2024 The Tahoe 200 Ultramarathon Race Recap

The following race recap of the 2024 The Tahoe 200 mile ultramarathon was written by Hart Strength & Endurance Client Sally Wood.  The Tahoe 200 takes place in California, and circumnavigates Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail. All pictures provided by Sally (thank you!).

Race Report 2024 The Tahoe 200

  • 200 (ish) miles
  • 36,000 feet of climbing 
  • 105 hour cut-off (I finished in 101 hours, 50 minutes!) 

OMG, I did it! There were things that were much harder than I expected (the middle-of-the-night energy crashes were REAL), and things that were far easier (my legs handled the climbing like champs – no soreness during, or after, the race).

My team of crew and pacers are the BEST and I absolutely couldn’t have done it without them. I put myself in their hands entirely and they kept me moving, focused, and finally got me to the finish – with time to spare! The energy and support of the Destination Trail Volunteer team was incredible as well. So wonderful to see old friends, and make new!

I also finally got to experience several *firsts* I had never experienced in a race before: trail naps = YES! 6 minutes in the dirt can work miracles… Plus: my first puke and rally! More on that later… But let’s start on day 1… 

Day 1: Friday 

We started at Heavenly Resort, with an out and back for the first 64-ish miles. In prepping for the race, this section had me the most nervous. It would be the longest time I would go without seeing my crew during the entire race, it also has the tightest cut-offs AND the most climbing (about 12,000’ of climbing in 64 miles), AND the most snow – something I had no experience with before.

In addition, I knew from volunteering last year and running the Armstrong Aid Station (where runners stop at miles 15 and 45ish) that a LOT of runners got cut here due to the time cut off. We saw a lot of carnage last year. I was determined this wasn’t going to be me, but I was anxious nonetheless. (To make matters even more fun/complicated, I was also on my period – not my first time running an ultra in that state, but it definitely requires extra planning!)

So, off we went! I was caught in a very slow conga-line hike for the first 2.5 miles or so, which was good because it meant I didn’t start off too fast and burn out. (Getting my lungs used to the altitude was one thing that turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated – not to speak of the dust and very high pollen count).

BUT, starting so slowly increased my worry about the time cut-offs as we trekked along on the single track. Finally, the trail opened up a bit and I could jog along a little. The scenery was breathtaking. I didn’t stop to take too many photos because again I worry about the cut-offs, but WOW! The views just kept getting better and better.

Oh! The other thing that made this the most difficult section is that it’s at the highest altitude of the entire race – above 9,700’. I wasn’t sure how that would affect me – and I felt fine for the most part, except it got increasingly difficult to feel that full breath as we continued to climb. I was just constantly out of breath, and my legs felt kind of heavy.

And there was snow! About a 5 mile section with on and off snow. I pulled out my spikes and finally put them on to cross over this crazy half frozen, very steep waterfall – with deep, slippery snow. It was actually kind of scary! I was lucky in that both times I crossed over I had people with me because if you slipped and fell – it would be a long way down!

The spikes worked great – BUT! They were heavy, and squished my pinkie toes really bad. I had never used them before. My pinkies ended up getting huge blisters all around them (they don’t usually blister), which were a problem till the end.

Got to Armstrong Aid (mile 16), I think a little ahead of the time I had planned for, which was great because it took me a little longer than anticipated to get my drop bag, eat a snack, restock my pack etc… While sitting there, another runner gave me a medallion that says, “Tahoe 200, Class of 2024: BELIEVE” – and he gave one to another runner, and the awesome medic (known as) Thor as well. Each medallion said something different.

When asked what the story was, he said he often brings a little token to pass out to runners, because you never know how a small act of kindness and support will affect someone’s race… I kept that medallion in the front of my pack for the entire race, and often patted it when things got hard, or I got tired. BELIEVE. I would tell myself. BELIEVE. I wish I’d gotten his name or bib number!

Then I was off to Housewife Aid. Loved this section. Went across a cute little bridge at one point, then over this beautiful meadow with the softest, squishiest ground. It was like stepping on pillows and felt glorious on my feet! 

