The North Face Challenge

Thanks to the Tobers I got a good nights rest Friday night for Saturday’s North Face Challenge. The accomodations were a little far from the actual race (which should have been advertised as being held in Milwaukee) so Dan and I left Motel Tober around 07:00.
We arrived at the race with plenty of time to spare; around 08:30. This left time to answer nature a number of times, sip some coffee, discuss race strategy, hang out in the warmth of the truck, and check out the various vendor tents.
The weather was overcast with temps in the low 40’s. It was pretty chilly and windy but there were signs of sunshine so I opted for shorts, a sleeveless compression shirt, and long sleeve shirt. This turned about to be perfect as I never was cold or hot.
Dan and I planned to stay together for the first 11 miles then to play it by feel. I was pretty excited at the start line as I have never run this long on a trail and looked forward to running on some rugged terrain.
From the start I felt pretty good. We kept a conversational pace except for the first gigantic hill that really got the juices flowing. This occured after about mile 1. From then on it was all up and down sprinkled with some mud, sand, and packed dirt. The race was pretty much double track so there was plenty of room to pass and get passed. The course profile indicated not that much climbing but in retrospect I think it meant not much elevation because there was nary a flat spot on the trail. You were either going up or going down for 12 out of 13 miles.
For some reason I just felt good the whole time. I think it was because we started so slow and I was able to warm up really well. After about 5 miles I started letting it fly on the downhills and stretch my legs of the flats. I think it was mile 8 when Dan gave me the green light to continue without him. From then on I really tried to push the pace. I passed quite a few people toward the end and managed 43 out of 284. My average pace was 08:15 for a total time of 1:47:54.
I’m not disappointed but can’t help thinking that I could have run faster. I felt that good. Don’t get me wrong my legs were really wobbly when I finished and I probably didn’t have many miles left. I don’t know how those 50 miler guys did it. The down hills really take it out of you.
One of the things that saved me was this new North Face water bottle carrier. Dan and I picked up one on Friday. It really contours to your hand, holds 20 ounces of fluid, and feels really light. I like it better than other products I’ve seen. My hand is small and this product seems like it doesn’t make me expend as much energy to hold it. The other piece of equipment that worked really well was my Asics Gel-Trail Attack 4WR shoes. They gripped the terrain, formed to my foot, provided excellent cushioning, and did not slip at all. I couldn’t have run that well with a lesser shoe.
This was a really fun race and I would do it again. It’s just fun running in different terrain than you are used to. Plus we got some pretty cool swag. A great change of pace.