Well the last race of the season had finally come up: the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile race near Madison, Wisconsin in Kettle Moraine State Park. I flew into Chicago Friday afternoon after a flight cancelation debacle and drove the 100 miles to the park. It rained the entire drive. On the drive I thought of the past 2 months since Leadville. My training volume has been much different than prior to Leadville. I’ve only been running about 50 miles a week with no long runs compared with 125 miles per week this summer. This race was to be the end of my season. I need a break from racing for a few months. I found a nice parking place about 50 yards from the start and went to sleep about 11:00 p.m. in the nice cozy car. It sprinkled all night and the early morning hours were cold with a wet humid mist, a light sprinkle, and a chilly wind all in the air. I opted for shorts and a dryfit SportHill shirt, then a long sleeve SportHill shirt and then finally a light rain jacket and hat. This was the perfect combination. About 2 miles into the race I found myself in the lead with Andy Holak and Josh Estep. They were the eventual 4th and 7th place finishers. They were talking about the competition and mentioned that Sal Bautista (he won NFEC Bellingham race I was second in) and a fast guy from Colorado was there. Andy asked me where I was from. I told him Colorado. He asked if I had won Leadville. I told him yes. It was rather fun, and interesting.
We ran along and chatted. At 90 minutes to 2 hours into the race I took the lead from Andy (Josh had dropped back to a solid 3d or 4th by this point. I did not push the race just kept a solid pace going. The terrain and views were beautiful. The trees were losing their leaves and well past their peak brilliance yet it was still beautiful running along on fallen leaves and tree covered rolling hills. I went through the half (25 miles in about 3:08). There was an out and back at Miles 21 through 35 in which miles 28 through 35 were backwards of miles 21 through 28. This allowed me to see how much of a lead I had. I had about a 9 minute lead on Sal Bautista the eventual race winner. He average about 7 flat pace for his last 25 miles… solid. Soon after hitting mile 32 I knew I was in for a death march. My spring was gone and maintaining pace was difficult. I felt like puke and all I had to do to feel better was to slow down and stop… I could not. I trudged on eating, drinking, and maintaining. It had stopped raining about mile 30 so I had tied the jacket to my waist. I held off Sal until mile 37. Sal looked solid. I knew I was most likely racing for second.
At least unlike the previous North Face race in Washington I was not too delusional. I still saw dancing gummy bears but the Ewoks had all gone into hiding or hibernation thanks to the multitude of hunters that we were running around. Often enough I’d hear the boom from a Shotgun and a forest creature or Ewok keel over with a yelp. I have no problem with hunting and wish to do some myself, I just found it awkward and dangerous for 500+ runners to be running around 100+ hunters, in dense forest, on a muted, muggy, and opaque day. I was thankful for the bright red that I was wearing that stood out considerably.
The death march wound down and I finally finished in 2nd place in 6:29:33 or 7:48 average pace per mile. It has been a long season. I’m going to take the next 2 months easy getting back into this passion of running that I love and do because I want to and not because I have to. I will enjoy my time off getting ready for and making plans to marry the love of my life, my wonderful fiancé Lynnette. To all my readers out there: Fare thee well for a few months… It is time for some much needed time off. Tim