North Tahoe Middle School vice principal chases down 100-mile goal in Texas race
When “brutal” is the first word that comes to Teresa Rensch as she describes something she actually enjoys doing, you know she’s made of some tough stuff. The type of stuff that propelled the North Tahoe Middle School principal to finish the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run in Huntsville, Texas, just a few weeks ago.
“It is the hardest thing, physically and mentally, that I’ll probably ever go through,” Rensch said, describing the primal ” some might say insane ” odyssey that is 100 miles of racing on two feet. “But it’s a difficult and beautiful thing all in one.”
The 41-year-old Rensch completed all 100 miles of the Rocky Raccoon in 30 hours, 40 minutes. The only problem, however, was that to be an “official” finisher, runners have to finish in under 30 hours. Though she beat the cutoff time at the 92-mile aid station, the pain and fatigue were too much to beat the final clock.
“The only thought that was going through my head was, ‘You have to get to the finish line,'” Rensch said. “I had blisters on my forefoot, so every step I hit them and had incredible pain. But there was no way I’d stop at 92 miles.”
North Tahoe Middle School colleague Lindsay Anzelc, who crewed for and helped pace Rensch during the race, said miles 60 through 80 were particularly difficult for Rensch and that, were it not for a few mishaps at one aid station, she likely would have beaten the cutoff.
“I think she had to go back to the same station four times because she couldn’t get the tape (to treat her blisters) situated,” Anzelc said. “Every race seems to have its own unique challenge.”
The fact that she missed the cutoff time hasn’t diminished Rensch’s determination a bit. But that comes as little surprise. After all, she went straight back to her principal job the day after her grueling accomplishment. Thirty straight hours of serious exertion ” and some badly blistered feet ” apparently weren’t enough cause to take a day off.
“I said I was going to retire after I completed one, but of course I’m going to do it again,” Rensch said. “And maybe next time I’ll finish in a different condition, with less pain and a faster time.”
This was her fourth and best-yet attempt at 100 miles. But she’s no stranger to running ” and running long. A cross-country runner in high school, she quickly picked up marathons in college. And when she arrived in the Tahoe area, trail running quickly drew her interest. The rest ” “a few dozen marathons and ultraruns, from 50Ks to 50-milers to 100-milers” ” is history.
The 100-milers, however, have become Rensch’s top, and most elusive, obsession. She hired accomplished ultrarunner Scott Weber as her coach to help guide her through a journey that requires mental toughness and physical preparation, but also forces athletes to navigate numerous “scientific” concerns: finding the right shoes and socks, maintaining hydration and catering to nutritional needs.
On Weber’s plan, Rensch said she averages about 50 miles running per week, though in peak training weeks that number climbs to between 70 and 80 miles. To maintain race shape, she tries to do a 50-mile race every four weeks.
For Rensch, the 100-mile goal is about much more than racing. What she enjoys most are the training and the lifestyle of endurance sport.
“I love everything about it: being outdoors, the peace, the serenity, it’s actually very spiritual,” Rensch said. “And it adds great balance to a hectic workday, giving me a chance to shut off the mental side of things and just run.”
What Rensch calls “balance,” others may describe as discomfort and stress. Her Wednesday looked like this: a 4 a.m. run, a full day of school and then the odds-and-ends of work at home.
“It can make for long 12- to 14-hour days,” Rensch said.
She will take another shot at finishing the 100-mile distance (before the time cutoff) at the Lean Horse Ultra-Marathon in Hot Springs, S.D., in August.
“I really want to feel good about completing a 100-miler, physically and mentally, with a decent time,” Rensch said. “Then I’ll probably just stick with 50-milers and 50Ks.”
Somehow, Rensch’s version of scaling back still sounds awfully daunting.
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