Arrived at Housewife (mile 32) before sunset, around the time I had planned, and had a delicious bunless burger and quesadilla. It was busy and bustling, and the volunteers were awesome – working hard to take care of everyone and make everyone food. I didn’t stay long, just enough to eat and restock my pack.

Then I was off, back to Armstrong! The sun set as I headed back. Weather was perfect – getting a little chilly, but definitely not too cold. And this is when I started to slow down. This first night has faded from my memory a bit, but I do remember the snow sections being slow, figuring out how to navigate across the slippery slopes.

I think the altitude and accumulative climbing combined to make me feel tired in a way I wasn’t anticipating as well – usually I’m completely fine on the first night, not even tired. But I definitely got tired! Then the sun came up, and I was newly determined to get back to Heavenly – where I knew I’d get to see my crew for the first time since the start, and where I’d get to sleep!

Heavenly, at last! Mile 66! I think it was around 11am… Lauren and Des were all ready for me – Lauren went immediately to work on my feet, taking a look at those blisters on my pinkies. They fed me, I changed into fresh clothes (I *think* I even brushed my teeth and wiped my body down with wipes?!) Because I came in later than the original plan, we cut the nap and the aid stop short here. I’m not sure exactly how much sleep I got here, but I think it was about 45 minutes. 

Day 2: Saturday 

Then off we were to Spooner, with Des joining me for her first round of pacing! I was so energized by having Des with me – and by my little nap! It was like hitting the re-set and starting over – a mental trick I used many times throughout the race. LOVE that re-set button. 

Des and I got to see the most gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe. Just stunning! Photos can’t even capture. This course is incredible!! We had the BEST time. I never stopped smiling.

Spooner Summit Aid (mile 84) was great! Such attentive and wonderful volunteers there – brought me the best hot food I had the whole race: gluten-free hot pizzas. I ate two! Sooooo delicious! The wonderful volunteers took care of me, so Des could take care of refilling my pack and getting her own stuff together for the next leg: into the night, and on to Village Green. 

Nighttime hit and once again I experienced a HUGE energy slump. This is very new for night-owl me! I wasn’t expecting the nights to be so hard. I was literally going cross-eyed and falling asleep hiking…And this was only night two! SO, I lay down and tried out my first dirt nap. AMAZING! I highly recommend!

This first one was only 6 minutes long and it was life-changing haha! I fell asleep instantly, and was actually dreaming when Des woke me up. It felt like hitting that wonderful re-set button.

It was really cold in the evenings, but luckily there were pockets in the forest where the air was very still, and the earth was still warm, so lying down and sleeping was actually pretty easy! I hit 100 miles on my watch on this leg (my watch was reading the course a bit long the whole time, haha) – but it was exciting to know I was roughly halfway there! 

We got to Village Green (100-ish miles) – and I knew I’d get to sleep in the truck again, yay! It was some time in the early morning, maybe 5:30am? We had planned on a 2-hour sleep, but again because we were running a bit behind we had to cut it short. I’m not sure how long I slept (I’m pretty sure my crew told me I slept longer than I did, hahaha!) but I felt fully renewed when I woke up, and ready to go! Let’s say, I slept maybe an hour? To be verified with Lauren and Des… 

Day 3: Sunday 

Then Lauren and I were off for the next section: to Brockway Summit! This section has the infamous Powerline Climb, which we were both looking forward to. It ended up being a bit scrambly at times, and I definitely stopped about every 20 paces to catch my breath – a perfect opportunity to turn around and take in the absolutely stunning view! But we made it to the top with lots of laughs and fun, and the views from up there made it absolutely worth it!

Brockway! What a boost at Brockway Aid (mile 113)! We arrived here in the early afternoon on Sunday. My sister, Gillian, arrived with Des and they brought smoothies – delicious!! Thor, the awesome medic, took care of my feet – I had some gnarly blisters blossoming all around my pinkies at that point, plus a large blister on the outsides of both of my heels.

