Although I didn’t have a specific time goal for the Tram Road Challenge race in Palm Springs, I started the race thinking that it would be great to finish in under an hour. And I made it… in the nick of time!
The results, which I saw a little later, showed my name with a time of 59:59.1 – 9/10ths of a second faster than my goal. It was a fantastic way to end an awfully difficult morning.
The Tram Road Challenge is a crazy endeavor. The course is relatively short – only 6k (3.7 miles) – but the entire thing is uphill, with 2,000 feet of elevation gain, on a road that has an average grade of 12%. It’s like someone stacked two Eiffel Towers, and designed a race up a 3.7-mile ramp to the top.
I’ve done the race twice before, so I knew first-hand how intense it is. I knew I’d be grumbling and achy and miserable, but finishing would bring lots of happiness.
The race is at 7am, and I arrived with my friend Jeff around 6:15, and walked the 7/10s of a mile from the parking lot to the start line as a warm-up. The sun was just rising.
I used the restroom, but there was a crazy long line, which ended up cutting into my stretching time. I was barely ready when the announcer started the final countdown, under a very visible and full moon.
I wasn’t in the shape I was when I competed last year, so I started near the back of the pack, and just tried to keep going. My wireless ear buds crapped out about 1/2 mile into the race – I guess I hadn’t charged them in a while – which sucked, because I find running to be boring already, and without music it’s hardly bearable!
After a little over a mile, I felt completely wiped out, and I switched to walking. I told myself I couldn’t walk unless I took the biggest strides possible, which I did.
I switched back and forth between running and walking, and I’d say I ended up walking almost half of the entire course. Walking was by no means easy. I felt like I was on the verge of tears by the end.
My friend Mike, who had already finished the race, walked the course backwards, and found me when I was about 75 yards away from the finish line, where the road has a 16% grade. He ran me in the rest of the way, which was a great help.
I turned the final corner and saw the finish line. The clock read 59:51, so I booked it, as hard as I could, faster than I thought was possible, because I didn’t want to let that clock slip past 60. And that didn’t happen.
Mike and Jeff and our friend Christine found me, sitting on the sidewalk, shortly thereafter. Tough races are always better when you have friends there, and these are some pretty great – and inspiring – friends.
This race always does a nice finisher’s medal.
Here’s the best part: that time of 59:59.1 isn’t even my actual time! That’s called the gun time – how long it took me to cross the finish line after the starter pistol is fired. But since I was in the middle of a 700-person mass of people at the start line, it took me a little while to actually cross the line and trigger the timing chip in my bib… so, my actual, official time is… 59:17.87!
I finished 26th in my division (men aged 35-39), 235th among all men, and 335th overall (out of 722 runners).
I was in much better shape when I did this race in 2017, and it showed: I finished in 53:20. I knew I wouldn’t come close to that. But I was pretty surprised that I beat my time from 2015 (which was 1:00:46) by over a minute! I ran the entire thing in 2015, and this year I walked a lot of it, and still finished with a faster time. Pretty sweet!
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