I had a nagging feeling that with this race, I was writing a check my legs wouldn’t be able to cash. If you saw my previous post, you’ll know I had nearly convinced myself that this race would be my first DNF (did not finish.) My eyes well with tears, even 2 days post-race, as I type out these words: I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This was not my first race, not my first half marathon, but I can tell you it was the greatest physical challenge I have ever endured. It was a mental mountain as tall as the 7000′ peak from where the race began. Before I get ahead of myself, I’ll start from the beginning.
Epic Tahoe Adventures‘ Rock Tahoe Half Marathon.
I flew to Reno a few days prior to the race, it is a higher elevation than my house in Las Vegas (around 4500′ vs 3000′), and I thought this would help me acclimate better to the race elevations.
On Friday, the day before the race, I headed to Lake Tahoe, where the race was being held. I arrived fairly early in the day, so I drove all the way around the lake, and stopped at Incline Village at Ernie’s International Pastries.The owner has an incredible story, and it was humbling to get to meet him, and watch him still baking at 90 years old.
After making the loop around the lake, It was time to pick up my race packet, at the Hard Rock Hotel. The expo had several vendors, but my anxiety level was progressively growing, so I got my bib, signed up for the shuttle to the start line, and bought a commemorative wine glass…because WINE GLASS. I checked into my room at Harrah’s, across the street, around 4 pm. The room was a little on the pricey side, but really awesome! It was modern, and had a nice view of the lake, and it had 2 bathrooms, one with a walk in shower, and one with a tub. We grabbed dinner close-by (very simple baked potato, grilled chicken, and broccoli), I took a shower and applied my RockTape, and was in bed, lights-out, before 9 pm…my alarm was set for 3:30 am.
I slept with one-eye open, but felt rested, and got out of bed before my alarm. I poured water from the coffee pot over two packets of instant oats, and choked it down, knowing I would soon need every calorie. I finished getting ready, and was out the door by 4:40. I met two other racers in the elevator, and we walked across the street together to catch the 5 am bus.
Temperatures were around 50 degrees when we got to the race start, which was at 7000′. This race offered two start times, a 7 am for those with a finish time of 3-4 hours, and an 8 am start, for people who planned to finish in under 3 hours. Not wanting to be on my feet for longer than I needed to be, I found a spot next to an inspection trailer, with a group of other ladies. We chit-chatted and huddled to stay warm. It calmed my nerves quite a bit, and I took a few minutes to take in the sunrise, and scenery around us. We were given drop bags to use, to check our gear before the race. If I did this race again, i would make sure to utilize this option. The women I was sitting with had space blankets with them, and that was a great idea, as I had my pullover stretched over my knees to keep warm.
Before the 7 am start, a local fitness instructor led a group warm-up, and the National Anthem was played on an electric guitar. A drone buzzed over-head, and the collective energy got everyone’s blood pumping. Just before we started, something caught my eye, that gave me a boost for the entire race. Now this probably won’t mean anything to anyone else, but as I looked throughout the crowd of people around me, I happened to spot a man wearing a baseball cap with WVU’s Flying WV logo. The cap looked just like one my dad used to wear, and of course I had to say hello to him, because as I explained, “they” take away your West Virginian card if you see someone in WV related clothing and don’t acknowledge this fact. The hat turned out to be a gift, but I felt the odds of me seeing that hat before the race were pretty slim, and I considered it to be a little wink from my Dad, that he was there with me. It was time to take on 13.1 miles.
A nice woman beside me struck up conversation with me, and the first 3 miles seemed to fly by…and not just because of the 1000′ drop in elevation. I took my pullover off around mile 4,and tied it onto my hydration pack. I took in some electrolytes, and other than a little nagging tinge in my right IT band, I was feeling good. The first hill slowed me down a little, but I was happy that the elevation was not messing with my breathing. I had been feeling pretty rough with a cold and/or allergies, but somehow I managed not to cough, or need my inhaler at all. When we reached the tunnel, at around mile 6, I could feel my pace really start to slow down, but I was still feeling good.The woman I was walking with started drifting further and further ahead of me, but there was still a constant stream of people all around me. As someone who is used to being completely alone, at the very back of the pack, this was a cool experience. The course was so well supported, I would never have guessed it was an inaugural race.
