February 21, 2019
9. Aaron Sorensen
I met Aaron in 2013 at the Santa Barbara 100M race (or DRTE 100 as it was called at the time). This was a previous iteration of what is now a pretty challenging 100 mile race, except I think the year that we did it, it was that much tougher. The race was on a hot June weekend and started at 6pm on a Friday, so that all runners would get to suffer in the dark. I had all sorts of misfortunes, including my watch dying, getting lost, and getting ticks. I eventually quit after 29.8 miles (13 hours) and got a ride back to the start and hung out with some of the other DNFs.
To my surprise, a number of people dropped out even earlier than I did. Aaron had stomach issues and dropped at Mile 12. We hung out together at the finish line, watching people struggle in, and it came out that both of us lived in Long Beach.
After the Santa Barbara Race, I started seeing Aaron at AREC runs, both street and trail runs. I found to be kinda quirky, in an introverted-extrovert way (as in, if you got to know him, you could get great conversations, but most people didn’t get to know him well, because he sorta kept to himself), so of course, we got along famously.
I also got to know his wife, Christina, a Marathon Maniac (I know she did 10 marathons in 10 days once.). She went out to the Santa Barbara 100 in 2014 and was able to finish (Aaron was there to support her and I was volunteering.)
In 2015, I mentioned off-hand that I was doing the Twin Peaks 50M and might be interested in having a pacer. With few details, Aaron said he was in.
In all previous ultras, I had never utilized a pacer. There were always plenty of other racers to slog in with, but, I thought, it would be nice to have someone get me through the last few sections of Twin Peaks 50M (a race I had never finished).
I didn’t give him many details (like how to get to the aid station) but made an estimate of 3pm of when I thought I might be at Mile 38, which I had told him was the West Horsethief Aid Station.
So, this is the event when I started 3-1/2 hours before the early start, where I had suffered a Grade 2 Sprained Ankle 3 months prior to starting, and had never progressed beyond Mile 26 in the course (but had covered all the terrain in training).
I worked my way through the course, and got to the aid station at the top of the West Horsethief Trail about 1:30pm. Oh, no, too early. Then, I realized two things also. One, how the heck is Aaron supposed to get here? (10 miles from the start/finish parking lot, no shuttles) And two, this isn’t Mile 38, it’s Mile 34. I doubt that I will even see him.
So I trudge on to Mile 38 and I arrive, surprisingly, at 3:01pm. But no sign of Aaron and the aid station says no one had shown up for me. As I refill my water bottles, a truck summits the Indian Truck Trail and two figures emerge… Aaron and his dog, Lacey! Good timing.
It turns out that he was running up the Indian Truck Trail (knowing probably he would not connect with me, but might catch up) and this truck came by and had space to give him a ride to the top. So, I had my pacer (s).
So, some brief words on Lacey. If you know me well, I’m not a dog person (or a pet person), partially due to animal dander allergies and partially due to a dog’s lack of control (licking me, jumping up on me, occasional response to oral commands). Lacey, on the other hand, is a perfect co-pacer. When she is off-leash, she stays away from my unsteady legs. When other runners come on the scene, she quickly returns to the leash upon first command. It is also helpful that Lacey is an experienced ultra-runner herself having completed at least one 100K.
Aaron is probably the perfect pacer (my only pacer), in that I don’t have to initiate the conversation. He tells me stories about doing 2 laps at Barkley, and how he is creating his own West Coast Barkley that he will call Ridgecrest (he ended up calling it Baldy Marathons because Ridgecrest is something else). I somewhat forget how tired I am and end up moving at a better pace up Santiago than earlier.
When it gets dark, my headlamp is a bit drained (used it for 5 hours earlier that day), but Aaron has a spare hand-held flashlight, which is easier than carrying spare batteries and changing them out in the dark. He ends up getting me to the finish line with 90 minutes to spare.
Aaron moved (closer to Baldy) a few years back so I mostly only interact with him through Facebook. He is running a combination of timed races and 100Ks (and so is Lacey), and he has a cult following for Baldy Marathons and whatever crazy steep mountain courses he develops. Don’t think I will ever be able to do those events, though.
After being paced, I felt I should pay it forward and pace someone in an ultra. So, in October of last year, I “paced” my friend Alan for the final 17 miles of his first 100K. The only problem was that he felt too good, so I paced him for 7 miles, and I fell off his pace… and ended up helping a stranger get through the final 3 miles. Hope to get my “redemption” pacing job at San Diego 100M in June.
Aaron remains the ideal for an ultra pacer and I hope to live up to his standards. I thank him for making my Twin Peaks 50M finish a very pleasant one.