Update: I am back from my trip west to run on Bex's team in the Lake Tahoe Relay. I consider my handling of its most difficult leg a success, although I am slightly injured from it. It was the hardest competitive run of my life, a truly transforming experience. My team did great, shaving over a minute off last year's time with an 11:30:43 (9:36), finishing in 83/113 place (73%).
The Setting: The 2008 DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay. 113 teams of seven runners each race counterclockwise the 72 miles around the lake, with each team member taking a leg ranging from 8.2 to 12.3 miles.
The Battlegrounds: Leg 1: In the coolness of the early morning, a 9.6 mile run from South Lake Tahoe, California, to Zephyr Cove in Nevada, passing through the shadows of the tall casinos at Stateline enroute. Three substantial hills at the end make this second easiest leg a challenging run. Leg 2: Starting at Zephyr Cove at lake level at 6200 feet, this 8.2 mile leg tops out past Castlerock at the course's highest point of over 7,000 feet. The last half of this next to hardest leg is just an unbroken uphill slog. Leg 3: A 10.3 mile return to lake level down a seven mile shelf road followed by 5K of flats at the end. The "easiest" leg. Leg 4: The longest run in the heat of the day, a 12.3 mile run from Incline Village up a significant hill, past the old casinos where the rat pack would sometimes croon and clown, and back into California. Of moderate difficulty. Leg 5: 10.6 miles of flat running after climbing a 250 foot hill in the very first mile, from Tahoe City to Homewood. Of moderate difficulty. Leg 6: This hardest leg is comprised of 10.5 miles of difficult terrain, ending in a hill climb that seems to go straight up after a nine mile warmup of long and steep rollers. Leg 7: Downhill past Emerald Bay then uphill on a killer shelf road, past a series of switchbacks with steep dropoffs on both sides, then miles of running through pine forests to the start/stop line in South Lake Tahoe 10.5 miles after the handoff. The hardest leg after Legs 6 and 2. (Right: Last year K tackled tough Leg 2, where we tumbled from 43rd to 77th place, in 1:32:22 (11:16). Here K emerges from the tunnel running through Castlerock.)
The Team: The Band of Outsiders (BOO), flatlanders all, sea level dwellers, assembled by Bex before she abandoned the east coast a year ago to return to her roots in the Golden West. Last year we finished in 11:32:00 (9:37) in 76/97 place (78%).
My Mission: To tackle tough Leg 6 where we lost 13 places last year, and either minimize the damage on this impossible ten and a half mile stretch or actually pick up places. The time to improve upon was the 1:53:45 (10:50) turned in by Brian, a non-runner who had a a transforming experience during his leg, running the whole way and arriving at the end exhilarated, having encountered both what running takes from you and what it gives to you. He had seen the elephant on his leg like none of the rest of the Band had. He became a warrior. (Left: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Brian going to see the elephant last year.)
Next: My skirmishes on the "flats" leading to the battle for position on the hillside and close quarter combat on top of the hill.