Monday, October 10, 2011

Twin Peaks 50 plus mile

Twin Peaks 50 Mile October 9, 2011 
Corona, CA

Arriving with Pedro at the race with were quickly able to find Tiffany. We all chatted briefly then I snapped a few pictures of them. At that point I ran into Jessica the RD for Twin Peaks 50. Thanked her hosting the event and explained I was looking for to the challenge.

Two Amazing Coyotes!!
It was nice to be starting an ultra in daylight. The start time was 7:00am and the sun was already coming over the mountains. The temp was on the cooler side, but I knew that before it was all said and done that the temp would be reaching 85F.

Start Line of Twin Peaks

The group of runners all huddled in near the chalked start line and Jessica sent us on our way with a 5 second countdown. I choose to start towards the middle of the pack and not press out the first few miles too hard. The start takes you from 1200' basically straight up to about 5000' in the first 10 miles. About a mile into the climb Pedro had caught up to me and we chatted our way to the first aid station Indian Truck Trail 6.7 miles. Along the way I occasionally stopped to snap a few pictures of the beautiful sunrise.

Looking at the first peak to climb

Once through the first aid station Pedro and I stuck together chatting a bit more about all sorts of things. I mentioned as the race proceeds my goal is to catch 15 runners before the finish. He thought that sounded good; so we counted off runners one by one on our way to Horsethief as we still continued to climb.

Climbing our way to the top

Leaving the aid station we started a long quick singletrack  descend to Holy Jim AS. The pace quicken to a 9 min mile as we made our way to the bottom of the canyon. The feeling to be running down the singletrack was exciting. I was trying to take in the view but the scattered rocks kept my attention. Once at the bottom Pedro pushed on a bit faster and I held a comfortable pace working my way along the lush canyon bottom. I even found the abandon car he told me about the night before the race.

The lush portion of the canyon

Coming into to the Holy Jim aid station I met Pedro at the table and we started our way back out of the canyon up to Bear Springs AS. The course now was being to take a quick climb which would take us from about 2000' again straight up to about 5600' on mostly switchbacks. This portion of the course provided a ton of amazing views as we worked our way up the mountain. Passing even more runners the count was now near 10 and Pedro pulled away. I snapped a few more pictures and even captured some video of me running powerhiking up the switchbacks. The sun was bright and the temp was warming fast. I was feeling good and knew I had to pace myself. This course is basically climb up, drop down, climb up, drop down, climb up and finally drop down. Covering a total climb of 17,856 feet. This is by far the most elevation gain I have done per mile in any race. So holding back was the only sensible thing to do. Plus I was gradually passing runners on the way to each aid station.

Bottom of the canyon

Reaching Bear Springs AS I looked and did not see the aid station table set back a few feet from the trail and made the turn to head up to Santiago Peak. About a half mile later I was completely out of fluids. I asked another runner, Alan an Irishman, how far to the new aid station. He explained that it was a few more miles. I knew I could not make it that far with the temp being so high. That's when he asked why didn't I fuel up at Bear Springs. I explained I looked but didn't see the table. He kindly gave me one of his bottles which was able to get me to the top of Santiago.

Looking back to what I just covered

In the final climb to Santiago I saw Tiffany heading back down from the Peak looking strong. Then just about a tenth of a mile from the summit he comes Pedro letting out some Coyotes howls and looking strong too. I checked to the aid station got refueled and was ready to descend back to Holy Jim at the bottom of the canyon again. On the way down you take a spur called the Upper Holy Jim which is a quick switchback section. There is a lot of washout on the trail and the shrubs are tight.
After coming off the Upper Holy Jim I needed to get the sand and small pebbles out of shoes. I stopped and sat down on the jeep road and started to shake the debris from my shoes. Suddenly, I noticed three large raven hovering over my head and getting closer. This was unsettling for me as I was now scrambling to get my shoes back on to my feet. All the time I was doing that Alan commented as he passed saying, "those birds look like they are circling you" with a chuckle.