My sister was pumped to come pace me for the next section, and her energy was infectious! I was ready to go, ready to have some fun! Des had prepped her (this was Gill’s first pacing gig), and warned her not to let me “look at the birds” too much haha – but I think I needed a breather. A few miles to simply sit in the experience and feel it, and enjoy it and feel fully present – not like I was rushing through it, trying to play catch up.

My team was doing an AMAZING job keeping me 1.5-3 hours ahead of those cut-offs – which was awesome because my biggest goal in this race was to be able to enjoy the final ten miles, and not have to “panic run”, chasing cut-offs at the end… 

BUT, even though the worry about cut-offs was a real and present worry the entire race, I think I just needed a few hours to relax a bit. So this next section was pure fun!

I did have 3 bloody noses haha – so I was covered in some fun gore. The dry high-altitude air was getting to my sinuses.

Gill and I pranced and danced through the forest, wood nymph sisters. We took in the breathtaking views, Gill kept my energy up and kept me going – we had the best conversations and the time (and miles) just flew by. I got to guide her through a couple of firsts for her: her first night trail run as the sun set and we headed into the dark (she loved it! Although she admitted to me after the race that she was FREEZING, haha! Better warm night gear is needed for next time…), and her longest mileage yet: 20 miles!! I’m SO proud of her!

We got into Tahoe City Aid (135 miles) on Sunday night, I think around 11pm – and I was SO looking forward to this stop. We ran the last few miles in with a fellow runner named Steve – a wonderfully energetic and chatty fellow from Chicago, who got us moving with focus and purpose – and kept us entertained as those last few miles into the aid station flew by. We were a little night train – I was the engine, my sister in the middle, and Steve was the caboose. We just chugged along, running at a nice pace.

I was so excited to get to Tahoe City because my hubby and boys met us there, so I got a huge boost seeing them! And my sister’s boyfriend, Geoff, met us there as well – so the energy and excitement was high! It’s also the turnaround point in the race – so everything from there on out was heading back home to Heavenly, woohoo! The mood was good, energy was high, and it was amazing to be surrounded by friends and family. I think I ate, changed clothes, and slept – but I can’t remember hahaha! Maybe this was a 35 minute sleep?

Day 4: Monday 

Then Des and I were off to Brockway once more!

I think this was one of the toughest sections for me sleepiness-wise. I was falling asleep on my feet. I think we did another trail nap – this one 10 minutes, which helped tremendously. Got to hit that re-set button!

But then I was soooo tired again. I remember all I could think about was sleep. So funny – I thought other things would be so hard. My legs felt fine with all the climbing – no pain, no sore knees, no angry IT band, zero chafing, no nausea (yet…). I had thought the sleep deprivation would be one of the easier things for me – but it was TOUGH. My eyes just kept closing and/or literally crossing out of tiredness.

But onward we pushed. Des put on some music, which perked me up quite a bit. I think at one point I told her it was time for some T Swift (which she does NOT like, hahaha!) but I told her “my soul needs it”… Then 2 songs later I told her to turn it off, hahaha! It was too mellow. I needed hype-me-up music. So she found a great playlist and that woke me up a bit.

Des was amazing at keeping me moving. Keeping me focused. If my mind started wandering too much, and/or I started slowing down too much, she’d keep me on track. I really, REALLY don’t know how people complete these events without crew/pacers. My team is amazing, and I certainly wouldn’t have made it across that finish line in time without all of them! 

Once the sun came up we woke up a bit and were moving a little better – but I still neeeeeded sleeep…

We made it into Brockway (mile 154) and my feet needed attention again; Thor was busy with another runner, so Des and Lauren set me up in a perfect spot in a quiet area, lying on a little sleeping bag pallet with my feet up on a chair. Lauren had prepped a perfect set up for me, and had everything ready. Have I mentioned how amazing my team is??! 

I drank a delicious smoothie (made by the awesome aid station captain) and maybe ate something? Then I passed out. I have a vague recollection of Thor working on my feet – but I’m pretty sure I slept through the whole process. That’s how tired I was! I could sleep through getting my feet sliced, diced, blisters drained and re-taped, hahaha! Not sure how long the sleep here was – maybe 25 minutes? But it was fantastic.

