Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Tahoe Triple

There is a point when runner's high reaches it's threshold. Like the thermometer that shatters when the mercury rises north of 212, endorphins explode and one is catapulted into a completely new stratosphere. This is called runner's pride. This weekend, your marathon caped crusader completed three marathons in three days. 78.6 miles. I am deliriously proud. The fat kid who always got picked last in PE is now a Tahoe Triple Finisher. This is the sweetest victory of my life.

For those who have been following Endorphin Dude's Titanium journey, you will know very well that I came into this Tahoe Triple mentally dejected and very concerned that this quest would come to an end at mile 18 of marathon numero uno of the triple. It was at this point at the Lake Tahoe Marathon last year that I nearly DNF'ed, as I sat on a rock and blew chunks into the lake. Altitude sickness got the best of me. However, my red and yellow Marathon Maniac uniform got me through that race, as I kept chanting over and over again, "First marathon as a Maniac, cannot DNF! First marathon as a Maniac, cannot DNF!" It took me nearly nine hours to cross that finish line, but I did. Lake Tahoe kicked my butt and for this reason I wanted to return for pay back.  I figured, what better way to do this than to conquer the triple!

Unfortunately, on top of the fear of my altitude Achilles heel, I had also just experienced the devastating blow of the Diablo DNF a few days earlier. In my crestfallen mind, dropping out at mile 19 of that race put that penultimate nail in the Titanium coffin. The bold 78.6 point Comic Sans writing was on the wall: DNF in Tahoe, DNF Titanium. I had to pull out all the stops to stay alive. The Lake threw many hurdles at me, but I persevered and got through all three days.

Emerald Bay Marathon
September 23, 2011 - Day 1

I arrived in Tahoe at about 11am on Thursday morning. I had dropped off The Chiweenie at the doggie nanny's place in Antioch and spent the night before there, so my commute was cut by a few hours. Getting out of San Francisco on a Thursday morning can be quite cumbersome with the heavy traffic and all, so it was really nice to get that head start. Upon arriving, I went straight to Reno to pick up my running partner in crime and roommate for the weekend, Christian Pratt. Christian saw my name listed on the Marathon Maniacs race calendar for this triple and she called and asked if I wanted to split the cost of lodging. I quickly said yes, as I knew that I would not only going to be able to save some money, but that I would also be able to hang out with a super cool newly minted Marathon Maniac.

Christian and I checked into our room at the Tahoe Best West Inn near the Horizon Casino Resort, the host hotel for the Tahoe Marathon weekend, shortly after. The both of us felt very light headed and I knew that taking a nap in the room would do us no good. Hence, I strongly recommended that we venture out and walk around at the highest possible elevation point that we could. I learned from last year's race that getting acclimated quickly was key, so I took Christian on a tour of the Lake, driving all the way up to Emerald Bay. This was Christian's first time at Lake Tahoe, so I had fun playing tour guide! By touring the Lake, we not only did a great service to our lungs, but we were also able to drive part of the marathon course.

This picture is real, not a back drop of Lake Tahoe!

After taking in the breath taking views of Emerald Bay, we headed back to the host hotel for the expo and carbo load dinner.  I had a lot of fun playing Marathon Maniac Big Brother to Christian, as she is brand new to the Insane Asylum. I introduced her to all the Marathon Maniacs there and she quickly fit right in. The carbo load dinner at the Horizon Casino Resort felt like one big family reunion for me. I mingled with all the runners whom I dig and got to hear Dick Beardsley speak! This was truly a treat. What an incredibly charismatic human being that guy is. After dinner, we all turned in early and headed back to our rooms for our 5am wake up call.

The Marathon Maniacs made a big splash in Lake Tahoe!

We all arrived at the host hotel at the crack of dawn to pile into the shuttle. The first 26.2 miler of this triple started at Inspiration Point, next to Emerald Bay, and finished at the junction of US highway 50 and state highway 28, near Spooner Lake. In my humble opinion, this was the most difficult of the three marathons due to the fact that the final three miles is a steep ascent all the way up to 7000 feet on a busy highway. I couldn't think about the degree of difficulty because I knew that would make me sink into negative mode. Thankfully, I was surrounded by my running friends, both old and new, to keep me motivated.

