It was a small group that gathered on the shores of Jenkinson Lake near Pollock Pines. It was primarily the usual suspects (i.e. the top contenders in the series standings) and we did a quick countdown before heading off on an 8-mile trail around the lake.
On my first lap I shared a few early miles with Jeff Barbier as we trotted along in the early morning chill. He had just acquired a new border collie puppy, so I talked his ear off about my own border collie and what a great running partner he is. We parted ways when I headed off toward the outhouse at the first aid station.
The trail was mostly wooded, and I appreciated the differences of autumn in the foothills versus the high country of Tahoe. Aspen, maple and oak leaves carpeted the trail in a warm palette of yellows and browns, while the surrounding dogwoods were just beginning to turn a soft shade of pink. I ran easy, utterly relaxed in the surrounding beauty.
Kim, whom I had met just prior to the start, caught up to me and shortly thereafter we found Lainie. She was completely distraught, having just spent a fair amount of time in the past few miles running around in circles. It wasn’t until we came upon her that she finally got back on track, and the three of us ran into the start/finish aid station together while Lainie tried to recover from the stress of being lost and get her mind back in the race.
Lainie and I left the aid station together and it was fun to have someone to run with for a while. We chatted up a storm for several miles until I eventually ran ahead. (I only had a few miles left until the end of my 16 mile race, but Lainie would run two more laps for a total of 32 miles.)
I felt good and relaxed all morning, and I was glad I had decided to run. All month I had been sick and running poorly. My overbuilt expectations for my upcoming 50 miler were quickly plummeting. So, I ran two decent speed workouts on Thursday and Friday, followed by this mellow 16. It was a good final tune-up before the last stretch of what has been a forced, extended taper. I’m not in the same shape I was in at the end of September, but I feel far better than I did three weeks ago.
I finished out the ultrarunner.net series in second place overall and second in my age group, which garnered me some nice prizes, including a couple pairs of Innov-8s and a fat gift certificate to the Fleet Feet in Fair Oaks. In the final standings, Lainie Callahan-Matoon won the women’s division, followed by me, then Jenny Dicus. In the men’s division, Peter Lubbers held off Jethro Smith (second) and Matt Thau (third) for the win.
Thanks to Robert, Linda and the crew for putting on all these races. I wasn’t really planning on competing in the series, but after finding myself in second place after Lake of the Sky, it seemed silly not to. The best part about the series, I think, is getting to see some of the same faces at every race and getting to know them. Have I mentioned before that I love runners?
The drive home was another reason I had gotten out of bed in the morning. I knew it would be beautiful. Autumn is the golden season in Lake Tahoe. The trails and temperatures are perfect for running, the crowds have dwindled, and the scenery is mercilessly breathtaking. Driving these days is a serious hazard because I can’t stop looking around, mouth agape. The colors are my favorite shades of yellows, oranges, reds and browns. Earthy—just the way I like things.
I indulged myself in pulling over to watch the Kokanee salmon swim up Taylor Creek, and take a few pictures of the fall foliage. The drive was almost as good as the run.
Crowds gather at the bridge over Taylor Creek to watch the salmon run.The Tahoe Marathon course goes over this bridge, and that fleeting glimpse as I run by is usually all I ever see of these guys. I thought it was time for a closer look.
I followed it all up Sunday by joining Amber for a run through Donner State Park and Coldstream Canyon. I was definitely feeling tired, but as usual, running with great company through beautiful trails takes the pain away. Or at least, it makes it more than worth it!