Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile (well, really 46.4 miles)

This past weekend in a sloppy swamp in San Francisco....a 50 mile race took place. Well, it turned out to be more like 46.4 miles, depending on which loop you decided to do in which order. Team Colorado was represented by Alex Nichols, Justin Ricks and Rickey Gates.

Little do they know what they are getting themselves into - the elite field of the 2012 TNF 50     photo: Candice Burt

Alex's muddy little legs--at least he's showing the competition a clean pair of Inov-8's!             photo: Bethany Garner

After incessant rains led the California State Parks division to nix the original course a day before the race took place, the race directors had to modify the course...or better yet, improvise. There is that doozie of a climb, Cardiac Hill, that they had to remove. Stinson Beach--they removed that section. The beautiful out-and-back on the Coastal Trail is a staple of the race, it got the ax. But there is that area North of Muir Beach that the course runs on...oh, but wait, that was removed, too. Is there anything left to race on, you ask? Well, there is this 23 mile loop we can try...

So, basically the runners had to do two 23 mile loops which contained loops within that 23 miles and overlapping of the course in some sections that caused a lot of the men's elite field to "make up" the laps they missed later in the the race...and the course marshals were fine with it! (On a site note: iRunFar's live coverage stated that the women's elite field did not get lost because they "stopped to ask for directions". Pretty typical of the males!)

Here is Rickey Gates refueling after swimming through this river        photo: iRunFar

It would have been an entertaining race to watch, wouldn't it have? Well, not to some people following iRunFar's live streaming online. Some might have called it chaotic. I likened it to watching an episode of the Benny Hill Show--very entertaining, because "5th" place Miguel Heras was 21 minutes behind "leader" Sage Canaday at 32.3, when in reality, Heras thought he was leading and ACTUALLY was leading. Then Timmy Parr came into the aid station behind Alex Nichols, who was in 15th at the time (not sure if that was 15th or "15th"), thinking he was was in 15th-20th, only to be told he was in "3rd". SCORE FOR TIMMY!!! Probably the best news he has heard all day!

Alex is staying on course...me must have asked for directions                   photo: Brett Rivers

I would compare the updates of runners coming through the aid stations like the PowerBall drawings where all those ping pong balls that fall from that large funnel into that big mixing machine get ejected into a spiral track revealing random numbers. Here comes 5, then 1, next 15. There are probably better odds playing craps! A comment from Brett on the iRunFar live feed stated, "They should just have a lottery at the end, throw the top 20 finishers' names into it, and randomly draw for the win and prizes." 


Justin Ricks running down the creek                     photo: Brett Rivers 

Then we are alerted that Team Colorado's Rickey Gates drops out at 4 hours. A few minutes later he tweets Exhaustion, what feels like blood issues and way too many wrong turns for me at#TNF50 has me dropped at mile 25ish." OK, so we are hearing from the athletes at this point. Next we hear that when Heras asked what place he was in, the response might have been you are first, third, or fifth." Ha! I bet that wasn't funny to him at 36.3 miles.

Hilarity ensues.

We get word that Justin Ricks has come through an aid station and stops what appears to be a bottle of mud...what aid station?...it doesn't matter what aid station, no one was keeping track anymore, they are just going to look at everyone's GPS and determine if they are run adequate distance. It is also reported that Sage was 1st, 5th and disqualified all at the same time.

OK, maybe not mud, maybe it is a Anchor Steam Porter!         photo: Bethany Garner

A tweet on iRunFar informs us that "At mile 42 3rd-9th(ish): Clayton, d'Haene, M Wolfe, Bowman, Martin, Cort & Vollet between 12-20 minutes behind Heras." No Sage? No Alex? Maybe iRunFar should have put a disclaimer up on their life coverage that stated, "this is not actually what is happening, it's just an estimate." Then we hear from someone at the final aid station announcing Alex has moved his way up into 5th place. Not sure if it was a real 5th or a fake "5th".

There are some Ron Burgundy jokes, Sage getting re-lost on his make up laps, suggestions for a penalty box like they have in triathlon. Up comes a picture of Heras coming across the line 1st, with what looks like a scowl towards the race directors on his face, and 3rd place is put before 2nd place for a short while until that is straightened out. And, just to prove that he officially won, a photo of Heras' GPS to confirm that he ran 46.4 miles. I guess that looking at someone's watch when $10,000 is on the line is adequate enough proof.

Even his watch speaks a different language! Can it say "dinero"?             photo: iRunFar

After leading at 28 miles in the 2011 TNF 50 and spraining both ankles forcing him to drop out (and it was a dry day!), Alex Nichols comes across the line to take 5th place in a time of 5 hrs. 55 min. 25 sec. behind 2nd place François d'Haene (actually pronounced "från-swaHHH", who knew?), "3rd" place Cameron Clayton (who registered only "one" split out of 5 during the entire race) and 4th place Adam Campbell.

Alex crossing the mud line in 5th, looking like a wet puppy!           photo: Brett Rivers

Justin Ricks finishes in very respectable 18th place, only 25 minutes back of Alex, with a time of 6:24:16; which proves the competitive depth of this 2012 TNF 50 field, regardless of if they stayed on or went off course.

No, it's not poop on his legs, it's just mud - Justin comes across the line after a wet and muddy race    photo:Brett Rivers

So, now the question is: How can you not disqualify someone if they did not stay on the appropriate course? Track & Field would be a disaster if someone was allowed to run a counterclockwise lap without being disqualified! 

Alex noticed that a few of those runners who went off course and attempted to make up by adding that section in later, completely missed a climb, therefore, running less distance than him. Alex's GPS read 46.94 miles, half a mile longer than the winner, who is assumed to have stayed on course. Would Alex have finished 3rd if those runners that didn't run the entire course were disqualified? Would Justin have possibly moved up to 10th place?? We'll sit down and ask them about it. Stay tuned...

Mmmmmm, chocolate! Rickey Gates fondues his feet after a tough day.    photo: Rickey Gates

Thanks to iRunFar for the race entertainment...uhhh, coverage. We know it's not your fault, but thanks for making us laugh anyway. Kudos for trying to broadcast chaos!

TNF 50 Results

On the same day in warm and sunny Colorado Springs, Simon Gutierrez runs the antithesis of TNF 50, winning the Nielson Challenge 2 mile in 10:20. Smart move, Gute!


  1. Was definitely entertaining...and confusing to follow online. Congrats to Alex & Justin for representing well!

  2. If you have dyslexia and dementia at the same time...it was extremely easy to follow.