Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 The North Face 50 mile Championships

In her typical reticent and luddite fashion Bethany has resisted writing a race report, again placing me in the odd position of being the sole author of a blog titled with her namesake blabbing about running performances much less deserving of online broadcasting.  This has never seemed to inhibit me before however.

Bethany placed 9th overall in the elite womens' field in 7:20.   I believe her placement was even higher among the field of Elite Women Mothers.  I paced her for the last half of the run.  It was an interesting experience seeing the front end of a competitive female field.   As far as I can tell, this unique microcosm is marked by fierce intensity and complete absence of any form of verbal exchange or eye-contact, even in the face of repeated invitations.  It was also interesting to pace Bethany.  I've paced some bad-ass runners this year, including Jared Campbell at Hardrock and Matt Hart at the Bear and I've been struck in both of these circumstances by the peculiar suggestibility characterized by the exhausted and depleted mind.  In the later stages of Hardrock I would make a soft suggestion to Jared that "why don't we run a little here" and he would emit a low moan and lurch forward in a automatic and reflexive, if delirious, trot- this despite no clear immediate gain to be had in doing so.  I was thus surprised when this tactic appeared to fail me repeatedly in the last half of TNF 50 with Bethany, apparently now an immovable object.  This struck me as eerily similar to the response she sometimes has to other helpful 'suggestions' I periodically offer around the home.  

"Why don't we run a little bit here," I would say as the uphill mellowed to a runnable grade.  No response.  Glancing over there was only clenching of her jaw and periodic involuntary and paralyzing lower extremity cramps.  Despite this, she continued to remain a nice and gentle person throughout- another notable accomplishment.

Equally astounding was Gary Gellin's stellar 9th place finish in the deeply competitive men's field.  Gary is an intense dude.  He would fly through aid stations like a wolverine, spewing used bottles a good 30 feet away from the ferocious blur of his small body.  As if this feat of stamina were not enough he was then able to scamper about apparently unaffected in the rain and muck for hours after the race socializing and generally mixing it up.    

This race gets a fair amount of hype, pays out 10,000 dolla bills  to the winners, and has developed into an internationally competitive event.  Given this context, watching the event unfold was quite surprising.  Granted, last minute course changes due to extreme weather made for a difficult situation and likely trimmed the number of available volunteers.  And certainly, there are organizational challenges involved in running what appeared to be 30 sponsored races simultaneously (clearly raising the question as to whether this ambition makes sense in the first place given the caliber of the 50 mile field.)  But the lack of intelligible course markings and direction was astounding and was directly responsible for a good deal of carnage up front.  See discussions on iRunFar in this regard.  Watching the front runners speed through the first aid station at Tennessee Valley I saw several of the elite competitors ask for their drop bag only to have someone gesture over to a completely disorganized pile of bags sitting outside in the rain and mud, as though it would have been a reasonable thing at that point for the front runner to spend a good 5-10 minutes rooting around in the muck through hundreds of identical appearing drop bags to find their Gu Chomps.  (In fact, Bethany never found her drop bag here.)  

Below are some photos from the weekend, several courtesy of Brett Rivers as well as The Weather Channel.   Thanks to Victor Ballesteros for the hospitality and the eminently functional and aesthetic Victory Bags.  And thanks to Gary and Holly for picking us up and transporting us around.  

 Victory Bag!    4am morning of at Victor's home.

Coffee time.
Courtesy of iRunFar Twitter feed and The Weather Channel, respectively.

Courtesy of Brett Rivers' Facebook album.
Courtesy of Brett Rivers' Facebook Album.

Post Race Festivities: Bethany, Me, Victor, Gary, Holly.


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  2. Thank you for an excellent synthesis of that exciting day. I am sure that Bethany was first overall Mom and first overall MD!