Tahoe 200 Race Review
Not What I Planned for
My review of the Tahoe 200 and how this adventure did not turn out the way I hoped for when I started the journey but, after time the path that it took me down of my own self-evaluation was just the journey I needed. I’m not saying I ever go into a race looking to DNF (did not finish), but sometimes with the right mindset and outlook, you can learn a beautiful lesson through failure.
I had driven down to Tahoe with my husband 2 days before the start of the race. It was a 9-hour drive from home and I wanted to spend the day before relaxing and getting my last minute gear packing done at the campsite. I had a mix of nerves and excitement the entire day. Excitement because I was ready for the epic adventure and nerves because of all the unknown of the 200. The longest I had ever run was 105 miles and 95 extra miles is a long way. I felt confident I could do it and I thrive in the unknown of races and the strategy and puzzle-solving you have to figure out to get you to your endpoint.
The morning of the race was awesome because the race didn’t start until late morning, which allowed me to sleep in a bit. I woke up feeling calm and ready to hit the trails. There were no nerves that morning until about 10 minutes before the start. Suddenly the magnitude of what I was about to embark upon and the feeling of already missing my husband by my side came over me. I almost felt tears coming, what was happening I thought, I never get this emotional or nervous before a race? Check my last minute gear check, kissed my hubby goodbye and off to the starting line I went.
In the beginning, I felt like I was at a nice and steady pace. I may have gone a little faster hiking uphills than should have. It went something like this: steady run on the flats, power hike the uphills and run downhills. I felt good in the beginning. As it got hotter during the day I could feel myself needing more water. Running through “The Rubicon” was harder than I thought. The trail was technical and rocky with lots of dust. Not just a little dust, but at times I had to cover my face with my neck scarf to keep all the dust out of my lungs. I already struggled with lung issues due to asthma and I could feel the tightness in my lungs as the dust seemed to overwhelm everyone. It was really hot but I was feeling great, talking with people and seemed to be in nice rhythm until I took a big fall that seemed to knock me off my game. My lungs hurt due to the fall and all the dust in the air. I had to slow down a bit just to allow myself to get my body and head right.
The day was passing and it was getting closer to sundown as I rolled into Wright’s Aid Station (mile44). A little before I came into the aid station my stomach was starting to feel crummy. When I arrived at the aid station, I struggled to eat because of a stomach ache. In the back of my head, I started to worry because stomach issues have always been my Achilles heel when racing. I was bound and determined to not let it happen this race, but it was already starting to deal with it at mile 44. I’m not sure what brought on the stomach issues. It could have been a combination of the heat and possible dehydration, or maybe it was what I was eating. The never-ending puzzle for me is trying to figure out the cause. I went into this race trying to eat constantly throughout the day and even though I had stomach issues and was now struggling to eat, I had felt good about my nutrition so far.
From mile 44 to the next aid station (Sierra at Tahoe) at mile 64 my stomach went completely downhill. I couldn’t keep anything down me during this stretch of the course. It was the first night and I was still on track with my estimated time of arrival at the station, but I could feel my pace slow tremendously. The one food that would stay down was nut butter… until it didn’t and simply putting the nut butter in my mouth would make me gag. I felt myself continue to spiral downward as I got closer and closer to mile 64. My plan during the race was not to sleep the first night, but I knew when I got to this aid station I was going to need to reset and sleep. My mind just wasn’t right and I felt so exhausted from lack of nutrition and constantly throwing up.
Finally I’ll See My Crew
This would be the first aid station that I would see my crew (Josh & Troy). I came in and told Josh that I just needed to sleep. My stomach cooperating and I had to reset. He could tell something was up. I felt horrible because I wanted the first time that my crew saw me to be a happy moment. I wanted to come into the aid station with a huge smile and ready to continue to kick some butt. That wasn’t the case. I slept for about 90 minutes then tried to get food inside me. I wasn’t able to get much food in me. Probably some soup and a few other odds and ends. At this aid station, I felt beat up and fatigued. I had a battle in my head of me trying to tell myself to simply enjoy the journey and things will change, but then I had an overwhelming worry that I wasn’t able to get out of the dreaded stomach issue trap. As I was laying down, I didn’t want to get up… at all. As Josh was trying to wake me up, I felt so sick and just wanted to lay down.
I finally got up and started on the next stretch. Only 8 miles to Housewife Hill. I ran with my pacer Troy. His enthusiasm and joy was just the light I needed. It was a beautiful night, the stars were out and the moon was bright and beautiful. I tried to slowly get some food in me but still seemed to struggle with anything but a little nibble. When I got into the next aid my stomach was still not feeling very good. Josh sat me down and we tried to get some food inside me. I lay down again for about 30 minutes to see if that would settle my stomach. Never in a race have a laid down so much and so soon as this one. After that time, I sat up and knew I had to get my butt in gear and head out back on the trails.
Would This Be My Last Stretch?
