I love Tahoe 200 – it is one of my favorite races of the year & I don’t even run it LOL. This was Sean’s 5th time running and the first time that they have done the race in reverse.
I recapped my first time crewing Sean at Tahoe 200 in 2015, which you can find here if you want to see how things have changed ;). That recap & this one are quite long (it is a 206mile race so there is a lot to say, lol) so I won’t be offended if you just scroll through the photos ;).
This year, we had a whole new #TeamSexyCalves because our old crew was busy crushing their own races. Greg (@gregknottlemond) was going for his Western States qualifier up in Canada. Maili (@mais_runs_trails) was going for her first official 50 mile finish, Eric (@aspireforlife) was also running and Joyce (@flyjoyce) was crewing & pacing Catra.
We had talked to our friend Josh (@jwanders11) at SD 100 and he was willing to come up and help crew & pace with us. And then after TRT, Sean & I thought we should ask Kristina (@ocrunningmama) to come with us too & she jumped on the chance to come back to Tahoe!
About 2-3 weeks before the race, we found out that Spooner Lake was no longer going to be crew accessible and so I was pretty worried that we needed to have another pacer who could go the first paceable 36 miles with Sean. Enter our friend and amazing runner, Jake (@ultra_trucker). Interestingly, I found out after he ran that Jake had never been to Tahoe before.
Sean, Kristina & I headed up to Tahoe on Wednesday evening. We got to the B&B around 11:30p or so. Had a little craziness where the door to our cabin was locked when it was supposed to be open and had to call the owner to figure out how to get in. We got it sorted & were able to head to bed.
As per usual, I had to work on Thursday and so I did that while Sean slept in. We hit up some groceries for supplies to get his drop bags ready for the afternoon. I worked while Sean & Kristina worked on them. They finished up & we headed over for the mandatory pre-race meeting at Homewood Resort.
It was a huge group of runners, I think they had 230 people start the race. There were not that many people who had done the race before and Sean was the only person to have done it every year. Candice made an announcement that there would be a special award for him when he finished the race and she was super excited about it.
I stopped to say Hi to Catra, who was selling & signing her book onsite.
Then Kristina wanted to say Hi to Courtney Dauwalter who would end up leading the race for pretty much the whole time before being passed by Kyle Curtain, who none of us had heard of before, but I’ve since heard he’s won Run Rabbit Run previously. Courtney is seriously one of the sweetest people, she remembered me from Coldwater Rumble when Sean introduced us.
We dropped the drop bags & then headed to dinner at the pizza place down the street from our B&B. Since the race didn’t start until 9am, we had some time after dinner for Sean to finish getting his gear together before heading to bed.
And then before we knew it, it was go time. We all got ready & headed to the start. Sean got his bib, he picked to be 1 & his tracker, we got that sorted, found Josh, chatted with some friends, got some photos and then it was time.
As per usual Sean took off up the hill which is his traditional way to start the race. Since the race was going to be crew accessible on Friday, I took the day off from work. I normally work all day Friday before meeting the first pacer at Sierra at Tahoe & then crew from there on.
When we were leaving, I ran into Jay, Joyce’s brother and Catra’s head crew & TruMan. He was a little nervous since his momma was gone, but he let me hold him & eventually drooled all over my arm so I think he relaxed a bit ;).
We got packed up & checked out before heading to the first aid station at mile 10.4. Kristina & I stopped to take a few photos by the lake, it was a beautiful day & looking like it was going to be quite warm.
Courtney came into the aid station first, looking great as usual. We waited for about 10 runners or so and then Sean came in.
He was just kind of chilling, taking his time. He got some water from the aid station and then he was off. We wouldn’t see him again for 20 miles.
While we waited, we headed to breakfast & then climbed Eagle Ridge (a short .4 mile hike with breathtaking views). Kristina convinced Josh do his first insta story (and he’s now hooked LOL).
We made it to Tahoe City just in time to see Courtney come in and then speed out. A bunch of other runners got there not to far after her, but I realized about 20 minutes later that no one else had left yet. Most of these runners had done about a 6 hour 50k which seems waaaay to fast for most people in a 200+ miler.
Sean came in around 7h44m saying it was HOT out. We got him cooled down & ready for the next section. It was going to be dark by the time he got to mile 50, Brockway so we made sure he had his headlamp & then sent him on his way.
In the meantime, we checked out Kings Beach, had dinner and then hung out at Brockway. All the while it was so weird to me going backwards to these aid stations. It was super fun having other people to hang out with and doing things I would normally never do, like go to the beach, but it felt really weird.
While we waited for Sean, we were standing next to another runner & her crew. They were totally stressing me out because they had binders and all sorts of papers telling them what to do, but when it came to actually doing anything they just didn’t seem to have a clue. I really thought that the poor girl was going to end up going out without any hydration at one point. I literally had to get up and move away because they were totally stressing me out, lol.
Sean made it to Brockway around 11:30p. we got him food, energy drinks, extra headlamp batteries, etc. etc. and he headed out to Tunnel Creek.
