Thursday, November 29, 2012

The North Face Endurance Challenge is this weekend!

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50M, 50K, Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k & 5k
The North Face Endurance Challenge is a race that is held all over the United States in regional races with the championship race being held in San Francisco in the Marin Headlands. This event attracts the top runners from all over the world. The elite runners list is located here. A few names that jumped out at me were Leor Pantilat, Galen Burrell, Sage Canaday, Mike Foote, Rickey Gates, Lizzy Hawker, Paige Higgins, Hal Koerner, Kristin Moehl, Kami Semick & Mike Wolfe. The elite list is 2.5 pages long and I just skimmed it quickly and picked out 10 names that are VERY well known in the ultrarunning world.

This is going to be an amazing race with incredible talent, battling terrible weather conditions over a course that is as brutal as they get. The TNF website says "...The North Face® Endurance Challenge Championship course has surprised runners with both its scenery and amount of elevation change. Participants are encouraged to train for repeated uphills and downhills of several hundred feet at a time.". I have run ultras in the Marin Headlands and can testify that these hills are no joke. They do not switch back as much as most, instead they climb and climb and climb some more. I could run non-stop to the top of Mount Everest if it switched back enough but straighten that trail out and you get a completely different story. That is what these runners are facing in the midst of a terrible rain storm.

The weather report is calling for a high of 60 degrees (colder than you think) with high winds and a chance of flooding for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Most people feel like 60 degrees is at least warm enough and to them I say "You just don't understand coastal weather." The wind and rain will chill you to the bone, your body will use all it has to keep you moving so heat generation is not it's primary focus and NO you will not be hot or sweaty from this run. It will be cold, but for a chance at $10,000 or just the chance to run with the best and test your mettle, I understand why people would pay upwards of $100 or more to run this beast.

The course map can be seen here. All of the usual trails will be run this weekend including the Dipsea, Miwok, Coastal etc etc. The elevation gain on the full 50 miler has been reported as just a touch over 10,000' ft and other sources say it is over 12,000'ft. Either way that's a brutal amount of climbing. For the runners sake I hope it is closer to the 10,000 mark. As a comparison the world famous Western States 100 is twice as long but only 18,000' ft of climbing. Just because the Marin Headlands aren't called the Marin Mountains don't be fooled into thinking they are any less brutal when it comes to running these trails.

Many of this runners are speedy marathoners that made their name on road races mostly (think Sage Canaday) and have now moved onto the ultras which is a major trend in the running world these days. These less experienced runners will have the most difficult time out of all of the runners because everything is against them. You can not start out fast on this course or the climbs at mile 15 & 28 will force a DNF. The experience of gutting out a really tough ultra through bad weather is invaluable and if you don't have that you are at a definite disadvantage. Guys like Mike Wolfe or Rickey Gates will fair a bit better because this is nothing new for them. Been there and done that is a real bonus. Along those same lines of logic we have the bay area's very own Leor Pantilat and Galen Burrell on the starting line to name a few. These guys and the other locals who have raced these trails every which way possible have a distinct advantage over those who are here for their first or second time.

 Live coverage of this insanity can be seen here. I will be on the course somewhere cheering on the runners and posting updates to this blog if possible. The finish festival will be at Fort Barry in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The festival features music, refreshments and food. They bill this as "A true family event". The Finish Line will also offer free samples, product trials, demonstrations and raffle prizes from The North Face, GORE-TEX, and more. Dean Karnazes will be signing autographs between 4:30 & 5:30. A complete list of the two days and their events can be seen here.

See you in the woods,

Jonathan

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