Preparing to Run the Tahoe 200 Endurance Race

How I got ready to take on the first 200 mile mountain race in the U.S.
April 9, 2014

I had the date marked on my calendar and I was ready to sign up the moment that I could. They said there would be 200 spots available and it was basically going to be first-come, first-served.

Two weeks before, they announced that they limited the number of entries to 75. Mentally I had already committed that I was going to do this race: I’d started my training, so I was really worried as to how I would handle not getting in. When they did the lottery, they were announcing entrants on Twitter about six at a time, every two minutes. I’m watching and waiting and waiting and waiting, and they finally tweeted my name sixty seventh out of 75. I was in.

I’ve been running since 2002, but this is by far the biggest challenge to date. Being an obsessive-compulsive type, my first ever run of two miles soon turned into four, which turned into 10 and so on and so on, and I just continued to find that I enjoyed seeing what was possible. Could I run 10 miles? Could I run 20? Could I complete a marathon? Could I run 50k?

I’ve been running 100-mile endurance races now for the last five or six years, and when I heard about the Tahoe 200 it had a lot of things that were very appealing to me. Lake Tahoe is stunningly beautiful, for a start, and I’ve never been. More importantly, the Lake Tahoe ultramarathon is an inaugural race: it’s the first time and it’s the first continuous 200-mile race in the United States, one gigantic loop mountain race around Lake Tahoe.

39,800 feet of climbing (12,131 meters)

39,800 feet of climbing (12,131 meters)

“How would this be possible? How would I do this?” It grabbed hold of me in the same way my first marathon did. That excitement of trying to figure out how I’m going to do that really grabbed me for the first time in years, and I became obsessed with it.

I’ve discovered, like many others, that completing a 100 mile run is remarkably rewarding. Sometimes there’s a little disappointment in the fact that it’s over. You train for nine solid months and when you’re done with something like that you feel a little bit of “Now what’s next?” The first and (to date) only 100-miler that I won was an incredibly close race. Afterwards, I went into the woods where nobody was and I just cried: there was this huge emotional release where I’d worked so hard for something, and to finally complete it was incredible.

Lake Tahoe Inside post

What goes into training for a 200 mile endurance race?

But now it’s on with the 200 mile Tahoe 200 endurance race.  I’ve never run more than 100 miles before, so in order to prepare for a 200 mile run, my training is changing a little. Right now I’m just starting to step up. Before, my mileage was down to 45-50 miles a week, now I’m building it back up. I take very few rest days, maybe one every two or three weeks. I’ve been increasing my long runs on the weekends, and getting up to the White Mountains much earlier than I would normally so I can focus on building up the strength needed for a mountain race. I’m going to learn to hike faster and build that leg strength doing steeper, more elevation runs than just the regular runs on the roads that I normally do.

Psyching myself up for the longest continuous trail-running race in the US

A couple of things worry me about the race. Being alone for a very, very long stretch of time in vast wilderness is a little frightening. With most of the 100-mile races I do, there are times when you’re alone and it’s nice, but you know within 10 or 12 miles, you’re going to see people and not necessarily feel alone.

Lake Tahoe wilderness

I have a feeling that in this challenge, with only 75 people over 200 miles and vastly different physical and mental abilities, I’m going to spend much of that time on my own and there’s a lot of wildlife around Lake Tahoe that, frankly, scares me. I’m not used to the wildlife on the West Coast: creatures like mountain lions are out there. That scares me a lot.

My aim for the race when September comes? I think just to finish at this point. I find that when I focus on just trying to enjoy myself, keep moving, minimize the things that could cause me to drop out and focus on doing what I have to do to finish, then I usually find I’m strong enough to place fairly well. But I’m back to the same sort of mentality I had when I did my first 100-mile race, there’s an A goal, a B goal and a C goal. I haven’t even thought about my A and B goals just yet. First, I have to figure out how I’m going to prepare my body and, more importantly, my mental ability to stay out there for three days. It’s going to be difficult.

All images from  by artists Somchaij & Christian de Araujo

  • John Sharp

    50 miles a day! Easy money! :)


Nathan Sanel

Ultra Marathons, Trail Running, Cycling
Favorite Gear
Bare Access II
Social Media
Sign Up