The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail can chew hikers up and spit them out.
The trail serves up more than 21,000 feet of elevation gain. Hiking the full trail is one of those bucket-list challenges for most.
Candice Burt, however, is about to take the traditional Rim Trail trek to the next level.
The ultrarunner will attempt to run a new fastest known women’s time on July 19. The 31-year-old is hoping her effort will inspire people to donate to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. All donations will go to trail maintenance, building and education.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune recently caught up with Burt for a Q-and-A about the attempt.
You live in Washington, so why did you choose the Tahoe Rim Trail for your next challenge?
“While in college, I spent a summer working at a natural food store and camping in Blackwood Canyon on the west side of the lake. I’d never been to the area and I fell in love with it. There was this freedom that came from having very few possessions and living in the mountains. Since then, I have felt a special connection to the area. Lake Tahoe has always meant summer, sunshine, sweet single-track trails, and good food. I have been wanting to do the entire Tahoe Rim Trail since I learned about it a few years ago. The last two years, I led a running tour on about 80 miles of the trail, and last year I ran the Tahoe Rim (Trail) 100-Mile Endurance Run. In the lead up to the 100th mile, I kept thinking how I really wanted to run the entire TRT. This summer seemed like the right time.
What is the fastest known women’s time on the TRT?
It appears that Betsy Nye may have run the trail in 55 hours and 22 minutes, but I have not confirmed that. I have tried to contact her, but I have not heard anything back.
How long do you expect it to take you to run the 165 miles?
I’d like to think that I can run it in less than 50 hours, but the mountains and my body will dictate my final time. I ran the Tahoe Rim 100-Miler in 22 hours and 50 minutes. I will be going slower to conserve energy and endurance, but how much slower? I don’t know.
What is the longest distance you have ever run?
The longest distance I’ve run is 100 miles. I have completed three 100-mile races, plus one solo 93-mile route in the past two years. I have done seven 50-mile races and countless training runs from 50K to 50 miles.
What are some of the obstacles you anticipate the TRT presenting?
The sheer distance is going to be the most challenging aspect. It is going to be vital that I fuel and hydrate properly. For a run this long, not eating or drinking enough will really catch up with you. There are a few 20- to 30-mile sections that I will need to run without support. Those will be tougher as I will have to carry more.
Lack of sleep will also be a challenge. It often means hallucinations and more intense fatigue in the legs. I will try to make it the entire way without sleep.
Another challenge for me is my fear of mountain lions. It is incredibly unlikely that a person would actually be attacked by one, but I have some lingering trauma from seeing two mountain lions while running the Wonderland Trail solo.
I was about 4 miles from a campground when I saw the first one. It was around midnight and I had no choice but to continue up the mountain and hope that I wouldn’t be stalked by the mountain lion. I’ve never felt so vulnerable.
Ultrarunning doesn’t sound fun to the average person. What do you get out of long-distance running?
Yes, it can be very painful, but pain is temporary. In the beginning of a run, there is endless possibility. As the adventure proceeds and my body begins to respond to the environment and the immense strains put on it by the heat, cold, exertion, lack of food and water combined with the mental stress of competing, a magical thing begins to happen. It’s a shift. These physical experiences and stresses begin to wear away a layer, then another layer. I become raw in emotion and experience. The world looks new and even the little things are experienced as great joys or devastating lows. Life is simple and the goal is survival. My legs begin to grow out of the trail, my arms swinging in the clouds. Taking in food makes me stronger. I can feel the food fueling my body, the surge of energy. The taste of water to my thirsty body is joyous. The external world begins to mirror my internal world.
What was the most memorable moment you have experienced while running?
Sunrise on Mount Rainier after running all day and then all night on the Wonderland Trail. I was about 75 miles into the 93-mile route. I had been running for almost 24 hours and it felt like I would never finish. The sunrise painted the mountain all colors, framed by a cloudless sky. There were elk singing in the meadows below me. If you’ve never heard them, they sound like a combination of whispering, whistling and alien ship noises. It is one of the strangest sounds I have ever heard. The night shadows were being brushed away by a red glowing sunset and I could see Mount Rainier in its full glory. The side of Rainier that is on postcards. The beauty was overwhelming and yet, I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of run I sill had left. I sat down, put my head in my hands and sobbed under the sunrise and the most incredible view of Mount Rainier I may ever experience. My despair was as real as the beauty of the surroundings. Still, my only choice was to continue on.
How can we follow your adventures, including your TRT attempt?
You can visit my website at www.WildDefined.com. I also have an athlete page on facebook.
“Just 3 years ago I never could have dreamed that I would run 100 miles, let alone attempt a 165-mile route.”
Candice Burt, ultrarunner