Sunday, December 02, 2007

Uli Steild, Lizzie Hawker Win North Face Endurance Challenge

Unofficial results of the $10k North Face Endurance Challenge (thanks, Garett!):

1. Uli Steidl (6:57:22)
2. Matt Carpenter (7:10:10)
3. Leigh Schmitt (7:51:06)

1. Lizzy Walker (7:59:55)
2. Jenn Shelton (8:22:19)
3. Bev Anderson-Abbs (8:25:24)

Uli Steidl and Matt Carpenter raced toe-to-toe for 44 miles, before Steidl pulled away to win in 6:57. Matt finished about 13 minutes behind, with Leigh Schmitt (who won the August North Face Endurance Challenge event in DC) about 30 minutes later. Lizzy Walker won by a good margin, despite the fact that she flew in from the UK just a few nights earlier and fell early in the race (the first aid crew recommended she go to the hospital to have her wounds cleaned). She powered on for the win, and is doing well. Phenom Jenn Shelton took second, while Bev Abbs was strong and consistent to take third place .

Official results are posted here.

BTW, congrats to those who got in the Western States 100 lottery! It looks like it's going to be a competitive race, with folks like Chikara Omine, Michael Buchanan, Sean Meissner, Devon Crosby-Helms. Brian Morrison, and Scott Wolfe joining the usual super-fast crew returning from last year. For those who didn't make it in and are looking for another 100, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100m (July 19) opened registration today!

- SD


  1. Thanks for sharing the unofficial results! I came upon your blog when searching for news of the event.

  2. Scott - Congrats on being selected for the 2008 Western States! I would guess you are quite pleased and probably in the process of working out a training plan. Good luck to you and everyone else.

  3. Actually Jenn Shelton beat Bev by about three minutes.... results here

    Congrats on getting into WS!

  4. For those who did not attend this event it was quite possibly the most poorly managed ultra/run I have ever participated in. Karno and The North Face should be ashamed. I ran the 50K and was with others who ran the 50 mile and here is the short list:

    1. Packet pickup the day before in downtown San Francisco in Union Square none the less. One volunteer managing the whole packet distribution who new very little about what was going on.

    2. A course that was marked so poorly that even North Face sponsored pro's were having problems finding their way and a number of them along with many others went way off course.

    3. The 50K course was actually 54K

    4. Completely understaffed and organizationally (for the 50K/50 Miler) a total mess. I dug my own finishers medal out of the bucket left by the finish line...then huddled shaking in the 48 degree cold under one of only 3 heaters...I am not joking.

    5. How about when 1st place female 50k racer Jeri Howland crossed the finish line and nobody from The North Face organization even noticed her and she had to take the microphone and announce herself!!??? and dig her medal out of a bucket?

    6. I asked at one point one of The North Face organizers how come when it was 48 degrees out and you could only be shuttled in and out they were not distributing space blankets to all the wet and cold racers and she said "well the emergency tent has some...I think"...they had a few but I had to dig them out from behind a table.

    7. Three heaters, no gear bags back to the start, shuttles mia, no food for the 50K or 50 Milers who did not come in under 7 hours.

    8. A course that clearly nobody had any real idea how long it would take the non-pros to finish.

    9. On and on and on....

    Great course, pooooooorrrrrly managed...oh and did I forget the $5 cotton t-shirt from the company who invented technical gear.

  5. Devon - Thanks for the correction, I changed it above.

    Ultra Grumpy - Holy cow! Sounds like survival of the fittest for sure. I guess all the resources went into prize money. ;-)

    AndyB - Very excited to try States next year. If you didn't get a slot, the TRT100 is great training!


  6. Thanks for the advice on the TRT 100. I'm still considering my race schedule for next year, and not sure I'll do a 100. I just did my first ultra at Woodside yesterday, and am looking forward to my next.

    I'm planning on trying to run a qualifier for the '09 WS next year. Maybe it will be the TRT 50 mile, but am also thinking about the Miwok, if I can get into that. Another possibility is the Quicksilver 50 mile, which I learned of from your race report. I grew up in that area and used to hike the area with friends often as a kid, so it would be nice to run a race there.

    And from what ultra grumpy had to say, I'm sure glad I chose to run the Woodside 50K and not the North Face 50K - that sounds like it was an organizational disaster!

