Elizabeth’s 2008 The North Face 50 Mile Ultra in Bear Mtn NY, Race Report

April 12th, 2008 the day has come to see if all my winter training would pay off. Joe and I started the day at 3:00 a.m early Sat. morning, the weather forecast had been calling for rain showers all day which I knew was going to make an already challenging course into an extreme test of my technical trail running skills. As soon as we left our apartment we were in for an adventure. The thick fog mixed with darkness of the early morning made for tricky driving conditions.  As we were driving down seven lakes drive the visibility or dare I say lack of visibility turned our drive into a sketchy one, from deer darting across the road to nearly flying off the road when approaching one of the many roundabouts. I was just hoping to make it to the start in one piece. When we finally made it to the start we looked at each other like woof, OK round 2 let's get you ready... We had 20 minutes to get my bib on, register, find a bathroom, look for one of my clients and find a friend.  

The forecasted rain hadn't started but we knew it would be too good to be true for it to be a completely out of the question. I registered and made it back to the car to pin my # on when I heard my name or what my clients and some friends call me EC, EC where are you? Great Paul, who is one of my clients found me. He was getting his drop bags ready and made me aware of the time, so we quickly went to the starting line where I bumped into the friend I was looking for.  Marc and I greeted each other with much excitement both eager to get our next adventure started. As we were all gathered talking the gun went off and off  we went in to the unknown.

Five minutes into the race; which of course starts with treacherous uphill climb, the rain begins. It was not just a gentle rain but a pouring soaking rain, the trail which is an exaggerated term for what we would find ourselves running on for 50miles turned into a slick, muddy mess! I loved it!!! The running turned into fast hiking and some rock climbing; yeah really, until we reached the top of our first climb the views were amazing even though it was still pretty dark the sky was a purplish grey with the fog drifting through the valleys below. The descent was pretty treacherous with or without the slick conditions, you had to be on your "A" game, concentration is key. My quads were already on fire and we were only 4 or so miles    into the race; probably from braking on the down hills.

Minutes into the steep descent I could hear voices coming closer, I turned my head to see if I could spot how close they were so I could adjust my positioning on the trail, right then I smacked my head right into a thick tree limb... I hit my head so hard that I fell to the ground, then got up seeing stars like in a cartoon.  Due to the adrenaline pumping through my veins I stood up and proceeded to run down the trail until the first aid station. At the 5.3 aid station I bent down to refill my water bottles a fellow participant next to me said your face is all messed up and I said yeah funny, make-up hahah, I thought my waterproof mascara was running down my face but it turned out to be blood. The blood was dripping out of my head and down my face; how would I have known, it was raining, dark and I couldn't see outside of myself.

The EMT staff ran over and sat me down, they started asking me a series of questions; of course I was so pissed because I knew I was loosing time that I couldn't make up, I wasn't thinking that I could have seriously hurt myself with a concussion or something.  I was in race mode and all I could think about was the time that I could never make up and this was only the beginning of the race.

With my head bandaged, wrapped with what looked to be a scarf, I headed down the trail hell bent on making up some time I tore down the trail only to end up running in a weird loop ending up at the first aid station again that’s when I began to realize I may have done something serious to my head.  With great disappointment I ran through the aid station for the second time now depressed with my head pounding like someone was using a jackhammer on my skull.  The aid station staffed looked perplexed and worried but of course I didn't tell them how my head was feeling in fear they would pull me, so I smiled and kept going. Once I knew I was out of sight I began to cry a little, the tears were from sadness and frustration  because I felt like my fun was being taken away.

The next 45 miles became a race to find my happiness to raise my spirits so I could enjoy what I choose to do for fun. I just kept on running and finally ran into Joe and then my smile came back, he definitely was a pleasant distraction. Joe was out taking great photos of the race and he noticed my head but said he was unable to help until the next aid station so I had to wait. That's how the day went trying to get to aid station to aid station in hopes of a mental turnaround, it finally came at about mile 26 or so.  I started to feel good my head stopped pounding and with great surprise I noticed two other women ahead of me one whom I know now as Diane who is an athlete sponsored by North Face and a women by the name of Carol who was running unaffiliated like myself.  We ran together for sometime striking up small conversations but the grueling, technical terrain wouldn't allow a moment of neglect. Every step of the trail took total concentration and conversation would suck your much needed energy away, so we ran silently together.  

I was trying to shuffle through my music to find the right song to get through the next climb. After my fall I never knew what place I was in until the end, it wasn't an issue, I really didn't care at this point, I just wanted to be present and enjoy the rest of the day. I knew when I was approaching an aid station because again I was greeted with a smile by my very own paparazzi. Joe's smile helped me stay in the race because I knew even though I was the one running we were there as a team and I couldn't let us down. At another aid station I was greeted by another surprise, almost my entire family was there, I knew then I may have severely hurt my head… lol...

Tahir my pacer was waiting to accompany me at mile 33 he would put up with my mood swings and help pace me to the finish line; thanks again Tahir. We all train together on these amazing trails regularly, we laugh at how difficult this terrain is compared to the rest of the trails that we race on in the U.S, mostly being in CA.  On the east coast the climbs may not be as long and we don’t have to overcome the altitude but we have what I consider to be real trail running where every step has to be negotiated over rocks, roots, steep climbs and descents. When we found out there was going to be a 50 mile race here we start placing bets on how many people would finish.  I said 60%, I was wrong less than 20% finished and i'm glad I was one of them. I just happened to come in 3rd.

Recommended links

Elizabeth's Athlete Page
Everything from TNF Endurance Challenge (race reports, videos, photos)