Lost in the SierraA race review of the Lost Sierra Endurance Run 50k and my stay at the Chalet View Lodge by Ben Tedore, guest blogger.
I heard about a running race that was being organized high in the Sierra sometime in the fall. The distance was going to be 50 kilometers or 31 miles. This distance falls into the category of racing called “ultra running”. Ultra running is generally any distance longer than a marathon or 26 miles. What really caught my attention was the location of this race. It was at the Lakes Basin Recreation Area near the Sierra Buttes. It starts in Graeagle, climbs up to the Lakes Basin Recreation area and then drops back down into Graeagle for the finish. After doing a little research and looking at photos of the race location and maps I was immediately amped to run it. The only problem was that I had only ran this distance of a race one other time and it didn’t go so hot.
Before actually committing to running this race and register I knew I would need to figure out the logistics first. Bringing along a 1 year old for the weekend makes these logistics much more important than they once were. Gone are the days of arriving in the middle of the night, throwing out a tent in darkness or sleeping in the car. We were going to need a little comfort to make for everyone happy. Luckily for us I knew the owner at the Chalet View Lodge and took him up on his previous offer to stay at the lodge. When we got the confirmation I have to admit I was starting to be much more excited about our weekend getaway to a luxury resort in the mountains that I was about suffering for many hours in a race with the word “Lost” in its title and where the elevation profile for the race looked similar to a several beats of an ekg heart reading . Except for our stay at Chalet View I was begining to think I’d lost my mind.
Arriving in Graeagle
I took half the day off on the Friday before the race. The family and I traveled north from Reno to our destination the Chalet View Lodge which was tucked away in the forest somewhere between Portola and Graeagle along highway 70. I had never been to the lodge before and did not really know what to expect. I was thinking it would be fairly similar to many hotels in the Sierra but with maybe a rustic feel. I was very surprised at the elegance and grandeur of this mountain getaway. Everything seemed and felt brand new. Our room was in the Terrace Suites and it was amazing. I’m not going to go into great detail because you can check the Terra Suite page on this website for more information but I will say that it was far more elegant and beautiful than any suite I have stayed in before.
So after getting our room, unpacking our stuff we headed over to the race registration. I got my number, timing chip, etc. We then proceeded back to our room for dinner. We REALLY wanted to check out he pizza oven on the outdoor tuscan style patio but as many distance runners and endurance athletes know it is best to stick with a food you know your body is used to. Sadly I had microwaved pasta with chicken and vegetables. I drank a ton of water so I would be fully hydrated for the race tomorrow and we went to bed.
On race day I woke up a couple hours before the start. I can’t remember what time but it was very early. I ate breakfast and headed out the door. Since we didn’t want to wake our sleeping one year old several hours earlier than she would be used to waking I brought my bike. It may sound a little crazy but I hopped on my bike at about 6am and pedaled off to the starting line in Graeagle. It was extremely dark and cold as I pedaled along highway 70 but it was also very relaxing. The air was still, the stars were bright above the pine trees and it was very very quiet.
I arrived at the starting line with enough time to make sure I had my water, food, gloves, etc. I was all set.
The race started and the Mill Pond in Graeagle and we immediately started heading up the mountain toward the first summt. At the start of the climb (mile 2) I felt great. A couple miles in I came across a friend Eliot Drake who volunteered his time and expertise to take some great action photos along the trail. Check out his website here to get a glimpse of his amazing work.
As I reached the summit I realized I was probably going too fast. I ran up alongside the eventual winner, whom I would not see again for the rest of the race. After hitting the summit in 3rd or 4th place the trail began to wind down toward lakes basin. The trail was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to get back to this area to explore the rugged terrain. I thought originally I would be able to absorb much of the surroundings during this race but since the trail was so technical and rocky I found very little time to even glance at all the beautiful mountain lakes and peaks I was passing. I new I was in a special area because of the variety of terrain we were passing through.
By mile 18 I was starting to feel a little more lethargic and I was beginning to feel as if I was maybe not drinking enough water. I chose to only carry one water bottle with me and even though there are aid stations 5-6 miles apart I was emptying my bottle rapidly in between each station. All of the volunteers did an amazing job and were very supportive. I tried to thank them all as I passed because I knew they were volunteering their time and it was the least I could do, plus I was quite excited and relieved when one appeared.
The climb to the final summit of Mt. Elwell is what did me in. I thought my body would have responded better but being a novice and not drinking enough water I began to “bonk”. Everytime my heart-rate went up I felt sick. It was now getting pretty warm outside. I was sweating a lot at this point and I had no water. During the final push to the top of Mt. Elwell I got passed by several more experienced runners. We were all walking/hiking at this steep section but I was stopping in shady spots to “recover” momentarily before proceeding. I won’t lie. It hurt. I was tired and my idea of what is “suffering” was pushed to a new level.
As I ran through the final aid station at about mile 27 I downed a large amount of water/electrolytes, dumped some over my head then topped my water bottle off for the final push to the finish line. During this last section I started to get my legs back. I was now hydrated somewhat so I began to catch a couple of the runners that passed me earlier. Despite this slight bit stamina coming back I was still paying the price for how bad I had suffered up Mt. Elwell. My muscles were twitching and trying to cramp. I looked at my GPS and I was almost to mile 32. “Almost there..” I thought to myself. I tried to keep what seemed like a fast pace as to not get caught by anyone behind me but the finish line seemed to take forever to arrive. As I rounded the final corner I could hear people cheering. I went through the finish line feeling pretty bad but was relieved to be done. I got 8th place overall and 2nd in my age group (30-39). I felt like I had learned alot from this race and despite being completely exhausted, I was already thinking about what I will do different next time.
One of the best parts of endurance racing is the taper up til race day, but the very best part is the recovery following. All the nervousness leading up to the race and the months of training are now behind you which leaves you worry free. The race organizers were giving away more prizes and awards than any race I had ever been in. I got medal, a hat, a t-shirt, a bottle of wine and a free beer, which I promptly drank without hesitation.
When I returned to the Chalet View Lodge this is where the real recovering began. I showered, ate some food, walked around the gorgeous golf course and then went back to our room. I put my feet up and spent the rest of the day celebrating my birthday with the family.
If this race happens again next year, which I really hope it does, I will definitely be there. Except for bringing more water and switching up my training a bit more I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Our stay at the luxury resort was the perfect staging and recovering location for this race. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and can not wait to come back.
Check out my photos below.