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Adam Jensen: Notes from the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey

Team R We There Yet? Looking fresh prior to the start of the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Friday morning.
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It’s surprising how well rested one can feel waking up in a parking lot in Virginia City, the sun threatening to overheat your sleeping bag, the thump of electronic dance music banging at far too early of an hour and the cheers of enthusiastic runners reverberating off vestiges of the Wild West. I only logged a couple of hours of sleep Saturday due to my participation in the 11th annual Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, but, man, that brief rapid eye movement outside of the Bucket of Blood was downright restorative. Just prior to cozying up in my little corner of asphalt, I was running my second leg of the race, a surprisingly pleasant, if not bleary-eyed, 6.2-mile run from Genoa to Jacks Valley — around 3 a.m. My exhaustion, no doubt, added to the quality of sleep.

The race, known as the RTO, includes more than 200 teams of 12 running 36 relay-style legs on a 178-mile loop from Reno to Truckee to Tahoe City to South Lake Tahoe to Genoa to Carson City and Virginia City before ending up back in Reno. I received a last-minute invite and figured it would be good training for my first half marathon in a couple weeks. I soon found myself in a van full of Nevadans, unsure of what to expect, being familiar with the race only from coming home late a few years ago and wondering why so many people were running at such an odd hour.

Fast forward to Saturday evening and I still don’t really consider myself a runner, but I am the RTO’s newest fan.

Catching brief moments of shut-eye in unusual places; ie, a parking lot and the lawn outside of Raley’s near Stateline; is all part of the challenge, and unusual charm, of the race. I’m sure there are as many stories from the race as there are participants, but here are some of the highlights from my first RTO:

— Not being able to stifle my laughter as a teammate recounted an unexpected meal — a moth — accidentally consumed during one of the nighttime legs near Emerald Bay

— Running from Squaw Valley to Tahoe City along the Truckee River. If you’re so inclined, I highly recommend experiencing this beautiful stretch of the Sierra

— Meeting new friends and perpetually laughing during the abundant downtime and anticipation that are as much a part of the RTO as the running

— The non-stop encouragement from those teammates and new friends

— Taking a brief moment on a mostly empty Jacks Valley Road to admire a silhouetted Carson Range under a nearly full moon

— Admiring, and silently cursing, the impossibly fast runners who were putting my 9:45 minutes/mile to shame outside of Genoa

— Having a dedicated support team, happy to spray me down with cold water every half mile or so, when temperatures in Reno reached 90 degrees during my third and final leg Saturday

— Getting the same treatment from other teams along leg 35

— Cresting a hill and getting one of the better views of Reno I’ve ever had, in part because I knew it was all downhill from there

— Knowing the finish was near and smoking two miserable-looking runners. Thirty seconds of bluster made the previous hour of sun-cooked running even more satisfying. In the words of the immortal Clark Griswold, “Burn some dust here. Eat my rubber.”

— Absolutely crushing a T’s Mesquite Rotisserie burrito on the drive back to South Lake Tahoe

— Feeling human again after a post-race shower

— The pride of having just about every person I’ve told about the race look at me like I was crazy

While I never would have believed I would have actually enjoyed something like the RTO before, I’m already considering round two in 2016. It’s a special race and certainly has a place among the region’s premier athletic events.

Adam Jensen is the editor of Lake Tahoe Action. He can be reached at ajensen@tahoedailytribune.com.


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