TWIN PEAKS 50 MILE
I began to wonder if it was going to be a special day when race director Jessica DeLine handed me bib #3. Apparently she thought I was top 5 potential. And who wouldn't want to be lucky number 3? So off we raced under the stars into the 6am darkness of the mountains above lake Elsinore. Immediately the climb up to the ridge begins, dulling the usual race-start enthusiasm. As the road climbed steeper everyone began dropping back and I found myself in 2nd despite not pushing too hard. I followed the sole lead runner's increasingly distant headlamp. Was he a local just going out hard for the hell of it? Or had he run the race before and was going for the course record? Part of me desperately wanted to keep him in sight. While everything else told me to save the racing for later.
Every time I thought the early leader was out of sight I would round a bend and see him up ahead. Meanwhile someone was closing quickly on my tail. Scott passed me on the first steep descent once we reached the ridge road, he was bombing down effortlessly, talking about being 3 minutes off his pace from last year. He disappeared down into Trabuco canyon where I caught up to the guy who had been in the early lead. I tucked in behind him and tried to conserve as we rolled towards holy jim trailhead. I was feeling really good, happy to be running in the mountains. My mind drifted from the trail and in an instant I caught a rock or root with my foot(not sure which). I was thrust violently forward to the ground, my hands out in front taking the brunt of the impact. The shock! The terror! I rolled over onto my back as the adrenaline fueled emergency beacons erupted requesting a status report. Is your head still on? Yes. Is that poison oak you're laying in? Maybe. Can you get up? I think so. Back on my feet and moving I continued the self diagnosis. Right elbow scraped to hell. Left hand stinging all over. A golf ball sized swelling under a nice patch of missing skin quickly protruded from the palm. It was difficult to move those fingers for the rest of the day. I began to wonder how I would open my water bottles to refill them, much less carry two. And the biggest question of all was if it could be broken.
The aid station at the holy jim trailhead was more of a volunteer water stop with some gels. I knew they wouldn't be able to advise me so I managed to refill one bottle and get my ass back up the mountain. I somehow took the lead on the climb as the other two leaders seemed to be settling down significantly. Scott said he didn't feel as good as last year and was giving up on the race. I told him he would be back in it but wanted to put a lead on the switchbacks which are pretty much runnable. After getting some more water at the peak and being spurred on by the crew I made a quick turnaround. On my way down I passed people on the little out and back from the peak who were still on their way up. I saw Madison in second place climbing well and super excited. I knew he had never run more than a 50k race previously so I could only hope that the new distance would stump his youthful speed. Everyone was very supportive at first but soon the attitudes changed from 'nice work dude!' to grunts and grimaces. On the descent from Santiago Peak you have the option of taking a short route back to the finish and dropping down to the 50k distance. If the pain in my hand wasn't subsiding and I hadn't been in the lead this would have been considerably tempting! It turns out that this easy-out got the better of many people.
Floating back down the holy jim trail I tried to balance putting in a good lead with not digging myself into a hole. For the next 20 miles I didn't know how much of a lead I had on the chasers. The mental game would be theirs to win. It was important to forget about the lead and relax letting the chasers worry about wether I was gaining on them or not. If I could stay out of sight and maintain my lead it would be harder and harder for anyone to overcome the mental gap as 50miles of fatigue added up.
I walked every step of the climb back up Horse Thief trail. My legs felt dead, like solid concrete. Breath deep steady breaths, stand up straight, don't stop moving. It's so steep you can see the bottom from the top of the switched backs 1000' up. I managed to run in to the aid station at the ridge being run by Steve Harvey(Chimera race director). I told him I was glad that particular climb isn't a part of the Chimera 100 course and he threatened to add it. I rolled off along the ridge road with it's sudden steep declines and inclines. There's nothing flat but many sections seem runnable. I knew that the chasers would have to run every uphill that i did and faster. So I managed the damage on my body and tried to consolidate the lead meanwhile getting increasingly nauseous from all the sugar.
At all of the aid stations I made sure I appeared fresh, smiling, moving smoothly. If the second place runner asked how I was doing they would get bad news about how good I looked. After summiting Santiago peak a second time I would finally get a feel for how close the chasers were. Descending the out and back however I didn't run into anyone before making the turn off to another trail. With 99% of the climbing done I knew the race was mine to win but the steadily dropping road all the way back to the finish is a severe 7 mile descent. You're always nervous that if you relax someone will come out of nowhere to blow you away. I tried to move swiftly until the downhill ate away at my enthusiasm. My knee started to hurt, my whole body begged for flat ground. My left shoulder/back that had progressively gotten tenser all day became a pinched nerve so painful my body was contorting awkwardly. Like many final miles of a hard run it seemed endless until the road finally flatting out just before rounding a corner and seeing the tents at the finish.
BABY FOOD, LAURABARS(BANANA BREAD), TAILWIND, BOILED POTATOES, HONEY STINGER GELS.
- BEING FAMILIAR WITH THE COURSE AND KNOWING WHERE TO WALK OR RUN, WHAT TO SAVE UP FOR, ETC
- STAYING CALM, BREATHING DEEP, KEEPING BODY IN UPRIGHT POSITIVE POSITION
- REMEMBERING OTHER COURSES WHERE THE LEADERS RACED TO HALFWAY AND HAD NO FIGHT LEFT
- SKIPPING UNNECESSARY AID/WATER STATIONS, MOVING QUICKLY THROUGH THEM