Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twin Peaks running in sunny (not) Southern California

Ok, this is the second time I've run this race.  The first time the weather was perfect, cool at the start and warming up to around February.  The race date got moved this year due the fires from fall 2007.  The nice thing about this race is that I can bum off my sister-in-law and her family for the weekend since the race is near to their house.  
So a couple weeks before the race, we get an e-mail detailing a change in start times.  Originally the start time for all runners was 6am.  Now, to reduce the numbers going thru any aid station and to "enhance" our running experience, we were divided into several groups, three groups for the 50 mile and two for the 50K.  My start time was now 4am.  That meant I had to set the alarm for 2am.  This really sucks, but I paid the money so I'll run the race.  
I checked the weather for the weekend and it was looking iffy, but I was hopeful that any weather would hold off until I was done.  
I showed up at the starting line at 3:30 with the other intrepid souls starting at 4am and we were off.  I knew the first 8 miles or so were all uphill so I took off at an easy pace right behind Catra and her friend.  Within a 1/4 mile I found myself in the lead.  Wow, this is really unusual, me in front.  In fact it's down right strange.  I actually was in the lead or the first 3.5 miles before I finally got overtaken by a couple of kids.  In talking with the second one, he said we'd both overtake the front runner eventually.  Turns out he was right, I caught him again at about 20 miles.  So up and up we go.  We had a full moon and it was fun to be able to run without my headlamp on , but I could see a massive cloud wrapped around the top of Santiago Peak, the peak we'd have to summit twice during the day.  Not a good sign at all.
We were supposed to have our first aid station at around 6 miles, but there was no one there.  I didn't think too much of it since I was doing fine anyway.  Running up the road eventually got me into the clouds around the mountains.  It was kind of a surreal experience.  I was only able to see about 20' in front of me with my headlamp.  I would think I was going on a straight section of road and all of the sudden there would be the brush at the side, the road had turned.  I would swing my light around to see which way to go.  The course was well marked and even with the fog the way was clear.  As I was running down the firetrail at about 9.5 miles, I came across a truck.  Turns out it was aid station, they got lost.  
I made it to the first trail (Horsethief canyon) of the day just as it was starting to get light.  I love this particular trail.  Lots of fun to run down.  I was still running in third and there was no one behind me for quite a distance.  I made it down Horsethief Canyon to the second aid station at the bottom of Holy Jim Canyon (14.8 miles).  By now I needed water and my drop bag.  Guess what?  The aid station people had just arrived and weren't even setup yet.  Not only that, no drop bags.  Needless to say, I was mildly irritated.  This shouldn't have happened.  Bad planning and timing. I had to wait around to get just a banana, only water and soda, no sports drink.  I grabbed the banana and left up Holy Jim trail, 9 miles to the top of Santiago Peak.  Eventually I was in the clouds again and now it was starting to rain and the wind picked up.  Time to get cold.  When I made it to the top of Santiago, I was frozen and now I was starting to think about dropping to the 50K.  I don't do well running in cold weather.  At the top, the aid station was one person doing the aid out of the back of their car.  Limited food, water or soda.  I grabbed a sandwich and headed back down the fire road.  By now my hands were so cold that I couldn't feel my fingers, even with my gloves on.  I was wet, it was windy, about 40 and rainy at the top.  I was not having fun at all.   Now the interesting part started.  I was about a mile down from the peak trotting along and I heard this voice off the side of the road "Hey, can you help me?"  I looked and there was this very heavy set man laying on the ground about 30' down the slope.  Keep in mind this is a 45 degree slope.  He had lost control of his truck and rolled it about 40'-50' down the slope.  The only reason he didn't go further was the heavy brush in that location.  Luckily he had been wearing his seatbelt and wasn't really hurt.  He had been trying to climb back up to the road and couldn't make it.  He had hurt his wrist and couldn't use one hand.   Anyway, I stopped, asked him if he was ok and scrambled down the slope to help him up.  After we got back up to the road, the 3rd place runner came by and said he would let the next aid station know what was going on.  I had my cell phone with me but couldn't get signal at all.  We started very slowly walking down the road to the next aid station when Chrissy Weis stopped by and gave us ride.  By now I was absolutely frozen and knew that going on was not a good thing.  No dry clothes and shivering uncontrollably.  We transfered to another vehicle going back to the finish area finally made it down.  We managed to get in touch with the guy's  wife and got him home.  He was incredibly lucky that his truck didn't roll any further down the mountainside and get hurt worse.  
So, my day ended at about 23 miles and 5 hours.  Today as I write this, I spent 4 hours on the golf course with my brother-in-law enjoying typical So Cal Dec. weather, sunny, 60's, clear air, very nice.  Too bad today wasn't race day.  
One thing that did go well was my uphill running.  I really suck at going uphill.  One of the things I changed with my training was to be diligent with doing hill repeats.  I did find out that the hill repeats worked fantastic.  I was able to run up hill far better than I ever have been able to.  
Will I go back to run this race next year?  In a word, no.  There was a lack of attention paid to the little details, getting people to their aid station location, getting drop bags to the aid stations in a timely manner, getting aid stations up and running before the first runners come thru.  On the other hand, some things went right.  I wore my LaSportiva Crosslites for the first time in a race and they were great.  Very comfy, good traction.  I also had no blisters.  I tried wearing those toe sock thingies and they work great.  Usually I will start getting a hot spot or two by 20 miles and this didn't happen.  Other than getting really, really cold, I felt pretty good.
So, a somewhat exciting day that didn't go as planned and another DNF in the books.  Now I start the taper for Across The Years.


  1. Sorry your day did not go as planned but good for you doing what was much more important. The man you helped will never forget your kindness!

  2. You're a good man Jim, and definitely have your priorities in place. I would not count this race as a DNF - glad to hear you survived the cold!

  3. Way to go, Jim. You never know what you'll encounter on a trail run. I agree with monica and Lucia.

    Also, it's good to hear your La Sportiva's and toe socks helped prevent blisters. Blisters seem to be my biggest problem on ultra trail runs. Any tips you have I would appreciate.

  4. Jim, this is a very hearty story. BTW, you got to email Scott and make him change your link on Goats website - this is where I go from, and I know you have a blog, but link takes us to your race.
    Have fun at ATY!

  5. No way a DNF. Way to get the priorities straight. These things would never happen at the Buffalo Run, thats for sure.