For the second year in a row I participated in the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 10K. I was so happy when I saw the date had changed from it’s June time frame to mid April. I hit up packet pick up on Friday taking a quick lunchtime trip to The North Face store in Georgetown.
Everything ran smoothly and I was in and out within minutes. They offered in store discounts and the swag never disappoints. We received technical t-shirts and a pair of Smart Wool socks. I mentioned this last year and it’s worth repeating, I will never understand why screen printing is an option versus automatic. I chose to just take my shirt right then but after seeing what was printed I kind of wish I had opted for it! Oops.
On Saturday I discovered on Instagram that a good friend of mine was traveling in for the race. She decided to register after my review of the race last year and it was her first trail run. I was all set to head to this event on my own but we made plans to meet up at the start, yay!! I made the 40 minute trek to the Loudoun Tech Center in Sterling, VA where the shuttle buses were waiting. There is no parking at the start/finish at Algonkian State Park but it’s a mere 15 minute shuttle ride. The park I might add is breathtakingly beautiful and sits along the Potomac River.
After meeting up I checked my bag – which you guys know I almost never do. However since the start and finish were both in the same place I knew it’d be easy to pick up from bag check afterwards. Weather wise it was a pleasant morning with just a slight chill in the air. Also known as – perfect running weather!! I wore a light jacket to the race site then checked it with my bag and slipped on arm warmers with my tank and Capri’s.
We were in wave starts which took off every 30 seconds (haha). I was assigned to Wave 2 but seeing as it didn’t really matter I stayed back to start with my pal in Wave 3. In a timely fashion we were off! I remembered the course well from last year and we took a quick dip down then up a hill towards an open field of tall blades of grass – and mud. The first mile was essentially muddy, swampy patches. I never go into trail runs with any sense of time goals as to me trail running is all about FUN! And I spend so much energy just making sure I don’t actually injure myself.
I did almost lose my shoe and got stuck behind some folks but once we made it out of the muddy field it was on to paved paths and gravel. Naturally my shoe was untied so I stepped of the course briefly to tie and double knot. There were a few pools of water and rocks which were fairly easy to jump on and over. The crowd thinned out a bit as well. Just before Mile 2 I began to get warm so stopped to take off my arm warmers and secure them in my SpiBelt.
The first aid station was just after the Mile 2 marker so I grabbed some water then headed in towards the wooded area where the terrain changed. We ran along the Potomac River leaping over patches of mud, roots and leaves. So awesome 🙂 The turnaround point was up a small hill and then back towards the gravel pathway again. I hit up the aid station again at Mile 4 for some electrolyte drink, which made some stomach feel kind of funny. I stopped to walk for a few minutes until I was sure this wasn’t anything to be nervous about then kicked it back up again. The scenery was fantastic:
The rest of the run was fairly uneventful back to the finish and once you leave the gravel path you turn onto a paved pathway all the way to the finish. After crossing the finish line I was handed my medal and a bottle of water. I was a little disappointed they went the bottled water route this year as last year we were given North Face water bottles and they had water stations around the finish festival area. I don’t like the waste 🙁
In any event I finished within seconds of my finish time last June of 1:07 and change. I quickly picked up my bag and then we headed in to the Sierra Nevada tent – who cares if it’s 9 am – and got our free celebratory beers catching up a bit before we made our way back to the shuttles.
All in all I simply LOVED this race and feel it’s a must do annually! The North Face puts on one of the most organized events ever. From start to finish I enjoyed every little step and have no complaints. Maybe sometime I’ll give the half marathon a shot but the 10K trail distance is perfect! It’s just challenging enough and with trail running you use muscles you don’t realize you have as you navigate the terrain. I definitely got a nice cross training workout on Sunday!
After getting back to the tech center I headed home and immediately crashed and burned on the couch. I’m talking 3 hour nap (I should point out I got very little sleep the evening prior) which almost never happens. Clearly it was a good day – thanks The North Face!! Anyone else enjoy trail running? Which was the last one you did? Who’s joining me next year?