Race Report - 2022 Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run

6/20/2022 05:00:00 PM

Pre-race mug shot.
After 2 years of Covid and wildfire delays, 2022 looked to finally be the year that I would get the opportunity to run the Tahoe 200. I was meant to attempt this race in 2020 along with the Bigfoot 200 and the Moab 240 in an effort to complete the Triple Crown of 200s. Unfortunately, Covid cancelled those plans and ultimately meant that I would attempt the Bigfoot 200 in 2021 (unsuccessfully) along with the Moab 240 (successfully). The Tahoe 200 was cancelled again in 2021 due to wildfires, so here we were now in 2022 finally lining up to take on this challenge.
Team "Meow": My awesome crew/pacers Brian, Tobias, my wife Anya, Amber and Jay (from left to right).
I had big plans for this race, first and foremost with the goal of improving and building on my performance at the Moab 240 in October of last year. I was lucky enough to be able to recruit a great team of friends from across the US and Sweden:-) All of them were either experienced ultra runners, experienced crew or both: Tobias Sørensen, Jay and Amber Hagan and their son Xavier, Brian Baraniak and my amazing wife Anya. After having experienced struggling to get sleep in the race provided tents and cots in sub freezing temps at my earlier 200 mile races, I was intent on bringing my camper van along for the adventure as it provided all the comforts one could hope for. In addition, driving to the accessible aid stations along the course as rather easy at the Tahoe 200, so it just made sense to bring the van. I would be able to sleep in a familiar and warm bed and maybe even take a hot shower at some point. At least that was the plan. Of course, this also meant I had to drive the van across the country to do so. This logistics of doing so weren't much fun as it meant driving 3 days straight for 12 hours each day, interrupted only by refueling the van and stopping for conference calls along the way before pulling over at a 24 hour gas station for the night before doing it all over again the next day. However, once the transit was done, it all worked out perfectly. I would pick up and drop off my wife at Reno airport just a short 45 minute drive from Lake Tahoe.
My "A" goal race plan for the Tahoe 200 put together at "ultraPacer.com": 72 Hours.
I had reserved a small AirBnB apartment for the duration of the race in Tahoe Vista in the Northern Lake Tahoe area to serve as the home base for my crew and pacers. After all, I would not and could not expect them to hang out in the camper van for a minimum of 3 days. This ended up working our perfectly as the race course change to an out and back (due to continued trail closures in the South Lake Tahoe area as a result of last year's Caldor fire) meant that our home base was perfectly centrally located along the course, just a mile below the 50/150 mile Brockway Summit aid station. This also happened to be the aid station I captained as a volunteer in 2019, which earned me my free entry into this year's race.
The elevation profile featuring up to 40,000 feet of vertical gain for the 200 mile out & back course of the Tahoe 200.
My wife Anya and I checked into the apartment on Wednesday prior to the race, allowing me to make final preparations to my gear and any drop bags I intended to use prior to the Thursday race check-in. I would only prepare nutrition for drop bags. All gear would be meticulously organized inside my camper van. I had a "medical/support kit" bag that contained everything from lube to Leukotape. I packed for every imaginable emergency and the kit included anything I could possibly need to take care of issues at an aid station. I used a giant open top bag that contained extra trekking poles, hydration pack, bottles, hydration bladder, extra head and waist lamps and batteries. I also organized extra gaiters, gloves, buffs, beanies, LS shirts, SS shirts, rain pants, shorts, boxers, socks, rain jackets and warm jackets in compact and labeled ziplock bags. I wanted to make sure both my crew and I had easy access to my extra gear whenever needed. In addition, I had a few different pairs of trail shows stashed in the van, again just in case. I did not want to leave anything to chance, at least nothing that I was able to control. Everyone knows you can plan for an ultra as much as you want, but there are always many unknown factors outside your control, at which point you'll just have to roll with the punches.
Of course, I didn't rely on my gear as my plan for success. I put in the work, too. Unlike in other years, I kept my race calendar open after June 2022. The Tahoe 200 was my sole race focus for the year. Everything leading up to it was merely a training activity. One can argue all day of the validity or effectiveness of doing ultras as training races to meet your long run training goals. All I can say is that it works for me. Do I always take it easy? No. Am I usually too competitive to "just" run to cover the distance in a race? Yes. But at the end of the day, the consistency in my running and training pays off. I stayed injury free, yay, and I was pretty fit leading into the Tahoe 200 as my 2022 race results confirmed. I had run a total of 14 ultras between January and May to complement my training. In fact, I was running so well, I was concerned that I had used up all my good mojo before ever toeing the line at the Tahoe 200.

