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The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile - RunUltra Marathon


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San Francisco, California
United States
Total Time = 00m
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Pre-race routine:

This race has some background info that I think should be shared to set the tone. My very good friend and athletic mentor Richard Paradis, aka DickDime, was hit by a car and incurred a traumatic brain injury in August. Dime has been my racing buddy since I moved to Denver. We'll go to races together and he'll take the time to discuss pacing strategy, drive the course with me, and just generally "coach" me. I have PRed the marathon, half marathon, and half ironman distances this year and each one of those races Dime has been there before the race giving me advice and confidence!
Anyway, I've eeked out these PRs on less-than-stellar training. This year I haven't really dedicated myself to training seriously for a race (or I have, but then I slack off down the road). Dime was always telling me "Look at what you can do on such little training! Imagine what you're capable of if you really train hard!"
After he got hit, I wanted to really put my heart and soul into training for a race. I wanted to do something BIG, something that I couldn't just BS my way through. Something that would force me to DIGDEEP and would really let me find out what I'm made of.
I have been happy with my race finishes recently, but have had an underlying sense of ennui about them this year. The races I've done have been fun, lots of fun, but I haven't felt challenged or a real sense of accomplishment after most of them-- partly b/c I've been half-assing my training so I don't feel like my PRs are hard-won.
So when my friend Reese threw this 50 mile race idea my way, I knew it was perfect. It had all the elements I was looking for. And I wanted to dedicate the race to Dime.
I really trained hard for this. And it was the most I've ever enjoyed training for a race! I loved being out on the trails for hours and hours. Dime has said before that trail running is good for your soul, and I totally agree. Training for this race helped me process a lot of shit going on in my life. You know how they say running is cheaper than therapy? Well it's true. This was good for me in so many different ways.

So, there's the back story! On to the race!
Event warmup:

Actually, not quite. One more little prerace detail. I was in the airport waiting for my delayed flight to San Francisco, and I got to talk to Dime! He had been moved to a place in Omaha for his next phase of recovery, and up until then hadn't been allowed access to his cell phone. Well, he got it back and called me the day before the race! It was such a surprise, and so totally just right. He gave me a GREAT prerace talk and I got off the phone feeling so good about racing the next day. Wahoo!

Flew into SFO late Friday morning, linked up with Reese, James, and John. All three of them are from San Diego and we were all 50 mile virgins. Let the wild rumpus begin.
Run
  • 12h 21m 31s
  • 50 miles
  • 14m 50s  min/mile
Comments:

I had a strange sense of peacefulness before the race. I wan't nervous or particularly scared, I just felt ready.

We started at 5:15am in pitch black. It was beautiful seeing all the headlamps ahead of us float down the trail. The first mile or so was nice and flat, and then we began what would be the first of MANY steep-ass climbs. Our (mine and Reese's) plan was to power walk the steep uphills in the beginning. So we did that. It was a lot of fun to talk with her and just enjoy that we were off on such a big adventure together.

We agreed that we'd stay together for the first 20 miles, at least, and could leave if someone was falling behind. I thought this would be really good for me especially b/c staying with her in the beginning would guarantee that I couldn't go out too fast. All of the bad ending stories I read about ultras involved the racer going out too fast.

We were having a blast talking about life and men and work and clothes. We sang some songs, did some dances, basically just really enjoyed ourselves.

Mile 8 point something was the first major aid station and we arrived feeling good. The darkness was almost completely dissipated, so it was nice to be able to see where we were running. We dropped our lights in our drop bags there, and would have the chance to get them at mile 44 b/c we'd come through the same aid station.

This aid station was where the first of us inspirational notes were. It was so cool to read things my friends and family wrote to me! Grant, Reese's bf, had done a great job of collecting them all and parsing them out for the different drop bags. Having the notes/letters to look forward to really made a huge difference the entire day.

Our water and food was spot on, and we left the aid station a little lighter thanks to being able to shed clothing. We both were feeling really good.

The next section brought us up along the coast. I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was. A single track trail by the sea, running on fresh legs with one of my best friends, who could ask for more? It really was breath taking. Sometime during this section the sun came out and it was just gorgeous. Whenever I am in CA I am tempted to move back there (I grew up in Nor Cal) to be close to the water.


At Muir Beach we saw Grant and Jill for the first time. What a couple of studs! They (especially Jill, a girl after my own heart) were really loud and crazy when we came into view. They were GREAT inspiration for us, telling us how amazing we are and how great we look. It was so good to see them. We'd see them again at Stinson Beach.

