Mark Tanaka - Finally a Mountain Runner

Friday, April 30, 2010

Finally a Mountain Runner

By Mark Tanaka


Ever since getting on the La Sportiva Mountain Running Team two years ago, I've at times felt a little undeserving and even out of place.  Most of the runs and races I do are not on mountains, but tall hills.  Plus, I had an altitude problem.

The only really long (= over 50 mile) race completely at high elevation I'd done was the inaugural Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run in 2006.  Although the high point is only 9,000 feet-- nothing compared to those Rocky Mountain elevations lots of my teammates run at (without any apparent problem)-- I got really altitude sick, and maybe regular-sick on top of that.  It took me 22 hours to "run" (crawl?) the second 50 mile loop.   I finished in 34:24:54 , and was the last to cross the finish line before the 35 hour cutoff-- or as the race directors put it, I finished "DFL."  What sort of "mountain runner" was I?  I opted for the 50-mile race the two years I went back.

I finally had the nerve to sign up for the real deal this year-- just in time for a course revision adding more elevation change.

Heading out of the new Diamond Peak Aid Station, mile 30, for a 1800(!)-foot ascent in less than 2 miles, photos by Debbie Swenson

So, this time I was able not only to avert to disaster, but surpassed my highest expectations.  I finished the 2nd 50 mile loop in 13 hours, for a cumulative time of 23:39:49, and earned the sub-24 hour gold plated silver buckle.

Gotta stick in my buddy Joe Swenson coming through Spooner Lake at the 50 mile halfway point. For this race I carpooled and shared the hotel room with him and his wife.

Joe didn't quite make it under 24 hours, but came in first for the 50-59 age division, 9th overall, with a much better age-graded performance than mine.  By the way, he wore his Wildcats, and I wore my Raptors.  Great shoes that handled the mountain terrain well-- thanks Sportiva!

Time to rest up-- have another "redemption race" in less than three weeks...

Link to my longer race report on Ultrarunning ER Doc

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