Tuesday, May 10, 2011

North Face Bear Mountain 50-Mile Run 2011

Top 3 Woman NF 50 Mile Bear Mountain 2011!
I have been curious about the North Face Endurance Challenges for a few years.  Hundreds of runners come from all over the USA and other countries to participate in the 5 trail running festivals, which include a 50mile and 5 races of shorter distances. In 2011 a road distance has been added too).

 Last fall, after Jesse Malman, Montrail’s Team coordinator encouraged team members to participate in races put on by “the competition” in order to get Montrail runners to win or finish high at La Sportiva or North Face or Salomon, etc…. events, I knew I wanted to run a NF Endurance Challenge some time in 2011.

With Mother’s Day being the same weekend and the race being held only 3 hours from my Mom’s house, signing up for the NF Bear Mountain 50 Mile Run was a quick choice.

Ten days before race, I unexpectedly wound up in the Emergency Room after a silly mishap moving furniture at work left me with a very bloody and swollen right shin and badly bruised upper patella tendon on my left quadriceps. It wasn’t until the Wednesday before the race that I purchased my plane ticket and made a car reservation, by then my injuries were well on the way to healing and I just needed to take care not to fall directly on those body parts as I ran on 5/7.

Nikki Kimball and I had been in email contact and I was looking forward to seeing her and I hoped we run at least some of the early miles together. I always appreciate trail time with other kindred-spirited trail women!

My non-stop flight left Charlotte at 11:10am on Friday and arrived on time at Kennedy airport 2 hours later. A quick train ride to Hertz rental had me on the road towards upstate NY by 3pm. Though there were some bumper-to-bumper sections, I made if out of NYC without really getting stuck in the early throes of Friday rush hour. By 4:30 I checked into 
My quiet room was the last from the right...(By far the lowest rate in the area), yet excellent qualify, cuteness and cleanliness. I felt at home and that I could rest: Yay!
Bear Mountain Bridge Motel and was soon off to find the parking area I would drive to at 3am and to go for a short run on the course.

I ran 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back on the course. Until this time I thought I would wear Montrail’s Rouge Racers for this run. Yet if this taste of the course was a reflection of the overall technicality and rockiness, I knew Mountain Masochists would be the shoe of choice as they offer more protection and for me would be a better fit for the stones, boulders, scree and mud. By this time the next day, I would be extremely grateful for the forethought to bring both models! This short taste on the course promised fun and tricky footing.

Although race venue Bear Mountain State Park is less than 60 miles from NYC it is surrounded by tiny towns and instead of finding a supermarket for the nights meal I made due with a can of Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup, part of a bagel and some red wine purchased from the Mobil gas station across the street from my motel. After fiddling with alarm clock and cell phone alarm I was asleep by 9:45pm. Then the alarm went off! Ooops! Somehow I’d set my back up alarm for 12:00 am and woke fast, yet quickly fixed the situation and settled into a restless half sleep until 2:50am.

While hanging around the festival area and pinning on my bib and readying my water bottle finish line gear, I inadvertently sat next to Brian Hart. He and I worked together at North Carolina Outward Bound many years ago. Brian has run other ultras and lives in Ohio with his wife Jane (who also instructed at Outward Bound) and their 3 young children. Jack Pilla was there too and it was fun to chat as the neon clock counted down.

With 3 minutes left to go before the 5am start I got together with Nikki and she introduced me to Deb Livingston. I have read about Deb and seen her performance times for years and it was nice to finally put a name with a face. Then…we were Off!

In my post race reflection and ramblings, I have divided this course into 4 sections:
1)    the social tunnel of darkness, 2) treasure-hunting, 3) really runnable, 4) if this doesn’t end soon I will cry.

Part I: Social Tunnel of Darkness

 The first 3.9 miles started out in the blackness of pre-dawn. Nikki and I ran with one another talking the about running, performance pressure, population control and sharing fun stories. The course was mostly uphill and only a little technical as we neared Anthony Wayne AS #1 & #7 3.9 miles in. I knew that Nikki would pull ahead on the next technical section and she assured me her dad Bill would be willing to take my headlamp and hold it to the end of the race. She went ahead and I settled into a solitary rhythm being passed  every now and then, yet mostly out there alone. I came to New York to run a race, not just to jog through the woods on training run-yet I had the sense to stay in control and find my flow.

