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Monday, October 10, 2011

Twin Peaks Pacer Recap

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.

Finish/Start line, Race Operations:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Race Director Jessica Deline:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Volunteers (Pacers, sweeper, etc):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

West Horsethief Aid Station, First Place runner, Dean Dobberteen:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking down at Horsethief (toward very end of trail, where the runners finally got some relief):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The Radio Guys at Horsethief Aid Station:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Waiting at the top, checking trail for runners coming up:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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?”

Runner finishing up Horsethief:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Runners taking a breather before heading off:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Another runner makes it to the top of Horsethief:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Catra Corbett and Andy Kumede:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA


More runners finishing up Horsethief:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA


Taking off for another trip to the peak:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading down Horsethief to meet up with Hank:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Meeting runners along the way:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Taking off on the Main Divide with Hank:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The moon shows its face:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Hank with race director, Jessica:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Tim, the patient sweeper – good luck on your first Iron Man!:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

At finish line with Hank:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA


  1. Great recap Lauren! Well done to Hank and to you as well. Pacing can be a very hard job. It is also very rewarding and one of the best ways to experience an ultra event. You'll have to do this race yourself some day.

  2. Incredible story Lauren! Last year I worked the finish line and was there as the last body passed through. It struck me then that the only competition in an ultra was the finish line.

    What? No mention about Hardesty's skirt?

  3. Oh - and Horsethief is not even two miles long. And something like 1200 feet of elevation gain...

  4. I was really looking forward to that recap. Its cool seeing the people we see up there. Like Scott, Rob, and the rock stars Dean, Catra & Andy. I bet Hank was so relieved that he had a friend to help him get to the finish and not get lost in a delirious state that we all get in. Great job Lauren and Hank.

  5. Loved this. Gabby and I hung out with a TNT coach Saturday who was participating in this race, so super cool to see your recap. Thanks!

  6. Lauren, what a great recap!!! There is NO WAY I would have finished this race without my pacer. You seemed to arrive at the time I needed you most. Thanks for keeping me moving along and motivated to the end. Sorry if I ever appeared cranky or inattentive. I was holding on for dear life. I would never trade this experience for anything though, pain and all. Thanks again and look forward to getting back on the trail with my OC friends. Slowly healing........Hank =)

  7. Great race report! I love reading about these epic adventures :)

    Please do write a book; I'll buy it.

  8. Lauren, as others have said, great recap.

    I knew you'd be at the West Horsethief aid station for a time, so I was hoping to get there before you began your pacing duties.

    That said, it was a pleasant surprise to unexpectedly encounter you outside of the aid station, both because it's nice to see a familiar face out there and because you signified a nearby source of water, which I very much desired at that point.

    Finally, judging from Hank's comment above, it seems your pacing efforts were well received. Congratulations to both of you.

  9. I think I might put a medic at the top of Horsethief next time instead of at Indian. that second trip tore people up! You described it well I think. Great report!

  10. Thanks Johann! You are right, pacing was very rewarding. About doing the race some day -- perhaps : )) I do know the trails, and I have run them all, but not in one day.

  11. Thanks for reading Glenn. I agree with you, the only race is the finish line. Funny, I didn't know about Hardesty's skirt, I was too busy looking at faces, looking for "my" runner. I wish I would have noticed. Other people mentioned his outfit at the race too. Thanks also for the clarification this on Horsethief. I'm going to try and RUN up it this month.

  12. It was very Cool Jeremy. Thanks for training with me so that I could even do it!

  13. Thanks Hank. I really am glad that I got to pace you. You were always very polite, never cranky, sometimes not exactly happy -- go figure : )). But I would have probably been sobbing like a baby if I ran that race! Yikes! I am really honored to have helped & glad to hear from you that I did help.

  14. Thanks for reading Giraffy. Last year I got to work an aid station during Twin Peaks, this year I got to pace. Does that mean next year I run it??? Double yikes. LOL.

  15. I'm glad you like reading these Scott. If you know an agent or publisher who might be interested, let me know : ) I've pitched a book for a while now, and even had one New York agent interested, but he ended up passing on the idea. : (

  16. Thanks for reading also Scott Barnes. I was so surprised to see you on West Horsethief. Not that I didn't think you wouldn't be doing great, just forgot who to expect out there. Congratulations to you too. You did a fantastic job on such an amazing race.

  17. Thanks for reading Jessica. Twin Peaks is truly an amazing event. I'm still thinking about it. Thanks for all your efforts putting it together -- it's got to be a tough job.