The North Face Endurance Challenge, WI, 50 Mile

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by trevize1138, Sep 16, 2019.

  1. trevize1138

    trevize1138
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    The North Face Endurance Challenge, WI, 50 Mile
    By Trevize1138


    I cut this one close. Cutoff time was 13 hours. My friend and I crossed the line with only 25 minutes to spare!
    Capture.PNG

    That's all we asked for though: just to finish our first 50 miler. We've both done 50ks before and I'm here to say that back-to-back marathons is definitely next level and we couldn't have done it without running the whole way together as a team.

    We were also the only guys in huaraches I saw. I did the first 11 miles unshod and my friend tried a couple miles in the middle holding his sandals. I'd say about 80% of the course was nice, smooth dirt and grass but the super rocky climbs and descents were frequent enough that sandals were a must and after a point of extreme exhaustion the act of slipping them off and on was too much.

    Those first 11 miles felt great, too. As did the next 11 miles. Overall we were feeling exceptionally good through about mile 35. We were taking in the beautiful Kettle Moraine State Forest scenery and meeting some great people out there suffering with us. We were feeling so good that our main strategy was telling the other guy to slow the F down and remember how far we have yet to go.

    It turns out that, as always, no matter how slow you think you're going if someone tells you to slow the F down you won't slow down enough. We did the first 31 miles in about 7 hours which should have been a warning sign because my 50k in July was only about 30 minutes faster than that. After 35 miles we felt good but that's when the decline started for us. We had gotten through about 12 miles or so of constant rolling hills. None of the hills were exceptionally big but there were lots of them. Mile after mile of that will chew you up and crap you out.

    About a mile before the penultimate aid station we were walking due to exhaustion rather than strategically choosing to walk. We ran out in the sun on the flat prairie for a mile past that aid station then decided it was time to walk again. By this point we were re-adjusting our expectations to just focusing on making that 13hr cutoff. When I signed up for the race I figured I could do it in 10hrs. Back during the salad days of mile 35 I had thought maybe 11hrs was possible. Now we were in our death march hoping that 7 miles of walking would be good enough.

    We hurt everywhere. Sure, our legs and feet were tired and ready to cramp up at any given moment. But my right elbow was also sore for some mysterious reason. My friend's biceps were sore because he'd been doing 20oz handheld bottle bicep curls all day long. We checked the time, did the math and figured at 20 minutes/mile easy walking pace we'd just make it.

    Trouble is that 20 min/mile walking pace assumes fresh legs and flat, level ground. We had none of that on our side. At the last aid station the sign said 3.7 miles to go and the time was 4:45. Cutoff time was 6:00. "We gotta run it," I told my friend. It wasn't just that our walking pace wasn't fast enough. Walking itself was taxing just in different ways. I swear I was getting more fatigued and more pessimistic walking than running.

    So we started trotting again. This time our legs weren't giving us the evil eye and felt pretty good considering. I had boiled down my own form to just the basics of letting my legs bounce, don't push forward, just pop them up quick, low and easy and let the elastic tendons do their job. All we really needed to do was go about .7 miles at any kind of running pace and we've got that cutoff made.

    Turns out we felt recovered enough that we were back to the usual running pattern of walking the climbs and running everything else all the way through the finish. So freaking satisfying. We had just gone 19 miles further than we ever have before. We don't have to be shy about saying "we run ultra marathons" with our self-imposed silly gatekeeping games like "50k isn't much longer than a marathon."

    And I have to say that working together saved us. My friend has been going through a divorce so his life has kept his weekly mileage as low as 25-35mpw. I've been doing a little better but maybe only about 35mpw myself. But my goal this year was to keep Strava off, don't track my stats and just go run focused on form. I couldn't say yet how well or poorly that works when training for a 50 miler but at least the focus on form really came in handy toward the end.

    We also got lots of the usual comments about our sandals. Each of us had Luna Origens and a common sentiment was "you guys are hardcore!" I've been in sandals and unshod now long enough to where I've started to honestly forget why people think that. I had to remember back to my own reasons for why I thought running in flat sandals would have been "hardcore." All I could think of was this idea that a shoe protects your toes from scrapes and scratches and, of course, the idea that "you need support" for such a long run.

    Over those 50 miles I did get a scratch on one toe from a branch I kicked. It even drew a little blood! I also got a small blister on another toe in the same spot I always do for really long races in sandals. The bottoms of my feet are a bit tender after handling all the rocks and maybe that first 11 miles over rocks but already that's feeling better. Overall my feet feel no worse than the rest of me.

    And just like when I did the last 20 miles of my 50k unshod I started to wonder if unshod wasn't an excellent way to pace yourself intuitively. As soon as I put my sandals back on Saturday after the first 11 miles my friend said he could tell I was running a lot faster. Too fast, in fact. We both mused that I didn't know crap about pacing unless I was barefoot. By mile 43 we were starting to think we were more right than we knew. Still, I don't think I could have done the whole thing unshod and didn't expect to. I'm past the point of trying to prove how far I can go unshod and now I'm more curious about the strict utility of unshod not just as a training tool but as part of race/equipment strategy. There seems to be a time for sandals as well as a time for unshod and I'm figuring that out better now.

