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 Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 155 comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Ben Nephew

    After following the race feed and this discussion, it is hard to avoid concluding that the race was an overall mess. Most of the relevant issues have already been mentioned, but there are a few additions that might add to the discussion. I wasn't at the race, but I've raced the Headlands 50k a couple times when it was a USATF Championship and run several TNF 50 milers.

    I never had any issues with following the course at the Headlands 50k, and I don't remember many other runners having trouble. This may be because the Headlands race was organized by local runners. While TNF has the ultimate responsibility for the race, I think they contract out to a company from Texas. Other than TNF events, I do not know what experience this company has with organizing trail events. Many of the criticisms of this race have been made about prior TNF events, including the clusters of ribbons, poorly marked intersections, complicated course design, too much two way traffic, uninformed aid station workers, late aid station setup, and an unnecessary dark start.

    As others have said, if it is a race, the course should be easily navigated by top runners running hard. Comments from runners who aren't at the very front may not be relevant to the discussion of how well the course was marked, and this seems to be situation here based on the accounts from Sage and Adam. It is possible that someone in the pack behind the leaders was more familiar with those trails, but that shouldn't be a factor in determining the race. I've been in situations where just having another runner with me was extremely helpful at a poorly marked TNF intersection compared to the one guy who was in front. I doubt anyone in the top ten of the results wants navigation to be a determining factor in competitive trail races.

    This brings up the need for better organization at championship events, and probably for the sport as a whole. I haven't been impressed with the Skyrunning Federation at either Transvulcania or Speedgoat. In comparison to these races and the recent TNF race, the IAU trail races have been well marked and the race rules are clearly detailed. I don't remember hearing about anyone getting lost in Ireland, and there were no trails at all for most of that course.

    I think Adam, Sage, Jason, and many of the other runners up front that had a hard time following the course are being conservative in their comments about the race, and there are probably several good reasons for this. There were far too many of those runners to place the blame on the runners. It's a shame that so much training effort and preparation was derailed by a poorly organized event.

  12. Alicia

    I am from the Bay Area and did some of my training on the course, specifically on the trials between Ft Barry/Rodeo Beach and Muir Beach and a ton of routes through Tennessee Valley. And on Saturday, I was confused on the Muir Beach loop in particular, as well as other places along the course. There were crazy elements to deal with and I very much commend North Face for making this race happen. And considering the changes that had to be made, I thought the course design was as good as could be, North Face did a great job with that, I'm sure there were a lot of people working hard and fast and several who pulled all nighters to pull it off.

    However, for all the wonderful things I've heard from past participants, I was very surprised at the course marking which seemed insufficient. And not because of the elements though, but mainly because of the approach. Many of colors of ribbons were tied together so you often couldn't see your color in the bunch. And with all the looping, the arrows were just as confusing as they were helpful since the course crossed itself so many times. And I studied the map! There are two local companies that put on frequent trail runs in the Bay Area and the Marin Headlands and both do a much better job with marking. In fact they both do a phenomenal job with all their runs, I now have even more appreciation for what they offer.

    Also, I reviewed the updated course guides of both the 50 mile and 50K in advance. If you look at the return from Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley, it shows the different race distances taking a different route from each other, when in fact on Saturday we took the same route. The turn by turn directions are the same in each guide (and correct). I believe that when they made the update, the 50K was switched to take the 50M route to Tennessee Valley and that didn't get updated on the map.

    One other error for the 50K course, at the Tennessee Valley Aid station, it said we were at Mile 12.9 (we were not, it was mile 8.9, Muir Beach was 12.9) This was confusing because I was confident I had run the right course but my GPS said 8.9, couldn't figure how I could have missed 4 miles (I didn't, this was a case of incorrect signage.)