What a bunch. From left to right: Irlan "Unstoppable Girl" Hebner, Cyndie Merten, Yolanda "Walking Diva" Holder, Endorphin Dude, Jennifer Dicus, Michael "Uncle Mike" Miller, and Ed Walsh.
What's funny about this picture is that Deo wanted to take an Asian Power shot. Then this white guy pops in! I've nick named this photo bomber "Token White Guy."  Matt, you know you're accepted into our club!  From left to right: Mark Puntanilla, Matthew "Token White Guy" Walthour, Endorphin Dude, Vicky Lau, Deo Jaravata, and Rebecca Yi.
I think we're 0.5 miles in. Christian's goal for the day was to get the DFL!
Action shot of Connie Benskin Corbett and her friend!
Yo Yolanda, the Walking Diva, and O-MG!! MG is so glamorous that she's no longer just MG, but OMG!!!
Marathon Maniac Kyle Terry looks like he's running on one leg here.
Endorphin Dude with fellow Half Fanatic Lori Christ from New Mexico. Lori completed the Half Trifeca, three half marathons in three days.
Paying tribute to the Chiweenie!
The race organizers told us we had to provide our own support and aid, so it was a great surprise to see this aid station at about mile 8 or so!
That woman you see in the middle is heaven sent. Meet Pam Pettit-Gilbertson. She didn't just crew us, she saved us. More on Pam later in this race report...

By the time we reached the half way mark, blisters started to form on my left foot. I've never really had any problems with blisters in the past, so it surprised me a bit that this happened. As I continued to plug along, it hurt more, which really killed me mentally. What got me through this rough patch was seeing Christian a few feet in front of me shaking her groove thing like a go go dancer earning tips at a discotheque. I swear, the girl danced for all the cars that zoomed by! This certainly put a smile on my face, and it definitely helped block out the pain in the foot. What also helped was our Mobile Aid Station, powered by Pam.

Not really sure what's playing on the iPod, but the girl was rockin'!
Stupid blisters.
Pam kinda looks like one of those street peddlers selling food out of the trunk of her Prius!

I'm going to veer off course for a second to talk about a Pam. I noted in a few photos above that this woman is heaven sent. I'm realizing now what a huge understatement that is. Pam was not just our crew, she was our cheerleader, nurse, mom, psychiatrist, physical therapist, messenger, chauffeur, and all around best friend. Without Pam, I seriously doubt that I would have been able to get through this weekend in one piece. Pam was the only one who witnessed the physical pain and mental demons I had to deal with all three days, and every time I saw her, the pain seemed to just go away. Thank you Pam for being there. You are my Marathon Guardian Angel.

Back on course. As Christian and I embarked on the final uphill 5k, we would see marathon finishers along the highway returning to their hotels. It was nice hearing the honks and woot woots, but I have to tell you, I was fearing for my life out there on that highway. There were sections where the shoulder was so narrow that I had to turn sideways so that I wouldn't get hit by vehicles zooming by at 55 miles per hour. Fortunately, I wore a big red cape, so cars would see me! All the runners knew that we were last so they cheered extra hard for us as they drove by. Some runners even got out to see how we were doing!

I couldn't believe this. Fellow Marathon Maniac Irlan risked her life by parking on the other side and running across the busy highway Frogger style to give us care packages! Irlan was so concerned about us that she stopped at the store to pick up water, Gatorade, a Cliff Bar, and ice cream! Another Marathon Guardian Angel sent from above! Thank you Irlan!
Cyndie Merten pulled over to see if we were ok!
Poor Christian. Luckily Mama Pam was there to feed her!

My blisters hurt more as I climbed that hill, but I kept positive and continued moving. It got hotter with every step and at times, I just wanted to get off the road and jump into the lake. I stayed focused and kept one foot in front of the other. I finally crossed that finish line after over eight hours, maybe even more. Waiting there for me were the race director, Christian, and our mobile aid station extraordinaire, Pam. Unfortunately, there were were no medals left, but the race director assured me that I would get my bling before the weekend ended. I had no problems with this. I was just so happy to get this first marathon done!

After the marathon, I went back to the expo. Guess who I saw? Dick Beardsley!