With 5 weeks to go to race day, I had completed my last long effort leading into the event, the Cruel Jewel 50 Miler, a challenging 55 mile race in the North Georgia mountains. Once again, it went pretty well. I finally decided to dial it back a little to let my body rest leading into the big event. I throttled back both my mileage and my effort. Most of my runs were done at a low HR so that wasn't much of a change. However, not running/racing much the final 5 weeks turned into feeling little niggles here and there that started to mess with my head. Since I am not someone to ever actually taper for any event, this was a new experience for me, but I reminded myself that this appeared to be a common occurrence for many runners, so I did not let it bother me too much. Again, I could not control it, so why spend too much thought on it. Acknowledge it and move on. See, I have learned something:-)
With all of my gear, nutrition and drop bags sorted, it was time for an in person crew meeting. We had had a zoom call with everyone, so I could share my race plan with everyone and so they could start thinking about pacer duties and who could or should run which segments. There were quite a bit of logistics involved due to aid station access restrictions for crew. For example, crew was not allowed to access aid stations or assist runners between miles 0 and 50, 50 and 100, and 100 and 150. Thankfully, runners were allowed to have pacers cropped off between miles 50-100 and 100-150. Anyway, on Wednesday evening it was finally time for the whole team to meet each other. While I had met everyone before, not all of them knew each other, yet. With everyone assembled and going through my gear and nutrition, $h!t was finally getting real.
Thursday at noon, my crew and I met up at the Homewood Resort, the start and finish location of the Tahoe 200, for the pre-race check in and to catch up with some familiar faces and runners in the process. Jay, Amber, Xavier and Brian had stayed in another AirBnB for the night, while Tobias stayed with Anya and I after I picked him up at Reno airport around midnight on Wednesday night following his adventurous journey from Sweden. It's always fun to mingle with fellow runners and catching up before a big ultra. Everyone has the same butterflies in anticipation of another massive challenge ahead. In addition, all of us had waited nearly 3 years to finally take on this challenge and now it was finally go time!
After a quick medical checkin, picking up my race number, taking the pre-race photos for the tracker page as well as the fun before and after race photos, and waiting in the merchandise line in vain in hopes of buying a race hoodie, we quickly assembled for a crew photo before leaving to head back to our respective AirBNBs to chill. Anya and i had picked up supplies the day prior and Anya was kind enough to cook several pounds of pasta for a pre race dinner with the entire crew. It was the perfect way to kick off this grand adventure and I could barely contain my excitement.
The race start was scheduled for 9AM Friday morning, which meant I was able to sleep in a little, which is unusual for most ultras. The again, running 200 miles isn't like "most" ultras. The ight before the race, I fell asleep surprisingly quickly. Unfortunately, once I woke up in the early AM< my brain wouldn't shut down and I was unable to go back to sleep. Instead, I used the time for one last shower. I had plenty of time for a nice breakfast, English muffin w/ vegan breakfast sausage and egg and dijon mustard, yumm! 
I also used the time to go through all of my mandatory kit and running gear for the race one last time. I carried the following mandatory kit with me at all times:
- Waterproof Jacket with a hood (I carried the Gore Wear R7 Gore-Tex Shakedry Hooded Trail Jacket)
- Gloves (I chose an old pair of UD gloves w/ integrated rain mittens)
- Buff (I prefer buff over beanie as head cover due to its multifunctional use during an ultra)
- Pants (I used an ultralight pair of Raidlight rain pants that I picked up at the UTMB expo a few years ago)
- Insulating layer long sleeve shirt (I carried my trusty Patagonia Houdini windbreaker)
- SPOT Tracker (provided by the race)
- Watch w/ GPX track of the course (I used my new Coros Vertix 2, the battery outlasts anything on the market right now, no recharging needed)
- Cell Phone (I used my iPhone in airplane mode w/ Gaia GPS app installed and course map and course downloaded for navigation. It lasted the entire duration of the race, even with taking pictures along the way)
- Emergency Bivy (previously provided by the race)
- Headlamp or waist light, and extra batteries (I carried the UltrAspire Lumen 800 Ultra 2.0 waist light for the entire duration of the race with plenty of spare batteries on me. This light comes with multiple power cords that allow runners to use 2x 18650 batteries on the back of the belt, stash the battery pack in their pack or even connect a USB power block to extend the battery life nearly indefinitely. Since I started using UltraSpire waist lights, I have yet to trip on any roots or rocks. The 3D lighting shows visible shadows, providing contours to otherwise dull and flat looking terrain.)