As promised, Bill generously took my headlamp as I passed through AS 2 filling my water bottle and grabbing a gel pack. AS #2 to AS #3 was unremarkable to me, though I did get stumped 1x for direction and spend almost a minute locating the trail. I ran back and forth with 2 guys from Brazil and traded places 2x with a fast girl with a long dark ponytail. I passed her just before the 3rd aid station were I gathered some more GU brew and some PB&J.
Part II: The Treasure Hunt

This next part of the course between AS#3 and #5 was my favorite. Lots of rocky ups and downs. The trail was not a clear trail, but rather a swampy, rooty, leafy route through the eastern forest marked just enough with tree paint and orange tape. It was a game to identify the direction of the route, decide on the best path (or decipher the trail) and at the same time keeping eyes on the ground as not to take too many diggers. I met Luey(perhaps Louis?) who lives in NYC  and he helpfully assisted me as he gave me a hand getting back on my feet after a stumble and dive onto the trail. I landed on my forearms and left breast. Ouch, yet okay.

When not routing us through wet forests, this part of the course took us over rocky slabs with amazing views of the area. With Luey and I working together we easily made our way from orange tape to orange tape without any hesitation. I enjoyed his companionship.

With so much concentration on route required, time went fast and before I knew it, we were at AS #4 and I was stuffing brownies into my mouth as awesome volunteers helped fill my bottle. Nikki was just leaving the AS as I came in and it wasn’t long before we were together on the trail. We talked and ran together a bit as we ran along, yet it was clear that she was going through a bit of a rough patch and she acknowledged so. After a mile or so together she stepped to the side to usher me by and I sincerely wished her well, hoping her ipod music would help her back to strength.

Part III: Really Runnable.

To be honest, I found the next 20 miles to be a bit surreal. For me there was less plodding and more running as the terrain and elevation generally lent itself to the later.  I felt quite good during most and enjoyed catching up with the 50k runners as our routes rejoined somewhere around mile 36ish. I ran and drank and enjoyed the trail and cursed the black flies and appreciated Jack Pilla as we ran together on and off. He was having some foot issues and earlier had gotten trail confused and was off course for a while. That explained us running together as Jack is a tough 52-year-old fastie and if he had a better day would have finished at least 40 minutes ahead.

At mile 40, the 50-mile course went again through Anthony Wayne and this time it was AS #7. I was working hard now and with just 10 miles remaining, in serious “I do not want to be passed-by-a-girl-or-a-guy” race mode. I barely nodded to Nikki’s dad Bill –even though I desperately wanted to know if she was okay…yet I was in energy focus and conservation mode and did not engage. He is such a nice man and really hope I didn’t come across as rude to him.

I had no clue where I was in place or in relation to any other women. I just knew at this point I came to New York to race and do my best and to be honest; I really wanted to win in my home state and to be wearing Montrail’s jersey on the podium.

And then I fell. At mile 42ish. Running up hill. Tears came to my eyes and I moaned aloud (thankfully no one else was around). I roused myself and limped and ran and practiced compartmentalizing, “this did not just happen.” “You are not hurt, only a knee-egg”. “I will admit at the end of 50 miles that I fell, yet as long as I can move, not before then!” A big knot developed on my inner knee, so much so that my legs banged together from the inflammation. I was uncomfortable, sore all over and completely focused on “gitting it done”. Jack and I back and forthed some more and I was VERY grateful for his presence. I’d like to think we helped each other through a few tough miles.

IV.  If this doesn’t end soon I will cry.

With about a mile left to go I just wanted to cry. I was sore and my knee hurt and I was scared of being passed, scared I hurt myself, grateful as can be for the great day (excluding the fall) of running. This was no fun anymore. Just work. Just seeing IT through. The last mile or so of our course shared the course with the marathon relay and though I did my best to get out of the way of the faster runners, I likely didn’t do such a good job and I thank them belatedly for putting up with me clunking down the trail.

…Then the finish line festival tents came into view and I was running toward the finish area and across the line. Wow! I think I cried a little and I was thrilled and relieved: 9:09:29…I think it is a CR!

After finishing I walked around, immersed myself in a full lower body ice bath for 5 minutes, changed clothes, drank a beer and ate chicken soup. I kept an eye out for Nikki. By now I had understood she was having a seriously tough day and I waited at the finish line as she crossed in 9:36:50, shaken and drained. Her North Face peeps had first contact with her, yet as she shared (without a trace of self pity) the mystery of her not being able to eat and loosing all fluid and nutrition for over 25 miles. I could really empathize with the vulnerability one can feel when a bad day come out of nowhere with no explanation.
Third place for the women was Sophie Limoges from eastern Canada in 9:48:46.