We too headed that way, we managed to get a little sleep before we met up with Jake. Sean came in around 3am & I was asking him how he liked going down PowerLine vs going up & he said it was pretty slippery. He got some food & then he and Jake were off heading up Tunnel Creek to Spooner Lake. I’ve run this section with Sean before going in the opposite direction and it’s spectacular, it’s always been a fun section because you get to run down to the cafe, but this year they were climbing up instead.
Once they were on their way, it was time for us to get some more sleep so back to the car we went. I think I woke up around 6:30a & Tunnel Creek Cafe opened at 7 for breakfast. I got a yummy granola with soy milk.
I wanted to go and cheer on some of the other runners. I saw Catra @dirtdiva333 who looked super fresh.
I helped Mark Tanaka who was running solo get ready for the next section. He was a little out of it when he arrived so I helped get him some food & get his pack ready. He said that someone told him that Sean had dropped, which was kinda weird, but who knows.
We ran into Robert Villani when we were heading to the car, he was doing great waiting for his wife to bring him some milk shakes, which is his secret weapon for getting in lots of calories. He told us about how awesome the Kogalla light was (I asked Sean to pick one up in Moab & he did so I’m excited to try it out).
We still had a bit of time before we had to meet Sean at Heavenly so we decided to go to Sand Harbor for a bit. Sean & I always pass by when we are in Tahoe but it’s always packed so we have never stopped. We were able to get in and go explore for a bit. I was climbing all over the rocks and in the water having a great time.
Once we got to Heavenly, it was soooo windy. Sean came in with Jake around 2:30p. He wanted shade & to change so we got him all ready to go. He and Kristina would be going from Heavenly to Armstrong, another section I have done with him.
We got a (full) team photo and then they were off. I can’t remember exactly what Josh & I did in the interim, but we eventually made our way over to Armstrong Pass and he got his stuff ready to go out and pass Sean to Housewife Hill & then on to Sierra at Tahoe. We ran into Schuyler from Mountain Outpost fame – Run Flat, Stay Low 😉 and Jamil’s son, who is super cute! We chatted with them for a while since we were all waiting on our runners. I think Sean was in the top ten during this stretch.
Sean got in around 8p just after dark. We got him some food, a long sleeve shirt & then he was off. But then, he came back a few minutes later shivering from having gotten too cold while at the aid station. We got him wrapped up in a blanket, put on his warm jacket, got him some hot water to drink & I gave him my insulated water bottle full of hot water so he could use that when he headed out.
Next stop was Housewife Hill. Somehow we ended up going into the aid station from the back, that was a first, but it ended up working out so it was all good. This aid station is one of the best, they are always dressed up & so energetic. When speaking with the aid station captain, she was saying that going this direction meant she had to take a few days off work in order to be there for the whole race. I didn’t even think of that, but going in the opposite direction means a lot of changes for everyone.
In any case, Sean came in around 2:15am looking pretty good. We got him some food & refilled his bottles. He and Josh set off for the 7 miles to Sierra at Tahoe where I would pick him up to go with him for the next ~40 miles.
We got over to Sierra at Tahoe, I think I slept for maybe an hour before getting changed. I originally had on shorts & then at the last minute decided to grab a pair of capris & I’m glad I did because it got warmer during the day.
When Sean got to the aid station I think he was in 6th place. Jamil was still up in the aid station. Sean changed in the bathroom, we got him food & refilled his bottles. He doesn’t like going upstairs at this aid station so we always just stay at the entrance. Interestingly the aid station was unmanned when he came in so we kept asking people where he checked in & finally as we were leaving, a few minutes after Jamil & Skylar left, someone came by to check him in. The guy had been sleeping since so few people had come through & said, oh, you don’t really need to be checked in. Um, say what? I’m pretty sure someone always checked him in there in the past, but whatever.
So off we went. I had this idea that we could finish the 40 miles in about 12 hours which would put us at Loon Lake about 5/5:30pm. From Sierra at Tahoe, you take the road down to the trail, which is initially a fire road. Last year, Greg & I did a little shakeout down this section so I was familiar with it. After a while we turned onto a single track section. Sean was moving pretty good in this section.
I had never been in this section of the course because typically they do this section on day 1 when crew isn’t allowed and I have to say, it’s not the beautiful rim trail. The trail was not nearly as well maintained as the rim trail and there was so much poop on the trail we started calling this section the Pooer line trail, instead of Power Line ;). We were like they obviously didn’t read the section of the handbook where it said you can’t just poo anywhere because it was literally like every few feet, sometimes less.
The section to Wrights Lake requires a 3ish mile climb up a road, which Sean did amazing at, he was chugging along, click, click, click of the poles. It was really cool to see. But, once he got to the top, he had a hard time going downhill, his hips were not happy. We eventually made our way down to the trail again. At this point, we had to take a few breaks & I was digging in to find his psoas muscle to try to get him a bit of release.