  7. Scott, congrats on getting into WS! So very few people who I actually know personally got in...what is not the end of the world, and I'll be rulling for you all!

  8. I have to agree with ultragrumpy on the poor management.

    Making racers drive into San Francisco on a Friday evening was just a fiasco and served no real purpose except to force everyone to visit the North Face store.

    Luckily I drove in with a friend and after sitting in Bay Bridge traffic for over an hour he drove around the block while I picked up the bags, since there is no parking.

    We stayed out at the Youth Hostel, in spite of the dire warning that no cars could be parked in the Golden gate park because of clean up crews for the oil spill, what? Didn't see one, and the folks at the hostel couldn't figure out why they had so few people staying there since the race start was in their front yard.

    The course was poorly marked at many key intersections and runners were all over the place. We were running on paved roads where there were trails paralleling the road...

    On a personal note, although I asked for a small t-shirt, I got a medium, and I won an x-large shirt (sorry, look around at female ultrarunners, you'd be hard pressed to find any of them that would take an x-large anything, especially those that would be winning prizes).

    I can't imagine that I would return.

  9. To Anonymous, ultra_grumpy, and others who ran the TNF Endurance Challenge:

    It sounds like your experience was disappointing and we’re very sorry to hear about it. TNF is excited to be a member of the trail-running community and we’ve made every effort to make this first year of the Endurance Challenge the best it can be.

    We’re taking your feedback to heart and we’re already working to address many of your concerns as we look ahead to 2008. Specifically, we are looking at ways that the course markings could be clearer – starting with more ribbons, more flour, and volunteers stationed at more critical junctions.

    If you ran in the December 1 Endurance Challenge Championship 50K or 50-Mile races, we would like to hear more feedback on how we can improve the event. Please go to this link: and complete our survey. You’ll be prompted to provide specific suggestions and we will go the extra mile toward implementing them in next year’s Endurance Challenge.

    On a brighter note, we have heard from many runners – especially 10K and Half Marathoners – who had very positive experiences on Saturday. Some of them even ran the course as their first-ever trail race and have already expressed excitement over next year’s race!

    We’ll hope to see you on the trails in ‘08,

    The North Face Endurance Challenge Team

  10. Lizzie "Walker"............!!! Her names is Lizzie Hawker!!!

  11. sure, the north face race had some glitches. any first time ultra will have them, as will any ultra that has been going on for twenty years. but i think you guys are taking this too far, and lashing out against a major corporation just because it is easy to do so. space blankets? seriously. i'm stoked they didn't pollute the environment with such trash. bring warm clothing to the finish; it's not that hard and doesn't take that much common sense, especially for seasoned ultra runners like yourselves. i was offered a wool blanket during the awards by a very nice VOLUNTEER. this race was run by people and by volunteers, and they don't need to be slapped in the face for standing out in the cold while we played on the trails all day. did i get lost? yes, but big deal, you adapt to the day and move on. i'm the first to say that if i pay money for a race, i want it to be well-marked because i can get lost in the woods for free. but please show some compassion and give some constructive criticism. maybe you would like to mark the course next year? maybe you would like to volunteer at an event and see first hand how much of an ungrateful ass a self righteous runner looks like. the top men didn't go off course once. that's because they studied the course description. i'm sorry you're sour about your cotton tee-shirt. if you're too new age and high tech to wear cotton, then maybe your local homeless shelter would appreciate it. i raced in a cotton tee and felt great. lighten up guys. you spent all day on beautiful trails in perfect weather. you have no one but yourself to blame for your bad attitude.

  12. I can't believe what a bunch of whiners some of you ultrarunners are. I was a volunteer at the race and got so sick of hearing people bitching and moaning that we didn't have this or that. Seriously, you are so spoiled. Buck up and take care of yourselves. Stop relying on everyone else to pamper you.

  13. To clear a few items up -

    1. When I pay for an event I expect it to be run well. If I simply wanted to run on the trails I would not be paying the $75 for the event so this is a mute and obviously off base point. The day was beautiful and I had a great 50K, but the event was run poorly.

    2. You run in cotton...great, that is really awesome...but it is not the point. Next year I guarantee you TNF will provide technical shirts...the bar has gone up (note beyond cotton) and this is a good thing.

