April 9, 2016.
Mudfest. A one-word epilogue of this book called The North Face Endurance Challenge, Washington DC, 2016 Edition.
It’s April. But the weather, days prior and up to the day of the event, was closer to winter than it was to spring. I was unsure what gear to wear on the event so I packed a backup, and a backup of the backup, to handle the wet, windy, low temps condition looming on the forecast.
The grand plan was to do the event, stay an extra night somewhere on the way home, get some beers and crabs, and enjoy the experience. And yes, I was more excited with the crabs and beers than with the event itself.
Friday. Left NJ after lunch and drove to VA, stopping by the North Face store at Tysons Corner Center to pick up my bib. Friday night’s accommodation was at Candlewood Suites at Herndon, VA. Stopped by a local supermarket hoping to find some hand warmers with no success. BUT, they have beers. Bought a pack, and some noodle soup to-go from a Vietnamese restaurant next to the supermarket. Dinner – checked! Beers – checked!
Forecast for Saturday was not very promising – rain/cold/strong winds/dropping temps. Prepared my gear, the backup gear, some changing clothes, and stuffed everything in my gear bag. Ate my dinner, plus a bottle of beer, and went to bed. Sleep did not come easy, however, as the guest on the floor above me kept banging the floor until the wee hours. Either there was a Zumba session or a UFC take down happening above.
Saturday. Drove to the event pick up area and took the shuttle to the staging area. The whole area was wet, with rain still pouring in. Had my ever-reliable Costco rain jacket over a warm running jersey + windproof shell.
The Event. The rain subsided just about when the 50k started at 7am. It was wet and muddy from the start. Not even a mile on the course yet, my shoes and socks were already soaking wet. Thanks to my new pair of $30 Drymax socks, my feet were not complaining (more on this later). Took off my rain jacket after about 4 miles on the course. The course itself was not that technically challenging, with stream crossings, and the usual ascents and descents typical on a trail course. But it was so MUDDY difficult! We were all slippin’ and slidin’ because of the mud. This was an out-and-back course, with the first (and last) 10 miles going through the forest and secluded flood plain (secluded flood plain – exact words from the event description). It was a total and non-stop mudfest going out. We got a little break from this muddy condition upon reaching the Great Falls aid station at mile 13. This would also start the scenic section of the course, with views of the Potomac River, the Great Falls, and beautiful gorges. Didn’t get the chance to snap pictures of the scenic views, although some runners literally stopped to enjoy the views and took pictures. At mile 19, we were back at the Great Falls aid station, and on our way back to the start/finish area. The last 10 miles would be the same first 10 miles, only a lot worse. The trail condition has really deteriorated, that it felt like having weights on the shoes because of the sticky mud. The last 8 miles I just walked the trail, going through mud after mud after mud. Have I said MUD a lot already? I even told myself to take some pictures of the shoes after to show what mud-coated shoes looked like. This would not happen anyway. On the last stream crossing before the final mile to the finish, I ran and soaked my feet on the flowing stream. The cold and clean water felt soooo good and refreshing. And if my shoes could talk, they would have totally agreed. So no pictures of the mud-coated shoes.
I crossed the finish line after 6:46 on my garmin (official time was 6:41). I was totally exhausted that I couldn’t do the customary finish-line-jump. It took me 2+ hrs to do the last 8 miles. I was under 4hrs on mile 21 and feeling great. No excuses – the sticky mud beat me.
The sun never showed up. The temp was dropping. Took my gear bag and changed clothes. Even with fresh warm clothes, it felt cold. Quickly ate my post event food, and decided to leave. The line was long for the shuttle back to the pick up area. Not many runners stayed for the post race festivities because of the weather condition.
Stopped at Five Guys for a good burger before driving to Springhill Suites in Maryland for my Saturday accommodation. It was already late, no steamed crabs, but the beers would do just fine.
Another reason for staying somewhere in Maryland was to explore a trail in Havre de Grace area on Sunday. This was part of the weekend plan. Next stop – Susquehanna Trail.