I headed out for a 17 mile stretch with Josh to Armstrong Aid Station. Even though I still felt sick I was beyond excited to head out with Josh. I wanted him by my side, he always seems to be the best remedy when I’m not feeling the greatest. This was the hardest of all sections. Not because of the trail, but because my body, energy, and stomach were failing me. My body just kept feeling like it was breaking down. It was really hot during the day and I struggled to keep up with my hydration and food intake. Towards the end of this stretch, I felt SO horrible. I could tell that my mind was slowly going downhill and the thought of stopping kept creeping in. The same old thoughts that happen every time I get so sick during a race. How can I keep running when I can’t get any food in me? I start thinking to myself “why am I even doing this? This is not fun.” On the other hand, I was so grateful for the fact that I was out with Josh in a beautiful spot taking in this journey with him.
When I got into the next aid station all I wanted to do was lay down and have a BIG turkey sandwich. We came in and I went straight for our car and laid down beside it in the dirt. As I laid down, I knew I was done. I was tired of fighting and I couldn’t imagine going another 115 more miles. I allowed myself to stop thinking in the present moment, and let the fear of the past (how I was feeling so far) and future (what I had left) consume my mind. I simply didn’t want to race anymore. Josh made me a sandwich, told me to just relax and not think about making any decisions right now. I went down to the river and put my feet in and felt happy thinking about being done. I was so tired of feeling sick and the joy of racing and adventures had left me at that at that moment. After talking with my crew, they suggested that I give it at least one more leg. Josh knew that I would have a lot of regrets if I didn’t try to give it one more shot. As much as I didn’t want to go anymore, I knew he was right. The crazy thing is before I started the leg, I was starting to feel a lot better, stomach seemed to be settling and my energy was coming back.
Heading Out to Try Again
Troy and I headed out for a 15 mile stretch to Heavenly Aid Station. I still wasn’t able to get enough nutrition in me, but it was still way more than I was the last day. Troy and I were about to head out on a beautiful section that I remember running with my friend Ben as I paced him last year at Tahoe. My spirits seemed to brighten and my sick stomach didn’t seem as bad. Troy and I talked and talked, laughed and laughed. As much as I was improving in the back of my head, I had already made the decision that I was done. I didn’t want to go another 100 miles after this stretch was done. As I think about it now, I wish Troy would have shaken me and told me to snap out of it, because I WAS improving, and I could have kept going. My body was improving, but my mind was done. I came into the aid station late in the evening, not necessarily feeling great, but a hell of a lot better than earlier in the day. I looked at Josh and told him I was done. I had already decided in my head and I’m not sure anyone could have changed my mind. Josh had the tent set up, I gave him my spot tracker, climbed into the tent and went to bed. And that was it, the end of my Tahoe journey.
I Made a Big Mistake!
The next morning, I woke up and the very first thing that came to my head was “Lindsey, you made a BIG mistake.” I was regretting giving up so easily and question how I could have let myself do that. I got out of the tent and felt fine other than the fact that I felt sick to my stomach, not because of not being able to eat, but because I knew I made a mistake. What happened to this Lindsey I know that doesn’t give up, where was that determination and grit I know I have, how could I have let my mind take me out of something that I worked so hard for?
All those months, all the many miles and time and I allowed myself to quit. I’m not sure what brought me there, not sure how I allowed myself to get to that point. The drive home I felt myself sink lower and lower into sadness. I felt like a failure. I had always taken pride in knowing that my mind was strong, but I let myself not finish the race because of my mind. It brought me down of path of questioning myself, why I run ultras and what brought me to the point of allowing my fears and thoughts to take away something that I worked so hard for.
Growth Through the Darkness
The weeks following the race were some dark ones. The DNF of this race brought me down a path of deep introspection. During this time all these other fears, struggles and frustration of life seemed to come up to the surface at the same time. It wasn’t just about my DNF, but all the hidden demons and struggles I sometimes bury. I was in a major funk and knew I needed to change some things to get me on the path I needed to be on. Throughout those weeks many early mornings and runs in the mountains were filled with lots of self-evaluation, meditating, journaling and trying to figure out what I needed to do in my life to get back to my highest self. I didn’t want to let the Tahoe DNF break me and make me think that I was a failure, but I wanted to learn and grow from it. I wanted to learn what I needed to do to get my mind right. I knew it was a wake-up call that I was not on the path I needed to be on and that there were things that I needed to change. It made me realize that my mind still is strong, I do have grit and I can do hard things. But, in that moment of giving up, I allowed myself not to believe that. I let go of the importance of being present in the moment during my race. That’s always been important to me, but during this race for some reason, I allowed myself to be consumed in all the worry and fear. It’s amazing what fear can do when you allow it to consume your thoughts.
I don’t want to live a life of fear, but I want to take life by the horns living it with passion. You never know what is going to happen out there on the racecourse, but all I know is that no matter what happens I want to KNOW that I gave it every last drop. Sometimes, in the moment, it can be hard to not look at failure as a setback, but let’s replace the word failure with FEEDBACK. Failure is simply feedback. Feedback allows you to look at what’s not working, adjust and make it work!
Thank you, Tahoe for the DNF. You allowed me to learn a great lesson and reminded me of how important it is to FOCUS on the NOW.