by Steven Hamilton
Chapter 1- Incoming!
It began simply enough:
Pssst! Can I interest you in a Triple?
A triple? Like espresso?
No. A Triple – Marathon!
When asked this question, the sane person should respond No! Or even, “Hell-o No!” But there are some for whom this question begs a different answer. And so the story picks up on September 10th as a group of Rogues converged on the idyllic town of South Lake Tahoe. We arrived solo, in pairs, and in a large group; in some cases, even arriving at the wrong airport. But, as Rogues, we persevered, and managed to arrive in one piece; healthy, caffeinated, and ready to run.
Somewhat craftily named, South Lake Tahoe is a small town at the south end of Lake Tahoe, straddling the California and Nevada state line. It hosts the gondola and ski lifts to the nearby Heavenly ski resort. When we arrived, the weather was beautiful, with lows in the 50s-60s and high in the mid-80s. As a group, we stayed at the Aston Village, shared several condos, and had our own private beach. After finding our rooms and unloading our vehicles, we headed to the local supermarket where we bought everything. Luckily, that included coffee and fixings.
Our first full day started bright and early with Carolyn leading us all on an “easy 2 miles around Spooner Lake.” As you can see, Spooner Lake is very pretty. While situated at a good 7000 feet in altitude, the couple of miles were deceptively easy. The scenery was lovely. And everyone unwound from the previous day’s travel. Our shake-out run was followed by breakfast at Zephyr Cove – home of the bear-coffee-mug – and which offered a darn good cuppa joe, as well as a breakfast that would fill a starving lumberjack full up.
Packet pickup was at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, where Rogue promptly showed up (on time!) early and were kicked out of packet pickup while organizers figured out last-minute details. Many of us walked away with our sweet duffle bags and singlets. As you can see, many of us showed our team spirit, but somebody failed to wear his Rogue Tahoe t-shirt!
Carbs were consumed; beer drunk. And before too soon, our weary group turned to their early-morning preparations. Singlets and shorts were laid out with care. GU and Shot Blocks were neatly stacked and stored. Shoes lined up like sentinels by the door. Lunches made. And alarm clocks set. The coffee pot was primed and ready to fly.
Chapter 2 – Who’s On First, What’s on Second?
Before covering the 3 days of running, I want to introduce the cast of our Tahoe tale, as well as define some of the terms used by our runners. Tahoe weekend consists of a variety of races and combination of races. As the name implies, the Tahoe Triple is three consecutive days of marathons sequentially circling the Lake. The Tahoe Trifecta is three consecutive days of Half-marathons, aligned with the marathons. The first two start with the marathoners, while the last day’s Half is staggered in time and start location so that everyone shares the same finish line. The Tahoe Super Triple consists of two consecutive days of marathons (the same two as the Triple) BUT with an all-the-way-around-the-lake ultramarathon of 72.6 miles thrown in at the end. Runners of the Super Triple start their second day with the other marathoners. Then that same evening close to dusk, they gather to complete the ultra marathon distance through the night and into the next day. This is timed to have the marathoners and Ultra runners on the last 26.2 mile course at the same time!
There were several teams of Rogues covering the various distances:
- Trifecta – Jenny Bowden, Angela McKnight, and Denise Ewers
- Triple – Carolyn Mangold, Victoria Nickell, Caitlin Rogo, Natasha MacNevin, and Steve Hamilton
- Super – Michael Wedel
Additionally, Coaches Amy Anderson and Mark Enstone supported the runners as crew for the first two days of running, and then they both raced the last Day 3 marathon.
Michael brought his own crew of Rachel Theriot, who raced the first day marathon with us and won first female (her third ever marathon!) and Chris Chuter, a Rogue working in the Bay Area, who gave freely of his time to support us all on the last day of racing.
Each and every one of these Rogues proved just how AWESOME they are, so many times over, that it is hard to capture in words.
Chapter 3- The Race is On
(Race maps are here: http://runtahoe.com/content/marathons)
Day 1 – Emerald Bay Marathon: http://runtahoe.com/sites/default/files/eb_marathon_map.pdf
The first day started early with The World’s Best Crew Ever™ (coaches Amy Anderson and Mark Enstone) driving us to the Emerald Bay starting line, at the top of (again, very appropriately named!) Inspiration Point. Located at approximately 6850 feet above sea level, it provides an awesome view out over the Lake. In the cool darkness under an almost full moon, we took some pretty amazing pictures.
