North Face WI Edurance Challenge Series 50k 2016 – Recap

To call myself a newbie in the trail running is an understatement! I am doing my very best to change that. I LOVE the adventure that trail running brings.  To be out on single track courses reminds me of high school cross-country.  I have never been a super fast runner, but I pride myself on my determination and frankly toughness (don’t laugh).  Granted if we met on the street many would not dub me as a tough cookie, but when I get out on a trail the surroundings change me.  I love that I can morph into something that I am not in my everyday life.  Over the last few months of running I have hit major highs followed by crushing blows, trail running has been my serenity.  When injured running on the road was impossible but I could go for miles on the soft crushed gravel of the Ahnapee State trail.  I have come to adore and respect the gifts that trail running provides me. This is totally not in my nature.  I am the last person you would catch “outdoors” immersed in wooded areas…crap I still have camping gear from 10 years ago that has yet to leave its packaging, but for some reason I am hooked on trail running.  This love was solidified by my experience at the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50k.

Nestled in the southern Kettle Moraine area this course was everything I imagined it to be and so much more!  I have wanted to participate in this event for 2 years, but was scared I did not have what it would take to complete it.  Trail races are nothing like road races.  I learned that the hard way in Texas a few years back at the Prickly Pear 10. I got my butt handed to me there.  I was nervous to have a similar experience at Northface.  Luckily I have amazing friends who are fearless and bolstered my trail running confidence and talked me into pulling the trigger for this event in 2016.

As part of my training this summer for the Fall 50 I had many 50k races and marathons on my calendar.  This was going to be a training run, meaning I would hold back and take it easy.  I had been plagued with an injury all summer and needed to be smart about each run I completed whether it was a race or not.  Keeping my eye on the prize of my 1st 50 miler was important to me and reinforced my by amazing coach (Nora Bird – Team Bird Training).  The goal was to have fun, put in the miles, and stay on my feet!

The morning of the race I woke early to make the 2 hour drive south to the Kettle Moraine State Park.  A 7 am start meant I was out the door at 4 am.  I am not a morning person so this was a Run Gum day for sure.  I’ve give up my Sugar Free Red Bull habit, but still need a jolt of caffeine to get me going.  Chomping on my gum, sipping on some water I cranked up the radio and began my trek to the race.

After parking I met up with Allison and we walked to the event “village” to pick up our packets.  We were able to gather our bibs and shirts within minutes – easy peasy! The parking lot was close to packet pick up so we headed back to our cars to grab our gear.  The morning was brisk, but not cold.  It was a nice touch by race organizers to have wood burning fire pits set up to keep participants warm.  There were a ton of bathroom options which was a welcomed relief after driving for several hours.  Allison and I were ready to go well before the start of the event so we milled around the village. We were able to connect with Jen who was also running the 50k and Angela who was spectating.  Our bird squad was complete and ready to go.

It was apparent as we chatted and the sun came out that the day was going to be a warm one.  We all had hydration vests on with plenty of fluids and food to keep up moving forward and my hope was the tree cover would shield us from the sun enough to keep things comfortable (I forgot about the open prairie section of this course – that was HOT and miserable). The RD came on with some last minute instructions and then we were off. We ran along a paved portion of the park before turning into the woods.  I could not have predicted the beauty that we were about to encounter.  It was breathtaking!  I soaked in as much as I could before realizing that I had to keep my eyes focused on the trail or I was going to fall.

The course was a mixed bag of awesomeness!  At times we traversed over grass covered portions that were easy to navigate, turn the corner and we were working our way up steep rocky inclines, turn another corner and we were headed onto a single track path.  I love the diversity and challenge.  I have found that with trail running I don’t want to or need to listen to music to ward off the boredom that I sometimes encounter during road races.  The changing terrain forces me to focus and be engaged with my environment. As a non-nature loving person this is new for me and I am starting to get the lure of the woods.  I can work my body to fatigue, but I always come off the trails with my soul invigorated and a clear head.

Allison, Jen, and myself hung together for the 1st 20 miles.  We chatted laugh and struggled together…it was truly the best day EVER!  We helped each other out and worked through the tough parts as a team, when one of us was tired the others took the lead or sparked a conversation to distract from the fatigue setting in.  I’m used to training and racing solo, this was a treat and made the day extremely special.

This was Jen’s 1st 50k and she was kicking some serious butt! By mid-day the temps spiked and the sun was unrelenting out in the prairie sections.  We watched each other and made sure to drink tons as well as eat.  When we pulled into the aid station at mile 20 we fueled up and sent Jen on her way.  She was working towards a strong finish and had fresh legs.  Hugs and well wishes, then she was off.  It was so great to see her take off with such intensity and focus.  She finished her 1st 50k and I could not be prouder of her (plus she is hooked and plans to do lots more – #TeamFlouncy will be reunited sooner than later as the 2017 season begins).

