Big Blue Emerald Bay Trail Run: Breaking in a new race
A cozy crowd of 60 racers gathered for the 9 a.m. start of the inaugural Big Blue Emerald Bay Trail Run on Sunday, trying to stay warm in running shorts and singlets, anxious to embark on the 7.5-mile run from Eagle Point to Lester Beach.
Most were recognizable faces, loyal to any local Tahoe race.
Mixed in were a handful of adventure racers who had competed the day before, drooling over the windless air and glassy water of Lake Tahoe, unlike the previous day’s chop they had to navigate through in kayaks.
You never know what to expect for an inaugural event, but it creates an element of excitement ” knowing that in 10 years when the race has become a staple in a trail runner’s calendar, you’ll be able to say, “I was there for the first race.”
The race started with a half-mile run downhill on pavement that Truckee local ultrarunner Peter Fain, who was leading from the start, considered “cruel and unusual punishment.” It then sent runners on a long climb back up and onto a more forgiving singletrack descent heading toward Vikingsholm in the center of Emerald Bay.
The mile-and-a-half on pavement was intended to spread out the field, and it did just that. I was running alone and in silence down the sandy and slightly rocky trail. I kept turning my head to the side to catch a glimpse of the bay. The well-constructed trail went over bridges and up and down stairs made from the existing granite. The trail was marked with red arrows directing runners. If not paying attention, a runner could easily miss one.
The trail headed over the Eagle Falls, past Vikingsholm and onto the popular Rubicon Trail toward Emerald Point. At this point I was trying to keep 16-year-old Nordic racer Russell Kennedy, who had just passed me, in my sights ” not only to make me run faster, but to make sure I was heading in the right direction. This paid off when we came to an unmarked turn and Russell took a right toward Rubicon Point, a cliff edge lined with a chain railing where looking down, because of the depth of the lake, is a deep cobalt blue.
I learned later that a large portion of the field took the left turn onto the lighthouse loop, making their race 0.2 miles and a hill longer.
Either way, the race ended on Lester Beach, where a few brave souls jumped in and the rest iced their legs in Lake Tahoe as they cheered on racers and talked about their experience and the race’s bright future.
“There’s no better trail run,” said Jeff Schloss, a local Nordic ski coach who ran with his skiers and placed seventh with a time of 1:03.
Fain placed first overall with a time of 52 minutes. His only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it.
“I really like the course,” Fain said. “It was short but fun. I think it will be something that will stick around for a while.”
Following Fain was professional triathlete Damian Gonzalez with a time of 54 minutes. Piers Stockwell placed third in 56 minutes, Steve Rodriquez was fourth in 58 minutes and Russell Kennedy rounded out the top five with a time of one hour.
I was the first female to cross the finish line with a time of 1:00:30, and was followed by 51-year-old Mary Ellen Benier (10:09), 15-year-old Annika Taylor (1:11) and 24-year-old sisters Kristy and Anna Berington, who finished with times of 1:14:52 and 1:14:55 ” proof you can be a strong runner at any age!
Emma Garrard is a photographer at the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com.