Tahoe 200 Q&A

 TAHOE 200

When: Friday, September 8th at 9:00am PT until cut off Tuesday, September 12 at 1:00pm – 100 hours cutoff (4 days and 4 hours).

What: 205.5 miles around Lake Tahoe; 35K elevation gain & 35K loss

Live Tracking link I’m bib #23

Estimates of arrival times per aid station


For the truly curious – I’ve been asked a bunch of varying questions about the race, my motivations, training, details on what goes on, etc. – so here’s a simple Q&A that covers the ground. There’s as much or little detail as you want – just skip around to topics of interest. Or ignore.


Q: Deets on the race?

A: Tahoe 200 Endurance Run

When: Friday, September 8th at 9:00am PT until cut off Tuesday, September 12 at 1:00pm – 100 hours (4 days and 4 hours).

Location: Homewood Ski Resort on the west shore of Lake Tahoe

Course: Counter-clockwise circumnavigation around Lake Tahoe, 205.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 35,117 feet of ascent and 35,117 feet of descent

Entrants: 200

Trail: 176 miles of single-track trail, 8 miles of paved road and 21 miles of dirt/Jeep road


Q: Is there an online tracking system to follow your progress?

A: Yup. Live Tracking link


Q: How long do you think it’ll take you to finish?

A: Guestimating 80-85 hours (have up to 100) which would be Monday (9/11) late afternoon or evening.


Q: Can we come out and watch, maybe pace you a bit?

A: That would be AWESOME! Marcy and Litza will be crewing me the entire race. I’ve no planned pacer but would welcome the company at an aid station or for a few miles on the trails if inclined. The only rule is one pacer at a time starting at Sierra-At-Tahoe (mile 62.9). Best thing to do is keep an eye on me via the online live tracker (link above) and then plan accordingly. Also shoot Marcy a text at 508-667-5731 if you’re coming so she knows and can fill you in more precisely where I am on the course. Be sure to identify who you are since she’s likely not going to recognize your mobile # J.

Q: What’s the course like and why does it take 200+ miles to go around Lake Tahoe?

A: The course is a mix of sweet, smooth single track dirt trails, choking-dust Jeep roads, gnarly granite boulders and a tad bit of roads. So something for everyone including plenty of vertical climbing (~35K) and descent (~35K). aspen meadows, rock gardens, Tahoe blue lakes, thick canopied forests, and long ridge lines with stunning views. Definitely worth the effort. The wide circumnavigation loop around the Lake of 200+ miles is partially due to get in the mileage for a 200 and for permitting. You cannot hold an event for instance within the Desolation Wilderness so we skirt way to the west of this remarkable National Forest (64K acres of subalpine and alpine forest, granitic peaks).


Q: How fast will you be moving and isn’t this more of a hike than a “run”?

A: 2.5 to 3.0 mph and yes. I view it as a cross between an ultra run and multi-stage event – maybe calling it an ‘adventure race’ is more accurate.


Q: Will you be moving all the time or will you stop, sleep?

A: I plan to be moving, even if painlessly slow, for 90%+ of the race. I will take time at each of the aid stations (there are 14) to do what I call the “3 Fs”: Fuel: refuel with fluids and food, Fix: work on feet, change gear, grab supplies and Flop: at least 3 stations plan a sleep break.


Q: Do runners help each other out?

A: Absoutely. It’s a tribe out there – kindred souls on a common yet individual journey. The ethos of ultra running is to be selfless, humble and generous. We never leave a fellow runner in need stranded. These behaviors are core and instinctual tenets of our sport and what attracts and retains its tribe members.


Q: What do you eat? How much food and fluid will you carry?

