After last years debacle at North Face in Atlanta, I vowed to never run that race again simply because it beat me up so badly physically and mentally. However, there I was Saturday morning at 4:55 a.m. standing at the start line in pitch black darkness, thinking about the events that happened last year and trying not to let them happen again this year. I wanted my revenge.
At 5:00 a.m. sharp the first wave of runners headed down the open field toward the Pine Mountain trail where we would spend the next 2 hours stumbling through the darkness. Right before we stepped on to the trail, I realized that I was leading everyone. This surprised me as I was running a very modest pace. After a couple of miles we had established a group of about 5 runners. It was a great group to run with as we were all chatting and getting to know each other.
|5 miles down... 45 more to go!|
|Refilling at 11 miles|
Our group of 4 was still together at the 16 mile aid station. As we left, I remembered from the year before that the next 7 miles was one of the harder sections of the course so I wanted to keep a steady pace. Along here our group dwindled from 4 down to 3 and then down to 2. Not knowing it at the time but Russell Jones and myself would spend the next 5 hours separated by no more than 30 seconds.
|Coming into 29.1 aid station|
Up to this point my nutrition plan was perfect. The Clif Gels were still tasting great and I was able to stomach them. My legs were starting to get a little fatigued but that's what should happen after running 30 miles on a technical trail. In the next 6.5 miles Russell and I continued to run together. If I walked up a hill then he walked. If I picked up the pace on a downhill or flat - he matched it. We were making it a point to stay together and if someone caught up to us we hoped we would have the legs to stay with them.
|Russell and I coming into 35.5 aid station|
Over the next several miles we were never separated by more than a couple of seconds except when I stopped to use the bathroom. We were passing 50k racers going the other direction and I was trying to catch back up to Russell. A couple of the racers stopped to let me by and as I went by my foot hit a rock and down I went. Yelling words that should not have been said (sorry Mom!) I stood up and was hit with a cramp. After a few seconds I started running and finally caught back up to Russell.
|39.7 aid station|
|2.6 miles left|
It was congratulations all around. Jonathan ran an extremely smart race to finish in 1st with a time of 7:59:20. Russell pushed Jonathan in the final miles and came in 2nd at 8:03:51. This was the closest race in North Face Endurance Challenge-Atlanta history, and I was glad to be a part of it. Below is a quick interview with the overall Top 3 from the race.
|Top 3 from North Face: Jonathan Allen, Russell Jones and Me|
The second thing that made my race go so well were my shoes. Thanks to Chris from Fleet Feet in Mount Pleasant for getting me into the Pearl Izumi N1's. After about 30 miles of trail running the week before the race without any knee problems, I decided to use them at North Face. With the trail being as rocky as it was I wanted a little more protection than the NB110 could provide, and the PI N1s did not let me down.
I want to take some time to enjoy this race so I am not sure what the near future holds for me. I might take the rest of the year off from racing and focus on the Delirium 24hr race in February, or I might compete in the Mad Marsh 50K or Lookout Mountain 50 Miler later in the year. Whatever my next race is I hope to build from this race.