|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).
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.
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
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!|
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
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:
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
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
, 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…