After being burned out by the devastating Waterfall Fire last year, a near capacity field of runners is expected to be on hand Saturday for the return of the Tahoe Rim Trail 50K/50-Mile Endurance Runs.
More than 300 runners representing 28 states and one Canadian province have already registered for the fourth running of the event, which starts and finishes at Spooner Lake Park. The field is expected to be near capacity for the 6 a.m. start, according to co-race director Kevin Bigley.
Presented by the Sagebrush Stompers and Tahoe Mountain Milers - and billed as "A Glimpse of Heaven, a Taste of Hell" - the event features a course that is highly challenging, much of it on single track trails, and climbs to a lung-burning altitude of 9,000 feet. Some of the climbs along the 50-kilometer (31.6 miles) and 50-mile courses are quite steep. Hot weather is expected.
So, why do they do it?
"I think it's a challenging course, but very scenic," said Bigley, who directs the event along with Dave Cotter. "These are some of the best trails in the country, if not the world. I mean, when you get up there, you can see Marlette Lake, you can see Lake Tahoe, you can see everything."
There will be some extremes because summer heat could be a factor - "It's going to be important to stay hydrated," Bigley warned - and at the same time, runners will also have at least two snow fields to contend with at the upper elevations.
The races were canceled last year due for safety reasons due to the Waterfall Fire, but they now return and double as the Road Runners Club of America national 50K and 50-mile national championships. Bigley expects to see some good races, too.
"I think we're going to have some good races, especially with the women in the 50-mile and 50K," he said.
Two previous winners in the women's divisions are due to return: Kitty Marcroft, a landscape artist from Hailey, Idaho, the women's 50-mile winner in 2003; and Reno's Jenny Capel, the women's 50K winner in 2002. Capel was the fourth American woman to finish at the 2003 IAU World Cup 100K race in Taiwan.
Mary Coordt of Elk Grove, Calif., is another past winner who might be back. Coordt, a two-time U.S. Olympic Trials Women's Marathon Trials qualifier, was the women's 50K winner in 2001 with a course record time of 5 hours, 22 minutes and 3 seconds that still stands. She won the Napa Valley Marathon in 2:51:50 on March 6.
"Mary Coordt hasn't registered yet, but she may be here to run," Bigley said.
To show this event seems to have no age limits, the entries include 81 years young Po Adams of Sacramento, who has run in each of the previous Tahoe Rim Trail 50K races and in 2001 summited 19,400-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro. Another entrant is Gard Leighton, 71, of Napa, Calif., who set an age group record in the Ohlone Wilderness 50K Trail Run from Fremont to Livermore on May 22.
Among the local entries are Jeffrey Mark of Gardnerville along with Carson City's Sue Moulden, John Murk and Steve Roark in the 50K. Carson City's George Ruiz is entered in the 50-mile race.
The event's beneficiaries are the Nevada State Park Back-Country Mountain Bike Safety Patrol - whose members provide medical assistance during the races - and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association's trail maintenance program.
Obviously, a considerable amount of work goes on behind the scenes to put on these races. For example, the aide station personnel and supplies drive up the mountain on Friday and camp overnight in order to have everything set up for the race.
"We have between 75 and 80 volunteers who help out and without them, we wouldn't be able to do this," Bigley said. "They put in a lot of work. They go up the night before and some of them are up there all day. The cutoff at Hobart Road is 5 in the afternoon and Snow Valley Peak is 6, then they load everything up and bring it all back down after the runners finish, so it does turn into a long day."
Yet there are rewards for the volunteers and race organizers, too.
"It is a lot of work, but it really pays off when see a runner come across the finish and you get a lot of positive feedback when they say they enjoyed the experience," Bigley said.
n Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220 or call 881-1220.
WHAT: Tahoe Rim Trail 50K/50-Mile Endurance Runs
WHERE: Spooner Lake State Park
WHEN: Saturday, 6 a.m. (an early start is also offered at 5)
RECORDS: 50-mile - men: David Melkonian 8:06:50 (2001); women: Deborah Askew 9:28:18 (2002). 50K - men: John Hancock 4:54:00 (2001); Mary Coordt 5:22:03 (2001).