The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k is three days away.  This is my first Ultra-marathon distance race and my nerves have just set in.  Well, it is technically an Ultra however, I think most hardcore Ultra runners would consider a 50k a warm up, or like I like to call it; a baby Ultra.  My lovely wife refers to my Ultra debut as the gateway drug into the 50 or 100 mile Ultra marathon world. Those guys are the real badasses.  Regardless of what you call it, in the last few months of training I have developed a newfound respect for those dirty, unshaven ultra guys and gals. Those barbarians are NUTS!

So, you might be wondering why anyone would embark on such a silly endeavor.  And to that I ask – Have you ever been on the trails of Marin County? It is a truly beautiful and magical place. The rocky singletrack, rutted fire roads, hidden mossy rainforest and challenging elevation variance make it all worthwhile. And when you reach the summit you are rewarded with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. It is incredible that such a serene place can be found just minutes away from such a busy city.

I have always been into trail running, mostly because we had some amazing trails right out our front door when we lived in Colorado. I would use those runs for easy, low impact training days and would do an average of 8 to 10 miles before heading back home.  I loved my time out on the trails but it wasn’t until I paced a friend through the Leadville 100 that I began to wonder if an Ultra was in my future.  When we moved to San Francisco and I found the Marin Headlands and a great community of crazy trail runners who were very welcoming, even to a triathlete/road runner like myself.  Without judgement; well… maybe just a few jabs, they welcomed me into the fold and began showing me the trails.

“Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.”

In preparation for this 50k I have put in some long miles on those trails. I have spent time (lots of time) with fun people, had some great conversations, spent time on gorgeous trails and even swam in ridiculously cold ocean water all in the name of training.  The journey has really been enjoyable and rewarding. I have made some strong bonds with my fellow trail runners and those trails have made me a stronger runner in the process. So, going into this 50k I feel good physically and mentally. I know I will see a lot of my friends on those trails enjoying the challenge just like me.  (We’re sick, sick people, I know.) I expect the race to be both mentally and physically challenging. With about 6,000 feet of vertical elevation throughout the course some discomfort is to be expected.

Since this is my first ultra, I’m going into this race with the objective to finish. I do not have a goal time in mind as this will be the longest distance I have ever run. I have been practicing my pacing, my nutrition and staying aware of and in control of my heart rate. Racing smart and within myself will make for an enjoyable time out on the trails this weekend. And when the pain and fatigue start to creep in, I’ll just have to welcome it all and use that energy to push one step closer to that finish line and remember, Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.