- Whistle (integrated into my UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 hydration pack)
- 500 extra calories (selection of three Spring Energy gels)
In addition, I carried or wore the following optional gear:
- Running Pack (UltrAspire Zygos 5.0, it worked perfectly providing storage and easy access to everything I carried and then some.)
- Trail Running Shoes (Altra Mont-Blanc, currently my favorite ultra racing shoe, super grippy in any conditions, super light, drains fast and looks fantastic, come on, what's not to love?)
- Socks (CEP Merino Trail socks, my go to socks for years)
- Gaiters (pair of Altra gaiters, perfect pairing for my Altra shoes and a necessary choice for the dusty terrain of the Tahoe 200, keeps fine sand and grime out of your shoes and from irritating your feet, possibly causing blisters.)
- Shorts w/ Baseliners (Path Projects Sykes AT 5" Short paired with a couple of different liners throughout the race. I used to always use shorts with integrated liners, but recent chafing issues had me rethink that strategy. I am excited to report that this new approach worked and I stayed 100% chafe free.)
- Short Sleeve Shirt (Rabbit Low Tide Short Sleeve Button Up Shirt)
- Trekking Poles (Leki Micro Trail Pro trekking poles)
- Extra Headlamp w/ batteries (UltrAspire Lumen 600 3.0 w/ head strap)
- 2L Hydration Bladder (UltrAspire 2L hydration bladder, which I generally filled 1/2 to 3/4 of the way)
- Water Filter (Katadyn BeFree water filter soft flask, but I ditched this halfway through the race as I was able to carry enough water for the most part)
- Meds (AuviQ/Epipen and Benadryl for an insect sting allergy, Caffeine for second and third night, Imodium for severe stomach issues)
- Chapstick (I always carry one during ultras, especially in cold and dry climates)
- Lube (I recently developed serious chafing issues, so I had to reevaluate my previous strategy. I purchased a few different products and put them in my crew bag, but I ultimately decided to use Body Glide. I stuck with this product, reapplying it at least every 10 miles and it prevented any chafing for the entire length of the race.)
- Wipes (Ive been carrying Dude Wipes, 'nuff said.)
- Salt Tablets (SCaps are my go to, but I stopped taking them after day one as it kept staying colder than expected and my fluids seemed to provide sufficient electrolytes and salts as I was peeing about 5 minutes after drinking from my soft flasks.)
- Nutrition (Spring Energy gels all the way! I consumed well over 50 Spring Energy gels during the race, primarily the Koffee, Canaberry and Awesomesauce flavors. Proof positive that they are easy on the stomach and provide a constant drip of carbs and energy. For fluids I alternated between Gu Roctane and Gnarly Endurance Fuel, both of which are vegan products providing an additional 200 calories per hour as required per my nutrition schedule. This plan combined with a few treats cooked up by my awesome wife at some of the crew access points provided the perfect fueling strategy for me for all 75+ hours.)
- GoPro w/ Selfie Stick (to have a record and hopefully some memorable footage of the adventure that was the Tahoe 200.)
We rolled up to the start/finish area at Homewood at 8AM to make sure I had enough time to pick up the mandatory GPS tracker and have it attached to the shoulder strap of my running pack. This tracker provided both "slow motion" entertainment (ie dot watching) for my friends and family at home as well as a fairly reliable way for my crew to monitor my progress and arrival times at aid stations. However, thanks to excellent cell coverage for most of the Lake Tahoe area (even in the mountains) my pacers would be able to report our location to our crew pretty regularly.
We all lined up under the start/finish arch at the base of the mountain ski slope with about 10 minutes to go to listen to the national anthem as well as final words and instructions from the Race Director. The excitement was building and palpable. Even I got sucked into it and I couldn't wait to get this adventure started. Once we got the signal, the throng of 250 runners started surging forward, faster at the front and a bit slower at the back. After some advise from my crew, I decided to line up closer to the front to avoid breathing in the dust kicked up on the initial ascent. As a result, I started a bit quicker than planned, but that was ok. I figured I'd have at least 3 days to slow down:-)
Start to Stephen Jones AS (Miles 0 to 10.4):
I decided to run the entire race by feel, never checking my watch for pace or anything and only focusing on moving from one AS to the next. Anything else would lead to getting overwhelmed by the totality of the challenge very very quickly. At the same time, I did try to keep an eye on my overall A goal of 72 hours to finish this race.
