The North Face 50

North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championship

The championship run in the Marin Headlands lived up to the hype. We went out hard, pushed the pace at every turn and growled and grunted pretty much every step of the way. I was privileged to take part in this year’s battle of endurance and strength and witness some impressive performances from both the women and men’s races.

I worked hard in the weeks leading up to this race, continuing to understand more and more on how to push myself while still enjoying the pure nature that is trail running. Racing throughout this past year has brought up many emotions and thoughts into why I try to push my body to its limits. I feel like I do well checking in with myself. Anytime running is not just simply playing around in the woods, its time to back off and readjust my focus. Trail running has turned into a deep and satisfying passion of mine that I hope burns for years to come. I look forward to races such as TNFEC, but more importantly I look forward to every moment connecting with my surroundings and running through the wilderness.

Moments before start. Photo: Debbie Loomis

Five am is a little early to start a run for me, but the weather was warm, the stars were shinning bright and there was a pack of hungry headlamps hovering through the first handful of miles. We were clicking off some fast splits, but 6 min miles seems to be pretty easy with adrenaline charged legs that have been tapering for the last week.

As the morning trickled on it was nice to catch up with friends, talk about the hours ahead and see just how many rabbits jump out from the get-go.  Sitting around 15-20th place felt comfortable and let the legs warm up while enjoying the morning’s breeze.

Coming into McKennan Gulch.  Photo: Bryon Powell

Not much happened those first few hours. We ran up some switchbacks and flew down some dicey terrain. I missed a turn (around mile 12) and bush wacked for a minute before deciding I was not on path. I made my way back and cranked hard up some switchbacks to make up for lost time. I used up some energy on the way up Cardiac (mile 18), but I knew I needed to keep the leaders in reach. They were flying strong, so I was a little worried on their lead, but I kept reminding myself to be patient and to remember the race was unfolding just as it should be.

The scenery was beautiful all day; the Headlands have quite the collection of shimmering ocean waves, stair laden connectors to gorgeous single track with a mess of dipping and downed trees to jump or limbo at ones discretion.  I had a motto for the day which was: presence…every step, every goo and every view. I felt in tune with my body most the day, but was maybe a little too focused on the race this particular day instead of taking mental pictures to collage the day together in my mind. It was a different feeling than I’ve had in other races, but I also really enjoyed the intensity of my focus and desire for the step ahead. Every run and race is such a uniquely individual experience yet we all share in the joy together and connect through similarities.

Photo: Brett Rivers

My most vivid memory of the race is when I caught up to Adam Campbell a little bit before the turn around (mile 22.8). We then spent the next few hours running and enjoying the day together. We talked some, we laughed, I think I cried a wee bit J. It was a great experience to run with such a cool dude.  I feel like we connected and really fed off each other’s energy, while we went through the lows and highs, pushed each other a long and had good company for a solid 10+ miles. Adam is one strong dude and I look forward to spending more time out on the trails with him next year.

After a long decent down some rootsy switchbacks, Adam gained some ground on me and I was feeling a little down. My hamstrings kept cramping on the descents and I had to slow to a mellower cruz to get them back to functioning. For some odd reason, not one aid station had salt-caps, (little rant- they spent the time to cut up like a 1000 bananas, but could not have a bottle open of salt-caps?) weird but I guess you should be ready for anything. At one point I actually took a Nuun tab and stuck it in my cheek, I kept sucking on it and taking it out when it got to fizzy. I know I could have put the tab in my water, but I really just like the taste of water to put down goos, so I didn’t want to spoil my drink of delightful H2O. This fizzy mess was a nice distraction and it eventually helped settle the cramping for a bit.

I was not feeling very strong at the time, but as I climbed up some steps I noticed that I was gaining on some of the people in the top 5. I came up to Mike Wardian and Geoff Roes in the next mile, which gave me confidence that patience was paying off. Being this close to some of the best runners in the biz and people I really respect and admire made me switch gears and remember that I was still in this battle.  Roes told me to keep giving it hell so I thought I would listen. I put some breathing room between us as I kept pushing the climb.

