NOTE: June 2020
This was a really fun day out. I enjoyed the route and running on trails where I spent many runs training and learning the routes of Santiago. I love how I noted what kit I was wearing and how important that seemed at the time (especially in contrast to how little I care about what I was wearing 8 years ago when I read it now). I also recall that the route was almost 6km long and that I felt every one of those kilometres after my watch ticked passed 50km... For a while after this I didn't show the distance on my watch screen during long races so I wouldn't face that frustration again!
This weekend I ran The North Face Endurance Challenge event. This race that is organised by The North Face has been held in Chile for a number of years, however, it only became part of the Endurance Challenge series of races in 2012. I started the 80km race in 2011, which was called the Ulramaraton de Los Andes, but did not finish due to injury. This year I ran the 50km.
|RunningChile team before the start.|
It was a beautiful morning on Saturday and as the race started at 8 o'clock it was already light and looked like it would be a hot day. The start line was at Hacienda Santa Martina which is a magnificently located club in the mountains with fantastic single track for a few kilometers surrounding the start and finish area. I started the race in my RunningChile t-shirt and a pair of shorts as I thought that would be warm enough for the race (I still threw a wind jacket into my UltrAspire pack just in case) and for the greater part of the day it was.
|Ready to go!|
I didn't start at the front of the race as I have become accustomed to the ridiculously fast starts here that have put me off my pacing strategy in the past. I rolled out of Santa Martina and not surprisingly caught up to most of the fast starters on the first climb. I was feeling fresh and strong after a good taper week and the early pace was exactly where I wanted to be. I held my position in the top ten and enjoyed the awesome trails that surround the club.
|River crossing in the Santa Martina area.|
|Beautiful single track from early in the day.|
There were great undulating climbs and the trails led us through a few small river crossings, weaving amongst the trees and over the smaller hills. We also followed a course that led us off the usual trails and cut through some natural areas that I would not normally run on as there was not evident trail to follow. The first 15km of the race followed this pattern and I managed to settle into a rhythm, move up a few places and begin my nutrition strategy for the race.
|Feeling strong and running well at 15km,|
The next part of the course took us the climb of Huinganal, a small hill that's easily accessible from La Dehesa. I've run this climb before with the RunningChile team and it is a perfect gradient to run as it is not too steep. At this point the field that was quite close around me started to seperate and I felt that I was making progress and moving forward amongst my competitors. I was still feeling strong and enjoying the trails as we climbed and then descended to the lowest point of the race and the beginning of a long and persistent climb.
In my mind we were in the back section of the race, somewhere furthest away from the start and finish, and the trail had become a dirt road that winds along the contour of the mountains and gradually climbs for what seems like forever. I thought that this part of the course was quite ugly and it was certainly not technical or challenging footing as it is just a service road and not a trail. The climb was long with varying gradient that took us from 23km to about 42km - that's a lot of climbing! I maintained quite a good rhythm through this section, catching up a few places and running in my best position of the day which was with the eventual 3rd and 4th place finishers.
Unfortunately towards the end of the climb I started to feel the mileage building up in my legs and dropped off the pace of 3rd and 4th place and settled into the position that I would maintain until the finish. I was within sight of those two places on the later part of the climb but as I turned around a corner on the service road at 42km I could not see them ahead of me anymore. It was strange as there were a good 5 or 6 runners from the 80km race on the road ahead of me (the 80km race started at 4am and our race was timed so that we would finish at roughly the same time), but nowhere could I see the two runners I was looking for. I resigned myself to the fact that I must be dropping off the pace much faster than I thought.
However, as I turned the next bend a marshal told me that I would be taking the trail to the left as I was in the 50km race. So that was where my competitors had gone; I felt a momentary sense of relief that I hadn't slowed too much. It was momentary because I looked to the trail on the left, which was not really a trail, but rather a massive climb that seemed like a wall of mountain to summit. It probably wasn't as tough as it looked, but it was very demoralising to see such a huge climb after running 43km. I fought my way up the climb, my pace dropping as low as 3km/hr at some points due to the steepness, and kept plugging away to get to the finish. As I approached the top there was a magnificent view of the valley below and Hacienda Santa Martina was visible in the distance.
|Back into the Santa Martina area as we approached the finish.|
|Each distance had a different colour tape - blue for 50km.|
On the descent I ran a steady pace, much stronger than I had done just a month ago on the K42 descent, and enjoyed using some different muscles to the ones that were hurting on the long climb. The descent was steep and long, but I was feeling quite good and with my GPS I started counting down the distance to the finish. It's always a great feeling to know how much time is left and as I had already run for about five and half hours the final 20mins to 30mins seemed manageable. That was when I ran into the final aid station, my Garmin reading 49km, and I was planning to push and run the last 5mins hard. However, another suprise awaited me as the aid station volunteer informed me that there 6km to the finish (6km!!). This was a second low point after seeing the wall of a climb at 43km, but it was close enough to the end that I didn't lose too much focus.
|Only a few more kilometers to the finish.|
In that final section of the race I hoped not to be caught and tried to maintain my pace all the way to the finish. In the future I want to be running hard and chasing down positions at that point in a race, but it was not to be on Saturday. I didn't lose any places and it was great to finish up the race and see V and hearing her and Patrick shouting me in. I finished in 6hr33min in 5th place overall and 2nd place in my age group. A good result and fair reflection of the work I put in since the K42.
|Very happy to be finishing for the day.|
At the end of the day I was happy with my performance as I ran to the level of fitness and strength I currently have. That needs to improve (as always), but I couldn't have asked for any more on the day. It was also great to run a little with Max, who is getting stronger with each race, and Canuto, who has put down some amazing performances in big events this year. Finally I settled down, with very sore legs, and cheered in the rest of my RunningChile team mates. It was a great day.
|An interview in Spanish is not so easy after running for 6hrs!|
|The course profile: a long climb from 15km that ends steeply at 43km.|