Cal-Neva Marathon
September 24, 2011 - Day 2

It took so long so long for Christian and I to cross that finish line of marathon #1 that the race director "strongly recommended" that we take the early start for #2. I was totally down with that! To be able to run a marathon without the stress of a time constraint is always good, and with this 5am start, I was assured 9 full hours. Score!

The two of us got up way before the crack of dawn to get to that start line by 5am. This second race started where we finished yesterday, and the course took us around the lake to Tahoe City. Luckily, I packed my running lamp because it was pitch black out there. Seriously, I couldn't see my hand in front of my face!

It was dark out there, but the weather was nice an cool!

The first half of this marathon was all down hill, so Christian and I cruised in the dark. It was fun being able to fly down the hills at a 10 minute pace! My blisters were giving me only minor problems in the first half. I had wrapped up my left foot in the morning and applied some blister ointments to ease the pain. When the sun came up, the evil blisters started to hurt, but I had enough medical supplies with me to keep them from over taking me. I got my mind off the discomfort by enjoying the scenery. It was a beautiful day in Lake Tahoe!

Every time I look at the lake, I keep thinking back to what Christian said to me at mile 12 of the first marathon. I think the altitude must have gotten to her because she pointed at the water and then turned to me and asked, "what's the name of this lake?" With a very puzzled look on my face, I responded, "um, Lake Tahoe." She did lose her mind for that split second! We certainly had a good laugh.
The other early starters!
It's like a Skittles bag exploded. Look at all the primary colors!
Who do I see on the road? It's Kimberly Lohstroh Miller, crewing for her husband "Uncle Mike!"
Reunited with Mama Pam!

The adrenaline and endorphins pumped hard as the runners caught up to us early starters. Of course, we pulled to the side to cheer each and everyone one of them! That's the beauty of the early start, not only do I get to comfortably finish the race, but I am also able to help inject some endorphins into my fellow runners as they zoomed on by. What also made this stretch of the marathon fun was all the cyclists coming from the other direction! The countless thumbs up that I received from these guys kept me going strong!

I love that all the cyclists were going in the other direction.
"Uncle Mike" Miller. I almost didn't recognize him. He had a shirt on!
There's Marathon Maniac Rebecca Yi!
He's not a Marathon Maniac, but he should be one. Come on, Mark!
David Holmen opted for a more subtle look today. He wore cougar print tights for the first marathon!
It's Coconut Boy!
Whenever I see this guy, I just want to break out in 70's nostalgia. It's "Da Do Run" Ron Kalich! You gotta love these Marathon Maniacs.
Jakob Herrmann completed the Double Dare. He went 72 miles around Lake Tahoe. Twice.
Deo looking pretty as ever. Love the arm sleeves.
Check out that gash on Rick's face. War wound! Love it!
Hector Aleman has done multiple 100 milers. This triple is a piece of cake for him!
How absolutely PHO-liscious do Lan and I look?
The last time I saw Dan was at Run de Vous! What a great race that was.
The last time I saw Angel Brock was at Labor of Love. Not only did I get to see her again here, but I got to meet her beautiful mom!
And there's Jane, who came all the way from Australia!
I didn't need any ice cream today from Irlan, just seeing her smile was enough to keep me going!
I see fellow Marathon Maniac Jennifer Dicus everywhere, and that's just awesome.
There's Connie on day 2.
Jay and Jill ran up the hill to finish a marathon.
YO Yolanda and Cyndie Merten!

The fun and games pretty much ended by mile 23 when Endorphin Dude's evil nemeses, The Wicked Twisted Blister Sisters, attacked at every angle of this super hero's left foot. I had tried to block out the pain with the excitement of seeing my fellow runners and cyclists, but by the time I got to the final 5k of this marathon, the excruciating pain took over my psyche. I couldn't get it out of my mind. The pain was so unbearable that I pulled over at mile 24 to re-mole skin. I did not like what I saw when I took off my sock.

Yeah, I know, it's gross. I really want you to feel my pain!

Now imagine four of these on four different spots on my foot. It hurt so much that I limped the rest of the way. The mobile aid station made one last pit stop at mile 24.5. I flat out told Pam how much I was hurting and she did her best to give me a pep talk, but I could see in her eyes that she believed she was of no help to me. That's how pathetic I looked. I did assure her that just seeing her gave me energy, and that was the truth. Like the loving crew mom that she is, Pam packed some goodies for me and refilled my water bottle with Gatorade. She then sent me off with a hug. I was so close to that finish line, I just had to keep plugging along.