This section seemed to go on forever, we finally made it to Wrights Lake, I think there was one other runner there at the same time, got Sean fueled up, got us more water & then headed out. We were coming up on the Rubicon Jeep Trail.
We started out fine, there were a few jeeps coming down to where the aid station has been in the past. Sean was moving good, we had a little discussion about him moving a touch faster so we could make up some time & he was trying so hard! Then it happened. We were following the markers and then all of a sudden there were no more markers. We had crossed over this bridge & were climbing up rocks looking for the trail. There were no markers. Eventually we turned back and tried to see where we got off trail. Sean ran into another runner & his pacer and we finally had to go to the GPX track to find the trail.
Turns out the track showed the trail to be this random grassy section with logs at the start, which in most races is an indication not to go that way. So weird. Anyways we went relatively slowly for the next 2ish miles following the GPX track and finally after about 2 miles saw a marker. I don’t know what happened, but whoever marked this section did a horrible job, because after this, the next marker was at least a 1/2 mile away. We lost a lot of time in this section to Tells Creek because we literally would come to a dead stop looking for the next marker. They were not in our line of sight like they should have been. It was a really frustrating section.
But eventually we made it to Tells Creek. We got veggie burgers and coke and filled up. I changed back into my capri’s because I accidentally spilled my drink on my chair and soaked my shorts, oops. But I was glad I changed because once the sun went down, it got cold!
We were moving really well on this section the first half, I think that the veggie burger gave Sean & me a nice energy boost! I was having a hard time keeping up with Sean the first part of this section, he was moving fast & it was probably the only time that I got my heart rate up during our day together.
We saw the most beautiful sunset, stopped to take a few photos and then we were on a downhill section. This section was pretty rocky so I took the lead and would go slowly down. We made a pact that I would stay ahead of him, but not too far ahead so he could feel like he could catch me. By this point it was getting colder but we were getting closer. I asked Sean if he would want to take a nap, at this point he hadn’t slept at all and he was past his 60 hour threshold. He said he would see, but he seemed like he was in decent shape.
We eventually got to where we could see the aid station! YAY!! Finally, 16 hours after we started we were there! Mile 180. Sean’s mom, Josh & Kristina were there. Originally Kristina was supposed to run this next section with Sean, but I guess during the day it was decided that Josh would do it instead. So instead of taking a nap, with all the craziness that was going on, we pushed him out instead. In hindsight I should have pushed for him to sleep no matter what, but I was so happy to be done & he seemed fine.
I had no idea, but Loon Lake is 2.5 hours from Lake Tahoe!! OMG, that’s a 5 hour round trip drive! Yet another reason why the original direction is soooo much better, that’s a crazy long drive, especially in the dark. Kristina was a total rockstar driving us back while I was half asleep. We finally made it back to the B&B, I was able to shower off all the dirt & sleep for a few hours before we headed to Barker Pass.
I would wake up, check the tracker, see Sean was moving really really slowly & go back to sleep for a little while longer. I was stressing out a lot because I knew he was sleep deprived & sleep walking. Everyone of these 200 mile races is around a work event that I have to be at, my job is very flexible & I can work from anywhere, except when we have events, I obviously need to be at them so I had to fly to Phoenix that afternoon & I was very concerned that I was going to miss Sean finishing.
We eventually drove over to Barker Pass around 6/7am . I would try to work & keep checking the tracker, the cell signal up there wasn’t great & it seemed like he was just so far away. I was incredibly frustrated & in tears by the time he got to the aid station for a variety of reasons.
He got there and we had a little chat, I told him that if he didn’t get to the finish before noon, I was going to have to leave & wouldn’t see him finish. I was so upset & even now it makes me want to cry a little (and it’s about 6 weeks later). After last year’s absolutely perfect race, it was heart-breaking to see him struggle this year.
But he & Kristina headed out & he rallied. I took Josh back to the B&B so he could shower, we got some food & then we checked & Sean was moving quite well so we headed to the finish.
Two hours after he left Barker Pass, he got to the finish line! 74ish hours after he started with no sleep. I was so happy for him & so relieved that I got to see him finish.
And as the only person to finish Tahoe 200 five times, that’s over 1000 miles on the TRT, Candice presented him with a special award. He got a custom buckle & belt. It’s really nice!
What a weekend!
My final thoughts, as crew & pacer, 200s are so challenging. They are all this hurry up and wait, being patient, stressing but not allowing your runner to see that. While I absolutely love this race, it’s 1000x better in the original direction.
First, the runners get the really remote sections out of the way on the first day so crew doesn’t have to drive 5 hours to Loon Lake. Second, by the time you get to Sierra at Tahoe the runners have spread out a lot. Third, you don’t really have super long paced sections – the 15 – 20 mile section is really ideal for both pacer & runner so that neither gets burnt out.
Tahoe 200 is one of the most beautiful courses around so I’m sure we’ll be back, but I need a little break from 200s for the time being :).
Huge Thanks to our amazing team #TeamSexyCalves. Kristina, Josh & Jake, we are so grateful for your help & support on this amazing adventure!