Right now, I cannot write an entry that adequately relays my experience as a Twin Peaks pacer. I seriously feel that it would take an entire book. I’ll call this a “recap.”
Pacers waited for their runners at the Horsethief aid station where a friendly crew, including 2 radio men were already several hours into their all-day shift. If you read my blog regularly you might remember the words Horsethief Trail. Sometimes I call it West Horsethief. Sometimes I separate the word into Horse Thief. Either way you say it though, that trail is truly hell. It’s a rocky, switchback that climbs and climbs with plenty of false summits and NO RELIEF in elevation gain. And there’s very, very little shade. Though it’s a little less than 2 miles long (I believe), I pretty much hate Horsethief, and currently, it’s the only trail that I can think of that I would say that about.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that pacers meet their runners at the TOP of Horsethief. There, we waited and we waited. We talked, we laughed, we ate candy. Then finally, the front runner came up the beast called Horsethief. He was suffering some, but looked strong. Strong enough to smile (See photo of Dean below). He had quite a lead on the second place runner. Then another significant amount of time passed. That’s when I began walking the trail, to the edge before it radically descended. Scott Barnes came around that corner, smiling and looking cool and calm. I thought he looked familiar, then realized I knew him when he said, “Lauren?” What a thrill it was to see Scott in third place, even more thrilling to give him that news. He seemed shocked.
Race Director Jessica Deline:
Scott Barnes, 3rd Place (coming up Horsethief, see prior blog post where I was fortunate to train with Scott):
After Scott, the trails were silent. An entire hour or more must have passed before runners began dribbling in. Some looked okay, others looked like death, having climbed to mile 33/34. All runners took time to rest. Some took lengthy rests. Some recovered well and took off somewhat strong. Others didn’t seem to recover as well and took off slowly walking. Other runners dropped from the race and waited for a ride down. Some of the runners smiled. Some of them scowled. One runner looked at us and first thing he said was “I hate everyone who has anything to do with Twin Peaks.”
The runners came in “far and few between” and more and more of them looked like the walking dead. There was a report of a runner laying in the trail and station worker Christine went off to get him. About that time I strapped on my gear and decided to head down Horsethief. I knew Hank had to be having a hard time of it. I hoped that I could help.
On the way down I saw Greg Hardesty (OC Register sports writer) whom I’ve met on a few occasions and have never seen him less than cheery. Not today. Today he mumbled something like, “I hate this trail,” yet he kept on trucking.
It hurt to see the suffering as I made my way down Horsethief. Here and there I’d come upon a runner. He would be sitting on the side. Or he would be staggering side to side. I saw Christine slowly walking up the young runner that she found laying in the trail. As I descended, I kept a lookout for a white cap. Turns out, just about everyone I came across was wearing a white cap.
The descent down Horsethief was surreal. I’ve never been in a war zone. But this trail seemed so much like a path of the walking wounded, like I was making my way to the battlefield past these runners who were struggling on to safety. I grew a little worried the more I descended.
Then finally I saw Hank. He was not staggering. But I could tell, he was spent. Quite frankly, I was elated, so, so happy that he had his wits about him, he wasn’t staggering, or worse yet, laying on the trail. I gave him a quick hug, and got behind him and began the march up, telling him each time he asked, “how much longer?”
First female runner makes it to top of Horsethief (right), Christine pours water on Rob’s neck (see prior blog where I came across Rob on Main Divide):
Catra Corbett and Andy Kumede:
At the top of Horsethief Hank took little time, and we were off. The moon came out early and the weather began to cool. As the sun went down, I felt relieved that I knew those trails well. Hank was using all his energy to move onward as quickly as possible, one thing he didn’t need to worry about was which way to turn.
The amount of suffering I witnessed on those trails were immense. Remember, this race had about 15,000 to 17,000 feet of elevation gain and 52 miles to cover. Hank’s determination was amazing. I hoped that I was helping. I think I did somewhat, especially with direction. I tried to be sensitive and slow down when he needed it and stop talking when he couldn’t take hearing another person’s voice at the moment. Still, I think there were times when I talked/joked a little too much. But we also had some miles of silence.
It grew dark well before we made our descent down the mountain. Tiny white, orange and yellow lights glittered from thousands of feet below from Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties. With headlamps and flashlights we continued the climb. Then as we made our descent, the stations began closing up. Word was, the sweeper truck was going to start picking up runners. And so the race was on as we ran from the sweeper truck. It seemed like we literally flew down Upper Holy Jim, a single track that the truck couldn’t drive, but the running sweepers were close behind. I’m truly amazed how Hank was able to kick it in and pull out a burst of energy as we jumped and stumbled over rocks on that single track down.
The sweepers caught up with us around Indian Truck Trail (the last 6.5 miles). They were two great guys who ran along with us. One of them took off, and sweeper Tim ran along with us for the longest 6.5 miles EVER. I had no doubt that Hank would cross the finish line. He had already proven his determination. Still, I was amazed that he had anything left.
Then finally through the dark, we saw a light and ran in over that finish line. Hank’s wife and daughter were waiting there like two angels in the light, so happy to finally see him. They said that they could see our lights as we travelled down the mountain and couldn’t believe what we were doing, what he was doing. I only ran a little under twenty miles of this trek. I had the easy part.
It was finally over. My friend Hank crossed the finish line of Twin Peaks 50 at a little after 10:00 PM. Though he crossed the line last, which crossing that finish line in general is a HUGE accomplishment, he did not actually have the longest time due to the early starts who began the race at 5:30 AM instead of 7:00 AM. Hank placed 36 out 44 finishers. 86 runners started this 50+ mile race. 44 finished. Others dropped to a 50k option, and others dropped entirely.
Congratulations Hank. You did it!! I’m not sure that I will honor your request that the next time you mention a fifty mile race that I’m to tell you “shut up.” LOL. Rest up, friend.