As I struggled to get past mile 25, a marathon divine intervention hit me from out from nowhere, at least that's what my delirious mind told me. With the blazing sun roasting my meek body, I continued to limp my way to that finish line. The sun beamed so bright that everything peripheral to me seemed either blurred or glared. Out of the corner an older bearded gentleman clad in a t-shirt that read "If I stop running, how am I going to get home?" approached me. He asked if I needed company. My initial disoriented thought was, "wow, I've died and gone to marathon heaven, and God made that special trip down to earth to escort me to the Pearly Gates." That would explain why he appeared out of nowhere. I turned to the bearded gentleman and responded, "I could use all the help I could get."

I continued to ramble on about nothing as we walked together. Sometimes I wish my legs could move as fast as my mouth. This was definitely one of those times. In any case, when I finally stopped to catch my breath, this stranger introduced himself. "You may not know me, but we have some friends in common.  I am Dale Ghaner, Corrie's partner's dad. I also know Charles Wickersham." My jaw dropped in awe. Such a small world. It is amazing how everyone is somehow interconnected in the running world. Corrie and Shannon are two of my favorite peeps in the running community and Charlie, well, if you don't know who this guy is by now, you should. Charlie is the guy who got me into this whole marathon thing. He is also the subject of It Donned On Me's documentary short on ultra running, "Run, Pharmboy, Run!" Mr. Ghaner put a huge grin on my face. He walked with me for a little bit and then set me free. He gave me exactly what I needed to plow through that final mile. I was pumped.

Thank you, Mr. Ghaner!

Newly charged, I picked up the pace and continued forward. The blisters still nagged at me but I kept moving on, one foot in front of the other. It took me a little over 20 minutes to drag through that final mile, and when I crossed that finish line, I shook my head in disbelief. I then took off my shoe to examine my foot and was simply abhorred by what I saw. I won't post a photo because I know you're probably still too grossed out by the blister picture above. Let's just say that it mutated into an even nastier one! Oh well, at least I finished marathon #2 of this triple. Woo Hoo!

Yay! I'm done! FINALLY.
The guy third from left is Alberto. Alberto runs barefoot. I first met Alberto's feet at The San Francisco Marathon. Maybe I should start running bare feet so I won't get any blisters!

The mobile aid station arrived at the finish line to schlep us beat up runners back to the hotel. I swear, four post-marathon bodies trying to squeeze into a Prius looked quite comical. Christian, Jill, Jay, and I looked like Mr. Potato Head body parts being crammed into the potato butt, which doubles as a storage compartment. It was even funnier when the five of us sat in the Prius for 10 minutes, devouring our post race meal of Big Macs and McFries. We ate, we groaned, and then Pam drove off. That ride, the marathon course in reverse, seemed to go on and on and on.

Lake Tahoe Marathon
September 25, 2011 - Day 3

After completing 52.4 miles around two thirds of Lake Tahoe, exhaustion and blisters hit me hard. I can run through exhaustion, it's the blisters that had me very concerned. I could barely walk with those little mutant pockets of fluids wrecking havoc on my feet. Even with all the ointments and mole skin, my feet hurt so bad that I feared that I would have to pull out of the third marathon. This, of course, was not an option! I came to Tahoe to complete 78.6 miles! I was not going to let some blisters stand in the way of my Tahoe Triple! I tried not to think too much about it and went to bed. I figured I would be refreshed in the morning, and with the early start for the final marathon, I told myself if worse comes to worst, I could walk a 9 hour marathon and still finish within the cut off time. I passed out at 8pm.

Tahoe Triplers on day three!

For the third straight day, I got up at the crack of dawn to run a marathon. What was I thinking? Oh yeah, there's this little thing called Titanium that's taken over my mind, body, and soul. How could I let this happen?

The third and final marathon in this Tahoe Triple started at Tahoe City and worked it's way to Pope Beach. This is the exact same course as last year's marathon so I knew exactly what to expect. The only deviation from the norm is that of my blisters. The only way I was going to get through this final marathon was to completely block the pain out of my mind. Well, I tried. I really tried, but by mile six, this race became a laborious chore. My only saving grace was my running buddies and the mobile aid station, who kept me motivated for the first 23 miles!

