That’s what I told my buddy Jeff what I thought our finishing time could be for the TwinPeaks 50/50 we ran on Sunday.Â Having never done the entire course, and only having run bits and pieces of it during training, I really had no idea, and said that my estimate would likely be off.Â All I knew for sure was that based on what I experienced during the training sessions, and looking at the course profile, it would be a pretty long day regardless, and definitely wouldn’t be easy.
Our day started at 3:30 AM at Stein Manor, where Jeff was kind enough to let me crash the night before to save me the commute.Â We got our gear together, and drove to Oakley where we caught the first shuttle with Larry and Devon to the Harding trailhead.Â Based on how warm it was in the morning, I had a feeling that the day that would be unfolding, would be a hot one — my prediction would eventually become true, with temperatures reaching into the 80’s.
It was nice to see a bunch of familiar faces — many of whom were veteran trail runners I’d come to know from local races, and others who would be experiencing their first ultra distance event.Â One goal we all had in common — to have fun, and I think we all managed to accomplish that before the end of the day.
After some last minute instructions from Jessica, we began our 9 mile climb up to the first aid station at the Main Divide.Â Jeff, Gabor, and I would make this long ascent together, walking mostly all of it except for the brief downhill near the top.Â We completed this section just under 2 hours, and after a quick water refill, continued up to the peak.
As we rounded the first set of towers at the base of Modjeska, we caught up to Robert Harris, and almost missed the fork if Jeff didn’t point it out.Â Even though I wanted to do this on the return, I was out-voted, and ended up getting our stickers first.Â Having never been up there before, I didn’t realize how rocky it was, and was glad we did it on the outbound, since it would’ve been much more difficult on the return.Â On this section, we saw the lead runners, and also caught up with Theresa Apodaca, who led the women’s field.Â Close behind her was Charmella Secrest and Keira Henninger.
After we grabbed our stickers, it was back to the Main Divide junction and up to the next aid station — Santiago Peak, the highest point in Orange County, topping off at just over 5600′, which we would visit again on the return.Â We made it there in around 3.5 hours, a little bit sooner than I expected, and wondered if my prediction to make it down to Horsethief in 5 hours would be possible.
As we ran down the backside of Santiago towards the Holy Jim trailhead, I consulted with Jeff as to how long he thought the next section would take, and he reminded me of the stretch on Main Divide between Holy Jim and West Horsethief, which included a couple of steep climbs.Â I had forgotten about that, and realized that it was going to take a little longer than I anticipated unfortunately, but tried not to think about it.
Gabor and I put a little distance between Jeff and Theresa there, but I knew that they wouldn’t be too far behind.Â This was a long and difficult section, with the temperatures now becoming a factor as the sun was almost out in full force, so the aid station at the top of Horsethief was a welcome site.Â As Gabor and I left to head down the steep and technical switchbacks to the bottom, Theresa and Jim Schollard came in to the aid station.Â We ran down to the bottom of the canyon together, and Gabor started having issues with some cramping, so we walked a bit, then eventually resumed our pace into the half-way point.Â We got there around 11:45 — just over 5.5 hours into the race, and I felt that a 11 hour finish was going to be tough, since we had to do an almost even split.
We saw Brian MacKenzie there sitting in a chair — he unfortunately had to call it a day due to an injury, and just as we left the aid station, Robert Harris came running in, along with Theresa and Jim.Â I was disappointed to find out later, that my friend Jeff had to end his race there as well, having bouts with cramping and dehydration.Â As Gabor filled up on V-8, I picked up my bag of Clif Shots, and then we were off on the long climb back up to Santiago Peak — 8 miles and 4000′, all done in the heat of the day.
Theresa caught us about a third of the way to the Main Divide, and I tried staying with her as much as possible, since I needed a strong climber to pull me, figuring that Gabor would eventually catch us like he always does towards the latter half of my races.Â We passed Jim near the junction, then Theresa pulled away, so I ran (walked?) the rest of the way to the top alone.Â About a half-mile below the summit, Kyle was running down towards Holy Jim — he was supposed to sweep the course.Â Then I bumped into Rich riding his motorcycle, who recognized me from my roommate’s tri club.Â I made it to the top around 2:30 — 8.5 hours into the race.Â I was hoping they’d have some soda there, but found out they ran out, so just filled up with water again, then started the long 15 mile descent back down to the finish.Â As I headed out, Jim arrived into the aid station, but I still didn’t see Gabor.
After a couple switchbacks, I saw Theresa way up ahead, and figured that there’d be no way that I’d catch her.Â Then as I eventually started the gradual climb up to where I saw her, I noticed someone coming down from Modjeska who decided to do that on the return.Â Once I was on the other side of the peak, I could see that I was gaining ground on both of them, and managed to arrive at the 9/41 mile aid station to find Bill Graney, who was the runner I saw coming down from Modjeska, as Theresa was leaving to start her descent down Harding to the finish.Â I got there around 3:40, and wondered if my goal of finishing by 5 PM (11 hours) would be possible.
I was still feeling relatively good, but Bill was having difficulty with the heat and cramping.Â He asked if I was going to hammer it down, and when I told him no, we decided to run together.Â Unfortunately, Bill was having to stop every so often to walk it off, so even though I felt bad leaving him, decided to run ahead, hoping that he’d catch me at some point.Â I eventually caught up to Theresa, who was still running strong, and maintaining a good pace.Â We ran and chatted together for a while, then she eventually told me to go on without her.
At that point, I looked at my watch, and saw that I had just under an hour to reach my goal, but still hadn’t made it to Laurel Springs, which was the 5 mile marker.Â Although I felt it wouldn’t be possible, I didn’t let up, and tried picking up my pace since I felt good.Â When I reached the short uphill just below the bench, I had about 15 minutes left.Â I was red-lined, but felt I could still possibly make my goal.Â Once I crested the hill, I could see the big water tank and finish area, so shifted into another gear that I didn’t think I had.Â I saw some people now, and one of them was Jessica.Â I ran passed her, saying that I wanted to break 11 but didn’t think I could — my watch read 10:58:55, and wasn’t really sure how much farther it was.Â I turned the last corner, saw the gate, and finally the finish line — 10:59:12.Â Even though it was a meaningless goal, it felt good to achieve it.Â David Overstreet handed me my medal, and my friends Robert Baird and Jeff were there to congratulate me.
Shortly after, Theresa finished strong, taking first place in the women’s field in 11:09:35, Jim came in after her, then Bill a short time later.Â Gabor finished in 11:33:19, about 4 minutes before Charmella, who took second, then an outstanding performance by Linda Dewees in 11:38:31.Â Robert Harris finished just after 12 hours, and Keira came in with Greg Hardesty, a couple minutes later in 12:02:12.
I found out a little later that Michelle Barton had won the 50k event overall in an amazing time of 4:26:14, and also Kim finished her first ultra in 6:43, and Leigh and George had a good day too, wrapping it up in 7:29.
Jessica and all the volunteers did a wonderful job putting together this race, and I look forward to the next one.Â I think the most common feedback that I’ve heard from everyone was how difficult the course was, but who wants to do an easy one.Â Like the HURT motto goes, ‘Aole Makou E Ho’ohikiwale Kela, which translates to, “we wouldn’t want it to be too easy” — it sure as heck wasn’t.