Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 The North Face 50 Mile and 50K Championships - An "Unbreakable" Weekend!

I was ultra lucky to stumble upon this event in 2007. This year would make it my fifth finish in as many years as produced by The North Face, Gore-Tex, and the Hawkeye Marketing Agency.

Mike Wolfe with Stinson Beach as an amazing backdrop to this HiDef Running Day.
Photo by Brett Rivers "The Money Shot" :-)

This pic rocks too - Dakota "Young Money" Jones with Wolfe - Again Great shot Brett!

Mike enjoying the moment. Photo by Brett Rivers
Winner - Anna Frost - Photo by Brett Rivers

A few numbers for you:

1 - Perfect Day for "Hi-Def" running in the Marin Headlands
2 - New Modified Courses for both (both easier)
5 - This is the 5th year of TNF 50M and 50K races
360 Started 50M
317 Finished
$10,000 - First Prize for both first Male and Female
              1st Male - Mike Wolfe - The North Face
              1st Female - Anna Frost - Salomon Running
$4,000 - Second Prize
              2nd Male - Dakota Jones - Montrail
              2nd Female - Ellie Greenwood - Montrail
1,000 - Third Prize
              3rd Male - Adam Campbell - Salomon Running
              3rd Female - Joelle Vaught - Montrail

388 Started 50K
367 finished
52nd in 5:46 PR - This Guy!
1 - Free Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale for all finishers.

959 - My Ultra Lucky Number for the day. One thing I can always admit to is alwyas hoping to get a good number. I am always looking for a 5 or double numbers. This was "Lucky Dog" special because of the 9's surrounding the 5. The 9's in this case represent my Weimaraner named "NINER" whom I just put down back in September.

Niner and I at Crissy Field - His second home sweet home. Miss ya buddy!

A Weimaraner at finish. Good boy!

Start of 50M at 5am.
At TNF store on Friday for packet pick-up. Hal Koerner  on Left... Tracy Garneau on Right... Security in the middle.
Before I try to entertain you, I must mention this ultrarunner name "Danny Messex" from New Mexico. I have never met the guy, but he "friended" me on facebook because he saw that Ian Sharman mentioned me in his blog earlier this year. I pay it forward and back to Danny. Why? Because he simply makes me laugh when I see his original posts. This next sentence (inspired by DM) comes from a discovery of mine last night while eating dinner. White asparagus, like green asparagus, makes my urine smell equally wonderful. He only has 464 friends... let's help him get to 5000.

My ultrarunning roadtrippin' sidekick, Dan Decker, had to give Hal a little elbow before leaving the store after packet pickup in SF.

So, this weekend has all the buzz it had in 2010 and a little more. The field of runners was stacked on both the male and female sides. Some say the deepest men's field ever assembled.  On Friday, about 300 of us got together for JB Benna's screening of "Unbreakable" - a Western States 100 documentary of Hal Koerner, Geoff Roes, Tony Krupicka, and Killian Jornet competing in the 2010 event.  Dan and I, included in this Sold Out gig, are now off to the premiere at the Sports Basement (a massive discount sporting goods store at Crissy Field).
They had a keg! Of course they did.

Here is my review of this film.... "It was awesome!" So there, it's reviewed. Now you can go buy it at

