Even with a fifth place this year Tahoe Trail 100 still feels like a disappointment. I thought I had talked multiple friends into coming along, only to end up driving and lodging by myself. Two weekends in a row of long road trips had me feeling a bit burned out. Since I already got a spot this year I figured I’d nab a Leadville coin for next year and not worry about the stress of trying to get in last minute, plus, Tahoe is beautiful and the course is good prep for Colorado in a few weeks.
I left early Friday morning and took the back way, hoping to avoid any rush hour traffic in Sacramento. The drive through the Eastern Sierras is beautiful, however, long sections of roadwork wreaked havoc on the drive time. When I rolled into Northstar around 4pm I was pretty burned out and just wanted to eat a pizza alone on the couch and watch TV. It was glorious.
Morning came quickly and a 7am start is not a pro time. There was a chill in the air but with the forecast calling for mid 80s it was an ideal temp. No call up this year, which is a bummer. Also, the event seemed to be under new management with Youphoria Productions. Interesting. Everything felt the same on the surface but I missed the gracious and enthusiastic Abby Long. I lined up next to Ted King and we chatted until the National Anthem kicked off.
The start was quick. Last year Eric and I were coming off Nationals at Mammoth the day before so the legs felt much better. Ted, Peter Stetina, Ryan Petry, and Jamey Watson-Yanik and I all made our way off the front pretty quickly for the first climb. We were hauling. It’s about 880 feet and we did it in about fifteen minutes, which was over a minute and a half faster than last year and good for a KOM over Levi Leipheimer (until Stetina came through on his second lap and crushed it with a 14:32). Wow.
The first lap was quick. Jamey went off the front with Peter chasing and Ted, Ryan and I followed in pursuit. We kept catching glimpses of Peter after the descents but he’d turn around on the climbs and put the hammer down. We lost sight of him toward the end of the first lap as he crept closer to Jamey, who was about 6 minutes ahead. Somewhere on the first lap I lost my spare bottle and had to get through thirty miles on about 18oz of water. It was terrible and I started to feel a bonk and dehydration creep in. I stopped at the start of the second lap to pickup the bottles I’d planted and Ted and Ryan slipped ahead. I caught back up for a bit but my legs were getting wobbly. Uh oh. This was going to be a long lap. They slipped farther out of view and by the top of the climb I was on my own, running out of steam, and hoping to hold my position.
The course seemed rougher this year. I think all the snow and rain tore up the trails a bit and the descents were littered with baseball size rocks and ruts. It got pretty sketchy at times, especially on the gravel roads, because you can easily hit 40-50mph only to have ruts hiding in the shadows waiting to swallow your wheel. I tried to hold it together for the last fifteen miles but I was dying out there. The heat was taking it’s tole. By the time I hit the last climb which is another 900 feet and about 20 minutes, I could barely hang on. I lost over three minutes off my previous lap’s time. An eternity. By the time I hit the top I didn’t see anyone behind me and I just eased off the gas and coasted the singletrack back to the finish, so grateful to be done. I grabbed some Gu recovery and then Ryan and I went and sat in the creek, it was glorious. Ice cold water flooded over my legs and numbed them back to life, pulling me out of my stupor. Imagine my surprise when I checked the results and I was listed as sixth. After some investigation and hand wringing it turns out that they didn’t have the first timing checkpoint set up when we rolled through so if someone DNF and went through the line, it clocked their first lap time as their finish time. Seriously? This messed up everyone’s results until I was able to convince them something went wrong.
Will I come back again? No. The awards sealed the deal. After waiting five hours in hopes of getting a Leadville spot, the coins for the pro field went two deep. Two deep! Sure there weren’t many in the Pro class but these were the overall leaders! Ted didn’t get a spot. They didn’t even separate the overall winners from the categories like they have in the past. The 30-39 field went 11 deep for coins, the same category I raced in Austin two years ago before they unveiled this whole new “pro” versus age group dynamic. I keep hearing how Leadville is trying to attract more pro racers and fill all the spots as the cache dwindles and other more fun races are springing up, however, they’re not doing much to entice them. Were there bottle hand offs? No. The aid stations were some of the least stocked and staffed I’ve ever experienced. This was especially apparent after coming from the Crusher last weekend where basically the entire population of Southern Utah showed up to cheer and hand out food, ice, bottles, beer, and encouragement. Tahoe Trail? Expensive lodging, lack of parking, and costly race fees? Yes. A Leadville coin? No. Last year finishing a minute slower and in fourth place there were plenty of coins to go around. Overall the corporate atmosphere of the series and qualifiers has won and the racers have lost. This will be my last year at the LT100. I’m not even really thrilled about going this year but all the pieces of the puzzle are in place. On to more fun races and adventures. Goodbye Lifetime.