Monday, April 14, 2008

The North Face Endurance Challenge

Saturday was surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly wet and gross at the North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY. Thank God I only signed up for the half marathon. It was possibly the hardest and unquestionably the stupidest race I've ever done.

The elevation changes were tough enough, but wet leaves on top of wet rocks on top of mud makes for a dangerous day. It took me over three hours -- I was expecting two, maybe 2:30. I didn't anticipate how rugged it was either: big rocks, little rocks, sharp rocks, fraggle rocks -- it was an ankle turning mess.

The uphills weren't even the hardest part -- it was the screaming descents.

All day long, you'd hear competitor yells of, "Are you kidding me?!?" and "This is retarded!" I suppose I could have gone faster, but my completely rational fear of death took hold. As it was, I fell anyway. Luckily, it was on an uphill and only resulted in a bashed knee.

I saw Dean Karnazes twice. The first time, he said, "Right on" to me. Of course, he said, "right on" to everyone he passed by, but it was still cool. The second time, I checked him into a bush. The group I was running with by the end had gotten into a groove, so we (or I anyway) didn't expect anyone to come cruising through. In the last mile, I cut to the left of the trail to dodge a huge mud puddle. Dean was blasting past at that exact second, so I knocked right into him. I apologized, he said no worries, and then he proceeded to race ahead. I gotta say, that dude has the most impressive calves I've ever seen. It was also cool that he was out there mixing it up with us non-ultra folk.

Overall, it was a fun -- and terrifying -- way to spend the morning. I think this also put the final nail in the coffin of my ambition to run an ultra marathon in the north east.

Update: It turns out I did better than expected. I finished 54th (out of 208 finishers; ~219 started) and 18th (out of 36) in my age group. Finish time was 3:05:31. The overall winner finished in 2:15:40 -- that's darn fast (but actually, not that fast at all).

Only 19 (of 65 starters) finished the 50 mile -- most missed the cutoff and got pulled off the course.

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