We eventually left the trails that were right above the water and climbed into the fields above the coast. Pretty standard routine by that point- the two of us having fun and talking and laughing together. I really loved the trails we were on, I would love to go and RUN them again! We were going slowwwwly, but I was glad for it. Being so conservative in the beginning really helped me later in the race.

At mile 18.4, Pantoll, there was another big aid station and our second set of letters and notes. I ate some boiled potatoes with salt and man oh man did they hit the spot! Every aid station after that I made sure to grab some potatoes. The aid stations were great, there was a full spread out and the volunteers were great help.

From that aid station we entered the "enchanted forest" as we called it. It was really Steep Ravine Canyon, but Enchanted Forest sounds so much better right? It was like something out of a fairy tale, I kept expecting to see fairies zooming by or something. Go ahead and call me totally gay, but it's true. It was totally lush, with fallen trees and mossy overhangs and waterfalls and lots of little bridges to cross.

As we left the enchanted forest and came into the fields above Stinson Beach, I could tell Reese and I were pacing much differently. I would get ahead of her on any sort of incline and then have to go slowwww on the declines to let her catch up.

At Stinson Beach, mile 21.8, we saw Jill and Grant again. What a couple of rockstars. They were so awesome. We also met up with James and John, who we had been leapfrogging with the entire race. This was the firs thard cut off of the race and we made it with an hour to spare. I was sort of concerned there wasn't more of a cushion. I wanted to start moving faster.

From that aid station we went onto a bruuutal climb up Matt Davis trail. It was a long, really long, set of swtichbacks with stairs at the end of each switchback. I was really digging the climb, but Reese hated it. I kept having to stop and wait for her after a couple of stair climbs. I kept cheering encouragement and telling her stuff, but it seemed like she was mentally checked out. We were in that area for about half an hour when I started to get impatient. I wanted her to hurry the F up! I could tell she had checked out, and it had me concerned. As I was waiting for her to catch up with me so I could start running again, I said "Alright, what do you need? Do you want me to stay right by you? Run behind you? What do you need?" And she answered "I just need a flat fucking section of land to run on! You can go. Just go." And I had been waiting for that, because I really wanted to get moving, but I asked her "You sure?" before going. It was a relief b/c I kept thinking about only having one hour of cushion and it was still so early in the race. Plus I was feeling good and wanted to really start moving.

So I did! It felt great to "run" at a pace closer to my normal trail speed. I had been going so slow for so long. I still had to power walk a bunch of the swtichbacks and stairs, but at least I didn't have to wait anymore. Part of me felt bad for leaving her, but a larger part of me was glad to be able to run my own race. I kept getting peeks of the ocean through the trees, it was awesome. It was nice to be alone with my thoughts and not be concerned about anyone else.

Finally the trees/switchbacks/stairs section ended and we were in open fields. There was a long out and back section through the fields. It was really narrow singletrack that was carved into the side of steep hills, so it was difficult getting out of the way of the returning runners.

Oh! On this section I saw two guys, I think they were Spaniards, CUT the course. Instead of running all of the long switchbacks on one part of the hill, they just walked straight up the hill. They must have cut off about half a mile of switchbacks. I was so angry at first that I wanted to see their numbers so I could report them at the next aid station. But then I thought "whatever, they'll just have to live with being cheaters" and stopped worrying about it.

So I was humming along feeling awesome, enjoying the view down to the coast and the sunshine on my face. I hopped onto the side of the hill to let a returning runner pass, and when I jumped back onto the trail my left foot landed off of the singletrack. The steep hillside broke away under my foot and I slammed onto my side before I even knew what was happening. I had the wind knocked out of me and hit my right knee pretty hard, but I was able to get myself up without slowing anyone down. It shocked the hell out of me and I had some scrapes and dirt on my right side, but otherwise seemed fine. Good thing I landed on my side and didn't roll down the hill... that would have been prety awful. It was a steep roll down for at least a mile.

Mile 26 was the turn around point and a nice little aid station. It felt good to be one of the runners running back the way we came. I was a lot more careful passing people on the way back. The race organizers should reconsider that section as an out and back, because it was so difficult for the runners to pass each other.

I really had to poop pretty badly as we made our way back to the Pantoll Road. At the same time, my right knee started to talk to me. It was not that bad, but since I had to go to the bathroom (and there was NOWHERE that I could run off and squat without being totally obvious), I used the time to just walk really fast. I would try running every once in awhile but it hurt a lot and made me think I would crap my pants, so I just resigned myself to mostly walking until I could get to Pantoll and use a bathroom.

Jill and Grant were there at the Pantoll aid station, mile 30.4. I explained that I split up from Reese and let them know that the guys had also split up. The four of us were now on our own. I made my way to the bathroom and sat there for a looong time to make sure that I didn't have to go again a half mile down the road.

