Phil Germakian's 2011 The North Face Marathon Team Relay Race Report
The following is my race report for the 2011 North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon Relay... The course was a tough 6.55 mile trail loop that offered a total elevation gain of 1,212 ft along with many rocks and mud to negotiate.
Team MPF Campmor met up in the Anthony Wayne Parking lot at 9:30am, and arrived at Bear Mountain around 10:00am for an 11:00am race start. As the honorary team captain, I quickly got us settled to go over our race plan. The first thing we agreed upon was the following race order: Tahir, Tom, Ben, and myself as the anchor. Next we went over our transition strategy, which involved handing off a timing chip to each other. We decided to use a very technical and complicated device: an elastic hair tie. This approach made our transitions seamless, leading us to the second fastest finishing time in this event's short two year history. Our goals were to have fun, and to WIN of course...No pressure. Fortunately, we were able to achieve both of these goals with strong performances by all four team members.
Tahir started the race in the front of the pack, looking strong and confident going off into the woods. He returned from the 6.5 mile trail loop in 57:38 and in 10th place, just 4 minutes behind the leader. Tom had some work to do, but he seemed up for the challenge, because before I could even congratulate Tahir, he was off and running the next loop. Tom had told us earlier, that he specializes in the ultra distances and is accustomed to long and slow distance running. We were all not sure how his legs would respond to the fast running required for such a short event. However, he surprised all of us, himself included, by returning from his 6.5 mile loop in a time of 54 MINUTES FLAT! Not only was he fast, but he had caught most of our competition, moving our team into 2nd place and earning MVP honors.
Ben left transition knowing that we were less than 2 minutes behind the leader, which is all he needed to know. This guy loves to compete! I was certain he would give his last breath to track down the leader. Ben caught the leader early, passing him on the long climb of the course. From there, he continued to pick up the pace, returning in a time of 50:55! When I left transition to complete our fourth and final loop, I knew we had the lead. But it was my job to keep it! Not knowing how big our lead was, or how fast the anchor runner of the second place team was either, I decided to run as hard as I could hoping to ensure the win. However, in the back of mind I was a little worried about how my legs would respond to the fast running. This event was my return to trail racing, after taking a 6 month hiatus to recover from a debilitating tendinitis injury in my lower right leg. Since that time, I had done zero fast running, but my strength had been improving with each week of rehab, giving me the confidence I needed.
I went out fast, and hit the climb hard. As I reached the aid station about 2.5 miles in the loop, the volunteers asked me if I was the fourth and last runner on my team. All I could do was signal the number four with my fingers while gulping down a cup of water before continuing up the rest of the climb. As I left the aid station, I remember another volunteer telling me that our team had a huge lead, but I didn't let up. I bombed down the downhills, lapping a lot of our competition. The course had a lot of quick turns and some fun technical sections on the descent. Eventually, I popped out of the woods, totally exhausted, but with enough juice to finish strong. I crossed the finish line with a lap time of 50:29 (the 2nd fastest split time recorded in the race) to secure the victory. I was happy with my performance, but more importantly I was thrilled with how my injured leg responded to the fast running. For the first time in 6 months, I was running again pain-free. The MPF / Campmor Team beat out a total of 67 other teams to win the 2011 North Face Marathon Relay with a respectful time of 3:33:01!!!
A HUGE thank you to my Mountain Peak Fitness / Campmor teammates, who all performed above and beyond!