October is Kokanee time at Lake Tahoe (no, not that kind). No, it’s all about the (now) local Kokanee Salmon, who spends this time of year swimming upriver to spawn and die. While not native, the fish have been celebrated in their own festival here in South Lake Tahoe for over 20 years, which isn’t bad given that most non-native species don’t receive the same preferential treatment.
Besides the events occurring at the U.S. Forest Service Center at Taylor Creek, there is an annual trail run held at Fallen Leaf Lake, where Taylor Creek originates. I’ve run this event a number of times over the past 8 years, primarily because it’s on dirt (my knees hate roads) and it’s a ridiculously scenic course. Set around the trails of Fallen Leaf Lake, the course boasts views of Mt. Tallac, Desolation Wilderness, said lake, and about a bazillion aspen trees in various forms of autumnal color change. It’s a fun 10K, one that draws a ton of locals, and generally has a less formal vibe than some other races (Case in point – this year’s 10K/5K start was the event organizer counting down without a microphone, in front of a loud group of runners). Plus, all net proceeds go to support local educational efforts around the Kokanee, which was estimated to be close to $5,000 this year.
Mountain biking has trumped most other activities this summer, including running. But when I met up with an old friend in Ashland earlier this month, she told me she was coming down to Tahoe for the 10K, and I thought it would be fun to at least start with a friend. In the interim, I had found a really good deal on a new type of running shoe, the Hoka One One, which I had read about on Jill Homer’s blog. The shoe intrigued me, because it was so lightweight and provided a ton of cushion. The Hokas were originally designed for ultrarunners, but I figured a 10K was my equivalent ultra, seeing how little mileage I’d done this summer.
They’re definitely not pretty shoes, but looks aside, I was surprised how much easier running was when I took them out last week. They really do feel like the fat skis of the running set, as they provided support, stability and cushion on rockier sections of trail that usually result in me twisting an ankle.
My Ashland friend ended up not being able to make it, but I had found another friend who had already registered for the 5K, and decided to upgrade to the 10K. She, like me, had not done much running this summer. So we were in the same boat, though my boat involved much larger and funnier looking shoes.
For today’s race, I deliberately took it slow, thinking I’d be tired from yesterday’s 33 mile mountain bike ride. The Hokas were terrific on the paved road at the beginning of the route, leaving me without the achy knees and shins I usually get from running on asphalt. I felt great by the halfway point, so I allowed myself to speed up, and enjoyed the unusual sensation of passing people. I came across the finish line slower than I have in past years, but still around an hour. Given that I’ve run 2 times this summer for a grand total of 9 miles, I’m pleased. And the best thing is that while I’m tired, and feeling my quads a tad, my knees and shins feel fine. So I’m totally sold on the Hokas, and look forward to taking them out more regularly. At least until later this week, when the snow arrives.