The biggest surprise of this first section wasn't the massive climb right from the start, it was the difficulty I experienced trying to breathe. I had clearly underestimated the altitude we would be dealing with. Lake Tahoe sits at 6,700' altitude and we would spend all of the next few days at, but mostly way above 6,700' of elevation. Living at 760', this was an unexpected hurdle to deal with. I was certain that I wouldn't struggle with altitude below 10,000'. Clearly, I was wrong. Add to that the severe drought that caused extremely dusty conditions and you have the perfect cocktail for what is lovingly referred to as "Tahoe Tuberculosis". In fact, conditions resulted in the early "demise" (DNF) of many runners, including some that developed a sudden case of bronchitis that resulted in the medical team ending the race for them.
After descending the backside of the initial climb, I rolled into Stephen Jones AS an hour ahead of my pacing schedule. My pacing schedule was based on a 72 hour finish time and considered a 20% decline in performance throughout the race to account for the expected slowdown throughout the race. The plan also accounted for the nearly 40,000' of elevation gain as well as the actual altitude along the course, as both factor into pacing as well. Thanks again to ultraPacer.com for providing your amazing website. I strongly suggest you check them out as you prepare for your next ultra to see for yourself. This site provides anything you could possibly want to accurately plan pacing for your next ultra. To be clear, I rant he entire race by feel, but my crew always knew where I was in my plan.
When I arrived at Stephen Jones AS< I was happy to see my entire crew there to greet and encourage me (not crew me) as they had happily stepped in after being called upon the night before my the aid station captain to help out after other volunteers had backed out due to a family emergency. They volunteered for 3+ hours making sure all runners made it through before continuing their crewing duties. As I was getting ready to leave the aid station (but not until after sneaking a kiss from my wife) I verified one more time the distance to the next aid station, 20 miles. Oh shit, maybe I need more fluids than just two bottles. I turned around and added some fluids to my hydration bladder before continuing on my way. Rookie, I thought to myself.
Stephen Jones AS to Tahoe City AS (Miles 10.4 to 30.9):
Leaving the AS, I quickly settled into a comfortable pace. I wanted to make sure I didn't start out too fast. After all, I was already an hour ahead of pace. During every leg, runners were treated to some spectacular views of either majestic Lake Tahoe from above or of the mountain range surrounding us or of the ridge lines we were actually running on. This happened to be the only section that saw me running out of fluids. While I had filled up my hydration bladder, I had not removed it from my pack. As a result, I didn't get nearly as many fluids in it as I had thought. As a result, I needed to cover the final 5 miles of this section without liquids. From then on, I made sure to remove the hydration bladder before filling it. This section had another big climb in it with some smooth flowy mountain bike trail that I initially cursed and its many switchbacks wound their way up the mountain. However, this section would be a highlight for me during my second half of the race less than 3 days later. 
I spent quite a bit of time pulling out both my iPhone (to take photos) and my GoPro (to get some video footage). I knew I wouldn't be able to capture anything once it got dark. When I arrived at Tahoe City AS I had added another hour to the time bank. I was now 2 hours ahead of pace. My awesome crew refilled my bottles and bladder, handed me some food and I continued on my way. I was looking forward to seeing them again at mile 50.1, Brockway Summit AS.
Tahoe City AS to Brockway Summit AS (Miles 30.9 to 50.1):
Once again, I had to cover 20 miles to make it to the next AS. Brockway Summit AS at mile 50.1 was quite familiar to me. I had run this aid station as AS captain in 2019 to earn my entry into this race. I remember thinking that running this thing has got to be easier than running a major aid station for 3+ days. The jury is still out on that one:-) I expected to get there long after sunset and I was looking forward to my first scheduled nap for the race. While I wasn't sleepy yet, surely I would be by the time I made it to Brockway Summit.
I arrived at Brockway Summit more than 2 hours ahead of schedule, allowing me to change clothes, get some food and lie down for the much anticipated nap of at least 90 minutes. I had originally planned for 60 minutes, but since I was ahead of schedule, why not make sure to get enough rest. When I arrived at my van I was able to do everything I had planned and I was in great spirits, until I laid down for my nap. The heat was cranked up, I had my eye mask on an ear plugs in, yet my mind would not shut down. I tried, I really tried. I even told myself that just lying there would be considered rest, but after an hour and a half, I frustratingly gave up on real sleep. Might as well get moving rather than waste time rolling around in my comfy bed. It was now time to pick up my first pacer. Jay agreed to pace me for the next 32 miles before Tobias would take over to pace me from miles 82 to 100. 
