2012 TNF EC 50 Mile Championship Results

The North Face Endurance Challenge 2012This race in a couple words: wet, a bit confusing, and wicked fast.

On Thursday night before Saturday’s race, The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships race administration announced a course change due to a Pineapple Express’ impending arrival, a nickname for the occasional but very wet weather systems that roll off the Pacific Ocean, to ensure athlete safety and logistical preparedness. The resulting course was composed of a 23-ish mile figure eight with a couple, small out-and-backs that was repeated twice.

Sheeting rain falling in the inch-per-hour-or-more range, blustery winds, and temperatures hovering in the 50s Fahrenheit greeted runners at the starting line. As the morning progressed, the wind calmed but the rain picked up before tapering into just clouds as the lead men and women finished.

The course, which was to be run twice by the 50-mile race and once each by the associated and simultaneous 50K and marathon races, became quickly mucked up and slick. Some runners, both at the front and the back of the pack, suffered navigation issues that added both challenge and confusion on the day. [Update: Adam Campbell, Sage Canaday and Jason Wolfe share their stories and thoughts of going off course while leading during the race.]

When all was said and done, Spaniard Miguel Heras (post-race interview) and Swede (living in Norway) Emelie Forsberg (post-race interview) were bothered not by water, mud, or the new course and emerged as men’s and women’s champions. They each take home a hefty $10,000 prize.

You can find our full play-by-play of the race as well as a collection of our pre-race interviews and preview on our TNF 50 Mile Live Coverage page.

The bottom of this article includes links to TNF EC 50 Mile-related articles, photo galleries, and race reports.

Ps. To get all the latest ultra news from iRunFar.com, subscribe via RSS or email.

2012 TNF EC 50 Mile Men’s Race

As you can imagine when about three dozen highly talented men come together at a big-prize-money race, a massive group of dudes shot off the start line and kept on rolling. A couple of that group’s rabbits would suffer some time off course or the consequences of accidentally cutting the course (Sage Canaday, Adam Campbell, Jason Wolfe, Timmy Parr, and Mike Foote as examples), while others just plain couldn’t hang with the jet-speed pace. In the end, it was the guys who raced steadily, strongly, and perhaps most carefully who emerged on the money-bearing podium: Miguel Heras in first (winning $10,000), François d’Haene in second (winning $4,000), and Cameron Clayton in third (winning $1,000).

Miguel Heras - 2012 TNF 50 Mile

Miguel Heras wins the 2012 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships.
Photo: Brett Rivers, San Francisco Running Company

2012 TNF EC 50 Mile Men’s Results

Cameron Clayton - 2012 TNF 50 Mile

Cameron Clayton after taking third.
Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

  1. Miguel Heras (Salomon) – 5:33:16 (pre-race & post-race interviews)
  2. François d’Haene (Salomon) – 5:46:42 (pre-race & post-race interviews)
  3. Cameron Clayton – 5:47:14
  4. Adam Campbell (Arc’teryx, Salomon) – 5:53:35
  5. Alex Nichols (Inov-8) – 5:55:20
  6. Jason Wolfe (Run Flagstaff) – 6:01:50
  7. Dylan Bowman (Pearl Izumi) – 6:02:56
  8. Sylvain Court (Adidas) – 6:05:47
  9. Gary Gellin (Inov-8) – 6:06:41
  10. Shaun Martin – 6:07:17
  11. Mike Wolfe (The North Face) – 6:09:48
  12. Christopher Kollar – 6:13:46
  13. Ryan Ghelfi – 6:14:02
  14. Greg Vollet (Salomon) – 6:17:25
  15. Dave Mackey (Hoka One One) – 6:17:50
  16. Jorge Maravilla (Salomon) – 6:20:58
  17. Chris Vargo – 6:23:39
  18. Justin Ricks – 6:24:11
  19. Leigh Schmitt (The North Face) – 6:25:49
  20. Hal Koerner (The North Face) – 6:26:26

Full results.

2012 TNF EC 50 Mile Women’s Race

Maud Gobert set a hot and heavy pace for the women for the race’s first half while the rest of the elite ladies spread out into a chase train behind her, intermixed with the men. All day, Emelie Forsberg and Stephanie Howe lingered close, apparently waiting for their chance to pounce. With about 10 miles to go, Forsberg had forged herself a 2:30 lead with Gobert and Howe fighting for second and third. At the finish, Forsberg stayed strong and won by a margin of two minutes over Howe and seven minutes over Gobert. Forsberg takes $10,000, Howe $4,000, and Gobert $1,000 as payday for their efforts.

Emelie Forsberg - 2012 TNF 50 win

Emelie Forsberg wins the 2012 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships.
Photo: Brett Rivers, San Francisco Running Company

2012 TNF EC 50 Mile Women’s Results

  1. Emelie Forsberg (Salomon) – 6:39:18 (pre-race & post-race interviews and race report)
  2. Stephanie Howe (The North Face) – 6:41:36 (post-race interview and race report)
  3. Maud Gobert (Adidas) – 6:46:13
  4. Caitlin Smith (Salomon) – 7:05:00
  5. Silvia Serafini (Salomon) – 7:12:02
  6. Tina Lewis (Salomon) – 7:13:30
  7. Brandy Erholtz (New Balance) – 7:14:50
  8. Krissy Moehl (Patagonia, UltrAspire) – 7:19:27
  9. Bethany Lewis (UltrAspire) – 7:20:02
  10. Lizzy Hawker (The North Face) – 7:26:44
  11. Sandi Nypaver – 7:28:06
  12. Megan Laib – 7:32:13
  13. Joelle Vaught (Montrail) – 7:34:54
  14. Jennifer Pfeifer – 7:37:24
  15. Stacey Cleveland – 7:38:21
  16. Christina Clark – 7:49:01
  17. Rory Bosio (The North Face) – 7:51:01
  18. Helen Cospolich (The North Face) – 7:55:39
  19. Erica Namba – 7:57:08
  20. Candice Burt (Salomon) – 8:00:59

Full results.

Stephanie Howe - 2012 TNF EC 50 Mile

Stephanie Howe racing the TNF 50.
Photo: Brett Rivers, San Francisco Running Company

2012 TNF EC 50 Mile Articles, Race Reports, and More

Articles and Photo Galleries

Race Reports

Last update: December 10, 11 pm MST

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 155 comments

    1. Geoff roes

      It sounds like They went off course somewhere around mile 13. No one is ever "we'll on the way to win" at mile 13 of a 50 mile race… Even if its actually only 46 miles. Plus it sounds like they were able to improvise on the fly so that the leaders that did skip the lap early just ran it later so none of them actually ran any extra miles they just ran them at different times. be interesting to hear all the details of just what happened but until we do I think it's silly to make any assumptions about whose fault it was or what might have happened otherwise. I think this unfairly takes something away from everyone else in the race who accomplished what they did. Then again maybe details will come out that make it obvious that the strongest runner out there didn't in fact win the race, but unless that happens I think it's premature (and kind of disrespectful) to speculate.

      1. Gaz N

        looks as if Canaday didn't even place based on the results. He was certainly supposed to be up there, so it seems fair to say that he probably would have done better otherwise.

  1. art

    going off course in a "money" race like this is totally unacceptable and I put the blame completely on the race organizers.

    this is NOT some local race where its "runner beware", in which case it typically becomes the runners fault.

    of course, the bad weather is also the race organizers fault :-(

  2. Meghan Hicks

    Hello kind readers,

    I hope that we only need to say once here that, while we welcome your comments, we welcome those of the constructive variety. If you would like to discuss or debate course-marking/navigation issues from today's race, please do so in a civil and respectful manner.

