Famous Last Words

A ridiculously late post-race report on the North Face Endurance Challenge... 

At the end of previous entry, I said about the NF50 race, "...if the hills don't destroy me, I like my chances."  Well, the hills did indeed take me out in the end, but it wasn't the uphills—it was the downs.  It turns out that my unorthodox "hill training" of running up and down the 17 stories of my building (mandated by the flat Chicago terrain) was adequate to get my quads trained for the uphills.  They were strengthened enough to handle concentric (muscle shortening) loading greater than the concentric loading of flat running without a problem for 8+ hours, even on the biggest ascents in the Marin headlands.  However, the eccentric (muscle lengthening) loading from flying downhills was a different story altogether.  I should have seen this coming, and to some extent I did, but I should have taken the dangers of eccentric loading more seriously and hit the forest preserves in the Chicago suburbs for downhill rep sessions.  Next ultra that I do, you better believe I'll have prepared for the downhills. 

In the race itself, I ran with the lead pack, which was down to about five or six people by the time I got dropped, through 26 or 28 miles.  It was essentially Dave Mackey (eventual 3rd), Geoff Roes (eventual 2nd), Dakota Jones, Miguel Herras (eventual winner), Herras' Salomon teammate, and me through the turnaround.  We were moving pretty good, but aerobically, I was more than okay.  But when my quads started to give out from the downhill pounding, it was game over.  I had to walk portions, and found myself just sitting in aid stations more or less wanting to drop out.  I stopped caring about place in the least and probably spent somewhere around 30-45 minutes hanging out at aid stations.  Having finished 21st in about 8:15, I suppose I could have finished a bit higher without doing this, but I didn't really care one way or the other.  15th is the same as 21st is the same as 100th.  I was here to try to win, and I gave it a shot.

By the last miles, my quads were even struggling on flat sections of trail and the only times I could really push the pace was on uphills, on which I remained strong the whole race.  Overall, the race was still a pretty enjoyable experience, despite my disappointing finish.  I learned from it and I'll be back again next year to take another shot.