Brockway Summit AS to Tunnel Creek AS (Miles 50.1 to 65):
I finally had some company. This section would be run mostly in the dark, but I wasn't really experiencing any issues related to sleep depravation at this point. After all, it was just the first night. As the sun was rising, we were reaching the bottom of the infamous powerline, a ridiculously steep section with lots of loose dirt. In fact, I wiped out twice while descending this section, only narrowly avoiding injury. We now had a 4+ mile road section ahead of us taking us straight to the Tunnel Creek AS. There, we would not see my crew, but we would be able to refill our bottles before tackling the next big section. every section had at least one massive climb in it, often immediately following an aid station. Jay had told me about the amazing view I could expect in the next section, so I was really looking forward to it.
Tunnel Creek AS to Spooner Summit AS (Miles 65 to 81.9):
We started the segment out of Spooner Summit with another big climb. Climbing was still comfortable at this point, but the dry air, dust and altitude continued to affect my breathing. I kept checking in to make sure I wasn't wheezing and that things didn't get any worse. I knew there would be rewarding views at the top of this climb and Jay was right. For a while there, I couldn't stop taking photos of the lake and the amazing single track we were running on. What I failed to mention earlier, much of the course utilizes the beautiful Tahoe Rim Trail or TRT and it was easy to see why so many folks praised this trail and why quite a few races utilize this National Recreation Trail.
When we finally dropped down to the Spooner Summit AS, I was looking forward for a short break in a chair. I arrived at the AS exactly on pace, and I mean to the minute. I also needed to spend some time with the medical team at this point to have a couple of hotspots attended to. They used some Leukotape to cover both of my heels and send me on my way. I would not remove my socks after this point for the entire remainder of the race as I did not want to risk peeling the tape off my feet. However, the new tape job overlapped slightly with my own stirrup ankle tape job on my right ankle (method shared with me by Jeff Browning to prevent ankle rolls, which has been working for me in 15 consecutive ultras), eventually leading to a friction point and a cut, but it didn't cause any serious issues. Both tape jobs held up for all of the remaining 125 miles without causing further hotspot issues. I did spend about 20 minutes here before setting off on the next section with my new pacer Tobias. Time to catch up with another friend and to chat about his upcoming Western States 100 race the following weekend. We left the aid station right on pace schedule and while I was glad to see that, at this point my mind had already shifted to just making sure I could finish this thing.
Spooner Summit AS to Heavenly AS (Miles 81.9 to 100.2):
Tobias had had a whirlwind global journey to make it to Lake Tahoe in time to crew and pace me just a week ahead from his first go at the Western States 100, his goal race for the year. This leg would be his final long run leading into States, but it was really more "time on feet" for him than any kind of long run. Obviously, my pace after 80 miles with more than 120 miles to go was nowhere near a targeted long run would have been in Tobias' WSER training schedule. He may have ignored his coaches advice in an effort to be there for me, which I appreciated very much. I am excited to report that it did not negatively impact his performance at States and that he earned his coveted WSER buckle.
Once again, this section started with a long climb out of the aid station, but the proverbial carrot was the knowledge that at the end of this segment I will have reached the halfway and turnaround point of the race. I was also looking forward to finally get some sleep in my comfy van. My energy was still good at this point of the race. We still had much of the afternoon left to cover some distance before the second night of the race approached. The goal was to reach the Heavenly aid station before it got dark. While we managed to do just that, this was the first section that seemed to go on forever. Specifically, the final 4 miles to the aid station dragged on forever. Right or wrong, but this section felt much longer than it was on paper and I overheard a similar sentiment from other runners as well. 
When we finally arrived at Heavenly, my crew was waiting for me, quickly directing me to the aid station check in as well as the bathroom. After that pitstop I headed to the van to eat some proper food that my wife had cooked up before swapping clothes and laying down for a nap. Once again, I rolled around for nearly 2 hours before giving up, though my wife assured me that she heard me snore for a little bit. I took that to mean that I slept at least a few minutes, if nothing else. Rather than keep wasting time trying to sleep I got up and readied myself for the next section. It was now past 10PM and it was cold. I was now a couple of hours behind my A goal pace schedule, but that did not matter. A made my one and only shoe change of the race, taking off the pair of Altra Mont Blanc and putting on a fresh pair of Altra Olympus. I did not change my CEP socks and would not change them for 120 miles.
I had had a brief moment of self pity when I rolled into this aid station, but I was smart enough not to think quitting was an option. I exclaimed that 100 miles felt good enough for today, but rather than "inviting" my crew to convince me to continue, I followed that immediately with "I'm not discussing quitting, I just needed to state that I would be happy to quit with 100 miles right now." I knew my crew would never let me quit without actual bones protruding through my skin or blood squirting from a limb, so I acknowledged my thought, said it out loud and moved on. 
