I got the notification that I was in for TRT, on June 30th, it was a real long-shot for Sean to get into HR, he was still 8th on the list and no movement so I registered.

So then WOW, I needed one last weekend with decent mileage to make me feel ready and fortunately we had the 3 day weekend since it was the 4th of July, so from Friday – Monday, we ran/hiked a little over 40 miles.  The next weekend, I paced Sean the last 17 miles of the Santa Barbara 100 and I felt ready.

The week before the race, I had to be in Phoenix for work, so I tried to hydrate as much as possible, being at elevation can dehydrate me even more and it has been pretty dry there the last few times we’ve visted so I wanted to make sure I was plenty hydrated.

We flew up to Reno on Friday morning, I worked most of the day, but we had time to get our packets and then get our drop bags ready before the mandatory meeting for the 100 milers. Sean was running his 3rd straight TRT.

They do some nice swag at this race, the women got an super cool Patagonia tank in a mint color with purple details (two of my favorite colors!), a bottle opener, a cup and a photo/map of the course.

TRT Race Swag

After the meeting, we still needed to get in our shake-out run.  We just did a quick out and back in the neighborhood by our hotel.  It was sooo hot out that I had a really hard time, this seems to be a trend for me lately having horrible shake-out runs lol.

I set up my Flat Jenny to make sure I had everything I needed and then we headed to an early dinner.  We had to get up around 3am to drive over to Spooner Lake, where we would take a shuttle over to the start line so I wanted to get a decent nights sleep.

TRT 50 Flat Jenny

I think I was asleep by 7:30pm and with the exception of waking up around 10p to go to the bathroom, I slept pretty well.

We got to the parking lot around 4:15am, caught the first shuttle we saw and were at the start area within minutes.  It was a lot colder at the start than it was in Reno and I was a bit nervous because I was only wearing shorts & a tank top.  I really wished I’d brought my arm sleeves but I unfortunately hadn’t even brought them with me.

Chilly at the TRT start line

Sean started his race at 5am so I wished him luck, watched the start and then headed over to the “Ultra Lounge” to sit down and wait until it was closer to my start to get out of my warm clothes. I chatted with a few other runners and then about 20 minutes before the start, I packed my jacket and track pants in my finish line bag to get acclimated to the temps.

Side note…funny story, I remember last year when I just crewed for Sean, I was like why do all these people have finish line bags?  Well went you are a mid/back of the packer like me it’s going to be dark and cold when you finish so you’ll definitely want warm clothes to put on before heading to back to your car.

Near the start, I saw my friend Fern, who is crazy fast and totally killed it coming in 3rd overall in the 50, I chatted with him for a few minutes before making one last visit to the port-a-potties.

Both the 50 milers and the 55k runners started at the same time.  The 55k runners would go to the Red House Loop and then turn around, while we would do a complete loop, the 100 milers would do 2 complete loops.

I started about 2/3s of the way back, I really wasn’t sure how this was going to go.  In the back of my mind I thought about the experience I had in Utah, when I got elevation sickness and I didn’t want that to happen here so my plan was to go slow and steady the whole way.

In the materials, there was just one major cut-off that we needed to worry about.  We had to get to the Diamond Peak aid station, mile 30 by 3:45pm. And then it said we had to be done by 10:30pm, but it looks like they were a bit lax on that because I saw in the results that there were about a dozen people who finished after the 16.5 hour cut-off.

Off we went, on a fire road up to the Marlette Lake Trail, where we would start our climb.  I was in a pack of other runners and I followed along running/hiking on the uphills, just taking it nice and easy.  A few miles in, we got to this amazing downhill, Tim got this great photo of Sean there last year, where you can see the lake.

Marlette Lake Trail

All this way, there was a cold breeze and it was just overall much cooler than I was expecting.  But I think the worse part was my hands were really cold, I had gloves in my suitcase but that wasn’t going to do me much good was it?

After a serious climb, we made it to the first aid station Hobart.  They had whiskey shots and the aid station was inside a decent size tent.  Little did I know that when I returned hours later it was going to be super windy.

I knew from crewing Sean that it was best to get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible, so I tried to just fill my bottles, eat a few orange slices and get out fast.

Heading out of Hobart Aid StationPhoto from I-Tao Tsai

I had my trekking poles velcro’d in the middle of my Orange Mud VP2 and I asked them to take them out for me.  Of course this section we didn’t really need them, but I didn’t know that, oops.

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As I ran this section to Tunnel Creek Aid station, I realized that Sean & I had done a bunch of this section during Tahoe 200 last year.  It was nice to know I recognized a portion of the course.

IMG_3423Photo from Facchino Photo

There was a nice downhill section during this part, little did I know I would have to go back up later in the race, oops. I made it to Tunnel Creek in pretty good time, saw our friend Noe, who told me that Sean had already come and gone both times.  He refilled my bottles and filled my Running Skirts neck gaiter with ice.  I moved through here pretty quickly.