Then Des and I headed off to Village Green – feeling great from that nap, and with my feet freshly taped. We had the Powerline DESCENT to look forward to!

This proved to be both much more difficult AND much more hilarious than the climb! We made pretty good time getting to the top, and enjoyed those gorgeous views. But then there was nothing for it – we had to climb down that steep,slippery slope! It was soft, powdery dust, with few roots or rocks for purchase.

In other words – nothing to grip with, nothing to stop a full slide.

Soooo… I think I slipped and fell, full on legs in the air, flat on my back, FOUR times?! It was a hilarious, dusty, dirty mess of a time. Des was having a blast – she loved that section, and I chose to laugh and find it hilarious rather than get frustrated that I couldn’t seem to step without my feet slipping out from under me. So I slip-slid down that mountain!

At last, we were at the bottom, and only had a handful of miles to run through the gorgeous streets of a very fancy neighborhood in Tahoe before arriving at Village Green. We must’ve looked a sight! Haha! 

On our way into Village Green, before crossing a major street, we came upon another runner who seemed pretty out of it. He was solo (no pacer) and was weaving as he walked, unsure of his body in space. I was tired – but he seemed like he’d gone to another planet already. Des and I decided to slow down and stay with him until we reached the aid station (less than ½ mile away) because we were worried about him crossing the busy street, finding the aid station, etc.

We finally got in sometime after 4pm, (mile 168) and Des spoke quietly with the medic, to make sure they’d give him a check-in before he headed out into the night alone – and we found out he’s done almost a dozen of these 200s, and apparently is always in that sort of state, and is always fine! Cool! My brain hadn’t disappeared (yet) – but we still had one more day to go… 

It was here that my friend Steph and her sweet dog Tate gave me just the boost I needed. Tate climbed into the truck with me to snuggle – and there’s just nothing like the love of a pup to boost morale!

Steph jumped in to help Lauren and Des (who were, I’m sure, starting to feel the miles in their legs and the lack of sleep from so many days of crewing!) She, Lauren and Des got me fed, settled in for a quick nap, then ready to go for the next section with Lauren to Spooner Summit.

For this next section, we’d be heading into the night – and there had been severe weather warnings about a cold front, and wind, moving in that night. SO, the volunteer team at Village Green was wisely doing a mandatory gear check before runners could leave the aid station and head out onto the course. Luckily, Lauren and I were well prepared and had everything we needed. I was very grateful for the warning about the weather, because I actually switched to my heavier, warmer down coat – and I was VERY happy later that night that I was wearing that coat! 

With my red leggings, big puffer coat and all the different patterns happening – plus my wild red hair escaping its braids, Steph gleefully dubbed me the “Arctic Clown” – a title I gladly took on hahaha! I certainly looked prepared for the arctic, and couldn’t deny the clown accusations, haha!

Off to Spooner we went, chasing the sunset. We wanted to get as far as we could before stopping to add more layers or grab our headlamps. The lake view at sunset was astonishingly beautiful – and we knew a very windy, cold section lay ahead along the ridgeline, so we were trying to move!

Stopping to add layers came first – the temperature really dropped fast! But we held out till full dark before grabbing our headlamps – sometimes it’s fun (and motivating) to just keep moving and trying to catch the last vestiges of sunlight.

The views were, as always, breathtaking. I love out and backs for this reason – each section we were running on I had been on before, but at a different time of day. So it was familiar – but new, all at the same time. And just… oh, so beautiful!! And then COLD! I put on my second pair of pants, and Lauren even put on pants – so you KNOW it’s cold if Lauren breaks out the pants! 

Around 11pm or so, I started to go “off” my Skratch – the electrolyte drink I always drink. This has NEVER happened before. I’m guessing it happened because it was cold, and I wasn’t eating or drinking as much as I should’ve been. And being SO tired, my brain started to go… I lost the ability to cognitively reason with myself and plan for things – like my nutrition and hydration.

