Not quite one month after the Bear Mountain 50 miler, I was back at the familiar Endurance Challenge starting line. I was excited to experience the DC course as all descriptions seemed to indicate that it would be much more runnable and “easier” (though I hesitate to use that word) than Bear Mt. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. No trail run is ever easy and I had never run two 50M in such close succession before.
When we woke on race day morning, the air already felt stale, thick and moist. It was nearly 4AM, the coolest hour of the day, the sun was still happily asleep on our side of the Earth yet the temperature was already well into the 80s. This race was certainly not going to be easy. A mere 10 minutes into the race, sweat was already dripping (or should I say, pouring) down my neck.
The terrain and profile of the race course was pleasantly varied: sharp switch-backs, rolling hills, flats, single track, fire roads, tall grassy meadows lined with stinging nettles, muddy bogs, ankle-deep streams, big slabs of dry rocks, mossy slippery rocks, roots and logs. Luckily a canopy of trees shielded us from the blazing sun for most of the course except for a few brief but immensely enjoyable sections that revealed breathtaking views of the Potomac River from high upon a cliff’s edge. The course was so enjoyable that it definitely made the horrible sweat-fest worthwhile.
(head-to-toe: Brooks PR hat; Patagonia: Capilene® 1 tank, active mesh bra, active hipster, multi-use skirt; GoLite HydroSprint; The North Face cushioned running quarter sock; Inov8 Roclite 282)
After about 15 miles in one direction, the course then did three 7-mile squiggly loops before turning back on itself to the finish. I worried that this repetition would be tedious but it was actually lots of fun to see my teammate several times and interact with lots of runners during the mid-section of the race. As I came through the Great Falls aid station the final time, Liz, my ultra-superstar crew, dumped a handful of ice into my hat and set me on my way: Only 15 miles to go! Only. With 35 miles down, the final 15 are where everything unravels: fatigue sets in and feet ache. Nutrition and shots of Mountain Dew at the final few aid stations didn’t seem to give me that kick I was hoping for. I divided an approximation of the remaining miles by time (unless you’ve got a GPS watch, you never really know what mile you’re on) in my mind still hoping to hit my goal of a sub-9 hour finish but realizing that it probably wouldn’t happen – not in 95°F weather.
I crossed the finish line of my third 50 miler in a solid 9:25:10, good enough for 7th female place & 2nd in my age group and definitely not easy.
All in all, it was another great North Face Endurance Challenge (my 5th one) with the added bonus of a beer garden (first beer free for runners!) and ice baths at the finish festival!
Submerging myself from the waist down in a tub of muddy ice cubes was ridiculously painful but amazing at the same time. Liz made me sit in there for over 8 minutes until my lips were purple and I was shivering! Immediately afterwards, I wriggled myself into my magical Zoot recovery compression tights! Happy tired legs.
Congrats to my NF coach, Dennis, who placed 8th overall for the second year in a row on this course, and to my NF teammates, Jennifer & Susie, who each ran strong and finished their first 50M! Jennifer did us all proud by snagging a 2nd place podium finish too!
And finally, my thanks go out to Liz for driving across 5 states, photographing and crewing in the blazing heat all day. She definitely deserves a finisher’s medal of her own!