Sunday, November 18, 2012

North Face Endurance Challenge 10K

North Face Endurance Challenge 10K
Michael & me after the North Face Endurance Challenge
in front of Nelson-Atkins Museum & two giant shuttlecocks
Saturday, November 17, 2012 
Kansas City, Missouri

Official Time: 40:29* Current PR
Average Pace: 6:32*
Finish: Overall 4th/434*
             36-45 AG 1st/33*
Average HR: 179 bpm
Weight: 180
Calories Burned: 862
Elevation Gain: 250 ft
Total Distance Ran: 6.95 miles
Temperature: 42 degrees
Wind: 8 SSE
Humidity: 58%
Comments: Ran probably my best race of the year, but several runners - including me - ran off course and didn't get an official time. Pretty frustrating. *Times and finishes are adjusted per my Garmin - THESE are my official results.

Not Again!!!
I'm ready for my 2012 running year to be over ... and soon!  Because it happened again yesterday.  I ran off course in yet another race and disqualified myself from potentially 3rd place overall - which would have been my first ever top three finish in a race.  As I write this post a day later, I've finally calmed down about it a little.  But I can tell you I was pretty unhappy with North Face yesterday.  Just like last weekend at Marshall where I veered off course at the end when no one was around to point out the course, I missed the final turn yesterday and ended up running 6.95 miles in a 10K because North Face didn't have anyone at the 10K split directing traffic.  I wasn't the only one.  As I griped to one of the "race directors" after the race, about 10-15 other runners gathered around to do the same.  So basically what would have been a solid 4th place, and potentially 3rd place finish overall, was ruined by North Face's poor race management.

Pre-Race Mindset
Michael and I headed out at about 6am for the North Face race starting line, near the Country Club Plaza area in downtown Kansas City.  Local races are so awesome since there's no hotel, packing/unpacking, and unfamiliar environments to deal with.  This race was only about a 20 minute drive from our house, which was nice for a change.

2012 North Face Endurance Challenge 10K Finisher Medal
I decided earlier in the week that I honestly didn't care how fast I ran this race.  My legs felt great after the Marshall Marathon only 6 days prior, but I knew that the race had used quite a bit of glycogen stores that take a while to build back up.  Plus, my right groin had been bothering me a little so I had been to an A.R.T. appointment earlier in the week, which really seemed to help.  The main objective for this race was to run it strong & fast ... but above all, come out of it healthy!  The results really didn't matter that much to me ... but I thought if I ran well, I could probably finish in the top three of  my age group.  I just wanted to relax and run well.

I had only ran two other 10K's prior to this one, and to be honest, I hadn't really figured out the whole 10K pacing thing yet.  It's a completely different race than the 5K or half-marathon.  The 5K is basically a controlled sprint, while the half-marathon allows your body a little more time to warm up, adjust, and then finish strong.  So far, it seemed like the 10K was something in between those two, and I really hadn't ran either of the first races with much of an idea of what I was doing.  I felt like if I planned it a little better, the 10K distance was something I could probably excel at, but to this point I really hadn't put it together.

So with a completely relaxed state of mind, and a very blase attitude about this one, Michael and I got the ol' World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party happenin' and then headed out.  On a side note, it was so weird ... we had decided on a "Kung Fu Fighting" theme, but Michael thought I said "Throw one finger in the air, while using the other two like pair of scissors near my junk, all while falling backwards" theme?  I'm married to an interesting woman.

The Race
Overall, despite the embarrassing and completely unacceptable display of poor race management at the end, The North Face Endurance Challenge is a good event.  It's held in various cities around the country, with a variety of different races to chose from.  I would encourage everyone to take time to run one of these race.

For the last two years in Kansas City, Dean Karnazes has been on hand to both MC and run one of the distances.  On Saturday, I actually passed him on the way to warm up for my 10K.  He just kinda came out of nowhere, and I said, "Oh, hey Dean!"  He said hello and then patted me on the arm and said, "Good luck today!"  Can you believe it ... Dean Karnazes touched my arm!!!  Yes that's sarcasm ... but I'm really not a Karnazes hater, which seems to be the popular thing to do lately.  I think he's done great things for our sport and brought a lot of wonderful awareness to getting our youth active and healthy.  He seems like a good guy.