On the men’s side, Jordan McDougal, 23 won with 7:27:53. North Faces’ Leigh Schmitt took a strong 2nd with 7:42:19, followed closely by Ben Nephew, 7:43:23. Jack Pilla, 52 (I think) finished 9th overall and way faster than any guy or girl in his age group, even after a not-very-great-day with 9:08:57!

I was happy to see later that my former NCOBS co-worker also officially finished despite training limitations of a big job and raising 3 children. Yay Brian!!! (Hi Jane!).

While milling around the finish line festival, I met Jennifer Flemming: she was 4th in the 50k and chilling out while her friend finished up the 50 mile course. Jennifer is race director for the Rothrock Challenge, which is June 4th near State College, PA. I am registered for that race as it is part of the LaSportiva Mountain Cup this year. She assures me the technicality of her course matches that of this one.

As I am ready to post this babbling I am back home on Tuesday evening. I worked this morning and this afternoon visited an orthopedic to check out my ever swelling and growing green knee and lower quad. (I got worried when getting in and out of our Tacoma and using the clutch became most difficult…) After a thorough exam and 3 x-rays, it is likely I am simply badly bruised and am dealing with substantial local inflammation and swelling too from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and will need to be patient: do more pool running. Not race in 12 days in Chattanooga and take good care!

Clothing/Gear//Fuel I carried:
(Bottom to top): Montrail Mountain Masochist (men size 9), Dry Max mid weight trail socks (on this course…amazing!: only 1 blister!), Zenzah calf sleeves, Mountain Hardwear pacer advance shorts, Patagonia Sports Bra, Mountain Hard wear race jersey, Patagonia glove liners, Nathan 10k waist pack , Quick draw Plus water bottle and Clif Margarita shot blocks X2 plus a few gels in drop bags. In my pockets I carried Imodium and toilet paper and ibuprofen (did not use).

Fueling: If I remember correctly…I used Nuun in my water bottle through AS # 2 and afterwards, alternated w/ GU brew and water; equivalent of 1.5 Pb&J sandwiches, 2 AS gels, electrolytes, 5 brownie bites and 1.5 tubes of Clif Margarita shot blocks and 2 Clif gels…


Triple F said...

Congratulations!! Awesome! And I really enjoyed your race summary . . . it was like I was there but without the pain and suffering!!

Rick Gray said...

I know you enjoyed running a new race and congratulations on your win and course record. Hopefully the knee will heal nicely. You will be back at it in a few short days of taking it easy.

jenn said...

YAY!!! awesome job annette! congrats on the win and CR. happy recovery and take care! hope to see you soon! ((HUG))

Sophie Speidel said...

Awesome work on a tough day! I totally understand the feeling when you are working hard and can't find the energy to even look up to say hi to someone cheering for you---then feel bad later. I am sure Nikki's dad understands too!
Also, good choice not to race in 12 days. I remember the post you wrote in 2005..."Greedy"...when you ran a CR at Masochists, then couldn't stay away from a Half-M a few weeks later and that's when the injuries came...I think of that often with my own training and racing. Good choice, smart lady. You are ready for WS!
Nice payday, BTW :-)

SteveQ said...

Beating Nikki is quite an accomplishment (even if she was having a bad day) and a CR too! Nicely done!

annette bednosky said...

Thank for the congrats all!
Rick-my knee will be okay-Sophie's reminding me about "Greedy" will see to that!

I wish I could post the photos taken by the professional company race day-a reminder of how things are hard and then they get better. Feeling like total ickiness and moments later feeling and looking like you could party with the world!

I won't be running WS 100. Though it is not yet official, I am planning/hoping to go with Team USA to World 100k in September-and recovering from a 100-miler in the thick of training for such an event doesn't go with my "non-greedy" approach... I'll be considering a late fall 100 instead!

Dirt Proof said...

Congrats on a fantastic race and new CR!

James I. said...

I really enjoy your race reports, Annette.

Great job at winning a race put on by "the competition" quite prestigious!

I especially benefit learning about what you eat and when you eat it. Pre-race and especially mid-race. Aspiring to run more and more myself this info is very valuable to me...
Thank you, as you never know how the info you share influences others.