Race Recap: The North Face Endurance Challenge California

Since it’s the last day of 2015, I thought that I better get this posted ASAP so without further adieu, here is my race recap for The North Face Endurance Challenge back at the beginning of December.

Back in mid November I received a notification on one of my Instagram posts from Repreve. This was a pretty exciting notification because they were notifying me that I had won an entry into the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco.  I immediately ran in and told Sean, who I know wanted to run the 50 mile race which was sold out.  I told him that I was going to ask if I could give my entry to him.

I immediately messaged them and asked, to which they responded that it shouldn’t be a problem for Sean to have my entry and that if because of the late notice, one of the other winners wasn’t able to attend, I could have my own entry too.  How awesome was that?!  We had to wait a few days to find out if I was going to be able to run as well but we found really inexpensive tickets to SF and were able to use some miles so we were good to go.

A few days later, I was notified that I could run too & that I could do any race as well including the marathon relay.  So I immediately went back to Instagram to find a partner to run with and the oh so lovely @mais_runs_trails agreed to run with me.  Why did I choose the relay?  North Face has a number of different races during race weekends, on Saturday the 50 miler, 50k, Marathon and Marathon Relay and then on Sunday a half marathon, 10k and 5k.  I really wasn’t excited about running the marathon because this race is supposed to be pretty hilly, which is so not my fav, I would prefer to run the half, but the only caveat was that it was Sunday and since we had plans with Sean’s mom, that would be a problem, so I choose the relay.

Now, I didn’t even look at what the relay was, oops, for some reason I thought it was a 2 person relay with us each running a half of the marathon course.  Well in reality we could have up to 4 people run and it was a 6.5 mile loop course.  So Maili & I would each run 2 loops.

Sean & I flew up to SF on Thursday evening because it was less expensive and it would be better so we could pick up our packets and not have to rush that evening with a super early wake up call on Saturday morning.  We stayed at a lovely B&B in Sausalito called the Gables which was really close to the course.

Friday, we went for a fun shakeout “runch” over the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was an absolutely beautiful day and relatively warm out but definitely super humid.  There really is nothing like running over the bridge.

Running, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Running4thosewhocant, lululemon

Afterwards we met up with Maili at the North Face Store in Corte Madera to pick up our bibs.  We chatted for a while and of course got a few photos 😉 before getting our race fuel.

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Sean grew up in Marin County and has some favorite places, including his fav pizza place Mulberry Street in San Rafael.  We met up with his mom and her boyfriend there for a little pre-race carb loading.  I tried a super yummy Tomato Pie on whole wheat crust which was amazing!

Mulberry Street, Tomatoe Pie, Pizza, San Rafael, Carb Loading

After dinner on our way back to the hotel we went over to where the start area was so we had an idea on where to go the next morning.  For most participants you had to park off site and take a bus over, about a 25 minute drive, but for the 50 milers they were allowed to park on a first come first serve basis on site.

Once we got back, I got my gear ready and then got ready to head to bed, the 50 mile race started at 5am so that meant getting up around 3:15am which is really early.

And let me tell you 3:15 came really fast, especially since I didn’t sleep well that night.  We got ready and headed over to the start line.  I was a little worried because there was quite a few people waiting to park.  This park is interesting in that it has a long one lane tunnel that you have to wait 5 minutes for your turn to go through.  We finally made it through and then headed over to park.  We were sooo lucky that we were able to get a parking spot in the lot closest to the start line.  It was so nice because it was really cold out.

I went over with Sean early, even though the relay didn’t start until 11am, so I would have over 5 hours there to hang out.  Sean dropped off his drop bags, we ran into our friends, Cindy & Fern (got a photo of course) and then it was time for the race to start.

Three Amigos from SD

I watched them all start and then headed back to the car to drop off our stuff.  I was going to take a nap but I didn’t want someone to ask me to leave since I was running the 50 so I went back to the start area and hung out chatting with some other runners while hanging out around the fire pits.  I would stay around here for most of the next 5 hours.  It was quite fun chatting with all the other runners about various races, etc.  I quite enjoyed meeting new people.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, Marin Headlands, Fort Baker, Trail Running, Marathon Relay, Sunrise

I watched all the other races start, the 50k at 7am, the marathon at 9am, cheering on my new friend Becca, and then it was time to get ready for the relay.  I took some of my stuff back to the car and waited for Maili to arrive, at this point I was seeing that 90% of the relay teams were all a part of the November Project.  They were all in costumes and everyone seemed to know everyone else.  It was pretty cool to see all the teams dressed up.

