I came into the 2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k at Bear Mountain State Park unsure of my fitness; I hadn’t raced since September of last year, I hadn’t done the volume or long runs in training that I would have liked…but I was also very excited! It was time to race again, and it was my first race representing the MPF/RNR team!
I have a fondness for this race; this would be my 5th year racing at Bear Mountain. The first three were in the half marathon, and last year I took 2nd in the 50k. This year I was hopeful that I could go one better and make it to the top step of the podium.
Call me a nerd, but I genuinely enjoy the process of getting ready for a race or big run. I like the ritual of getting my clothing and gear ready, and knowing I am prepared does a lot to reduce race-morning stress. I had my usual fitful night of pre race “sleep” that night, so when my alarm went off at 4:30 I was already awake and ready for breakfast. Some quick bacon, eggs, and a cup of coffee and I was out the door.
A beautiful sunny day was dawning as I drove out of Manhattan and up the Palisades to Anthony Wayne Recreation Area. I met my parents who had driven down from upstate NY that morning at the shuttle bus over to the start, gave them my bag of bottles and gels and got ready to race.
From the gun a small group formed at the front, and before long it was down to only myself and eventual winner Scott Traer. Scott was setting a fast pace, but I was determined to maintain contact and put myself in contention for the win.
I ran into fellow MPF/RNR runner Julian Vicente, who was volunteering at the Owl Swamp AS. We had never met before, but it was great to have the encouragement of a teammate out there! The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. I was in no-man’s land behind the leader and ahead of third place, but I was pressing hard in hopes of a PR.
I got another bottle from my parents at the Anthony Wayne AS and worked my way over the big hills of Timp Pass to the finish. My calves were threatening to cramp as the technical, rocky trails took their toll and heat of the day came on, but everything held together and I cruised into the finish for second place in 4:13, a full 22 minutes faster than last year!
There was a nice group of MPF/RNR folks at the finish festival, and it was awesome to spend time with family and friends in the sunshine (although my pale Irish skin wasn’t quite ready for that much sunshine so early in the season).
Overall I am incredibly happy with my race. Yes, I wanted the win, but I cannot complain about such a huge PR in my first race of the year. It was a great effort that should set me up nicely for the rest of the year, and it was a beautiful day on the trails. The North Face Endurance Challenge is a great weekend of trail running. With distances from 5k to 50 miles, there is a race for everyone. The trails are demanding and will test your fitness and resolve, but that only makes the finish that much more rewarding!
Big thanks go out to my parents for making the trip downstate to crew, my wife Alli for her continuous love and support, and the whole Mountain Peak Fitness/Red Newt Racing family for the camaraderie!