The North Face Endurance Challenge
The North Face Endurance Challenge Trail Series has always intrigued me! With several locations and race dates, I knew one day I would run one of the trail races. While searching for some spring trips, I found good ticket prices to Washington, DC. The dates coincided with the Washington DC location for The North Face Endurance Challenge! There are races held on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday hosts the longer distances of 50 mile, 50K, and marathon. Sunday hosts the half marathon, 10K, and 5K distances. I registered Sean and I for the half marathon distance on Sunday. We were excited, and couldn’t wait until race day!
The Day Before the Race
We flew into Washington, DC on Saturday morning. We were a little shocked to see ice and snow on the windshield of our rental car. What?? The temps were chilly, it was drizzly and windy. These Floridians were going to be cold!! After shivering a bit, we started our drive toward Sterling, VA, where the race would be held. The race takes place in Algonkian Regional Park. Most of the trails run along the Potomic River. Our half marathon was a point to point course, it’s start was at Great Falls Park.
As we pulled into the host hotel, we saw the race shuttle buses right across the street. We needed to pick up our race packets, so we hopped on a bus to head to the race area. The Saturday races were still in progress, so we could see some of the events that were taking place. As we got off the bus at Algonkian Regional Park, the first thing we noticed was how muddy the runners were. We heard that there had been rain and sleet during the first few hours of the race. Yikes! We picked up our race packets and quickly retreated to the warm bus.
Despite the rainy, cold weather, we managed to have a nice afternoon in Sterling, VA. We checked into the host hotel, the Hyatt Place. We were glad that it was within walking distance of the race shuttle buses. We also found a local brewery. The Lost Rhino was a brewery located a few minutes from our hotel. They had great crafts beers on tap and awesome food. We enjoyed a nice lunch!
Later that evening, we went out to dinner for some pre-race pasta. As we sat at our table, we overheard a runner from today’s race telling his companions about the trails. We heard him go on and on about the mud, the rain, creek crossing, and the “really bad hills”. Needless to say, we were getting a little worried! Only tomorrow would tell how our trails would be…
Race Day Morning
Race morning came, and it was a chilly 27 degrees. We had a quick breakfast, then boarded our bus. For the half marathon, the bus takes you to the start line at Great Falls park, about 25 minutes away. The park was beautiful! We snapped a few photos of the falls, and waited for race time to come. We were chilly waiting, but the skies were clear and the sun was out. We knew we would warm up once we started.
It was finally race time! We were in wave 5, so it was a little while before we finally got across the timing mats and official start line. Just shortly after starting, we were greeted with a long, steep hill. We made our way up, enjoying the view along the way. It was a little crowded for the first mile, but thinned out soon enough. We settled into a comfortable pace and enjoyed the trails.
We hit a few patches of mud in the first few miles. I could only imagine how much worse they were yesterday during the rain! But for us, it wasn’t too bad to navigate. The terrain was nice and rolling, with a few steep ups and downs. After a few miles, our trail routed right along the Potomac River, and the path was edged with spring Bluebells. It was so pretty! I loved this part of the race, which was a majority of the route. We continued on our steady pace, taking it all in.
At around mile 5 was the creek crossing we had heard about. A lot of other runners had stopped and we’re looking for creative ways to not get their feet wet. The water looked cold, and there was mud on the banks. We were warmed up by now, so Sean and I didn’t care if we got a little wet. We plowed right through the creek and continued down the trail.
The only thing we were wrong about, was that the worst of the mud was in the early miles. We started getting into the mucky mud near mile 7 or 8, and there were some slippery sections! We had to slow down to navigate, I almost fell on a slippery hill but caught myself. Sean managed to face plant forward in a patch of mud. (Conveniently right where the race photographer was waiting). Sean wasn’t hurt, so we laughed and brushed him off. Then it was back to the trail.
There were a few more miles of off and on mud, but we kept steady towards the finish. With less than 2 miles to go, we were inside Algonkian Regional Park . Now we knew we were close to the finish line. The last mile cuts through a golf course, so it was mud free and fast. We rounded the final corner and ran to the finish line. We were happy we had run well and finished together!
We collected our medal, had some refreshments, and warmed up in the sun with our post-race Sierra Nevada beer. We were tired, muddy, and happy! We thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the North Face Endurance Challenge DC half marathon.
I would definitely run this race again, and maybe I can make it some of the other races in the series! If you are interested in this race, you can get more information at The North Face Endurance Challenge. If you enjoy craft brews too, visit Lost Rhino Brewery if you are in the DC area!