Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Play in snow

I punched out my last pre-taper training runs before the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, the details of which are mostly lost to me now. I remember the battery acid burn of the stinging nettle and the way a thick film of sweat wrapped around my skin like a dirt-streaked wetsuit. Thirteen miles on Saturday left my body as weak and tired as any 50K I've ever run. It hit 98 degrees during our Mission Peak run on Sunday. I let the heat wrap around me like a death blanket and accepted its debilitating embrace. Wow, am I slow and useless in hot weather. It's as though somewhere around 88 degrees, a switch flips and I become lazy, weak and amazingly out of shape. Training in the heat, I can almost feel the fitness draining from my body as I fantasize about treadmills and air conditioning. I really can only laugh at myself because it's just a new level of pathetic, but that doesn't change how bad I feel in the midst of it all.

Sometime between Beat being on call through Sunday, and my parents arriving for a visit on Tuesday, we found a small window of escape. We loaded up the Subaru and headed for the hills of Truckee, California, where friends of ours were staying in a cabin on the shoreline of Donner Lake. We drove through Sacramento, where the temperature had hit 107 degrees, and continued into the foothills of the Sierras, a region that enjoys a decidedly more truncated version of summer.

Independence Day brought one more training "run" on the Tahoe Rim Trail. We planned a route of 20-22 miles with our friends Harry and Martina. However, there wasn't anywhere to go nearby that wasn't mostly buried in snow above 8,000 feet. No matter. We acquired some trekking poles, ran the trail where we could, and charged the snowfields like overexcited Golden Retrievers when the running stopped. (OK, maybe I was the only overexcited Golden Retriever in the group.)

The views over Lake Tahoe were really not bad.

Of course, the going through long slushy snowfields was entirely too slow to travel 22 miles and still make it back in time for hamburgers, corn on the cob, blueberry pie and fireworks. We settled for a turnaround point about eight miles in. I basically coerced the group into bagging this 9,200-foot "peak" that was really just the highest bump on a very long ridge. Truthfully, I wanted to get a good look at the ridge because we had long since stopped following the proper trail, and I thought a clear view of the sweeping, snow-capped mountains would convince the others that we should spend the rest of the day ridge-running, no dinner and fireworks needed. As far as I was concerned, the training stopped as soon as we hit snow, and everything from that point forward was pure, effortless fun. The more rational members of the group managed to get a leash around my Golden-Retriever-in-snow mentality and drag me back down the mountain.

We still got 15 miles in just under five hours. It was a pretty solid effort for that distance. The July 4th gathering turned out to be a lot of fun. We spent a good part of the evening chatting with Harry's 89-year-old step-father about secular humanism and quantum physics. That guy was as strong and sharp as most anyone half his age — and it was very interesting to meet someone whose grandfather fought in the Civil War.

Today Beat and I went out for more expedition hiking in the form of finding the proper route around Mount Judah. We had only marginal success in locating our route. Make that no success, but we did summit Mount Judah three times during our search, and completed a lot of fully strenuous direct ascents on rugged slopes.

It was fun to escape from summer for half a weekend, although we did keep the best parts of summer — the bright yellows and purples of wildflowers, warm evenings, grilled dinner eaten outdoors, rich smells of sweet grass, charcoal smoke and sulphur powder, and a delightfully brisk submersion in a mountain lake. The thermometer hit 109 in Sacramento on the way home. Time to go stock up on portable snow, in the form of ice cubes for my Camelback bladder.


  1. Hi!

    Thanks for sharing those very nice pictures and landscapes.

    Have a nice day,


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Again great images. Richard from Amish stories.

  4. Yo, where did Beat buy those shorts? I think they are illegal in the states :-).

  5. I like snow as much as the next (non-Golden Retriever) person, but the late-season snow in the mountains this year is really starting to get on my nerves. Then again, 109 degrees sounds absolutely horrid.

  6. I start whining whenever it gets above 70. I can't fathom 109 right now. Wowsa.

  7. The hubby and I were eating dinner last night as your book sat on the edge of the dining room table. I was in the second to last chapter and eager to pick it back up after our meal. I grabbed a bottle of Sriracha to add some hot sauce to my burrito. As I opened the little top, red pepper sauce exploded everywhere...including on the book. Like you, the book has seen adventures in this life! I wiped it off, but the stains from the deeply pigmented red blobs remain. I think they give it character. "Be Brave, Be Strong. Signed by the author, and a bottle of giant rooster hot sauce." LOLOLOLOL!

  8. Nothing more fun doing this activity!

  9. great pictures....this late season snow is crazy. I was planning a tahoe mt bike trip for mid July and we've had to move it to mid august....
    Good luck in the Rim trail run!!


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