Sunday, September 20, 2009

The North Face Endurance Challenge D.C. (50 miles)

As it turns out, my nagging knee injury was a blessing in disguise this weekend. Two reasons: I was well rested having only run twice in the last two weeks, and it forced me to go out a slower pace during my race yesterday.
The course is mostly rolling single track near the banks of the Potomac River. There are only a couple of significant climbs during the race and by significant, I mean 1/2 mile long each, tops. The course profile shows over 4000 feet of climbing, but I must have blinked and missed it. Thank you for turning me into a mountain runner, Colorado. Clearly, there are few other places in the U.S. where people run anything besides HILLS.
Another observation: Even though the temps were in the 80's and the humidity was high, the thick foliage and tall trees which cover the terrain provided us with shade for nearly every step of the race and it never got uncomfortably hot. This is another thing us Coloradoan's aren't accustomed to.
At the first out-and-back section of the course I was in 15th or 16th place and was being chick'd x2. I was running at a decent clip all day but I never seemed to catch any other 50 mile runners. I just assumed that it was a really strong lead pack and all were gunning for the cash prizes that went to the top 3 finishers. Miles were not marked, but based on the aid station layout, my 25 mile time was approximately 3:50. I felt like that was very respectable and kept me on pace for both of my goals: just finishing the race and, if goal one was successful, finishing in under 9 hours. After finishing three 7-mile laps of Great Falls Park (mile 35) I left the aid station at 5:27.xx. and even though I was really hurting I realized the worst 'climbs' of the course were behind me and all that was left to do was finish! New goal: sub 8:30. 5 mph was all I needed to sustain to hit this goal, but as many ultra runners know, late in a race even 12-15 minute miles can seem like a daunting task. I kept on running at whatever pace the terrain, my legs, and my mind would let me. Occassionally I'd get a mental boost from passing a 50k runner or two, but my primary motivation was to just stop the suffering by getting to the end.
Side note: My new favorite endurance food is SKITTLES. I ran most of the last 28 miles with a bag of Skittles in my hand at all times! They don't make you thirsty, and aren't disgusting like the gels they were serving at the race (only choice: Vanilla AccelGel), not to mention the 200 calories per bag.
Anyway, with approximately 4 miles to go I caught the first 50 mile runner that I recognized. He had a pacer and I could tell he was dying. He left this last aid station before me, so I grabbed a handul of salt (literally) and washed it down, a handful of Skittles for the road and then went after him. After overtaking them, I upped my tempo and headed for home. With less than 3 minutes left in the race I saw only the 2nd 50 miler that I recognized... what else was I supposed to do but catch him before the finish?! He was still running at a good pace so overtaking him in less than 1/4 mile was one of the hardest things I've done during a race. With several hundred yards to go I passed him and then turned on the afterburners.

My final time was 7:45.xx.
6th place overall.
1st place male 21-29.

Apparently, throughout the day I was passing 50 mile racers without even realizing it. I bested my previous 50 mile PR by over an hour and nearly ran a negative split.

After the race I talked with Dean Karnazes a couple of times along with Michael Wardian who was the runner up to Tony at this years' White River 50 in Washington. It was the second time I've met Dean, and even though some people consider him an ego-maniac, I think he's a great guy and good ambassador for our sport. I don't admit this often, but reading Ultramarathon Man is what inspired me to get into ultrarunning about a year and a half ago...


Jillian said...

Yay Bster!! Congrats! proud of you and so glad your bod held out! :)

brownie said...

Great race! Glad you rebounded from the ass whuppin' I laid on you at the academy...