The Tahoe Triple: Step by Step

tahoe

We reported races times and congratulatory messages for coach Carolyn Mangold, Claire Secker and Clint Currier after their impressive showing at the Tahoe Triple a few weekends ago, but no one can tell the story like those who endured the three day, 78 mile ordeal. Carolyn and Claire both took the time to write their accounts and let us in on the challenging, amazing experience:

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CLAIRE
Sunday night after the race was over and the customary pizza had been eaten, my husband asked me a seemingly obvious question: What’s more difficult? One marathon or three? My answer surprised even me – in many ways, covering 78.6 miles in three days was much easier than 26.2 in one day. There are a few reasons why:

THE TRAINING
As many of you know, I had been injured since last February. I’d been training for the Boston marathon with Team Rogue and we were following the Lydiard method, which means mega weekly mileage. Several days prior to the Austin Marathon I started to have adductor and knee problems; I should have bailed out, but pin a number on me and all sense goes out the window! So I ran through injury, which only made it worse. I had to cancel Boston and my hopes of training for Lake Tahoe were looking rather unlikely.

I started to run again in May and was wary of rejoining Team Rogue and their 65-70 mile weeks. Initially I joined the San Antonio group, which was more laid back, involved less mileage and had evening workouts. Then June hit with 100 degree, high humidity days and I soon realized that evening workouts were going to kill me. So I went back to Team Rogue, attending the early morning workouts.

I built my mileage up slowly and with each week was feeling more confident that maybe I could still do Tahoe. Most of Team Rogue was training for the Portland marathon, but Carolyn, Clint and I stayed focused on building endurance for our multi-day race. This is what I loved about the training: no struggling through speed work in the Texas heat!

Midway through August I started to notice I was running ‘funny’ and tripping easily over the slightest thing. At first I blamed it on my tired legs and the dark, but Russ suggested I go and get my eyes tested. It turned out I have a cataract that needs to be corrected, but once I have the surgery I can’t run or swim for 3 weeks. I declared that out of the question, it’s race season!

Naturally, this ‘funny’ running style caused a problem in my left calf four weeks out from the race and I had to drop my mileage significantly. My tight calf actually became an asset, because it forced me to start off each day very slowly, which is key at Tahoe when it comes to preventing burnout and achieving negative splits.

THE NUTRITION
Multi day races are different from single races when it comes to nutrition. During past marathons, I just carried some Gu and water. Multi day races usually have support crews, however, and Russ was my crew! So I planned accordingly:

Day 1: I had two packs of bloks, one large Pay Day candy bar, one banana, two quarters of orange slices, one gu, several bottles of Powerade, several bottles of water and at least six salt tabs.
After the race I had chocolate almond milk, a PBJ sandwich, then a turkey club sandwich. In the hotel room I had snacks, pretzels and soda, stuff to hold me over till dinner, which was a blue cheese salad and a big bowl of pasta.

Day 2: I had exactly the same food during the race. Then afterward I had a recovery drink called Pure and a PBJ. When I got back to the hotel I went to the Starbucks and had oatmeal (who’d have thought?). Then we went out to dinner where I had a Reuben and a beer at an Irish bar.

Day 3: We did not have the luxury of Russ crewing for us, so we had to carry all our own nutrition. It turns out that two fellow runners had their crew on the course, and they were providing watermelon! When they first offered it to me, I said no, as I’d been having terrible heartburn for several days and was wary of eating something different. By the next offer, however, I thought what the hell? Watermelon it is. Within minutes my heartburn was gone, and I was sold!

Never at any point during the three days did I hit the wall nutritionally, so I think I was spot on calorie wise. However, I did come home three pounds HEAVIER! I blame it on water retention from the salt tabs.

THE COMPANY
I preferred this aspect of multi day racing to single day racing because each day I could chat to people running near me, hear where they were from, if they had done this race before, what other ultras they had done and if any more were in their future. During single day races I’m too busy trying to breathe and check my pace to worry about small talk. I also was able to get to know some of the crew and they were all so supportive! During the first two days, the crew are the only people on the course, and every one of them are more invested and enthusiastic than your average spectator.

When it comes to the slow, steady training, the necessary food and the like-minded company, multi-day races win my vote!

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CAROLYN

For last year’s Tahoe triple, I went in with the goal of simply finishing. The mental and physical challenge was to get through 3 marathons.

This year I thought my challenge was my time goal, cutting time off of my three day total time of last year. But instead the challenge became waking up each day, dealing with injury issues, and making myself run yet another 26 miles. Normally, if we have a bad long run we can take a few days off and recover, but here I did not have that option. This became the hardest thing I have ever done…

Mentally, day one seemed a little easier than last year, as I knew the course and knew where the finish was. Physically, however, it was a bit more difficult due to record high temps, which hit 85 degrees each day. Because of this, my time was ten minutes slower than last year. I felt I would cut more time off of days two and three, but at the finish my feet and legs hurt like never before. We soaked in the lake and all felt good…

Until the next morning. I put on my running shoes and was instantly concerned by the way my left foot hurt. I started running anyways and it became manageable. But at about mile 16 my IT band started hurting and tightening up. Russ soon saw me and told me his 50 / 20 technique to get through: 50 steps running / 20 walking. It really helped ease up my IT, and the counting made the time pass more quickly. This technique worked until the final hill, at which point my foot really starting hurting, causing me to limp through the last two miles. Russ found me walking and asked if I was going to finish; I said yes, of course! He told me later he was not going to give me a ride.

Soooo… Day three started with hurt foot and painful IT band. Starting this day was the toughest thing I have ever done. I used the 50 / 20 from the start. Unlike the first two days, day three had mile markers which made it easier to break up: 1 , 2, 3, 4, 5, OK 25% done, etc…

Good things started happening after mile 15, the hilliest part of the course. After walking up the Hill from Hell (1.5 mile long hill), I got to the top and realized I felt better. All that walking I guess. Then there was a long downhill so I ran that, walked the next up, etc. My IT would bother me at the bottom of these hills, but then there would be an uphill to walk (most Tahoe runners walk all the uphills to save the legs). At mile 17 I felt a boost as I “only” had 9 miles to go. Then I approached rewarding mile 20. Just like last year,. this mark really boosts you up – it’s where the race began on day one, so you are familiar with the end. Additionally, it’s downhill and flat all the way to the finish. By this point I felt great – hurting some, but excited to finish!

The funny thing is that between day two and mile 17 on the third day, I swore I would never, never do this again (most of you know what I mean!). But as soon as I crossed the finish line, happy to be done, happy that I didn’t quit, I immediately began making plans for next year!

For any of you interested, there are already a few people talking about going in 2010. I would highly recommend this to any of you have run a few marathons and are ready for a new challenge (although Clint Currier ran this with us and had only run one marathon previously!). Unlike most multiday races, which are significantly longer with more days and more mileage each day, the Tahoe Triple is an obtainable challenge for those who are ready to go beyond the marathon. There are very few races like this.

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