Thoughts on The North Face EC Championships 2011

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile Championship 2011 is in the books.  So, what happened?  As far as my picks were concerned, I didn’t do too shabby.  Although I mentioned D Jones as an outright favorite in SF in a recent post digesting his R2R2R FKT, paired with the rest of his nutty and gutsy 2011, I balked and fell for the ole Geoff Roes will find his big stage big race form once again.  Roes at or near his best has so much appeal, I might spend another year looking for that immaculate into the wild form.

In the aforementioned “recent post” I called Jones the future of  competitive American ultra.  His 2nd and HR100 2011 and his shorter ultra chops make him so dangerous on just about any track.  Only world-class studs (Chorier, M Wolfe, etc.) will be able to run him down on a good day.  Remember the early century K Skaggs and Krupicka?  Welcome to Jonestown.  He’s only 21.

Then there’s Mike Wolfe.  In the discussion that ensued post-race, there was talk of Wolfe for UROY.   His 2nd at WS100, the win at Way Too Cool, strong showing at Miwok among others and, indeed, this guy is right there, especially considering the other candidates.  Granted, I picked Wolfe to possibly win SF50, but I had the wrong dog.  Jason Wolfe finished 8th.

The Endurables’ fantastic portrayal of the day gives us a nice perspective on how things unfolded out there in the Headlands.  Stunning scenery.  The gorgeous landscape was pretty fine too.  Yeah, the scenery to which I refer is the peloton of world-class runners that battled across that dirt roller-coaster consisting of 10k of climbing, forest canopied trail, technical sections and the like.  Jones and Wolfe exchanging blows for what seemed about 20 miles, with some of the literal who’s who of ultra and mountain running in their wake, makes SF50 an instant classic.

Mike Wolfe – the grinder who seems really smart and calculating (I think he’s a lawyer for God’s sake), strong and not someone you want to tangle with even if you do plan to inflict head wounds.

Mike Wardian – how can his race schedule have been auspicious at all going into TNFSF.  I think a lot of people had him winning.  I thought, in the end, he’d implode at the start.   Pretty gutsy to run like that. . . almost every weekend!

Adam Campbell – A classy guy who ran an absolutely classly race.  I am very disappointed that I didn’t see that although we all certainly missed a runner or two due to this incredible depth.  I am really stoked for this Canuck mountain runner.  And will continue to enjoy his stuff.

Jason Schlarb, one of my lucky 7, had a nice race, finishing 10th.

Alex Nichols, a popular pick amongst some Coloradans was apparently running really strong at the front when he twisted his ankle.  Very unfortunate.

What about Laborchet off the front through about 20 miles with another Salomon runner (Vollet?) and then pulling-out?  What was that?

We could go on and on.  The bummer for me is still that Roes didn’t quite have the goods.  I thought he did have unfinished business.  I thought he was ready to crush some demons, salvage 2011 massively.  Hey, top five is still fantastic; I just like his style and wanted to see him carve off the front.  I remember seeing a tweet from iRunFar at about 25 miles, Geoff in about 3-4th place and Bryon saying Geoff looks “chill.”  That sounded perfect.  But it sounds like his energy waned and he just didn’t have the boost to stay with the mad dogs fighting it out for the win (and again, iRunFar’s coverage was great).

Other than those menial thoughts on the men’s race, overall I thought Salomon and mountain running showed-up big-time.  Anna Frost is a huge talent.  The fact that she in very recent times has competed victoriously with the women Skyrunners, and is now doing very well at the ultra distance seems pretty remarkable.  I like Adam’s 3rd for Salomon, as well.  The white suits continue to represent where ever they “lace them up.”

I did get a chance to see Rickey Gates’ race report.  In sum, he was calling for more of these ultra guys to step to some of the shorter, more classic mountain races ala Sierre Zinal and Mt. Washington.  I love to hear that as it seems against the popular train of thought, the one that goes:  “yeah, my grandma got chosen for HR100, so I’ll be pacing her and the whole family is getting involved.”  Long live American mountain running.

What does this race say about 2011 and 2012?  Last year, this race dawned an incredible trend of Salomon dominance that’s well chronicled.  What trends might we see in 2012 hatched from the Headlands of 2011?  Any thoughts on that?

I think last weekend’s race is a kind of coronation for Mike Wolfe who seems like a very legitimate world-class ultra marathoner.  Maybe (other than Kilian) the best in his sport given what he’s done on big stages.  Last Saturday had to be a big pint of confidence.  I’ve heard others talk about him.  I’ve gathered bits and pieces of some of his training that seems utterly world-class (big volume, big hills, blue-collar ballz).  Certainly TNF has a fine leader in Mike Wolfe.

I’ve already waxed about Jones.  He’s the future of the sport if he continues to enjoy it as much as he currently does.  Mad game.  Can run all kinds of tracks.

Adam Campbell is just another reason I want to visit Canada.  That big block of ice, that purports to offer fantastic culture, spits out some pretty classy and down-to-earth athletic talents, specifically of the endurance tribe.  We’re rooting for Adam all the way.  Here’s to a big 2012.

Geoff Roes will be a very compelling athlete to watch in 2012.  I’m sure he will have some superb races and results.  No need to say anything else, really.  Other than we’re rooting for Geoff big time.

Looking forward to it all.  What do you think about 2012? Especially as TNF50 Championships may have produced a couple of trends we can watch develop perhaps over the next year or so?

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