Pedro starting his way down from Santiago Peak

Keeping a decent pace I finally stopped counting runners I had exceeded my goal and was now over 30 runners in 25 miles. I knew the race was more about me finishing than placing anyway. I stopped again taking some more panoramic photos of the mountains then made my final drop into the aid station.

Great views from all angles

Leaving Holy Jim AS I ran into Alan again and we chatted a bit along the trail through the bottom of the canyon. Here is when the heart of the race hits you straight in the face, legs and mind. The next 17 miles is almost all climbing back around to Santiago Peak. The first climb up to Horsethief on the exposed switchback was brutally hot. In those fours plus miles from Holy Jim up to Horsethief I pounded down both of my bottles leaving me empty for the the last mile of climb. Now the second time in the race I was without fluids.

The desert feel around Holy Jim

I held a steady hiking pace as not to push too hard not having any fluids plus knowing there was a lot of climb to go after the aid station. On top of the heat my lower back had been hurting for the past two days and that climb brought it to full attention. I could have sworn Chuck Norris roundhoused me right there on the trail. My day had started to go south. I was moving at a 22 minute mile pace, no fluid and some horrible pain and the fear of now missing a cut-off. I even started to question myself on why do I sign up for these ridiculously hard races. I was thought hard and came to terms with it and no way I did I make this trip to DNF.

Fully stocked and mentally ready I left Horsethief and started a steady run/walk all the way to the Indian Truck Trail AS. This was the tipping point and I was gaining time back on the course. Every mile down was the end of the climb then a 10 mile descend back to the start. The sun was now being to slowly set too which helped reduce the constant feel of the sun.

The many jeep roads of the course

Heading to Bear Springs next I continued with a run/walk style. The only difference was that I was now more running and feeling good. The section went by rather quickly and I passed straight on through and keep working my way all the Santiago. I was in a moment and needed to finish this climb. Once again in almost the same spot I saw Tiffany making her way down from the Peak and heading to the finish. Thinking Pedro would be close behind her I keep my eyes open to cheer him on to the finish. Suddenly, I was at the peak and never saw him pass down the from the top. I then inquired if runner 74 had came through and they said a long time ago. Man this guy was tearing up the course. I snapped a few last photos at the aid station with the volunteers and they took one of me with the mts in the background.

Ready to run the downhill and finish this race

Alot of times we joke that the race starts in the 20% of course. So with an all downhill 10 mile run why would it not be the ideal time to push it now. I ratcheted it up and pushed the pace down from Santiago to the Upper Holy Jim. Holding a nice consistent 11 minute per mile I knew I would I would be done in two hours. At this point I had about a half dollar size blister on the bottom of each heel that shot pain up to sore quads. Hey what else can you expect when there is much much elevation and on top of that running 43 miles at this point. Just have to accept it and try to finish quicker to make it stop.

Just another breathtaking view

Using just my last two bottles and one gel I ran all the way down to the finish. Stopping once to get a picture of the full moon before darkness settled in around 7pm. Trying to avoid using my headlamp and just enjoying the run I was able to make it for a few miles. The final section was a jeep road that had a lot of washout and random rocks so instead of taking a hard fall I played it safe and turned the light on for the remaining part of the journey. Working my way around the mountain to the bottom it was interesting how there would be a cool breeze then coming around the other side it would still be hot. This pattern lasted all of the last four miles.

The full moon coming out
In the final straight way to the finish I was surprised when a spotlight was turned on and a bunch of cheering began. I kicked up the pace, brightened my smile and ran it. Once across the line I thanked all the volunteers for their help. I then stumbled across Tiffany by the fire and learned that not only did she take first female she also set the course record in the female division! On top of that she informed me that Pedro came in 8th in the men's with a time of 11h20m. Both amazing accomplishments. I was proud of my 13h5m finish with over 100 photos & 10 minutes of video footage. This was more about the adventure then about a podium finish. In addition, just completing the course has now qualified me for UTMB in 2012!! Imagine the adventure of me running in Switzerland around Mt Massif?!

Race volunteer and me at the finish 13 hr 05 min

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