When the first cramp hit my right calf, at mile 8, I was startled, as I can recall maybe two times in my life when I’d ever had a charley horse. I took a second to stretch, and got out a electrolyte chew. A few minutes later, I thought someone had kicked my left calf, and was surprised when I turned around to see nothing behind me, and then looked down, to see my muscles spasm with such velocity that a divot appeared on my leg. For some reason, I had grabbed a salt packet from Whole Foods earlier in the week, and had stuck it in my gear. As I stood there along the side of the road, not quite sure what to do – I ripped open that pack and poured it under my tongue. Keep going.
“There will come a day when I cannot do this, today is not that day.” – One More Mile
I stretched both legs, and pressed onward. I would continue to have to stop, literally every 100 feet or so, to stretch out my legs. When I got to the next aid station, a volunteer filled up my handheld bottle with electrolyte drink, and another dug through my bag to get some of the nutrition I had trained with, and brought along with me. I was in so much pain from the cramping that I had to force myself to take in half the food pouch. I shoved a couple pretzels in my mouth. Keep going.
At this point, I knew it was going to be a struggle to get to the finish line in under 4 hours, at which point the course would close. I passed a spectator with a cooler of ice, and nearly cried when she gave me a big handful of ice, which I packed under my hat, and down my shirt. My lucidity started to fade. Keep going.
The cramps in my legs had not let up, and I had reached a point of physical suffering that was foreign to me. The course took us off the main road, and onto a paved trail, through a forest. The crowd of people who had been around me began to thin. Just.keep.moving. I thought of my friends and family, who were cheering for me miles away. I thought of my husband at the finish line, no doubt tracking my location from my phone. Keep going.
I knew I would if I stepped off that course and called it quits, when I still had the opportunity to finish, I would regret it indefinitely. I began to hope that someone else would call it quits for me, that I would be pulled. When my leg buckled beneath me just before the mile 11 aid station, I didn’t know what to do. I had exhausted my supply of electrolytes, and I couldn’t take in any more water for fear of vomiting. Out of nowhere, a medic appeared on a bicycle. She stopped and rubbed my calves, which stopped the spasms for a few minutes. She rubbed some muscle-soreness cream on my legs. She did not pull me from the race. Keep going. I made it to the aid station…more chews, pretzels, electrolytes. More volunteers offering support. Keep going.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” -T.S. Eliot
Half a mile down the trail, my legs literally gave out from underneath me, and I caught myself just before falling to the ground. I heard a man’s voice behind me saying “That has to hurt!” It was another medic, on a bike. He could see my muscles spasming, and stopped. He reminded me of how close I was to the finish. He dug his thumbs deep into my calves. Keep going.
I was surprised to see a photographer on the course, just before mile 12. It was past the 4 hour mark…was the course still open? Keep going. I heard aid station 12, before I could see it. Much to my surprise, it was still stocked with water, electrolytes, food, and even champagne. Music was still playing. Volunteers were still cheering me on. Keep going.
A volunteer directing traffic, was at the top of a small hill. “You’ve got this!” he yelled to me, “You are so close! Get to the top of this hill, and it’s all downhill to the finish.” Keep going.
The last few blocks took everything I had, and I have never been so happy to cross a finish line; my 46th race, my 3rd half marathon, was officially completed.
This is the anti-climatic part, right? I crossed the finish line, made it across the street to the hotel, and after my husband rubbed my calves 4 times, I made it to the room. I took a quick ice bath, but felt really nauseous. I got in the shower and then my husband brought me a organic Muscle Milk I had packed, and stuck in the fridge. I was able to drink the entire thing, and not be sick. I moved to the bed and stretched my legs, and my husband made me drink a glass of water. He was truly a saint, and packed up the entire room and practically had to dress me. About an hour after I finished the race, I finally started to feel human again.
We checked out of the hotel, but I wasn’t hungry yet, so we opted to drive back to Reno to find something to eat. I continued to feel better throughout the evening. The next morning, I was surprised to find that I was minimally sore, and today, 2 days post race – only my calves are sore. Considering the amount of cramping I experienced, that is to be expected. Compared to how I felt after my other two half marathons, I am pleasantly surprised; I feel like I was much more physically trained for this race.
I would HIGHLY suggest this half marathon. It would have been a great first-timer experience.
- Great course support, awesome volunteers, tons of aid stations
- Nice finisher shirts at the finish line, great medals
- AHHHHmazing course. It’s Lake Tahoe, one of the prettiest places in the country, ’nuff said.
- They stated they loved their turtles as much as their hares, and this was accurate. I got a full race experience.
It was a challenging day. The course was tough–but so was I.
I came, I saw, I Rocked Tahoe.