Disclaimer: I received a race registration for The North Face Endurance Challenge Series to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
I have never been more excited to write a race review. How do I sum up the pure joy I felt? How do I share with you the breath-taking vistas? How do I share with you the fact that as I sit here 2 days later, I'm still riding this endorphin high on cloud nine? I'm not sure if I can do the entire experience justice, but here we go!
The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Utah Race Review
So 12 weeks ago, I thought I was going to chill out and let my body recover, boy was I wrong. I joined BibRave and got the opportunity to run in The North Face Endurance Challenge Series and since I was still chomping at the bit to run a 50k this year, I lept and threw myself into training for this high altitude, elevation gaining, monster of a race!
BEST DECISION EVER!
When I say I threw myself into training I mean it. I got out to the trails, I was meeting my mileage goals, and I was doing more strength training. I wanted this race and I wanted it bad.
So fast forward to 9/24/2015, I've done my runs (including a 26 mile, 5,200 ft gaining run), I've practiced my nutrition, and I was ready for this Utah adventure.
We drove from Boulder on Friday in time for me to get my bib at the Salt Lake City North Face store and to see attend the panel discussion about the race!
Packet Pick Up
Panel with Dean Karnazes, Mike the Race Director and Diane Van Deren!
The panel discussion was great. Hearing from such prolific ultra runners was amazing and their excitement for the sport was infectious. Also getting the course details from the race director was awesome and helped to calm my nerves!
After the panel it was time to check in at our hotel, get my gear together, and to get some rest before the 7am race start on Saturday!
The 50k started at 7am, so I got up around 5:30, got myself together and make my way over to the race area around 6:15. Much to my surprise and delight, my hotel was right next to the race start. I knew I was close but didn't realize how close I actually was!
I met up with Brenda and Jen, my fellow BibRave Pro team members, and had some coffee while I waited. There was less than 200 people running the 50k so it was a very calm morning and not crowded at all. Plenty of room to move around and plenty of porto-potties.
They released us in 2 waves and I was in the second wave so at 7:01 I was on my way! It was single track trails so it was slow going at the beginning and the group definitely helped to keep my pace under control for the first few miles.
Through the aspens we go!
The first 10 miles I just enjoyed the run. The trail was beautiful, the morning was perfect, and I was in heaven. I felt great and even though it was steady climb, it wasn't particularly steep so I was able to shuffle along at a fairly even pace.
We kept climbing steadily, up and up we go up to almost 10,000 ft. We crossed through woods, across ski runs, and all over the mountain. It was such an adventure!
Ski run monster!
We climbed and climbed. People were very friendly at this race, I got to talk to many of the runners as we cut through the wilderness on this grand adventure. I think a few of the runners thought I was a bit weird because I kept stopping to take pictures. Most of the paths were well packed dirt and we came across many dirt biking groups while running. As we got near the peak, the trees started to clear and the path got rockier.
Above the tree line!
The run/hike up to this spot was steep and then we followed the top ridge to Jupiter Peak! While running up to and along the top I definitely channeled my inner "dog". I was so excited to be experiencing life, I felt so luckyto be able to run and just experience this moment. It's times like this that I'm so happy to be a runner and blessed to have a body that's able to do these things. Maybe one day that won't be the case, but today was not that day. Today I was a dog, enjoying the run, smelling the smells of fall, and just being a part of the outdoors. I really love trail races and I love that it's like an organized trail tour. This is definitely my happy place!
On top of the mountains we go! Beautiful, beautiful Utah!
Jupiter Peak! The volunteers brought up this awesome chair - 9.998ft never looked so good!
From here we followed an access road down to the 3rd aid station. After filling up my water bottles, I continued back down into the forest. I thought from here it was mostly downhill until aid station 4 at mile 21 but alas I was wrong. It was some downhill but also lots of steep uphills and around 17 I got grumpy. My hip was getting sore and I just wanted to get to the next aid station since I knew that meant I was through the worst of the course. Luckily I had packed some tylenol so that helped with my mental state and kept me moving forward.
Around mile 20 I heard the faint sounds of... music and fun! Mile 21 was nearing and with it aid station 4. Is that the faint sound of a... polka?
This aid station was AMAZING! The volunteers had so much energy and were so ready to help. It was double amazing because the 50k runners passed through this aid station twice!
After aid station 4, we ran a small loop with lots of nice downhill (and then a steeper uphill) and then we were back for the last aid station (back to Oktoberfest). It was all downhill (literally) after this!
I was so excited to cruise down to the finish but a side stitch decided otherwise. I had to take it a little easy but I was so excited to be done that I just kept running through. During the final downhill, I just kept thinking... "I'm going to be an ultra runner. This. Is. Happening!"
I was so excited to finally finish this race and join this amazing group of runners. I met so many people on this journey and I was thrilled to have been lucky enough to run this race in this beautiful place. Even though it got a bit gloomy mid-way, this race was amazing and I had so much FUN!
Official time: 7:26:36
Pace of 14:23 min/mile
I am totally proud of my time and of the fun I had! First 50k, climbing to 10k ft and with 5,100 ft of total elevation gain, this time put me right in the middle of the pack which is not too shabby. This wasn't just a race, it was a well organized and aided adventure!
This race was amazing and so well organized. If you are looking for your first trail/ultra race, I highly recommend checking out the races in The North Face Endurance Challenge Series. I LOVE trail running and can't wait for my next race/adventure in the wilderness!
- You won't get lost - the course is super well marked
- The aid stations are awesome with amazing volunteers!
- Utah is gorgeous, there will be no shortage of views!
- Finish area had plenty of food and drink
- The altitude is nothing to take lightly - be careful and aware of how you are feeling
Thanks for coming on this journey with me, cheers!