When I returned to Nashville after Leadville, I started running with a couple of my buddies who were training for the 50K North Face Endurance Challenge in Atlanta. My buddies and wife quickly convinced me that I should compete in the 50 miler of the North Face Endurance Challenge – so I signed up. I had a month and a half to prepare for the race – so I immediately started researching the course. Since this is a relatively new race – there weren’t very many race reports. All of the reports I read mainly discussed the amount of rocks covering the trail. I was not looking forward to this race and my motivation was slipping. I was running around 65-75 miles a week for the month leading to the race. Even though my fitness was not where I had hoped it would be – I still wanted to finish top 3.
My wife and I drove down the night before the race to Pine Mountain, which was about an hour south of Atlanta. My wife was nice enough to drive so that I could try and get some sleep. We arrived to the parking lot around 3 a.m. and hopped on the shuttle to the start line for a 5 a.m. start.
On the start line, I positioned myself at the front and listened to Dean Karnazes give a motivational speech before the race. The gun shot off, and we made our way toward the trail in complete darkness. I did not know what to expect since I had never run in F.D. Roosevelt Park before. As we entered the trail it was even darker than it was at the start line, and we had to constantly avoid rocks and roots. I was in the top 5 and running right behind Hal Koerner (North Face) and Jason Bryant (La Sportiva). It was pitch black, and we could hear people yelling behind us as they stepped on rocks. The first aid station was 5 miles in, and I arrived in 3rd place – feeling great. I grabbed some dates from my wife knowing that I would not see her again until mile 28.
There were no unrunnable climbs in this race, just rolling hills and LOTS of rocks. I was talking with the other runners as we ran at a decent, steady pace. We pulled into the second aid station realizing that Hal Koerner was not with us. I figured this was not a good sign as he was the defending champ and probably knew something we didn’t. Within about a mile of leaving the second aid station, I looked behind me and saw two headlamps. Hal Koerner and Jason Bryant came flying by me – I managed to keep them in eyesight for a little while. Around the 17 mile mark I lost sight of everyone in front of me and was running in 4th place. I was not feeling well and could barely run. I was getting frustrated at the rockiness of this course. In fact it was so bad I briefly thought about dropping out of the race at the next aid station. I was running/walking when I was passed by someone else. Now knowing I was in 5th place I could only hope that I would get my energy back and slowly catch the runners in front of me.
I finally started to get my legs back around the 24 mile mark. I cruised into the 28 mile mark in 5th place and about 10 minutes behind 3rd. Since I was feeling good I wanted to get in and out of this aid station. I was able to run for about another 5 miles and then I lost all of my energy. At this point I knew finishing in the top 3 was out of the question, and I just wanted to merely finish. I told myself to try to enjoy the rest of this race as much as I possibly could. It was hot, rocky and I felt miserable. With about 10 miles to go I did not care what my time was, I just wanted this to be over. It was like a terrible nightmare. I knew I was somewhere near the finish as I saw more and more of the relay runners. I kept asking them how far it was and they told me just a mile or so. I crested over a small hill and could see the white tents of the finish line. I came out of the woods and jogged to the finish line in 5th place. I was disappointed but at the same time relieved it was over.
I went to search for one of my friend’s (Jamie Schuer) who ran the 50K and found him soaking in the ice bath. This was his first 50K, and he rocked it! We grabbed some food and waited for our other buddy, Mitch Pousson, to cross the finish line. Mitch finished under his goal time and ran a fantastic race as well. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the post race festivities.
|Mitch, Me and Jamie|
This course was brutal and a lot rougher than what I normally run on. Even though I didn’t have the race I had hoped to have – I was still glad to finish. I would like to thank both Jamie and Mitch for convincing me to compete in this Challenge. Most importantly I would like to thank my wife for driving all night long and crewing all day without any sleep. She really is the reason I am able to do these adventures with complete focus.