north face logoNFCE 50 + 2013 Review

2013 ended pretty nicely with The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile run in Marin, north of San Francisco. With the UTMB in particular (and 100s of miles of mountain running) 2013 has been a great running year for me. The TNF50 was a good cherry on the cake since it was a beautiful cold day in the Marin Headlands and I also got a PR on that course (by 1 hour and 25 minutes no less!).

I first ran the course in 2011 and it was my first ultra marathon. It was fantastic and although I was a little slow (and I was hurting at the end quite a bit!) I pledged to come back. I went back in 2012 and the weather was so awful that they shortened the course to 46 miles.


Last year I noticed that it was possible to sleep at the start of the race. There is a hostel at Fort Barry and for $29 a night I got a bunk bed, the use of hot showers and the kitchen. Very nice. The building and the dorms were full of runners so it was fun and friendly. Lights out at 8 pm! Only downside: I was woken up at 03:30 am by the North Face people setting up the start area (my bed was literally 50 yards from the start!). At any rate, it was nice to stay warm inside until 5 minutes before the start at 5 am. And it was really really cold!

NFCE 50 + 2013 Review fort barry


I like cold weather but I like cold weather better with layers. Fro this weather: 3 layers on top and two layers at the bottom. I only took off one top layer (the North Face jacket I got for the UTMB). All in all, I could have gone a little lighter. I decided to not use a drop bag (last year they had to be retrieved at Crissy Field the next morning – nonsense, already back in LA!) which meant I had to carry a bigger bag (Salomon S-Lab 12) to store food and clothing. I ended up using mostly the food from the aid stations and discarding the food I packed to lose weight. It was useful to have a larger bag though.


I could also have gone a little lighter regarding my bodyweight… Never really watch what I eat and with Thanksgiving just a week before the race I had piled on 5 extra pounds that weren’t exactly necessary. I did have a nice Thanksgiving! So, all in all, I could have raced lighter by about 10lbs (and be a little colder – at the McKennan Gulch aid station I saw a runner leave in an ambulance for hypothermia – wearing micro short shorts and a tank top…)


Because I felt that in the past I spent too much time chatting with aid station volunteers and other runners I decided that there would be none of it this time. I also didn’t take any pictures. It did pay off I think and also I became much more focused on my race and the different little tasks that go into making it work well (nutrition, hydration, pace, supplements, etc). Additionally, I felt that there was no pressure – I was tired in the week or two leading up to the race and I almost skipped it (the OEC training in Squaw was exhausting). Instead, I decided to go and have a good time. And I had a good time!


As far as I can remember it was just a beautiful day running in the area – it’s beautiful there and I always feel there is something sacred about the land, the forest, the ocean, and everything. For someone who lives in LA where it’s really dry and mostly brown, it’s nice to run in an area that is more lush and green. Muir Woods is a paradise! I would sometimes run on the uphills unless it was really too steep but most of all, as usual, I would speed on the downhills and pass many people this way (not new!).


It’s funny how having a low-pressure race where I know the course is a lot of fun. No anxiety about getting lost, no cut-off time to think about. Eventually, I ran a 10:25 which would be a Western States qualifier (50 mi aren’t qualifiers anymore – which is probably a good thing). I also improved my ranking, being now in the top third (especially if I take into account the number of DNFs – there were 550 entrants and 395 finishers – I finished 142, 11th in my age group).

I finished at around 3:30 pm and there was a decent food supply at the finish line. My car was parked right there (in the hostel parking lot, another benefit of sleeping right there!) so I could put on warm clothes and get to the city and party until 2 am!


2013 was a great running year for me. I had amazing training runs in the Sierra Nevada preparing for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, a shortened Miwok was not bad either and of course, I ran the UTMB. Other mountaineering ventures included joining the National Ski Patrol and getting my OEC. My only regret is that I still failed at getting a sub-3 marathon time (I think I give up there – running on asphalt isn’t that fun anyway).


What is up for 2014? I didn’t win the lottery for my top choices: WSER and Hardrock 100. Now waiting for the lottery results for Wasatch 100 and Tahoe Rim Trail 100. If that doesn’t work there’s Pine to Palm in Oregon or Bear 100 in Utah. Also planning on running the JMT (John Muir Trail) with a friend in June. Does anyone want to join? There are also a couple of Trans Sierra Express runs that I’m organizing. I haven’t found anyone to enter the Patrouille des Glaciers with me and I don’t think my schedule and budget are going to allow it anyway.

Finally, I can’t wait to go back to Marin for Miwok 100K in May, I love the area! Happy running everyone!

Written by

Arno Kroner