Monday, September 16, 2013

Race Recap: North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon

Yesterday, I ran The North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon - my first trail half (my first trail race since Cross Country in school!) I won the registration when Dean Karnazes came to do an event in June. You can't turn down free registrations - so I signed up!

Saturday was a glorious, glittering September day here in Wisconsin; however, Sunday was a cold and drizzling mud fest. Naturally, Sunday was race day. (Damn you, Murphy's Law.) Down to the last minute I considered not running, because I didn't want to risk injury on the sloppy course - but I hate backing out of things. And...I had blasted it all over Facebook and Twitter - "Race day, whoop whoop!" You can't put that up and then NOT run because its rainy and cold. Suck it up, Buttercup. 

I lined up. It wasn't pouring - somewhere between mist and drizzle. The first mile was running along the shoulder of the road, so I had no idea what was coming after that. The second I entered the next mile, it was straight up an enormous hill that curved out of sight and then went up some more. *GULP* Oh. god. What did I get myself into? I kept waiting for it to stop going up, but I'd turn a corner and run up some more. Don't get me wrong; I am no slack and I am not afraid of a challenging course. I charged up that hill. That was my mentality for the first 8 miles - 8 undulating and winding miles.

This is hard, but it won't last forever. You ain't no punk! 

At Mile 8, I decided that I officially had to pull back. The rain was coming down harder. The mud was getting thick and sloppy. The rocks were slippery and loose. A lot of the trail was sand. If you've run on sand, you know that is sucks the life out of your legs really quickly. I rolled my ankle twice on loose rocks and that was it. I decided to slow my pace from low 7s to just under 8 minute miles. Self preservation. Simply too dangerous. I had to keep reminding myself that this was not my goal race; my goal race is three weeks away and I have to stay healthy for it. 

I ran the rest of the race with two guys that had admittedly been using me as their rabbit for the whole first half of the race. (Admittedly, I LOVE when a guy uses me as a rabbit.) Our pace was comfortable enough to make small talk and help each other navigate the tricky terrain. They had done the race before and were really helpful through the last several miles.

The last two miles of the race were down straight down that first massive hill and then back down the road to the finish. I made a point to kick it in. Finish hard. I passed as many people as I could - sadly all of them were boys. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and a much better time than I anticipated. I ran a 1:41:40 - averaging 7:39 per mile. I was happy with that given the intentional pull-back and course difficulty. I was the 5th female (there were some beasty girls) and 21st overall. 

I would never say that I ran this "easy." It was hard. I worked hard. I am sore today. But - I am happy with the way I ran it, because I did not injure myself and I enjoyed the race. Everyone likes to play in the mud. 

Never mind my T-REX hands.


  1. Congrats on an awesome race!!! Also, those t-rex hands are hilarious ;)

  2. Fantastic race, Michelle! Given the conditions, you did awesome, especially considering you mostly train and race on the roads!

  3. I run in Lapham Peak in Delafield about 3-4 times a week. I've been thinking about doing this race but I'm ultra competitive and I feel that I should be faster first. Your race review is awesome! Thank you!

  4. Wow, that is impressive in general let alone a trail race! I ran the Northface Endurance Challenge in VA in first trail race as well. They miscalculated the distance and it was actually over 15 miles instead of 13.1!!