Cool race shirt with map of my home State, Missouri on the chest!
I think part of my problem in 5K's and 10K's is I just don't get "hot" enough before the race.  I just wasn't getting up to top speed early enough in the shorter races, at a manageable heart rate level.  That being said ... I also felt like I've kept way too close of an eye on the heart rate monitor while running.  Watching my heart rate rise so rapidly had kind of freaked me out a little and I think I subconsciously throttled down when it began to clime.  So for this race, I decided to warm up a little more - hopefully building mid-race perspiration prior to the gun.  And also, I made up mind to not look at the heart rate level on my Garmin during the run.  I just wanted to run a little more by feel.  I mean it's a short, fast race - so of course my heart rate was gonna be elevated a little.  I just didn't want to focus on it.

Warm Up
It was a little chilly at 6:45am - about 40 degrees, with a "feels like temp" of 34 degrees.  Michael huddled around one of the butane fire's they had going in the center of the festival area, and I started my warm ups.  I mixed stretching and running for about 20 minutes, and added some strides and light plyo before running right up to the starting line with my heart rate still elevated.  I had timed it just right, and I felt like I could really "hit the ground running" at the sound of the gun.

Mile 1
The gun went off and I started fairly fast for me - about 6:15-6:30/mile pace as I, and a few other runners quickly separated ourselves from the rest of the pack.  As we headed up the first 100 ft incline, about a half-mile in, I relaxed my pace to about 7:00/mile.  Three runners in the front had moved about 100 yards ahead, and another kid, about 20 years old, had just passed me on the left.  At that point I was in 5th place.  The first hill was immediately followed by another fairly steep, but very short incline.  But even with the two climbs, I ran the first mile at a very comfortable 6:59.

Mile 2
The second mile took us North, back toward the Country Club Plaza area, and was almost all downhill.  I glanced behind me and noticed that hills on the first mile had created a little separation.  It seemed like there were about 5 or 6 other runners about 200 yards behind me, but I didn't really waste a lot of time focusing on them.  I had my sights set on picking off the young runner who had passed me for fourth place.  I kept him in range, but he extended his largest lead to about 150 yards at this point.  Also, at mile 2, we really started mixing in with all the half-marathoners who had started only about 5 minutes before us.  In the front of the 10K pack, we were beginning to mesh with the back of the half-marathon pack and it was getting really congested.  Mile 2 was 6:31.
World Famous Pre-Race Dance before my 10K and Michael's half-marathon

Mile 3
Most of the third mile was spent in and around the Country Club Plaza.  It was about the only flat stretch of the race.  The Kansas City Police Department did an awesome job of holding traffic for us, and passing automobiles were never an issue.  But the streets were really starting to swell with half-marathon traffic.  For most of the next two miles, I was dodging in an out of runners who were around a 11-12/mile pace ... all while trying to maintain my own 6:30ish pace and focus on the young runner who was still about 150 yards ahead of me.  With all of the other runners mixed in, I kept losing sight of him, but then he would reappear briefly.  I ran Mile 3 at 6:42, backing off a little to regroup for the two mile climb ahead.

Mile 4
The toughest part of the race was the 150 ft climb over miles 4 and 5, before getting a couple of long down hill stretches to the finish line.  As the crowd grew even larger than before, I noticed that I was gaining ground on the 20 year old runner in front of me still in 4th place.  I hadn't taken time to look over my shoulder in a while, but I knew that there was most likely no one close enough behind me to worry about.  As I watched the younger runner's form, I noticed his shoulders were really starting to hunch over.  He really seemed to be struggling.  I was too a bit, but I kept focused and shortening the distance between us.  Even with the 100% uphill climb, with no downhill stretch of Mile 4, I still managed a 6:49 pace.

Mile 5
This is when a perfectly good race was ruined by the North Face staff.  I had been steadily gaining on the younger runner in front of me for about 4 miles ... and during Mile 5, I passed him.  But I didn't just pass him, I blew by him.  He was so surprised to see this old man fly by him on his left that he about broke his neck turning to look as I passed him.  It was kinda funny.  I talked to the kid after the race and he said he was hurting at that point.  I was now in 4th place, and really starting to pick up speed.  I had managed the race well at that point.  My legs felt strong, and I knew I probably had a sub 6:00 in me for the final mile, which was mostly down hill.