Once Maili arrived, I asked her if she would mind if I ran the first 2 legs since I had been out there for quite a while and she agreed.  Plus I was the slower of the 2 of us and wasn’t quite sure how this was going to go since I was fighting yet another cold.

So we went over for a quick briefing which started out being a pre race bounce session for the NP members.  Then they told us how it worked and we got ready to start.  Maili got a few pics of me as I was heading out which is a nice part of having a partner, so we could both get pics ;).

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running

After the briefing, they had us line up at the start, I wasn’t sure about how the course was going to be, if it would be single track or more fire roads so I didn’t want to be too close to the front, but I also didn’t want to be all the way at the back so I found myself in the front third.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running

The course ended up being on very wide trails and started out on the road so I never had to worry about being boxed in or slowing anyone down.  The first mile was pretty flat and then we started climbing from 33 ft to just over 900 ft over the next 1.75 miles (give or take).  At the top of the hill we were rewarded with an aid station and a nice and relatively steep downhill.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running, orange mud, altra running, lululemon, procompression

At the bottom of the hill, it leveled out and on my first loop, this was the hardest spot for me.  I had been going pretty fast down the hill and then it was like what just happened when we got to the flatter section.  Fortunately there were people in hot dog suits cheering us on at that point which gave me a little boost.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, Marin Headlands, Fort Baker, Trail Running, Marathon Relay

I did pretty well for my first loop finishing the 6.5 miles in 1:12.  I knew that the 2nd loop was going to be a bit slower because of the hill, I wasn’t feeling that strong and knew I would be walking for most of the climb.  I started out strong, posed for some photos, didn’t see hardly anyone on the course this time around and just concentrated on getting it done.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running

As I was coming down the 2nd loop, I was running with a lot of the 50 mile & 50k leaders.  It was a lot of fun watching them fly down the mountain and we were all cheering each other on, there were a lot of good jobs, way to go’s being said down that hill.

I feel like the second loop was a bit more challenging on the front end, but that the back side and the more flat part after the downhill was actually easier the second time.  I just kept chugging along and eventually made it back to the start in 1:20 – 8 minutes slower than my first loop.  Considering how horrible I am on the hills, I was pretty happy with that.  Total time 2:33 minutes for 13.1 miles.

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And then it was Maili’s turn.  I knew, even though she said she was going to be slow ;), that she would be faster than me for a variety of reasons, but mostly because she is able to run in these or similar trails all the time so she’s not a baby like I am on the hills.  She did a great job, finishing in 2:10 for the half / her splits were only a minute apart so she did amazing.

It was super exciting watching her finish and then going thru the finish line hand in hand.

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After I finished my 2nd loop, they gave me my medal and I got a cool North Face water bottle.  There was a little tent with some food.  I got some orange slices, a bag of cashews, a clif bar and a bag of chips.  By the time Maili went through there wasn’t as much left and there was even less food when Sean when through.

After Maili finished, I waited for Sean, I saw our friend Cindy finish the 50 miler, talked to a few other friends, saw another friend finish the marathon and then in 10:09 Sean finished.  He said it was a great race but that he had to give his leg a talking to at mile 6.  Fortunately he was able to finish with minimal pain and had a great time out there seeing a lot of his friends while on the course.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, 50 mile, Trail Running

If you ran the 50 mile, 50k or marathon, they included a hot meal in your entry fee.  The meal consisted of salad, pasta, chicken, cookies, bread and a drink.  There were a few booths that had hot drinks, I had an amazing cup of coffee from a company out of British Columbia, I wish I could remember the name of the company because it was really good.  And another fancy coffee, one of those were the coffee is inside a filter and it takes a while for the water to go thru into your cup.

Race swag: We received shirts similar to those we received in Utah, although the design was a lot better with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on it.  They were the same Repreve shirts in the same green color that we got in UT.  Sean also got a North Face buff in his packet.

Post Race: We received medals, the exact same medals that they gave out at all the other North Face races, which personally I find pretty cheap.  The only difference was on the ribbon.  It shows the date, location and distance.  The water bottles were nice though.

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Would I run this race again? Maybe a different distance or if I did the relay, I personally would want to only run 1 loop vs. 2.  I will say though that it’s a well organized race.  Huge Thanks to Maili for running with me!  You are the best!!

And now, just one more race recap for 2015 & I’m all caught up ;)!!

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