Temperatures were now in the low 20s and there was frozen precip on the ground around us. It was now my wife's turn to pace me and knowing her aversion to the cold, I was a bit worried about her having to stay warm while moving slowly along side me. However, that worry was short lived as she and I both started shedding layers less than a mile out of the aid station. However, the difficulty of this segment became evident just an hour after leaving the halfway point. While I was able to continue running through the first night without sleep, this second night proved to be much more challenging as it pertained to the lack of sleep. I was clearly becoming severely sleep deprived, but a trail nap really wasn't an option due to temps in the low 20s. We still had 5 or 6 hours of running eft to do before making our way to the Spooner Summit aid station, which would be extremely challenging in my current state. 
My wife spent the next couple of hours basically shouting at me to stay away just about every minute. With every minute, I became more and more sleepy, literally falling asleep on my feet and often stopping in the middle of the trail only for my wife to wake me up again. I could tell she was concerned about my safety. I tried to reassure here that this was no big deal. At worst, I would fall over. This did not reassure her. I, on the other hand, was actually hoping this would happen as I imagined a glorious nap right then and there were I fell.
For the next couple of hours, this back and forth would continue, I would stop moving and almost fall over, my wife would wake me up verbally encouraging me to stay awake. This was a new experience for her and while i knew it worried her a little, I was glad she was out there with me. She kept me going until I could go no further. I finally gave up and decided to try to take a trail nap. We had started to descend a little and we finally reached a pocket of warmer air or at least an area were there was no snow or frozen precip on the ground. We pulled out an emergency blanket and wrapped it around me as I tried to lay down right next to the trail. It took about 5 minutes to get settled and I had asked my wife to give me 5 minutes, no more. I woke up 3 minutes later and got up. She insisted it hadn't been 5 minutes yet, but I had actually started dreaming, so as soon s I woke up I felt ready to go. Strange, I know, but I felt like I actually got some rest and I had renewed confidence that I could at least make it to the next aid station now.
As we continued our descent into the Spooner Summit aid station, the sun slowly started to rise. I was looking forward to some food and a much needed nap. We finally rolled into the aid station nearly 4 hours behind schedule. My zombie walk/run clearly cost me some time, but I made it through another night. One of the volunteers quickly led me to a free cot inside a sleep tent and I was finally able to fall asleep immediately. 20 minutes later, my wife woke me up. I got up and took a chair by a fire pit to stay warm while I woke up and downed some food. I was now 120 miles into the race and next up it would be Jay's wife Amber who would be pacing me.
Spooner Summit AS to Tunnel Creek AS (Miles 118.5 to 136.4):
Once again, this section consisted of one massive climb followed by some ridge running and a massive descent. It was another beautiful and sunny day and dare I say it got a little warm as the day wore on. However, whenever we were at the higher elevations of a segment, it would never be warmer than temps in the 50s. This segment of the course was quite scenic earlier in the race and once again we hot it during the daytime, offering us another round of spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. I wasn't moving very fast or well during this leg, but when we finally started the long descent into the Tunnel Creek aid station, I was able to run a bit more. I was always aware of my feet on the descents, ie protective of the bottoms of my feet to avoid the development of blisters or worsening of hotspots. Thankfully, my feet continued to cooperate and allowed me to run as much as my legs and lungs would let me.
The Tunnel Creek aid station was pretty much right at the bottom of the descent and I was looking forward to some food and rest. Unfortunately, vegan food options were rather limited at most of the aid stations, so I finally gave in and allowed myself to eat a partially vegetarian diet, so I could eat some pancakes and eggs rather than the lentil soup on offer for vegans. I had made the decision a long time ago, after failing to get enough calories during a European mountain ultra, that sustenance was more important than any principles, at least for me, so when I'm unable to carry enough vegan food options during a race, I would allow myself to eat a vegetarian diet during long events like this one when vegan options are quite limited. I will say, there were one or two aid stations that offered vegan sausage and that was amazing. In addition, my wife had cooked up a couple of Beyond burgers for me along the way, which also provided some delicious alternatives to my fueling.
I enjoyed some scrambled eggs and pancakes with Nutella while sitting in some shade before it was time to start the next leg. This leg would start with a long road section along Lake Tahoe and some of the more exclusive properties along the lake.
