Not a Race Report: North Face Endurance Challenge 50k

About, oh, six months ago? Maybe five? My friend was on the fence about signing up for the North Face Endurance Challenge in DC. She had just finished an awesome half marathon and was looking for the next challenge. But a traditional marathon was not really the challenge she wanted to go for–she had recently discovered trail running.

So over the course of many, many g-chat sessions I basically pressured her into signing up with the ULTIMATE promise that I would pace her for 8  miles if she did it (I certainly believe that my 8 mile promise must have done it).

For the past few months, this girl has (literally) trained her butt off. She gave up drinking for two weeks. She didn’t even come to my totally ridiculous Ocean City extravaganza because there was a 26 mile training run on the books. Yeah. She’s been dedicated. And crazy.

Friday, the DC area was treated to a monsoon and some tornadoes. So I’m sure you can imagine what the trails were like on Saturday morning. Rather muddy.

Leading up to Saturday, I was getting increasingly nervous about two things:

1. Pacing was not allowed for the 50k. I’d never run part of a distance race with someone for this purpose so I didn’t know if this was going to be strictly enforced or if all races say this or whatever. I didn’t want to get my friend in trouble though (or myself).

2. Trail running in general. I wasn’t a trail runner. I hadn’t trained on trails. The most “trail running”  I do is running in the dirt next to Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. I didn’t want to hold my friend back because I was inexperienced and therefore slow.

I made her swear up and down that she would leave me behind if I was hindering her. And then I decided to let it go and try to get into a “what will be, will be” mindset. If I missed her, I missed her. If  I couldn’t run the course, I would be the best spectator she had ever had. And if I slowed her down…well, I would let it go and cut through the trails to head back to the park entrance.
I got to the park around 8:35am, already running five minutes late. Her half marathon PR is 1:40 and the Great Falls loop started 12 miles in, with a 7am start time…I was cutting it close. LITTLE DID I KNOW! Trail races are waaaaay slower than road races. Okay, I had heard this. I just didn’t realize how much slower they were! Panicking, I ran to the aid station while relieved to see plenty of normal people on the same trail marked Gore-Tex (good sign for being allowed to run with Ashleigh).

I waited around and secretly planned my attack. And then in distance, in a sea of runners, a bright pink tank top! It was her! So I of course start screaming and whooping and embarrasing myself no doubt. I’d like to think her face brightened when she saw me, but that could have been her seeing the aid station.

After the tank top I noticed, her legs were mud. Maybe some skin showing but from upper thigh down, all mud. Well, aren’t we going to have a fun time.

So I  run around to the part of the trail past the station and we were  off! I had the advantage of not having run 12 miles already, or slogged through streams and rivers and muddy trails so I was kinda hyper. The atmosphere was also intoxication–it reminded me of why I love races. We fell into the run and I did my very best to be an understanding, helpful pacer. Like, talking a lot to be distracting. Making random observances. You know, typical me stuff. Ashleigh was great and answered all my questions about how the race was going, why she was covered in mud, whether there were attractive men about. You know, typical her stuff.

We were going slowly but you didn’t really notice because there were some pretty wicked hills in that loop. When we hit the aid station on the loop, Ashleigh took off her shoes to get some rocks out and I noticed that her white socks were, well, brown. And WET. So I made her take my slightly sweaty socks. That basically made me feel like I had actually contributed to her race somewhat, as opposed to just being an annoying chattering presence.

And then, sooner than I would have guessed, I was done. We emerged from the loop and I had to head back to my car.

The Takeaway: a few weeks ago I was mentally drafting a post about losing my love for running. How after Frederick every run felt like a complete battle and hurt every part of my body and started hurting my soul. But, honestly, the past couple of weeks have been…amazing. Something about running those seven miles on the trails made me love running all over again. Trail running might be my new favorite thing and I can definitely see myself participating in the North Face Endurance Challenge in a more…official capacity next year.

 

Race Report: Frederick Half Marathon 2012

Better late than never?

Short Version: YESSSSSS! PR, baby!

Long Version: 

Act 1. The Training

I felt pretty…okay? with my training  for this half marathon. After the hurt that went into Rock n Roll, my goal was basically just to finish within my Baltimore and Rock n Roll times (1:55 and 1:52). I had one REALLY bad long run in the stretch between Rock n Roll and Frederick–I was supposed to run 11 miles but went out at 2:30 pm on a lovel, HOT Saturday. I made it to  8.5 and that was after a lot of nuun drinking, walking, and cursing.

