October 14, 2017
Back again for another Twin Peaks 50K. I got a deep discount because I volunteered all day for the Harding Hustle this summer, but I also like to help out as much as I can for this event as well, which means showing up early to help with the set-up, checking in, and all that fun stuff, before I myself go out and strive for a good result.
Laura and Angela show up fairly early, too. There are a number of starts for this event: early 50 milers go out at 5:00am, regular 50 milers off at 6:00am, 50 kilometers off at 7:00am, and 30 kilometers, probably off at 8:00am (I’m not sure, because I am always long gone by now.).
There were probably 8 early starters on the 50 miler, and Laura and Angela get special consent to leave with the regular 50 miler crowd. (Good idea, because it’s supposed to be hot today.)
While I am hanging out, I go to adjust my glasses and pull my hat off, forgetting that my headlamp is still on there. When it falls to the ground, the plastic casing breaks and the light won’t come on any more. (Thank goodness I’m not in the 50 miler, because I would really need the light.) (Afterwards, at home, I try to fix it, but it hit so hard that I can’t remove the batteries and once I am finally able to do so, I have to completely break it. Time for a new headlamp.)
Tsehay and I leave with the regular group and keep hoping beyond hope that the shadows continue to stay over the course (because once they lift, the heat will increase).
If you read previous posts of this event, you will note that I usually walk the entire first 6.5 miles of this section, because there is just so much climbing. My goal is usually to do sub 2:05. This is just a time I came up with that’s mildly faster than 20 minutes per mile, and usually around the range that I usually run.
I strike up a conversation with another guy towards the back. I think this is his first ultramarathon (why’d ya pick such a hard one?) and he says that he does not like uphills… but he will definitely catch me on the downhills… a downhill specialist, he says. I will keep an eye out for him passing me.
I would like to break 2 hours, but that has yet to happen. 2:03 makes me pretty happy, and when I get to the top, Tsehay is there. She runs some of the uphill, but she loses a bunch of time at the aid stations, so that’s where I can catch her.
Now over to West Horsethief, which is indicated as fairly flat, but is really about a thousand feet up and down, the up section being very technical (loose gravel or tephra surface). Four miles, one hour, and I don’t sprain my ankle!
Down West Horsethief is the section I do not like, very technical, makes me nervous. I set out ahead of Tsehay (gabbing at the aid station) and get through the “easy” part of the trail, though some of it has washed out, making for a precipitous downhill section early on. (Some runners slide on their butt.)
I just try and maintain a smooth descent and not trip and not bang my head (do both of those several times but moderately). A number of folks pass me by as downhill isn’t my thing.
By the time Horsethief connects with the trail at the bottom, the sun has really come out and upped the heat, and even when I have a whole fire-trail to myself, I am just modified race walking, moving forward. 4.2 miles, 1:24… an even slower pace than that last extreme uphill/downhill section.
Now onto the dreaded Holy Jim (or Holy! expletive!). This sucks.
My one advantage this year is that I am so familiar with this trail that I know how many turns, I recognize “checkpoints,” and so I can manage my pace more comfortably.
I may have talked about the dual water bottle situation in the past, where I always carry two, but rarely use both. One is usually totally full the whole time… but not always. I have been able to milk one water bottle for an eight-mile section (I guess that means two bottles will get me through 16?), but today? Too hot for that.
I do end up going through both water bottles in this 4.5 mile section. I am hoping that the “unmanned” water station will still be here. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t, but I could certainly use a refill before the 3 miles to the top.
When I get up to the road, it is water station-mageddon. There are/were cases and cases of gallon jugs (you know, the boxes with 6 one-gallon jugs inside?). I have a spare Nuun tablet in one of my water bottle pouches and I drop this into one of the unopened gallon jugs. I use it to refill both of my water bottles.
Then, I grab one of the bottles that is probably 1/4 full and down the whole thing. Then I find a completely full box and sit down on it (ahhh) and find another partially filled bottle and drink that. I was probably there 20 minutes and drank AT LEAST one gallon of water. I must’ve been pretty pretty dehydrated. 2 hours and 16 minutes to this point. I am excited about doing 20 minute miles on this section (especially when my personal worst one year was 45 minutes per mile).
