Immediately after this race, somebody (I’m fuzzy on who it was) asked me if I’d do it again. The “yes” fell out of my mouth before I even stopped to think about it. Yes, I would do it again. Despite it being one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Here’s more on the race:
North Face Endurance Challenge New York 50k race, May 5, 2018
Distance: 30.73 miles
Total time: 8:21:20 (moving time 8:09:49)
Avg. pace: 16:19/mile (15:56/mile moving time)
Total elev. gain: 5,354 feet
Place: 14/21 in my age group, about what I expected. I would love to be able to do this faster someday. But I’m just so happy I did it and was able to keep a pretty steady effort over a very, VERY gnarly course.
Goal: Mainly to finish happy and healthy; closer to the race I was estimating an average of 15:00/mile for a finish time of 7:45:00, based on how my preview runs on the first few sections of the course had gone. My final time was a little slower than that but ah, whatever! It was an incredibly hard course and my six months of training got me to a place where I could complete it. Win.
Weather: Race-day weather was a little warmer than it had been in the weeks before the race, but it wasn’t extremely hot. There were a few spots on the course (lower elevation, breeze-free areas in the final third of the race) where I felt the heat getting me and intentionally slowed down because the last thing I wanted to do was mess around with heat exhaustion, but it wasn’t too bad. And it didn’t rain.
Logistics: We (being me, husband F, and friend F) rented a house and a car in Peekskill for the weekend and made our way up there the afternoon before the race. Race morning, we were up at 4am and out the door at 5am, then parked and in line for the shuttle bus to the start/finish area around 5:30. The bus was quick, so we were at the start area before 6, for a 7am start. Luckily, husband F brought camping chairs and blankets, I had my tea and instant oatmeal, portapotties were nearby, we found a few friends … the time passed quickly. I’m not sure what I felt at the actual start of the race. Petrified but excited? I knew the first 9 miles of the course pretty well so no surprises there. Crew was allowed at mile 21 and I had plans to meet F and F there, and that was one of the main things I focused on for the first two-thirds of the race. I was thrilled to roll into that aid station and see their faces. I topped up water, got a little more food for my pack (not that I would eat much of it in the last 10 miles), washed my face, reapplied sunscreen, swapped my wet hat for a dry one, assured them I didn’t need to change shoes, and with a few high-fives was on my way. The next (and final) 10 miles included Timp Pass and were tough. I walked uphills and jogged flats and downhills wherever I could. For the final mile we were back on trails I knew, and I was moving slow but feeling gleeful as I left the trails, crossed the parking lot, and tried to pull myself into a sprint across the grass and under the finish line arch. It wasn’t really much of a sprint, and out of nowhere I was about to start bawling, but then I saw F and F and a volunteer put a medal on me and there was a table full of oranges and I MAY have rinsed my head under a water-bottle-filling spigot and the sun was out and I got to sit down on the grass with my friends which was the best feeling in the whole universe.
Gear: Altra Timps with lightweight Darn Tough running socks and Dirty Girl gaiters kept my feet happy (or as happy as they could be given 8.5 hours of more rocks than dirt). I wore capris, an Icebreaker tank top, a light hat, and sunglasses, plus my Ultimate Direction UltraVesta pack with lots of food in it and two 500-ml water bottles (one water, one Tailwind slowly fading to water) in the front pockets. My Fenix 3 watch has a long battery life so I didn’t worry about that running out. I carried my phone, too, and texted the time I was leaving each aid station to husband F–cell coverage was very spotty but I think a few of the texts got through.
Hydration/nutrition: I was determined to eat 100 calories (either a Clif Shot or half a pack of Clif Bloks) every thirty minutes for as long as I could handle it. I also had Tailwind in one of my water bottles, and I tried to drink that as much as possible–again, as long as I could handle it. Then I picked up whatever looked tasty at aid stations, which were every 4 or 5 miles. I did pretty good at this constant stream of calories until around mile 21, and after that point orange slices and Coke were about all I could stomach. There was a delicious vegetable broth at the mile 21 aid station, and if more of that had been available I’d have been really into it. But with 10 more miles to go, I figured I could get by on oranges and Coke. I never felt much of a low-energy bonk, and I stopped to use the portapotty at two aid stations, so I think I was pretty well fed and hydrated the whole time.
Worked well: Training. The 50k plan from Krissy Moehl’s Running Your First Ultra book felt like a great fit for me. Also my spectacular crew. Also staying near the race the night before and the night after–that cut down on a lot of driving/travel stress. Oh, and starting to work out the logistics two weeks before the race was a really good move. That final week got hectic and I was glad I had my lists and plans mostly together at that point.
Learned for next time: If possible, do even more long hill/power-hiking workouts. The climbs on this course just. do. not. end. Especially on the Long Path ridgeline (around miles 12-13) and the Timp Pass climb (mile 28).
Up next: (whispers) 50-miler in Oregon in mid-July!