    Many thanks to North Face for allowing us to be out there. But from a constructive perspective, when there is significant prize money involved, you hate to see that impacted by errors that could have been avoided. As Adam noted that he takes full responsibility for missing the turn and knowing the course, there could also have been improvements on the marking side with more thorough marking. Something consistent with what I've seen at other races out there would have been helpful for all, even those of us competing against the clock and ourselves for our first 50K and no thoughts of a penny from running ever. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't have made a difference in the results, but for a top class race, you don't want to see the question even come up. And these guys work hard all year and are so talented, you just want to see a good race and hate to see that be one of the factors that plays into their disappointment.

    All in all though, it was an honor to be out there on the same trails with such phenomenal runners as yourselves. I saw Sage out there making the tough hike back to Tennessee Valley and the eventual winner passed me on what must have been his second trip into Muir Beach. Both were very courteous and made me feel like I belonged out there with them.

  13. Girona

    This is what she use jblo,


    400 g garbanzos

    2 tomates grandes maduros

    1 cebolla

    2 pimientos verdes

    1 pimiento rojo chorizo morcilla aceite de oliva virgen extra

  14. Girona

    And she also gave me the recipe:

    Los garbanzos se ponen en remojo la noche anterior, para hidratarlos.

    Se ponen a cocer en la olla a presión cubiertos de agua, y se saca la espuma que hacen al hervir. Si hace falta se les añade un poco más de agua.

    Mientras tanto se prepara el sofrito, con el aceite que se pone a fuego suave para pochar la cebolla. Antes de que empiece a tomar color, se añaden los pimientos troceados en pequeño, y cuando están hechos se añade el tomate, pelado y cortado en dados. Cuando se ha perdido el agua del tomate se deja freír unos minutos y ya está hecho el sofrito, que se añade a la olla donde están los garbanzos, y se deja cocer a fuego lento hasta que los garbanzos estén tiernos. Si hay prisa, se cierra la olla y se cuece a presión. Cada olla tiene su tiempo, la mía necesita unos 12 minutos.

    A mitad d cocción se añade el chorizo y la morcilla, pero para que el plato resulte más ligero me gusta ponerlo desgrasado (hay que cuidarse). Para desgrasarlos, se trocean y se envuelven en papel de cocina y se poenen unos minutos en el microondas a máxima potencia. De este modo buena parte de la grasa queda en el papel.

    Cuando los garbanzos están tiernos, se sazonan y ya está listo para servir, aunque este tipo de platos quedan más ricos de un día para otro.

    Como siempre, es importante que todos los ingredientes sean de calidad, tanto los garbanzos como las verduras y los embutidos. Estos chorizos y morcillas son de Ronda y buenísimos.

    Bon profit mal parit!

  15. LGK

    Question: I am just curious (no judgment, but really just curious :) ) – when events courses get shortened like that, due to weather, etc, do they still count as qualifying races? I.e. will this TNF abbreviated 50 mile race still count as a qualifying race for the Western States? And the same with UTMB? What is generally the rule?

    1. Steve Patt

      An interesting question which goes to the heart of Western States qualifying. Since, for example, TNF at 47 miles, even had it been nice weather, is still a "longer" race than, say, AR50. With various "rating" systems available (e.g., Gary Wang's RealEndurance or Ultrasignup), I wouldn't be surprised to see WS eventually move to some kind of "course-adjusted" qualifying times. Of course that still wouldn't answer the question of what happens when a particular year's race is shortened for whatever reason.

    2. Bryon Powell

      LGK, I think any decisions would be made one a case-by-case basis. In this instance, the Western States 100 decided to all the race to be a qualifier for anyone who race 10:15 or better… a (slightly rounded) pro-rated time based off the 11 hour qualifying standard. Clearly, the folks who signed up for the race had intended to cover 50 miles and circumstances outside their control caused them to run a slightly shorter distance. I'm sure that if the 50 mile race had been cut to 50k, it would not have counted.

        1. Speedgoatkarl

          my last two cents….

