TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Twin Peaks Ultra 2012 Recap

Awake at 2 AM, I was on the road shortly, slotted for arrival to Indian Truck Trail by 3:30 AM (an hour before my start time.)  I felt no nervousness as I drove the lonely highways around the Saddleback Mountains.  I felt calm. 

About 3:15 AM, all lanes on the 91 freeway abruptly stopped.  STOPPED.  Stopped as in, we didn’t move for about 45 minutes.  People shut off their cars.  I learned from the radio there was a fatal accident up a ways. 

A highway patrol officer walked about the freeway lanes talking to some drivers and pointing to the right.  Then slowly, but surely, the traffic began to move to the right, into a single lane.  Race time came before I made it to the offramp.  I didn’t fret.  Someone had lost their life.  It seemed rather foolish to worry about starting on time.  I merely figured that I would start the race when I started. 

4:33 AM, I was finally driving the offramp and noticed traffic dumping into another jam on the city streets.  The car in front of me made a u-turn over the dirt median to enter the onramp adjacent to our offramp.  I followed suit.  There were no cars on the freeway, except of course for the driver ahead of me.  And off to my left, two lanes over, lay a corpse covered with a tarp.  It looked oddly flat.  And that scene stays vividly with me today.

I arrived to Indian Truck Trail in a solemn mood, but I was oddly giddy.  The first wave had already started up the mountain.  I took off up Indian Truck trail alone.  4:50 AM.  I enjoyed my run in the dark.  I took in the black coolness, and didn’t think about anything.  A few miles up the road I could see bobbing headlamps from the other runners.

The sun had risen by the time I reached the Main Divide, equipped with a cheerful aid crew.  They were also late due to the accident, but on-time for my arrival.  John Hocket, the sweeper who chased me and Hank down the mountain last year was there this year with friendly words. 

It took me more than twenty minutes longer to travel this trail than it did the last time I ran it.  I had some making up to do -- my time was already fifteen minutes too slow to make later cutoffs.

The second wave front runners began to pass me as they ran at tremendous, strong speeds.  My morale was dipping.  And then Scott Barnes passed me with a smile and kind words.  I didn’t recognize him at first.  The last time I had seen him was Twin Peaks 2011 at the top of West Horse Thief where I waited as a pacer – he placed 3rd that year, the first year he ran this race (This year, he finished the 50 miles in 2nd place!).  

Anyway, I reached the next aid before I knew it.  Terrific workers manned West Horse Thief, optimistic, smiling and proud.

A cool wind blew as I ran above the clouds.  Other runners passed me as well, pretty much for the next several miles.  A little star-struck, I noticed the faces of many runners that are famous in the local ultra community.  And I saw the faces of friends and other runners that I’ve met again and again on the trails.  I didn’t see my friends Hank or Cody though, as they had taken off with the first wave, and with my lonely start, I just wasn’t quick enough to catch them.

I took the rocky downhill called West Horse Thief slower than I planned.  My friend Robert Whited passed me here with more encouraging words.  By the time I reached the bottom of West Horse Thief, I knew that I was in possible trouble as far as making the cut-offs.  Of course, “that time of the month” hit (yes, I’m still young enough),  and the melancholy that accompanies it did not stay home.  I just COULD NOT pick up my speed to my best.  I was able to increase my speed a bit, but with a foot that was beginning to ache (my neuroma foot), I worried.  But I refused, flat out refused, to think about taking the 50k option.  I had decided quite some time ago, that I would finish the 50 mile option or come home with a DNF.  By the time I reached the bottom of Holy Jim, I knew there was still a chance, but I was going to need some special footwork.

The aid station workers noticed that I hadn’t drank much at all.  I didn’t need refills on anything at mile 15.  So I guzzled down the remaining fluids in my handheld and refilled before the climb up Holy Jim.  

I ran practically the entire 5 mile Holy Jim trip.  I probably shouldn’t have.  I think I was beginning to lose my nerve and wasn’t thinking my best.  A hike would have probably served me better here.  The trip was lonely with a few runners passing me.  I really didn’t think much at all.  I was afraid to think, afraid, because I wanted to quit.  Instead, I put one foot in front of the other and took in the awesome scenery.  I made decent time up Holy Jim.  Still, I had fallen way behind in my schedule.  I refilled my handheld at an unmanned aid station at Bear Springs.  And that’s when I finally allowed myself to think about IT.  There was no way that I was quitting.  And there was no way I was going to make the 50 mile option.  And for the first time, I DID NOT WANT A DNF.  And so I allowed myself the option, the 50k option.  I made the decision remarkably fast, and without regret.  I really felt there was no option.  For all this struggle, I wanted a finisher’s medal, not a DNF.  I chose to take the 50k option. 