Jay and Jill before the start.
I met these ladies on the course. It was their first marathon!
And guess who made it out to cheer us on? It's mobile aid station daughter Brandi! It was awesome seeing both Brandy and her husband Gary out there. They did not need to be there, but they were. Seeing these two and Pam made a world of difference.
Ace snuck up on me! Glad he did. This guy is awesome.
Yay, more Triplers!

And there's Angel Brock's beautiful mother. She wasn't running. I just happen to catch her walking up the hill to the spectator area.
I said it before and I'll say it again: PHO-liscious!!!
Barefoot Todd! I don't know what's more amazing, this guy running in no shoes or those itty bitty shorts!
Me and my fellow Tahoe Tripler, Hugo.
What a great bunch of peeps. From left to right: Hector Aleman, Roland Blais, Endorphin Dude, Michael Connors, and Rebecca Evans.
I love this woman!
Remember I told you about that bearded gentleman who came out of nowhere? Well get this. This woman is the aunt of the Corrie, who is the partner of Shannon, who is the daughter of Dale, the bearded gentleman. Frances Lucero is her name, and seeing her at the aid station made me smile.
E-Dude with Mike McGinnis, a fellow Nanny Goat alumni who ran the 72 mile ultra in Tahoe.
And there's Token White Guy again! Loved seeing him, his wife, and fellow Tahoe Tripler Stephanie.

By the time I hit mile 20, pretty much everyone had passed me. There may have only been a dozen people left behind me. With another 10k to go, I plugged along. I tried to stay positive, but at times it proved to be too difficult. It didn't help that the roads were open up for traffic, so I had to inch my way along some parts of the course for fear that I would be side swiped and thrusted into the lake. I just kept my eyes on the prize and kept moving.

No, we are not committing suicide, we're just stretching out our legs.
Endorphin Dude with the Terry men, son Kyle and father Greg.
Phil Nimmo. You know what this guy did? This fellow Marathon Maniac went for the Double Dare. That's two round trips around the lake. 144 miles. Here he is at his mile 132 or so and still looking strong. Phil is another one of those marathon guardian angels for me, and he probably doesn't even know it. I used Phil as my pacer to get to that finish line. I kept looking back and seeing him there, so I knew I was on pace. Thank you, Mr. Nimmo, and congratulations to you on your incredible finish.
Heading into the switch back, probably the most dangerous part of this course, especially when the road opened to traffic!
Only 1.1 mile left! I was still dragging my feet.
Do you know who took this picture? At mile 26, Dale Ghaner once again popped up out of nowhere and ran me into the finish line. I'm telling you, Marathon Guardian Angel.

When I got to mile 26, all I wanted to do was run it in. Last year, this marathon wiped me out, and I wanted more than anything to finish strong. My marathon guardian angel Dale stood by my side, encouraging me every step of the way. I panted, I grunted, I grimaced. My feet wanted to throw in the towel but my heart just would not allow it. With only a few yards left, I sprinted across that finish line and raised my arms in victory! It wasn't until the volunteer put that medal around my neck that I dropped to my knees in complete shock. I released every emotion in my soul in the form of a primal roar, and everyone around me knew: Endorphin Dude had completed the most difficult test of his life, and he passed with flying colors.

Titanium Score Board: 32 down, 20 to go.

7000 feet elevation.
78.6 miles.
3 marathons in 3 days.
2 different states.
1 deliriously happy Endorphin Dude!


  1. Hi Tony, it's Lori, the half fanatic that was with you and Christian on Day 1. Thanks for putting my photo in your blog!

    You inspired me to go for Rock Idol status in the R&R series. I was going to postpone it until 2012, after meeting you I decided to go for it.

    I'm in St Louis, getting ready to complete the marathon. It's starting in about 30 min, I better get off the computer.

    Thanks for the motivation and laughs. I was there when Christian asked what the name of the lake was!

  2. You are some kind of tough - I was glad to read that stomach issues played no part in this weekend. But man, those blisters - it's amazing you finished. And not just the marathon you were doing, but the next two as well! Wow.

  3. Alberto and Barefoot Todd seem like my kind of guys. Barefoot!

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