North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Miler

I received a book from a friend called Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, an American ultrarunner who is also vegan. In it, he documents his journey to becoming both a vegan and one of the top ultrarunners in the world. He also grew up just outside of Duluth, MN in the small town of Proctor. He even attended St. Scholastica.

Sick in bed a couple of weeks ago, I put down Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and began to read Eat and Run with a bit more focus. It didn’t take long to get completely absorbed. It was so interesting to read about his slow transformation from a full-on omnivore, a meat-and-potatoes upbringing, to becoming vegan. Furthermore, it was fascinating to get the perspective from someone who has experienced running multiple 100-mile-plus races – the hallucinations on trail, the mental game of running that far by oneself, the horror stories of what can go wrong physically despite the best preparation.

I want to experience that, what it feels like to run a 100 mile race. I would really like to run the oldest ultra in the country someday, The Western States 100 that Scott Jurek won 7 years in a row. The founder, Gordy Ainsleigh first ran what used to be a horse race in 1974 when his steed went lame in ’73. He wanted to see if he could do it in under 24-hours the following year and succeeded, thus setting the standard for recipients of the infamous bronze belt buckle.


In order to qualify, you need to have run a 100K race in under 16 hours or finished a 100 mile race. In order to qualify for all the 100 mile races that I’ve seen, you need to have already finished an ultra before that, one of perhaps 50K, 50 miles, etc. and even some of those races require the completion of an ultra like the Superior 50 and 100 Mile Trail Race.

Today I signed up for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Miler. At around the same time last year, I signed up for the TC Marathon likewise on a whim, but only gave myself 5 weeks to prepare for it (the recommended training period is 3-4 months if you already have a base). Somehow it turned out alright. I ran a couple weeks of 30 miles and the the rest were in the 20s or teens. In retrospect, I did an awful job of preparing myself for the race, but admittedly I was in denial until the realization hit me the night before, and I had no idea how painful it would be! I thought I could just kind of cruise along and finish, which sort of happened, but the last three miles were probably the most painful 36 minutes of my life! Myself and two other guys were hitting even 7:40/45 splits for the first 22 miles, and then all of a sudden I was heaving and balling (internally), stumbling, and madly trying to keep myself from tipping over. Yeah.

There are 90 days until this race goes down, three solid months to train, to learn what I can eat that won’t induce vomiting or diarrhea while running, and to log some serious miles. I have a fairly good base at the moment and an ample amount of excitement to get my feet wet in the world of ultrarunning. I’ll keep writing as the weeks go on!


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