Race Recap: The North Face Endurance Challenge California – Marathon Relay

If you’ve been following along for a while, you might remember that last year I won 2 entries into the North Face Endurance Challenge California through an Instagram contest put on by Repreve. I gave my original entry to Sean so he could run the 50 miler and then they gave me a second entry so I could run as well.  I picked the relay and it’s where I first met Maili @mais_runs_trails.

This year, Sean wanted to run the 50 again so we figured things out and decided to do a double race weekend.  He would run the 50 miler on Saturday and then we would drive to Sacramento and both of us would run CIM on Sunday.  I originally didn’t anticipate running at Northface, instead just cheering on my friends and possibly spectating.  But then my friend Jeremy was like, hey, aren’t you going to be there?

He asked me to be a part of his relay team and after making sure he was ok, I would probably run the 6.5 mile lap relatively slow because I was running the marathon the next day, I agreed to be a part of the team.  At the start it was just the 2 of us, but we quickly had a full 4 person team.

Originally I thought it would be good to be the first runner, since I’m the slowest, but after thinking about it and discussing with the team, Trevor was to run first since they do a November Project video at the start.  I am not a member of the November Project and I really don’t know much about the organization except what I’ve seen at the various North Face events.  The rest of my team, however are all part of the Phoenix branch.

After thinking about it, I wanted to be at the finish to be able to see the 50 milers battle it out.  I thought Jim Walmsley was going to be there, along with Zach Miller and Sage Canaday and it could be an epic battle for first place.  I was excited to see the finish so I asked if I could be the 3rd runner.

Sean & I didn’t arrive in SF until late on Friday night, we flew in separately because he was in Vegas for work and I stayed in SD, but we managed to arrive within minutes of each other and one gate apart.

We headed into the city, got checked into our hotel before heading to get some pizza for dinner.  We had to get up really early on Saturday morning so we had a quick dinner and then headed to bed. 3am was going to come quick.

We got up, headed over the Golden Gate Bridge and over to Fort Barry.  We were there pretty early, about 4am, we got a great parking spot near the start area.  And happened to park right next to Molly, the RD from Whoo’s in El Moro.

We headed up to get Sean registered and then ran into a bunch of our friends, it was like a party up there, lol.  We chatted and caught up with them and then it was time for the 50 miler to start.

I wished Sean good luck and watched them all head out.  My favorite part about this race is hanging out and chatting with all the runners in between the race starts.  I chatted with a guy who came all the way from Guatemala to run the 1/2 marathon and pace his nephew in the 50.  A lady from New Orleans cheering on her husband in the 50k, a few runners from Canada, a bunch of runners doing their first marathons and one of Altra’s newest elite runners, Amanda Basham.  I had a blast!

After a few hours of chatting with other runners, I saw Jeremy and met the rest of the team and a bunch of others runners from Phoenix.  We caught up a bit, got a pre-race team photo and I found some wifi so I could check on the Western States & Hard Rock lotteries for Sean.

Eventually 10am got there and we were off!  Trevor killed it out there and knocked out the first loop in about 48 minutes! Wow! and with the crazy hill that was in the first half.  He was back before we knew it and then Jeremy headed out.

I watched as the first place 50k runner came in and then not much later, I saw Jamil coming and knew that the first place 50 miler, Zach Miller was right behind him. He was flying!  It was so exciting seeing him coming in to the finish.  Jamil headed out almost immediately and not too much later the second place runner came flying around the corner.  It was so exciting!  Come to find out Jim Walmsley decided to not to run, but it was an exciting race.  Which you can see the epic Miller vs Hawks video that Jamil made on Run Steep Get High’s youtube channel.

Then it was about time for me to head off on my loop.  I had been up since 3am and it was almost noon when I started so I was already a bit tired, lol.  I took off and wow, I was flying for the first mile and a half, around 8 minute miles, but then I hit the hill and that’s where the wheels fell off, lol.  I struggled up the hill with horrible calf tightness all the way up.  I hiked the majority of the hill but did try to run when I could.

Once at the top, I grabbed a few orange slices and a glass of water and then took off down the hill.  This year, this section was felt so much easier than last year.

I made it down the hill, across the street and ran into Maili, who had been out with iRunFar. I gave her a hug and then kept going.  Trevor saw me with about a 1/4 mile to go and ran in with me. I was starting to feel a bit sick, lack of calories I think, but I made it to the finish line and gave the tracker to Mike.

I felt a little better after eating some orange slices and a clif peanut butter filled bar, I just love these bars so yummy!  I did feel a bit bad, I was the weak link in the group, but I do feel like I did a bit better than last year.  And it was such a beautiful day, I just enjoyed myself out there.

I waited for Mike to come in so we could run in as a team.  While waiting, I saw Schuyler come by and then a few minutes later, I saw him come by again, along with Jamil, who had a bunch of ornaments in his hair.  I was like hum…maybe this is a Mountain Outpost challenge…

A few minutes later, I saw Mike come through and joined the other guys in heading to the finish line!

We got a quick group finish photo with Dean Karnazes.

I will say this year, North Face stepped it up with the race shirts, I really like mine, it fits properly, unlike last years which was stretched out and longer in the back and short in the front.  The medal looked a little nicer too, I still maintain that they should do a race location specific medal but it was nicer than last years & had a nice ribbon on it.

While I waited for Sean to come in I saw a few of my friends come in and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  We had such a great weather day, compared to last year.

Sean came in, about a half an hour ahead of last year’s time!  I got a great photo of him finishing and cheered in him in!

We got him some snacks, some dry clothes and then headed out to the car.  He could have gotten a meal, but the line was huge so we decided to just grab something on the way to Sacramento.

It was a great day, I’m sure we’ll be back to run this race again, but I feel like next time, I’ll go for the marathon or 50k vs running CIM, but I’ll talk more about that in my CIM recap ;).

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