    3. Space blankets were for the cold people...not all the people...but since they did not have the brains to bring their own they should freeze...your right.

    4. Being pampered? Funny I never really equated running a tough 50K with being pampered...and by the way I think it is great that you volunteered but note I traveled to and I paid for the event. Anybody who has any experience with running events (ultra or otherwise) knows the difference between well run and poorly run.

    4. This is not about a bad attitude it is about setting expectations and meeting them.

    I had a great time and a great run, on a great course, but the event was run poorly.

  14. I agree with the posts about the poorly run event. I was in the 50K and to call it a frustrating experience is being too polite.

    I participated in one of the Endurance 50 events, also a trail marathon, and know that the North Face is capable of putting on a better event - this event just plain sucked. The directions/markings were horrible and the basic needs of a race (yes, space blankets ARE important) were simply not there.

  15. You are overlooking that fact that there were space blankets. They were broken out at around 4:00, when the sun started to go down. My wife got one and was very happy that she completed a 50K. That overrides any sort of sourness. She ran a 50K!

  16. Everyone -

    Thanks for stopping by! As much as I enjoy the dialogue (which I'm sure is helpful to planning future events), it would be great if each of you could sign your name in the comments. It's the only way to add some integrity to the feedback, which will make it much more powerful.

    Thx, SD

  17. Greetings to all!

    I'd like to first say that I had a pretty good time at the North Face Endurance Challenge in S.F. I'd agree that some things could have gone more smoothly (and by the survey and response from TNF in this blog they acknowledge it too) but I'd think it far worse to have no race at all. In fine political fashion I’d say that all sides are right in their assessment of the race: racers not getting quite what they expected for the money (Uli and Lizzy aside ;-), volunteers feeling they didn't get the respect they deserved for helping us out, promoters wanting a little slack for goof-ups and requesting racer input to improve race... So, how do we come together on this? I don't have the answer, just throwing the question out there.

    I'm brand new to this sport (ultras), this was my first 50k, and on everyone I met that day I saw only happy faces and heard only words of encouragement and I've made the decision that I like this "game" and the people involved in ALL aspects of it. The hook is sinking in! I'd run this race again and look forward to running many others.

    Maybe ONE step toward answering my question (how we come together on this) is we all need to have a little flexibility. Flexible enough to understand that ultra_grumpy has some valid points that would lead to improving something we all enjoy doing. Flexible enough to know that race promotion is a b**** regardless if you're TNF or the local race club and if something can go wrong, it will. Flexible enough to know that when athletes are involved in strenuous activity they may lash out at the nearest person (unfortunately often volunteers) when something isn't quiet right. Flexible enough to roll with the punches when a race course becomes FUBAR'd (as long as it's not life threatening). Flexible enough to always have a smile on our face, have a kind word to say and relay praise and/or constructive criticism when necessary. All right enough of this "sitting around the campfire and holding hands" crap...I'm going running!


    Darren Young

    P.S. Scott, I've learned much from your blog. Keep up the great writing.

  18. I ran the North Face 50K on Saturday. I race at least 2 times a month year round and my races include trail races, road races, bay swims, and triathlons. This takes the cake as the worst race I've ever been in.

    There are two BASIC expectations I have for a race.

    1. Clear course direction. I train hard year round to race. I expect clear signs to the finish line. I never complain about terrain or hills, or weather. But I do not expect running into an arrow on the ground facing up as I did at North Face, and trying to figure out which way to go. Now, if you ran across an arrow lying on the ground, which way would you go?

    I then ran into a sign that said, " If you are a 50K runner, and this is your 13th mile, turn here." This sign makes perfect logical sense IF the race organizers told each and every runner that they needed a Garmin or other GPS type tracking device during the race to track their miles. But they did not. So if you didn't wear a watch that could track miles on this course, then the sign just told you that your'e SOL.
    If you were a runner without a GPS system, you could have spent your $100.00 on one instead of being lost at this race.