Allison and I stuck together – this was our plan from the get go and boy am I happy we were together. I hit the wall around 22 and was ready to be done. She encouraged me to push through and keep my spirits high.  We have been here before together. At the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon if it were not for her friendship and support I would have thrown in the towel at mile 20 when I saw my family.  We have a way of balancing each other out!  After eating a Picky Bar, popping a few Salt Stick tabs and drinking some Tailwind I was able to rally around mile 24.  Miles 24-30 were on technical portions of the trail with tons of rocks and climbs.  Let’s just say a few curse words were used!  Through it all though we laughed and worked together.

The last 2 miles were on portions of the trail that we had already covered, which was a welcomed relief.  The flat paved and gravel area was a reprieve from the kettles.  We ran into Angela and her son on the last mile…those two were ROCKSTARS cheerleaders all day!  How can you not be happy when you see a fellow bird jumping up and down ringing a cowbell as loud as she possibly can?!?!? I love these ladies for all their energy and inspiration.

Allison and I were ready to wrap things up and get this over with.  The finish line taunted us for 3/4 of a mile.  We could see it but no matter how fast we moved it did not feel like it was getting closer.  Just as I had dropped another f-bomb Kassy came flying past us.  She was cruising and looking strong running with her RWB crew.  It was the boost we needed to pick up our pace and finish.

Coming through the finisher chute we were greeted by awesome volunteers with our medals and water bottles.  The remainder of our Oiselle Volee team members were waiting to congratulate us. We took a few pictures, swapped race day stories, and ate some food before all going our separate ways.

I could not have asked for a better day doing what I love with people that I adore! Somewhere around mile 10 Jen, Allison, and I decided that we needed to do another 50k together in 2017…let the planning begin:)  Until then eye on the prize and continue to get ready for the Fall 50, my unicorn race for 2016.

I highly recommend the Northface Endurance Challenge Series to anyone looking to transition from road to trail running.  The volunteers were outstanding, the course beautiful, and the runners a blast to participate with.  If a 50k is not in your “thing” there are plenty of other distances to choose from including a half marathon, marathon, relay, and 50 miler (this is totally on my maybe list for next year).

On to the Fox Cities 1/2 Marathon Sept 18th. I love back to back races…or at least that is what I will keep telling myself until I cross the finishline. Fall 50 is worth the pain…go big, or go home!

#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive

Date – Sept 17, 2016

Finish Time – 7:30

Gear Used –

  • Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP1 –My go-to hydration vest.Great for hot days. It sits high on my back and does not trap the heat in my body is giving off as I run.
  • FitSok CF2 TwistDye Crew Socks –  My feet stayed dry, cool, and blister free even though it was HOT! I went with the crew style to keep out the debris and rocks from the trails…worked like a charm!
  • Tailwind Nutrition  – I filled my bottle 3 scoops of Tropical Buzz (caffeine) with 24 oz of water. I was able to refill my bottle with water easily at aid stations and mix up more Tailwind throughout the day. The Orange Mud VP1 back pockets allow for me to carry 4 sticks of Tailwind powder which was the perfect amount to keep me fueled and hydrated even with the elevated temps.
  • Oiselle – Wazelle short sleeve shirts and team singlet.
  • Run Gum –  I popped this in about 30 minutes into my drive and found that the kick was just what I needed to start the race. I also carried another pack with me in my hydration vest.  The minty flavor is a refreshing change from the fruity flavor of my Tailwind.
  • Trail Toes Cream – Only blister fighter I use. I slather this stuff on before I put my socks on to prevent hot spots. I also used it along my shorts waist band to prevent chaffing.  I also used the cream on my legs to half way through the race when I began to chafe. Worked awesome!
  • Salt Stick Caps –  I was sweating like a beast all day, staying on a regular schedule with my salt tabs helped to prevent cramping. When I hit the wall around mile 22 I popped an extra tab to get me back on track.
  • Altra Superior 2.0 – I have switched to a zero drop shoe to combat my SI joint inflammation after my fall at the Ice Age 50k .  I love the wide toe box and lightness of these shoes. They proved today they can handle the distance.
  • Altra Running Skirt – I’ve never worn a performance skirt in a race before.  I missed out when Oiselle offered the Roga skirt this summer and have been looking for a similar version. Altra was the only skirt I found with a brief vs a short.  I loved how cool I stayed and the ease of motion was out of this world. Construction is high quality and durable…plus it’s on sale for $48 (steal of a deal).
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