          A "lottery qualifier" for a WS ticket, should simply be a 100 mile finish. Not a 50 mile, 11 hour time. I know this will offend some, and it's not my angle here, but WS is a hard 100, (because of the heat, the course in general is not that hard) and should be treated to those who have proved they can finish the distance. There are 100 other 100 mile races in the US to run, many of the courses are alot better than Western. Of course the history plays a part to, but to be part of history, you gotta create history first. Does that make sense? Alright, I'm done yacking now….

  16. Speedgoatkarl

    Any race that has a prize purse should be marked so clearly that one would have to be blind to make a wrong turn. ALL turns should be no-brainers, noone should have to remember the "course description", because NOONE remembers every turn, I don't care how many times we look at the "map".

    At Speedgoat too, noone got lost, but we had a "rules" issue. It sucked for me to make a decision without a Skyrunning Federation representative around to at least throw in their two cents on the problem. Noone from the ISF was present because they didn't want to pay for their travel to have someone there. I don't think that's right. This year the rules on switchbacks will be clear, but still no ISF rep…..

    People and companies are putting on money races that don't run as an elite athlete, so they don't have much experience with marking a course, or course "flow". Locals will always feel their course is easy to follow….not the case for anyone else. '

    It was still a good race and the big dance at the end of the year, at least we have that. right?

    1. Steve Patt

      Karl, I hope you knocked on wood after you wrote that. Because unless you are fortunate enough to live in any area where there are no jerks who think it's funny to remove a ribbon or even to move one, or unless you're fortunate enough to have so many volunteers you can have one standing at every single intersection on your course, and unless there's no wind to blow a ribbon which was hanging straight down and visible into the middle of a tree where it can't be seen, and unless the area where your race is run doesn't have dozens of intersecting trails like there are in the Headlands, someone WILL get lost (or at least take a wrong turn) if your race goes on for enough years. It happens.

      And, for the record, you do not have to be an "elite athlete" to understand course marking and course "flow." The idea that you do is, frankly, rather insulting to the rest of us.

      1. Speedgoatkarl

        sorry to have offended you Steve, it was un-intentional.

        I always seem to ruffle someone's feathers.

        And you are right Steve, I was not there, so have no clue, but can I make one simple suggestion to all RD's of any race…..How about "wrong way" ribbon. A different color like caution tape. This tells the runner, "whoops", caution, I'm going the wrong way. Not many races do this, I got the idea from another RD and many folks at Speedgoat and that other race, found that it was highly effective, it could have stopped Sage and a few others that made the wrong turn. And I will stand corrected to say noone went "off-trail" at Speedgoat. Rickey Gates ran right through some wrong way tape, then cliffed out and lost a few precious minutes. It happens and I've done it too.

        I apologize if I offended anyone. go run and forget about it, it's a blog….

        1. Steve Patt

          Caution tape is a great idea and I've used it in the race I RD. Just as good and quite common in this area are chalk lines "blocking" the incorrect trail, but some jurisdictions (like the one my race runs in) are adamant that chalk or flour is verboten and only allow ribbon. But "it could have stopped Sage and a few others that made the wrong turn" isn't correct, because the trail they turned on was a CORRECT trail, it just came later in the course. The problem they ran into is one I have on my course as well (and undoubtedly many other courses); you arrive at the same intersection twice, from different directions, and need to exit it in different directions. Such a situation is unavoidable when there is an out-and-back at one end of the course (as was the case at TNF). In my case, I use double-sided signs, so runners coming from one direction see an arrow pointing, say, left, and then runners coming from the other direction see the other side of the sign with an arrow pointing, say, straight. That works, although I've certainly had runners do the wrong thing anyway. The best solution is to station a volunteer at such an intersection, which WAS the case at TNF (when I and probably most of the runners got there), but not when the front-runners did (which is undoubtedly the combined result of their unbelievable – although fully predictable – speed and the 5 am start time). In short, s**t happens. I always tell my runners if they get to an intersection and aren't ABSOLUTELY SURE of which way to go, they should wait for someone who is. Even though it might mean missing a course record, I'd say its probably good advice for everyone, even the front-runners.