    Please also keep in mind that only the runners who participated in the race and the race administration/volunteers can speak from an actual place of fact; the rest of our commentary (Including mine, even though I was out on portions of the course and saw a goodly portion of the action.) is supposition.

    Thanks for listening,

    Meghan

    1. Andy

      Meghan, I totally agree that all commentary should be constructive. Still, with all due respect, in Art's defense I read his tongue-in-cheek closing comment about weather liability to mean that even his first assertion is meant with some sarcasm.

      Great coverage and kudos, as always, to iRF for being out there and bringing it in real time. You certainly lived up to the "Mud, Mountains" tagline today. Many thanks.

  3. Mike

    Meghan,

    While everyone appreciates this site, your frequent chastising of posters for innocuous posts detracts from it and adds nothing. Art's comment was fine. Let us speak freely, even critically!

    Mike

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Mike and Andy,

      I appreciate your comments and will think more about what you've said here for the future. It's our sincere hope to do good things (read: provide a venue for people to talk about issues be them trivial but fun, crucial to our sport's future, and everything in between) with the conversations that happen in the comments section of this website, and to prevent the evolution of these conversations into the sorts of nasty Internet interactions that happen in other online places. That's my simple intent. We're absolutely not opposed to critical commentary, but only if it's presented constructively so that something productive can come of it. If you have ideas on how to better keep conversations in the realm of constructive, I am all ears!

      I hope you'll notice that my comment was not directed at any particular commenter. Over on our CoverItLive feed from the race today, you might (have) notice(d) some folks speaking deconstructively about the circumstances of today's race and with no first-hand knowledge.

      My comment to this post was intended to keep conversation here a little more above the brow than what happened over there, a preemptive 'strike,' if you will.

      As for Art's comment, I read it as conveying multiple feelings, including the tongue-in-cheek/sarcasm that Andy also felt.

      Thanks for the feedback.

    2. jenn

      Wow. I'm not sure what to say to this. I can't see how a pre-emptive "hey, everybody, let's all play fair" translates to chastising anyone. Frankly, I didn't read it as being a response to any of the above posters, just a recognition that today was a bit controversial, and given that this post may get a lot of commentors, a request for everybody to be civil. This site is Bryon and Meghan's party – her request that we not knock over the furniture and insult the other guests is entirely reasonable, I think.

  4. OOJ

    As one who ran the course, I can offer the following general insights and criticisms:

    – The course was fairly poorly marked; there were many important trail junctions (in an area that, if anyone is familiar with The Headlands, has a myriad of trails), there were small markings that, with the severe weather, were susceptible to being knocked down and obscured. As a result, I, myself had to stop twice on the Coastal Trail (as I was alone and off the back of the pack) to route-find and – eventually – find and re-post two critical signs (one of which prevented runners from plummeting into the Pacific).

    – The weather was pretty awful. We runners were extremely grateful for the volunteers out there – at 5AM, in the dark, 30mph winds, and driving rain – helping out with course marshaling. However, it was clear that many junctions were inadequately staffed – either by people, markings, and/or lights. The conditions exposed weaknesses in the race organizations that, on a good-weather day, might've gone without issue.

    – Ultimately, for a race of this status – with its money and defacto "championship" status – needs to have a stand-alone 50M/championship race. The merging of multiple courses and multiple waves of runners confuses not only the runners but volunteers, themselves, creating a situation rife for foul-ups and controversy.

    1. Tony

      I ran the race today as well. Man, that second lap was killer. Some of the sections were quite comical with the mud, especially the part going down to the beach and back up. There was nothing to do but laugh and try to make the most of it. Many people I talked to who did it in the past said it was tougher than the normal course, even with the shorter distance, at least for us middle of the pack runners.

      Regarding course markings, I thought it was well marked although I agree with the comment regarding all the runners converging on the same loops. I never got lost but was often paranoid that I went off course. Not sure if TNF could have done much about that though. Maybe they could have a backup course planned out in advance if one of the park services closes their section of the trail.

  5. Alex from New Haven

    Obviously everyone should be civil and constructive when possible.

    This does though bring up the difference between making comments about A) IRunFar B) The race in question and its organizers and C) the participants regardless of if they are positive or (constructively) critical.

    This is not as straight forward as it would seem since (I think it is fair to say that) IRunFar is the main outlet (meaning "media") covering and promoting the races and athletes and there is an undeniable "don't bite the hand that feeds you" synergy. So this coverage isn't the New York Times… but the comment section isn't an anonymous thread on LetsRun… it's a living room or bar after the race… When I re-re-re-read my comments before I post them, I ask myself: If I was standing with all the people I'm referring to 2 feet away, would I still say this? Because Ellie Greenwood reads the comments, Bryon reads the comments.

    My opinion obviously, but basically, act as if you, in person, were going to say it to that human being and be okay with the impact (positive or constructive) that it may have.

  6. Jorge

    Meghan thank you and Bryon for your amazing coverage on today's event.

    As you mentioned results aren't final until posted by race organization, but for what it's worth I finished in 6:22. Lost my bib on a fall, so I was giving my bib # at checkpoints.

    Again, great job, see you guys in '13!

  7. Chris

    I hope this race will make everyone take a closer look (profile) at Shaun Martin who did an amazing job finishing out the top 10 ahead of many of the top runners.

    Big respect for the work he's doing in the Southwest.

  8. Ellie

    but I am sure you had that trademark ear to ear beam whilst face planting in the mud, right Jorge! Nice work to you and all the runners who braved what sounds like a pretty epic course.

  9. Ellie

    Agreed! Awesome coverage from a small crew of iRunFar peeps who were out battling the cold as much as the racers and I am sure much sleep deprived too. In the meantime, we sit commenting from the warmth and comfort of our sofas. Wow, sounds like quite the day – congrats to all who toed the start line.

  10. Sean

    Very much agree – Shaun is the man! Although I had him picked for top-5, I still say he rocked it. And as great of a runner he personally is, he's a much better coach and role model to all the students at Chinle H.S. He has made a huge positive impact on the lives of probably 100s of his runners, as well as his community in general. Well done today, Shaun.

  11. Bryon Powell

    Hey Jorge,
    We were posting results based on this afternoon's race org results. Thanks for letting us know when you came in. I saw you jump across the line from afar. :-)…. no, wait, :-D …. that's better.

  12. Brett

    I must say I find it confusing (comical?) that multiple runners going off course multiple times has been par for this course for several years since the very beginning. Go back and look at previous race reports and summaries from Uli Steidl, Mike Wardian, and others for several straight years now.

    1. S of NorCal

      I've run this course every year but this one and each year the markings were confusing – or poorly placed – and the course marshalls were – at some critical junctions – merely bored teenagers who seemed to care more about their personal conversations than directing the runners. I won't recommend this race nor run it again until NF steps up their game.

  13. MartyKC

    After all, it's adversity that makes the best stories. And once again Trail Running shows that it's nothing if not an adventure. Congrats to all who completed the race, and came away with stories to tell for years to come.

  14. Marcus

    I ran 32 before having to drop with an ITBS flair-up. It was a lot of fun while it lasted for me. I thought the course was marked fine, but volunteers had to direct you at some points and they apparently didn't always tell runners the correct way to go. Toward the tail end of my race I was passed by several members of the lead pack (loop section where they were heading to the finish, and I was further back) and I was in awe that they could run that fast on a downhill through the slop and stay upright.

  15. jblo

    Congratulations to Miguel. I am so glad that he has been able to stay away from the performance enhancing drugs for which his brother, Roberto Heras (who rode with Armstrong) was busted. Thank goodness for clean sports!

