Race Recap: North Face Endurance Challenge Series DC 50k

 A year ago, this was my first ultra. It was an unseasonably warm day and in general I had no idea what to expect. A year later, I knew exactly what I was getting into and I was excited for this race. It was also my first race of 2016! It’s a beautiful course, it’s not too technical and a good chunk of the beginning and end is nice single track. What I had no idea about was how muddy the course would be but we’ll get to that part.

I managed to actually go to bed early on Friday night because I knew the 5am wake up call was coming. Callum nicely drove me from our hotel to the shuttle bus pickup that would take us to the start line. It was around 6am when I got dropped off and it was dark and cold. Almost immediately, it started to pour rain and sleet. Thankfully by the time we got off the bus, it had stopped but you could tell from the walk from the bus to the start line that it was going to be a muddy race.

KatherineUltra-11
I had decided before I arrived that I would go to the washroom, wander around and then 15 minutes before the start I would take off my warm clothes and put them in my bag and bag check it. This plan worked great!


I knew that a few trail runners from Toronto were driving down for this race. The ones who were running the 50k I had never met before but a few minutes before the start I went to go look for them anyway. I had talked to Gemma online and I instantly recognized them from their 5 peaks gear.

Gemma and I started talking and we actually ended up running 45 of the 50km together. I would not have done this race nearly as fast without her! I don’t think I’ve ever run with anyone that far but it was a great motivator to keep going.


My plan going into the race was to race the first 12.5km, practise 100 mile pace (walking hills) for the middle 25km and then give the last 12.5km everything I had left. I ended up running the entire race at a pretty consistent pace, the first 3 10km time splits on the results website are within 1 second of each other.

The race starts on gravel roads then has just under 20k of single track followed by 10k of crushed gravel paths and then you go back where to you came from on the single track. In the week leading up to the race, there had been tons of rain and unseasonably cold weather. The trails were a mess!

I wish I had taken a photo of the mud because there were kilometres and kilometres of ankle deep mud. And because of all the rain, what was a trickle of water last year were huge streams that you had to cross this year. Within the first 5km I knew there was no chance of keeping my feet dry and stopped spending the extra energy to try.


There was also every kind of weather from hail to snow to rain and for a few minutes it was even sunny. This race turned into a huge adventure because no one was getting anywhere very quickly.

At 20k and 30k, there’s a spectator area. My mom, a family friend and Callum were there waiting for me and cheering. It’s always so nice to see familiar faces mid race! They helped my re-fill my hydration pack, took some gloves I didn’t need and I was off again.

KatherineUltra-2

For the first time ever in an ultra, I felt great until about 40k when I had had enough of sliding around in the mud for hours (I usually feel bad around 20k). I think I also had not been consuming enough calories because when I had a gel and some coke, I felt much better and was ready to keep running.

Despite the mud and varying weather, I had a lot of fun. It is such a beautiful course and being a little more familiar with it this year let me appreciate it instead of worrying where I was going the whole time. Because of the cold spring in Toronto, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to spend so much time on the trails and I loved being out there all day. 
I wouldn’t have had such a good race without Gemma, there is a lot to be said about facing situations like this with someone instead of alone and we made it through all the mud together. We even got to run with Dean Karnazes for a little bit!

It turns out that I came in 4th for my age group which never happens so I’m pretty happy about that! Assuming it’ll fit in my schedule, I’ll be back there next year to make it an annual tradition. I highly recommend this race, it’s well run, the aid stations are stocked and hopefully next year there won’t be so much mud.

Have you ever raced in mud or really bad conditions?

Happy running!

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7 thoughts on “Race Recap: North Face Endurance Challenge Series DC 50k

  1. adamhaesler April 13, 2016 / 11:42 pm

    Hey hey Katherine,
    Welcome back to Canada eh!

    To answer your question I have run in muddy conditions before, but not over as long distance as you did. I ran a race here in BC cold the Tenderfoot Boogie that goes from Squamish to Whistler, it started raining about 2am before the race, which started at 5am. Did not stop raining until 10 hours into my run of the race. So there were several water logged sections of trail, but the big problem here were the water logged gravel roads. Issue here is you loose of that spring that is supposed to occur from Newton’s 3rd law of motion. Kind of liked running on a giant sponge! Lots of fun, but was a wonderful race. This was the race I learned to be totally OK with being a dead last runner, and come to realize I prefer it that way!

    Congratulations on the 4th place in your age group! Is it sureal, or do you believe it?

    Not to take anything away from this awesome accomplishment; I have found from reading many blogs and so on, that the people who put in the work, and finish strong get rewarded with a podium finish in some category no matter how much of a subset of the field, which I think is really great for everyone! Your own little claim to fame.

    You got to run with Dean too eh??? I did so at TransRockies many years ago, and still have the picy of me towering over him, and I am only 5’9″. Really cool guy in my opinion. What did you think?

    Anyway, glad to hear you had an awesome time, and you had lots of people supporting you!

    Have a wonderful day!
    Adam

  2. 50in50marathonquest April 13, 2016 / 11:50 pm

    that is so cool…love this recap – it is giving me the bug even more to try the ultra distance…another blogger friend also ran this race and i’m looking forward to his recap – i think it was his first ultra event…i checked out the one they have in Wisconsin and it is very tempting, but most likely will wait ’till next year, maybe!! congrats on your awesome race!

    • KatherineRunsUltras April 24, 2016 / 5:28 pm

      Thanks 🙂 I’m running the WI race, I hope you decide to do it! You can get 15% off with the code “BIB15”, if you do decide to do it.

      • 50in50marathonquest April 24, 2016 / 9:56 pm

        Thank you Katherine, that’s awesome…if we are able to make it, I will definitely let you know and use that offer code, much appreciated. I really would like to do one, the draw to go longer on the trails is getting stronger and stronger 🙂

  3. darkskyrunner April 14, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    Great race! I’ve not run in mud like that – yet.

  4. sloluckyruns April 14, 2016 / 9:17 pm

    Wow! You rock. Doing the math to switch to American miles, lol, so I can learn everything I can from you! 😊 I did a 25k in January that was muddy and rainy, have a 30k Saturday and it’s supposed to be in the 80’s degree Fahrenheit range!

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