Amber Monforte runs Tahoe Rim Trail in fastest known time
When Amber Monforte set out to run the entire Tahoe Rim Trail last month, she simply aimed to make it all the way through. The 36-year-old South Lake Tahoe resident completed her objective — and did so in record-setting fashion.
“It’s hard to take it in — I was sitting down at the water’s edge looking across the lake afterward and it’s really hard to fathom,” Monforte said. “I realize that I did it, but it’s really hard to believe it.”
Monforte finished the 165-mile loop in 49 hours, 17 minutes, the supported fastest known time for a woman on the course. She began the trek the morning of Sept. 5 at Kingsbury and ended in the same spot just more than two days later.
“That’s kind of my life — I enjoy exploring new trails, seeing things, pushing my body and seeing what I can do,” Monforte said. “It definitely for me is all about the journey and having fun while I’m out on the trails.”
Monforte said the toughest part of finishing the trail was the mental struggle. She said the last half of the trail was as much about mental strength as it was physical endurance.
“It does hurt at some point and you kind of go through peaks and valleys — you feel okay and then you feel horrible for a while,” Monforte said. “It’s pushing those boundaries of what your body is capable of, which I think is really cool.”
Monforte’s completed her favorite portion of the trail — the backcountry that includes Dick’s Pass — in the dark. As a result, she said running under a full moon on the last section of her trek was the most enjoyable part of her record-setting performance.
“We were running Spooner to Kingsbury, and the full moon was just reflecting over the lake and it was beautiful,” Monforte said.
Monforte said she didn’t start thinking about running the trail in the fastest known time until the second-to-last section, Mt. Rose to Spooner Summit. She eclipsed the previous record of 53 hours, 39 minutes set by Jenny Capel in 2013.
“We started looking at the clock and thought, ‘Alright, we might be able to make this,’” Monforte said. “Up until that point, it was just kind of keep moving, take care of myself and see where things were.”
Monforte had three people pace her along the trail — her husband Ryan Wiebel, Keevin Blue and Sienna Smith. Wiebel and Blue were with Monforte from start to finish, trading off running sections along the way.
“One would run a section while the other drove to the next section — then they would set up and switch,” Monforte said. “They were exhausted by the end.”
A nurse at Barton, Monforte first discovered the Tahoe Rim Trail when she began running in 2003. Then living in Reno, she would drive up to Mt. Rose to explore the trail.
“It’s just such and easily accessible trail here for those of us who live at the lake — it’s amazing what we have at our fingertips,” Monforte said.
Monforte’s first attempt at completing the trail came in June, when she began in Tahoe City and ran clockwise. She made it 80 miles before stomach issues caught up with her — after stopping, she still had to hike six miles out from the trail to her car.
“I knew what the fastest time was, but first and foremost my goal was just to finish since I couldn’t complete it last time,” Monforte said. “I just wanted to finish this time.”
Monforte took lessons from her first try at the trail and applied them to her second attempt. The most significant thing she learned was the planning involved — including the logistics involved in organizing crew, safety and food throughout the trail.
Three weeks after completing the Tahoe Rim Trail, Monforte ran at The Bear 100 in Logan, Utah on Sept. 26. Monforte completed the course in 26:14:35 to finish as the fourth fastest female and 31st overall.