All I had to do was make it to Santiago Peak, which I’ve done dozens of times, then it would be basically downhill from there.  The trip to the peak was absolutely miserable.  I ran very little of it, probably 5 percent.  Every single step was painstaking.  It was the worst trip to the peak ever.  I felt utterly fatigued and my foot ached.  But I felt relief.  There were also some high points, the best being that I got to see Cody as he ran down from the peak.  I was so happy that he looked strong.  I told him my decision, wished him a good trip.  I felt comfortable that he was going to make the 50 miles.  I met lots of other fine runners struggling up to the peak.  Despite the pure, hellish agony, I enjoyed myself.  My foot even felt better.

When I finally reached a hospitable aid station at the peak, I emptied everything out of my pack and put it in my drop bag.  I ate a few potato chips, drank some Coca-Cola, and then I took off for a long, long downhill trip to finally end this race.   I was one hour behind schedule at Santiago Peak, which reaffirmed my decision.

With the decision made, though I struggled, I felt happy to be running the trails, to be participating in Twin Peaks.  I felt fortunate.  I would not allow myself to dwell on my decision.  I simply had to do it.  And I left it at that.

Upper Holy Jim was a pleasure.  I filmed quite a bit and remembered fondly where I had fallen several weeks back (seriously).  I met up with Steve Harvey (Old Goat race director) at Indian Truck Trail.  And then I began the long, long, winding trip down Indian Truck Trail.  I didn’t even notice the helicopter hovering about on the divide.  (Turns out, one runner had to be carried a half mile up West Horse Thief and airlifted to a hospital.  I learned very little details, of which I’ll withhold here because I’m not clear on much concerning this.  But thankfully, the male runner was eventually released from the hospital, expected to recover fully.)

Almost everyone running down Indian Truck Trail at this point had taken the 50k option.  Almost everyone.  The first place fifty miler passed me with about 3 miles remaining.  And Scott Barnes passed me with about 50 yards remaining.  These guys ran amazingly strong after such a huge race.  I was in awe.  I had company the last few miles, a young guy named Lucas.  He gave up his hope for the 50 miles after severe cramping set in.  It was nice to have his company, as those last few miles were unbelievably long. 

So, I got my medal, and got to chat and meet many of the runners as we sat about waiting for our drop bags.  I met some new running friends, and talked with old ones.  We ate, we drank.  We had A LOT of time to get to know each other.  I think we waited something like FOUR HOURS for our drop bags.   I noticed a fire truck and ambulance pull up.  I was beginning to hear inklings of trouble at West Horse Thief.  Unfortunately, for my friend Cody, and several other runners, they were dropped from the race at West Horse Thief due to the danger of passing while a helicopter landed.  The situation also delayed our drop bags.  My friend Hank though, made it and finished the 50 miles for the second year in a row! 

EVERYONE has been tremendously congratulatory toward me for finishing the 50k.  I however, do not feel that great about it.  I feel like I failed.  I know that I had to make the decision that I made.  But I still failed.  I was not in good enough shape.  That was where I failed.  On the other hand, the journey was tremendous.  The training was so much fun.  I met wonderful people, and I got to participate in this awesome/prestigious event.  Lots of lessons were also learned.  And that’s important in my life.  Lessons learned – even at my age.  Smile

The 50k option:Running Twin Peaks Ultra 50k 10-13-2012, Elevation - Distance

Twin Peaks / Saddleback Mountains

25 comments:

  1. Bummer the race didn't turn out as you had hoped. Still, I'll add myself to the list of people who uselessly voice their belief that you did a good job insofar as you went out there and had a go, which I suppose at the most basic level is what everyone was doing.

    In addition, I hope to see you there next year and nice music selections for the video.

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  2. Thanks Scott. You are right. And I'm sure the further away I get from the event, I will feel better about it. In all, I am truly honored to even have participated. And also, I'm still in awe of your performance. Awesome job!!