Tsehay catches up to me here and we set off on the long slog (3 miles, 1600′ climbing) to the summit of Santiago Peak. It is steep at the beginning, but when it levels off, we are into the sun and out of the shade. Just keep moving forward is what’s important. We stay together for a bit but I am a little faster on the uphills.
The first 1.5 miles takes 46 minutes and then onto the steeper section (and more technical) for another 51 minutes. When I get to the top, a couple of the leaders in the 50 miler are coming up for their second summit (somewhat sad realizing that I am going to run 20 fewer miles and slower than these guys).
I open up my drop bag (in which I have stored spare Nuun, duct tape, and a ice-cold beer). I have been looking forward to this cold beer for miles now, but don’t hold out a lot of hope that it will still be cold 8 hours later. Sure enough, it’s warm to the touch. I have a bottle opener in my water bottle pocket (just useful to have and doesn’t take up much space).
It’s pretty foamy when I open it (maybe the elevation?) and the beer is extremely hot – not room temperature hot, but hot soup hot! Nevertheless, I am going to drink this well-earned beer. Neither Angela nor Tsehay are particularly interested.
Time to head down. I have about 10.5 miles to go, and pretty confident that I am not going to cover the distance in under an hour, so not going to break my PR on this course. It’s 90% downhill from here, though a lot of it is technical, so it won’t be fast going. I am also mindful of the “downhill specialist” overtaking me, so I am not going to pussyfoot it.
I take the initial 1.5 miles (to the “parking lot”) easily. The “downhill specialist” is still on his way up, so I can use this opportunity to stay ahead. It takes me about half the time (but this does include my beer stop) in 27 minutes.
Now to head down Upper Holy Jim. This section has its pluses and minuses. What I like about the trail is that it’s mostly single track and not terribly technical. What I don’t like is the sections where I have to bend in half to get through, the couple of gravely downhill hairpins, and the “quarter-track” sections where I have to walk single-file, because I cannot fit both feet on the path (my balance isn’t THAT great). But what I also like is that this covers essentially the same distance as the uphill from (regular) Holy Jim to the “parking lot” and this is WA-A-A-Y easier – 25 minutes versus 46 minutes.
Once I reach the Main Divide (and the radio folks, there’s a little over a mile to get to the top of Indian Truck Trail and the 6.5 miles downhill to the finish. It’s rolling hills. I struggle on the ups and shuffle on the downs (’cause my feet hurt now) and it takes me about 20 minutes. Tsehay is there and chatting and just about to take off for the last stretch. (She’s the “real” downhill specialist and my only chance to beat her is to leave her chatting there.)
The last stretch isn’t purely downhill (a half-mile uphill stretch about a mile out) but it is pretty endless. I run when I feel OK and I walk briskly the rest of the time.
The whole way down I spot these carved out hearts in the middle of the road (with a stick, presumably). I want to preserve for whoever these were carved for, but most encompass the entire fire-road and I’m not going to run off a cliff for something so fleeting (more on this later).
I manage to cross the finish line in 11:16:39, less than 10 minutes behind Tsehay and about 3 hours behind Laura (started early AND beat me by an hour). Angela’s not far behind us, though she did have that hour head-start. And the “downhill specialist?” He finished about 15 minutes behind me, but he said that all he thought about was catching me. Well, this “uphill specialist” beat ya!
After I get myself rehydrated and fed, I continue to help out with finishers and with packing stuff up.
As it gets dark, there is some concern about the final straggler in the 50 miler. His wife has been pacing back and forth at the finish line (she ran the 30K and carved out all those road messages) wondering why he hasn’t finished yet. It’s the usual, “But he left the last aid station 2 hours ago.” I can tell you that when I did the 50 miler, it was a haul when you are so tired and even harder in the dark.
When the time limit came and went, we packed up most of everything just to be prepared, but left the finish line up (and the timing’s just on computers). Suddenly, we spot a headlamp bobbing down the trail – the final finisher. (Unlike some races, here if the RD lets you continue, you get a finish and a time, even if you are over the limit.)
His wife was beside herself, but couldn’t help asking him if he saw all her little love messages. His answer, “Nope. It was pitch black out there and it was all I could do to stay on the road.”
2017 marks 5 total Twin Peaks finishes for me (4 50Ks, 1 50M) and I can still say that this race, this trail, this wilderness is still a total challenge for me. I would recommend any trail enthusiast to try it but not expect to run your best.