December 8, 2015

The end of year ultra trail party

It was four years since I had last raced The North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50 miler (let's call it TNF50 in order to save some ink).  A lot seems to have changed in the sport of ultra running and in my own running career since then.  I mean, when I raced TNF50 in 2011 I met a new local runner called Jorge Maravilla at the start line, later that day I would pass him in the race despite the fact that he had a great run.  Yes, well lets just say Jorge would have to have a downright appalling day for me to beat him in a race now :) As a runner, I have gained a huge amount of experience in the last four years, it was not that in 2011 that I was without experience, afterall I had already won one Western States by then, but certainly I had far fewer achievements under my belt and far fewer miles of my legs.  For the most part I feel that the miles on my legs in the intervening years were beneficial this past weekend rather than a detriment.  Sure, some of those miles have caused injury and aches and pains, but they have also allowed me to become a more experienced, more confident and more aggressive racer.  I am sure that I was far less nervous standing at the start line in Marin Headlands this past Saturday than I was four years ago despite this years race being chock full of talent on both the mens and the womens sides.

It is 'interesting' that whilst my position (2nd) was exactly the same as four years ago my finishing time was a full 16 minutes slower this year than in 2011.  I am pretty sure that the course was identical so I could dwell on thinking that therefore I am not as fast as I was four years ago or that I did not have such a good race, but I'm not going to dwell on that because I feel that there are a few reasons why I ran slower this time around, and well - I just had a lot of fun on Saturday which is surely what it is all about :)  I will pick my race apart in due time to learn from my mistakes, but now is a time to just enjoy the memories of the day.

This year I had a rough start to the year but gained speed in the fall and six weeks ago ran a killer race (even if I do say so myself!) at Les Templiers 75km in France.  I won that race but had to fight hard to the line and when I got to the line I was smiling but wrecked.  I was also extremely motivated, after having not had a good race all year I was jumping up and down with excitement to have won a competitive ultra and so I did what I advise all my coaching clients NOT to do and I launched right back into training after Les Templiers.  I can honestly say that in the six weeks between Les Templiers and TNF50 I did not have one good run.  Speed workouts were slow but hard, long runs weren't as long as I had hoped for, and the thought of tempos went out the window when my Suunto seemed to malfunction and not go below a four minute kilometre ;)

Am I giving excuses?  No not really, just reasons.  I don't honestly know if I had trained smarter (not harder) between my two end of year races if I could have made up the significant 10 minutes between myself and race winner, Megan Kimmel.  Somehow I doubt it, and either way - I am very happy with my 2nd place finish and have enormous respect for the talent that Megan has.  I honestly just feel grateful to have found the ability to run on mashed up legs for much of the day and I am so thankful for having been able to share good chunks of the race day with wonderful ladies such as Anne-Marie Madden and Jo Meek.  I am also super motivated after seeing so many familiar faces out on the sidelines of the race course - Devon Yanko, Jo Zakrzewski, Hillary Allen, Meghan and Bryon, Topher, Stephanie ... the list goes on.

Just like after Les Templiers I have traveled home after the race feeling excited and pumped about ultra racing ... but this time around I'll make sure I sit on the couch and drink a beer or two, rather than hit a speed workout this Thursday.

Some photos below hopefully share a little more of the fun experience I had down in California this past weekend.

Checking out the course with my Salomon teammies pre-race.  Photo: Rickey Gates

Tourists snapping pics.  Myself, Anne Marie and Anna Mae.  Photo: Rickey Gates

Checking out the course with my Salomon teammies pre-race.  Photo: Rickey Gates

Heading out to McKinnon Gulch.  Photo: Rickey Gates
Failing to apply the brakes at the finish line.  Photo: Israel Archuletta

Finish line seat.  Photo: Israel Archuletta

Team Invitational winners?  Salomon ladies!  Photo: Israel Archuletta

Because it's really all about the after party at the 2am club!  Photo: Lindsay Hamoudi


  1. You've done a wonderful job, Ellie! Actually, it's not a job, but really a great pleasure to you, I'm sure. Thank you for inspiring my daughter to go in for sports. I owe you so much!
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  2. Great run Ellie even though you must not have been nearly fully recovered from les templiers!

  3. 75km and winning. Jeez. I felt like I never wanted to run ever again after doing my first marathon 10 days ago!

  4. Good work Ellie! Great to finally say hello. Though I was hoping for a Scottish accent ;)

    1. I know, I'm sorry about the awful Norfolk accent ;) I'll be trying to insert a little Scottishness over Christmas in Fife!

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