The Reno Tahoe Odyssey: There’s no place like home
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Nothing could have prepared me for racing up the Kingsbury Grade in the middle of the night, headlamp strapped to my forehead, a safety vest on my torso and a clumsy red flashing light that kept bouncing right off me.
The only sounds were that of the occasional passing support car, the stream to my right, the quick steps of another runner about to pass and the sound of my own heavy breathing. It was quiet. It was lonely.
Oh, and it hurt. Really bad.
I started my journey from the parking lot of Raley’s near Stateline around 1:30 a.m., following a fitful 30 minute nap cramped in the driver’s seat of my minivan listening to a chorus of snores from my teammates.
It was the second of three legs I would run for the 2010 Reno Tahoe-Odyssey, a 176-mile relay from Reno, through Truckee, to North Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, Carson Valley, Virginia City and Reno again.
We were Team DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), a 12-member group comprised of alums from California State University, Chico, a firefighter, the city manager of Chico, a travel agent, a computer wiz, a college math instructor, a collegiate runner, several masters runners, a copywriting pro and a journalist (that would be me).
My total mileage was 15 miles – a 3.8 gradual uphill through Truckee and toward Squaw Valley; 4.5 gut-busting miles up Kingsbury Grade and 7.5 mostly flat miles through South Reno. My mileage was barely above a half marathon, but that last leg felt like the death march I perform through the final miles of a marathon.
I joined the team before the 2009 event through a chance e-mail from a running club announcing that DNR was down a few runners. To sweeten the deal, I offered to let the team use my minivan.
So for the second year I was the driver of Van 2. Team captain Greg Fischer was at my side, earning me the nickname of Vicki Stubing, the captain’s daughter from “The Love Boat.”
We were slower than last year, partially because it was the first year a female team member (me) ran Kingsbury Grade, adding about one minute to each mile up. But it was more fun this year, at least I thought so. I was able to relax, knowing what to expect. I knew when to chill and nap because the night and miles would be long. I stretched, took Advil and was careful to eat foods that wouldn’t disagree with running at 1:30 a.m.
Whatever the source of my good spirits, I was downright euphoric by the time my third and final leg came around. I started to run, turned up the volume on my headphones (only allowed during day running) and started to cry. I was in awe of it all. What a life – to be able to spend 24 hours with a group of great people, laugh, run, marvel at the stars and then run home again, knowing my husband and kids were at the finish line.
As I said when I finally hugged my 7-year-old daughter, “Life is good.” She replied, “I know Mom, you have a mug that says that.”
Other favorite moments:
– Running past the casinos at Stateline deep into the night and passing a young guy in a hoodie who yelled, “The pain is all in your head!” A few paces later by Harrah’s Tahoe, a group of young revelers slurred, “Are you in the race? You’re winning. She’s winning. She’s a winner!”
– Shopping at the Super Walmart in South Carson City during a transition so I could get the Thomas the Tank Engine I promised my 3-year-old so he would stop crying when I was leaving for the race (I normally don’t resort to bribery). I was so tired I kept dropping my credit card at the cash register.
– A delicious shower at the campground in Virginia City. A proper shower head was missing so the spray was like a fire hose and perked me right up. Add that to a tasty nap and a cup of coffee from the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City, and I was good to go.
– Getting a text from my husband around 11 a.m. that said, “Are you done yet?” I was halfway through my 7.5 mile leg when I got the text; I tried to text and run, managing a “njo.” I knew he would figure out what I meant.
I turned a corner and my heart leapt into my throat. There were my little ones. I stopped for hugs and kisses, then they drove up a little and cheered for me at every block. It was awesome.
As I approached my final transition, I saw my family and it gave me the strength to dig deep and kick it in. My 3-year-old son ran off the curb toward me, so I scooped him up and kept running. The other competitors cheered and my son smiled, waved and exclaimed, “I won!”
Overall, our team was 18 out of 153 finishing teams, 5th out of 75 mixed team division. I can’t wait until next year.