    2.A safe course. I define safe as a course with aid stations and access to paramedics or doctors if something should go wrong. This is it. North Face FAILED in attaining this. After I DNF-ed ( for the first time in my life out of frustration over the course directions and concern for my safety) out of the 50K, I rode back with a park ranger who is the Marin Events coordinator. He told me the race organizers didn't have radios out there for the aid station volunteers, and never visited the course. This just validated my sick feeling and reason to walk off this course. There was no one out there if something did happen. And I don't care how experienced of a runner you are, you never know when you will be injured or something else will go wrong. Just look at Ryan Shay in the Olympic trials. Ryan, RIP. Perfect example of a star runner who had no idea what was to come.

    I pay race fees for a clear AND safe course. If I had known that the North Face Endurance Challenge was incompetent at providing these two basic components, I would have never paid for this race, and wasted my Saturday. I could have had a great time at CIM in Sacramento, but instead I took a chance on this 50K and what a way to waste a Saturday and $100.00.

    Or I would have donated my $100.00 reg fee to the charity of my choice, strapped on my garmin and ran a 50K on my own. I don't need to pay to be lost and unsafe on a course.

    In regards to volunteers:

    If there are volunteers out there handing me water I THANK each and everyone of them for being out there. I know that volunteers do not need to be standing in the cold waiting for runners to pass by. I would never direct my frustration at the race organizers to the volunteers. Instead I'll write them directly as I already have of my dissapointments, frustrations, and waste of $100.00.

    In the end I did get to run on a beautiful day and see Marin as I've never seen it before. I suppose that's what my $100.00 paid for, but if I knew how crappy of a race this was going to turn out to be, I would have run Marin on my own and not wasted $100.00 to do it.

    The cotton t-shirt. I don't really care about the stupid cheap t-shirt. I'll just wash my toilet with it.

    North Face? You're trying to sell me shoes at the finish line festival after this joke of a race? Ha.ha. I will never buy North Face again and will tell all my massive consumer friends (who keep the economy going with how much they shop especially during this holiday season) never to either. In the end you are the one who lost big time.

    Dean K, Thanks for writing me back and offering your apology for a mess of a race. You've got class, and congrads on being a great runner and a marketing machine.

  19. Personally, I liked the event. Albeit it had the usual first year organizaton issues but the trails were great and the multi-race format encourages particiaption at a variety of distances.

    Improvements need as follows:
    - Better course markings. I was lost 10 - 15 minutes wandering around confirming what trails I was on. This a race after all. This can be easily remedied in future events.
    - Lose the shuttles. Hopefully future events will not be impacted by oil spills, nuclear events, etc.
    - No t-shirts period. Do we really need any more t-shirts? I've been giving away my race shirts for years as it is already.
    - No space blankets, etc. Let's try to keep within the ecological responsibility code most trail runners try to adhere to.
    - More basic food at finish!
    - And lastly beer. There's nothing like a cold brewski at the end of a race, chatting with folks and watching the sunset in a beautiful location.

  20. First of all, thanks to the volunteers who came out and stood out there for many hours! Yes, some of the aid stations were understaffed, but that's not the fault of those who WERE there!

    I do agree to a point with those who critizized the race organisation. Yes, the course markings were not up to standard in many places, drop bags could have been handled better, etc.

    I actually flew to San Francisco 2 1/2 weeks before the race to preview the course, and that turned out to be VERY helpful. If Matt and I hadn't run together for almost the entire race I think there is a good chance he would have gone wrong at some point. And then my win would have been tainted, as in "but if Matt wouldn't have gotten lost ...."
    I wrote a longer race report on my website, how the race between Matt and I unfolded. If you are interested:

    I think the folks at Northface are genuinely interested in making this race series better next year.
    I hope runners will give it another try next year, though I can understand the frustration of those who got lost this year.


  21. Click here for the link to Uli's awesome write up. Thanks, Uli!


  22. I had a great day on the 50K course. As is my custom, I thanked every volunteer I passed. To me, there was basically one thing wrong with the event - the course markings sucked. I can pretty much guarantee they'll be overkill next year, at which time we can bitch and moan about all the chalk causing environmental damage.

    I thought the expo at the end of the race was great. I loved the small contained area with massages and chiropracters and food and drink and the announcers and DJs! and our bags, which if you had half a brain contained your warm clothes. I can't believe somebody's actually admitting they didn't have a jacket or anything warm at the finish, let alone complaining about it.

    I didn't know they missed Jerry's 1st 50k female finish, but I talked with her a lot at the end and she never brought it up. She's not the type that would complain about it anyway.

