Packs of runners pound out practice jogs and stretch to stay loose as they acclimate to the higher elevation Thursday. It's the day before the big marathon weekend, and Lake Tahoe is crackling with pre-race electricity.
About 2,000 athletes are pouring into town for the 17th annual Lake Tahoe Marathon this weekend. Athletes will run, walk, bike, swim or paddle through 30 different events around the lake in three days. Those running will tackle three marathons in three days, among other distance options, as they test their endurance on the Tahoe streets.
"It's one of the toughest marathons," race director Les Wright said. "The thing with Tahoe is you've got the hills and elevation so people have to be fairly tough and not afraid of it."
Tough is what more than 100 people running the three marathons have prepared for. Tougher are the 50 people who are running a Midnight Express around the lake for 72 miles Saturday. Toughest are those running a triple- or double-dare of two or three laps around the lake.
The ultra distances are impressive, but the traditional-length marathon of 26 miles is what started it all. With that in mind, this is the weekend lineup:
The Emerald Bay Marathon is first up, Friday at 7 a.m. with an Emerald Bay start and a Spooner Lake finish. Runners will be back at it the same time Saturday for marathon number two from Spooner Summit to Tahoe City, known as the Cal-Neva Marathon. The weekend ends the same way it originally started, with the traditional Lake Tahoe Marathon. The final run starts at Commons Beach in Tahoe City and wraps up at Pope Beach near South Lake.
New to the event this year are three half marathons in three days. The half marathons will start at the same place and time as the full marathons and end at the 13-mile mark. There are also 10K and 5K race options available throughout the weekend.
On the bike-racing front, there will be a full 72-mile lake lap that starts and ends at Zephyr Cove Resort Saturday and a 35-mile bike.
A Lake Tahoe Triathlon will be held with a kayak or swim option for the first leg, and a choice of cycling and running distances to wrap the tri up. The triathlon can be tailored to the distances and events an athlete chooses.
There will also be standup paddleboard and kayak races, a historic fun run and a 20-mile power walk among other events.
Most of the weekend's events can be tailored to suit individual athletes because the ultimate goal out there is to promote fitness and make it fun, Wright said.
Keep in mind that running might be faster than driving this weekend. The marathon does mean road closures or delays so check for details before getting frustrated in the car http://www.laketahoemarathon.com/road2012.html.