Sunday, December 6, 2009
North Face Endurance Challenge; Last – and best - race of the year
Being married, like ultra-running has its is challenges. Being married for 25 years… Well, let’s just go straight to an ultra-running cliché – there are highs and lows.
This past weekend I had one of those highs – being able to have the honor and privilege of running with my wife Adrienne in the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Championships in the Marin Headlands.
But first a little history… My return to ultra-running after 25 years can partly be attributed to marital tension and strife. It started a little over a year ago with the spousal nags. “Aren’t you ashamed of that spare tire around your waist? You wouldn’t be out of breath buckling your ski boots if you exercised occasionally! You used to be so much more attractive when you were fit!! Please don’t take your shirt off!!! Perhaps if you did something besides work you wouldn’t be such a grouch!!!!” So on September 6th, 2008 - I declared - “Enough!” I started running again.
Since then some cool stuff has happened. The spare tire disappeared. I can buckle my ski boots with ease. Shirts come off in the summer. I’m much more pleasant to be with. And, I have the pleasure of spending time with Adrienne running.
Over the past year we’ve done a lot of running and races together. The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 mile in New York. Jared Campbell’s Pocatello 50, Goblin Valley 50K, Moab Extreme XC 50K and the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco. Together we’ve had fun – and along the way we both have been getting faster.
So for our final race of the year, I asked Adrienne if I could pace her in an effort to place in the women’s masters’ category. Few people know this, but pre Jay, Adrienne was an accomplished marathoner winning in Las Vegas and placing in Athens (Greece – not Georgia) and Phoenix. Beneath the veneer of running for health, pleasure and socializing – there is a competitive Adrienne.
As the starting time approached, spousal differences began to surface. I like to get to a race 30 minutes before the start. Adrienne likes to arrive 5 minutes early. I’m all about a hearty breakfast. Adrienne has a sensitive stomach. I like to run light. If there is something she might need, she likes to carry it. I LOVE my Armani running shirts. Adrienne thinks I look like an idiot. I say go out fast and hang on. She likes to go out slow and bring it on. My philosophy is that the pacer is in charge. She thinks the one being paced is in charge. The beginning of a 50K, when you will be spending the next six hours together, is not the time or place for disagreements of this import and significance!
At the sound off the horn we were off. Each of us trying to show our point of view was correct; the pride behind our beliefs driving us along at a blistering pace. Aid station #1 at 4 miles – 32 minutes. Aid Station #2 at 8.2 miles – 1:08. Who was going to be the first to suggest we slow down and follow our plan to run 11:30 miles that would give us a sub six hour finish and a good shot at being the top women’s master?
As we brought down the pace and reconciled our differences, we shared the agreement that the Marin Headlands are a magical place to run; sweeping ocean vistas, lush forest with redwoods and ferns, flora and smells that are new to us. As we got into a steady pace we enjoyed each other’s company and celebrated how fortunate we are to be together - and running together.
At Aid Station #4 at 19.1 miles we started down the backside of the curve of euphoria and optimism that occurs early in a race. Adrienne began to feel the effects of having gone out too fast. My right leg, which has been troubling me for the past several months, began to go numb. It would take both of us working together to finish this race with dignity in the time that we had planned
I was impressed at how strong Adrienne was on the down hills. She would drop me and pass a number of people on each descent. I would slowly catch-up with her on the ascents and pull her up to the top before she would drop me again on the next downhill. We were a good team. With three miles to go we crested the last hill and knew that a first place Masters finish was hers if we could maintain our pace. She surged towards the finish as I dug deep to keep my right leg, which somewhere around mile 20 I had named ‘Pete, the peg-legged pirate’ turning. No way in hell was she going to drop me. Marital AND male pride was now on the line!
We finished in 5:50 with Adrienne taking first place in the Masters category and fifth overall. Adrienne bettered her time from the previous year by 1:10! Even peg-legged Pete beat his time from last year by 15 minutes. Our good running friend (and relative) Debra Scott, scooted along for an impressive 8:12 and her daughter Isabel, finished first in her age in the 10K component. A great day for all.
As Adrienne and I celebrated the race and the day – we acknowledged that we are a mighty fine team – both on the course and in life. Congratulations Adrienne on running a great race. And thank you Adrienne for being such a wonderful companion – both on the trail and in life….