            1. Anonymous

              if masters cyclists have been busted for doping in citizen races where the prize is tire or a six pack of beer, then i suspect there would be some temptations (if not already occurring) for elite ultra runners to cross the line for 10 grand….we were all duped by a certain cancer survivor, would be a mistake to think all elites have a "clear conscience'. we are at a point where the stakes are to high to not start testing ultra runners both during and out of competition. the top world 100K runners are tested all year and they are racing only for a trophy and a title (i.e., no $$$$).

      1. Girona

        Hi from Spain!

        Here in Spain we are using LCC, PDLA, and CDB. The three are outstanding performance enhancers and they have been fielding tested many times and with very good results.

        Lentejas con Chorizo (LCC)

        Potage de la Abuela (PDLA)

        Cocido de Burgos (CDB)

        Best regards!

  16. Andrew

    I was watched the event yesterday and as the first runners passed through Tennessee Valley in the pre-dawn rain, I ran ahead to watch from a more remote spot near the ocean. While running I passed a race official who was marking the course with glow sticks. There were a a few lead runners who passed too and were a bit worried about which way to go at a junction. I directed them, they went on, then the official caught up and marked the junction.

    I worried about the future markings on the Pirate's Cove area where the leaders lost their way, but my biggest disappointment in this event is that it tries to be too much. Championship 50, 50K, Marathon, Marathon Relay, Half Marathon, 10K, and Kid's fun run…forgive me if I missed one. Because of this the attention to certain details of a championship race may be overlooked.

  17. ysaito

    I ran the race too. Yeah, I with the course were less busy. But they were given only a few usable trails and 1000 runners, I'm not sure if they could have done a better job.

    As for the course markings, I found that the course was well marked, but some of the junctions were a bit confusing. Each marking was a bundle of four or five small ribbons, which sometimes made it blend in to the background. All the races were running more or less the same route, so they could have installed one big red strip… Another thing is that they didn't follow typical marking conventions. For example, if there's a Y junction and you need to take right, I'd expect marks on the right edge of the path before and after the Y. But I often saw a mark right at the fulcrum of Y, with no followup ribbons until a few hundred feet later.

    These minor complaints aside, I enjoyed the race a lot. I didn't know downhill mud running was this fun :) Thanks much for the organizers and volunteers.

    1. Matt Newell

      This was my first 50 (ish) and all things considered, it went really well for me. Junctions a bit confusing at times, but as a 10 hour finisher, I had some time (and patience) to thoroughly interrogate TNF volunteers regarding whether or not I was going in the right direction. Had I been running (capable of running ;-) a 7min pace, I suspect my day might have been a little different. The weather and mud (Ooohhhh god… the mud) just magnified all the difficult details of race directing and course management. Overall for me as a first timer, great experience on a course that could've EASILY been cancelled! So glad TNF pulled it together. A little bummed for the Sunday racers that missed out. Cheers to all!

  18. Ian Sharman

    Was certainly a really interesting race to watch and irunfar did a great job covering it. Watching Bryon try to identify the lead runners in the dark at Tennessee Valley (and tweet about it simultaneously) as they fly through in a pack makes me think of a waiter carrying about 10 plates into a crowded, noisy restaurant. Thanks again, irunfar.

    1. Mike Place

      Indeed.

      If you've ever seen Bryon or Meghan or other iRF folks do this in-person, you'll realize exactly what iRF provides.

      It's a *really* hard job and these guys make it look easy. Three cheers!

  19. [email protected]

    I can't figure out what everyone is talking about.

    I ran yesterday and was totally impressed with how well the course was marked–not over marked and not under marked. I never got to a section and had any confusion whatsoever on where to go. I wasn't at the front (finished in 8:4), but I wasn't at the back either.

    I know that almost at the finish, a course marshall was absent for the top 10 guys and they ended up a few minutes off course, but for the majority of the race, it was perfect.

    1. MDP

      Agreed, I thought it was well marked. Excellent maps and directions before the race in the .pdf course guide. No restrictions on pre-run/walk the course. GPS watches and split charts. Glow sticks, streamers, signs. Lots of volunteers. Oh, and thousands of muddy footprints to follow. Unless a volunteer tells you to go the wrong way or a sign is misplaced then you need to take some level responsibility for making your way around the course, especially if you are in the hunt for prize money.

      I thought the weather was awesome too, hovering around 60 degrees. Those first two hours with the sideways rain is what I'll remember for a long time. Looking forward to coming back next year for the full course. Great event. Thanks Race organizers and volunteets

      1. Lizzy

        I ran the 50k and I thought it was well marked. I did look over the revised course description beforehand and have run on many of the trails before. I personally think that if people are running for that much money, they should earn it, take some responsibility, and know where to go! As someone who runs in the mountains a lot, I find that independence/self-reliance a lot more inspiring.

        I think they did a great job given all the last minute changes. Huge thank you to all the race staff and volunteers who stood out in the rain all day!

            1. Joe Creighton

              Seriously. I'm usually 1/4 back in most races and am very grateful for that, as I don't seem to ever get lost. The one time I did get lost I was co-leading a somewhat small fry 50k. The RD was running around fixing or adding course markings. Unfortunately he was behind the top ~5 of us. As a result, everyone but the top 5 had no problem with the course markings and had no idea there was a problem.

              Most of us do not have to suffer the fate of Sage and Adam et al, and find ourselves (seemingly now-routinely these days) beating course marshals to trail forks, let alone in pitch-black torrential downpours, on trails our feet have never seen. The diplomatic professionalism those runners have shown here is impressive to say the least and I tip my hat.

  20. Seamus Foy

    I think the speed at which these guys run is probably a factor, especially with tough weather. Plus, there are so many brief moments when you take your eyes of the trail. I went of course at a trail marathon over the summer, and when I got back to the spot where I went wrong I realized it was exactly where I had stopped to open a gel.

  21. Adamo1979

    I was one of the runners, along with Sage Canaday and Jason Wolfe who missed the turn down to Muir Beach. I agree that it was our responsibility to know the course, but the trails in the area are also quite confusing, with a lot of trail arteries & intersections, which not obvious if you don't know the area, which none of us do. Also, the race route was not an obvious route, with a few loops, out and backs, tight corners etc… and it was a new course.

    When we arrived at the intersection where we were supposed to turn left down to Muir beach off of the beautiful singletrack section of the race, it was very dark out, insanely foggy and raining very hard and yes, we were running hard too. There were no volunteers, or spectators at the intersection when we arrived there. I was leading, with Sage and Jason right behind me and I noticed that there was a bundles of ribbons that they were using as markers heading right, as well as an arrow pointing right. It seemed like the natural direction of the course was to head right there and I don't remember my running partners questioning it either. I later realized that the flagging and the arrow were indicating the direction for the runners returning up the steep hill from Muir Beach, after completing a sort of lollipop on some lower trails. The return leg passed perpendicular to the singletrack trailhead that we had emerged from.

    I didn't realize we'd missed the left turn until we completed lap one and I noticed that there were no other runners within 5 minutes of us, which I knew couldn't possibly be right. At that point I figured we'd missed a section at some point, or the whole group had gotten lost behind us (less likely).

    When I went around for the second loop and went back out to the coastal trail section, it was daylight & we were mixed in with runners from the 50k and marathon that we were passing heading down the trail to Muir Beach and that's when I realized where we'd messed up. At that point I did notice a bundle of ribbons on the left, which indicated where we were supposed to go, but it was not obvious to me, nor to the people that I was with earlier in the dat that that's where were supposed to go from the top of the trailhead. The bundle was placed a bit of a ways down the trail and was placed quite low on a bush. Apparently the group behind us did notice it though, or they knew the course better, because they took the correct route there, so I will take responsibility for that.

