TNF 50 Race Report…

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler
Bellingham, Washington

The 50 mile course was sweet! Technical…10,500 feet of climbing. It was burly. Lots of roots and rocks, especially in the 2nd half of the course (which serves as the 50k course, boasting 6,600 feet of climbing).

Sidenote on the 50k race: Krissy won the 50k overall! I think that’s her 2nd Overall win (Waldo 100k two years ago). She told me afterward that on the uphills she kept saying to herself “Browning would make me run this!”—yep. Dawn patrol 3 hour run at Smith Rock on Tuesdays with Meissner and I is paying off. She said 3 guys went out fast, she waited, and took them on the “Hurt 100” climb (800 feet in 1 mile up a gully riddled with roots and rocks). One dude tried to hang, but she held him off for the win. Good work.

Course markings…something I think everyone at the start was nervous about, given the Endurance Challenge previous reputation for poorly marked courses. Well, the good news is that it was marked crazily well. Overly marked. I swear there was a flag every 50 yards—even on sections with no intersecting trails or just plain straightaways with no need for flags. Crazy. I never once questioned the course. I was so flagged, I felt sorry for the person who had to pull all those flags after the race. They’re probably still out there with a headlamp.

All joking aside, I’m assuming most of this has to do with the Bellingham ultra community and whatever local(s) designed and marked the course. Obviously they knew what they were doing. Whoever designed this course did a killer job. It was tough, fun, a great mix…right when you were about sick of a logging road, you were back on single track again. I can’t say enough about the design of the course. I loved it.

And, as for the ankle, it was pretty good. Definitely not at 100% yet…especially on the downhills. I couldn’t let it loose and found myself having to check my downhill speed, which was tough for me mentally, as I wanted to let ‘er rip, but just couldn’t. I need to bounce back to training hard by Memorial Day in two weeks and it’s just not quite there yet.

I also had to really pick my way through technical sections to ensure good foot placement, which slowed me down a bit. But, overall good sign that it’s getting there. My legs were feeling the mileage the last 10 miles since my longest runs have hovered around 3 hours since Cool 50k back in mid-March.

As for the race action, there’s not much to tell, except it was a cool course. The race was pretty uneventful from a racing standpoint. Brian Morrison went out in the lead from the start and maintained it the rest of the race and won in about an 8 hour finishing time. Myself and two others went out behind Brian and jockeyed for 2nd-4th for about the first 10 miles. I was about a minute behind the two guys in 2nd and 3rd coming out of aid station 3 at 11.3, who were about a minute behind Brian. I didn’t see anyone again until mile 21.

I caught the guy in 3rd by mile 21 aid station. He left right on my tail and there was a long single track uphill that went into a road section then back into single track, and I ran pretty much the whole thing. My climbing legs were feeling pretty good with all of Smith Rock’s hard 1500 feet per hour training under my belt. All the climbing grades seemed pretty easy, so I ran alot on the ups (until maybe the last 10-12 miles, as the lack of long run mileage was weighing on my hip flexors a bit).

Once I gapped the guy on the climb, I was completely alone in 3rd the remainder of the race and finished right around 8:40 for 3rd overall. The guy in 2nd (an Ironman triathlete running his first 50 miler) was about 20 minutes in front of me. I guess he caught Brian at the “Hurt 100” climb (approx. mile 43)—he said Brian put the hammer down and left him going up the gully and put 20 minutes on him in the last 7 miles. Giddyup! Nice work, Brian.

I would have liked to at least tried to run with those boys up there if it wasn’t for my nemesis—Michael Jordon. Well, not EXACTLY Mike…more like….my imitation of Mike…you know, that dang competitive urge that makes you do an Air Jordon in a church pick-up game of ultimate frisbee against a bunch of teenage boys? Unlike Mike, I have nothing to show for it but a fat ankle and a feeling that I ain’t no spring chicken anymore. Life lessons…

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