Sunday, September 14, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Lake Tahoe Marathon

The last race of the Tahoe Triple was the Lake Tahoe Marathon.  This race starts at Commons Beach in Tahoe City and finishes at Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe.  This race is much larger than the first two races, and unlike them, it’s a fully supported race.  We had mile markers; we had 18 aid stations; and one lane of the highway was blocked off for us.

This is my favorite race of the triple.  It goes around the most scenic part of the lake.  It’s also a challenging race.  I’d love to come back and do this race without doing the triple, so I could see how fast I could run it with fresh legs.  Of course, I didn’t have fresh legs today.  I was going to start this race feeling stiff and sore.  I was also feeling tired.

The race started at 7:00, but it takes a long time to get to Tahoe City, so the buses started loading at 5:00.  I slept better than the previous two nights, but I had to get up earlier.  As I started getting dressed, I was really dragging.

Today, I didn’t put as much pressure on myself to run fast.  I ran with a camera in a fanny pack, so I could take pictures during the race.  I’ve only done that once before.  I knew it would cost me a few minutes, but I was OK with that.  I already had two good finishes this weekend.

We reached Commons Beach just in time to see the sunrise over the lake.

As I started running, I discovered my legs weren’t as sore as I expected.  I also discovered that I got short of breath even at a pace that should have felt easy.

This race has mile markers that count down the remaining miles.  Yay!  Only 26 miles to go.

In the first few miles, I adjusted my pace until it felt sustainable.  I also stopped about three dozen times to take pictures.

After a few miles, I started passing runners who were doing the 72-mile ultramarathon.  They could be identified by their red singlets.  They were running all the way around the lake in one shot.  They started at 9:00 Saturday evening, and ran through the night.

Runners doing the Tahoe Triple could be identified by their blue singlets.

Runners needing extra time could start an hour early.  Throughout the race I spotted several runners I knew who started early.

The first half of the race was relatively flat.  It mostly followed Highway 89, but at times we were on bike paths.  We occasionally got views of the lake.

When we weren’t next to the lake, we had views like these.

I reached the halfway mark in 1:59.  That’s about 10 minutes slower than yesterday.  The first half is the easy half, so I expected the second half to be slower.

At about 15 miles, I reached the “Hill from Hell.”

This is a long gradual hill that ascends 500 feet over a mile and a half.

There are signs for every 100 feet of elevation change.

Halfway up the hill, I reached an aid station.  There was a contest for the best aid station.  My vote went to these superheroes who gave me Gatorade on the “Hill from Hell.”

The hill goes around a few turns, so you can’t see the whole thing at once.  The signs, in addition to being entertaining, helped me know how far I had progressed up the hill.

Most people walk some or all of this hill.  I stopped to take pictures of the signs, but otherwise I ran the whole thing.

When you hear bagpipes, you know you’re reaching the top.

After climbing the hill, I was rewarded by a long downhill and a view of the lake.

After a smaller hill, I reached Emerald Bay.  On the north side of the bay, the road is sharply downhill.  Looking across the bay, you can see the road going back up the other side.  That side is sharply uphill.  It  isn’t as long as the “Hill from Hell,” but it’s steep.

As you run around Emerald Bay, you get constantly changing views.  Here are few different perspectives.

The climb up the other side was tiring.  The top is at Inspiration Point, where we started running on Friday.

After that, I was mostly repeating the beginning of Friday’s race.  I had six miles to go.  The first three were downhill, and the last three were flat.  At this point, I put away my camera and started thinking about my time.

To break four hours, I would need to run the last six miles in 46 minutes.  Even with three downhill miles, that wasn’t going to happen.  To beat my course PR, I needed to finish in an hour.  It seemed like I could take that for granted.

As I started the steep descent from Emerald Bay, I was able to pick up pace, but my stride wasn’t as smooth as it was on Friday.  It felt like I was pounding my quads.  I thought I was going fast, but several other runners passed me.

As I reached the bottom of the hill and left the road for the bike path, it occurred to me that if I finished in 4:08, my combined time for the three races would be under 12 hours.  I needed to run the last four miles in 37:30.  That seemed realistic, but it wasn’t guaranteed.  I didn’t know how much I would slow down now that I was on level ground.

I wanted to know how fast I was running, but I never saw the three miles to go sign.  I also never saw the two miles to go sign.

In the last two miles, we left from the course from Friday’s race and turned onto this path, which would lead us to Pope Beach.

I finally saw the one mile to go sign.  My time was 3:58 … something.  In a mental lapse, I didn’t notice how many seconds.  I eventually realized I needed to run the last mile in nine … something.  It would have been nice to know how many seconds.  Without knowing my splits for the previous three miles, I had no idea if I was going fast enough.  That really lit a fire under me to run the last mile as hard as I could.

I finished in 4:06:36.  That was a course PR by roughly seven minutes, and my combined time for the triple was 11:58:35.

After I finished, I was handed my finisher medal and a purple slip with the number 24 on it.  That meant I was the 24th male.  The top 25 men and women receive Lake Tahoe Marathon jackets that say “Top 25” on the sleeve.

The finish venue is alongside this beach.  Some runners wade into the lake for an instant ice bath.

After getting some food, I made my way to the beach.  I didn’t go into the lake, but the awards tents were also on the beach.  I picked up my Top 25 jacket and this award that goes to all runners who complete the triple.


  1. Looks absolutely beautiful. I like the idea of the descending mile signs, and the ascending hill signs. I may have to consider doing this one.

  2. It's one of my favorites. I may have to come back some year to do this one with fresh legs, instead of doing it as the last day of a triple.