100 miles or bust | SierraSun.com

100 miles or bust

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

Provided to the SunNorth Tahoe Middle School vice principal Teresa Rensch wears a plastic bag for protection against a hail storm during the Leadville 100 in Colorado this past August. Rensch will compete in the Arkansas Traveller 100 this weekend.

Crazy? Maybe. A quitter? No way.

“People call me insane. I’m well aware of that,” said Teresa Rensch, a Truckee resident and vice principal at North Tahoe Middle School.

Why people would make such an accusation about Rensch is simple: She’s an ultrarunner ” one of a rare breed of athletes who voluntarily push themselves to the point of utter exhaustion to conquer race courses 50-plus miles in length.

“My goal is to finish a 100-miler once in my lifetime,” Rensch said.

While failing to do so on Aug. 19 when she took on Colorado’s Leadville 100 ” aka “The Race Across the Sky” ” in her first attempt at a 100-mile race, Rensch is no quitter.

That much will be proven Saturday at 6 a.m. when she tries her hand at the 16th annual Arkansas Traveller 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon that winds through the Ouachita National Forest west of Little Rock.

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“I thought I’d do it while my training was still strong,” Rensch said of what will be her second attempt at 100-miler in less than two months. “October was a perfect time.”

Besides the redeeming aspect of the challenge, why would she put her body through such treachery?

“The 100 is kind of the ultimate of ultimates. And, of course, I like to challenge myself,” Rensch said. “At least it’s a doable dream I can make come true.”

A runner since high school who has completed “quite a few” 50-mile and 50-kilometer races, Including the Tahoe Rim Trail 50K this past summer, Rensch nearly made her dream come true on her first try.

During the Leadville 100 ” an incredibly arduous ultramarathon in the Rocky Mountains that ranges from between 9,200 feet in elevation and 12,600 feet over Hope Pass ” Rensch was forced to halt her progress after missing the cutoff time at mile 60.

“I was super bummed out,” she said.

But Rensch is no quitter.

“Physically, I kept going,” she said, explaining that she slipped out of the aid station when the race official was distracted.

She then continued on with pace person and work mate Lindsay Anzelc until stopped at mile 70.

“It was hilarious,” Anzelc, a special education teacher at North Tahoe Middle School, said of her friend’s escape and attempt to finish the race.

The next morning, however, Rensch had some explaining to do after learning she essentially had been blacklisted from Leadville. Rensch explained that she thought she was still within the cutoff time, which she heard had been extended due to stormy weather. She must have been convincing, as she talked the race director into forgetting about the misunderstanding.

If Rensch completes the Arkansas Traveller 100 this weekend, she won’t have to worry about dealing with Leadville, or any other races of its kind.

“I promised my family I will retire from 100-milers (if I finish),” Rensch said. “Hopefully I can do it within the 30-hour cutoff time ” with some divine intervention. I’d still like to do 50K’s, though.”

Her friends are sure she can do it.

“It’s not if she finishes; it’s when,” said Patty Jo Struve, a music teacher at North Tahoe Middle School. “She’s very passionate about it.”

Anzelc, who again will be part of the pacing crew along with Lisa McCready and Rensch’s mother, Joan, is also confident.

“I think she’s going to finish. She is going to finish. And the motivation is that she can quit doing them,” Anzelc said. “I’m rooting for her.”

Based on the terrain and elevation ” the Arkansas Traveller ranges from 650 feet to 1,450 feet in elevation ” this weekend’s race ought to be less taxing than Leadville.

“One of the reasons I picked it is because of the high success rate,” Rensch said of the Arkansas Traveller, which had a 65 percent success rate last year, with 78 of 120 racers finishing. “I’m worried a little bit about my knees, but I had no problem during Leadville. Fortunately I had no medical problems (in Leadville), which gives me confidence for this race …

“I’ve got the nerves, of course. And then there’s the things out of your control (such as injuries, nausea, etc.). But I feel pretty confident.”

– Race starts at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Camp Ouachita, located approximately 30 miles west of Little Rock, and the course extends through the Ouachita National Forest. The race ends at noon on Sunday.

– Surface: Pavement, gravel road, Old Road (4-wheeler trail), Ouachita Trail. The lowest point on the course is an elevation of 650 feet and the highest point is 1,450 feet.

– Plaques are awarded to the first female and male, overall and master finishers. Special enameled buckles go to sub-24 hour finishers and bronze buckles to sub-30 hour finishers.

– More than 200 volunteers assist with the race, working the aid stations and in other areas to make sure runners receive everything they need to finish. The race has 25 checkpoints and there is at least one weigh-in point ” medical personnel, the race director, and aid station captains have the right to pull any runner they feel may be in danger.

– The average high temperature for race weekend is mid-70’s and the average low is in the low 50’s, but wide variances can occur.

– Last year 120 racers started, 78 finished (65 percent finish rate) ” 18 were sub 24 hours ” 60 men finishers, 18 women. Last year’s overall winner was a woman: Tracy Thomas, 44, from Illinois, in a time of 19 hours, 49 minutes and 8 seconds. Steve Kirk, 45, from Arkansas was second overall and the first man in 20:31:20.

– Fastest Arkansas Traveler 100 times ” Men: James Kerby, Washington, 15:37:26 in 2004; Women: Ann Trason, California, 17:13:10 in 2004 (14-time women’s champion and course record holder of the Western States 100, plus she holds the Leadville course record)

– The first running of the event was on Oct. 5, 1991

– Race Website: http://www.runarkansas.com