    I really appreciate that the race directors were able to scramble and put together a new course last minute when Parks stopped them from being able to use the land under their jurisdiction and I also appreciate that the race was able to come up with a solution on the fly to let us double up on the loop we missed to make up for the distance that we'd skipped on the first lap rather than DQ us, for not running the correct route, which they very well could have done.

    That said, as a runner in a lead group at the race, both this year and last, I've found the course markings to be a bit hard to follow early in the race. The ribbons are not always placed in obvious places, especially when running in the dark & foggy morning hours and they don't use, "security" ribbons, extra markings a few yards down the trail to give the runner peace of mind that we are going the right way and there are not a lot of marshals, or any at main intersections, nor are there many arrows at junctions etc… In fact, we ran, passing a few people out marking the course, or dropping glowsticks, which meant that, as the leaders, we were running a bit blind on where to go.

    So yes, I take full responsibility for missing the turn. It's to me to know the course and ultimately, the outcome was fair, because the three podium finishers all ran the course as it was designed to be run, but still, I would like to see race organizers and course markers (even if they are just volunteers) paying a bit a more attention to how they mark courses, especially at races that label themselves as championship events, or ones that offer big prize purses, or qualifying slots to major events. I think that by taking on those extra duties, they are trying to distinguish themselves as a more professional event, so need to hold themselves, along with the athletes, to a higher professional standard.

    I don't think that it is entirely fair to handicap frontrunners by making them have to slow down (more than a reasonable amount) in order to figure out the route, or for them to ahve to backtrack in order to reassure themselves that they haven't missed a turn, which Sage and I did a couple times. In fact, we spoke to each other a few times to reassure each other that we hadn't missed a turn, or that we were running in the proper direction at other sections/intersections of the race.

    Off the top of my head, here are a few suggestions for race organizers to think about and to explain to the volunteers who you have marking the course:

    -Think about where a runner's eyesight might be. Don't place the flagging too high, or too low, but rather, place it at an average person's head height. This way they can see it at a distance.

    -Don't hide the flagging. I noticed quite a bit of flagging behind bushes, or inside branches. Also, the TNF50 race had the flagging for each race all clumped together. We were told to follow the orange flagging, but it wasn't always obvious if there was orange flagging in that bundle.

    -Use a flagging colour that stands out. I've also heard about races using red, orange or yellow flagging during fall races, when trees are the same colour and the flagging can get lost in them. So have something that stands out from a distance and that you can see while moving at speed.

    -Give the runner some peace of mind. Don't just place one bundle of flags in spot, but rather, why not have a series every few yards out of a corner to reassure the runner that they are going in the proper direction.

    -If there are intersections that runners cross in both directions, use an abundance of caution there. Really be clear to delineate the direction that the runner is supposed to go. You can almost guide the runner with flagging, wands, glowsticks, or chalk/paint lines in the dirt (if you are allowed to).

    -Block off, or have wrong way signs on trails that are not part of the course that main intersect the trail that we are racing on.

    -Think about the weather. Don't use chalk, or flour as a marker and leave it overnight if the forecast calls for heavy rain or snow.

    -Wherever possible, have volunteers or marshalls and make sure that they understand what direction the runner should go. I often find this to be a problem in bigger aide stations, where things can be a bit frantic and chaotic.

    -Give out detailed course maps to runners. In this age of GPS, there is no real excuse not to.

    Many races do do a great job and cover many of these elements, but there have also been some notable course issues over the years, some due to sabotage (which is always unfortunate and a more than a bit frustrating), others to neglect, so hopefully some basic guidelines can help give RDs some direction as to what we appreciate as runners.

    So yes, I agree that it is the runner's responsibility to know the course, but when runners are flying in from around the world to race, it is not reasonable to expect them to have the same knowledge of where on the course they are, or to know trail names (which aren't always indicated, or noticeable when you're running in a pack at race pace).

    Race directors should use some foresight when designing the course & should anticipate potential problem areas and focus on those areas to make them as clear as possible.

    I hope that my comments are taken constructively, as a way of helping the sport move forward, especially at the so called "marquee" races. Of course, I also encourage others to offer up their suggestions for race organizers, because ultimately, we all benefit from it.

    Once again, congrats & thank you to the race organizers and volunteers, for managing to accommodate us and for dealing with unpredictably bad weather. I really do appreciate all that you did. Also, congratulations to everyone who raced. It was a memorable day and we saw some world class performances, as well as hundreds of amazing personal accomplishments.

    1. Sage Canaday

      Great post Adam! Exactly spot on as I saw it. Didn't even see the Muir beach turn on that first lap because all I saw was orange ribbons (the correct ribbons) leading us up the trail. Had no idea we cut the course until Bryon told me around mile 32 although i was wondering why there was such a gap on 4th place at the half-way point. Many of the volunteers (not to blame) thought I was a 50k runner as well on the second lap and would tell me to turn the wrong way (I didn't in those cases). Also some great comments at some of the aid stations when I first ran in asking "where do I go? where do I go?" Them: "I don't know" and "we're not ready for you yet!"

      1. Daniel

        For Sage, and the rest of lead guys who go lost, I'm sorry things didn't go as plan. I was pulling for ya on this one and I guess things just happen and you just have to roll with it good or bad!

        How is your injury? I was informed that you encountered a nasty fall or something along those lines when you were trying to make up a few laps after you got side tracked?

        If this is true I hope you recovery quickly!

        1. Sage Canaday

          Hey thanks so much for the support! My recovery is going well and i didn't have any serious injuries after my multiple falls in the mud (totally my fault for wearing road racing flats) in trying to "go the distance" going up and down the Muir Beach hill twice. At that point in the race I first assumed we were going to be DQed but I still wanted to cover the correct distance more out of principle. We kind of found out on the fly that it might suddenly be allowed..but at that point I was bonking anyway (i didn't really pace myself for that muddy Muir Beach hill because I never ran it on the first lap!). It was kind of a crazy feeling to think you're leading a race with a big lead 33 miles in to suddenly hear that you've cut the course.

          It was inspiring to see so many runners that passed me ask me if I was alright after I fell and started walking. I realized just how kind and supporting the ultra running community really is and I really appreciated all these other runners’ concern for my well being. Amazing group of people out there!

          Congrats to all those who finished and stayed on the course for the full distance. The rain storms definitely made it a mud bath out there and the vertical was still quite challenging despite all the last-minute changes. I was humbled again by the competitiveness of the race and what the course dished at me. As always it was quite the experience. I hope to redeem myself in my next ultra!

      2. Jason Wolfe

        Well put Adam & Sage. I can't add much but simply want to echo your points. I do find it a bit disheartening reading some of these comments that make hints that we didn't properly prepare.. or that this is somehow "part of trail racing". I think if anyone was out there running with us they would easily understand our situation, which is frustrating at the least when you consider the time and money invested by each of us to compete in this RACE.

        I had a great time running with / against you guys and wish that things would have worked out differently. Looking forward to racing you guys in the future.

        1. MDP

          Adam really does a nice job of making his points in a "future looking" tone, rather than in a finger pointing manner. I think the comments about runners being prepared were made in that spirit as well. On Saturday, December 1, somewhere between 6AM-7AM in the middle of a massive rain storm and in the low light of early dawn, the lead runners barreling down the trail in a breathtaking manner decided to take a right when they should have stayed left all the way down to Muir Beach.

