Sunday, December 5, 2010

Northface Endurance Challenge 50-mile RR - DNF

This was supposed to be the finale of a very respectable rookie year in the ultra world. The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile in December, is the "Super Bowl" of the 50-mile Ultra races. With the $10,000 prize money, it attracts elite runners from all over the world. It would be cool just to share the same course with future legends of the Ultra world.
Unfortunately, I ended up taking a wrong turn after about 19-20 miles. The trail split. 50-mile runners have to go left for an out-and-back section totaling about 8 miles. I recalled seeing a sign with an arrow pointing left, but made the mistake of following the 50K runners I was with, not knowing they were 50K runners. And there were 50-mile orange flags, so I kept going. I realized my race was over when we got to the next aid station 5 miles later. By then I had 25 miles on my Garmin, when I should have had 33. From then on, I was just a spectator. My 50-mile race became a 25 mile training run.

The race started at 5AM, so everyone had to wear headlamps for 2 hours. It was a beautiful morning. Overcast, and surprisingly not cold at all.

Running in the dark is always more fun with so much company!

The scenic views were spectacular, of course!

And the hills were brutal. The course had 10,700 feet of elevation gain. And some sections got muddy with some sporadic rain.

And as usual, I made some new friends, and reconnected with a few old friends. Its a common theme in the small ultra world. And its what keeps drawing many of us back. One of the main reasons why I signed up for this race, was to do it with an old friend who flew down from Canada to run his first 50-mile race. And he ended up doing great on a really tough course.
After I realized my race was over, I walked a few more miles to the next aid station, where I would get a ride to finish. On the way, I found a 50K runner sitting on the side of the trail next to some volunteers who were directing traffic. He was nauseated and short on calories, and yet he was drinking a diet coke (which a volunteer gave him)! I gave him a ginger chew for his nausea and chatted with him. I unscrewed the lid of my bottle and offered him some of my Perpetuem. It's dense in calories and easy on the stomach, I told him, which is a lot better than that Diet Coke. Within a few minutes, he noticed a difference in his energy level. But he still had about 10 miles to go, so I gave him one of my bottles with a serving of Perpetuem. It was just a cheap bottle, and by saving his race, I felt a lot better about losing mine.

I got to meet Jenn Shelton at the finish line. She came in 5th woman and 27th overall, with an 8:28 time. Meeting her was one of my highlights of the day! Miguel Heras of Spain ended up beating Geoff Roes and won $10,000. Anna Frost, from New Zealand won the womens race and also took home $10,000. It was a tough race for a lot of people, and I wasn't the only one that DNFed, but it was also an amazing day filled with a lot of great people, beautiful sights, and memorable experiences.

And still it took me a long while to finish this report. I just find it hard to write about failure. And part of me still sees this race as a failure. Its embarrassing to DNF in a race because of a wrong turn. I could just sweep this race under the rug of my memories and forget it never happened. But it did happen. I don't think I took this race serious enough. I should have done my homework and studied the course better. You can't "assume" anything. But what's done is done.

No matter what happens out there, you have to keep a positive attitude, count your blessings, and keep believing in yourself. I had a great year despite the DNFs and the nagging injuries. I started 8 ultras this year and finished 6. I got to meet so many new friends and got to see so many beautiful sights.