February 09, 2007

Twin Peaks 50K

Our ultramarathon was here and prepared or not we awoke early to get some food in us and make our way to the race start. That is always the hardest part of a race! The balance of getting to the starting line without injury and still being motivated enough to get up early and get out on the trail is an art.

To get to the starting line we had to take a shuttle from the Oakley parking lot over to the Trucker Wildlife Sanctuary but we had to make the 5:30am departure to have enough time to make our 7am start. I was devastated when I found the Starbucks on the way to Oakley did not open until 6am on Sundays! What am I going to do without Starbucks in my gut all day on the trail? We were also planning on getting some bagels at Starbucks so we missed out on our breakfast too. Looking back, I think that it just helped keep us motivated to keep shoveling in the food all day.

(The early starting line to a long day)

The 50 mile runners had already started up the Harding Truck trail at 6am in the dark and we were freezing in the cold morning air but the day would prove to be warm early enough so we still welcomed the chill and we tried to stay warm before our start.

Monique had decided not to do the race until the day before because she had not been on a long run since our course preview about a month ago. She had run strong at the Rio Bravo but that was a 10K and she had never made it to the top of main divide (9 miles up) for our training run so she was not confident even reaching the first aid station. When her competitive nature got the best of her the night before we decided to go as far as she could go and if need be she would wait at the fist aid station and I could run the out and back to one or two of the peaks if I could make it. I believe that this humble strategy was what helped us so much. We were so conservative in our pace and so prepared with water and food the entire day that we were do something we though was not possible with our little training. That is what makes it so fun and memorable. The right attitude with lots of food, water and the right pace is everything!

(We march our way up Harding Truck trail)

Before we knew it we were already at the first aid station (about 9 miles up) at the top of the Harding Truck trail and on to Main Divide. We had walked most of the uphill and took in more water and food than we normal. Monique had never made it this far so we celebrated our success so far and were amazed at how well we felt. The Main divide trail up to the peaks was a new path for both of us but with our water bottles filled and such a fresh feeling in our legs we continued on to explore what was next.

(reaching the first aid station feeling warmed up and ready to go)

With a few miles behind us now and our confidence mounting we started to run more of the course set before us. Things were also starting to heat up and the climb up to Modjeska peak has to be the most technical terrain for the race. We started to see more runners heading down from the peak and it was encouraging knowing we were almost at the half way point and not feeling the achy pains or any signs of bonking. Leaving Modjeska and on our way to Santiago peak we were able to run more and more of the course as the uphill and downhill sections were not as long.

(Our "run" begins as we close the distance on the half way point)

After about four hours we had reached our second aid station at the top of Santiago peak. We were now 16 miles into our fist ultra but we were past the half way point. The majority of the race was downhill now and we sincerely didn’t expect to make it this far so we really had something to celebrate about. Not only did we make it but we felt great!

(Skip welcomes us to aid station 2 and our turn around point)

The spread of food at this aid station was only enhanced by the warm welcome from Skip and Jen who gave us oxygenated water and encouraging words. As we chatted a bit with Skip, I was amazed at how good I still felt and Monique still looked so fresh. Last year when we ran our first half marathon together Monique really looked bad at about mile eight and only about 400ft elevation gain. I was so proud of her……… With more fuel in our bellies and our water bottles topped off we headed back down from the peak at a good pace.

(Monique still charging after hours on the trail)

Now that we were headed downhill and did not have to be so concerned about the miles ahead looming over us we could relax and enjoy the quick pace of the downhill. Before we knew it the first aid station was in our sight again. With only about a mile away, we drank more often and tried to get rid of all of our water before we reached the station. We could always pee if we needed to and our strategy had worked so well so far.

We reached the aid station again in exactly one hour. Although we had almost 22 miles behind us the aches and pains had not set in yet. The relief of only nine or so more downhill miles lightened our spirits and we began to pick up the pace again. By this time my polar watch recorded the temperatures in the nineties but I felt like nothing could stop us now. No pain in my quads, no pain in my ankles, Monique still smiling and singing our IPods were cranked up to the max. We were deep into a steady pace now that was gaining momentum and I actually felt better at this point than I did the entire run. We were in the zone now and running seamed effortless. The steady motion of my feet seamed to melt into the very character of the trail. I no longer had to think about breathing, the sound of my feet or my foot placement within the rocks. My eyes were following the trail selecting the path in front of me with precision and the rapid eye movement equivalent to being in trance with a video game. This is awesome!

As we approached the last few familiar turns the reality that we were finishing the course was overwhelming. I was so proud of Monique and I still don’t know how she was able to dig so deep and stay focused for so long. We remained positive and helped each other through our tough spots. We celebrated every mile we gained and that motivated us even more. We had been on the course for over seven hours and stuck through it and we already won and accomplished our goals. I would have it no other way…

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