Let's Race!

The focus of my ultra season, The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship, is this Saturday morning, starting at 5 a.m. in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco.  I'm pretty excited for this race and the crazy level of competition it holds.  There's nothing better than duking it out with so many top guys.  As a huge pack cruises through 10, 15, 20 miles... it's like the ultimate calm before the storm.  (Then again, maybe someone will take it out hard this year and there will be no such pack— Dave? Mike?)  Last year, we had quite a few of us together as we crested the largest climb on the course, maybe 18 miles in.  Then, suddenly, Dave Mackey threw down the hammer and the pack fragmented almost immediately.  We had five, maybe six guys regroup as we headed to the turnaround point, moving pretty quickly.  Twenty miles in, the race had begun in earnest.  Unfortunately for me, by mile 28 or so, my race was over, my ultra debut a relative disappointment, as the downhills took me out.  (Perhaps I shouldn't have so quickly covered Mackey's hard move—but after much anticipation, it was so fun to be racing.)  Dakota, Geoff, Mackey, and Heras battled on, as the Spaniard overtook Geoff for the win with a strong, late surge. 

Like last year, the thing most likely to take me out is quad fatigue from the massive descents.  However, I'm much more prepared in general this year.  In the last three months, I've raced two pretty solid 50 milers and a decent 100k, the latter having quite a bit of vertical.  Will the muscle memory from those races, combined with dozens of repeats on my modest North Pond hill be enough for the legs to hold up?  I'm hopeful that the answer is 'yes.'  I've honed my climbing ability with treadmill hill runs and countless stairs in the past two months, and the distance of the race is no longer a question mark.  I feel I have yet to really "nail" an ultra—I'm waiting for that day when everything clicks.  When it does, I know I can run with anyone. 

The men's field is stacked, probably even more than last year.  With such a field, a thrilling race is a virtual guarantee.  The women's race is sure to be stellar as well, with an incredibly deep and competitive field.  iRunFar will be covering the race via Twitter, and I believe The North Face Endurance Challenge website will also have runner tracking and will cover the race via Twitter.

Pre-race coverage here:

"It's a whole new bloody world.  They look hungry, they look mean.  I wonder if I've got that look."
—Rod Dixon, prior to the 1983 NYC Marathon