    Finally, we've decided we need to get serious again about race nutrition. For a marathon or 50K I can get by on Tailwind and orange slices well enough. For running all day I need to figure out one or perhaps even two actual meals to eat during the run. We were beyond exhaustion and as much as I've worked on becoming fat adapted there may just be some unavoidable physiological barriers that can only be overcome with real food.

    I'd certainly do this again but not perhaps this year. I'm ready to start slowing down the running season. This race was in participation for the real goal the two of us have our sights set on: the 54 mile portion of the Maah Daah Hey Trail Run in the ND badlands next summer. It's not just 4 miles longer but hot, no shade and even bigger climbs. I might even turn Strava back on to train for that one. Thanks for reading!
     
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  2. Noodles

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    Wow, you are so far beyond what I'm capable of at the moment that I can only prostrate myself before you, magnificent running warrior! :shy: I can only hope that one day I'll suffer as you do ;)
    Well done for finishing, well done for listening to your body, well done for being a great friend, well done for the analysis afterwards, and well done for writing up your experience in such a gripping manner...
     
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  3. trevize1138

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    I gotta tell ya, what I've started to learn as I run longer and longer distances is the key to running longer distances is to run longer distances. :)

    My thought pattern after every new distance personal best has been as follows:

    "I did it but I think 13.1 miles is just too long for me."

    "I did it but I think 26.2 miles is just too long for me."

    "I did it but I think 50k is just too long for me."

    "I did it but I think 50 miles is just too long for me."

    I've done a 50k twice now and the second time around it felt significantly shorter even though it was not just the same distance but the exact same course as the first time.

    At least in my case "mental toughness" doesn't come from motivational posters or "you can do it" happy talk. None of that will convince you in the slightest of what you're capable of. The only way to prove to yourself whether you can do something or not is to try it.

    And embrace failure. Here's how my first attempt at a full marathon went:

    https://www.thebarefootrunners.org/threads/maah-daah-hey-100-my-first-marathon-trail-run-dnf.20685/

    It's still one of my favorite memories because of how dumb and audacious I was. I had no business attempting that thing and was proven right with a big, fat DNF. But I was hooked. I went back the next year and conquered it and every long race I do I know that even finishing is not guaranteed. Getting a better time is nice but just focus on finishing.
     
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  4. Barefoot TJ

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    Congrats on completing the 50! I've mirrored your report to the home page.:barefoot:
     
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  5. David Levinson

    David Levinson
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    Thanks for the report--well told! That takes me back. A few years ago I did the half marathon on the North Face Endurance Challenge there in Wisconsin, my first one totally barefoot. The ups and downs are so rocky, and it's not natural. Because of the traffic, my feeling is that the Wisconsin DNR must stabilize the trails with construction gravel, the big kind. The first half of that run was pretty painful going up and down the rock spread all over the trail. Then it opened up to some nice long flat stretches that were just plain dirt, and the run was very nice. It's nice to hear about how gnarly runs in the Midwest are!
     
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  6. BareFootHeath

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    Reading this was enlightening and encouraging, thank you for all the detail as you shared this experience. 12+ hours (never mind 24) boggles the mind.
     
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  7. trevize1138

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    You could certainly tell the rocks were put down only to mitigate erosion wherever it wasn't flat. Before getting serious back into running I stuck to mountain biking and volunteered to build singletrack trails following sustainable practices. One big no-no is to have a trail go straight up the fall line of a hill. It always becomes a channel for water and gets rutted out. The solution is to either dump a shitload of gravel into the rut every year or re-route the trail.

    If it's just a rogue, unmanaged trail the "reroute" is usually just a second path right next to the rutted out one. Then that second path gets rutted and a third path forms. Then a fourth ... Eventually you get this scarred hillside of ruts and weeds.

    The better solution is to have trails never go steeper than a 45 degree angle to the fall line. And then you want to throw in grade reversals along the way where the path goes almost perpendicular to the fall line so you never give rain a straight shot for a long while to build up momentum and really carve out a rut.

    The result is a lot more fun and interesting trail that switchbacks up and down hills. For biking you get some seriously fun descents this way that swoop along like a roller coaster ride. And here in the midwest you get a lot longer descent due to our smaller vertical drop rather than a trail that bombs straight down which ends the descent in seconds.

    And all that is just the side-effect of working to create a trail you don't need to dump gravel on every season. Erosion is avoided in the first place by the design. So you get a ribbon of hardpack, smooth dirt instead of a patchwork of dirt and harsh gravel.
     
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  8. Tedlet

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    Cool report T...
    Well done... (one day......;)).
     
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  9. mido

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    Congrats @trevize1138, finishing a 50 miles barefooted and in sandals is such a great accomplishment! Thanks for sharing with us and good luck for the preparation of your next goal
     
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  10. Noodles

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    This was fascinating! I never even thought about how to design paths, I must have assumed that they just appeared by magic somehow.
     
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