And down I went towards the Red House, this is the section of the course that is considered the taste of hell because you go down to the lowest part of the course and then have to make your way back up again.  It’s about a 10k loop before making your way back to Tunnel Creek Aid.

IMG_3425Photo Facchino Photo

Fortunately for me, I had my poles so the steep downhill wasn’t so bad.  I made it down, talking to other runners, a lady who had just taken a survival first aid course, a guy who was telling me about some bears they’d seen in that section earlier in the week, really? I didn’t need to know about that, lol.

During this section there were 2 water crossings which I didn’t know about.  I used my poles to try and keep my feet dry because I didn’t even think to put another pair of socks in my drop bags so I didn’t want to destroy my feet.

I eventually started walking and chatted with another runner for a while, before we made it to the Red House, which was a really nice aid station.  They said it was about 3 miles back to Tunnel Creek.  I think it was a little less, but it’s possible my Garmin wasn’t accurate during this part of the course.

I personally didn’t think this loop was that bad, it was steep in the last mile, but other than that, it wasn’t too bad.  It was probably a lot worse in the dark since it’s pretty shaded in spots.

I slowly made my way up the hill and eventually I could hear the music from the aid station. Yea!! I made it out of the taste of hell! lol

I debated about taking a 3rd bottle when I left Tunnel Creek because it was getting warmer and they recommended it for the 8 mile section between Bull Wheel & Diamond Peak, but in the end I decided against it because I wasn’t drinking a ton.

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During this section, I saw a lot of the lead 100 milers and 50 milers on their way back to Tunnel Creek. I walked a lot of this section and it was beautiful.  I eventually got to Bull Wheel, I was keeping an eye on my watch, just to make sure I wasn’t going to miss the Diamond Peak cut-off.  I had plenty of time.

At Bull Wheel, another runner happened to take my photo, which was really cool.  I refilled my bottle, big mistake, the water there tasted horrible and ate some orange slices.   I took off up the hill only to be yelled at saying I was going to wrong way, thank goodness because I was heading up to the top of Diamond Peak when I needed to go around!  Oops! And huge props to the people at the aid station for letting me know quickly.

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This section was pretty hot, there were 8 miles between aid stations and I had to go to the bathroom.  Of course in this section there wasn’t a lot of tree cover so I walked a bunch until I could find a semi private place.  I hadn’t seen another runner in what seemed like forever, until I stopped…Murphy’s law right? Haha.

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And then I was able to run the nice downhill.  By the time I got to the Tyrolean Village neighborhood near Diamond Peak, I was with a bunch of other runners.  We all made it into the aid station at around 2:20pm so I was a bit ahead of the cut-off.  I took a bit more time here, drank some broth, ate a bunch of orange slices, refilled my bottles, used a real bathroom.

When I checked out of the aid station, I asked them if there were any other aid station cut-offs.  They told me I had to make it to Tunnel Creek by 5:11p.  As I climbed Diamond Peak, I was thinking, that wasn’t a lot of time to make it about 5 miles with a 2 mile 1,700ft climb up the Crystal Ridge ski run.

You know how people ask you what you think about when you are running?  Especially when you are running that far?  Well I’ve never done this before but I spent a lot of time counting steps.  I have no idea why or what I was doing but all of a sudden at one point, I realized I was counting.

Diamond Peak Selfie

I very very slowly made my way up Diamond Peak, it just seemed like it kept going up and up and up some more.  Finally after what seemed like hours and a few photo breaks, I made it to the top and then down to Bull Wheel again.  I didn’t need much in terms of water so I grabbed a few orange slices and kept moving.

By this point, I was exhausted, I had to stop my Garmin because it was low battery and I didn’t want to have to keep pulling my phone out so I turned off the GPS to be able to see the time.  I had no idea how far I had to go which probably didn’t help.  At one point a guy ran past me going the other way and told me I only had 17.5 miles to go so that told me I had 2.5 miles to Tunnel Creek.

I finally made it there, around 5pm, I was kind of nervous because I just made it before the supposed cut-off. Noe asked me how I was doing and I said I was tired but ready to go after a quick refuel.  I grabbed my headlamp, even though it wouldn’t get dark for hours, I was going to need it eventually, and my Lululemon swiftly long sleeve since it was cold in the morning, I figured I might need it night I’d need it.

Before I left, I asked the guy at the check-out table if there were any other cut-offs, just in case and he said that there weren’t any more for 50 milers, thank goodness so I didn’t have to worry about that.  Just finishing the last 15 miles in less than 5ish hours.

I had to go back up the part that was so fun to run down at the beginning.  It sucked, I was so tired, I was walking really slow, like really slow.  Finally, I was like that’s it.  I moved off the trail, sat down for a minute, drank one of my Glukos gels and got my Trekz Titanium headphones out.

A few people asked me if I was ok, and I was, I just needed to regroup for a minute or two before continuing on.  After this, I turned on my audio book, Daniel Silva‘s, The English Spy, which I’d been listening to for a while.  I swear as soon as I turned that on, it was like a switch, I felt a 100x better and not nearly as tired as I did moments before.