A: I prefer to eat whatever is provided at the aid stations. I like whole food – fruit, sandwiches, snacks, soups, etc. – and tend to crave savory – pizza, burritos, vegetable/meat soups. I eat what I’m hungry for at the time – which changes as the race progresses. I’ll switch back and forth between water and electrolyte mix (I believe it’ll be Tailwind). Hopefully, I can keep my stomach intact and remain hungry throughout. Not eating and refueling is a one-way ticket to a DNF (Did Not Finish) as I’ll burn approximately 30,000 calories (150 calories/mile at the pace I’m moving/effort I’m exerting) but likely only be able to take in about 20,000 so I’ll always be in deficit. The trick is not to allow yourself to fall too far behind the fuel curve or you will surely run out of gas, possibly bonk hard. And the more tired you become the worse it gets. I’ll carry about 70 ounces of fluid (~4.5 lbs) and enough food on board to enable me to eat enough calories in-between aid stations (which can be 5-10 hours).


Q: How long have you been training and what does that look like?

A: It’ll be 10 months of training, broken into three phases: 1. Build a base, 2. Gain strength and endurance and 3. Extend the distances, simulate race conditions. I’ve averaged ~100 miles/week, peak week 135.


Q: Do you use trekking poles?

A: Absolutely. I use the Leki Micro Trail Pro. They provide a huge performance edge by distributing stress on hamstrings and quads to the upper body, providing stability over uneven terrain, river crossings, speeding climbing and descending and make for a nice pillow when napping on the side of the trail too!


Q: How fast will you be moving and isn’t this more of a hike than a “run”?

A: 2.5 to 3.0 mph and yes. I view it as a cross between an ultra run and multi-stage event – maybe calling it an ‘adventure race’ is more accurate.


Q: Do you listen to music?

A: Sometimes but rarely. I use music as kind of a treat; i.e. when I’ve completed a particular segment or distance I might reward myself with listening to some favorite playlists for a bit. I do listen to audio books when I’m alone training – but not likely to do much of that during the race – unless I need to fall asleep and then I’ll fire up Love in the Time of Cholera .


Q: Where do you sleep?

A: That’s actually one of the most intriguing aspects of this race that attracted me – can you get through this without sleeping? – Answer for me and most morals is “no”! So one’s sleep strategy is a pretty key part of an overall race plan. I’ve practiced trying different techniques on overnight training runs, none of which seemed to work for me. They included running until exhaustion, sleeping right along the trail on whatever looked inviting, using pack for pillow, jumping into bivvy and trying to sleep for 90 minutes, sleeping on a picnic table, sleep walking…Fail! What I plan to do is schedule three sleep sessions corresponding with aid stations where I think a nap would help to re-energize me – for a period of somewhere between 1-2 hours each. I hope to sleep in Marcy’s Jeep where it’ll be quiet, comfy and have the white noise of the heater blasting and warmth (it’ll be chilly at night).


Q: What do you do if you get injured?

A: We’ve a Spot Trace GPS device on our person at all times. There is a way to signal for help if absolutely necessary – which is very rare. More likely there’s issues with feet (blisters, abrasions, twisted ankle, etc.) or legs (knees, IT bands, hamstrings, muscle pulls, cramps, etc.). An ultra runner needs to acquire the skill to take care of one’s self while in the wild and “suck it up, Sally” – as Marcy would say – and just deal with it.

Q: Do you take any medication?

A: I probably should be on several medications given how crazy this all sounds but…no medication but I do carry both Tylenol and NSAIDs (Advil) as well as caffeine capsules – the former for addressing any chronic pains – taken as needed but sparsely – the latter taken when feeling drowsy but miles to go before I sleep (thanks Robert Frost!) at the next aid station.


Q: What will you carry with you in your pack and on your person?

