In a sport as physically and mentally demanding as ultrarunning, record-breaking heat is no one’s friend.
The largest field in the 13-year history of the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs faced just that this past weekend, as the mercury soared into the low 90s at the hottest points, while the typical afternoon wind that cools Lake Tahoe and its surrounding peaks was nonexistent.
“We’ve had a couple of hot years, but it definitely was record-breaking,” Race Director George Ruiz said. “I don’t know if it was 90 (degrees) up high, but it felt like it to the runners. It was just hot with no breeze. Normally we get that signature breeze here, but we just didn’t get it.
“It just wiped everyone out during the day. The 100-milers actually managed it fairly well, but after the 50-mile aid station, they just seemed like they were dropping left and right.”
The heat did not seem to slow 39-year-old Bob Shebest of Santa Rosa, Calif.
Despite a low 59 percent finish rate in the 100-mile race — only 118 of the 200 starters reached the finish line within the 35-hour cutoff — Shebest posted the second-fastest time on record, in 18 hours, 3 minutes, 55 seconds. The course record is 17:47:09, set by Thomas Crawford in 2010. The average finish rate is between 66 and 70 percent, Ruiz said.
“He ran a very, very smart race,” Ruiz said of Shebest, who gradually picked off frontrunners after sitting in fourth place at mile 30, and second place at the halfway point. “He was keeping it in check. The two guys that were out in front early, Josh Brimhall (from Henderson) and Chikara Omine (from San Francisco), they’re real tracksters and were below course record pace, but they just blew up.”
Michael Stadnisky, 30, of Ashland, Ore., finished runner-up with a time of 20:18:50, Eric Toschi, 44, of Carmichael was third in 21:07:11 and Peter Broomhall, 34, of Truckee was fourth in 21:32:24 in his first-ever 100-mile race. Brimhall dropped at mile 80. Omine managed a 13th-place finish in 23:29:43.
On the women’s side, 31-year-old Emily Judd of Whitefish, Mont., claimed the victory while finishing ninth overall in 23:19:29 — posting the sixth-fastest women’s time on record (Nikki Kimball owns the course record, at 20:18:00). Ruiz called Judd a “very seasoned ultrarunner.” She won the Wasatch 100 in Utah last year as well as the Bighorn 100 in Wyoming in 2011.
“So it’s no surprise that she did well here,” Ruiz said.
Fresh off her finish in the Western States Endurance Run last month — also a scorcher weather-wise — Amber Monforte, 35, of South Lake Tahoe placed second in the women’s field and 14th overall in 24:04:10. Former champion Roxanne Woodhouse of Weaverville, Calif., was the third woman (18th overall) in 25:24:33.
All three races started and ended at Spooner Lake State Park.
In the 50-mile run, 29-year-old Mark Austin of Boise, Idaho, outdistanced the large field, posting a winning time of 8:38:29.
Austin was trailed by Brian Engleton, 33, of San Luis Obispo, who was second in 8:57:42, and Petra McDowell, 41, of Los Alamos, N.M., who was the first woman and third overall in 9:01:43. McDowell’s time was the second-fastest ever (Devon Yanko holds the women’s record, at 8:39:00; Thomas Reiss has the men’s record, at 7:52:00).
Truckee’s James Johnson, 25, finished fourth with a time of 9:11:54.
Defending 50-kilometer champ Rachel Barth of Incline Village finished runner-up in the 50-mile women’s field and fifth overall in a time of 9:26:52. Ryan Weibel of South Lake Tahoe, was sixth overall in 9:32:40, and Jamie Adams of Kings Beach finished 13th in 10:20:13.
A total of 146 runners completed the 50-miler while 32 dropped.
Unfortunately for Incline Village’s Ross McMahan and Berkeley’s Christian Fitting, Jon Olson entered the 50-kilometer run again.
The experienced ultrarunner from Modesto, winner of several 100-milers over the years, defended his 50K title with a time of 4:55:09. Fitting settled for second, in 5:15:37, while McMahan, who was runner-up to Olson last year, was third in 5:17:45.
Truckee’s Annie Rutledge, meanwhile, captured victory in the women’s race and placed eighth overall. The 33-year-old posted a time of 5:57:05 to take the win ahead of Jennifer Benna of Reno, who finished one spot back in 6:09:36.
Elisheva Verdi of Auburn, Calif., placed third in the women’s field and 14th overall in 6:51:15.
Only eight runners dropped out of 148 starters.