Race Report: ENDracing Double Feature Tweet
Auralee is a runner who lives in Grand Forks, ND.
END-TOMBED: 12 hour mountain bike race at Turtle River State Park. Do as many loops around a 10 mile course that you can in the 12 hour time limit.
END-TRAILS: 12 hour trail run at Turtle River State Park. Do as many loops around a 6.2 mile course that you can in the 12 hour time limit.
UNDEAD HALL OF FAME: Complete 100 miles on the mountain bike and then run 50 miles the next day within the time limit.
I went out at a relatively easy pace for the 1/2 mile loop run before reaching the bikes; I stayed with the mid pack runners and let the other experienced mountain bikers sprint ahead. Once I reached my bike I clipped on my helmet and slipped my running shoes into the strapped pedals on an Ellsworth Evolve 29er mountain bike. The beginning of the course began near the river on loose sand, single track, and a few twisting turns. It continued onto some more open trail with a few gentle rolling hills and enough room for bikers to pass alongside me.
The next part of the course for me was one of the harder sections; single track with several climbs and descents with not much room for error; there were several tree trunks I needed to stay clear of and keep the bike on the narrow trail to avoid falling down a hill. My first lap I did my best to figure out what speed was safe enough for me to maneuver my way through without crashing into anything or making any of the riders behind me upset for going too slow. I did brush my handlebars against a few trees and slipped out of my pedals a few times, but by the middle of the day I think I figured it out and made less mistakes. There was one steep hill on an old road the led up to a grassy open pasture; whenever I'd reach the hill my quads, which were already burning from the single track section, got another blast of pain on the way up.
Eventually as the day wore on, the lactic acid or whatever it was that caused the pain didn't seem to bother me as much. As bad as this sounds, I actually was grinning from ear to ear during the beginning laps, relishing in the speed and scenery flying by - I was having a blast! After the pasture I went down the hill and continued on some more single track. This led to a section of the park on road, gravel, and then bumpy single track in the woods. This section was another challenging part as the day wore on, mostly because I always needed to stand and pump the pedals hard, which is challenging on tired legs, and when I'd try to sit in the saddle it made for a sore ride.
After the bumps there was a descent towards a river crossing onto a very narrow bridge with no sides. I think this part of the course was the most scary for me - I kept thinking I was going to fall off the bridge and into the river, so I was extra alert and did everything possible to keep the bike steady. This never got easy for me, but I managed to stay on the bridge and not go into the water on all 10 laps. The course continued on some more road with a hill, then grassy trail, and down a rough windy bike path descent with one sharp turn that knocked me out of my pedals a few times leading back up again. From there it was on the road again through the camp ground and a few grassy trail sections before coming to the end of the loop.
I stopped after each lap only for a few minutes to grab something to eat from my car or go to the bathroom in the lodge before taking off again. There were a few other women doing the race that were much more experienced in mountain biking than me, and I didn't see much of them since they were always ahead of me. I finished my 10 laps I think near 6pm and didn't have to bike in the dark at all. Originally my goal was to just do 100 miles and be done for the weekend; I didn't intend to run 50 miles the next day, but Andy and Tammy convinced me to give it a shot.
My legs had a different kind of soreness to them in the morning - mostly around my quads and knees and it felt uncomfortable to walk some, but I could still manage to do a slow jog. I heard that I may get saddle sores, but I was out of my saddle so much during the bike course the day before that I didn't feel very sore on my seat.
I chatted a bit with Lisa Thompson, another woman going for the Undead-Hall-of-Fame goal who had completed 11 laps the previous day about how she felt, mountain biking, and just other random stuff on the first lap of the run course. It was fun to meet someone who was just as adventurous and driven as me to complete the race. She had run a 50 miler before and other ultra race distances, so I was listening in on any advice she had to share. We ran the first lap mostly together before I decided to pick up the pace just slightly faster than her. The run course was almost identical to the bike course except for a different section of single track which I had run previously on other visits to the park. The challenging part of the course was the beginning single track for me; I had to walk and shuffle/jog my way through as the day continued on very sore muscles. Some things that kept me going were mantras others have shared with me and just being able to push past pain. I was enjoying the day - the temperature was comfortable and running in the woods kept the wind minimal.
Lap 7 was the hardest for me - my energy just shut down and I had to walk for several minutes before trying to shuffle/jog before I eventually started to feel better towards the end of the lap and be able to run again. I crossed paths with Lisa on a part of the course where we see other racers, and I thought she was close behind me (which I eventually found out she wasn't), but this gave me some extra motivation to pick up the pace and kick it in on my last lap around. I think my last lap I was my strongest and I gave everything I had. I don't know what my time was since my Garmin lost reception at mile 20, but I finished before it was dark again, and this time was able to enjoy eating the free meal given to racers. I had a great time visiting with other runners and hearing about their race experiences.
I did enjoy both events, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done. When I got home on Sunday, I exclaimed to my husband, “That was harder than giving birth, and I did that naturally!” The races gave me the opportunity to figure out what I was made of and how far I could push myself – and I think I reached that limit. ENDracing is extraordinary and something that makes living in North Dakota a bonus. I've never biked/run so far in my life and would probably never have discovered this if it wasn't for these types of unique races. Thank you for everyone who volunteered and organized the event.