A: I’ll have the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 on my back. It’ll weigh in between 5-10 lbs. including food and fluid and all gear, obviously towards the lighter end as I deplete my fluids and food. I’ll wear trail running shoes designed for rocky and rugged terrain that drain quickly (will pass through several stream/river crossings), have sticky grip to rocks, provide cushion but also protect my feet from rock abrasions. My choice are La Sportiva Akasha and Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra. I’ll wear a technical quick-dry top, running shorts with pockets for stowing small items, arm sleeves which I can roll up for warmth or down when cooling and double as a place to stuff ice if the temperatures warrant – very versatile.., sun glasses and running cap, custom bandanna around my neck with sewn in pockets to hold ice. I’ll carry a mini-med kit with lots of foot care items (tapes, ointments, lubes, pins to pop blisters, etc.), extra pairs of socks – which are five-finger Injinji , emergency bivvy, spare headlamp, waterproof jacket, wool cap, whistle, GPS tracing device, iPhone (for navigation and photos) and Buff used as both a towel and to dip in rivers to wipe face and clean arms and legs.


Q: How hard is it to run at night?

A: I actually like night running. It is quiet, peaceful, never very warm and honestly, there are times when not being able to see where you are heading or what is coming up is a good thing (think steep mountain climb, uber-rocky terrain, mountain you’re running to looks like it’s across two state lines away….!). Of course it slows things down and you’ve really got to watch out for tripping and missing course markers. It’s a real fiesta getting lost in total darkness in the middle of the night out in the wilderness, roaming around cliffs and mountaintops for hours on end.


Q: Do you ever just want to give up?

A: Um. Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back? But part of training is the mental aspect – not just the physical and nutrition (and in this race, sleeping). Learning how to compartmentalize the negative thoughts and refocus on what needs to be done next, relentlessly moving forward takes practice, discipline, hard work and patience. Did I mention being stubborn helps?


Q: Why the fu#& are you doing this?

A: Recently my training partner Don Freeman and I have been delving into the human and societal instincts that seem to be drivers for our behavior. History and science have shown Man to need and be drawn to tribal behavior. Contrary to perceptions that the cave man was a lone hunter, Darwinian kill or be killed, more recentstudies reveals he was actually a social being, thriving and relying on his tribe for survival and companionship. “Tribe” defined in ancient meaning is the community that you live in, share resources with and that you would risk your life to defend. I’m drawn to this notion but find in modern society, the tribal structure has been repelled, which I believe costs us psychologically. We’ve lost something very basic that instinctively lurks within each of us yet has been repressed by layers of societal evolution. At the core is the desire to be self sufficient, resourceful and nurturing.


Q: What do you think about while out there in the wilderness for days at a time, mostly alone?

A: Surprisingly, my mind is pretty active. An ultra runner is like a pilot, responsible for getting from point A to B, for the fitness of the plane, monitoring conditions, gauges, possible trouble. I spend a good portion of each hour reviewing how I’m feeling – head to toe, mentally, energy, emotionally – followed by calculating distance, splits, timing – lots of math to keep the mind nimble. Then there’s making sure I’m eating and drinking regularly. Adjusting gear, monitoring fluid levels. Sensing hot spots, aches, pains that need addressing. And finally as I come close to an aid station, making a mental plan for what I need to eat, fix and whether I’ll sleep, at least rest and/or do a gear exchange. Then there’s the second by second processing of keeping your eyes on the trail, in-between glimpses of eye-popping scenery, vista views, deep meadow lakes and the smells – oh the sweat aromas from wildflowers, berry bushes, pungent trees and shrubs. Always on the lookout for berries – a delightful treat and relief. Oh yeah, and keeping the trail markers in sight and not day dreaming your way miles off course!


Q: What’s going to be your biggest challenge?

A: Getting enough quality sleep and taking care of my feet. The sleep is a balance between the clock running with no forward progress verses moving in a death march and the risk of getting lost, injury or just bonking out. The feet have been an ongoing issue for me in the long training runs this year. I’ve never had feet issues before so this is completely new challenge. I’ve become a student of the feet and thanks to tremendous support and generosity of time and insight from Dr. Marty Hoffman (also my training partner), John Vonhof and Rebecca Rushton I’ve devised a proactive foot care program and been practicing my “MacGuyvering” of the feet during long training runs. My ability to keep my feet in relatively good shape will be a big difference maker.