Pre-race report North Face Endurance Challenge

Friday, December 6, 2013

**I suppose I’ve become slightly long winded in my blog posts but for me it’s all about setting the stage and telling the story or as I like to say, “It is not about the destination but rather the journey getting there”**

The end of my 2013 race calendar is HERE …not that I’m excited or anything.  It has been a stellar year of running and racing and I can’t think of a more appropriate culminating race than the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco, CA.  I actually considered racing this race last year but the race weekend fell on Michelle’s (actual) birthday and I knew that was no-no, or rather was told that it was a no-no, (not that going this year is much better because I’m missing the weekend after her birthday).

I’ve been looking forward to this race since July when an individual from the North Face Endurance Challenge series contacted me about a blog partnership.  I described in my post announcing the partnership that both the Georgia and Wisconsin races conflicted with my schedule for various reasons but the California championship aligned well with the end of the semester providing the perfect opportunity to compete in my first destination race!

As a student, when I began planning the logistics of a destination race, specifically arranging a hotel and transportation, cost was of the utmost importance.  I can’t recall exactly how I stumbled upon the Marin Headlands Hostel, possibly a race review from a previous year (???), but at $28 a night (8 bed mixed dorm) I knew I would be hard pressed to find a better deal or a more convenient location for a race start.  With lodging secured, I began considering transportation while in San Francisco and looked into the cost of renting a car for the 2.5 days I was scheduled to be there.  I. Was. Shocked.  I suppose my idea of reasonable rental rate was skewed because of my time at Siemens, who apparently has a very good corporate contract, because what I recall for daily rental cost of a vehicle was significantly different than what I found when looking.  After talking with Michelle’s parents who had traveled to San Francisco, I decided I would embrace navigating the public transit system as an adventure!  With my race entry comped as a North Face Endurance Challenge blogger, the only remaining logistic consideration was a flight.  I was fortunate to have accrued enough frequently flier miles while working at Siemens to have enough for a cross-country round-trip.  Thus, my flight for all intensive purposes was free aside from the booking fee and taxes ($32.50) and the $17 travel insurance…just in case I got injured or something came up.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday when I began looking into getting around town via public transit (read: FREAKING OUT!) and more importantly to my hostel in the Marin Headlands.  After some investigating, there is a bus that runs out to the headlands from downtown but only on Saturdays and Sundays, and even then not early enough to be convenient.  There are some other options for transportation from the airport to the Marin Headlands, like the Marin Door-to-Door, but the cost is at least $40 one-way and cab fares were comparable.  I recalled Michelle’s dad, Marvin, mentioning that rental cars are always significantly cheaper away from the airport and decided to check…just in case there was something that fit into my budget for the race.  After some debating, I decided on renting a car from downtown, which was half the cost of renting at the airport and ultimately gave me more freedom to explore the town for about the same cost as cabbing/using the Marin Door-to-Door. 

Because this was my first trip to San Francisco and California for that matter, I solicited advice via social media for what I should or “must” do with my limited time there.  On Wednesday, I purchased a pass to check out Alcatraz via Alcatraz Cruises on Friday (only two days later), which apparently is typically sold out weeks in advance.  Traveling off-season certainly has its advantages!  I opted for the latest ferry offered, 1:35PM, to allow for time traveling from the airport/packet pickup at the North Face Store/picking up the rental car.

I left Blacksburg at 1:30PM on Thursday for Charlotte and made quick time arriving a little after four including a quick stop at Earth Fare in hopes of finding California Route, a limited release organic collaborating beer between New Belgium Brewing and Patagonia…yes the clothing manufacturer Patagonia.  Success!  The Beer is a one-time run to celebrate Patagonia’s 40th anniversary and is particularly difficult to find because it is only sold at organic food stores.  I LOVE social media, and I mean like mushy-gushy give me a barf bag type of love, and Patagonia and New Belgium decided to use the hashtag #FindTheRoute to allow folks locate the beer.  I began searching while I was at home for Thanksgiving but turned up empty handed.  Knowing that I would be traveling later that afternoon, I used New Belgium’s beer finder to see if I would pass any stores that still had some and sure enough Earth Fare just north of Charlotte did!  Kicking off the trip to an awesome start! Perhaps a good omen?

I continued south and made one more quick pit-stop at Central Coffee (oh how I miss thee!) for a Central Shorty before meeting up with my friend Mike who was kind enough to let me crash at his place for the night!  Thank again Mike!  Mike sent me a text earlier in the day asking if I would be interested in going to the Charlotte Checkers (Charlotte based AHL team) game in town that evening to which I replied “Sure, why not?”  Tickets were super reasonable and we were able to meet up with my friend Tim who I hadn’t seen since leaving Siemens and spent the evening catching up!  The hockey game was pretty boring, aside from a fan (sitting four maybe five rows in front of us) getting taken away on a stretcher after being hit by a stray puck.  Yikes!!!  However, the ending was pretty awesome with the Checkers winning in sudden death!


If you’re not bored out of you mind reading this yet I commend you!  I suppose I should address my training leading up to the race, which I have to admit that for once, I’m pretty happy with!  I’ve been racing at least once a month since August when I ran Iron Mountain 30 miler, completing the Hokie Half in September, Marine Corps Marathon in October, and less than two weeks ago Crooked Road 24hr.  I recovered REALLY well from Crooked road without any issue of soreness from the effort, which makes me wonder if I should have continued past the 50 mile mark where I stopped.  Training during Thanksgiving week was pretty minimal, aside from running a turkey trot Thanksgiving morning dressed as a turkey and chef, but I was okay with that because I knew I should be tapering.  This week I managed to break the 1300-mile barrier for total mileage this year, a goal I set way back in the first week of January.  I went out for a Ultra VT group run Wednesday evening and rolled my ankle pretty hard on the descent of Old Farm, which was my fear running that trail at night.  Fearing the worst, I put ice on it when I got home Wednesday evening and fortunately did not have any issues with it being sore Thursday morning. #SoLucky

Finally, to the meat of this post: What do you need to know about the North Face Endurance Challenge?

Foremost, there has been copious amounts of chatter about the uber competitive elite field racing the 50 mile event (see any of the handful of articles below).
There’s “big” money up for grab and hence it’ll be an epic testosterone showdown of who’s got the biggest cahoneys (I say “big” because it’s big for ultrarunning).  I completed the poll for top 5 men and women finishers but one of picks, Sage Canaday, has scratched because of the flu.  Bummer!

I’m running the 50k #SoGlad which kicks off at 7AM Saturday December 7th, two hours after the elite field.  I’m so excited to take in the gorgeous views and experience running in the Marin Headlands.  UltraRunningLive.TV put together the below six-minute video about the 50-mile course highlighting some of the beautiful views the 50-mile competitors will enjoy.  While I’m not running the 50-mile event, I hope that we experience some of the same breathtaking views, check it out! 

Finally, SUPER EXCITING NEWS!  The race will be available to live stream via UltraSportsLive.TV SUPER NEAT!  Tune in and perhaps you’ll get a glimpse of me suffering!

I plan to post more as the weekend unfolds, but for now I'm headed to be because even though it's only 9PM here, I've been up for 20 hours east coast time!


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