I’ve been making the conscious decision to run without music lately. It was first due to not having a working mp3 player in my possession. And then it became a challenge to see if I could do it. Now I find music almost unpleasantly distracting for my runs. I save it for the races.

Act II. The Taper

I don’t really believe in tapering. I just kinda…don’t run for a few days before the race? This time around, I actually took an extra day off due to excessive drinking the Thursday before the race (let’s never mention tequila again, okaythanks). I can’t really tell if this helped or hurt me. I was more active in the days leading up to this one than RnR and I felt better for this one than RnR but it’s so hard to compare the two races, as well as the conditions during the taper.

Of course, I did go out for pasta with my friend Carly. This is a tradition and basically the only time I eat pasta (yes, I’m weird. I’ve been told this). It was full of deliciousness.

Other pre-race notes: drank far too much the Thursday before. And didn’t eat particularly healthfully any of the days preceding. Not sure if I could have made a difference. I did drink wine the night before–mostly because I was worried about the insomnia that hit me last time.

Act III. Race Morning

Ugh. I hate waking up. Like, being awake is cool. Being asleep is better. But that stupid inbetween wherethefuckamI feeling. Hate it. And this race started at…7 am. When picking up my packet at the Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan (remote pickup FTW!) I was told to plan to park at 6 am. AT THE LATEST. And given my experience with the Annapolis Half parking situation, I took them seriously.

Thank God I did.

I cruised into Frederick around 6:05am and hit stand.still.traffic. Not kidding. When I had looked up the directions the night before, it seemed that they gave people from each major “direction” (DC, Baltimore, Pennsylvania, etc) a different exit to get off at. And the DC exit was a mess. I sat in that traffic for 30 minutes while fiddling with my phone map and getting more anxious. NOT HELPFUL. So I took a chance, got out of the exit lane (oh yes, hadn’t even made it to the ramp) and went to the next exit. Best decision I made all day. There was some traffic but nothing even close to the other exit.

Parking lot, check! No time for gear check, whatevs. I headed straight to the port-a-potties and then to the starting line.

My coworker was running Frederick for his first half (spoiler alert, he rocked it) so I said hi to him and his buddies, we shared a fist bump and we were OFF!

ACT IV: THE RACE!

My Garmin had the audacity to not turn on at all before the race. I was relying on my super scientific Nike+ (a souped up pedometer) so was feeling kinda panicky and yet freeeee! So when I passed the 1:50 pace group around mile 3 I was concerned. But I felt pretty good so I just concentrated on keeping a comfortable, steady pace for as long as I could.

As long as I could was, predictably, mile 11. When I tripped over a tw0-year old. Yep. I’m awesome. I was feeling the pressure in my legs so I went to grab a water in an aid station, heard a woman cry, looked down, saw the little girl, and basically took her out. The ONLY thing that went well was that I didn’t step on her.

Oh my God, it was the worst thing ever. She started crying, I’m kneeling by her (in the middle of the aid station traffic) saying “ohmyGOD, I’m SO SO SORRY. Is she okay? Is she okay? I’m so sorry!” And her mom (?) says, “Just keep going. Just go.”

And then I finally got the message and turned with a final apology and kept going. While crying. But I kept going.

And in my only defense? There was no stopping it from happening. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else. But my God, I still cringe at the memory.

Those last two miles were brutal. All that energy I burned through with my fast pace in the beginning was not returning to me.

The course was mostly flat but at the very end…there’s a hill. I’m talking, mile 12.95, there’s a hill. And it’s probably not even that bad! But I walked halfway up it. I couldn’t even try to run the whole thing. Finally, I got myself back in the game enough that I plodded up it, around the ankle-breaker of a race track and through the finish. There was no kick. I was spent.

Exciting moment: they announced my name as I was coming towards the finish line! AND it’s on video!

Even more exciting moment! PR BABY! 1:48:23. Uh yeah, that happened.

How it happened? My best theory is that it was a combination of tapering somewhat properly (not running but still being active in the three days leading up to the race), being pretty decently trained, and not having my Garmin to adjust my pace and speed to.

Am I hoping for a repeat? Yes and no. My next half is Baltimore and I ran it last year in 1:55. It’s pretty hilly though, while Frederick is lovely and mostly flat. I’m not expecting the meet/beat this PR but we will see!