June 12, 2014

North Face ECSDC Trail Marathon Relay with the November Project family

This past weekend I was lucky enough to run not only my first trail race, but my first marathon relay race with my November Project (NP) Baltimore people! NP Baltimore was sending two relay teams of four, a guys and girls team, down to Virginia to run the North Face Endurance Challenge Series DC event along with teams from November Project tribes all along the east coast. 

Who wouldn't want to spend all day with these fine-looking people?


It was a 6 AM Saturday wake-up call, a car drive, a much-needed Starbucks pit stop, and then shuttle to the event at Algonkian Park in Virginia. As waited to board the shuttle, all the NP folks seemed to show up at once. There was tribes from Baltimore, DC, New York, and Boston. The Boston team was the two tribe leaders (who started this whole awesome community) Brogan and BG. I thought it was so freaking cool to meet them because I remember seeing them in Runner's World when I first read about November Project.   

Even though I'd only met a couple people from the DC tribe, everyone from all the tribes made sure to introduce themselves and give each person they met a big hug. It's why I freaking love this community-it's a big family. 

It was a hot and sweaty day for an 11 AM marathon relay start time, but thankfully there was no humidity.  I was still chugging lots of water and applying lots of sunscreen all day long.  After checking in, instead of getting our neon yellow race shirts printed by North Face with the official distance prints they had, we started tagging shirts with grassroots gear stencils, in true November Project fashion.  

Before the race started all of us got into a huge circle and did a warm up, massive call & response, and big group hug. We had taken over the race area, and I loved it!

The event was two days and today was the 50K, 50 miler, marathon and marathon relay. It was crazy to see all these people finishing their 50K and 50 mile races-my 10K leg of the marathon relay looked like a joke!

Eventually it was go time as I watched the start. I was the second leg of 4 and wanted to make sure I understood how the hand off of the timed bracelet would go so I didn't mess up!

I was pretty nervous because I've never done a relay or trail race or any kind before and didn't want to let my NP ladies down! They hang colored string on the trees with each color corresponding to an event (which matched your race bib) so you knew where you were going. There was only one time during the race where I almost went the wrong way, but overall it was really well marked. According to others, the relay course was pretty flat and easy for a trail race. 

 The marathon relay course started out on a dirt road and then as I got farther in the woods it became more narrow and winding.  Trail running is really different because I had to be super careful of my footing and the terrain. There were rocks, tree roots, ditches, and a stream.  It was also a single-track trail race so you had to make be aware of passing other runners or runners who were going along the trail in the opposite direction.  Trail racing takes a lot more out of you than road running. 


I went out fast holding around a 7:20 min/mile pace and then settled into an 8:30 pace for the next 3 miles. Once I had gotten to the turnaround point I tried to keep it up a notch because I knew I was almost done! Once  I passed the water/aid station I had just over 2 miles left and started feeling really good. My pace was back down to 7:30, and I was ready to pass some people and finish!

It was awesome cheering on November Project runners I saw on the course. 

Everything went smoothly, and I had a great time, as evident in this photo taken right after I finished!


The rest of the afternoon I hung out in the sun with everyone and waited for the relay teams to finish. The Baltimore guys' team was super fast, and us ladies put on a pretty speedy relay race as well. We all agreed that the course wasn't exactly a 10K and was probably closer to 6 miles based on our GPS watches, oh well. It was crazy because all of the November Project teams had such fast runners on them, so you kept hearing the announcers saying which NP team had just finished next as I waited at the finish line.  

 NP-New York, made up of just the two tribe leaders took first place in the relay. Brogan and BG of Boston had the idea to spray them with water and then throw feathers at them. They are good sports though because afterwards each person had 5 seconds to spray shaving cream wherever they wanted on Brogan and BG and then feather them too. Ridiculous, but I loved it!


Don't worry we picked up all the feathers afterwards (no trace!). Of course we got a big group photo too. 

Our NP serious faces

Dean Karnazes was at the event taking photos with the winners. Ultras and trail races have some awesome food because of the long distances raced. I grabbed some banana halves with peanut butter, orange slices, and M&Ms.  We also grabbed our free Sierra Nevada brews post-race- A+ for the event having an actual great free beer!
NP-BAL Team Alpha ladies who rocked the race!
After a long day outside and long car ride back to Baltimore, I walked into my door at 6 PM ready for a shower, some food, and a nap.  I'd love to get more experience and tackle another trail race. It's definitely a different challenge from road racing. A relay was also a really fun way to hang out with some awesome people and get some miles in. 

I'll spend a sunny afternoon with my November Project family any day!

Have you ever done a trail or relay race? 

19 comments:

  1. This sounds like a blast! I did a 5K trail run once before but wasn't super prepared since I had no idea it was a trail until I got to the start line lol. I'd like to give it another shot though!

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    1. Trail running is definitely different but was really fun with the scenery!

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  2. Well you know I'm jealous of this! I'm DEFINITELY partaking in the next NP_Bal adventure race!

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    1. Haha yes, definitely more NP races :)

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  3. That sounds like a really fun relay! I've never done one before, clearly I need to change that!

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    1. The relay was fun, and it was nice to have a team to cheer you on!

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  4. I did a NP workout this AM for the first time. It was great!

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    1. Awesome-I love NP and hope you get addicted :)

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  5. great recap. Thanks for sharing on the the Race recap link-up. I ran a half marathon with 2-3 miles on trails and I really enjoyed it. That was my first experience with trail running since middle school x-country.

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    1. Thanks for reading! I definitely want to try some more trail running!

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    2. I just did a 5 mile trail run 2 weeks ago .. slacking on the recap but it was an interesting experience!! Thanks for linking up :-D

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  6. That looks so fun!! I haven't tried a trail race before, but it's definitely on my list of to-dos. I ran a marathon relay earlier this year and it was great. I loved watching the rest of the marathoners go by, however I have to admit I felt kind of bad when I was being told by the crowd how great I looked at mile 23 ;)

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    1. I felt the same way! I was passing marathoners, 50Ks, and even some 50 milers who were finishing and felt like such a cop out!

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  7. I would so love to do a relay race one day- looks like you had a super time! I recently found a new trail to run locally and really enjoyed it! You do have to really focus on your footing, no one wants to fall! thank you for linking up with us- great review!

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    1. It's a great thing to do with a bunch of friends! I was so worried I was going to turn an ankle, especially at a narrow part of the trail.

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  8. Congratulations on your finish! I love trail races! Next year I will have to check out the North Face run near my home!

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    1. Thanks! The event was really well-organized and fun.

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  9. Congrats on your finish! I have got to sign up the TNF race near my home next year!

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    1. Thanks-it's a really nice race series and good for first time trail-racers!

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