Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why It's Called the North Face Endurance Challenge: North Face Half Marathon (or 14.5 Miles)

Even though today was my wedding anniversary, I was up early and out the door for the North Face Half Marathon.  I had hydrated all night so was pretty much recovered from the previous day's 50K crewing efforts and was ready to go again.
Daddy Crew from June 1

We had to take a shuttle bus to the start at Great Falls. The bus ride was when the hilarity ensued.  Our bus was the first one into the park.  An overzealous ranger attempted to tell the bus driver that we would need to pay $5 per person to get into the park.  After a bit of back and forth and some phone calls, that silliness was resolved.  I was the first bus in so I had really good access to the portapotties and got everything taken care of early.  This was a good thing because the potty lines got extremely long and ended up delaying race start time by 10 minutes.  It was pretty warm and there is a 6.7 mile stretch on the course with no aid stations so I had elected to wear my Nathan vest.  The goal for the race was to get in around 3 hours, to feel good, and have fun.  Due to the heat, carrying 50 oz of water, and extensive single tracking sections, I had no plans to try for a PR.

I met up with some moms from local Moms Run This Town chapters.

 Then I found some the group that I was planning to run with.  I'm so glad that I decided to run in a group rather than solo because this would have been a miserable day running solo.

 We messed around getting into our proper wave and were rewarded by getting to snap a photo with Dean Karnazes.

We all started in wave 8 so we were near the back and expecting some crowded conditions.  It actually wasn't too bad in the beginning.  We ran what was supposed to be a 2.4 mile loop on carriage roads and fairly wide and flat trail.  This spread the field out a little. 

This smile on my face was pretty much the story of my race.  I was having so much fun that nothing was going to ruin it.
We hit an aid station and grabbed some quick water.  At this point, it became clear that anyone not carrying hydration was in for a bad day.  Our plan was to walk the hills and keep a consistent pace on the flats, hydrate well at the aid stations, and try to stick together in at least pairs.  We ran through Great Falls and were treated to a stunning view.
Splits:  Mile 1:  10:14; Mile 2:  11:04; Mile 3:  13:37 (includes short stop at aid station)-Time:  34:55 

Next up was a brutal 6ish mile section with no aid.  The Nathan pack was a lifesaver at this point.  I was hydrating well and feeling strong.  During this section we came out of Great Falls and hit the Potomac Heritage Trail.  Parts of the trail were so narrow that it felt like we were in a corn maze.

Best race photo ever because it shows how our group worked together all day.  We even picked up a random woman runner who wanted to pace with us.

Shortly after this section we passed a bonfire that was some kind of weird hobo camp...very creepy.
 The stinging nettles were heavy on either side so it was difficult to pass.  We got hung up in this section behind lots of walkers when we would have preferred to run.  There was a water crossing with a steep embankment.  You could avoid the muddy bank buy crossing on some branches, but less experienced trail runners hadn't figured that out and were trying to crawl up the slippery, muddy bank.  We stopped and helped pull a few up and gave some advice to those who were behind them to use the fallen trees.  We were passing when we could and hit the Fraser Preserve Aid Station at what was supposed to be 8.4 miles, but everyone was getting readings on their Garmins that were in the 9 mile range. Time into the aid station was 2:03 so ~4 miles in about an hour was doable to get in around 3 hours. No one was freaking out yet as we were thinking that the aid station was just mismarked as to mileage.  The aid station was actually pretty weak as they were out of electrolyte fluid and the water was cold.  Thankfully, I had carried my own Endurolyte and Honey Stingers Chews (I prefer the pink lemonade) so I really didn't need anything from the aid station.  We snapped some photos and regrouped and headed back out.

Mile 4:  14:21; Mile 5:  13:06; Mile 6:  14:50; Mile 7:  17:50 (bad climb; lots of single tracking and walkers; stream crossing where we stopped to help some runners); Mile 8:  12:44; Mile 9:  13:24; Mile 10:  18:51 (includes aid station stop) Total time:  2:08

Three of us were feeling pretty strong so we picked up the pace a bit out of this section.  We knew there was a brutal hill coming so we wanted to make the best time on the flats that we could.  We were still thinking 3 hour range based on what our Garmin readings were.  We hit the killer hill and hiked up that pretty well given how far into the race we were.  We were able to take off running again after that and hit the Sugarland Aid Station at what was supposed to be 11.7 miles.  All of our Garmins read almost 13 at somewhere around 2:54.  We actually thought that they had gotten rid of the aid station because we were so far past 11.7 miles. 

We were expecting to be almost done.  We grabbed some water, got splashed, and then headed out for 1.6 more miles according to the signage.  The running at this point was pretty easy on carriage roads, but it was really disappointing to see the 3 hour mark come and go as we kept clicking off the mileage.
 Mile 11:  18:06 (lots of walking due to last major ascent/descent); Mile 12:  13:19; Mile 13:  13:19-Total time:  2:54

Loved the water monster at the finish festival
I finally spotted the finish line and crossed at 3:17:52 with a final Garmin reading of 14.5 miles.  I was 33 of 46 in my age group, 240 of 333 females, and 619 of 772 overall.

 The placement was not really important in this race as I wasn't really racing.  I was just hoping for a good training run.  I feel like I accomplished that.  I felt strong at the end despite the longer than anticipated mileage and hot conditions.  I had a good strategy for fuel, electrolytes and hydration.  I stayed positive and used the power of a group to enjoy the run and get through some tougher sections.  Although I could have run harder in some sections and likely could have done the course in 3 hours even given the extra miles, I'm really happy with the effort this week.

  I have Run Amuck and EX2 Off Road Half coming up next weekend so it was important not to burn the legs up too much.

Here's the elevation chart.

Total mileage 14.5; avg pace 13:38 (includes aid stations and photo ops!)
Mile 14:  11:07 (strong finish); Last 0.5; 10:02

1 comment:

  1. Nice job! It's so awesome that you had a group that you worked with. That sucks about the added mileage but you took it in stride!