        2. Mike McMonagle

          Inside Trail Racing, who put on lots of races in the San Francisco area, use wrong way ribbons – or at least they did in the two races of theirs which I've run. One of those races was a 50k in the Headlands and the course was very easy to follow. Granted, it was a clear, sunny day, but it's definitely an effective method and much appreciated by the runners.

  17. Amanda

    Does anyone know what happened to Leor Pantilat? Someone commented above that he skipped on part of the course, but that seems crazy, considering it's his home turf… did he show up to race at all? He was definitely a favorite to win on the forums pre-race….

    1. Matias Saari

      Leor did not start. He posted the following on Facebook:

      Rather than explain myself fifty separate times, here are my feelings on why I did not participate in the race this morning:

      I was much looking forward to running some of my favorite single track trails on Mt. Tam and Muir Woods this morning among many of the best trail runners the sport has to offer. Unfortunately, when I learned of the extensive course change it was a fairly easy decision for

      me to pass on this opportunity. From a philosophical standpoint, I’m not obsessed with running for the sake of running and racing for the sake of competition. I run because I enjoy it, and much of that enjoyment is derived from running in beautiful surroundings and racing on aesthetic courses. In order for me to perform to my capabilities, I know that I need to have the passion and fire that (for me) is only produced by running in such places. In this case, all of my favorite parts were cut out leaving a series of rather bland roads (in my opinion) with which I have never had an affinity. It was obvious to me that the substitute course of repeated multi-loops on these muddy dirt roads would have left me with neither enjoyment nor inspiration. Going through the motions with an unmotivated state of mind could only result in an unfulfilling experience. In other words, if I’m running and my heart isn't into it, then I shouldn't and won’t be running. I realize that my philosophy and reasoning may be impossible for many to understand, but that’s how I play the game.

      1. Carey

        "I realize that my philosophy and reasoning may be impossible for many to understand, but that’s how I play the game."

        I love it — more like Leor Pantilat please. Not because I play the game the identical way as he does, but because I like that he knows exactly why he's there.

      1. adamo1979

        That's great Bryon and I appreciate all the constructive dialogue that has gone on. There are some very good suggestions being made. I do hope that it can help to make this race & others better, we all benefit from that.

        I am glad that I'm not the only one who thinks the 5am start is a bit early and unnecessary, or having the option of an early start for those who think they'll need the extra time to complete the distance. I also like the idea of wrong way flagging, along with the confidence flagging.

        The fact that TNF, &/or the race organizers are reading this is a great sign and I appreciate that they care enough to do that. I hope that they implement some of the great suggestions at this and other events. They do a lot for the sport in sponsoring races and supporting athletes and I'm sure that they want to put on the best races possible as well.

  18. Sam Robinson

    This is an unfair comment on multiple levels. I myself have no sympathy for dopers, but to insinuate doping against someone on the basis of their family relations is low-minded… though probably inevitable given the numerous anonymous opportunities for arm-chair critics such as yourself.

  19. art

    my initial comment now seems tame subsequent to the discussion that has followed below. thanks Meghan and Bryon for allowing this discussion to flow where it flows.

  20. @srbrownmt

    From my pedestrian view from the middle of the pack, I loved everything about the race. I'd hate to see it not start in the dark. It's absolutely surreal to see all the headlamps stretched out in a bobbing line for the first few miles. When you run on a track, you don't get to see the slow gray dawn while winding along the Coastal Trail with the sound of the ocean below. This is trail running. It's not a road marathon with markers every mile. The wind is going to howl, it's going to be dark some, the mud will be slippery. The rocks will slice us open when we fall on them. The markings at some of the junctions won't be perfect and will fly away. Unpaid volunteers stand in the cold at junctions and work aid stations. Even on fire roads, some of it is going to suck. We knew that when we started. That's why we do it. And even though it's wasn't Plain or Barkley, we all still had some responsibility in these conditions to have a general mental map in our heads (or taped to our arms) and to be equipped to know a course most of us had never seen before. The fact that it was a dash for cash doesn't change that. Do we really want it to?

