Although no runner was remotely close to Sean Meissner on Sunday morning, the 14th Lake Tahoe Marathon winner was in a battle throughout the 26.2-mile race from Tahoe City to Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe.
Meissner overcame one of the warmest days in LTM history to claim what he referred to as the biggest marathon win of his running career. Temperatures climbed into the upper 70s, and Meissner was just looking to cool off after winning his third different LTM event. He dumped several cups of water over his sweat-drenched head in the minutes following his victory.
"It's crazy, because two years ago we had snow," said the 36-year-old runner. "I carried a bottle (of water) pretty much the whole way until friends started running with me, and I could hand it to them. I know I needed to drink more often than just at the aid stations, so having a bottle really helped me."
The Sisters, Ore., ultrarunner crossed the finish line in an official time of 2 hours, 58 minutes and 1.12 seconds to finish well ahead of the top two triple marathon placers, Ian Sharman of London and Lynyrd Skynrod of Reno. They were timed in 3:02:39.15 and 3:03:21.87, respectively.
"My two goals were to win and to finish under 2:50. I got one of the goals, so I'm happy about that," Meissner said.
Meissner said that his time was also impacted by pushing his pace sooner than he should have.
"Once I hit the hills at D.L. Bliss at mile 15-17, I was going a little slower than I wanted, and even on the downhills it wasn't as fast," Meissner said.
Skynrod took home the $500 first prize for claiming possibly his last triple marathon title.
"I guess it's worth it, but I'm pretty sure I won't be doing another one," Skynrod said. "I've wrecked myself out here enough. I was thinking about taking up cage fighting. I hear that's a little less brutal. I might not get so beat up doing that sport and make more money."
Skynrod was attempting to break the world record in the triple marathon. But the second leg from Spooner Summit to Tahoe City on Saturday took its toll on Skynrod as he slowed to a 2:54 marathon after opening with a 2:43 effort. His time on Sunday was unofficially 3:02.
"It wasn't in the cards, I guess," Skynrod said. "I needed to run 2:43s the whole way."
Skynrod has been known to fire up a cigarette at the finish line in past LTM events. He smokes anywhere from 10 cigarettes to more than a pack a day but didn't puff on many over the course of the three-day marathon.
"A lot more sleeping than smoking in the last three days," he said.
Sharman didn't have any illusions of winning the marathon on Sunday after running marathons the previous two days.
"I just assumed there would be several guys going well under three hours," said Sharman, who hung with Meissner for 4 miles, then lost track of the winner.
Truckee's Gretchen Brugman won the women's marathon in an unofficial time of 3:34:24 and placed 15th overall. The 2003 women's triple marathon winner nearly didn't run Sunday because of a lingering bout of the flu.
"It's a little bit of a surprise. It's not exactly one of the fastest winning times ever," Brugman said. "My original goal was to run about 3:30, but I've been sick all week. Friday was kind of the low point, but I felt good this morning."
Despite her less-than-peak condition, Brugman was still able to set a personal course record.
"I've run a couple of other times, but I've never broken four hours," she said.
Incline Village's Ismael Huerta took 15th place at 3:36:38.91, Sean Cronin of South Lake Tahoe was 30th in 3:46:32.67 and Kara LaPoint of Truckee finished 43rd in 3:52:51.90.
Other South Shore runners among the 354 finishers included: Bridget Matos, 101st, 4:14:18.06; Andrew Altman, 153rd, 4:35:44.93; Greg Collard, 192nd, 4:59:20; Morgan Fessler, 200th, 5:05:59.41; Craig Smith, 208th, 5:11:39.02; Kang Lee, 250th, 5:32:25.11; and Ryan Mahnken, 261st, 5:36:31.08;
Michael Sharp of South Lake Tahoe finished 10th in the half marathon with a time of 1:33:26.73. Ryan Kent of Yorktown, Va., was a convincing winner of the event, finishing in 1:16:51.39. Piers Stockwell of Tahoe City took fourth place out of a field of 672 runners. HIs time was 1:27:04.43.
Sarah Raitter of Reno was the top female, placing sixth overall at 1:30:19.07.
South Lake Tahoe's Kenneth Gerrard came in 38th in 1:50:17.77, Elena Gomez of South Lake Tahoe took 72nd in 1:57:25.80, Lisa Ryczkowski finished 385th in 2:33:29.64, Eileen Eidam was 449th in 2:43:56.12, Katie Giammona placed 486th in 2:50:52.47 and Vincent Giammona finished 487th in 2:50:53.33
In the 10-kilometer race, Andres Rosales of Sacramento was the overall winner in 37:55.55, while Sara Gigliotti of San Francisco claimed the women's title and finished third overall at 40:47.46. Truckee's Tim Hammill was third in 41:34.57, and Stateline's Neal Chappell came in 13th at 46:11.78.
Mason Osgood, a 14-year-old, took first place in the 5K with a winning time of 18:20.19. Gordon Rathbun of Sunnyvale, Calif., was second in 23:59.65. Reno's Anika Tipton led the women's field, placing fourth overall at 24:34.13. Andrea Irwin of South Lake Tahoe took 11th in 28:37.79, and Minden's Tina Leiss and Shanna Leiss finished 16th and 17th in 30:42.86 and 30:43.25, respectively.