Musings from TheNorthFace Endurance Challenge

There were really two big issues going into this event. First, with a top-notch field of runners

assembled, who’d come out on top and grab the $10k?  Men were deep, women were stacked, and all the buzz was about the blazing speed and who’d be able to hold on to the finish.

But the other real issue was how would the event unfold from an organizational perspective.

There were some grumblings after last year’s reroute about poor markings,  too many runners on the course, and disconnected RD’s, and some vocal elite runners demanded change.  Add to that the sensitivity of some runners after the Leadville debacle (very loud grumblings of too many runners, poor organization, and too much emphasis on profit), and TNF needed to show that a big, public company could put on an event while maintaining the ethos that’s expected of a MUT event in the United States.

They got about as close to doing that as possible. Sure, there were a few minor mistakes (Dylan Bowman and I missed a turn where there really shoulda been a volunteer), but overall, everyone I spoke with was impressed and

happy with the result. The competition was fierce, the weather cooperated after some threatening weather reports of snow and ice, and the race direction was solid.  Well done.

I also got a sneak preview of TNF’s 2014 collection and spoke with their main shoe designer Paul, who admitted that TNF’s shoes have not been up to par with their other clothing.  It’s been embarrassing that TNF athletes haven’t worn their shoes, and that’s all changing in 2014. I’m wearing a pair of the new hybrid trail shoe as I write this, and am very impressed so far. Based on a track spike upper, it’s flexible and light, with enough cushion support to get you through 50 miles.  Expect a full review of the garments and shoes in the next few weeks.

As far as my race, I stuck with the 50k and felt pretty solid the whole day.  Though I haven’t run on the hills or trail in over a month  (instead sticking to the bike path pulling a tire–more on that later), and opting for speed over distance, my hill strength was good, but my hill endurance towards the end fell apart. No surprise, right?

Shoe-wise, I opted for the Icebugs Acceleritas, and they performed very well. The course was a bit muddy the whole way, and though the Icebug has a hard sole (two different people asked if I was wearing spikes), the deep lugs provided plenty of control on the downs and grip on the ascents.  No weird rubs or chafing, either.  It’s not too often you get to really test out trail cleats, but yesterday was the perfect opportunity to lem ’em rip.

After two slips on icy bridges (no shoe could have saved me there!) and the aforementioned wrong turn, I was happy with a 5:05 finish for a course with 6300′ elevation gain.

From the elite athletes I spoke with, Rob Krar is the man to beat on the hills.  Though his

technical downhill abilities are still improving, his strength at sprinting up mountains was unrivaled yesterday.  I can’t wait to see what his 2014 looks like.

To all those people I spoke with pre/post race and to those who gave me a rousing “Hey, URP guy!” shoutout during the race, thanks for listening to the show and for the encouragement on the trails.  Great day out there, wasn’t it?

Full results can be found here with iRunFar’s breakdown here.

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