October 15, 2016
Prior to committing to running the North Face Challenge Race in Utah, I committed to volunteering for the Twin Peaks race, as there is no race director I respect more than Jessica DeLine. She always does her best to put on a great event, tries to get anyone who wants to get to the finish to the finish, and charges a reasonable amount for her events.
However, once I was unable to finish North Face, I still wanted to do an ultra for this time period. I told Jessica I would like to run the 50K (and I had already volunteered earlier in the year for Harding Hustle and obtained a 50% discount), but that I would also like to volunteer before and after the event.
So, instead of just rolling up a little bit before my start at 7am, I arrived at the start at 4:30am. I helped to set up EZ-Ups, tables, and then began checking everyone in. I think I handed out almost every number for the 50M and 50K.
I also helped getting together supplies for the aid stations and loading them, and then I got myself ready to go. Also joining me at the start line was Tsehay (who I helped convince drop down to the 50K), Jeffrey McKinney and Yen Darcy. Angela Holder and Laura started earlier (for more time and to beat the heat). I would prefer to start earlier, too, because I like to avoid the heat, too.
If we flash back to a few years ago, when the race was cancelled and then reinstated, I did a post-dawn start and only made 19 miles before I got severely overheated.
The very first hill is 6.5 miles and 2000’+ climbing. I know I have to take it really easy. In the beginning, I am with Yen and Tsehay, but they are actually running up the hill. I know this course too well to be running up the hill. If I can get to the top between 1:45 and 2:15, I will be very happy. (1:54, awesome.)
The next section is the flattest section, with about 1000′ of climbing and 900′ of descent. This is also the section last year where I severely twisted my ankle, so I just want to move at a respectable pace (anything under an hour for four miles). (58 minutes, good). I am still behind Tsehay and have not caught up to Angela (go, Angela!).
Now, the “fun” part. This is the West Horsethief section. I am super-familiar with this and can tell you each of the twists and turns. Although it is significantly downhill, I know that much of it is not that run-able (more so for me because of low-hanging branches), but at least it is downhill. My 1:16 on this section is considerably slower than the last hillier section but I make it through safely.
If you compare my times on these first three sections to how I ran the first three sections last year, I have picked up a bit of time and am about one hour net gain at this point.
On the beginning part of Holy Jim, which is “relatively” flat, I do finally catch up with Tsehay. She is so surprised about the difficulty of the downhill section of W. Horsethief. She thought she would pick up all sorts of time running down the hill, but it was quite the opposite.
I told her she would have a very special celebration when she finishes the race (which is really 32.5 miles and not 31.0), because 2016 marks 32 years in the USA. She really liked that idea.
So, now to the tough part of Holy Jim. Three years ago, it took me 3:07 to do the 4.5 miles. Stand alone, I have completed this section in under 2 hours. Today, I do 1:53, but on the last scramble up to the road, I am pretty tired, and not at all ready for the next 3 miles.
I hear a familiar voice. “C’mon, Emmett, I’m waiting for you.” I don’t think Angela was very pleased with the expletives that ensued from my mouth, but I was in a bad mood and didn’t need encouragement. I just wanted to get through it. I sat down on the water bottles, drank a bunch of water, refilled my bottles and endured flies dive bombing me. I was in the shade and they don’t venture as much into the sun, but I wasn’t about to sit in the sun.
Now, up the endless 3 miles to the summit of Santiago Peak, almost all in the sun, and almost all steep and steeper on difficult terrain. One hour, 37 minutes. A loss of about 10 minutes over my time last year. (Net gain, though.) We did get to see Laura briefly, but she is way ahead of us (because she is faster and started early).
Angela and I are still sticking together and encouraging one another. She is going faster than I am down Upper Holy Jim, but the downhill single-track is not my greatest skill. Still, I do better on the 3 mile section downhill than uphill (54 minutes versus 97).
On the last 6.5 miles, Angela and I mostly stay together. I do wait with her while she takes a potty break (can’t believe they didn’t cart a port-a-potty right up to where she needed it mid-course), but after a while, her pace is a bit too slow for me, and I take off on my own. (I do have a chance to improve upon my best course time from 4 years ago, if I press my pace a bit.)
My final time ends up being a bit slower than my up pace (surprisingly) – 1:59 – to finish in 10:34, only 10 minutes slower than my best. (I know 10 minutes sounds like a lot, but it’s 20 seconds/mile.)
Once I am a bit more recovered, I head back a bit to meet Angela and “shepherd” her in. I grab her hand and run in with her. It’s a really nice moment.
For the next couple hours, I assist finishers with food and drinks, and I perform some gopher duties. One of the most exciting moments was the finish of Randall Tolosa, who gets his first finish after 5 tries (and he didn’t start early).
Once the last finisher comes through and the drop bags come down, now I start helping with the packing up of everything – dismantling EZ-ups, tables, packing up food, etc. As a treat, I get one of the In-N-Out Burgers they bought for the volunteers. Even though it’s cold, it’s really good.
I get home at about midnight, so I had almost a 24-hour day.
Looking forward to next year’s event, whether I run it, volunteer at it, or both.