    I fear that if we make this too easy, we lose some of the charm of this goofy sport that gets us all out there in the first place. Some of the same things happened at Chuckanut at the beginning of this year and that's a race that shouldn't change either. So even though I wasn't super thrilled about running down the Rodeo Valley trail a fourth time, it ended up being a blast to see just how much mud could glom onto my legs. I give huge kudos to TNF, and especially to the volunteers who stood out there in the rain for hours, for making this a great event.

  21. Chris

    I've also done a few Inside Trail Racing runs, and in addition to the wrong way ribbons, they use a lot of confidence ribbons so you never feel or wonder if you are off course. Both are great to keep your mind on running and avoid the panic of "did I make the correct turn back there?"

    1. Steve Patt

      Agreed, but as noted above, neither wrong way ribbons nor confidence ribbons would have helped the leaders who went the wrong way in THIS race, since they were not going the "wrong way" (just at the wrong time, so to speak), and more confidence ribbons would have just reinforced their incorrect decision.

  22. Gary Gellin

    As of yesterday (Tuesday) evening the results have been updated and appear correct. Of special note, a buddy of Geoff Roes from Alaska, Scott Watts, is now correctly listed as 1st place in the 45+ age group and 50th overall in his 1st ever 50 mile! No doubt, he had some inspiration from his absent friend.

    A final thought on thought on navigation. Next year we get a professional mountain bike racer to lead the race. The perfect candidate is none other than the brother of Miguel Heras – Roberto!

  23. Aaron Sorensen

    I have volunteered and set up ultra course more than a dozen times.

    There are some very good and ways to properly do it as mentioned, yet those good ways all seem to roll in to 1 good way and the rest seem to be bad ways.

    I have seen my share of the bad, even one person setting up taking a wrong turn and not meeting back up with the correct trail and having runners come into the finish from the wrong direction.

    Even with the few vandalisms and all the bad marking out there I've seen, there is 1 way to make this all make sense. Sometimes you will not have time or volunteers to do this, but at these larger races it is a must.

    What you have to do is have a few actual ultra runners with knowledge on who a trail should be set up go out there and run sections of the race a few hours before the start.

    All they need are a couple dozen ribbons when they start. If they see anything that doesn't make sense or vandalism at work, they will be able to fix it on the spot. More importantly though is their ability to see how the turns take place at a jogging pace in the condition that the runners will be in.

    There are only a few times that there was either enough time or enough people to do this at the races I have helped out at, but more than half the time someone went through the course, (let’s say 3 out of 5) there would be a problem.

    The fact is that most help is just that. Very nice people that want to help in any way they can and they are great. However in a race this size, it is a must to have someone go through the course that knows what is going on.

  24. Gary Gellin

    Bryon et al – Help me out here. When exactly did Miguel Heras know he was in the lead? Not until the race was over? It wouldn't be the first time, e.g., when Leor won Way Too Cool in 2010 not knowing that Geoff Roes was off course. My wife Holly was at the finish line and said Miguel made a gesture like something was wrong. That was before he confirmed to the officials at the finish that he had in fact run every step of the course in the proper order (which no one should dispute).

    What happened to Tim Parr exactly? Someone mentioned that he was in the mix early but I haven't seen any pics or reports on his race.

    1. Bryon Powell

      He did not know at Tennessee Valley 3, but he did by Tennessee Valley 4. He probably should have known sometime in the vicinity of Muir Beach 2. After the finish they tried to question whether he'd run the whole course as he'd not been recorded at Muir Beach. I ended up playing translator. We quickly established that he had run the whole course. [Edit: You mentioned the course issue… I'm pretty sure he couldn't be certain that he'd finished. Here he was, having just won an international race and $10,000 and absolutely no one was doing anything.]

