I’ve been dreading the Tahoe Triple for a little while. September has been a long month from the running and racing perspective, and three marathons in three days at elevation on hills hasn’t sounded too appealing. On paper, it looks frightening to me. But none of that compares to actually getting out there and doing it. I ran the first leg of the Tahoe Triple Friday, the Emerald Bay Marathon, and it was even tougher than I thought it would be.
I tried not to think about what I was doing as we got ready to start. I’ve never run three marathons in three days. I’m not very good at elevation — I’m a sea-level guy. And I’m totally beat up right now. I checked the elevation on my Garmin, 6,850 feet or so, and mindlessly got ready to run. That’s what I do — I run marathons — so I’d just go out and run 26.2 miles like I always do.
Vaguely knowing what I did about the course, I was hoping to run a 3:40 or better, but I didn’t worry about it. I knew I’d go out, run myself into the ground and get to the finish line as quickly as I could. If that meant 3:40, then that’s what it meant. If it took 4:00, so be it.
We got going on a big downhill early on a winding road and we had to go single file to avoid traffic. The views of the lake were amazing, and the forested areas were very nice, too. I was moving all right early, but definitely not fast. I had no spring in my step and I definitely realize at this point that I have dead legs.
I felt nauseous for quite a while. I was sick to my stomach and pretty miserable. I know this is probably too much information, but I threw up a little bit in my mouth at about mile 10. It was just a little bit, but it was gross. I’d never done that in a race before.
My stomach started feeling a little better by about halfway through, but I felt like I had nothing physically. We bottomed out somewhere around 6,200 feet and started a series of gradual uphill climbs. I think I hit the half in about 1:45 or so. I don’t really remember and I wasn’t really concerned. I just knew to keep running hard so I could finish the run.
By about mile 16, I hit a point where I shut off the competitive switch mentally, because I knew there was nothing there. It was kind of a primal feeling. I was just running, looking at the trees and the laking, pushing myself with all that I had (or didn’t have), trying to get to where I had to go. It was a nice, albeit painful, feeling at that stage.
I kept rolling, but the miles were pretty slow. They were well into the 9s, which is a crawl for me. I knew there was a hill coming up at mile 23, but I had no idea exactly how difficult it would be. People can describe them in words all they want, but until you run it, you can’t feel it.
At mile 23, we were at about 6,300 feet. And then we started climbing. And climbing. I thought it was only a mile long for some reason, but we were still climbing at 24. I was shuffling at about a 12-minute pace. I was still shuffling at that speed as we continued to climb through 25. Around every turn, I thought it would level out, but I kept seeing more of the hill. We finally peaked at about 25.5. Elevation was 7,038 feet. That had to have been the worst hill I’ve ever run up in a race.
We made a turn off the road we were on down to the finish. I didn’t know what to expect for the finish line, so when I closed in and saw a man sitting at a table next to a chalk line, I asked if that was the finish and it was! Thank goodness! I crossed through to complete the toughest marathon I’ve ever run. No question about it. That was brutal! The hills, elevation and late climb made it an incredibly challenging run. But it was beautiful and it was nice to be out there running.
On a side note, and a pre-triple dinner event the night before, I was recognized for what I’m doing with Operation Jack, so it was nice that a lot of people heard about what we’re trying to do.
Anyways, I finished in 3:49:42, and really, that doesn’t even faze me. In May I might have cared. Right now, I don’t. I went out, I gave it my all, and I wore myself out for Operation Jack. That’s what I’m here to do, so I’m glad that’s what I did.
44 and a couple of ultras down, 17 to go. Next up, leg 2 tomorrow!
I knew I was about to run a marathon, but I really didn’t know what I was in store for! The lake looked nice, though.
Done! Time for pancakes!