Photo: Brett River

So I kept rolling, feeling confident and ready to keep pushing. Then, right before a quick right hand turn a few miles before the Old Inn aid station (mile 38.9), I accidently kept climbing instead of hanging a right. I was feeling good and enjoying the run a little too much that I forgot an important detail…following the tape. I kept climbing way, way too much until I reached the top of the road with no markers anywhere.  I should have been more aware, but wasn’t. I added a good 10 or more minutes to my day and ended up another 3 or 4 spots back, but I wasn’t done yet.  I crawled back and eventually passed everyone again to their amusement of seeing me twice in the last hour.

By Muir Beach (mile 42.5) I was back with Roes and we started the climb up the Coastal trail. I didn’t have much left in my legs, but I came to the race to give all I had even if the podium was out of reach. Every step was a glimpse of more knowledge about my body. I wanted to take myself to the edge, be alive and free, experience this run to it’s fullest extent.

My cramping legs could not handle the downs as well as I liked, but they never fully locked up. I wiggled down to Tennessee Valley (mile 45) and was ready to finish this thing off.  The climb hurt, but I wasn’t broken yet. My thoughts disappeared into the days dust as I just enjoyed the last miles before an ice-cold GF beer at the finish. My mind was clear and relaxed; it was a very satisfying day.

Photo: Brett Rivers

I ran the last few miles hard as to not be caught with so little to go and came across the finish in 4th with a time of 6:38:50. I didn’t think that I could run a 50 miler that fast; I am content to have experienced such a wonderful day.

Hal and i soaking in the afternoon sun. Photo: Deb Loomis

Throughout the day many emotions, feelings and connections took place. I’m very grateful to experience this gift of life and share it with so many good people. I was also able to be a part of my amazing brides first 50k. I felt connected with her as we both pushed our self’s to new experiences. I’m so proud of how Krista dealt with her own adversity and came in sore, but with a huge smile. Well done beautiful.

Photo: Brett Rivers

Sharing these memories with so many incredible people over the past year of running and racing has been unbelievable. I look forward to many years of the same and I am very excited to see how 2012 unfolds.

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28 Comments

  1. Great stuff Tim!

    • Thanks for the report… I trully appreciate your contemplative perspective, coupled with raw talent… You give thanks while kicking ass… At any rate, nice work in 2011 and cant wait to see what 2012 brings…

      Peace and good things to you,

      Jon Seiber

  2. Awesome race recap! Congrats on the bomb finish!

  3. Always enjoy reading your blog. I really appreciate the perspective you have and the balance you take with your running. Great job out there!

  4. Great race and report, to boot! Funny to read that someone else had to “munch” on Nuun tabs — like Sweet Tarts or Pop Rocks….except disgusting. I had to take so many in the last 10M that the most sore part of me post-race were my GUMS!

    See you down in Suburban Texas in January; I hope after that I can get a chance to come down to Ashland for a trail- and Caldera tour!

  5. Amazing job Tim, you are becoming quite a threat out there.
    What shoe were you running in that day?

  6. Awesome job man! I’m going to trade some notes about speedwork next fall for this race

  7. Also.. you’re going to love Leona Divide if you like fast single-track.. You could definitely run even faster for that race, can’t wait to have you down in my neighborhood

  8. Congrats to you and Krista! I always admire your positive attitude and way of looking at running!!

  9. So proud of you two, the picture at the ends is beautiful! Love you! Mom

  10. I really respect your passion man. I didn’t realize you made that wrong turn, way to keep your chin up and your momentum at that!

    I saw you right around mile 43 just before you caught Geoff and I was really hoping to say hi and run with you, but that is where my wheels fell off and I faded from 6th to 10th.

    I might be in TX for Bandera, hope to see you there.

  11. I hear the course was 49.4mi, you may have been one of the few – with detours and all – who covered the full 50! Have fun at bandera man, always enjoy your refreshing perspective.

  12. Great recap and an Awesome, Smart & Strong run out there in that field. Nice to redeem last year too, huh??? :)

  13. Tim are you going to Bandera?

  14. Timothy: Just catching up on emails. NICE, NICE, NICE, NICE!!!! So very proud and happy for you and Krista!

    Love Always.

    Bob

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