Running Report Pt 3 - The Course
After a fitful night's sleep, (but no visit from bears) our team was up and fueling with bagels and bananas. Ragnar had promised coffee, however, apparently this coffee was to be served at 10:00 pm at night. Thankfully, I had brought Nescafe. Registration and bib pick up was to start at 9:00 am, and runners were to begin their relay in small waves of about 15 runners at a time at 11:30 am. I thought that was a little late to start a race, especially one up in Tahoe, above 7000 feet, in July.
The Lake Tahoe Basin was formed (according to Wikipedia) 2 million years ago, by a series of different geological events, including faulting, the scouring of the land by glaciers, and an eruption by Mt. Pluto. This unique landscape contains the second deepest lake in the USA, and peaks higher than 10,000 feet, such as Mt. Rose. As to climate in July, the Basin at lake level traps heat, and can average in the 80-90 Fahrenheit during the day. At higher elevations, the thin air allows some of the heat to escape, and is a little cooler. However, the thin air allows the sun's radiation to bake human flesh to a nice crisp. At night, the thin atmosphere allows all that heat to dissipate, and night temps drop down to the 50-40's.
Our team was to start at 12:30 pm, and I volunteered to be the first runner. My logic was to burn off some adrenaline and get my legs moving, and to finish my least favorite route first, so that I could kick back and enjoy the rest of the runs.
THE GREEN LOOP:
According to the Ragnar website, the race was to consist of three different routes, and each of the eight team members was to run all three routes once. The routes were designated by color: a three mile green route, a six-seven mile yellow route, and a seven-eight mile red route. The team leader was to assign each team member a position, and then the team would cycle through that order three times. Which order you ran the routes would vary per team member, so if you sat down and figured what your favorite/least favorite route would be, you could approximate what position you wanted. I wanted to get my weakest leg done first - the fast green three miles.
I also was the only Ragnar virgin on the Team. Running first would give me a chance to make up time later if I needed to pick up the pace. My mental plan was to go slow and scout out how the relay was set up, what type of trails were being used, and how accurate the website portrayed the routes. I felt that even with the disadvantage of being a virgin, it was offset by my past experience running in Tahoe. Two weekends prior to the relay, me and members of my trail running club had run 20 miles up at Mt. Rose, to test acclimation and trail conditions. This year there had been almost no snow, and the trails were very dry and clear - perfect for running. In other years, there had been snow cover at the peaks, and rivulets cutting down the mountains. But not this year.
My team cheered me on as I lined up in the starting corral with fifteen other runners. The start was a simple countdown and "Go". I did not sprint out of the gate - I shuffled my way to the back of the pack, and started my GPS. The first half mile was a simple rolling hill single track, dusted with pine wood chips, soft and easy, flanked by California pines. The single track emptied out into a fire road next to a ski lift, and for the next half mile the route went up a grassy meadow, that in wintertime would be a bunny hill ski run. I began catching up with the sprinters who walked up the bunny hill.
After the bunny hill, the route veered right, cutting back toward the parking lot. This was a deviation from what was published online. I was expecting a mile of hard running straight up the mountain. But that was not to be. The route twisted down a short, sandy hill, and leveled off on an actual road, not a fire trail, for the next mile. Half mile out from the finish line, the course turned right again, and lead back into a single track up, and back to the start line. Total mileage = 2.7 miles. My time was a slow 37:55.