When I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge, I knew it was going to be tough, but awesome. Tough does not even come close to describing the course and awesome is just one of the emotions I felt when I crossed that finish line. It was a long day in the woods for a city girl and I feel like I could write a small novel about my day, but I will keep it short to a blog post! =)
4 AM: Joslynn and I planned to walk to the start from our hotel since it was only about 1 mile. We got as far as the end of the parking lot when we heard tree branches snap ahead of us. Joslynn and I quickly turned around and though about plan B! Luckily there were two guys in the parking lot who also planned to walk so we turned around and walked to the start with them. We made it to the start safely without a wild animal attack!
Aid Station #1: Mile 3.9: The first 3.9 miles were run in the dark with headlamps. It took us about 53 minutes to get to the first aid station. I was surprised how quickly people moved through the food and water tables. I wanted to stay and chat, but kept moving because there were a lot of people coming into the aid station. The course was beautiful so I took a few pictures along the way to share with everyone.
Aid Station #2: Mile 8.6: Joslynn and I got split up before this aid station. I was feeling good and determined to get to mile 20.7 before the cut off time. I waited for Joslynn to come into the aid station to make sure she was okay before I continued on the trail. I ran this next section with a pair of Canadians and a few others.
Aid Station #3: Mile 13.9: Met the first un-friendly volunteer at a trail race. Lady in the pink Vermont City Marathon t-shirt: you suck! Do not limit 50 milers to how much food we eat at an aid station and tell us that you are saving food for the marathoners. We were running double the mileage! You are lucky that I did not reach over the table and shake some sense into you. And if my hydration pack wasn’t heavy already, I would have taken all the GU from your table just because of your comment.
There was a lot of climbing in the next few miles, but I was part of a group of runners so the miles went by quickly.
Aid Station #4: Mile 20.7: 10:32 AM, I made it to the cut off with 15 minutes to spare!
Low point #1. When I got to this aid station, I was excited to have made the first cut off time! I was also excited to change into new socks from my drop bag….except it was not the drop bag station!! I left this station upset that I had to wait another 7 miles to change socks. I also lost my new Canadian friends at this aid station so I took off on my own. I had a hard time starting up again, but got my second wind about 3 miles in and made it to the drop bag station!
Aid Station #5: Mile 27.7: It took me a very long time to get to this aid station. I ate all my GU, shot blocks, honey stingers, and S-caps and was happy to re-stock on supplies from my drop bag. They did not serve Gatorade at any of the aid stations so I was happy to drink the Gatorade that I had packed in my drop bag.
After a quick change of clothing, potty stop, and stuffing my face with potato chips, I was ready to run again! It did not even occur to me that I had just run more than a marathon! I had 2 hours to run 6.5 miles so I was focused on reaching the next check point.
Aid Station #6: Mile 34.2: An hour and forty five minutes later, I made it to the the second cut off point. Runners had to make it here in 9 hours and 32 minutes. I made it here with about 15 minutes to spare! I helped another runner here with some ibuprofen and in hindsight, I should have taken some too. After this aid station, there was a long climb on the road and I slowly made my way up the hill alone. A cyclist came by giving encouraging words that I was showing up all the guys and that I looked great. I definitely did not feel great, but I kept moving.
Aid Station #7: Mile 40.3: I reached the 40.7 mile checkpoint at 11 hours, which meant I had 3 hours to run 9.3 miles. I was not sure if I would make it in time to the finish so I did not stop to change socks from my drop bag. I took some food and kept running. I was on a mission so I stopped taking pictures and focused on staying upright and moving.
Aid Station #8: Mile 44.7: Low point #2. I left this aid station knowing that I would not make the 14 hour cut off time. A few runners passed me and I was left by myself going up and down rocky terrain. My quads were gone and the steep downhill during this section really beat me up. Negative thoughts came pouring in. Here’s a few so you can understand how I felt:
-If I trip and fall, will anyone find me?
-No one will find me if I’m the last one on this trail.
-If I get lost, I’ll freeze tonight and get attacked by a wild animal.
-If I hitchhike on the road, I might get abducted by some crazy mountain person.
-I wish I read the race manual better. There was something about paying a large amount of money for search and rescue if you get lost.
-Will they stop me at the last aid station or let me finish even though I’ll be over 14 hours?
-Why didn’t I bring my phone with me?
-Is it going to be dark when I finish? I don’t have my headlamp on me anymore! I will definitely get lost if it’s dark out.
-I am never doing this again!
Aid Station #9: Mile 47.2: Last aid station. I walked into this aid station with tears in my eyes and feeling ready to quit. My left ankle was swollen and I hurt all over. The volunteers saw that I was having a moment and were very encouraging to me. They held me up, gave me water and broth, and assured me that it would still be light out when I finished. Not once did they tell me to stop running. I would not have made it to the finish without that last boost.
Finish Line: Mile 50!: I left the last aid station feeling a little better, but it did not last long. I got scared again a mile in after I saw arrows pointing in both directions. I was running on the first 2 miles of the course and did not recognize it because it was dark when I ran on it this morning. I thought that I missed a turn to the finish line. “I better not be running the stupid course from the beginning all over again. They’ll never find me now!”
I only felt better when I got to the parking lot by the finish line and picked up my pace to run through the finish line. I was happy to see that they kept the finish line open for runners after 14 hours. I crossed the line at 14 hours and 20 minutes! I was so happy to stop running!! I congratulated another runner who had finished right before me and went to freshen up.
I saw Joslynn at the finish line and was sad to hear that she got pulled off the course at the first cut off point. She was upset, but ready to move onto to her next challenge, the Leadville 50 Miler.
Two days post 50 miler, I’m still hobbling around and my chafed areas are healing nicely. Yes, it was an awesome experience and it was great to be around other crazy runners like me, but I still do not want to run another 50 miler. Ask me again in a month and maybe my answer will be different. =)
Thank you for all of your encouraging words and support this past weekend. I definitely needed it!
Here are some race statistics!
Men’s Champion: 7:25:22
Women’s Champion: 9:19:24
Overall Finishers: 183 (I finished 179th!)
My finishing time: 14:20:28
92 people DNF’ed. That is how tough the course was!