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    1. ps. I think the first song "unwritten" matched my situation perfectly. Thanks for noticing the music. : )

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  3. I know you feel a sense of failure, but you KNOW you should be proud. Be proud that you have the presence of mind to make smart decisions. You are still a huge inspiration to me!!!

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    1. You are so nice Lisa. You could do this race! I know it. I really appreciate your positive words.

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  4. Great job Lauren, well done! I know how difficult the whole situation must have been, but your love for trail running made you earn a well deserved 50km medal. That is another trail ultra medal, congratulations! You are a very tough trooper indeed. Next year you will be strong on the 50 miler I'm sure. Rest well and take care.

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    1. Thanks Johann. Being there and the journey was tremendous. I wouldn't take it back for the world. I don't feel very tough -- wait, there's one way that I do feel kind of tough. I'm tough for even showing up. : ) Thanks so much for your kind words.

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  5. It's a fail only if you ignore the lessons learned. You had a rough last few weeks, and it's awesome that you completed what you did - and SMART to take that option. The 50 miler will be there another time, when it's meant to be for you :D

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    1. You said it Giraffy! Thanks for your comment. It really was a great time, the journey especially.

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  6. Sorry I wasn't there to help you. Just think that you are is a very small class to want to attempt such a difficult task. Look at that medal as a challenge that has made you better.

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    1. Jeremy, no need to be sorry. If I would have pushed forward I would have definitely got caught behind the helicopter and you would have spent hours and hours on that mountain for nothing. Thanks for your wise words!

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  7. Lauren, in no way, shape, or form is this a failure. You weighed out the options and made the right decision. Think about it, that 50 kilometers on arguably one of the toughest trail races around. I realize your competitive spirit says otherwise but looking at the big picture puts you in an elite group as stated earlier. You did well my friend and I'm not overstating when I say you continue to inspire us. Guaranteed you'll get your 50 miler in soon. Happy Trails rockstar!!!

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    1. Thanks Hank. I really had no other choice to make. So many things went wrong those final weeks of training. But that's the way the cookie crumbles right? I got me a Twin Peaks medal and that's pretty cool. Hope to see you soon.

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  8. I'd love to be upset at completing a 50k. haha. Great job Lauren!!! You rock!

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    1. Thanks Scott. See you there next year??? You certainly know all the trails. I really appreciate your positive comments. Like I've said before, the best part was just being there.

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  9. Dropping to the 50K was the correct decision; while it was not your goal, the profile picture alone should serve as a reminder of how tough the course is. I looked at the list of those who dropped to the 50K and you had company with many very trained, experienced ultra runners. You chose one of the hardest 50 miles for your first trail 50 miler and, as the days pass, you will reflect on things to do differently for your next 50 miler. But I hope that as the days pass, you realize that completing 50K out there is an accomplishment and hold your head high for that.

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    1. Thanks Rachel. Definitely a tough, tough 50k. And I agree with you. I was certainly in good company with the others who dropped to the 50k.

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  10. Hi Lauren,
    I was volunteering on the morning shift at the start line but I missed seeing you. It was so dark I couldn't recognize the faces. I got stuck in that traffic jam too. Congratulations on finishing the 50k. You didn't have your best run, it happens. Be proud of yourself and what you accomplished.

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    1. Thanks so much borderlineperfect for your comment. What I'm proud of most is trying. Thanks for volunteering too!

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  11. Scott is a superstar. Maybe 1st next year?/ Nice job Lauren. Definitely not a failure. They are many who don't even try this race because they are afraid of that - a fear that you conquered. Not to mention, this 50k is no easy course either and if you HAD tried for 50 miles you may have been pulled anyway upon arriving at HT behind the helicopter. So you should feel proud for finishing the 50k. Nice Pics and video!

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    1. Scott is tremendous, would definitely love to see him take first next year. It was a great race, really. I would have definitely got stuck behind the helicopter if I made it that far. The best part was being there!

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  12. That's such a beast of a race. Hold your head high for making the right decisions and finishing. Congrats Lauren!

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    1. Thanks Glenn. I am happy that I tried. I recognize that took a lot of nerve. Fortunately, that's something I've got lots of. Thanks again!

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  13. Great blog and video. I totally remember your happy smile and camera as you came through the aid station I was working. Thank you for telling the story. It will really help me. I'm nervous for the approaching race and hope to enjoy my 50k.

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    1. Ahhhh, that's so nice. Best of luck to you on your 50k! I hope you have a great time. :)

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