Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lake Tahoe Road Trip Report

Whenever I go on a trip, it is not to relax.  I'm always on the go and looking to see as much as I can in a limited amount of time.  This one was no exception.

Wednesday 10/5-
Flight into Reno with a layover in Denver went without a hitch.  I landed at 12:30 local time, picked up my rental car (Hyundai Sonata) and headed west on I-80 to Sacramento as planned.  It was a beautiful drive through the Sierra Nevada Mountains with a brief stop in the town of Truckee, just across the California border.  Most impressive of all was the area around Donner Lake in which the elevation reached 7,000 feet but there was a view of a clear emerald body of water several thousand feet below the road.  Sorry, no pictures there.  Northern California is heavily forested with pine trees but among the leaves that did change, I saw some nice yellows and reds.
Truckee, California

Fortunately, I arrived in Sacramento before rush hour and scored a smokin' deal on a cheap hotel right in midtown.  From there, it was a nice walking tour of the city that included the business and commercial district, the Capitol mall and some pretty nice residential areas.  Dinner was at a random bar and grill in Old Town by the river where I chatted a bit with a SF Giants fan who got a little tipsy.  Overall impression: Aesthetically pleasing with lots of thick oak tress lining the streets and occasional rows of palms.  It has a nice climate too (perfect sunny and 75 that day) but I could never live there because the culture is radically different from home (no offense).

CA State Capitol in Sacramento

Thursday 10/6-
Left Sacramento and hit some rush hour traffic but it was a smooth and beautiful ride on US-50 into Tahoe.  It's 72 miles around the lake that straddles the border of California and Nevada.  I went north on the Nevada side so I could check out the race course then came back around in California. Words can't describe the breath taking beauty of the crystal clear lake surrounded by mountains capped by a dusting snow.  In the movie Forrest Gump, the title character said that it was so clear that it almost looked like 2 skies one on top of the other.  That's not far off.  Pictures will never do it justice but some of my best shots are posted below.  Lunch was at a BBQ grill in which I sat on a porch right next to the beach.  I stopped twice to go hiking and captured some more stunning images.  Most of the lake is crystal blue but in some areas near the bay, there is a definite emerald tint. My only irritation was a few construction delays. I settled into my hotel just after dark which was just a half mile from the bus stop that took us to the starting line.

View from Lunch
On the race course
Hiking trail 1
Hiking trail 2

Friday 10/7 (race day).  This was by no means a goal race but I still wanted a respectable time.  However, a poor effort certainly would not ruin the trip.  If I found myself struggling, I would ease up and take in the scenery.  The course was deceptively difficult.  Though it was net downhill, virtually all of the decline came in the first half (which also contained 2 nasty uphills) and the final 2 miles were all UPHILL, which came after having run predominantly downhill for an hour.  That trashes your quads.  If you've ever run at altitude, you know how much harder those climbs are versus at sea level.  As for the elevation itself, the higher it is, the greater the incremental effect.  Asheville, NC (2000 ft) won't even be noticeable.  In Denver (5200), you'll feel it but it's manageable.  This one began at 7100 feet then dropped as low as 6300 before climbing back another 150 feet or so at the end.   I was gasping for air almost immediately.

Pre-race selfie

Here are the early splits:
7:13- sharply downhill but WAY too fast.
7:29- better
8:40- uphill
7:46- back down and hope to hold it here.
7:42- fine
9:16- another nasty climb
7:58- back down, almost to the surface.
  From here, it became a gently rolling course with more gentle ups and downs.  My legs were trashed from going downhill and I could still feel the altitude.  From this point, I was done for.  I took periodic walk breaks to guard against a complete melt down and kept the pace around 9:20-9:30 until Mile 12. I then trudged my way through the last 2 miles uphill to finish in a time of 1:56:xx pretty much spent.

Finisher's medal

Not pleased with that but not overly upset either.  I could have done better with more conservative pacing early and a more even effort late but I lived to fight another day. The race was all in Nevada so I've checked off state #28 and this is by FAR the most scenic course I've done. This did NOT put a damper on the trip overall.  My honest assessment of my fitness is that even at sea level on a flat course, I'm not much better than 1:45. I am burdened by toxins similar to anti-freeze, which most definitely damages organs. Until I get my health all squared away, I don't see much improvement in the near future but expect my next lab test will reveal the smoking gun.

Headed back to Reno with stops in Carson City and Virginia City.  Once you get outside of Tahoe, Nevada has an entirely different feel than California.  It's a lot more barren with very few trees and shrubbery but strikingly beautiful in its own right especially around sunset.  I took about an hour to walk through the commercial and Capitol area in Carson City before a steep mountain up to Virginia City.  I wish I had more time there but all I could do was drive through.  It's a cool town with one major street set up to look like it did back in the Old West. Back to the Future fans may remember that's where Seamus McFly's brother was killed in a saloon.  LOL.  From there, I was treated to many stunning views on a winding mountain road into Reno.

NV State Capitol in Carson City
Scenic view outside of Virginia City, Nevada

In Reno, I took another walking tour of downtown through the business and entertainment district.  I did not mind being short on time here. I found a nice river walk but the main attraction there is the casinos.  I don't gamble and really don't understand the attraction.  I did walk inside one of them but only for a cheap dinner, which was nothing special.  A worker offered me a cocktail but I had to turn it down because I needed to get back to the hotel quickly so I could steal a few hours of sleep.  I had to get up super early for my return flight but again, it went without a hitch.

Up next:
I'm staying local for the rest of the year.  I may run NYC next Spring but if not, it will be something in the Northeast. or mid-Atlantic.

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