Squish, squish, squish, squish, whoa, squish, squish, whoa, this is my race recap for the first 12 and last 12 miles of the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K last Saturday morning. It had dumped rain the Friday night before the race and, well, it was mess out there come morning. First, let’s back up…
I left my house at 4:30 am to go pick up Alison for our 7 am start. We arrived at the wrong shuttle bus parking lot along with about 35-50 other runners and sat there for about 15 min. before we realized our mistake (The signage was non-existant, the only thing negative I will say about this race). We had given ourselves plenty of time so this did not present a problem. We eventually found our lot, hopped on the bus, and were off. The bus driver was blasting and jamming to his James Brown, we were relaxed and happy.
We arrived at the starting line and race festival and walked through the finish line…the next time I would do that would be after a 6+ hour grueling race.
We checked our bags and used the porta potties 200 hundred times before seeing Dean Karnazes. We introduced ourselves and chatted with him for awhile. He was very nice, telling us that he had been out on the trail that morning and it was a little muddy and to watch out for an over-abundance of stinging nettles. Unfortunately, neither Alison nor I had our cameras so we missed getting a picture with him.
The race started a few minutes after we spoke with Mr. Karnazes. It was very a relaxed start, the gun went off and I stepped into the unknown world of ultra trail racing for the first time. The pace in was obviously slow, we had 31+ miles to go so really no hurry at all.
The first few miles everyone was trying to avoid the mud and water puddles and after about 5 miles of ballet dancing and leaping, you just surrendered and tromped right through those big mud puddles. It was “slip and slide” the for the next 6 miles and my legs felt it. All of that sliding around used up a bunch of those tiny little stabilizing muscles all over my body, it wasn’t long until I was sore all over.
At mile 12 the trail lead into Great Falls Park…there were spectators and a big aid station. I ate some real food (Fritos) soaked in the sound of all those cheering people… it really gave us a boost. There was a loop around Great Falls that the 50 milers had to do 3 times (it’s difficult for me to imagine going that distance). We were mixed in with some of them and tried to give them as much motivation as possible: “Good job!” “Come on, just keep at it!” Lots of encouraging words to those awe-inspiring 50 mile runners. This picture was taken at the tail end of the loop..
And right after this picture you head toward this.. My favorite part, so beautiful..
Heading back, we went through the Great Falls spectator section for more real food and drink (Nuun- yeah!) and wonderful volunteers.
I tried not to look at my Garmin but knew we had about 12 miles to go. Since we were heading back the way we came, I knew the dreaded mud was up ahead. It wasn’t the most motivating thought… My legs were tired and this race was far from over. I took a Gu, drank some water, and carried on. I tried to get let go of my thoughts and let the miles tick away, not focusing on finishing but rather just being in the moment.
I got into a rhythm and let myself go at a pace that felt very comfortable. Even though my legs were like heavy logs, I was OK… and then there was mud. By this time hundreds of runners had trampled over it and the sun had come out and dried up much of the water. You would think this was a good thing, but the combination ended just transformed all those mud puddles into patches of thick, sticky, paste like goo, about ankle deep. It was a bit of a downer, but I tried not to think about it. I said to myself “There is only one way out, no one is going to save you, it’s up to you, this is it”, and my legs pressed on.
Toward the end I approached a guy walking who was praying out loud. At this point I was in a bit of trance and it took me off guard. I asked him if he was OK. “Yes” he said, “the only way I’m going to get through this is with His help.” “Of course, yes” I said. He said he would pray for me too. I thanked him, as I definitely needed those prayers at that point, and I soldiered on. This picture was taken about mile 30…
As I turned the corner, I could hear the crowd from the Finish festival and picked up my step. There was one humongous puddle in the grass as you approached the end, I was NOT happy about that one and just as I waded through that final mud pond, I looked up and saw my family!
My husband and three children were right there to surprise me! I had told them not to come because the race was so difficult to get to, and they made it anyway. I almost fell to the ground, I started hyperventalating, and a had a huge lump in my throat. I still do as I write this. I had no idea how important that moment was going to be. I had just run 31.49 miles, I had been on my legs for six hours and six minutes. I had just pushed myself beyond what I ever thought possible, and I had done it well. This is a moment I will never forget..a moment when I realized that anything is possible, that no dream is too big and that the only person stopping me from achieving greatness is me. This is the moment I became an Ultra Marathoner.
Finish time: 6:06
Place in AG 35-45 female- 7/47
Place overall female- 17/142
At the finish festival I was able to wash the thick mud off of my legs and shoes and then sit in an ice bath.
They gave us a delicious meal: bbq pulled pork, quinoa, salad and a roll!
The swag included a custom North face race T-shirt with your distance silk-screened on the front, NF Arm Warmers, NF socks, and a finisher’s medal.
Would I do this race again? In a New York second! It was a beautiful course (except the mud, but would take that over extreme heat any day). The course was expertly marked (you do not have to worry about getting lost). The start and finish were perfectly executed, the volunteers were plentiful and knowledgable, and the aid stations were first class with plenty of provisions.
Amazing how quick the pain of racing vanishes and I am left with euphoria. Sign me up for the next 50K, I am so ready!
Have you ever run an ultra?
Would you want to?
Do you know of any really great 50K’s?