          It's a shame it happened. We can't get that time back. There were no egregious errors here. Race organizers and runners don't have unlimited amount of resources to eliminate all the risks than come with putting on a race or participating in that race. However, just like in business and life, it always seems like we are dealing with tons of problems, only to look back and compare those current problems to the problems of 5 or 10 years ago and realize how much better things are now versus then.

          1. Brett

            I'm just surprised people continue to spend lots of time and money travelling out to this race, when course marking seems to be a major problem year after year after year after year.

            1. Steve Patt

              Actually I join many others here who say the course markings (and course monitors) were actually perfectly fine…for those of us in the middle of the pack, and as I noted elsewhere, I was running mostly without glasses and my vision is terrible. Obviously things weren't quite as nice for the front-runners. Among other things, that's one of the downsides of starting a race at 5:00 which means that volunteers who are supposed to be standing at course intersections in the middle of nowhere telling you where to go have to be getting going MUCH earlier. That seems to have been the problem with the Muir Beach left turn that threw off the front-runners, because when I got there, there were two guys there telling you to turn left.

  22. Crew

    Crewing for a lot of these races have put into perspective what happened yesterday. I had a runner that was told to go the wrong way by a volunteer because they thought he was a 50k runner. With that being said, isn't that why the bibs are different colors?? Gold is 50mile. Blue 50k. Pretty simple I thought.

    I'm going to have to disagree on how the so called results were determined. I really don't understand the term "ran the miles". If people ran the course backwards or ran different sections at different times, how does that make for a fair race? I've never seen an ultra run where people go off course, run something different, and NOT get DQed. Everyone might as well have "ran the miles" on a treadmill and turned in your times, because hey! Who cares if you skip around the parking lot or run the flatter fire roads to make up your miles? As long as you get to the finish line first, we'll give you ten grand.

    Seriously? This must be some huge joke. Next time my runner runs another ultra, I hope people don't magically appear ahead of him when they never passed to begin with.

    Other than that huge fiasco…. Thank you to everyone who roughed out the weather. Especially all the runners braving those conditions. You are really inspirational.

    1. Adamo1979

      Hey Crew,

      You are probably right & luckily the race organizers didn't have to deal with that in handing out the money.

      That said, Sage, Jason and I were ahead of the field by a few minutes when we ran off course and never "magically appeared ahead" of anyone, if anything, we magically (or I guess mistakenly) disappeared.

      I agree that we did not run the same course. One could argue that the way we ran it was harder, because we had to go up the steep hill from Muir Beach when it was more crowded and muddier, on more tired legs (due to having run more miles previously) twice. We also had to slow down to talk to officials to figure out what they wanted us to do & I had no feedback about what was happening behind me through the race without the out & back. It was also hard mentally to think you are leading, or in the money, at an important race and then to think you are DQd and then to be told you have a chance to finish and maybe have your result count and then to try and rally for the last 15 or so miles, which may or may not matter, but I'm not saying that.

      I realize that us running off course also affected the pack and runners behind us. They thought we had a significant lead and couldn't see us, and then they thought we might have been DQd & I know Miguel and Francois weren't sure if there were any runners in front of them when they crossed the finish line (mostly a language issue), so I realize that they were impacted as well.

      While I wish that the three of us had not missed that turn, I won't get into speculating about what would have happened had we not. It's pointless & unknowable. I can only speak to what did happen. The race organizers had to scramble a bit pre-race and improvise in adverse conditions (I respect them for that) and things weren't perfectly organized. We (the three leaders) obviously didn't pay close enough attention to course maps and where we may have been relative to turns based on those maps and made a mistake.

      I think calling it a "huge fiasco" overplays the significance of what happened. Ultimately, the race was run and won by a deserving runner and everyone on the podium & who crossed the line earned their way there. Beyond that, the race recognized that the situation wasn't perfect and that they may have had some blame and tried to improvise a solution, as they had with the course redesign and we ran the course in a way that we were told was okay.

      Had one of us won money on an improvised (improvised) course, I'm not sure how the race would have handled that if there had been a protest. Maybe it's something for them to think about in the future.

      I ran a race I'm proud of and I don't feel like I cheated anyone out of a placing, but if anyone has an issue with me being on the result sheet ahead of them, then feel free to asterisk my name in the results, I won't take offense.

      I do think that we, the "professional" runners and the race organizers can and should learn from course marking issues and direction issues to limit them from happening. It is the race's responsibility to provide a well marked course if that is what they say they will do and it is the racer's responsibility to know the course, to stick to that course and to pay attention when they are running. But things get a bit grey when a course isn't clear, do you punish the athlete for that?

      I wasn't looking to point fingers, or lay the blame on anyone with my post (that I debated sharing), I just wanted to let people know what happened from my perspective and to give some insight into how it happened, since I was there and to hopefully allow others (racers, race organizers, sponsors, volunteers, crews, RDs, course marshals etc…) to use that as a learning experience to keep progressing the sport.

      I'm sorry if you, or your runner felt cheated in any way by me finishing and being included on the result sheet. Come see at the next race and I'll buy you a beer, coffee or tea.

      Happy trails,

      Adam Campbell

      1. Kent Dozier

        Great points Adam. In this case the modified course map was problematic for 2 reasons. One, it didn't get emailed out to all the partipants! Like the Sunday cancellations, the email list somehow get shorted.

        Second, the modified 50-mile map was wrong/insufficient in 3 places. They didn't even mark the spot where the wrong turns were made (the out-and-back down to Muir Beach). At Muir beach, the map shows an out-and-back but we actually did a lollipop on the road. Third, the "small loop" was shown as being done at the very beginning and very end, not directly after leaving the starting area at mile 23. It was unclear to me whether we were going to do the small loop 2 or 3 times until near the end of the race.

        In all of those places, it was humans directing the runners, not course markings, that led the runners down the correct route. So any runner was at the mercy of the volunteers out on the course. By the time I got to each place, the volunteers knew exactly what was going on and did a great job.

  23. DJ

    Why do "elite" runners competing in $$ races get to use pacers? I wasn't at the race, but saw pacers in some of the pics posted by iRunFar via Twitter.

    I think that other races, which disallow the use of pacers for all or at least for anyone who feels they may have potential for a top 10 finish, have the right idea. If $$ is on the line, I feel it should simply be runner vs runner, with no help from a pacer. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    Or that thought that runners should be drug-tested? [Edited: Discussion of doping is a topic relevant to our sport. Speculative allegations regarding doping are not acceptable on iRunFar.] Just a thought.

    1. Pez

      @DJ I agree using pacers by elite it is a little bit disappointing to say the least.

      Can anyone shed some light on medical/doping testing in endurance races. thant would be interesting.

    2. Tom Boland

      Personally, I think it's pretty unacceptable to speculate about Salomon and doping. My view is that Salomon are the first company to really embrace Ultrarunning as a professional sport (perhaps due to someone called Kilian something-rather) and have thrown a lot of money behind their runners (take the S-Lab for example, I don't know of any other company that provides its runners with such an incredible facility). Furthermore, I think that the money Amer Sports is investing has allowed a lot of their runners to increase their profiles, attract other sponsors and therefore go "pro" as it were and focus solely on training and success at races. I think The North Face, Montrail/Mountain Hardware and to some extent Pearl Izumi are catching up to this approach, but it's clear that Salomon is above and beyond in catering to their athletes' every need.

      My $0.02.