Michael warming up at one of the fires provided
Unfortunately my great day came to a crashing hault a mile 4.5.  Not because of anything I did.  It wasn't injury or poor race planning ... no, my legs felt great and I had ran a really smart race.  But rather, it was because at this point, the 10K runners were supposed to break off from the half-marathoners and head back toward the finish line.  The course had been marked with spray paint here and there, apparently with "red" indicating the course for the 10K runners.  Problem ... I'm color blind and couldn't really see the red paint very well.  Also, we were all running on the extreme left side of the street.  There was evidently a small sign on the other side of the street  noting the turn ... a lot of 10K runners missed it.  What there wasn't ... was a North Face person or a volunteer at that turn directing traffic.  Since I was now in 4th place, with the 3 lead runners out of immediate sight ... I blew right by it.

I was really picking up speed and my pace had grown to almost 5K pace.  I approached a left turn with all of the half-marathoners about a block past the right turn.  I thought to myself, "I don't remember a left hand turn this late in the race", but I kept running hard.  After about another half mile, I looked back over my shoulder and the younger runner, now in 5th place, was nowhere to be found.  I came to an intersection that had some of the multi-colored spray-painted arrows where I stopped for a few seconds before asking one of the passing runners if any of them were red.  She said, "No, they're yellow, white, and blue!"  Crap ... it was confirmed ... I had ran off course for the second time in 6 days.  With over 40 races under my belt in the past three years alone, I had never strayed off course.  But I had done it in consecutive races within 6 days of each other.  I WAS PISSSSSSSSSSSSED!!!

I knew my race was over, so I pouted for a minute or two and gradually got back up to speed - but I had lost my focus, and my determination to keep a good pace.  I had been gaining ground in the race and had 4th place locked up ... there was no way that kid was catching me - he told me so after the race.  I might have even had a shot at third, although that would have been a stretch - but who knows.  Even after stopping for about 10-15 seconds and then not speeding back up, I still ran Mile 5 at a 6:43 pace - but before I stopped and slowed way down, I was at about 6:10 for an average.

Mile 6
As I made my way back toward the place where we should have turned, I passed about 5 or 6 10K runners who had made the same mistake.  When they saw me coming, they turned around and followed me back to the turn.  And at the turn, I saw a couple of other runners almost run right by like I did.  I waived one of them down and he followed me - but there were many others who had missed it as well.  It was just completely unacceptable to not have someone standing there helping out at the turn.

Once I got back to where Mile 6 should have began, I realized I had ran about an extra mile.  I was fuming, and cursing, and thinking about exactly what I was going to say to a race director when I found them.  Although I wasn't running that fast and I had slowed down, I decided to pick the pace back up and stop my Garmin at 6.2 miles, hoping it would provide proof that I finished in 4th place.  I didn't run nearly as hard as I had been, but I pressed it a little until I hit 6.2 ... which about a mile from the finish line.  I ran Mile 6 at a 6:16 pace, which could have been quite a bit below 6:00/mile if I was still racing.  But my Garmin read 40:10!  This is really when my blood began to boil!

$25 Water bottle pack for 1st in 36-45 Age Group
On a day when I hadn't really planned on running terribly hard, I had probably ran my best race of the year.  I had smashed my previous PR by 2-1/2 minutes!   And I had locked up 4th place ... and might have had a shot at third.  BUT  BECAUSE  OF  NORTH FACE'S  POOR RACE MANAGEMENT ...  NO  ONE  WOULD  EVER  FRIGGING  KNOW!!!  After later analyzing the data from my Garmin, I determined that I would have easily been at 40:29 ... a 6:32/pace ... but most likely faster!!! I mean I freaking stopped in the middle of Mile 5 and really didn't push Mile 6.  As I neared the finish line ... I couldn't wait to get a piece of someone.

Post Race
When I crossed the finish line, I didn't even pick up my medal.  I found a young lady wearing headset with a walkie-talkie and asked her if she was the race director.  She said she was, and I began calmly while still panting trying to explain to her what had happened.  At first she kind of blew me off, which made me only reexplain my point to her with a little more animation.  The second time must have clicked, because she told  me to wait just a minute as she began repeating what i had told her to someone on the other end of her microphone.  I walked down toward the end of the finisher corral, grabbed a water, my medal and headed back toward her - about 50 yards away.  By then, there was a already a crowd of about 10-15 runners around  her from both the 5K and 10K races complaining about the same thing.  It was a pretty tense situation, but to her credit, she and another young lady handled it fairly well.

When it came my turn to plead my case I told them that I was in 4th and gaining on 3rd place.  I explained that I didn't care about an award or anything, but I wanted my time adjusted to match my Garmin so it was reflected in the final standings.  They told me they didn't think they could do that and offered a voucher for next year's race.  Keep in mind this was still only about 4-5 minutes after the race.  My heart rate was still elevated and I was really pissed that my best race of the year had been stolen from me.  Their finish order showed that I had finished in 24th place or something ... BUT I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE 4th!!!

