It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

November 22, 2012

The North Face Endurance Challenge Recap

Last Saturday, November 27 was The North Face Endurance Challenge in Kansas City.  If you are familiar with the North Face race series it usually involves trail runs.  Well, Kansas City isn't exactly known for their trails, so it’s actually the only road race in their series.  The race consists of 6 events:  a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, a marathon relay, a full marathon and a 50K.  So, pretty much no matter what distance you like to run, they have a race for you.

I did the 10K last year and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to sign up again this year.  If you upgrade to the half marathon or a longer distance you got a pair of North Face arm warmers, so of course I signed up for the half.  I knew it would be a challenge for me because I would be doing the Marshall University Half Marathon the previous Sunday.  Six days between half marathons was a new record for me.  I know some of you practically run a half marathon a day (or wait maybe that’s just my husband Jim), but for me it would be a challenge, but I was kind of excited about it.

Me & Jim in 

Jim and I got up Saturday morning to get ready and of course get our pre-race dance party on.  Jim would JUST be doing the 10K since he just did a marathon the weekend before – Wimp!  While I would be pushing myself and doing the half marathon.  Ha, this doesn’t happen very often – and maybe this was the first time where I was actually running a longer distance than him.

It was a pretty chilly morning, but not freezing.  It was about 40 degrees, with fairly low winds.  It was still cold enough for me that I wore full tights and a long sleeve shirt.  I was never hot during the race so I know I made a good decision on my race attire.

We arrived at the race start and there were tons of people buzzing around.  Jim and I split so he could do his pre-race warm-up and I just kind of wandered around.  In a few minutes Dean Karnazes (famed ultramarathoner) walked by and I just said “Hey Dean”, like a I was just seeing a friend walk by.  He said Hi, Good Luck today or something like that, which was kind of cool.  I’m a dork.  Dean is a North Face athlete and spoke at the race expo.  He was also there the previous year.  I’m sure he ran one of the races, but I’m not sure which one.

Since there were 6 separate races, the races were each supposed to start at a different time, and in fact the half marathon was supposed to start in 3 waves.  I was in wave 3.  I got in line around the 2:30 pacers and figured that should put me roughly in wave 3, I really didn’t know.  Then the gun went off and WE STARTED.  I have no idea what happened…I’m not sure why we started with everyone else but we did….so anyway, I was off and running…….running up a big hill!!  I expected this one, I remembered it from the 10K the previous year.  You start straight up a hill.  No fun.

When you say Kansas City – most people immediately think Kansas.  And while there is a Kansas City, KS, when most people talk about Kansas City they are talking about KC, Missouri.  Anyway, when you think Kansas City – and Kansas most people think FLAT.  Let me just tell you that Kansas City is not FLAT.  And this race was a KILLER!!  I guess since it’s not on a trail, they specifically tried to make sure they ran you through some of the hilliest streets in downtown to make it an “Endurance Challenge”.  I looked back through my Garmin and this was by far the hilliest half marathon I have done to date. 
My legs weren’t fully recovered from my half six days prior so this hilly race was tough.  There were at least 4 times during the race were you had 130-180 feet climbs over about a mile. The nice thing of course was that you also had some nice downhills.  My Garmin splits were all over the place alternating paces in the 10s and then the 12s every other mile during a long stretch of the race.


Other than the hills the race itself was fairly uneventful.  I felt pretty good during most of it, but did have to walk a few times up some of those major hills.  The most interesting part of the race was that their mile markers were a half mile off starting at mile 5.  I run with a Garmin so I usually know about where I am.  Of course, my Garmin is always a little off and I usually end up running about a .10-.20 miles more than 13.1.  I know this is common.  But in general your Garmin will match up with the mile markers pretty well and I did for the first 4 miles.  Then all of a sudden I hit mile 5 and see no marker.  I didn’t think that much about it, until I suddenly saw the Mile 5 marker.  I looked at my Garmin and I was at 5.45.  This continued for the rest of the race.  All the mile markers were consistently about a half mile off.  As I was passing the mile 10 mile marker, I passed another runner with a Garmin and said – what does your Garmin say – he said “10.5 miles”, I said “ok, mine said 10.5 too”.  He said “yes, it’s been off since mile 5”.  I don’t know what happened, but I was starting to get worried that the race was going to be a half mile long.  I finally reached the 12 mile marker and I was still a half mile off.  Then, my Garmin beeped to alert me I was at mile 13.  Only .1 mile to go right – well……I couldn’t see the finish line anywhere in site at that point, but I still knew it had to be fairly close, so I increased my pace and passed a few people at the end…that’s always fun.  I saw Jim and gave him the fist pump and crossed the finish line. 

In the end my Garmin distance was 13.38 miles so almost .3 miles long – but at least not a full half mile I suppose, but still longer than most races.  I heard a few people complaining about it at the end and one girl even asked me what my final distance was.  I wasn’t that concerned by it though.  My Garmin time was 2:34:09, an 11:32 pace.  Not too bad for me.  This was only a minute longer than my race the previous week and it had been pancake flat…and this course was long.  Also, compare that to the North Face 10K I did the previous year where my pace was 12:02 (of course the race was also in August last year and it was HOT).  Although, I’m still slow, my race paces really have improved this year.  When I got my final results they showed 2:35:05….again I got a gun time, and no chip time, even though there was a timing mat at the beginning of the race.  This is just weird though and was my second race in a row where I got a gun time…starting in the back of the pack definitely adds time.  This is totally not fair.
Rawk Fist, that's how I roll.
Overall I had a good race and was happy with my results.  North Face gives you a nice t-shirt, medal, and like I said already arm warmers for the longer distances.  What they don’t give you is any food whatsoever!  They have food trucks on site, but you have to pay for them.  You do get one free beer…which I know a lot of people love, but the last think I want is a beer on an empty stomach after a long race. 

North Face Arm Warmers - nice race swag!
I met up with Jim after the race, who did not have a great race experience…you can read his recap here.  But in spite of that he was really happy with how he raced.  We hung out for a few minutes and headed back home.  Another race under our belts. 



  1. Congrats on a great race! Having the race be long really sucks. I don't think I could have run another 1/3 of a mile at my last half marathon.

  2. Way to go!!! 2 halfs in only 6 days apart and this one with hills and a strong finish!!!! Wow! Nice arm warmers too, totally worth it!

  3. Wow that was a hilly race! The profile is ridiculous. Great job - on the race and on doing the double in under a week.

  4. I would love arm warmers as race swag. I am jealous of all the races you and Jim do together. That is completely awesome.

  5. I really want to do a NF race. I like yours because its on roads and most are on trails. I think their trail run would be good too. Nice job on the race.

  6. I ran the NFEC 50K and was curious about the KC version - my husband is from KCMO and it IS so damn hilly there. I got the feeling the race would be super challenging despite not being on the trails. You really kicked butt on those hills! Great race!

  7. Two races in 6 days is huge! Congrats!!! Love the arm warmers, great swag indeed!