Twin Peaks Ultra

Twin Peaks Ultra 10-13-2012

Although I have never stepped foot on a mountain, I have always been fascinated by them. How do people run mountains when I have trouble running hills in Wisconsin? What does it feel like to summit a 6000 foot mountain and then run back down?

I decided early on this season that 2012 would be the year that I truly try and find my limits. The early test of running 135 straight miles set the tone for the season. I still had some setbacks, including a dreadful performance at Cellcom and another failure at Kettle Moraine 100. I truly believe, you fall down 9 times, you get up 10 times. Nothing can deter me from chasing my dreams.

Twin Peaks Ultra was a stretch goal for me. A 50 mile run through the Santa Ana Mountains in which many consider the third toughest 50 in the country. I sometimes open my mouth and think about the consequences later, but I am a dreamer!

In the final day of our family vacation to Anaheim and Disneyland, I started my first ever mountain run. The first 10.5 miles were up the initial peak. I felt incredible. As the Indian Truck Trail wound itself in and around, switch backing up the mountain, I felt myself smiling. How lucky am I right now? I have the use of my legs and lungs. I am literally running up a mountain!! I hit the 10.5 mile mark, cresting the first peak and noticed that I was looking down on some cloud cover. Seriously?!

As the sun slowly rose from the east, the mountains to the west were lighting up, section by section. It was amazingly gorgeous to watch. The views were astounding…and I didn’t even realize I was running.

The next aid station was 4.5 miles away – so I hit a sharp turn and headed down the mountain. Again a first for me – the switch backs were tight and the single track trail was full of small rocks. I was careful not to fall in this section because the drop-offs were steep. It didn’t take long to descend and hit the canyon floor. The canyon was incredible. I could see a stream to my left and the single track was fairly easy to run through. I crossed the stream twice as I snaked through the canyon.

The aid station at 15 miles marked the end of the fun I was having. I immediately felt the fatigue in my quads. I didn’t know I was running that hard. 3 hours in. I was ready to start the Santiago Peak climb; 6000 feet up the highest peak in the Santa Ana’s.  I began hiking and taking in some more calories.

The climb quickly went from a truck trail to single track and began getting more rugged. This was for real. This was some serious climbing. I hiked, ran short sections, and repeated. About half way up the mountain, I was again in awe of the views. The surrounding mountains were huge, cascading spikes that looked small in size from where I stood. The vegetation was interesting as I went from the forest floor, to barren landscape, back to the tree line and above.

I stopped at the next aid station and the gentlemen informed me it was 3 miles to the peak. Holy crap!

At this point, I started thinking about 2012 and what it meant to me. I had sacrificed so much of my time helping others this season. PTK brought a ton of attention to myTEAM, as did Worth the Hurt. As an individual, I grew a lot and I felt like myTEAM did too. The focus on our Veteran community really brought together some incredible people. Josh G, Aaron H., Josh P. and countless others. These are quality people and the integrity they brought along to mTT was priceless.

I continued to climb up Santiago. I was doing calculations in my head. Yes, the 50 would take me about 15 hours, which is not uncommon for this course. I knew I could finish the 50. The mountain was no longer intimidating…but I started feeling guilty about missing out my family’s last night in California. I decided then that I would drop to the 50k.

My confidence grew as I reached Santiago Peak. The view at the top of this 6000 feet beast was nothing short of miraculous. I could see San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. I could see Lake Elsinore. I sat down and ate a peanut butter sandwich and had some fluids. It was time to head back down the mountain to the finish and get back to my family. 50k for my first time in the mountains was good enough for me.

I felt like I was screaming down Santiago…but I really wasn’t. I crossed the line at 8 hours 25 minutes, good enough for 7th within the 50k finishers. I had never been happier about how I felt during a trail race. I was also extremely happy to head back to Anaheim and enjoy a really nice dinner with the family to close out our finest family vacation.

PTK for me has come to an end. A brand I helped create has taken on a life of its own. It is in good hands with Christian. I know he will make it bigger and better in the years to come. I will enjoy being involved and adding my input. I also know that PTK created a lasting friendship with Christian, Aaron H, Josh G, Josh P, Roy P, Sam B., and so many other talented and selfless folks.

PTK also allowed me to spread my wings a bit and brought me full circle. When I started working with mTT, I really wanted to work with children. Through PTK, Worth the Hurt, and other connections forged this year, I have been blessed with the opportunity to start Snowdrop Foundation Wisconsin (more to come on this later) with my good friend Sam Benjamin.

Life is a journey you only get to take once. Smell the roses the first time through and never pass up an opportunity to do more for others. I have been touched by so many incredible people this year. Thank you all for making this year one of the best of my entire life.

One more race to go for 2012. Door County 100…for Bo – then some much needed rest and family time.

To my family – a man stands alone unless he is surrounded by those who truly care and love for him. You are my pillars for which I stand on. Thank you for allowing me to be a dreamer and chase those dreams. I love you guys.


About bgruender

Father of 4. Endurance athlete. Co-founder Snowdrop Foundation Wisconsin
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3 Responses to Twin Peaks Ultra

  1. JP says:

    Congrats on the awesome run! You are an amazing person Brian, and you passion for others is incredible. I am so proud to have met you this year and to now call you one of my closest friends. It’s been awesome, in the short time I have know you, to watch you challenge yourself in unthinkable ways and grow as a man through those challenges. You have truly inspired me to change the way I live my life. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of what you have done this year. I’m so blessed just to have been a small part of it all. I’m looking forward to all of the good times we will have together in the near future! Thanks, brother!

    • bgruender says:

      Josh – you are a great friend and I am very blessed to have met you and Allison. 2013 will be even better than 2012 and I am looking forward to sharing the journey with you! Can’t wait for this weekend…

  2. I am a dreamer too. Thanks for sharing. It took me much longer to finish the 50k. Great job! Hope you enjoyed California.

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