Utah’s McKnight overcomes mental wars to win Tahoe 200 (VIDEO) | SierraSun.com

Utah’s McKnight overcomes mental wars to win Tahoe 200 (VIDEO)

Michael McKnight takes the final steps toward the finish line of the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run on Sunday, Sept. 15.
Justin Scacco / jscacco@sierrasun.com

After three days and two nights of psychological and physical torment on the trails surrounding Lake Tahoe, Michael McKnight emerged from the slopes above Homewood Mountain Resort to capture first place at this year’s Tahoe 200 Endurance Run.

McKnight, 29, of Smithfield, Utah, would overcome the mental and physical wars that escort runners across the 205.5 miles of trails, reaching the finish line at around noon on Sunday with a time of 50 hours, 56 minutes, 54 seconds.

“It’s a different experience,” said McKnight on the race, which took a field of roughly 250 athletes counterclockwise around Tahoe. “If you think you’ve experienced sleep deprivation just wait until you do something like this — you have no idea.”

McKnight took the lead on Saturday from second-place finisher, Ryan Montgomery, 25, of San Francisco. From there, he would have to overcome a series of mental wars as he trudged his way through the dark on Saturday night toward Tahoe City.

“I started to have pretty vivid hallucinations,” he said. “I came to an aid station and told my wife that I was seeing things, and she made me lay down. She set her alarm clock for five minutes.”

McKnight said the five-minute nap was the only sleep he had during the race.

“I heard voices that I was having conversations with, and then I got stuck in a time loop where I thought I was running in circles and I didn’t know where I was. I started to kind of get worried and scared because I thought I was legit just stuck in this little space continuum and couldn’t get out of it. Luckily, I was about 10 minutes from an aid station, so I was able to just kind of keep going,” he said on the experience.

“I tried having conversations with myself, saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t real. Just focus and keep going.’ But that wasn’t working. I’d just kind of keep slipping back into not knowing what was going on. Luckily the aid station was close enough that I was able to get the help that I needed.”

From that point, McKnight would power through the final quarter of the race to take his first win at the Tahoe 200.

“I’m stoked. I haven’t won a lot of races, so when it happens it’s always a good feeling,” he said.

“I’m happy to do it here, because this area is beautiful. This lake is amazing.”

McKnight, who set a record in the Bigfoot 200 a few weeks ago with a time of 51:33:45, also ran the Tahoe 200 in 2017, finishing fourth overall with a time 67:19:20.

Montgomery, who shot out to an early lead, took second place with a time of 54:24:02. Taylor Spike, 41, of Harrisburg, Oregon, finished in third place for the second year in a row, reaching Homewood with a time of 56:01:10. Spike finished roughly four hours faster than he did at last year’s race, which was run in the opposite direction.

On the women’s side, Angela Meyer, 38, of Atlanta, finished the race in first place with a time of 64:01:59 for 10th overall. Mika Thews, 28, of Royal Oak, Michigan was second with a time of 69:35:38. Kelsey Hogan, 24, of Steady Brook, Newfoundland, Canada, was third place with a time of 71:16:41.

Among local racers, Roger Pynappel, 60, of Truckee finished 50th with a time of 83:12:43. Truckee’s Eric Williams, 34, finished shortly after in 56th place with a time of 83:45:39.

Athletes remained on the course until Tuesday, and ran through rain, slush and snow on Monday. Of the roughly 250 athletes to enter this year’s Tahoe 200, 66.5% made it to the finish line back at Homewood.

The Tahoe 200 race lottery for next year will open Oct. 15 and closes Oct. 28. Participants will be drawn on Oct. 30. For more information, visit Tahoe200.com.