Let’s face it, ultrarunning is a really difficult activity. It requires a huge time and lifestyle commitment. But many people are attracted, like moths to flame, to the opportunity to do something epic. And often once they do a few ultras they realize there is a steep learning curve and they achieve faster, and faster, times. Soon, they are pulled into the drive to reach their highest potential by racing ultras – they are all-in.
It’s not just the elites but runners throughout the pack raising their own bars to previously-unimaginable levels. But that phase is not sustainable forever – in fact many believe there is a seven-year cycle of continuous improvements in ultra racing, before the peak is reached. For many, the peak is sharp, as injury, over-training or life get in the way. And after that, what’s next? Fortunately, in ultrarunning there is so, so much more.
A great example of this is Tim Twietmeyer who completed his first Western States 100 in 1981 at the age of 22. He earned a silver buckle in 22 hours and then did the same in 1982 and 1983. He did not get selected in the lottery in 1984 (yes, lottery craziness existed way back then too…), but then, beginning in 1985 he completed Western States for the next 22 years, every finish a silver buckle(!) Along the way he had 5 wins and 15 consecutive top-five finishes. I guess they hadn’t yet invented the seven-year rule.
“Retiring” from racing the race in 2006 was not an end for Twietmeyer. In fact, I’d wager a tidy sum that he has spent much more time and effort supporting the race and its participants over the years than he did while training and racing it 25 times. Since 1996 he has served as a Trustee of the Western States Endurance Foundation, and during his tenure as President the race grew in popularity and secured itself at the center of the sport.
He has done extensive trail work over the years – including 100s of hours after fires and major trail damage. And “Twiet” is pretty much everywhere on race day – from marking the course, helping runners in aid stations, sweeping portions of the course, and interviewing winners at the finish line.
In terms of his own ultrarunning, he has remained a steady participant well after his run at the top of the sport peaked in the 1990s. In fact he has completed every American River 50-miler since 1981 – that’s 37 consecutive – and he’s finished in the top-20 the last three years, including 15th place out of 413 finishers this year at age 58. Twietmeyer also set an FKT for the grueling 170-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in 2005 in 45 hours –
supported but notably “un-muled.”
Through it all, Tim has maintained a committed and happy family life with his wife Kathy and their three sons. He has also enjoyed a long and distinguished career with Hewlett-Packard. But what’s most notable about Tim is that he is an extremely humble, helpful and approachable person. Just say hello to him and ask him for some advice and you will see for yourself. I first met him when, as a stranger, I cornered him just before the 2009 Western States. It was going to be a super hot year and I was a little freaked out. He proceeded to outline a focused heat-management strategy that helped me immensely. The next day I was shocked when a volunteer named Tim Twietmeyer rushed to get me my drop bag and help me at the Red Star aid station.
There are truly countless other examples of long ultrarunning careers that extend well beyond their peak racing – but one of the most iconic is Twiet who just keeps pouring himself into the sport, and the race, that he loves.