SO, heading into day 5 (the final day), for the first time since the race started – I fell off of my nutrition and hydration plan… YIKES. This was the beginning of the only MAJOR low point for me. For the next couple of hours into the night, as we headed toward Spooner Aid, I continued to ignore the beeps on my watch telling me to eat (I can’t really explain why – I wasjust so tired, I didn’t feel like eating, and couldn’t convince myself otherwise).

Then I started to feel nauseous. This is a FIRST. I have never, ever felt nauseous or had any type of gastro distress in a race. I’m usually SO on top of my nutrition and hydration and electrolytes that I don’t have any major bonks, and definitely don’t have nausea or vomiting. Well, I got to experience both on the last day of the Tahoe 200!

Lauren did a great job keeping us moving forward toward aid – but oddly was very quiet. She later told me she was in full hallucination mode – and moving through a living nightmare Blaire Witch Project hallucination world!! She didn’t tell me because she didn’t want me to be scared, hahaha! We might have done a trail nap here? 10 minutes in the dirt- glorious as always! But I still felt slightly nauseous – enough that I didn’t want to drink Skratch or eat anything. 

Eventually we made it to Spooner Aid, where I drank some coke and ate about a half a mini gf pizza… That helped the nausea a little bit. Then, while Lauren was heroically dealing with my pack (refilling the bottles – I requested water in one and coke in the other because I couldn’t stomach Skratch… big mistake, only because I didn’t take in any additional salts. More on that to come…) a VERY nice volunteer took care of me. He found me a warm spot on a foam yoga mat in front of a little heater to lie down and sleep. Which I did, immediately. Not sure how long – but I think this was the longest sleep of the entire race? Maybe one hour? Lauren even got to sleep for a little bit too. 

Then we had to get up and get moving! The nausea was still fully present, and I just couldn’t eat anything, or even drink much. So we left aid, and I didn’t have breakfast… Lauren told me not to worry, we were down to the final 18 miles. Lots of people get SUPER sick during races and don’t eat or drink anything for MILES, and they somehow make it through ok… This had just never happened to me before, and I HATE being nauseous almost as much as I HATE throwing up! But that made me feel better. I wasn’t going to die, and it couldn’t get any worse… Right?! 

Day 5: Tuesday 

The sun eventually came up, and we were moving verrry slowly. I was just so nauseous and felt so low energy, I couldn’t move any faster. We still had a buffer with the cut off, but that gap was getting smaller and I could tell Lauren was starting to worry. I mentioned to her that my calves were cramping – weird, because I’d had no muscle cramps so far at all… She said, well yeah – you’ve climbed neary 36,000 feet! RIght. That must be it! Hmmm… I remember thinking… It’s so weird that my hands are cramping up. Is it because I’ve been holding my poles? 

Then, the nausea overwhelmed me and I suddenly couldn’t hold it together anymore. I finally puked. My first time on the trail. It was horrible. Lauren said she could see tears in my eyes. Not much came up, which made me really realize how little I’d eaten for the past ELEVEN hours of nausea at that point…

Then, with a brilliant stroke of genius, Lauren figured out my problem. “You’re hyponatremic!” she said! OMG! Yes!! Of course – if I had been in my right mind, and not completely out of it, I would have realized it hours and hours ago. Because I couldn’t drink Skratch anymore, I’d been drinking plain water – then some coke. Neither of which contain electrolytes. And I didn’t take any extra. Basically, I desperately needed salts.

I poured some Base Salts (my bonus electrolytes I always carry – with sodium, potassium, magnesium) into my hand and ate it – and shockingly, couldn’t even taste it. It didn’t taste salty at all! Crazy! That told me my salt levels were very low. Lauren said we needed to keep moving, but she set an alarm for 10 minutes for me to take some more Base Salts. 

I started to slowly sip on the Skratch, and after about an hour was able to eat a few bites of food. I just kept nibbling, one little bite at a time. I remembered all the times I’ve coached other runners through nausea at races. Little sips of Skratch, little bites of food, a dose of Base Salts – and repeat.