I eyed the other runners: “very competitive and intimidating,” I thought. “A lot of Marathon Maniacs shirts,” I thought. Many seemed to know each other, and were back for their fourth or fifth year in a row. “Who would do that to themselves?” I asked myself.
The start of the race leads to a quick and steep descent through a couple of sharp switchbacks, dropping approximately 500 feet in the first three miles. Quickly, we transitioned from road to a quiet trail through the forests around Camp Richardson and Pope Beach (finish line area for Day 3) and into the picturesque residential area around Tahoe Keys and South Lake Tahoe proper.
As a True Believer in negative splits, I enjoyed stopping off to capture photos (along with Jenny, Natasha and Caitlin) of some truly important landmarks (e.g. Texas Avenue). The day was warming nicely as we pulled into Lakeshore Blvd, where the Half finish line along the beachfront looked decidedly inviting.
As we pulled out of the half-way point, we started slowly to climb and crossed into Nevada. As the day warmed, we worked our way along the Lincoln Highway, and passed the previous day’s (and soon to be team favorite) breakfast joint at Zephyr Cove. As we climbed away and up, I started to feel the effort. I was somewhat surprised (!!) to find that my body was not responding as usual to my level of effort. By Mile 24, I was not a happy camper. But thanks to the super-human support (and red cheer leader outfits – or was I hallucinating?) of The World’s Best Crew Ever™ and the encouragement of my teammates, I finally made it to the finish line at Spooner Junction; a climb of approximately 700 feet in the last four miles to an elevation of 7067 feet.
Ok, thank goodness that is over! Surely this was my worst day? It could not possibly be worse than that in the future, could it?
As we returned home, we divided up the chores: dinner, laundry, etc., and I made my peace with Day 1. If I was really lucky, I would sleep through the next 48 hours and magically awaken on the flight home, I thought.
Day 2 – Cal-Nevada Marathon:
By some miracle, I woke up the next morning not dead, donned my running shoes, and headed out with the rest of the team to take on Day 2. Luckily for me, the Cal-Nevada marathon is the easiest of the three marathons. We are all familiar with “recovery” runs. But if there is there such a thing, this was our “recovery” marathon.
Starting at the finish line from Day 1 at the same 7000 feet mark, the course takes a nice, easy downhill for the first 13.1 miles into the town of Incline Village. As we clicked off miles, we not only enjoyed the views and took some happy-looking pictures, we whiled away the miles with alphabet games to take our minds off the distance (“A is for Alice, an architect, who dates Adam, who lives in Alaska …”) and must have discussed the finer points of my imaginary lunch – macaroni and cheese – for at least a 100 miles.
As we rounded the corner and headed into town, we had to dodge falling pine cones (seriously – the size and weight of coconuts) and headed to the Half finish on … (yes, you guessed it) Lakeshore Blvd (a different one.) By now, I was beginning to recognize the pattern in naming conventions around the Lake.
Lakeshore Blvd, it should be pointed out, is the Waller of Lake Tahoe. It just seemed to keep going and going. And again, the happy smiling Half finish line by the beach was very inviting.
As we pulled away from the Half finish, we encountered today’s first hill at Mile 14, and I felt so much better as I passed one of those Marathon Maniacs shirts. As we passed the last few casinos (on the Nevada state line) I crossed back into California, and passed the only Tex-Mex restaurant I saw the entire trip. (Sure, I thought how great a margarita would taste right there and then, but decided that running was my job for the moment.) The next few miles took us through some rolling hills, more reminiscent of Austin, and several small towns. I finally settled into leap-frogging back and forth with one of the other Triplers, Mario from Mexico. Every mile, I would see his wife sitting in her car waiting to offer Mario some water or snacks … and we passed each other multiple times along the next several miles.
People are quite friendly to runners on this route. I often got asked what this “Rogue running thing” was all about, and a young lady and her son (eating ice-cream) asked what race we were running. I felt obliged to catch my breath and explain in detail, all the while eyeing the ice-cream and plotting an exit route should the temptation to grab it out of his hand become too great to resist.
Ice-cream free, I headed into the bustling home stretch along Commons Beach and into the parking lot that marked the finish line for Day 2.
