Thursday, June 10, 2010

The North Face Endurance Challenge, DC

Another weekend of running and what a blast. Not only did our sons get to see us run for the first time, they also ran their first race. We went to Virginia for TNF's Endurance Challenge, Washington DC, which has races on Saturday and Sunday ranging from the 1k Karno's Kids Race to a 50 miler.

The alarm clock went off at 3:30 am Saturday so I could get in a quick bowl of oatmeal and take care of any last minute preparation for the 5am start of the 50 miler. A few minutes before 4am I woke up Tani and the boys so we could head to the start. We grabbed Isla, loaded the car and off we went. I was really psyched for the boys to see everything from start to finish. I think they thought the scene was cool at the start and I know they thought it was cool being up at 4 in the morning. Despite all this coolness it was already around 75 degrees at the start. I had been mentally preparing for serious heat, humidity and rain all week. This day would eventually hit around 90 with thick breath taking humidity.

We arrived at the start with less than 10 minutes to spare, I quickly filled my two bottles with my chosen mixture, lubed up, took a few pictures, and before I knew it, the journey began for 200 of us. One of my favorite aspects of ultra events (at least the ones I have been to) is the fact you can show up 10 minutes prior, park a few hundred yards from the start and then someone says "Go". Off into the early morning darkness we went. I love starting my runs when the sun is down because it is so beautiful every morning when the sun comes up. The air and light are crisp and the smells are fresh. The first 15 miles of this course are very runnable with fire roads, some nice single track along the Potomac River on the Potomac Heritage Trail. As I pass through several open fields the sun sharply lights the tall grass and high brush on either side of me. There are a few short but steep climbs and a couple of small stream crossings. I made it through this section in about 2hrs 30 min which was right on my plan.The next section of the course located at Great Falls consists of a loop just under a 7 miles which must be completed three times. I like this part of the course which also includes a section known as the Difficult Run. Not only is it the most technical section (although not very) and has the most elevation (not much), it is so spectator friendly, easy for family and friends to hang out for each loop. Because it is near the falls and main parking lot there are also many people just visiting. They seem to get caught up in the action and cheer runners on at the falls and all along the trails we are all sharing.

I averaged about 1hr 15min for each of the first 2 loops. Then my family was there and I was psyched to see them.

The heat was really starting to get to me and having Tani, Isla, Jared and Kyle there for support got me psyched. So after some quick hellos and freshly filled bottles off I went, as happy as I could be on my last loop before heading back to the Heritage Trail. Unfortunately the joy faded quickly as I hit the first climb coming out of the AS. The struggle was on, stomach issues and the worst chaffing I have ever experienced were coming on strong. I would later say it felt like a bowl of freshly chopped jalapenos was dumped down my shorts. I pushed my way through the 3rd loop in about 1hr 30min, giving back the entire cushion I built up in the first 15 miles. This would mean I would need to run the last 15 just a well as I ran the first. As much as I wished this could happen, today was not going to be my first sub 9hr 50.

So as I have learned rather quickly, ultras are more often than not subject to change. I adjusted my goal, and set my sites on finishing, and doing it under 10hrs. My boys escorted me out of Great Falls running about 1/4 mile with me. This felt really good especially when they told me I could do it and if I pushed I could make it under 9 1/2.

As I battled my way, mentally most of the time, through the last 15 miles I was feeling hot, stomach issues, hungry, blisters, jalapenos which were turning into habernos and somewhat alone. As hard as I think I push myself this was the first time I ever had any serious doubts about finishing. I kept waiting for something to knock me down. (Check out my jacked up foot. If you can see your way through high brush there is nice blister on my 2nd little toe. I thought it best not to photograph the jalepenos.)
I kept pushing and kept standing, I just felt like ass. Although I felt disappointed for a while, the more I think back the better I feel. I pushed through some rough moments and finished. Most of all my family was there as always at the finish and my boys took me home making it all worth it. Cant wait to do it again.
Thankfully I made it under 10 hours because I was able to watch Jared & Kyle run their first race, and run it with Dean Karnazes. His story originally inspired me to start running again back in 2006. My boys kicked butt, had a great time and could not stop talking about running the 5k next year.
We rounded out the weekend the following morning by coming out to support Tani and Diana while they ran the 5k. It was another hot day and Diana and Tani were awesome. D completed her first 5k and T improved here time from Bear Mountain just 4 weeks earlier by 16 minutes.
As much as I love running my events, I feel best watching and supporting Tani and my boys (you too Diana).

I can't wait to see them all run again! It's awesome:)



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