Yes, I freely admit it.
It takes a certain amount of endurance to simply read the name of the race without taking a walk break somewhere in the middle.
You could call it the NFECCGT50MI…uh, no. Maybe the NFEC50? Yeah, that’s manageable. I believe the official hashtag is #ECSCA, but that’s a bit cryptic in my mind. Anyway…
While the official title seems to include almost every race related word in the English language, the race itself includes everything that I love about trail running, and I do mean everything:
Fire roads, switchbacks, side trails, access trails? Check.
Mud? Oh yeah!
Great cheering masses of people at the aid stations and finish? Check.
Gut-wrenching, leg-trashing, lung-busting challenges that force you to “embrace the suck”? Check.
Water streaming across the trail and down the switchbacks? Check!
AMAZING aid stations with incredible volunteers? Double check!
Dirt, rocks, climbs, ducking under trees, jumping over logs, descents, steps, stairs, a ladder!?! Check! Check! Check!
Beauty so vast and ubiquitous that gets so overwhelming you find yourself inexplicably crying and laughing at the same time right around mile 40?
Maybe that was just me…nah, I don’t think so.
I was genuinely and understandably nervous to do the North Face Challenge as my first 50 miler. I thought, “maybe I should find an easy, flat-ish, fast-ish course for the first time?”
Wisdom did not prevail. I dove in head first and I have to say that it was probably the best running related decision I have ever made.
This was likely due in part to the fact that race day was perfect. Clear morning skies, a full moon, mild temperatures that ensured both a comfortable wait at the start AND midday high temperature that never got uncomfortably warm. I ran in a long sleeve Merino wool shirt and never even pushed up the sleeves.
Also, as a first timer, I gave myself a lot of leeway in terms of finish time, setting the following three goals:
- Finish within the 14 time limit
- Finish in less than 12 hours
- See #1
Finish time: 11:13:56 – mission accomplished.
This was an experience so amazing that 11 months later I am still reveling in it.
And I will continue these rambling posts until December 5th when I will once again line up for this mouthful of a race. And after the race? Yeah, I’ll start posting about this year’s experience.
While I do not expect the weather to deliver perfection this year, what with the promised El Nino, I do expect mud and beauty and struggle. I know I will be challenged.
Run on, Sisters and Brothers!