Day 3 – Lake Tahoe Marathon: http://runtahoe.com/sites/default/files/ltm_map.pdf
The Lake Tahoe Marathon is the largest and best-supported marathon of the three-day event. Today, we were crew-less, as Amy and Mark were also racing. Also, it differed in that the Half started 2 hours later at the midpoint. The idea is that everyone will run the same last 13.1 miles to a common finish line on Pope Beach, with the time delay giving the marathoners a chance to see the Half marathoners arrive at roughly the same time. Another interesting twist was that today, the roads would be closed – which we later saw as a huge line of cars and trucks backed up when we got close to the finish line. And last but not least, the course was way harder in the second half than in the first – with two very large hills leading into mile 20, and cresting back at Inspiration Point. (See the course profile below.)
Before starting, we called our missing team-mate who had broken her ankle and was struggling to recover in time to join us in Tahoe. Unfortunately, despite an amazing effort and spending hours aqua-jogging every day, the doctor forbade her from coming back in time for this event. So, just to make sure she knew we missed her, we gave her a call before the start on this last day.
We started on wet grass amid sprinklers … and headed out to the Mile 26 marker. What? Oh, yes, on the last day, mile markers count backwards J Actually, I now wish this was true on all future marathons. This was such a great boost at mile 20.2 when I saw the Mile 6 marker. (Backward math, at 7000 feet, and after running up bloody great big hills during your last marathon, is quite difficult I will have you know!) The first 13.1miles was cool and shaded. I had a great race plan: run the fun stuff, and walk the big hills! So I stretched out and ran the first Half at a nice pace, passing many of the marathoners along the way, and knowing they would probably pass me as I struggled up the hills.
At about the 18 Mile marker (about 8 miles in) I saw Michael and Rachel, with crew member Chris. It was great to see Michael who was into the last portion of his all-the-way-around-the-Lake ultra. I got to hear about the bear adventures and catch up with how things were going. Soon after, we parted ways, and while I could not see Michael, I knew he must have been close, as I saw Chris at the side of the road with his buffet of snacks and drinks many times over the next few miles. Thanks Chris for the potato chips and ice!
The first climb comes with warning signs and bagpipes. And as I got to the top of the first hill, I saw Denise and asked how the other Trifecta ladies were doing. Then it was down the hill to Emerald Bay and the Castle, with some amazing photo opportunities along the way. This part of the course is probably the most scenic, and hardest, as it leads back up the second hill to Inspiration Point at about mile 20 (or Mile 6). Again, I stopped at the top to take photos and eat some jelly beans.
While the last six miles of any marathon is tough, I thought that it would be literally downhill from this point to the finish line at Pope Beach. I slowly worked my way down the switchbacks that had been so much fun the first day, and made it to the trail. Very luckily for me, both Natasha and Caitlin caught up with me over this fairly flat last portion of the course. It seemed to me that random people would shout, “Triplers coming through!” as we slowly closed those last couple of miles.
As we turned onto the last-last-last “just around the corner”, it was such a relief. We crossed the finish line holding hands … and then had to back up and do it again for the photographer to catch the moment!
Ahead of us, Amy, Mark and Michael had great finishes. We all regrouped on the beach, cooled off our sore feet in the soothing Lake, and gathered our bling before heading back to the condo and started to celebrate.
That evening, we headed out to celebrate with pizza and beer (and there may have been several cookies too!) We all ended up by the beach around an open fire – the perfect ending to Day 3.
Chapter 4 – Au Revoir Lake Tahoe
If you have run a marathon, you are probably familiar with the thought process that I now went through: I am never ever doing that again! And just as I did after my first ever marathon, I thought I would never want to train or race another marathon ever again, no matter have the desire to improve my time or train for one with hills! But, as you all know, those fleeting thoughts are quickly replaced with, when can I do that again? I could have done X so much better. And I could train like …. So, as we packed up and made ready to leave – after one last, HUGE breakfast at Zephyr Cove – I slowly realized that I would be back one day. Recovery has been slow, and so far, I am feeling great. And the response from the rest of the Rogue community has been outstanding. No, I really do not feel #badass, but sincerely, thank you for that anyway. I am more amazed by the accomplishment of everyone else who ran; the smooth execution and planning by our Fearless Leader, Carolyn; and the amazing support form Mark, Amy and Chris, without which everything would have been impossible. Even as we talk about the trip among ourselves, it still feels somewhat mystical and dream-like. “Hard to believe” just seems too flat an expression to capture the totality of the experience. And, importantly, it has reset expectations on my own capabilities and limits.
So, if someone offers you a “triple” one day, I hope you will stop and take the time to seriously consider it. Sure, it requires a little specialized training. But I believe anyone in the Rogue community is capable of training for and running a Triple. Yes, you. I mean you.