After about an hour of doing that, a race miracle occurred, something I’ve heard of many times but never experienced myself: the Comeback! I arose from the dead! I suddenly felt BETTER! I looked at my watch and realized we had about ten miles to the finish. We could continue to hike it in, and get there just before cut-offs – OR, we could start to run! Suddenly energized, I picked up the pace, put on a fun running playlist I have and blasted the music out loud. And off we went! It started slowly warming up too, so we were finally able to peel off our nighttime layers. 

Lauren was having a grand old time, hallucinating animals and faces everywhere all around us – and soon I joined in on the fun! In this woodsy photo to the right we both DEFINITELY saw a monkey sitting on a log… We *knew* it couldn’t be real – as in, there wasn’t an actual live monkey, but we were pretty convinced that someone had at least headed out into the woods to carve a very realistic monkey out there! We made lots of forest friends over the next couple of hours: a white sheep up on a hill with a friendly black face, a grumpy face in a rock, and more woods animals and creatures that I can no longer remember! 

Finally, at last, we were within sight of the finish!! And I had a mini breakdown: my family wasn’t THERE YET!! We were one mile out, and my sister, hubby and kids still hadn’t arrived – eek! Des and Steph were waiting for us at the finish, but I REALLY wanted my family there too… I guess we had picked up the pace by so much, we were coming in far sooner than expected!! 

I told Lauren I wanted to slow down, to wait for them – that I wasn’t going in to finish until they got there. She said, just keep moving – we’ll check in again in a half mile. We checked in again, and still they WERE NOT THERE!!! Noooooooo!!! I was nearly in tears – this was my MOMENT, this was it, I NEEDED them to be there.

I got snippy with Lauren, and was whining about my big heavy coat (it was annoying me – too big to stow away in mypack, and sooo bulky and heavy. And it was getting HOT!) It was the one time in the race I truly lost my positive attitude; but Lauren, amazing Lauren, brought me back to myself. Gave me the reality check I needed – reminded me that this was my race – it doesn’t matter who sees me cross that finish line. I DID IT! She reminded me that this negativity isn’t ME, isn’t how I’ve felt at all these past five days (even through the puke & rally!) So I needed to pull myself together and finish this thing as ME, finish it with the spirit I’ve held throughout the whole race… I’ve been loving every second of this experience, and I should carry that through to the end.

I took a deep breath, told her she was 100% right, and I was just overwhelmed with emotions – I couldn’t believe it was almost over!! I gave her a HUGE hug and with a biggest Sally smile on my face said, let’s go! Time to finish this thing! And guess what?! The family made it, just in time! I’ll never forget the burst of joy I felt at seeing them in the crowd cheering me on.

Approaching that finish line – I was running, and then actually started leaping! And yelling, “I did it!! I did it! I did it!!” Hahaha! I was SO excited! Pretty sure I remember grabbing my crew for a photo under the arch, and doing the can-can. It was exhilarating! Knowing that I did it, even with the puke & rally – I DID IT!! 

As John Muir said:

“Into the forest I go,
to lose my mind and 
find my soul…” 

Final thoughts:

A runner said to me at some point during the race: During events like this, sometimes we find out things about ourselves we never knew… And sometimes… We deeply confirm what we already knew. THIS is what happened for me. With the exception of two low moments- the actual puking (which was horrible), and then losing my emotional grip when I thought my family would miss my finish – the rest of the race I was ME. Which is to say, I pretty much never stopped smiling – I was so filled with joy. Volunteers at aid stations kept remarking, “You’re STILL smiling?!?”, and my response was always, “Of course! I’m having the time of my life!!” 

I am she who can smile through discomfort. 

I am she who finds the positive, even when it’s hard to find. 

I am she who can persevere, even while falling asleep on my feet. 

I am she who doesn’t give up, who keeps on going, moving forward. 

I can lean on my friends, on strangers, when necessary – and reach out in turn to smile upon and help those in need.

I can do hard things. 

I am a superhero. 

I can do anything. 

I can leap and bound across a finish line, and dance to the beat of my heart, the thrill of the finish, the strength in knowing: I DID IT! TAHOE 200 2024!

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