My morning started early with a 4:45AM arrival at race HQ. Runners were already starting to gather for the 5:30AM early start. When I hopped out to move the supply truck, I was greeted by a field producer (Lauren Gaffney) from HBO Sports. She and her crew were there to film Catra Corbett as part of a special on extreme sports (set to air on October 18th). My amazing group of volunteers quickly got things rolling and the 5:30AM start came up fast. I was surprised that it was not freezing in the morning. The previous week had been cooler but things were starting to heat up. Jackets were barely needed (though the heat lamps did feel good!) and it was sure to be a sign of a warm day out on the mountain.
It was still a bit dark when I gave instructions to the early starters. Thankfully, the HBO crew had a large spotlight that lit up the starting line. Maybe they can show up to the start of all my races?? The runners were off into the darkness and it wasn’t long before the sun started to rise and the 7AM starters were mingling about. I saw many old friends and some new ones. One of the best part about ultras isn’t it?
I was surprised there only ended up being 84 starters (out of about 130 registered) but part of that was due to the weather related date change. Once the second group of runners was off it was time to set up base camp (a task which would have required a 3AM arrival if we did it before runners arrived. No thanks! I fired up my live runner tracking app and started to get data in from radio control. It was rather interesting to watch the race unfold. In the men’s race, early leaders were Dean Dobberteen, Edgar Igor Campos and Ron Gutierrez. They were also first to the top of Santiago Peak at mile 22. Dean had already opened up a 24 minutes lead by this early point in the race. Tiffany Guerra and Vanessa Jones battled it out early in the race but Tiffany opened up a 23 minute lead by mile 22. Those leads become 37 and 45 minutes as the runners bombed back down the mountain to the Holy Jim aid station at mile 30.
Mile 30-34 were the most difficult part of the race for almost every runner. Specially, miles 32.4-34.0 were runners climb a short distance and gain about 2000′ of elevation while the afternon sun starts bearing down on them with a vengeance. On a warm day, as single climb up West Horsthief is enough for most runners, but these runners were doing this during the second half of the race and it was their 3rd or 4th climb (depending on how you measure it). Lauren (a pacer) described her experience going down Horsethief: “The descent down Horsethief was surreal. I’ve never been in a war zone. But this trail seemed so much like a path of the walking wounded, like I was making my way to the battlefield past these runners who were struggling on to safety.” West Horsethief didn’t even spare lead runner Dean. It took it’s toll and by the time he and Ron reach Santiago Peak (mile 42) the second time, there was only a 7 minute gap.
Twin Peaks offers the chance for runners to drop down to a 50K option during the race. They must make the decision at mile 25 and they don’t get any official placement or awards. They DO get credit for finishing a 50K. The early stream of runners coming down the mountain to the finish line all took this option. In fact, 26 of the 84 runners opted for the 50K option. They were just happy to be done!
Dean Dobberteen, who had led the race since mile 10, came coasting into the finish with a time of 9:59. He became just the 4th person in 3 years to break the 10 hour barrier on this difficult course. Tiffany Guerra led the women’s race from start to finish and racked up a time of 12:18. They both earned $250 for their accomplishments.
The carnage was evident with a 52% finish rate. This is not a race to be taken lightly! The website hosting the live runcast also crashed though I suppose that wasn’t the mountains’ fault 26 runners opted for the 50K and 14 runners dropped altogether. Most of the dropped runners promised to come back and run the race again. They all seemed to enjoy their experience despite the pain and suffering! Several people had told me the views were absolutely amazing and possibly one of the clearest days they had ever seen up there.
What a beautiful day for an amazing race!
See you next year.
Happy Running & Dirty Feet,