As I made my way back to Hobart, it started getting windy! Seriously there were some spots that I couldn’t hear the book because it was so loud.  I made my way down to the aid station, following a few other runners and took my longest stop of the day.

After getting my bottles refilled, I sat down to have them take a look at my foot, I felt like I was getting a blister on the midfoot.  Turns out it was just a hot spot, thank goodness, so they put a little bit of something like glide on the bottom of my foot.  Then it was time to go.  They told me I was going to have a 3 mile 1,000 ft climb up to Snow Valley Peak before a 7 mile downhill to the finish.

So off I went, I thought I might see Sean before I took the turn but unfortunately I missed him.  I slowly made my way up to Snow Valley Peak, which was a 9,000 ft.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any additional elevation issues so I made it up slowly.

It was really pretty once we got closer to the top, with a lot of greenery.  They had a sign out saying food & lodging in 1 mile and then little signs with funny sayings as we made our way up the last mile.  I had stopped to put my jacket on, I wish I had gotten my Altra Stash Jacket at Diamond Peak, but I forgot to grab it, because then I could have put my jacket on without taking off my pack. But then I followed this girl and her pacer up to the top of the hill.

We finally made it to the aid station, I again refilled my bottle, got some more orange slices and then got out of there quick!  There were a lot of runners sitting down and I just wanted to be done!  So off I went, attempting to run, it was very rocky at the beginning of this section so I did my best.  Not that I cared what place I was in, but when I looked at the tracking afterwards, I was in 123rd place when I left this aid station.

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They told us that it was 5 miles to a water stop and 7 miles to the finish.  I just booked it as fast as I could down.  I stopped to turn on my headlamp and one girl passed me, which actually was a good thing because I could see her ahead of me for quite a while.

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After a while I caught up with 3 other runners, I chatted with them for a few minutes and then had to pass them, I was so ready to be done!  Just a few minutes later there was a guy standing on the side saying that it was a 1/2 mile to the water stop and then 1.7 miles to the finish.  Sweet!

I passed the water stop and just kept moving, at this point, you could see the aid station from across the lake, it was pretty cool.  We crossed over a few wooden bridges during this section and I just kept moving.  Eventually we would get to the other side of the lake and the it didn’t take long to get to the finish line, in fact it was a lot sooner than I was expecting.  I thought the start & finish was in the same place, but was closer to the water.

And then I was done! I had finished my first 50(.48) mile mountain race.  This was not an “easy” 50 miler, with 9,000 ft (although when I checked the website before & after the race, it said that it had over 12,200 ft of ascent & descent so I guess it was wrong). The min elevation was 6,800 and max just over 9,000.

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By the time I had finished, I had somehow managed to move up 12 spots and I finished at 111 overall, with a time of 15h46m49s, which was under written cut-off of 16h30m and I wasn’t DFL, which I totally would have taken, my main goal was to finish under the cut-off.

I actually felt pretty good after I finished, a little sore, but not bad.  They gave me my finishers cup and a finishers plaque, that’s pretty cool.  Instead of a medal they gave 55k & 50 mile runners a plaque with the logo and the race on it.

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They had a taco truck there were we could get a hot meal and hang out in the ultra lounge. I had tacos, which were good, but I couldn’t eat that much at that time.  Sean had a rice & bean burrito the next day that was really good.

I’ve run a lot of races, most of which are just training for something else, this was one of my proudest running moments, because even though I was super slow and probably walked 75% of the race, I did something that I never in a million years would have thought I’d do, I didn’t ever think about quitting, and even though I was tired, I never once gave up on achieving my goal.

I’m positive I could have run/walked/hiked certain sections faster, but I’m happy with my time, how my race went and I learned a lot about myself & 50 miles.

Thanks for reading along, I know it was a long recap, but it was a long race, lol!

6 thoughts on “TRT 50…A Taste of Heaven…A Glimpse of Hell”

  1. Wow great job! That’s a tough 50 miler for your first! I have attempted the 50 miler twice but altitude sickness got me both times so I get to the top of diamond peak and need to stop. I had a great day 4 years ago finishing the 55K. But unfortunately I was sick at the beginning of this year 55K and just stayed I’ll the whole time. Took me 14 hours of walking. Sorry didn’t mean this to me about me but wanted to emphasize how great you did in this very difficult race. But weren’t those views incredible? Congrats to you‼️‼️👊👍💪. Janice

    1. Thanks Janice!! That was my fear after my experience with altitude sickness at the NorthFace 50k in Park City, UT which is why I made the decision to go a little slower. It paid off & I was able to finish with no altitude issues at all. Great job to you as well! Way to get it done! 👊🏼

  2. I’d like to run this race just to see the scenery, but the mountains intimidate me. I have some Glukos products that I plan to use on a future long run. Sounds like they worked well for you. Congrats on running strong and completing your first 50 mile mountain race!

    1. Thank you!! And don’t let them scare you! These trails were super well maintained. They are well used.

      And I really like the Glukos gels – they are water based which I really like vs how thick other gels are. Kind of like a concentrated drink 😊

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