Sunday, May 11, 2008

THAT was a challenge

I did the North Face Endurance Challenge yesterday and was one of the toughest, hardest and slowest half marathons I think I'll ever do. The held the event at Camp Lutherwood on the north end of Lake Samish. They are planting trees for each competitor to offset the carbon gasses generated by the race, so I decided to help out and ride my bicycle.

I was up and out the door about 6:30 and very few cars on the road and nice easy ride over to the lake, about 11 mile warm-up arriving at about 7:30. I had hour and half to change, relax, and get my timing chip. Saw Damian video taping a friend of his doing the 50k. The 50k runners started at 7 am and we saw them coming through the first aid station and it was then I knew I was in for a long day. I missed some of the front runners, but by the time I figured out that this was their first time through the aid station meant that they were only at 5k at about 45-50 minutes.

We would be running on the same 5k loop (twice) to start our half marathon. I got fully changed and ready to run, we (I'd say 100-125 runners) were off right on time at 9:00 am and it is less than a quarter mile before we start climbing and the sight of a stream of runners going up in front on the switchbacks and once I was half way up the stream continued behind, quite a site.

The trail was mostly all single track on this 5k loop and we went back and forth and at times came back to spots where the course almost ran back onto the same single track only to turn again at the last chances. I like these looping single track trails, no real destination other than the beauty of the woods. The elevation chart for the 5k loop did not look that bad, but was kind of misleading in that we run two smaller loops to make the single 5k loop, one went up about 200 feet and the other about 300, so nothing too really bad, but there were plenty of ups and down inside the those changes as well. There were a couple sections where we ran along the edge of a hill and it really wasn't a trail, and not even a flat area to run (walk) as each step you kind slipped down the slope a bit, they had a rope so you would completely fall down the hill. Combined with nice muddy conditions made for slower run times. My split for the first 5K was 36:00, ug!

Back up the for the same loop again and with all the 50 milers, 50krs, half marathoners and the 10k runners (sent 15 minutes after us) the trail was really getting more and more slippery. I was very happy to make it back to the aid station marking the finish of my first 10k (second 5k was 41:00).

I thought we would be headed off in a new direction, but we basically just skipped the first half of the 5k loop to start up the second (muddier) loop only to eventually turn to the right at the apex of the 5k loop (we went left the first two times) and while the trail got a lot less muddy, it was a lot more straight up, and up, and up. I really felt like this was steeper than chinscraper (on Chuckanut). Since I had looked at the elevation chart before I knew we were to get up to about 1400 feet or so and my watch said about 600 at the turn so I knew what I was in for. I was simply walking and my HR was pegged. There were not really any switchbacks as we pretty much went straight up. I don't think there was much of a trail here before the race. We eventually made it to the top and based on my calculations this stretch from the lake to the top was 1142 feet of climbing, my GPS recorded 1.52 miles (8025.6 feet) which calculates out to about 14.38% grade = 100*(tan(arcsin(1142/8025.6))). UG! oh yeah, this 1.52 mile walk took just over 32 minutes.

BUT I was at the top, or so I thought, we ran a bit on the top and then it went up a bit more before we started in earnest back down a logging road, this road curved around and as luck would have it, even have some small up hill sections to get down the hill. We finally made it back to some single track and I recognized a couple signs from the Lake Samish county park, so I knew I was getting close to the aid station at mile 10.7. I didn't realize how high these trails went as it took longer than I thought to get back down the lake and the aid station. Great volunteers everywhere and the energy from their excitement helped me along.

We ran along Roy Road to get back towards Camp Lutherwood only to make another detour UP a logging access road to hook back onto the highest point of the first half loop of the 5k. Since I had run this section twice earlier I knew I was close but wasn't able to really ever get a fast run in as it was real muddy by now and I was very tired too. Finally get back to the flatter area near the camp and past the aid station to the grassy finish. Very, Very happy to finish in 3:16:55 by my watch, pretty slow, but I guess the winning half marathon time of 2:20 indicates how hard this course was (so I didn't feel as bad about my slow time)

Sat down for a bit with Damian, thinking about how in the heck am I going to ride my bike home (I hadn't thought of that or that the course would be this hard). Damian was leaving so I asked (ok begged) for a ride up the hill out of the lake basin. He got me up the first part of the hill and I made it slowly up the rest to try and spin easy all the way home.

Great race, great challenge, very tough... not certain I'd do it again... maybe... see if I can improve... only time will tell.


McQ said...

Man, that sounds tough. What trails was this on--have we run these, Glenn?
Great job, by the way!

GG Tri Guy said...

Brand new trails made for this event. Some on the Lutherwood property looked like existing trails, but I've never been on 90% of this course before.