      PS. I do wholeheartedly agree that there should be no pacers in a race like this. Emelie even said that she perhaps wouldn't have run as hard had it not been for Frosty being there with her…

      1. DJ

        Tom, you make excellent points and I hope you are right about Salomon being clean. Their runners are great athletes. I just think it would be naive to not consider the possibility, seeing how they are a European-based team and doping is prevalant in other sponsor-supported endurance sports there (mainly cycling). And that one of their top runners is related to a cyclist who did dope and would have access to that option.

        All in all, it doesn't bother me as I will never be up front challenging them for a win. And since these races don't drug-test, I guess it doesn't matter. It was just a thought.

      2. markj

        No, of course Salomon would never do anything like that. Look at Nike if you want to see the integrity with which these huge shoe companies operate.

        1. Adamo1979

          DJ, I agree that it would be naive to think that doping might not be happening in the sport, but you make some fairly unfair comments about foreign runners and their attitude towards sport and you unfairly place suspicion on Miguel because of something his brother did.

          As an example, you say: "seeing how they are a European-based team and doping is prevalant in other sponsor-supported endurance sports there". An American based team, with a heavy emphasis on North American riders, US Postal/Discovery, was just implicated as one of the ring leaders in doping in the sport. Also, there is a significant amount of evidence that North American athletes in professional and non-professional/Olympic athletes (more in power based sports), were on systematic doping plans. So to label Europeans as more prone to is simply discriminatory. Doping happens in sport no matter where you are from. Have there been more positive tests from Europeans? Yes, perhaps (I don't know), but they could just as easily turn around and say that that's because they take it more seriously and test athletes. In fact, a couple Spanish mountain runners were suspended this past year for drug use. The only countries I've ever been tested for PEDs have been France, Spain and Switzerland, not once in North America, so whether or not those test are effective, at least they are trying something, which is more than I can say for any NA race. Whether or not testing is effective and worth the cost is a different debate.

          The fact that Miguel's brother was a professional cyclist with a doping ban/history, is also an unfair labeling of Miguel. Would you want to be held to account for everything your family did? My brother smokes a tonne of pot, does that make me a pothead? I also have quite a few friends and acquaintances who are, or have been pro cyclists and pro athletes. In fact, the MC at my wedding was suspended for 4-years for being on Nandrolone (later had it confirmed that it was for inadvertent use-still his fault & he served his time). Along with the moral, ethical and health reasons, having seen the hell that my close friend lived following his positive is an incredibly strong disincentive for ever taking a banned substance. Maybe Miguel has had the same experience (i don't know)?

          As far as Makj's comments. I'm a part of the Salomon team and have never had anything offered to me, nor have I had any sense of it going on. Not sure if that appeases anything. Could it happen? Sure, as you say, systemic doping has happened, but to make a sweeping comment and say that Salomon and other companies operate without integrity is entirely unfounded and unfair.

          As to why these foreign athletes do well at big races? Think about the caliber of athlete that a company is willing to sponsor, support and fly around the world at a significant expense. They are proven athletes, with incredible results. It's no different than Anton and Dakota going to the European Skyrunning races and podiuming there. Send the best athletes from a country, or a brand, who have earned their way into that position and they will likely fare well at most races.

          So as Bryon said, I agree that talking about & debating doping in sport is fair game and if any athlete gets caught, then that should be advertised and discussed, but making accusations and speculating on specific athletes, teams, countries, or continents and whether or not they are doping is nothing more than unfair rumour that muddies the air.

          1. DJ

            Those are good points as well, Adam.

            Using the Salomon team as an example came to mind b/c they seem to bring different athletes over for specific races and, more often than not, win. Hopefully it's all due to training and natural talent,but maybe it's not. Either way, running 50 miles at a sub-8:00 min pace is pretty remarkable no matter where you are from. I will give them respect for that.

            Since all doping talk is just speculation, I guess a better discussion would be whether the $$ races should drug-test.

  24. Amanda

    Sage came off the course at Tennessee Valley at mile 41 injured and seemingly hypothermic… I think he stopped running there…

  25. Jason Wolfe

    Well put Adam & Sage. I can’t add much but simply want to echo your points. I do find it a bit disheartening reading some of these comments that make hints that we didn’t properly prepare.. or that this is somehow “part of trail racing”. I think if anyone was out there running with us they would easily understand our situation, which is frustrating at the least when you consider the time and money invested by each of us to compete in this RACE.

    I had a great time running with / against you guys and wish that things would have worked out differently. Looking forward to racing you guys in the future.

  26. LGK

    Congrats to all the runners who braved the elements and the muddy course! The volunteers are truly amazing also.

    I, too, personally, tend to get frustrated with race organizers if course markings are confusing ("This is race for crying out loud! If I wanted to spend so much tiem figuring out where to go, I'd run with a map on my own time without shelling out the big bucks"). That is, untill I once came across a race report by the lovely Ellie G. – I think it was some smaller local race where she went off course and got DQ ed (out of a potential win, most likely, come on, it's Ellie G!) – and yet in her report, not a word about race organizers or blaming course markings, etc, she just totally owned it and took responsibility and sounded like she managed to enjoy the trails anyway. What a class act, truly! I always think about that now, what a truly world class athlete with a winning attitude!

  27. Amanda

    while i agree that if course markings were off, as it seems they might have been (see later posts here) early on, that is the race organizer's fault. however, i believe it is a runner's responsibility to know the course fairly well, to at least have studied the maps, and to realize that you don't turn right at all, or away from the coast in that section, until reaching Muir Beach. not to say that it's the runners' fault either, it was dark, ridiculously wet and windy, but blaming TNF isn't entirely fair.

  28. Amanda

    best runner comment of the day at TV: "do these shorts make my butt look big???" with a huge smile. how does this man have so much energy and spirit, 41 miles into a spirit-crushing race day? congrats on a great run, Jorge!

  29. KenZ

    Course Marking Thoughts in General (not strictly applied to this race):

    A. If a race says it's "well marked," then it needs to be well marked. Period.

    B. If a race is a trail race and doesn't say well marked, or that runners should study the route beforehand, then runners are a bit on their own and the "that's part of trail racing" clause takes effect.

    C. If it's a professional race where $$$ is on the line, then unless it strictly says "study course beforehand (refer to B)" then it should be well marked (refer to A). There is some implied burden of responsibility when offering prize money to either have the course extremely well marked or explicitly state that it won't be.

    These are general thoughts, and obviously weather conditions and required last minute course changes can be difficult for any director, so the above is not a criticism of the race this weekend (especially since I wasn't there). It's just that I hear the argument "that's part of trail racing" applied in situations where I think poor marking is explicitly not part of that particular race.

    Bottom line: truth in advertising. Having just done a 100 where we were explicitly told that we would have markers almost every 5 min of running and that we should absolutely not guess if we haven't seen a marker, then go several 5 mile stretches with no markers… I don't care that there weren't markers for 45+ minutes, but it needs to be stated. It's either A. Well marked or B. Runner be aware. Don't care which, but truth in advertising is all I ask from a race director.

  30. Matt Smith

    I've experienced sketchy course markings at a TNF event before – 2010 EC 50K at Bear Mountain, NY. The course was a modified figure 8 and one of the shared junctions wasn't clearly marked (it was hardly marked at all…). The entire lead group went off course due to poor markings and no marshal/volunteer presence.

    I can understand this with a small-town ultra, but a race managed/sponsored by a company that had $196 million in profits last year might be a different story. TNF can afford to bring in some extra help to make the course markings and logistics world-class.

    Sorry to North Face (and their apologists) – you are held to a higher standard than mom and pop races, particularly since there is $10K on the line.

