Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lead Up To The 2010 North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships

     The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in San Francisco certainly is an amazing race to do as a first Ultra.  Thanks to Mike Wasson for pushing the race over the last two or so years as "the most amazing trail running I've done"... he was spot on.  It was also pretty cool to run my first 50 mile with a large representation of the best in the sport from both the US and even abroad.        
     I've had a great summer and fall training and racing.  With the exception of a 5 week hiatus to Alabama and Mississippi in July and August, where I wasn't able to run much, I had a great training year.  I would describe the summer training as marathon specific with trail and mountain running thrown in on long runs and some recovery days.  The result was some great 15 mile and 25K trail running performances in May and June followed by a half marathon and marathon PR at Air Force and Marine Crops (MCM) respectively.   Specifically, I ran the Greenland 25K getting 1st and the course record, 1st at The Sage Burner 25K, a 15:02 at The Thunderchief 5K in Boulder and then a 1st and course record at Joe Colton's Off Road 15 mile.
      After the trip to the South East, I managed to bring my mileage back up and run a satisfying 1:11 half at the Air Force Half Marathon in Ohio, followed by a nice PR at MCM for 6th place at 2:27:18 (Brian Dumm ran 2:27:04 and Levi Severson 2:27:36). After just a week or so recovery, I did an absolutely crazy mountain mud adventure run in Italy representing the Air Force with Brian and Levi.  The race went surprisingly well there, finishing 7th overall against NATO ally countries Nederland, Belgium, The UK, Germany, and Poland (the power house of the race).  After the race I had a nice quick trip to the mountains of Cortina Italy for some celebrating, running, camping and skiing with Levi and Brian.  Once I got back to the states I had 3 weeks before TNF 50...
     After signing up for TNF 50, I looked to Anton Kurpicka for a training model, more specifically; I studied his thorough, informative and downright entertaining blog: Riding the Wind.

     Obviously Anton is one hell of an ultra-runner, coupled with the fact that he lives and trains in Boulder, made using him as my training resource even more logical.  Furthermore, I hold a number of the same views on running as Anton.  Specifically, I train in flat shoes (since Dec '09 at least), believe in minimalism (less clothing and “stuff” is always my preference), the amazing benefits of incorporating barefoot running into a training regime and most importantly the love for running long distances on trails in the mountains and wilderness of Colorado and the Rockies. 
     Most of this summer I honestly day dreamed about transitioning to running exclusively on mountainous trails and running on those trails for LONG distances… daily. The goal of running a fast marathon in the fall is the only thing that just barely kept me doing marathon workouts on the flats.  When the marathon was finally done, I went all out to the maximum extent by body could handle, running 145 miles (42 more than I ever have before) in the mountains along with 4 or 5 short runs on grass/turf. 
     I summited Green Mountain in Chautauqua Park 5 of 7 days (only two of those runs being the same route) and enjoyed a one way long run just over 4hrs touring the entire span of mountains north of Eldorado Canyon across to Mount Sanitas.  I loved it and I was where I belonged.  This splurge could only last a short week and a half though as TNF 50 was just around the corner.  The following week I did the same routine but forced myself to taper down for the race just 10 days out, running 112 miles for the week. 
     My training was solely based off of Anton's weekly running reports on his blogs.  From running barefoot at Kittredge Fields at CU, to mileage, to nutrition, to hydration and most importantly the routes around Green Mountain in Chauatauqua Park, it was from this one trusted source.  I timed certain legs and loops of the trails and compared them to Anton’s... the comparison was horrible, like a JV High School kid VS an NCAA Division I All American, more specifically, 40 minutes vs 30 on a particular stretch of trail.  I was doing what I loved and tried not to be discouraged, “it will come”, I would say to myself, “if it was automatic and easy, I wouldn’t want it”.     
     While the week and a half or so of the “Anton” training fell within 3 weeks of the race, if nothing else I absolutely loved it and it certainly helped me mentally prepared me for the North Face 50 in San Fran.  Most exercise running physiologists believe it takes somewhere between 3 weeks and even up to 6 weeks for the body to really take advantage of a training cycle… oh well.  I also have encouraging news as my buddy Brian Dumm (lives in Colorado Springs) WON the JFK 50 mile in 5:52! 

     It was finally time for this kid to head to Disney World.  I couldn’t sleep, I packed and repacked, spent hours studying results, everyone’s blogs, etc…  It was ridiculous and fantastic at the same time.  The resume’s for the top 25 even 30 finishers was unbelievable.  One quote I recall was that the guys in 10-15 places at TNF 50 are used to outright winning most Ultras.  I honestly felt the race would be a great success being in the top 35, which it would have been.  So that is where I stood on placing coming in along with the goal of being under 8 hours.  
     Then the news on Anton the week of the race: To say the least, I felt heart-broken to read on Anton’s blog that he would not be at the race, I was truly crestfallen.  My Ultra hero had dropped out.   

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