This relay is an all-daylight circuit of Lake Tahoe on the roads. It’s about 72 miles, varies in altitude from about 6500 to 7000ft, and is run by self-supported teams of seven runners. I ran this once before, two years ago, and this time was given the same leg to run. Leg 4 is the longest, least hilly leg at 12.2 miles, running around the north end of the lake. We were the “East Bay Flyers” Mixed Masters team. Larry, our captain, secured a house for us to stay in. Due to a late substitution we were four women and three men. We had a fine evening playing a Jeopardy-like game, which I won by a complete fluke. Then we got up early to watch Suzette at the start.
We divided into sub-teams of two runners running adjacent legs, and sharing a car. I was with Minori (leg 3) and her boyfriend Chris who did all the driving for us. We had some time to kill, so went back to the house for a while before setting out for the handover point at the start of leg 3. On the way we passed Larry who was tackling the serious uphill of leg 2, from near lake level to 7000 ft. We got Minori to the handoff point in enough time for a bathroom break before Larry arrived. Her leg was rolling downhill, and she later said it was the toughest thing she has yet done, due to the thin air and downhill pounding. Chris and I supported her, handing her a bottle about every two miles. The pullout areas would fill up with support cars doing the same as us, and we would see the same people again and again. We would cheer on the other runners too.
Then it was my turn. The leg started with a downhill, which got me off at a good speed. I was a little worried about the pace. With the altitude and the hills, this 12.2 miles was about equivalent to running a half marathon, but I was almost alone. On a along straight i could only see one runner in front, but he seemed to be getting nearer. It took over a mile to catch him – “Looking strong.” “Thanks, You too” – then I could see the next one and got to work catching him.
The first part of the leg had been shady, and when I merged into the sun it became apparent that my careful preparation had omitted an important item. No sunscreen! I could get severely burned at this altitude. “Need sunblock” I said to Minori as she ran alongside with a Gatorade bottle about a mile later. She handed me a tube at the next available pullout, and I slapped on the goop without slowing down. I somehow missed my shoulders, which came up in blisters later. By the halfway point I had climbed the main hill of the leg and passed some people, was feeling pretty good, then I was passed by a young woman wearing a pink tutu! That open women’s team were all wearing dresses of some sort, and we passed them back later. My team-mates kept reminding me about getting passed though!
On the downhill we passed from Nevada back into California and the terrain started to roll gently. I was having a hard time remembering any of this from the last time I ran it. The Garmin ticked off the miles, I worked to keep pink tutu in sight, and passed a couple more teams. Before long there was a corner ahead with some runners looking my way. They were there to watch for approaching team-mates. I started my kick, and the handover came into view around the corner. I tagged Debra, and commenced some serious air-sucking. I’m not an asthmatic, but running at 6500 ft gave me some idea what it must be like.
I switched cars and helped to support our remaining runners. Debra, Francisco, and Karen. Our last refuelling point was quite coincidentally just outside a really good ice cream place that Suzette knew. We were enjoying our ice creams so much we didn’t quite make it to the finish in time to see Karen cross the line. We were second out of nine in the mixed masters, in 10 hours 3 minutes. Not bad for a day’s work.