Tunnel Creek AS to Brockway Summit AS (Miles 135.4 to 150.3):
This section would include the nastiest of climbs of the course and I would hit it in the middle of the day with the sun directly overhead. I was not looking forward to the power line climb as my memory of tripping on this segment earlier in the race while descending it was still quite fresh. To my surprise, the ascent of this section was much easier (or a lot less awful) than I had pictured it. It also afforded us some amazing views as we turned around while climbing. I experienced no falls and we covered this stretch faster than expected. I started to remember more of this course as we continued to make our way back. For example, there was a swampy section shortly after the power line climb that required runners to pick just the right path (fallen tree) to make it across with dry feet and without losing their shoes in the shin deep mud. Thankfully, I knew just what route to take to keep my feet dry and mud free.
I was moving fairly well again. I had no idea that I was now 4 hours behind my original schedule, but it wouldn't have mattered. The goal was to keep moving and to earn that Tahoe 200 mile buckle, no matter how long it would take me. I rolled into Brockway Summit aid station in great spirits as I knew I would see my crew again. I refueled and once again tried in vain to get some sleep, but I did not let that get me down. A quick F bomb and I was over it. Time to get out there and at it again. I did make sure I swapped out my top, boxers and shorts once more just for that mental boost of putting on some fresh clothes, just like you would before a run.
Brockway Summit AS to Tahoe City AS (Miles 150.3 to 169.5):
Brian would accompany me during this next section that presented another low point for me during the race, which was entirely related to and caused by my sleep deprivation. I was now entering night 3 without more than 30 minutes of sleep. As before, I started to get sleepy pretty much an hour after we left the aid station. But rather than just fall asleep on my feet, I know started to experience severe out of control hallucinations. While I had some smaller (but still funny) episodes while being paced by my wife, when I thought a pack of headlamps was chasing us up the mountain only to be informed by my wife that what I saw was the reflection of frost crystals in the bushes, this section took it to another level. I have to admit I never experimented with LSD or similar drugs, but I am certain my experience must have come close to what those drugs did to someone's brain. 
There were some funny episodes (mistaking the moon for another runner's headlamp way up ahead on the mountain climb), as well as some almost fatal mistakes (throwing away one of my trekking poles while dreaming that it was some type of stick). But the longer this segment wore on, the worse my hallucinations and sleep deprivation got. I still have not been able to fully verbalize what I went through in that section, it was beyond surreal. I do remember not knowing how often I asked my pacer "how much further?", because I thought I kept asking and keeping getting the same answer of "3 miles". Brian later confirmed that he indeed kept giving me the same answer as he had no clue how much further we had to go. As my physical condition continued to decline, so did my mental state. I must have been asleep on my feet, only waking up whenever I tripped on one of the many many rocks in this section. Strange, I don't recall this section to be this technical on the way out.
When we finally completed the descent into Tahoe City, I did not recognize the aid station or anything that was going on around me. I vaguely remember climbing into the van after a quick bathroom break, so I could warm up, eat and take a quick nap. My memory is a bit vague here, but I believe I had the longest nap of the race here. I'll still need to verify this with my crew, but I seem to remember Jay waking me up letting me know it was time to get going.
Tahoe City AS to Stephen Jones AS (Miles 169.5 to 190):
For this section and for the remainder of the race, it was once more Jay's turn to pace me. He would end up totaling 100k or 62 miles of pacing. He welcomed the opportunity for lots of time on his feet as he prepares for his own goal event, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in August. As we got ready to tackle this segment, Jay told me about where I was currently positioned in the overall race. In my head, I was certain I was sitting somewhere in the lower half of the field, which is also why I never asked the question. Not that it really mattered, but once my focus shifted to finishing rather than finishing within a certain time frame, I didn't rally think about pace or anything. That was until Jay gave me an update on the overall standings. To my sincere surprise I was currently running in 23 or 24th place. The exact position was difficult to tell as runners would stop at different times to sleep, etc. 
With that unexpected update, my competitive juices were suddenly flowing again. I was doing way better than I expected and I felt I hadn't really been doing well. It was time to start trying to push a little. If not now, then when? Unfortunately, we had two more massive climbs remaining and one of them welcomed us pretty much immediately after leaving Brockway Summit. As we started the next climb and the sun started to rise and we came upon another runner, who was struggling with sleep deprivation. Jay gave him a pat on the back and invited him to "trudge" along with us. Everyone does better with company in those darker (sleepless) moments of an ultra. Our little band of three continued our climb and as we reached the highpoint of this section the sun had fully risen. 
