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 ;).

Race Recap: The San Francisco Marathon 2nd Half

This was my 3rd year running The San Francisco Marathon and Sean’s 5th time.  I have run the first half twice and if you’d like to read those recaps, they are here 2014 & 2015.

This year we weren’t going to run the race, but then in June, Sean asked me if I wanted to go, since this is our anniversary race and he’s done it so many times.  I agreed but we did end up paying a lot more than normal due to the lateness of our entry.  I paid $135 for the second half.  To put that into context, we signed up for the marathon at the expo this year and it was $110 with a $25 discount so we ended up paying $92 with the fee so it’s definitely better to register early for this race.

We flew up on Saturday morning, took a very long BART/bus ride to the city (they were doing construction on a station on the way to the city), got checked in and then immediately ran down to the expo at Fort Mason, which is where the expo has been the last few years.

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We got our bibs, shirts, Sean’s loyalty gift for running 5 years in a row, a travel mug, some snacks and wandered for a few minutes just to see what was there.


Afterwards, we made our way to Fremont via the BART to see my sister and my brother-in-law David.  We got a bit more information about how David, who is fighting cancer, is doing.

Sidenote: If you have a few extra dollars, even just $5-$10 (the cost of approx. 1-2 days of Starbucks), please consider helping Sean & I raise money for the James Blake Foundation to run the NYC Marathon for David.  You can donate here.

David was in amazing spirits, he is so incredibly positive and has a huge will to live.  That being said, his condition has not improved a lot, the cancer in his leg is growing so fast that the many chemo treatments he has already received are only able to attack the new growth vs the original cancer.  It’s a very serious situation but he and my sister, Diane, are doing well considering.

After our visit, we headed back to the city, had a little dessert from world famous Ghiradelli’s.


I got my Flat Jenny ready and headed to bed, it was going to be an early morning.  Sean’s race started at 5:30a, I wanted to go to the We Run Social meet-up and then needed to take a shuttle over to the 2nd half start.

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After seeing Sean start, I saw a few other friends and then headed over to the shuttles which were a few blocks from the marathon/first half start.

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There were a ton of school buses there to take us over.  I got in line to wait until 6am when they would start taking us over.  I think I got on the 2nd or 3rd bus.

The ride was actually pretty long, I think it was about 25 minutes until we got to the start line.  I was super tired so I was half asleep for most of the ride.

Once off the bus, I headed over to the starting area.  The 2nd half is much smaller than the first half/marathon.  I hit up the port-a-potties as soon as I arrived so I would miss the lines, then I checked out a few of the sites, there was a huge Dutch style windmill near some rose gardens, before heading up towards the gear check area to hang out for a bit before checking my bag.


It was sooo cold.  I’m glad that I had my hoodie and track pants because I would have froze if not. As I was waiting, I ran into fellow BibRavePro, Bradley.  We, of course, got a photo. (photo courtesy of Bradley)

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I finally found out that the line I thought was for the port-a-potties was actually for the drop bags.  It was not well marked that you had to go to just one table to put your number on your bag and then you could drop your bag at your UPS truck.  Compared to the main start area, this was a bit of a mess.

I felt like the 2nd half start line was kind of an afterthought.  The girl who was the announcer seemed really nice, but was not the right fit for this event.  She wasn’t really very energetic and focused more on things that aren’t really important.  I was not impressed.

The race finally got its start at 7:30a and I was in wave 3 so I started at 7:45a. By that point it was starting to rain a little and I just wanted to get started.

Unfortunately for me, my legs didn’t feel great from the get-go.  I just tried to focus on being in the moment, listening to the end of my Daniel Silva audio book and run/walking the majority of the race.

This part of the course didn’t have the huge hill up near the Presidio like the first half, but it was a bit hillier than I was expecting.

I just did my best to keep moving through Golden Gate Park for the first 4 miles, hoping my legs would loosen up.  It was pretty, we ran around a lake, saw a pagoda, ran past the first half marathon finish line before heading into Haight Ashbury and through the city.  Obviously I didn’t see this photographer because I appear to be “in the zone” lol.

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Interestingly in the part of the course that was the least exciting, between 6 -9,  was the part of the course where they would periodically close the course to help with traffic flow.  They don’t do this in the first part of the course so I’d never seen it happen before.  At one point I was coming up just as they were closing the section so I saw it first hand.

Finally around mile 11 we headed towards the Embarcadero and around AT&T Park.  It would have been nice to go on the field, but alas, no go for that. 🙂

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We made our way down towards the finish line.  As we got closer to mile 13, I could feel that I was getting tired so I actually drank a Glukos gel in the last 1/2 mile.  I literally couldn’t move any faster, I could see all the people gaining on me and running past me but my legs were just not having it.

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I made it over the finish line in a not horrible 2:16 and I immediately saw Sean waiting for me :).  We went to get our medals and food.  Yet again, the actual race food sucks.  There were bottles of water, think thin bars, bananas and muscle milk drinks.  The only one of those 4 things that I like is the water.  It was pretty disappointing because I was really hungry.

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But that being said, after we got out of the race finish area, by the Ferry Building there were a ton of vendors giving out snacks.  We got 2 different types of greek yogurt, vegan Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Lara bars, these amazing Coconut chips from Dang.  I’m not a fan of coconut normally, but these were amazing!

Since I had run the first half last year and then the second half this year, I earned a 2nd challenge medal, The Half of It All medal, which is pretty cool.  It has the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and the Painted Ladies from Haight Ashbury on the other.

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This race has soooo many challenges.  The Half of It All, California Dreamin’ (SF Marathon & Surf City), SF/Berkley, there is another challenge where if you run the 1st half, 2nd half and marathon in consecutive years you are part of the 52 club and you get a special hoodie.  I’ll earn one of these next year :).

This is an interesting race, because of the weather in San Francisco during the summer.  In the 3 years that I’ve run this race, it’s been pretty cloudy & humid during the actual race, it’s always cleared up afterwards but it can be pretty brutal during the actual race.

Now that I’ve run both halfs, I would say that the first half is definitely more exciting.  I mean a lot of the more iconic spots in SF are in the first half of the course.  It was pretty cool though going through Haight Ashbury & by AT&T park, you could see into the stadium when we got closer.

I still say, SF Marathon needs to step up the post-race food game, and I definitely think that they need to step up the announcing at both start lines, but especially the 2nd half.  But the free photos and a decent expo kind of even out the bad things.

Outside of those things, I think it’s a pretty good race.  I liked that they upped their game on the race medals this year.

Do you have any races you continue to run every year?