This was where I picked up my drop bag #3 notes. What a boost!

As I headed onto the Bootjack trail in the Muir Woods, leaving the aid station, my right knee freaked the fuck out. Everytime my right leg landed, excrutiating bolts of pain shot up and down my leg. I couldn't believe it. It was pain in my leg like I've never felt before. My knee was saying "STOP. GET OFF ME. STOP! IMMEDIATELY!" It hurt so fucking bad to just run an easy downhill. Tears welled up in my eyes with every footfall.

I don't know if it was from slamming my knee on the trail and then it getting cold while I went to the bathroom, or just from being on it for 30 miles, or what. I have never had knee pain, and certainly never like THAT. I was hobbling down this beautiful trail, surronded by the John Muir woods, and I couldn't think about anything except how slow I was going and how I wouldn't make the next cut off (mile 36) and that I had finally really hurt myself enough to make me one of those injured people that can't run anymore. I was tempted to stop and have a big crying session, but there were enough people around that I didn't let myself fall apart.

And then I though about what Dime had told me before the race. "The hard miles will come, wanting to quit will happen... when you get to those hard miles, enjoy it. You are running this race to go somewhere you've never gone before, so when you get there, embrace it." I was definitely somewhere I had never been before. 31 into a 50 mile race and unable to run on my knee. Well shucks.

So I began talking to myself. It hurt like a mother fucker, but I could handle some pain, right? Pain is what I wanted, right? So I started saying out loud, "This is manageable. This isn't enough that you have to stop. Just keep going. Just keep going."

As I was trying to negotiate my way down a particularly steep section James passed me and I tried to act strong. Then once he was out of earshot I let myself sob once or twice before pulling myself together. I had wanted to beat both the guys and it was hard to concede that he was now ahead of me.

I began experimenting with different strides to see which hurt the least. If I bent my right knee it was like electricity in my joints, so I figured out a straight legged gallop of sorts that was the least painful. Downhills hurt a hell of a lot more than uphills, I discovered. So the next few miles were just a study in pain management.

My legs felt strong and pretty fresh, all things considered. My left leg was taking the brunt of each stride at this point, so I was extremely grateful that it felt strong. Once I figured out the right sort of stride to do, I was actually passing people. I still had to grit my teeth to keep myself from crying out each time my right foot landed, but I was making good time.

I reached mile 36 and the second hard cut off with an hour and a half to spare. Phew. Now I just had to get to the finish line in under 14 hours.

The next thing I had to look forward to was the Mile 44 stop. I knew that if I could just get to that point I would be able to drag myself the last six miles of the race.

There were a couple relatively flat miles on the way to mile 39.3, which allowed me to do my weird straight-right-leg gallop with a minimum of pain. At mile 39.3 there was a water station, the same one as the Muir Beach aid station, before we had to climb up a GIANT steep hill. Denver folks, it was like that crazy steep west side trail of Green Mtn, but twice as long. I could walk uphill without too much pain, and on this hill is where I passed James. See ya, sucker! I had been staring at his ass for miles as we climbed that stupid mountain.

Once I crested that climb, I knew I would be in for some pain because donwhills were the worst on my knee. I just clenched my jaw, tried to keep my knee as straight as possible, and just tried my best to keep up a good pace. I was going maybe 10min miles down a hill that I normally would bomb down at sub 7s. If I could have really let my legs go, it would have been awesome. No such luck.

Finally I could hear the cheers from the mile 44 aid station. Yes! My last set of notes, seeing Jill and Grant, and then the final push to the finish! I stopped to talk to my friends for a bit. Grant told me that Jake would definetely be at the finish line because he had already landed-- they had just spoken on the phone. That was so awesome to hear!

I had put my sparkly red cape and some other funny things to wear in my drop bag, but I was in no mood for fun and games at that point. I just wanted to get to the finish line. I ate some delicious potatoes and chips and was on my way. Daylight was fading and I wanted to be done before it was too dark. I didn't grab my headlamp as motivation to hurry up and finish. (stupid choice)

Directly leaving the aid station there was another one of those ridiculously long climbs, so I just settled in to a power walk. There was a girl who must have been feeling good, that RAN up the entire thing. I couldn't believe it! I was jealous that she'd be done before me, because I just wanted to take my shoes off and sit.

At the top of the hill, mile 47.3, was the last water station before the finish line. Awesome volunteers, they were great. Hearing that I only had 2.7 miles to go was so great. They said "you only have 2.7 miles, and it's all downhill!" Normally that would be great news, but with my knee it meant that it would be so much harder. But who was I to complain, I was less than a 5k from the finish of my first 50 mile race.