With the sunrise much of my energy returned once more. A combination of a good nap at the last aid station and sunlight gave me new life. It was now time for a long descent and while I had cursed the flowing mountain bike single track on the way up during the first half of the race, it was now a smooth downhill trail that literally invited me to pick up my pace. As Jay stepped off the trails to remove the long pants as the cooler night temps gave way to a warmer morning, I started to accelerate my pace as i descended down the mountain. Before long, I had lost sight of the fellow runner behind me. Jay had disappeared as well. 
When he finally caught up to me, his acknowledgment of my increased pace quickly turned to warnings of what still lay ahead. Don't push too hard, there still is one huge climb left. I didn't care. If not now, then when? My legs felt great, so I kept pushing. This was a high point I had not experienced in an ultra in a long time. I was certain that it would fizzle once I reached the bottom of the descent, but I didn't care. I knew we had a long road section along Lake Tahoe before reaching the last aid station, Stephen Jones. I was resigned to walk much of it, if that meant I could keep pushing this descent. To my surprise, my legs were more than willing and able to keep pushing, even once we hit the pavement. Jay surged ahead and I followed along, taking very short walk breaks here and there, but mostly running and continuing to push. 
Jay pulled out his phone to check the current standings. I was eager to find out what would still be possible for me with just under 15 miles to go. There were about three runners ahead of us, 1 and 2 miles, respectively. To be honest, that felt way way out of reach for me at that point, even as I continued to feel great, but Jay quickly pulled me back. We can get them, IF you put in the work. Are you willing to put in the work? Yes, I actually was.
With that brief moment of doubt out of the way, I continued to push at a steady pace. By the time we left the pavement for the final 2 miles to Stephen Jones AS, we passed another runner. I was now 21st overall. I rolled into the aid station newly energized and ready to keep going. I chugged an ice cold can of coke, filled up my bottles and stuffed one final stash of Spring Energy gels into my pack and bolted out of the aid station with Jay just behind me. Well, it felt like bolting, but I'm sure it was little more of a shuffle.
Stephen Jones AS to Finish (Miles 190-200ish):
Jay knew exactly what to expect for the final 10 miles since he'd run this race 3 years earlier. We'd have a 4 mile climb followed by 2 miles along the top and a steep 4 mile descent to the finish. If I was to reel in another runner or two, I would have to push on the climb to make up the distance and time between us. Once again, I settled into a run with an occasional walk break to catch my breath. The altitude and dust continued to be the biggest challenge for me, but they were not going to hold me back. After every turn and after every flattening in the trail, I looked ahead to see if any of the runners came into sight and every time, there was no one there. Jay continued to run ahead to do the same, but very time we saw nothing, until, well until we actually crested the highest point on this section of the course. There was more climbing and ridge traversing to do, but this was the highpoint and just as we crested it, we spotted 2 runners a tenth of a mile ahead. Jay and ai made eye contact and he took off. I wanted to tell him to slow down, but I knew better. Instead, I picked up my legs and went after him.
We passed the two runners at full speed and I knew I had to continue to push to make sure they wouldn't try to catch us. In the process of pulling away from these two runners we came upon yet another runner as we made our way through the remaining snow banks before the final descent. Time to switch into yet another gear as we passed the last runner between us and the finish line. I'm not sure where the energy came from, but I continued to push. As we descended the final 2 miles to the finish, I started to get emotional. Choking back tears of equal amounts of joy and relief, I couldn't wait for the finish line to come into sight. At first I spotted Brian standing by the side of the trail, then I saw my wife standing under the finish line arch with all of the crew lining the finish line chute. At this point, I could no longer control my emotions. I halfway collapsed into my wife's arms as I finally crossed the finish line in 18th place Overall after 75 hours and 21 minutes of joy, pain, and everything in between. 
First and foremost I need to thank my amazing wife Anya and my most awesome crew Jay Hagan, Amber Hagan, Brian Baraniak and Tobias Sorensen for keeping me fueled, moving, engaged and entertained throughout all 75+ hours and putting up with all of me, smell and sometimes poor attitude and all. I don't know how I could possibly pay all of you back for what you allowed me/us to accomplish. This was truly a team effort. Thanks also to all of the volunteers that enabled all of us to chase this crazy dream that is running 200 miles. I cannot wait to do it all over again, well, maybe a year, but definitely again...at some point:-)





























 

I was unable to hold back my emotions during the final 2 miles of our descent to the finish and finally seeing my wife under the finish line arch.



Physically and emotionally drained after moving for 75+ hours and covering 205 miles in the process.


My heroes: This team crewed and paced me to a top 20 finish only missing my A goal by a little over 3 hours.

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