South Tahoe’s Weibel sets fastest known time on Tahoe Rim Trail
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — As Amber Weibel laces her running shoes, a smile spreads across her face.
One of the best endurance runners in the Tahoe area, she looks over at her two 4-year-olds and wonders if they’re thinking, “Why does mommy keep disappearing into the woods?”
Nearly a decade ago, before starting a family, Weibel set the supported fastest known time for a woman on the Tahoe Rim Trail, finishing the nearly 173-mile loop in 49 hours, 17 minutes. Weibel said her watch recorded a length of 172.75 miles, which is due to new trail segments being added.
Earlier this month, Weibel set out on the trail again, this time unsupported — meaning no drop offs for supplies and no pacers. After 49 hours, 39 minutes, 03 seconds, she’d reach her husband and children near Kingsbury Grade, becoming the fastest woman to make it around the Tahoe rim Trail unsupported.
“To me unsupported is a purer form,” said Weibel. “You get dropped off at a trail head or you drive to a trailhead and you have all your gear on you. I like being in the woods by myself, so to just start at a trailhead and have your family pick you up at the end is pretty cool.”
The previous record was set by Tahoe 200 Endurance Run organizer Candice Burt, who finished with a time of 60 hours, 47 minutes, 34 seconds.
Weibel attempted to complete an unsupported loop around the lake last year but was unable to finish. In June, the 44-year-old competed in the iconic Western States Endurance Run and finished the 100 mile race is 46th place overall with a time of 22:05:01.
About three weeks later, she then decided to again attempt to complete the Tahoe Rim Trail unsupported, but after around 80 miles she was forced again to call it quits.
After just recovering from her previous attempt at circling Tahoe, the weather forecast called for cool temperatures and a chance for rain. And with that, Weibel was game to try again.
“I couldn’t pass up that weather window,” she said. “It wasn’t the ideal taper I’d normally take into a big event like this, but I couldn’t pass up the weather so I just went for it again. Not on a whim, but three days ahead I was like, ‘The weather looks great. I’ve got the days off work. Lets go.’”
Weibel set off from near Kingsbury at 6:14 a.m. Monday, Aug. 1. Since she’d have to find and filter her own water along the way, she planned on running along the drier East Shore to start off with, going counterclockwise along Tahoe.
As the sun sank behind the mountains, Weibel entered the North Tahoe area. Plodding through the darkness, she’s enchanted by the forest, lake and mountains. It’s her favorite time to run.
“I enjoy nighttime,” said Weibel. “The temps cool off. It’s you and the trail. I really, really love running at night. There’s something magical about running at night through the mountains.”
Morning brings its own energy as she makes her way around the West Shore. Instead of carrying three liters of water, weighing more than six pounds, she can carry one liter, making use of filters and tablets to purify water along the way.
That water would also be her source of calories along the way. After two failed attempts before, Weibel settled on different powders to supplement her nutrition along the way.
After running throughout the day, Weibel hit Big Meadow around nightfall on Tuesday, Aug. 2, and that’s when blisters, exhaustion, and lack of sleep finally took hold.
“It’s 15 or so miles of slogging and climbing,” said Weibel. “You’re moving slow and you haven’t slept in two days. All I wanted to do was lay down and take a nap. I just kept moving.”
Not wanting to sleep in fear of ultimately quitting, Weibel began playing tricks on herself, thinking just a little farther or once the sun comes up I’ll take a nap.
“I would lie to myself, making little goals to get through the next little bit,” she said.
Finally, after more than two days and more than 172 miles on the trails she’d catch site of her kids waiting for their mother at the finish line. Weibel would finish under her goal of 50 hours while also smashing the previous women’s unsupported record.
“It was important to get it done,” said Weibel. “To show my kids hard work does payoff.”
She said her goal is to next land a lottery ticket to run in the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run, an event she’s been trying to get into for nearly a decade.
“My kids are at an age where I’m getting out backpacking with them and hiking,” she said. “There’s a lot of big things I’d love to do, but trying to balance family life, work, and doing these adventures too, it’s hard.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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