    All in all it was a great day for me, but did anybody mention the course markings sucked?

    Not only did they suck, but I was wearing both a Nike+ chip in my shoe and a Garmin on my wrist and I'm putting the distance closer to 35 miles. I'll give the north face some slack for a first time race, but I really believe they'll pull it together in future years.

    Mark Donaldson

  23. For the first time for this event from North Face, I thought it went pretty well. Ultramarathon virgin no more!

    Aid Stations/Volunteers:

    Well stocked. I liked the cooked potatoes/salt and the chicken soup. The volunteers cheered the runners on.

    Course markings:

    The course markings down in Bootjack and Muir Woods were tough to spot on. There were long stretches where you didn't see any ribbon.

    The North Face Endurance Running Club:

    I'm a bit biased since I was part of the club, but I think it was a great addition to the NF Endurance challenge. The endurance running club is great for newbies to ultra running in that you get great coaching and go through the experience with others who are in the same boat.


    I wish there was more sponsers so that you could visit their booths. And maybe Apple Computers could replace Microsoft. And additionals sponsers like Nuun, Clif, more sporting stuff.

    Overall, I would say it was a fun race. The nice weather helped out a lot. Would I do it again? Of course.

    --Kevin Luu

  24. I have a few thoughts....

    1) The views sucked. God, if I have to look at another postcard view of the Pacific Ocean along a single track that runs along a two hundred foot cliff, breathtaking hills with panoramic views from the Golden Gate Bridge to Point Reyes, Redwood forest trails along canyon walls, and log bridges over creek crossings I think I'll puke.

    2) Gosh it was sure chilly. Good thing I read a forecast and took advantage of the publicized gear drop at the start to pack a change of clothes (including my TNF Nuptse Jacket). That was sure handy.

    3) I did the 50 Miler, but did read on the course material that the 50K was 32.8 miles. I don't know why people were surprised that it wasn't 50K to the tee. I think it turned out more than 32.8 for a couple of reasons. First the course was changed by (Mt Tam St. Park) on the Bootjack section the week of the event because of a bridge issue. This diverted the route up the Alice Eastwood/Plevin Cut and added probably a half mile. Another reason was the mis-marked section that directed runners to continue the Miwok Fire Road instead of taking the Miwok cuttoff. This may have added another half mile. I do agree that the marking was difficult, but I had the course so dialed I didn't rely on the marking so I had no problem.

    4) Aside from the start/finish, I ran on a road for about a half mile between the Sun and Dipsea Trail. The road did parallel part of the Dipsea which includes a huge washout section which makes that portion impassable. Not sure where anonymous was running on the road. Maybe they took a wrong turn or followed some misplaced flags:)

    5) The whole shuttle thing was a little crazy. Once I got their I ran into some bros that drove up and parked right at the start...boy I felt like a goody two shoes.

    Room for improvement? YES. But not a complete disaster. I'm sure some people are getting spanked this week, but it is a big company and has some resources to make it right. I give them kudos for making the effort and supporting trail running like few companies have done. Great prize money, multiple events to include all levels, and a training program for locals to take advantage of. Not too bad.

  25. Ultra_grumpy: get your facts right.

    Medals - if you weren't so impatient, someone would've given you one.

    If you were smart - you'll pack a drop off bag (like EVERYONE else) with warm clothes.

    There were food for EVERYONE - regardless what time you came in.

    Buses were put on at the last minute - because of the oil spill.

    50K Vs 54K - what a whiner!!

    Its sh*thead like you that gives the ultra such a bad rep. Check your facts next time.

  26. ultra_grumpy: you want someone to hold your hand next time you run a trail? Even better, they can run the race for you- so you don't have to deal with all the 'hassle'?

  27. oh please people, ultra_g. and northfaceblows make some valid points. I did the half and waited around for my friend to finish the 50k. MANY people came in saying they got lost from poor trail markings. The volunteers DID stop handing out medals (I'm not blaming the volunteers by the way, thanks for being there and helping out)-maybe you came in earlier and did not witness this? and I did hear announcements that there was no food- but more would be coming.

    If it is just a few "whiners" then why did TNF put out that survey?

    It was a beautiful day, but improvements could definitely be made.


  28. TNF does that survey after all their endurance events, it's not a one-off


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