11 June 2013

North Face Endurance Challenge DC 50 Miler - Fun, And Why Not?

When corporations put on ultramarathons, well, you lose some of the specialness. You don’t get homemade cookies at aid stations, or medals that differ year to year (Hey, they got a good deal on medals years ago…and use the same exact medal for all of their races, regardless of distance.) and lots of newbies without a respect for the trails (I saw one dimwit actually toss his trash INTO the woods, you know, so it didn’t spoil the trail itself.). But still, it can be a fun race.

The temperatures were predicted to be in the 90s all week, so we were getting emails from 
The North Face reminding us too hydrate. Too bad they didn’t take the severity of the heat into consideration and stock their aid stations with lots of ice. I was a 50miler, and ran a fairly decent time, and still, I found the aid stations to be lacking ice. Cold (esp ice cold) water is absorbed faster than lukewarm water, and we really needed to be on top of hydration on a hot day like race day.

I started out in good spirits, running at a good clip, feeling fairly well. I was jockeying between 3rd and 4th woman for the first ten or so miles…and then my stomach began torturing me. I ran into the bushes, a portapotty, the bushes, the bushes. Oh, what fun. I subsisted on gels and Clif Shot Blocks (tropical bunch flavor, baby). A lot of the food tasted funny or was soggy w the humidity. Yuck. I don’t know why I’m picky when running ultras but I am.

The course consists of running about 2 miles, then doing a lollypop loop, then running out about 6.7 miles without aid stations (which was pretty hard in the afternoon to handle this section with just one bottle of water). Then you do this 7-ish mile loop three times. And then you run back that entire first section.

There’s dirt. Some rocks (inc where I smashed my foot really, really hard the first time – and I ended up taking it super duper easy the rest of the times bc my foot was absolutely throbbing). Some hills. Some heat. Some high grass. Some pretty views of the river.

Well-organized, yes. The special loving touches of an ultra, no. They ran out of ice, ran low on some goods. It seemed like those volunteering at aid stations and buying supplies had never run an ultra. I would get to an aid station and they would want me to fill my own bottle – which normally is fine but not usual but my hand is actually severely and painfully injured with awful tendintis – ouch – so I couldn’t open a bottle. I’d have to ask every time.

I had tummy problems, that smashing the foot problem. The heat wasn’t killing me – but around 42 or 43, I started feeling woozy…I knew it was the heat. I had seen people passing out and not responsive – so I consciously began to walk, dump water on my head, hoping to cool myself down.

I finished – 9:51, a better time than last year, not what I had wanted to do, but quite respectable given the circumstances.

Sweaty stinky mess, yes. And loads of fun. A lot of newbies who didn’t know to pick up their gu wrappers. But what a fun day regardless. Pretty and running is almost always fun.


Steven Tursi said...

It bugs me too. You can tell when the race is not put on by ultrarunners. They get a most of it right, but they miss little things - little things that mean a lot. That's why I'm so eager to support people like Rick and Jen (NJTrailSeries) instead of races like The North Face.

Shawn Ferry said...

You really would think that given that long stretch and the convient park in the middle that they could at least have a water only stop where you cross the entrance road to Riverbend park.

Every year I have done that race someone is wandering around looking rough in that section.