  31. Steve Patt

    All I can say is, if you think following the course was hard, you should try it with very poor vision and without your glasses, as I did for about 20 of the 25 miles I ran before an Achilles problem forced me to drop. With that rain and mist and fog, it was quite impossible to keep my glasses clean, and even with extremely poor vision I could still see better without them. Fortunately I'm a middle of the packer, plus by the time I got to every critical intersection there were volunteers saying "turn here" so I never put a foot wrong, although to me, the bundles of ribbons just appeared like one big blur of color, largely pink (not orange), and I had to get within about two feet of the big black arrows to see on which end the arrowhead was!

    All that being said, I've got to say if someone looked at the map at all, or knew ANYthing about the race, you really should have known that there is a MUIR BEACH AID STATION, and it's kind of hard to hit that if you don't go through Muir Beach! So I'm a LITTLE less sympathetic to those who turned right when coming out of Pirates Cove. Unlike some of the other turns on the course, that should NOT have been a cause for confusion.

    By the way, if it wasn't for being a friend of John Medinger on Facebook, I wouldn't have known about the course change at all, and would have shown up at the start with drop bags prepared for Tennessee Valley and Cardiac, and would have been really screwed. Not only didn't I get any notification from the race, there wasn't even any kind of announcement before the start! I suppose I would have found out when I asked where I was supposed to put my Cardiac drop bag, but really folks, that was COMPLETELY inexcusable!!

    1. Adamo1979

      I agree Steve, it's up to us to know the course, but how are runners not from the area supposed to know what Muir Beach is and distinguish it from other areas? Also, quite a few of the aide stations were not set up when we ran by the first time around, so not running by one was not a huge surprise.

      1. Steve Patt

        Aid stations not set up? THAT is inexcusable too, rain or no rain, course change or no course change! As for Muir Beach, maybe I'm not a good judge, since I do know the area somewhat, but I would say that looking at the map would show quite clearly that there was an out-and-back (in reality a "lollipop," but that's a minor matter) at the far north end of the revised course, and by turning right coming out of Pirate's Cove you REALLY should have known you were now heading back south (since even in dim light and fog, the Pacific had been on your left and was now on your right), and that something had gone wrong. Perhaps easy for me to say, but that's my honest opinion.

        1. Adamo1979

          Yes, I agree and I took & continue to take responsibility for missing the turn.

          As others have said, thanks for the discussion and congrats to the race organizers for pulling the race together. I just wanted to explain what happened from my perspective so that races can be as professional as possible and so that we can minimize controversy, especially at major events.

        2. Sage Canaday

          it was pitch black when we hit that point in the race…raining hard with fog…we could only hear the ocean waves somewhere off to the left and thinking about which direction was south after many turns and switch-backs was not on my mind (although I guess it should have been). I studied that map quite a bit when they posted it the evening before but (like Adam said) having never been to the bay area in my life things don't look like what you'd imagine them to based on the map posted on TNF website.

          1. Steve Patt

            Pitch black? Man, you guys WERE running fast!!! :-)

            I will say this – I've always thought the claim that "you are responsible for knowing the course" is largely nonsense. Some courses (and this is certainly one, though far from the trickiest) have so many turns that if you could memorize it beforehand, even given a turn by turn map (which is not always the case by any means), you'd be nominated for "maze rat of the century." I mean no effing way you could memorize many or even most courses in advance. Proper course marking IS certainly the responsibility of the RD, even with the possibility of vandalism or blowdowns. But the runner should have a GENERAL sense of the course, the major points, and the relative locations of the aid stations. I mean, you have to do that just to have a resupply plan.

            In this particular case, I guess what I don't understand is this – it was 4 miles from the previous aid station (Tennessee Valley) to Muir Beach. Even if you don't know how to identify Muir Beach (which presumably would be near sea level, and not on a cliff, but let's forget about that), surely elite runners have a reasonable idea of the pace they are running, and know when they should have run 4 miles from the previous aid station. Didn't it cross your mind after another 1/2 mile or mile that you must have gone wrong and think you should turn back? Or were you really going on the assumption that you passed the aid station and it wasn't set up yet? Because I've certainly been in the position more than once of having to backtrack, and in one recent case backtracking only to ascertain that I WAS going the right way. I admit that the fact that you WERE following ribbons complicates the situation, but still, the lack of an aid station must have worried you.

            1. Sage Canaday

              Steve, you bring up a good point. At that time in the race I wasn't looking at my GPS (a very cheap and inaccurate model that i don't really trust) to try to figure out when the next aid station was (a lot of times we don't stop at every aid station anyway). When we came into Tennessee Valley the second time (from a different angle) and I do remember thinking: "what, we're here again already?" because I knew of the Muir Beach aid station but didn't know what it would look like or if we had already passed it and perhaps they weren't ready for us yet (we passed some places where people were unloading trucks and they'd shout after us after we already passed: "wait, whats your number?") That longer stretch from Tennessee Valley to Tennessee valley (where we skipped Muir beach) was all a blur though and like Adam mentioned earlier a lot of the aid stations were caught off-guard that we were coming through so quickly. All I knew was that we had followed the orange ribbons and arrows at every questionable intersection. At the half-way point I did check my GPS and I was surprised to see that it only read about 21.5 or so (but then again this is a $60 unit that loses signals and cuts tangents). I thought to myself: "man, this GPS really sucks and i can't trust it or the course is just really going to be short!"). I was still confident we went the correct route. Running back I saw Adam and Jason a couple minutes behind…I started to wonder why 4th place was so far back though. That didn't make sense, but I still didn't worry about it too much…that is, until Bryon mentioned it again around mile 32.

              Thanks for bringing up this point for the discussion and hope your Achilles feels better soon.

              Best,

              Sage

            2. Mike Hinterberg

              I've never run that race and have no skin in the particulars of that race.

              But in general, I sympathize with what Adam and Sage are saying, and think they're still mature and professional about it. Yeah, it's ultimately the runner's responsibility, but it's also a race.

              In general, as for course familiarity, bearings, distances, and aid stations, here's the problem: How do you know if you're off course; the course markings were vandalized; the course was mismarked; the distances were miscalculated or mis-advertised; the course map was wrong or vague or outdated; or a volunteer specifically told you the wrong way to go? All of those examples have happened in races in the past, so which one trumps the other? And if you think you've studied the map but the course (and nearby runners) are going in a different direction, which risk are you going to take? People just want a fair race where everyone runs the same route.

              Race maps and marking are all about communication, and successful communication involves both the speaker and the listener. As much as I'll take responsibility for my own wrong turns, I also know some RD's who are paranoid about runners taking a wrong turn, because they would consider it a failure on their part. Those are great RD's.

              So if several people make a mistake or are confused, I'm still inclined to believe that things could have been marked better, even if I didn't get lost myself. You might get lucky and follow another runner at a tricky turn without thinking about it, or pass through an area at a different time of day/night that's easier to see. Or you might live nearby, have run the race before, or have the time to spend scouting the course. Or courses are changed in iterations overnight, and you have no idea if you (or the nearest competitor or volunteer) are truly aware of the "latest" course.

              Ideally, I'd still like to believe that fast people can show up to a high-profile event without having seen the course before, run their guts out, and see who's the fastest. When that doesn't happen, there are improvements to be made, IMHO.

  32. Ned Barrett

    All this is another example of why we need to support iRunFar. Where else do you get this kind of discussion (minus the anti-euro allegations). To have Sage, Adam, Jason, and others particpate shows us what's great about the ultra-running community.

  33. Brian Pototo

    I didn't have a chance to review the revised course online but I never missed a turn, the course was well marked especially considering the conditions and last minute changes – nicely done Endurance Challenge!

