The Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run bills itself as a race offering athletes “a glimpse of heaven … a taste of hell.”
Making his first attempt at the 100-mile distance that takes runners from Carson City up to Lake Tahoe and back, Truckee’s Dan Brounstein certainly experienced both.
“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had running,” said Brounstein, 48.
Brounstein and his family moved to Truckee two years ago, relocating from San Francisco. As a former collegiate tennis player, “running was a punishment,” he said, adding he never envisioned getting into the sport of endurance running.
About a decade ago though, Brounstein completed his first marathon, but said he thought he’d never run another again. As time went on, however, and he began making connections with runners in the Tahoe area, the idea of longer and longer distances began creeping into his mind.
“I never ever thought that I’d run a 100-mile race,” said Brounstein. “But the more you’re around it, especially up here, 100 miles seems like a normal thing.”
After getting a 100-kilometer race under his belt, Brounstein attempted last year’s Leadville Trail 100. He’d make it halfway through the course, which takes runners as high as 12,600 feet, before dropping out of the race. Sitting in the snow on a side of a mountain last August, he thought to himself, ‘Why would I ever do this again?’
As the months went by, the question of why would Brounstein attempt another 100-mile race turned into a matter of if he could. He began clocking around 50 miles of running a week, making trips down to the Reno area during winter months while working around a busy work life as senior vice president, clinical and product for pain management company Saluda Medical.
The day before competing in the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs 100-mile course, Brounstein was in Truckee picking up his daughter from preschool. As it turned out, the 4-year-old had been bragging to her friends about her father running 100 miles. There could be no repeat of Leadville now, although Brounstein would be given plenty of reasons to quit the following day.
Early on Saturday, July 16, Brounstein set off from Western Nevada College in Carson City. Almost immediately he knew something wasn’t right as stomach pains continuously pulled him from the course.
“It never really got any better,” said Brounstein. “I had that going on and then I threw up like five times.”
Matters only worsened as temperatures climbed into the 80s and Brounstein continued to be unable to keep food or fluids down.
“I’m just trying to figure out how to eat and survive,” he said.
After trying everything from energy gels, potatoes, broth he settled on the nutritional drink Ensure. At around mile 50, Brounstein then began hiccupping, something he’d deal with for the next four hours.
“I’m trying to run and hold my breath 14 hours into the race and I just couldn’t get rid of them,” he said.
Finally a five-minute nap on a rock proved to temporarily get rid of his hiccups.
“They would come back every couple of hours,” said Brounstein. “I hated that going. I was throwing up. It was the most miserable thing.”
As the miles went on Brounstein began doubting whether he could reach the finish.
“Is this stupid?” he thought to himself. “It’s weird how you just doubt yourself. That was a lot of what was going on in the beginning of the race… I was in a bad place. The hardest part was realizing the ups were going to be really good and the downs were going to be really long and painful.”
As sunset gave way to dark, he almost gave up. As he approached Diamond Peak Ski Resort for a second time along the route that has a loop in it.
“I’m telling my pacer, ‘I’m done. I’m done,’” Brounstein said. “He just ignored me.”
Eventually he made it into an aid station and was able to sleep for 20 minutes. That bit of sleep would be enough to push him back along Tahoe’s East Shore and into Carson City as afternoon temperatures neared 100 degrees.
Brounstein would be joined by his two children for the final mile and as they reached the finish line the youngsters were in awe of what their father had accomplished.
“You run this 100-mile race and all you get is a belt buckle,” said Brounstein. “And so when they pulled it out, it’s bronze but it looks like its gold, and my kids are like ‘My dad won a gold medal.’ They grabbed it from me and held it. That was the ultimate thing. All the training, being away from family and work and all that, getting to share that moment with the kids was the coolest thing.”
Brounstein finished the race in 32 hours, 57 minutes, 29 seconds and came in 48th place.
“Your body can do more than you think and your mind can overcome pretty much anything,” he said.
Going forward, Brounstein is already eyeing another attempt at 100 miles.
“I thought I would never do another one,” he said. “And now it’s two weeks later and I’m like, I’ve always wanted to run Western States or another classic one.”
OF the 132 runners who entered the race, 71 finished. Locals had a solid day on the trails, led by Kings Beach’s Denver Armstrong, 41, who finished as the runner-up with a time of 22:52:50. Incline Village’s Conor Drewes, 24, took sixth place with a time of 26:23:43. South Lake Tahoe’s Alan Barichievich, 55, took 35thth with a time of 32:16:10. Incline Village’s Stefan Tempe, 55, was 50th with a time of 33:08.:41.
“It’s a small community up here and everyone supports each other,” said Brounstein. “It’s really cool.”