Sunday morning I got up bright and early to travel to the North Face Endurance Challenge. I’ve wanted to do this race for a couple of years now and it finally fit into my schedule. I run trails often in DC, throughout Rock Creek Park but this was my first trail race since last summer’s Big Elk Half (you know, the one I where I got lost). There were several events and the 50 mile, 50K and Marathon were all run on Saturday. Sunday’s races included a Half Marathon, 10K, 5K and some kids events. I picked up my packet Thursday at the North Face in Georgetown. Very low key, quick and easy. The only thing that gave me pause was they asked if I wanted my shirt screen printed with the race details and the picked up after the race. I said no, and was actually perplexed as to why that had to be an option versus just putting the date, city and state on automatically. Still it was nice swag, plus we received a pair of Smart Wool socks!! Getting to Sterling, VA from DC was a short ride in the wee hours. There was no parking at the race site, so we had to drive to Loudon Tech Center, park, and take a shuttle to the start. There wasn’t anyone directing traffic here so we were subjected to turning with the lights which delayed things quite a bit. The last shuttle was to leave at 7:15 am but there were long lines and cars still parking.
The shuttle trip itself was a 15 minute ride. The start and finish line was at Algonkian Regional Park. Simply beautiful. Shortly after arrival the announcer let us know the races would be delayed 15 minutes to accommodate those still arriving by shuttle. I would have been upset by this but North Face was kind enough to make sure everyone got there safely and could participate. And the extra time allowed me to check these views out!I intentionally went no music on this one (I know, I know) as the terrain is too unpredictable to have buds in. I immediately got music envy though when I saw how many people had their tunes. I even looked for a vendor selling headphones, but alas, none to be found. I did have my Garmin, more for time as satellite is unpredictable in the woods (it ended up short anyhow).
We were grouped in 3 waves and I was in wave 2. A slight annoyance is the waves started 45 seconds apart so not a lot of breathing room in the early going. We started along the Potomac then immediately hit a downhill to cross the street and then uphill. And this is the point I’m glad I didn’t have music distracting me. Mile 1-2 started out on paved road and to the golf cart path. Great for running but boo – SUN! It got hot quick. Eventually we made our way onto Potomac Heritage trail and the terrain shifted to dirt and gravel with some puddles, mud and large rocks thrown in for good measure. The first aid station was around Mile 2-ish. Clif is a primary sponsor so they had shot bloks and electrolyte drinks, in addition to water, which was pretty awesome.
Past the aid station approaching Mile 3 it became narrow and pretty much single file running. I made the wise choice to wear calf sleeves this race recalling my first trail experience. The weeds, tall grass and bugs will scratch the heck out of your legs so was really glad I made that decision! I stopped a few times to capture our environment, which really was amazing. Big ups to Mother Nature! The course was an out and back so we made the turnaround and headed back to the start. While you do have to be on your toes in a trail race, it was a pretty decent course and not a lot of damaging rocks and roots to have to travel over. Yes I slipped a time or two but no falls 😉 .
We passed the same aid station at Mile 4 and I refueled again then began to walk around Mile 5. The sun was beating down and I was getting kind of tired. I reminded myself that I ran a freaking half marathon last weekend so little mama was going to walk! Plus, I wanted more photos 🙂 We were running by the golf course and then eventually hit paved trail again. It was smooth sailing to the finish line. Luckily the trip to the end was a different way than the start so didn’t have to deal with that initial slope and incline. I crossed the finish with a time of 1:07:24 and amid several cheers by a handful of spectators (thanks awesome people I don’t know!!) The race announcer asked my name and then called it out as he was doing for all finishers, which was nice. I was immediately handed a North Face water bottle and my medal. Let me just say the water bottle? Nice touch. They had several water stands for filling cups as well as a Clif Runners Recovery station with different flavors of Clif electrolyte drinks, Clif Shot Bloks, bananas, orange slices and Clif bars. I was pretty impressed by the entire set up! I stuck around long enough to collect my free beer (I mean Sierra Nevada?? not watered down Miller Lite? I had to…) After refreshments I caught the shuttle back to Loudon Tech Center. Aside from a slow start, I was extremely impressed with this race. Very well managed, great atmosphere, and the volunteers were amazing and friendly. This was actually my first run since ZOOMA half last weekend (oops) but I can say the 10K is much easier on the mind and the body (though I was tired, jumping over rocks and things will do that to you).
I might need to put this race on my “go to” list annually. And I also need to put a pin in the Sterling, VA area because it was breathtakingly beautiful and I need to go back, hike, explore and enjoy 🙂
Have you ever done a North Face Endurance event? What were you up to this weekend?