Mud Wrestling Ultra Style

The day before CIM, I headed out to the North Bay to cheer on UMM at the North Face Endurance Challenge. I could write all about my experience spectating, but I thought it would be nice to have UMM’s (Matt) perspective on running 47 miles in the rain, wind and mud. So, it is my pleasure to present my feature guest blogger; Matt, who writes of his race recap and all its muddy glory!

Mud Wrestling Ultra Style -

Thank you in advance for reading my FIRST ever blog post! The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50 mile race is held in the beautiful coastal head lands a few miles North of San Francisco. The usual route is 51.2 miles and has over 10,000 ft. of climbing. I ran this course in 2011 as my first ultra. I wasn’t fully prepared at the time, but I gained experience and an appreciation of the distance. I completed the course in perfect weather with a time of 10:23:XX. After that, I was hooked! When registration for the 2012 race opened, I wasted no time in signing up. I promised myself that I would do more than one 16 mile training run like last year; I would be better, faster and stronger! I was pumped up for the challenge.

Late August I started my training with pretty short runs ~8 miles or so. Balancing a 40 plus hour work week with mandatory OT (fire season) is a pain at times. Fortunately I’m allowed some time at work to exercise. Nearly every chance I got I put miles in. Come race day, (12/1/12), I had completed 5 runs of 20-26 miles and a boatload of lesser mileage runs! I was ready and confident. However, at some point, I didn’t really take into account I had been using road shoes which worked fine on dry or damp trails during training, and that I’d somehow jinxed myself that the weather would be identical to last year where it held sunny skies. WRONG! Days before the race, a giant, wet super storm was brewing in the Pacific and scheduled to pound California for 3 days. My race was on storm day #2. I decided attitude is everything. “This rain will make it even more  bad ass when you finish in 8 hours!” I told myself.

Come race morning I got up at 3:30 A.M., dressed, ate and prepared myself mentally for the challenge. The day before the race, the course was re-routed to 47 miles due to park closures, thanks to our overly friendly rain storm. Also the course was now a loop to be run twice to make up for the changes. As the witching hour approached, I became more solemn and set my brain for hard. At 5 A.M. the race started. I felt I knew the course well from last year. I felt confident in my training and my health. My headlamp barely cut through the fog and rain as I charged up the muddy hills. The first 5 miles whizzed by before I went ankle deep in the first big puddle. “What evs..” I thought, “40 something to go, I’m gonna be wet!” I was making excellent time and having a blast! About 12 miles in, I met my first real challenge, muddy clay. Whump, I slipped right on my bum! My street shoes were no match for what I was facing; steep downhills slathered in mud. I slowed significantly for safety sake and worked my way down using the grassy edge of the trail for traction. I hit the turnaround fast thanking the volunteers as I left the Stinson Beach aid station. The return up that slope was just as difficult but I was on my way back to the start line to begin lap #2. All the while I had some serious stomach issues; slosh, slosh, slosh went my breakfast. I made no less than 5 stops for that good ol’ #2. I still need to learn how to fuel during a race I guess.



Anyway, I began lap #2 with a time schedule that I’d be done in under 8 hours. Hell ya! I was killing it. All was still going well until I reached the mud slick section. It was disheartening to see other runners cruising by me with their trail shoes easily gaining traction in the mud. I was holding on to bushes and finding rocks for foot holds. I was reduced down to 17 min. miles from my average 8.5 min. miles. I learned a big lesson in having proper equipment.

On the return trip I had no concept of time as my Garmin died. I started thinking about the food, and the beer, and Alisyn waiting for me at the finish line. The terrain and weather were taking its toll on me and I was looking forward to being done. I picked up the pace the last 3 miles and slipped and slid my way down the final decent. I finished the race in 8:33:XX. Totally happy with that! It was fun to see Alisyn waiting for me and my friends who had run the 50K at the finish line. They had run killer races too!
What a memorable race, there was fog, wind, rain, deep mud and blood. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Oh sweet muddy victory!
At the finish with Ranbir and Jason.
Matt McKurtis is an ultra runner living in the Placerville, Ca. area. He is hoping to win the Western States 100 mile Race lottery and looks forward to running his first Boston Marathon in 2013. As a federal firefighter, Matt enjoys more time off during the winter season where he hopes to run a few more ultras within the Bay Area and beyond! You can follow Matt on Twitter @Ultramilesmatt or send him an email at UltraMilesmatt at gmail dot com.

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