      Timmy Parr was in 15-20th at TV2 (over 15 minutes back)… and third at TV3. At that point I think he knew he'd gone off course.

      1. Meghan Hicks


        At Muir Beach 2, he asked the aid station what place he was in. A couple people tried to communicate to him that, though he was the 5th man through, the other four in front of him had all spent time off the course. I don't think anyone told him, however, that some of those people were trying to play catch-up by running extra around Muir Beach. I asked him, "Do you understand?" as he ran out from the aid station and he said, "Okay." The look on his face didn't change, though, so I couldn't tell if he did.

    2. adamo1979

      In talking to Miguel and Francois after the race, neither of them knew if there were any runners ahead of them when they finished. Miguel didn't know for certain that he'd won until he was in the medical tent warming up and he asked someone what position he finished. It's too bad that he wasn't able to celebrate the victory and savour the moment.

  25. jblo

    That your brother is a pothead does make it more likely that you smoke pot, and if you and your brother both made your living as athletes and your brother was busted for doping and was well connected with the most notorious doper in history (Lance) then yes, it would be more likely that you were also a doper.

    1. Sean

      Wow, seriously!? How much more narrow-minded, prejudice, and ignorant can you get, jblo? Answer: not much. Like Adam, my brother smokes a ton of pot (but since my brother is American, it's "ton", as opposed to Canadian Adam's brother's "tonne":). That, in no way, shape, or form makes it more likely that I smoke pot. In fact, dare I tell you that I've never smoked pot? I dare…I've never smoked pot. I digress.

      The point here, obviously, is Miguel. Like Adam said, just because his brother used PEDs does not in any way even remotely imply that Miguel does. Not even a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, wee bit. Nope. Get some evidence about an individual before you go publicly spouting off your unfounded, prejudiced beliefs about them. Anything else is simply unfair at best.

    2. adamo1979

      Jblo, your comment is full of logical fallacies and sweeping generalizations and you don't back up some pretty serious allegations with a shred of evidence. Using your logic, any bad choice that a close family member of yours makes, independent of you, instantly increases the likelihood that you would make the same choice and also means that the general public should also be suspicious of you. Sounds like a crappy world to live in. As an FYI, here's a fact, Miguel makes his living as a plumber & an electrician, running supplements that income.

      Once again, while I think discussions about doping in sport are constructive, accusing people of doping, or of being more likely than not to dope, without some strong circumstantial, or actual evidence, is completely offside.

      As for my Canuck spelling, what can I say, eh? I write the Queen's English!

  26. markj

    Nope, jblo makes perfect sense. The literature is full of statistical verification of the fact that if one family member uses illegal drugs it is much more likely that other family members do as well. he didn't say it guarantees it, he just said it makes it more likely, and that is an irrefutable fact. Good day, Gentlemen.

  27. Sean

    Okay markj, if you're going to make a bold statement like that, you should at least cite your sources. So…cite your sources. Exactly what "literature is full of statistical verification of the fact that if one family member uses illegal drugs it is much more likely that other family members do as well"?

  28. Andy

    Sean — Anyone with a little knowledge about behavioral and social science (yeah, I'm a Ph.D. psychologist) will tell you that the scientific literature has hundreds if not thousands of studies showing a high genetic and familial concordance of substance abuse in families. As an example, a recent article by eminent psychiatric epidemiologist, Ken Kendler, and colleages: Kendler, Sundquist, Ohlsson etl. (2012). Genetic and Familial Environmental Influences on the Risk for Drug Abuse. Archives of General Psychiatry, pp. 690-697.

    But, to quote another eminent social scientist, Karl Meltzer (somewhere in this post)" Now go run and forget about it. It's a blog."

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