Sonora resident and noted long-distance runner Mike Miller, 47, won his age group and finished third overall in the third annual Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run.
Running the 50-mile course, Miller overcame the altitude (8,000-plus feet) and hills (9 percent grade like running up and down Big Hill Road) to clock in at 9 hours, 17 minutes, 48 seconds easily outdistancing runner-up Bill Finkbeiner by more than 26 minutes to win the Masters (over-40) age group.
Paul Sweeney of Tahoe City was the overall winner in 8:30:49.
"People say this must be easy for me, but this one, I underestimated the course," said Miller, who runs three marathons and two ultra-marathons in a typical year.
"There was a lot of climbing at high altitude, which had never really affected me before. But since you're above 8,000 feet most of the time, near the end, you do feel the altitude. The last 15 miles were a real grind for me."
Although altitude was Miller's biggest opponent in the run, he credits his workouts in the Emigrant Wilderness for giving him the endurance needed to not only finish, but win.
"I didn't run as many miles (in training) as I normally do, but I did more altitude training," he said. "I did a lot of hills, and that really paid off. It was about 80 degrees and humid, which took its toll on a lot of runners. There were a lot of DNFs (did not finish)."
While the Tahoe event would be a culmination of sorts for most runners, it was only a stepping stone for Miller. Thanks to his winning time, Miller qualified for next year's Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run from Squaw Valley to Auburn, which he ran in 2002.