After they told me that they couldn't adjust the time, I got a little hot.  I didn't raise my voice or swear or anything silly like that - but I explained in no uncertain terms exactly what their company did wrong and why the group of growing runners around them were angry.  While the young ladies were handling it the best they could, they definitely had an air of  "lack of concern" with the point of the matter.  Oh not for themselves mind you - I mean I'm sure they wanted to be anywhere but there right then.  But an overall apathetic attitude toward the situation.  We all kind of got a patronizing "We're terribly sorry ... but there's nothing we can do about it ... thanks for running!"  And that just wasn't good enough.  We had paid money to run this race.  Some had trained specifically for this race.  And because North Face's inability to manage a race effectively, several runner's races were ruined.

At the finish line of the North Face Endurance Challenge 10K
At this point I told them that if they couldn't change the standings, then I wanted my age group award - which earlier I had been willing to forgo if they changed my time.  I told them that everyone who finished in front of me was 20 years younger and I wanted what was mine.  Kind of childish I understand - but hey, I was the fastest old man yesterday!  One of the girls kindly walked me over to the award tent - apologizing the whole time - and gave me a "prize pack" which had some Gu packets and a $25 North Face hand-held water bottle.  So hey, at least I got a cool prize out of it.  After the race I also talked to the kid I passed toward the end.  He told me he finished 4th and almost missed the turn too, but at the last minute he saw it.  He said he yelled at me, but I didn't hear him.  We both knew that I beat him on Saturday ... neither one of us needed to say it, he knew - ha.

When Michael and I got home, I was still pretty ticked and began firing off emails to the race directors.  Granted, it's a weekend, but it's almost 48 hours later and I haven't heard anything from them.  They owe me free admission into next year's race and I intend to get it.

As I thought about it later, I felt a little silly about getting so upset about a stupid race.  I mean I'm watching on TV as Gaza bombs Israel, and I think, "Wow, the biggest problem in my world is some 10K course".  It kinda puts things in perspective.  It's just the older I get, the good races seem to be fewer and farther between.  But even with the catastrophe at the end, this was still probably my best run of the year.  I was relaxed and really ran well.  I just would have liked to find out how the final mile would have unfolded.  I was really picking up speed and had a strong finish in me.  Even though the official results for this race will show me in 24th place or something, with a 47 minute finishing time - I'm counting this one as my PR!  My PR will now read 40:29 at the 2012 North Face Endurance Challenge.  Maybe it's not legit ... who knows. But screw you North Face ... because of you we'll never know! Ha!  I'm sure I can do a 10K faster than this one, but for now it was the pretty good run  ... that wasn't!  Hope your weekend went better than mine - ha!
... be great today!


  1. I'd be annoyed too. The only thing is that I'd never actually get into that situation because I'm so far behind that I'm surrounded by people so we'd all have to get lost. It really wouldn't have taken them much (except a little foresight) to put a marshall on that turn. I hope your next race is much more happy.

  2. Ugh! Sorry to hear. One time my friend and I were late to a trail run, so it had started a few minutes before so they sent us out in the woods and said just follow the trail, we didn't come upon anyone for a while and all the sudden everyone was coming towards us, they had changed the cones at the beginning and we were going backwards.

  3. Wow, I would have been PO'd too. Nonetheless, smart racing and great job smoking those young dudes! Don't worry--you'll get that official PR too.

  4. Totally annoying. I got lost in a race once and followed the other leaders. (a walking race where I was in the lead). Ended up almost last instead because the GUY WHO WAS STANDING THERE - didn't tell all of us we were going the wrong way. So it doesn't always matter if there is someone there.
    Emily - my daughter missed a turn today - but all the racers agreed she won the race and they took her Garmin time.

  5. Dude That sucks. Though it's not on paper, like you said, you all knew you beat that guy. I guess that's all that matters.

  6. Sorry about the mishap but you ran a great race and time, well done! I'm glad I'm a slow back of the pack runner. I probably won't notice things like this. You had a good 2012. You can feel very happy with your running even if you missed some goals. 2013 is waiting!

  7. Wow, you destroyed that race Jim! I agree, this seems like your best race of 2012. You definitely have sub 40 in you. Real bummer about the course mishap, seems like they should have had a person at the 10K turnoff. Any turnoffs in a race need to have a volunteer at the spot.


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