Monday, December 13, 2010

North Face 50 Mile Endurance Challenge Championships- San Francisco

Here I go again, two weeks after the Los Pinos 50k. I really needed another week to recover fully, but that just did not happen. My back is only slightly better, thanks to being home, and hanging on my inversion table. The day before the race I felt it finally stretch, and instantly it was relieved. The best solution I could come up with, was take the race a bit slower, and not to carry a pack.
I had to meet a shuttle bus at 3:30am, in the city of San Francisco, and be shuttled to Marin Headlands on the other side of the Golden State Bridge. The bus was late, and the race starts at 5am. I quickly put everything into a single bag, and waited in line with a couple hundred people to leave our drop bags, to retrieve at the end of the race. It was a scene, large circus tents, several small canopys and masses of people. I could not believe the crowd. There were rows of porta-pottys and people scurrying everywhere all around.
At 5 am sharp, the race began. Not wanting to take off in a run, I hung out in the back, and it must have took a whole minute to cross the start line. We were all walking/running on a fireroad. Not wanting to jump the gun I just walked fastly in a sea of headlamps. I had a cheap hand held flashlight, but did not turn it on at all for the first 4 miles.
At about 6 miles I reached the 1st aid station, that had water only, which was a drag cause I was hungry. The path was still on fireroads, and it startted to rain slightly.
Upon reaching the second aid station, I filled my hat with food, refilled my water bottle, and moved on slowly eating salted potatoes, and peanut butter sandwhiches. I seemed to be in a pack of people that all had about the same pace. We all finally made it to the first set of single track trail and began climbing a well graded long hill.
The trail led us along beaches, and bluffs, and the sights were absolutely breath takeing. I have never been in the headlands, and I was in Ah! The journey seemed to go by fast, because of the constant views.
The next aid station was a scene, they had runners from other races, in the mixes and people were going everywhere. The food was good though, and I filled my hat and moved on without stopping more than a few seconds. This next section was nice, we seemed to be heading into forrest and woodlands. The rain was really starting to come down and the trees were a relief of shelter.
Soon our cover over head was gone, and we were on a exsposed hillside, gently climbing, being soaked by a tall grass. To make matters worse, they had routed everyone on an out and back, so I was constantly stopping, to allow the runners to pass, for they were ahead of me. It was not long I made the turn around and headed back down the grasslands, but it seemed a majority of the runners going the opposite direction failed to yield for me. At 5 hrs and 30 minutes, I was exactly 1/2 way. I began picking up my pace, for I had been basically milking it to this point, and was feeling strong.
Suddenly the trail made a steep decent down a canyon that was quite like a rain forrest. The trees were covered with moss and the ground was filled with large ferns. The trail had a series of stair steps, and at times were slow, and or jarring to the body. It was not long, I was back down on the beach at another aid station, and climbing yet another rain forrest, of a canyon. Except this time the stair steps were going steeply up hill. This went on along a cascadeing creek for some time, and put us back at the aid station, that earlier was a scene.
After leaveing the now quiet aid station, I had a long down hill, I felt strong, and began passing several people, mostly injured runners and a few that were just wiped out. This section just seemed to drag on forever. The rain had came back and the trails were now muddy. This was also the area that had the steepest section of stairs, that seemed to climb forever. My thighs burned, but it wasn't too long I again was atop another hill and makeing my way to the famous Muir Beach aid station.
After leaveing Muir Beach the tread was now back on fire roads, that were now muddy, and again, many people were injured and wiped out. After a series of rolling hills and a nice downhill section, I was at the last aid station. It was getting close to dark, so I gave it my all and ran out the last 2.7 miles to the finish.
My time was 11:38, which is better than my planned 12hr, and if I decide to run it next year, should not be hard to beat.
The Corporate Running events are crazy. I do not care too much for the beginning and finishes, but once your running along the coarse, you seem to forget most of it. The coarse was too crowded, and the out and back section was stupid, and probably the worse part. But, running in the Marin Headlands was awesome!