North Face 50
By now everyone has heard all about the atrocious conditions that greeted us in the Bay Area this weekend. We’ve had a disturbingly warm Indian summer here in Aspen and, by all accounts, fall has been extremely pleasant on the West Coast as well. My girlfriend, who has recently moved to San Francisco, along with many friends in the area, billed this past weekend as the “storm of the year.” Perfect timing. Thoroughly in need of a vacation and long run, I tried to ignore the foreboding weather forecasts and stay positive and appreciative about my opportunity to take part in this race. I felt like my preparation was strong and that the heinous weather might just work to my advantage. Either way it was going to be another fun day, racing in a new place with many great friends and amazing athletes.
The pace was unsurprisingly fast from the outset. I settled in with a large pack of dudes behind a few rabbits who chose set the pace early. I wouldn’t know until hours later, but the pacesetters would make an unfortunate early wrong turn that would eventually mire this edition of the 50 Mile Championship in a bit of controversy. My body felt good and my mood was much brighter than the weather. I ran near or with Sylvan Court (a Frenchman) and Shaun Martin for much of the first half, thinking I was somewhere in the top 10. When I reached the turn around at about halfway, I was surprised to see that I was in fifth place not far back from Miguel Heras who had taken the lead. Obviously some guys had missed a turn. Bummer for them but good for me, I thought.
I began the second lap of the altered course in a very good frame of mind staying very disciplined in my eating and pacing. Coming into Tennessee Valley the third time (mile 33ish?), I was riding one of those precious waves of euphoria brought on by a combination of good running and several ounces of gel. I was still running with Shaun a minute or two in front of Sylvan but I could tell he was fading ever so slightly. This became more evident when he bummed salt off me as we made our way to Muir Beach aid. When I arrived, Meghan Hicks informed me that the front runners had indeed made an error and that I was running in fifth place of the people still on course. It was a little confusing but I was confident in my ability to at least maintain my position to the finish. I left the aid alone, finally separating from Shaun, who’d been a great partner all morning, and eagerly looked forward to getting this one done.
Alex Nichols passed me on the ensuing climb in convincing and impressive fashion. He had his game face on and I was sure he’d pick off a few more before it was all said and done. I passed Greg Vollet a short time later, so I was still under the impression that I was in fifth place when I went through Tennessee Valley for the fourth and final time (mile 41ish?). On the way out though, I noticed Jason Wolfe a short distance up the hill, looking over his shoulder at me. Knowing he had been in the group who’d been lost, I thought surely he’d been DQed. “Why does he keep looking at me?” I thought. It had never even entered my mind that runners would be allowed to make up distance they’d cut later in the day, as was the case. I figured we’d all be running the same version of the same course.
I crossed the finish line just behind Jason Wolfe in about 6:03, happy but thoroughly confused. I asked Bryon Powell what place I got and was informed that I’d finished seventh, not fifth. Oh well. Still a pretty good result in that field, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit put off. I don’t begrudge the the guys who got lost or the race organizers for allowing them to make it up, I just wish the rest of us knew what was happening. It wouldn’t have changed my result, but it would have been nice to know.
I will say that it’s usually me who gets lost in these races, and I thought the course marking and marshaling was spot on. I was never confused for a second but can easily understand how that early mistake happened. If it would have been me, I would have wanted to make up the distance and have a result to show for it, so I applaude TNF for allowing that. The only critique I’d make is that no one informed the rest of us (or at least me) what was going on. Under the circumstances of the weather and the course changes though, I give a lot of credit to TNF for even putting the event on. I had a ton of fun and look forward to coming back for a go on the original course.
I am absolutely in awe of Miguel Heras! What an insane run! Dude is an absolute freak. It seems like he is always grimacing in agony which may indicate just how hard he is willing to push himself. INSPIRING.
Thanks to all the volunteers for braving those apocalyptic conditions and to Meghan Hicks and Bryon Powell for again proving how important they are to our sport and our community. Thanks to Harmony and my dear Aunt Kim for taking care of me before, during, and after the race. Finally, I’d be remiss to not thank Pearl Izumi for the never ending support and love they lend to my cause. The new shoes and apparel are going to take the ultra world by storm in 2013. I am truly a very lucky guy.
We spent all day on Sunday drinking beer and watching football which was a perfect end to near perfect weekend. Home now, and preparing for another insane Winter season at the Hotel, it’s hard to really enter offseason training mode. Lotteries abound in the coming weeks. Time to start thinking about 2013! Fire it up.