Just returned from a great trip out to San Francisco this past weekend to check out the always exciting North Face Endurance Challenge. This year's race might have been as exciting as ever, and every time I go to San Francisco I come away with the feeling that even though I'm not a city person (by any stretch of the imagination), I really like that city. It seems to have a flow and an energy that just really works well for me. I doubt I'll ever in my life live in a large city, but if I do I kind of hope that it's San Francisco.
If you missed the link on my social media pages here's a short but sweet little video of Mike Wolfe, Chris Vargo, and Rob Krar running the singletrack into Muir Beach at about mile 38 of the race on Saturday:
I jumped in at that point and ran about a mile with them. It seemed like they were running pretty relaxed at the time (as they must have been for me to stay with them for a mile), but you could just sense that they were entirely dialed in and getting ready for the battle ahead. No one spoke a word, but I could just tell that the silence was a result of being both relaxed and very focused. Year in and year out this race is decided on the climb out of Muir Beach at about mile 40. I think this is the 8th running of this race and at least 5 times that climb has decided the race. This year was certainly no exception. Rob made a move on that climb and by the time they arrived in Tennessee Valley (4 miles later) he had an 8 minute lead! He ran through the Tennessee Valley aid station faster and more determined than anyone I had ever seen in a 50 mile race. Folks who were there this past weekend who had also seen Miquel Heras come through there chasing me on his eventually victory in 2010 said that Rob was running significantly faster and more focused than Miquel had been that day, even though I heard about 30 people after that race talk about how Miquel came blowing through faster and more focused than anything they had ever seen.
To me this kind of race and this kind of focus is one of the most impressive and inspiring things to watch in the sport of ultrarunning. In most cases ultrarunning isn't really about who can run the fastest, but instead who can avoid running the slowest. Sometimes though you get these amazing performances where someone just gets completely dialed in late in a race, makes an aggressive move, and they don't just win by being the one to hold on the longest, they win by completely blowing the competition out of the water with nearly unfathomable strength and speed. I've done this myself a couple times, I've had it happen to me a time or two, and I've now seen it a couple times as a spectator. It never gets old. Thanks for the show, Rob. Super impressive. A year ago almost no one in the sport knew who Rob Krar was, and now he's likely (in my mind) to walk away with UROY in a landslide. Impressive stuff from a super cool guy.
For my own part, I was able to get out on the course a lot on Saturday. I ran about 6 or 7 miles out to some of the more remote parts of the course to check out the action, and then I ran in the last 6 miles with Anna Frost as her pacer. Was super stoked for her to be back out in the action of such a high competition race. She has a ways to go to be back to racing at the level she was a couple years ago, but this weekend made it clear to me that she is well on her way to being able to do so, if that's the route she chooses to take. It was great to share a bit of this journey with her, as she has been one of my favorite people in the sport since I first met her a few years back.
I myself also have a long way to go to be back to where I was a few years ago, but it feels nice to have come back to the point I am at. I have no idea what direction my continued improved health will take me in terms of running and racing, but for the first time in over a 15 months I really feel like my body is definitively bouncing back. I'm far from feeling strong or what I would have previously thought of as normal, but more and more with the passing weeks I feel confident that I will get there over time. Not sure where everything else in my life will fit in, and exactly how running will play into all of this, but I feel like I am slowly getting back a life of health and prosperity that I wasn't sure I would ever have again. It's really a pretty exciting place to be after so much time of fear and doubt.