DFL: 3 Inspiring Stories From Last Place Finishers

Runner: Jose San Gabriel
Distance: 100 miles
Race: Tahoe Rim Endurance Run
Terrain: Trail
Placement: Last, 26 minutes before cutoff

Jose's Story

The Tahoe Rim Trail is known for being tough, due to the high elevation and the summer heat. As 106 of us gathered at the start line, I was very thankful to be there. After months of training, it was time.

I began at an easy pace, to ensure I felt good at 7,000 feet of elevation. Fortunately, the first mile was flat and allowed me to focus on the challenges ahead.

After the first climb, I downed some snacks and proceeded with the first run of the infamous Red House loop, with its steep descent. Fortunately, the loop did not feel as difficult as I remembered.

Once I got back to the aid station, I fueled up well. Because of permitting issues, the old section to Mt. Rose aid station from previous years was no longer part of the course and was replaced with a 9-mile section from Bull Wheel to Diamond Peak. That was a big concern, since I had not trained on the new section.

I had heard that the return climb from Diamond Peak to Bull Wheel was a beast, and that it would make the Red House loop look easy. Once I started the climb, it didn't look all that bad. But this section had a few false peaks, each of which was followed by a turn and the start of a steeper climb. Then another false peak, then another, even steeper climb!

The footing was very sandy, which made it even slower. Most of us would stop under small trees to catch our breaths, and then continue. The climbing seemed to take forever. It was two miles and about 1,800 feet of non-stop climbing. It made the Red House loop look like child's play.

I ran into Bull Wheel aid station and rested for a few minutes. I was only 32 miles into this thing, and I needed to recover. I continued and made the return trip back to Tunnel Creek, where I got weighed in. I was down a couple of pounds, and was cautioned to continue to eat and drink to avoid losing too much weight.

I started the climb toward the highest point on the course, Snow Valley Peak aid station, at nearly 9,300 feet of elevation. This was tough, with much of the climb without shade during a hot portion of the day. I was happy I didn't get an elevation headache.

On the long descent toward Spooner Summit and the start/finish aid stations, I was feeling hopeful. I would be reaching the halfway point of the race right on schedule at about 15 hours. That would give me a little cushion for the second, 50-mile loop.

It was almost sunset at this point, and many people were there cheering. 50-milers were finishing up, and we 100-milers were ready for a bit of rest and fuel, before the second half started. The 100-mile runners were allowed a pacer at this point for the final 50 miles. Well, I didn't have one! So I started the second half of the race alone.

I knew that I had to be mentally tough. This was the same 50-mile loop I would be repeating, but now I had to get through it with no sleep and no pacer, without getting lost and/or missing the race time cutoffs.

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