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North Face Endurance Challenge

By Ed Demoney

I'm not sure why we do challenging races the first weekend in August although I've been doing them occasionally starting with a 24-hour relay at Ft. Meade in 1976. Remember doing 50 miles on the track there?

Ed Demoney
Ed Demoney

There were exactly 300 finishers in the four events of the North Face Endurance Challenge. The EC was treated as a big time event with packet pickup at North Face in Tysons Corner. The start-finish at Great Falls National Park and festival activities at The Madeira School complicated matters for the organizers. They were fortunate to have a relatively small event this year. All things considered, they did a credible job. The festival was rather quiet when I got there but there was still live music and I got a massage.

Bryon Powell's course description back in July really helped me to decide to do the EC (50K) since a foot injury prevented me from doing CFA although I did manage to run about three hours on the CFA course as my foot was mostly healed. The EC course markings were relatively good although a number of runners did go off course and I managed to do so three times but with only a few minutes lost due to my miscues. In some ways the course reminded me of BRR, some hills, rocks and roots on occasion, stream crossings and good trail running. I did manage to trip and fall once.

The aid stations were excellent, plenty of food, drink (large containers filled with ice and bottles of liquids) and ice cold towels for the runners. I got along on six bottles of water (one per aid station) plus a bottle of Accelerade that I took from the last aid station at the suggestion of a volunteer. I had remarked I would run out of water. He said take a bottle with you. It was ice cold and greatly appreciated, may have saved my race. Succeed and an Aleve helped out plus Accel Gels -- never had food of any kind other than the gels.

We had timing chips so my exact time was 8:40:57:45. The only use was at the start and finish, but the 50 milers got a reading at 36 miles. It was great to see the 50 milers and 50K runners on the out-and-back from Great Falls.

I saw a 50K runner down on the trail because of calf cramps. He was waiting for a rescue; however, despite his claim he couldn't walk, he got tired of waiting and walked the last seven miles for a finish.

When I got my race packet I looked at the list of entrants and discovered there was no one in my age group except me. So all I had to do was finish, easier said than done. Knowing I would win my age group provided motivation for the EC. They had custom finisher medals for finishing as well as age group awards. So I actually got two medals.

I'm not entirely sure how we survive the humidity and heat. I was completely drenched early on from the humidity, then practically dried out from the heat. We were fortunate that about 99% of the course was in the shade! It would have been brutal otherwise. Anyway, it was a pleasure to have a new trail experience, especially since the trails are so close to home, yet I've never run them previously.

There's usually some music that comes to mind when I'm running an ultra. On this one it was Come and Find the Quiet Center, words by Shirley Erena Murray. Goes like this:

Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed: Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.
Silence is a friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace, God it is who speaks and names us, knows our being, touches base, making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun, raising courage when we're shrinking, finding scope for faith begun.
In the Spirit let us travel, open to each other's pain, let our loves and fears unravel, celebrate the space we gain: There's a place for deepest dreaming, there's a time for heart to care, in the Spirit's lively scheming there is always room to spare.
Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
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