  34. JHahn

    Finger pointing aside, I think the Ultra running scene would do itself a favor by having a real doping discussion. I know we'd all like to believe this amazing sport of ours isn't like the others (and it truly isn't in most ways), but people are people. Anytime you offer an athlete the opportunity to become a paid athlete (and perhaps avoid a lifetime of brick laying) you will find cheaters. I absolutely want to believe all these athletes are clean and value the simple beauty and purity of running long distances on trails that we all do. But, I also believed Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis (never Armstrong, tho). Also, I believe if Ultra Running is to be taken seriously and attract sponsors (for large prize lists, attract the best and deepest international fields, etc.), it will need to prove it's clean so these sponsors aren't embarrassed by the latest doping scandal. Unfortunately, professional road cycling has destroyed much of the endurance world's credibility regarding fair play and that may stick with us for a while. Those athletes that are clean should be yelling the loudest because they stand to lose the most. Just my two cents.

    Thanks, iRunFar, for the great job covering this race and all the others I've been fortunate enough to follow this year. Byron, you do an excellent job – especially love the video interviews.

  35. Mike McMonagle

    Adam, thanks for your level-headed and fair responses on this topic. It's refreshing to hear your honest and constructive perspective. I'm sure all those mid-race confusions made for a doozie of a mental game for the three of you and the other front-runners, so props for keeping it together and finishing the race out strong. I'm glad you did decide to share your comments here. They, along with this video: http://vimeo.com/24843116 , make me a huge fan of yours!

  36. Steve Patt

    I should add finally that by no means am I trying to bust anybody's chops. My respect for fast guys and gals is immense; their talent beggars belief. But I AM a race director, and one who has been victimized by ribbon thieves in the past, and I definitely think we all need to understand what can go wrong and how to prevent it (if possible, which is to say, not always).

  37. astroyam

    One thing that has gotten lost in all this is that the pace in this race was off the charts!! 6:40 pace for the winner, whereas last year's winner's was 7:35. And that was a record breaking year by a long shot from the previous year's 8:09 pace. (yes it's posted on the Results page, conveniently). The 4 miles shorter may have impacted some but still.

    Can anyone who raced the course say that that it was a fast course or is everyone just speeding up a lot? At this rate the 50 miles will be done in an hour by 2020…

    1. Anonymous

      The paces shown in the results are calculated using 50 miles as the distance. If you calculate pace for the 46.8 miles were actually run, the winner's pace was around 7:07. Still quite a bit faster than last year in much tougher conditions.

    2. John

      My understanding is that the elevation profile was greatly affected by the course changes. They basically took out the two biggest climbs. So even with horrible conditions, I would venture a guess that the course this year was faster then in years past.

  38. Terry Miller

    I get the grass-roots history of trail race , where traditionally it was up to each runner to know the course , and I get the restrictions that are sometimes in place on markings allowed. But seriously, in this day and age, with GPS, big name sponsors, international runners, and the global coverage of the iRunFar media Empire, I don't think decent course markings are too much to ask for a race of this caliber. And by "decent", I mean good enough that you'd have to really be trying to miss it. These are trail RUNNING races, not orienteering or adventure races, or navigation contests. I could not be more sick of reading the same ridiculous story about the fastest runners in a race getting lost. Yes, I get that it is the racer's responsibility to know the course, but in my opinion it is the RD's responsibility to make it easy.

    And on a separate topic, I know that most of these races aren't making tons of money, but does anyone know exactly what it would cost to test even just the podium athletes? Just wondering how feasible it really is. It would

    be nice to have at least a little idea that the results are clean.

    Thanks for your great work as usual, Bryon and Meghan.

  39. Matt

    I'm in complete agreement about the "insurance" marker(s). I have never understood why course marking often relies on one single flag to mark a turn. If you are already out there marking the course, put a second (or even third) marker 10 meters further along so runners know 100% they made the correct turn. I was at Leadville this year and every turn had 8+ flags marking it. Say what you will about that race, but I never once questioned if I was on course.

    To me it seems like such a simple thing to over-mark a course when the consequences of under-marking a course are so severe, especially in a race with so much money on the line.

    For the mid-pack runners reporting the course being well marked… I think it needs to conceded that a lack of course markings can look a lot different when you have the muddy footprints of 100 other runners to follow.

  40. Lindsay

    I ran my heart out for 23.4 miles then bailed at Fort Barry with hip issues. I'm a relatively slow 2:52 marathoner (2weeks ago – hence sore hips!), and ran a 3:40 here. It blows my mind the speed at which the top finishers can race for this distance, and in such sloppy conditions!

    I waited around to see those guys and girls finish and I have to say even the finish was badly organized! The announcer was too busy faffing around explaining the intricacies of a marathon relay to even acknowledge the arrival of the 50M leaders! It was anticlimactic to say the least – probably more so for the runners themselves. I was using the TNF photographer as my commentator :) He knew the score.

    Like all the other mid pack runners, I was lucky enough to have volunteers at the key junctions. And apart from nearly wandering off a sheer cliff edge in the fog and horizontal rain, I stuck to the trail pretty well :) It's a real shame the leaders didn't have the support the needed and deserved/paid for.

  41. Dave M

    RE: course markings and properly informed course marshalls, agreed with Adam's constructive points that TNF series needs to step it up a notch; they have the resources and budget for it obviously. One way to help the situation is to start the 50 mile in the daylight at 7 am instead of 5 am so the trail can be seen and so volunteers dont have to get up at 2 am to be far out on the course as marshalls and make sure flags are in place. It's a 2 hour cushion everyone would benefit from, especially the organization.

    That said, there are still no guarantees about staying on course. I've raced on the Headlands and spiteful non-racers have moved flags to throw everyone off.

    1. David Walker

      I agree totally with the 7am start. This is not a 100 or something that needs every minute of the day. Not only volunteers, but I am sure racers would appreciate getting some extra sleep!

      1. Ben Nephew

        I second the daylight start. It is crazy to have to leave at 2:30am to catch the last bus to the start at Bear Mountain when you are only about an hour from the course. It's only a 50 miler. While a number of runners do need every minute of the day, many do not, and I would bet that a light start would lead to more people finishing in 12 hours or faster. There is an early start option for JFK that has been working well for many years. I can't figure out why more races do not follow that successful tactic.

        I sure do miss the early days when you could park right at Bear Mountain, and there was only the 50 mile race.

  42. geoff

    I've run the NFEC 4 times and I have yet to meet anyone running the 50 miler who thinks it's a good idea to have all the different races going on at once. There are a lot of good things about this event, but hopefully this year's difficulties will be the straw that needed to break to get TNF to schedule the 50 miler as a stand alone event… and yeah, starting after sun up certainly would make things even less likely to go awry. Why not do some of the shorter distances on friday, the others on Sunday, and the 50 miler between them on Saturday. Doing it this way you might even get several of the runners from the shorter races to come out on Saturday and watch the finish of the 50 miler, and the championship atmosphere they always try so hard to create might actually come about organically. heck, maybe even the finish line folks would notice when the 50 mile winner crosses the line if they weren't mixed in with dozens of 50k racers.

    Sage, Jason, and Adam: it's awesome that you guys are weighing in with your stories. bummer for you guys that it played out the way it did, but hopefully you can take a bit of solace in the possibility that maybe this was enough of a high profile mishap for TNF to make some changes that have clearly been begging to be made since the first year of this event. We'll see though. there's a big difference between a lot of noise being made about something, and a huge company like TNF actually doing something about it. especially considering how many people they are bringing into this race each year with their current model.

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