Image Detail
Seriously, we can all be so ultra-lucky to have someone like JB Benna (and Jennifer B. too) to document what we love so much. Overall, it was nice to be able to put a personality to runners we call stars in our sport. Since only recently getting to know a little about Hal, Carly, JB, and Jennifer, it brought me closer to the movie. It was especially important (and to my surprise) to learn about Killian's upbringing. I won't spoil that. Great action shots from beginning to end. Ultimately, the Gordon Ainsleigh rejoins (is that a correct movie term) or comments throughout the movie kept the audience barking with joy. I found my self laughing several times, especia lly when Jenn Shelton spoke. What's not to love about this girl. She's hysterically funny, runs fast, loves beer, and barely wears any clothes. There must have been some good cuts from this movie that we never say. When it comes down to it, if you run ultra's this movie is a must have for your multimedia library.
Jenn Shelton Pacing Tony Krupicka to 2nd Place at 2010 Western States 100
Before I dive into the spectacular day that was The North Face 2011 Endurance Challenge 50M and 50K presented by GORE-TEX, I must rewind back to my first ultra in December of 2007, The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K, when I knew no one in the ultrarunning community. A friend of mine (not an ultrarunner) said it would be great cross training  for triathlons to run a trail race. I don’t think he meant go run an ultramarathon on a trail. I didn’t even know what I was about to run was called an ultra. I drove myself to the event. I had no crew, no drop bags, no performance enhancing drugs, and I carried no water or electrolyte fluid which means I also had no bottle or hydration pack. I had neither gels nor s-caps. I wore basketball shorts which flowed past my knees and my shoes had those “spring looking” thingy’s on the sole of my shoe. I had an mp-3 player (what now would look like a satellite dish) strapped on my arm so I could listen to my favorite jams and even sing (badly) during the race, of course.
I cranked out the first mile in less than 7 minutes. I had never been so excited to run on a trail. The only one I ran on was a Los Gatos creek trail which was all asphalt. I had only ridden mountain bikes or hiked on dirt trails. As far as preparing, I had only run 30 miles the month before the 50K event and the longest distance I had completed was a half marathon. I had a brief conversation with one runner about mile 6 (we were in second at the time) and said to him “So I guess it’s between you and me for second?” He replied, “Have you ever run an ultra before?” I said, “What’s an ultra?” He dropped me a ¼ mile later (going uphill of course) and person after person kept passing me. I never really spoke to anyone again until I got to the finish. However, when people did pass, they would say “Are you ok?” or “Good Job!”, or “looking good… keep going”. When I finally arrive at the finish, I was hurting (later found out I had two stress fractures), my brain was shot (I call this ‘Runny Brain”), and I didn’t know one person to commensurate with at the finish. During my drive home (ohhhh the pain), I was thinking to myself, how come I had never heard of this “ultrarunning”, and what was this “Western States” people were talking about?
Over the next 6 months, I spent recovering, and learning about ultrarunning. I met current friend and club mate, Bree Lambert (2 time Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Champion), at The Running Revolution (our running store in Campbell and Santa Cruz, CA) while grabbing some sun block. Over the next few weeks we started to run together. Let me change that, we would start running together and I would catch up at a designated stop several minutes later. Thanks to Bree’s mentorship and friendship, while developing a small training group, I then knew what it took to run ultra’s. But, I had yet to join a club. A year later, without having run any other ultra’s, I was once again ready for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K. A group of us decided to stay at the Marin Headlands Youth Hostel. It’s only 150 yards from the start-finish line. Maybe I should have kept that a secret. Shhhhh. Joined by 50 or more other ultrarunners in dorm rooms ranging from 4 to 20 plus beds (male, female, and co-ed), this was beyond cool. I was getting to meet and know fellow ultrarunners from all around the country. However, it was there that I would meet the person responsible for me joining a running club, Jim Magill.
There were 8 of us in our dorm room 15 feet by 15 feet. You can say it was easy to get to know one another. Jim, now 65, has completed Western States 10 times and was the 68th person (of 251) to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and the 10th person (of only 26) to complete “The Last Great Race”. I knew this guy was cool, because he brought a beer to have before he went to bed. Not that cool though, he didn’t have one for me. Funny thing was we found out we lived only a few miles from one another. He asked if I run at Quicksilver much. I said, “I run there all the time.” He then recommended I join the club, Quicksilver Running Club. Thanks Jim! I am grateful for your wisdom and friendship.

Now, that you know I stay at the Youth Hostel every year for TNF or Miwok (running or volunteering) its equally important to share this info with you. This is a must if you are running the 50M or 50K. Where else can you get a pic with Goeff Roes or Ellie Greenwood like this?
Chatting about how he is going to let me win this year. Then off to the Screening of 'Unbreakable". Your 2010 Male  Ultrarunner of the Year
Ellie the Magnificent! Female UROY 2011 - Ultrarunner of the Year

The 50Mile race starts at 5am which requires headlamps for the start. The 50K race starts at 7am. I got up at 4:30 to go shoot video of the start. Probably helps to have a light. Should make for good edit though. No need to go back to bed as I return 150 yards back to the Marin Headlands Youth Hostel for breakfast. I had 2 cups of coffee, 2 Peanut Butter Lara Bars, and 1 Peanut Butter and Chocolate Protein Bar. I then showered and put on my Quicksilver Running Club gear and relaxed on the comfy Pottery Barn Couches until Bree, Lisa and Dan arrived via shuttle from San Francisco. 
Bree Lambert

Dean Karnazes

Lisa is going to pretty much kill me when she see's I put this photo in the blog. This is what you look like when you're about to run your first 50K.

We fire out the start and I knew this day was going to be special. It was 40 degrees at start, but felt much warmer. A few days before the start, the bay area experience high winds of up to 70 MPH. This allowed for the clearing of any smog and ultra-mately the most beautiful day I have ever seen in the Marin Headlands. AND, race temps were 60-62 max. YES!

I went out fast as planned (6:57 first mile) with Bree. Then when we start the intial ascent of Miwok Trail at 1.5 mile and started shooting some pics. Because I was trying to PR this course in under 6 hours, I thought it would be wise not to bring the camera. But, then my blog would suck! Well, maybe it already does. :) So here are some photos for the next 12 miles.

Glad you made it this far. At Mile 13 of the 50K, you come to Cardiac Aid Station on the world famous Dipsea Trail. Usually, I get through this aid station before the lead runners get through. I found out that 15 runners had already come through. This was a clear sign of the new fast course. I was bummed. I had planned to shoot video of the lead pack. Not that bummed though because I did capture the top 3 ladies: Anna Frost, Ellie Greenwood, and Joelle Vaught. Then I got Hal, Ricky Gates and other men in the top 30. Let me share some of the clips with you before I edit the video.

Almost at Cardiac, Anna Frost, Hal Keorner, Ellie Greenwood, and Muir Woods video. 

I continued on to the finish and was able to enjoy myself with fellow Quicksilver Running Club runners and all the other participants. Yah, I will be back for a 6th, 7th, and so on, but, only in the 50K. This is a perfect distance to end the year. And, unless you are gonna finish the 50 mile in under 8 hours, then my recommendation to you is to only run the 50K so you can enjoy the after party.

If you made it all the way down here then you will be rewarded with the moral of the story... If you want the fastest time possible, then don't bring your camera. If you wanna create great memories and smiles for others, then make sure you have your camera for your next ultra.  

And more shots of the after party!