By this point it was getting darker, but thankfully the trail was wide and mostly flat, so I didn't have to worry about tripping over anything. If I raised my eyes to look at the sunset (beautiful!) it would temporarily blind me when I looked back at the ground, so I just kept my eyes down.

On a few steep sections I walked backwards b/c that felt better than walking/galloping/whatever-the-hell-I-was-doing frontwards.

By this time there were some nasty feeling hot spots on my feet, so I had to alter my stride even more to keep from touching those spots. I had to focus on not pushing off of my left foot now, b/c there was a big ass blister on my heel. I must have looked like such a spaz out there with my crazy stride! I wish I had video of myself to laugh at now. I have to give my left leg major props for being able to handle almost all of my weight the last 20 miles.

I would like to say that I had some deep thoughts or revelations or spiritual happenings those last couple miles, but mostly I just thought about how my leg hurt and wondered exactly how much distance I had left to cover. (my garmin reading was off by about half a mile but I didn't have the brain power at that point to do the math to figure it out)

Finally the downhill was done, and I was crossing the same road that we crossed in the beginning of the race. So I knew I was really close. I reflected that I had run down this slope at 5:15 that morning, and thought about all the distance I had covered since then.

I saw a lanky figure sillouetted on the top of the small hill I was climbing and thought "wouldn't it be cool if that were Jake." But I had made up my mind that it couldn't be. As I passed, the guy said "good job!" and I croaked out a "thanks" and thought "why the hell is he standing in the dark, why doesn't he stop being a creep and just go to the finish line a quarter mile away?" Then the guy asked "Have you see any girls in a red sparkly cape?" It WAS Jake! I said "Hey!" And he realized it was me and ran over and jumped all around me and was going nuts. I was super happy to see him b/c the entire race I had been thinking about how great it would be to see him when I finished... but at that point I just wanted to keep moving towards the finish line. So I said something about him just going to the finish line (ie, get out of here punk, hahaha) and he skipped off down the road hooting and hollering.

So before I knew it I was rounding the turn onto the grass and to the finish line. The announcer said "another runner! going au natural with no head lamp!" and I did the Arsenio Hall arms the whole way into the finisher's chute.

And Jake was snapping pictures and I felt awesome and couldn't believe that my first 50 miles was done. It seemed to go by so quickly! Really.
What would you do differently?:

Not slam my knee around mile 24! Otherwise, I think I ran a smart race of which I can be proud. I made the most of what my body was giving me.
Post race
Warm down:

It was great having Jake there to wait on me hand and foot. He has been a huge support for me since I met him and has been there for me through some really rough personal weeks, so it was really special he was there to see me finish. That man is something else. He helped me hobble around to get food and change clothes and wait for my friends to finish. It was freezing out there! Colder than when we started that morning, for sure. They had some delicious vegetarian soup that was nice and hot and hit the spot.

As it turns out I was the fastest out of the 4 of us. James came in not too long after me, and then Reese after that. We were all convinced that John, who was the very last person to make the mile 36 cut off, wouldn't come in under 14 hours. We were all gathered around the finish shivering and speculating how much it'd suck to do 50 miles and have it not count. And THEN, with four minutes to spare, John came running in! We all went nuts! It was such a heroic finish to the day!

We went back to the hotel and ordered pizza. There was beer and wine but my stomach wasn't really interested. I iced my knee for awhile, feeling very scared that running on it for so long after the injury had caused a real problem.

The next morning I ate pizza and drank beer in bed while Jake was out running. The only time you can have 2 pieces of pizza and three beers before 10am in bed, without feeling guilty, is after a 50 mile race, hahaha.

Then we bopped around SF the rest of the day. That evening Jake flew back to Denver with me. What a fun day!

It was an awesome, fabulous weekend. I got the experience for which I have been looking for a long time. I was put up to physical and mental challenges that I've wanted but haven't had in a long time. This race, and the preparation for it, was just what I needed.

I loved all of it and I will FOR SURE be doing more 50 mile trail races.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

My knee locking up at mile 30. Otherwise, I ran exactly the race I wanted to run.

Event comments:

This race is great. It is a CHALLENGE but it is so worth it. The scenery is incredible and the volunteers/aid stations/post race activities are top notch. You can see so much in 50 miles, and the terrain of the course covers it all!

I felt very lucky to be able to do this race.




