Friday, December 12, 2014

The North Face Endurance Challenge


My response to a friend's text "give me one word describing your race. I haven't looked at results yet"

And decent it was. 

Photo credit: Myke Hermsmeyer Photography/Ultra Race Photos
I had mixed feelings about the day, but overall I am very positive about the end of my 2014 season. Was this my best race? Nope. Was it a bad race? Far from it. In case you don't want to read the rest of this post, here are the cliff notes: I am thrilled with my 2014 season. It was a great year of running with many goals accomplished. I'm happy to have finished it off by standing on the podium. 

Some great interviews from pre- and post-race:


Post Race

Photo credit: Nate Dunn
The week leading up to TNF 50 was a little rough for me. Actually to be honest, 2-3 weeks leading up to TNF were a little rough for me. It started with a trip to Arizona, where I had the opportunity to run some beautiful trails in Tucson. Zach and I were enjoying a 2-3 mile long rocky uphill, and I said out loud "I can't wait to turn around and run down this. I'm so good at downhills. I never roll my ankle." Why I said those words I have no idea. I kid you not, within 10 steps of turning around to run downhill, I stepped on a rock and rolled my ankle. Bad. It was a long commute, running with tear stained eyes, back out to the car. 

Them be ankle bitin' rocks

I saw my PT immediately when I got home, and he recommended just a few days off to let it heal. No real harm done, just an ankle sprain. Great. I took about 5 days off from running, then felt good enough to test the waters. Unfortunately my timing overlapped with a huge snow/ice storm in Bend, which left most of the running surfaces too treacherous to run. 

Coming home from AZ in flip flops to this...
That's saying a lot because I think of myself, having lived in Minnesota, the UP of Michigan, and Montana, a pretty darn good snow/ice runner. Honestly I don't usually have a problem running in the winter. But, this storm completely messed up even the roads!

 One afternoon I decided I was going to brave the elements. I convinced my good friend Natalie to try running outside with me. We ran on the flattest, most cleared roads and it was still pretty disastrous. It took us over and hour to run 5 miles. I'm surprised I didn't roll my ankle again.            

Not thrilled
With TNF 50 looming in the not so distant future, I turned to the treadmill. Mind you, I am NOT a treadmill runner. I run on a treadmill like once a year, and usually only for 20 minutes. In desperation to run, I did 3 DAYS of treadmill runs in a row.

Celebrating a day running on snowy roads!
Really it was only a few days of icky weather, but as my good timing continued, I started feeling sick just as the weather improved. And this cold lasted over 2 weeks.....right up until race day. However it did force me to do a nice taper :)

Race week I was planning to fly down a little early to visit Clif Bar and to meet with some other people. The airlines had other plans. My first flight on Monday was cancelled. No big deal. I was feeling pretty sick, so I was psyched to spend another night in my bed. I was rebooked for Tuesday afternoon. Cool. Tuesday came and my flight was cancelled again. In the process of trying to rebook I learned that the next available flight would be on Friday or Saturday. Ummm, not going to work. Instead of playing the standby game I decided to cut my losses and drive down to California. This actually worked in my favor because I convinced Zach to join me! He wasn't planning to come with, but who could resist a 10-hr road trip in the pouring/freezing rain?! I owe Zach for this one. Not only did he come with and keep me company, he also woke up at 3:00am to crew for me all day, then drove me home the next day :) 

Anyway, back to the race. TNF 50 is always a fun time to catch up with everyone. It's exciting to see my teammates and friends who are all down for one last hurrah before the end of the year. This year TNF rented a house in Mill Valley, which was a ton of fun! 

I was still feeling under the weather by race morning, but wasn't going to let it stop me. I had received some wise words from my coach, Ian Torrence, the day before. Don't think about being sick. Just shove some sugar in and keep running. And that became my race day motto. 

The start of TNF 50 is always exciting. It's dark and there is so much nervous energy in the air. When the gun went off, I found myself getting a little too caught up in the excitement of running. The first mile is paved and downhill, so it's easy to start too aggressively. I guess I probably started too fast, but I settled into my pace after the first mile. 

I wish I could say that I raced hard and battled all the way to the finish, but truth be told, I was out of contention early on. I just didn't have much fight in me. I lost Magda and Meghan after about 12 miles and then I was all by myself. I didn't have it in me to try to bridge the gap, so I just ran. Shoved some sugar in and kept going. 

Photo credit: BayTrailrunners 
And I smiled. That was one race goal I had promised Meghan Hicks in my pre-race interview. I would smile.

 There were some highs and lows and some nasty parts out on the trail. That's what I love most about ultra trail running- you never know what you are going to get. You have to be ready for anything. Probably the most treacherous part of the course was the 5 miles of single track from Cardiac to Stinson beach. The trail was a full on mud puddle and there was two way traffic the whole time.

Photo credit: Nate Dunn
I actually started to feel better in the last 10 miles or so. Don't get me wrong, I was tired, but I didn't feel quite as sick-y. Early on I was having a hard time finding a groove and just didn't feel like myself. But, as I crossed the finish line I smiled. I was proud of my effort and for not giving up. Plus, in the last 6 miles I played a little game with myself to see how many men I could pass. It was thoroughly satisfying :)

The aftermath
Sharing the podium with some fast ladies. And Dean :)
Photo credit: Nate Dunn
All in all I'm happy with my day. If I gave myself a report card it would look something like this:

Effort: A (I did the best I could under the conditions)
Attitude: A (I kept my head in the game and didn't give up)
Physical ability: C+ (My body wasn't cooperating, due to illness)

So that averages out to something like a "B" for my race, which is "decent".
My Strava race report

Thanks to all my sponsors and people out there crewing and cheering for me!

Gear Used
Shoes: The North Face Trail Equity
Shorts: The North Face Better than Naked Short
Top: The North Face Better than Naked Short-Sleeve
Arm Warmers: Flora 
Hydration: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Handheld
Fuel: Clif shot gels, bloks, mini Clif bars, and coke, about 200 kcal/hr
Headlamp: Black Diamond Icon