Last updated: 2009-10-12 12:00 AM
Running
12:21:31 | 50 miles | 14m 50s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance:
Course: North Face ranked it 5 stars (out of 5) for scenery, 5 stars for elevation gain. I agree with both.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Evaluation
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

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2009-12-10 3:57 PM

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Extreme Veteran
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Denver CO
Subject: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile


2009-12-10 4:52 PM
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Colorado Springs
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

Wow!!! That's sounds totally epic! You're a monster. We all need to get together soon. Are you come out for IM St. George? I heard Jake will be there

2009-12-10 4:54 PM
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Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
Good thing you didn't poop your pants...that would have sucked!!Great job Bridget! You are AMAZING!!
2009-12-10 6:26 PM
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Centennial, Colorado
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

I love all the detail in your report.  I'm just sitting here in awe at what you've accomplished.  I know Dime is just bustin' his buttons.  Makes me think that maybe someday ...

  Congratulations Bridget!

2009-12-10 8:01 PM
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Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
Great race report Bridget!!
I love it that you go to talk to Dime the day before.
I am super proud of you!!! Way to go girlie!!!!!
2009-12-11 1:46 AM
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Seattle
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
ROCK STAR! BAD A$$! All that...
Thoroughly enjoyed ready every word and it even made me almost weep a few times. I hate the fact that it made me think of running one of these things one day. Why do we put ourselveds through such things? Are you doing it next year?


2009-12-11 8:28 AM
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Master
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Ann Arbor, MI
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
You totally kick A$$!!! DAaanngg, I'm impressed.

I really wish you had a video of your gallop- the whole time I was reading your report, I imagined you galloping around, banging on some coconuts ala Monty Python...hehe.

Oh yeah, and great job not pooping your pants

You are a true inspiration. Amazing.
2009-12-11 10:06 AM
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Champion
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Calgary
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
AWESOME race report. What an adventure. I love it how Jake didn't recognize you, that must have been hilarious.

Congratulations.
2009-12-11 2:49 PM
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Master
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Robbinsville NJ
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
Awesome race and great report!
2009-12-11 4:28 PM
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Pro
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Parker, CO
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

wow Bridgett!  50-miles...what a stud!!  way to hang in there with the knee problems and all.  I don't think I would have with another 20-miles to run.  Congratulations on a great race and enjoyed your RR!

2009-12-11 4:56 PM
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MinneSnowta,
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Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

Wow!  Amazing job, as usual.  You're one tough chick.



2009-12-11 5:58 PM
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Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
Wow, what an awesome report! I felt like I was there with you. You kicked azz! Now I want to do  run 50 miles.  Great job in training and the race too. Congratulations! 
2009-12-11 8:22 PM
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A very cool place in Colorado :)
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

DAMN GIRL!!!!!!!!! What an incredible race driven by Dime's experience. You have honored him greatly -- and you have honored yourself. NICE WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

LOVE that you had 3 beers the next morning



Edited by snowgirl 2009-12-11 8:22 PM
2009-12-11 9:46 PM
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Brooklyn, NY
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
Amazing. Great race--way to hang in there with the injured leg.

(And, of course, great read, as always...)
2009-12-12 12:23 PM
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Ann Arbor, MI
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
Could this be your most memorable race yet? It's certainly inspiration you'll carry with you when things get tough in training, racing, and well, life. And that sounds like why you signed up in the first place. Love the way you keep it honest even when your desire for epiphany was trumped by the desire to cross that finish line! You know that you're becoming the inspiration to others that Dime is to you, right? Awesome race and a moving RR as well.
2009-12-13 8:11 AM
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Elite
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Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

Wow, that is amazing.  Can't imagine having to work through that type of terrain.  Awesome job wee one.



2009-12-13 1:12 PM
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Expert
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Denver
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
What a great race report! And what an awesome job at the race! Congratulations! I hope your knee heals up quickly.
2009-12-15 1:35 PM
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Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

Wow, another epic journey! Very cool RR and very inspiring. You rock as per the norm! Congratulations!

2009-12-16 12:54 AM
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Regular
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Denver Colorado
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
Dooode! Fantastic Bridget! I actually cried a little bit reading this report! For real! Don't think I'm gay or anything... K? If you don't, then I won't think you're gay about the "Enchanted Forrest" stuff! Deal? LOL!

I am so proud and inspired by you! You are wise beyond you're years BTW! Also, you have got quite the jem in that Jake of yours as well! You are such a bad a$$!!! Knuckles to ya sista!
2009-12-16 1:37 PM
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Kansas
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
AMAZING! You are AMAZING!
Loved the RR and all of the details. Congrats!
 
2009-12-16 8:46 PM
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Pro
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Broomfield, Colorado
Subject: RE: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile
You are such a stud!  Way to go with all the difficulties...and the knee thing sound severe!  Hope you can still walk


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