The 2016 North Face 50 Mile Championships


Photo: Nate Dunn


Better late than never… i guess. I started writing this the week after the race and then maggie and I got hit with a nasty virus, work got nuts, and then the holidays were here and family was in town. I’ve been enjoying some down time getting soft and getting stoked for next year… here’s my race report from The North Face 50 Mile Championships.

On December 3rd I toed the line of The North Face 50 Mile champs for the third time and had my best race there… by far. I put it out there before the race that my only goal for the race was to break 7 hours. For me, in a race so stacked with dudes running really, really fast it does me no good to even think about what place I’m in or have finishing place as goal. This race gets faster every year and the field deeper and with dudes that are in the sport trying to make a career out of it. Running and racing to me is hobby and I have zero external pressure to do well…. I just love to race.

I am a huge sports fan so I love the competitiveness of all the dudes running at the front and all the pre-race interviews that irunfar does before the race. I watched them all. At the start line Saturday morning I had a part of Alex Nichol’s pre-race interview stuck in my head.

Nichols: Yeah, I always try to run my race and try to run my best possible time. I coach cross country and track, and this is always what I tell them: The best finish in terms of position is always going to come from the best time. When you look at world records and best runs, people have run generally pretty even. It’s not that waiting back and trying to blast by people, it’s more like in those first 10 miles, I think, Whoo, 7:00 minute/miles? That’s pretty fast. I’m not going to be running 7:00 minute/miles at mile 47. So, yeah, I’m just trying to run consistent.

Running “my best race/time” was my plan from the gun and I kept repeating that in my head. In the opening miles I was running with a good friend of mine, Jon Clark. We’ve had a lot of fun battles over the years and he knows my usual, go out hard, racing strategy. I think we were both a little shocked that we were sitting some where around 30-40th place in the opening miles. I’ll admit that it was tough to not try to be in the lead pack… or second pack… or third pack.

By the time we got to the Tennessee Valley aid station at 9.8 miles I had moved up to somewhere int he 20s without lifting my effort. I was eating, drinking, and chatting it up with anybody that wanted to talk… and I would keep that up all the way through the Cardiac aid station at 19.6 miles. I was feeling good on the long climb up to cardiac. A couple of the guys I was running with got a way from me but I also passed a couple of guys who were already feeling the early pace.


Photo: Nate Dunn

The section from Cardiac to the Mckennan Gulch aid station at mile 24.4 and back is my favorite section of the course. I remember in 2014 this was one my worst sections of the race. I just had nothing that year. This year was different. I actually started to feel better than I did on the climb to Cardiac. I passed some more guys and got in a good group of dudes including some dudes that are basically my neighbors here on the Front Range. We’ve all been meaning to meet up and run back at home but we hadn’t made it happen yet. It was funny that here we were 25 miles into the race and we all running together rolling back to the Matt Davis trail.. Both guys ended up having great days and finishing not too far ahead of me on the day (Jim Rebenack – new Adrenalin Project teammate – 11th and Scott Spillman 13th).


Photo: Brett Rivers

I got down to the Stinson Beach aid at 29.4 miles and was in 17th place.  I saw Brad and Mario and got a fresh bottle and gel flask. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful… actually the whole race was that way. Due to my race plan, “run my best race/time”, I never chased anybody ahead of me, nor did I worry about any body creeping up on me. I just ran my pace, kept the calories coming in, and most importantly I was having a blast. It was picture perfect day out there and quite the contrast to the previous years I had run the race.


Photo: Chris Blagg

I picked up some more places from Stinson to the Tennessee Valley aid staton for the second time at mile 43.8. I was in 13th in less than 6 miles to go heading up the final climb and was racing the clock. I was getting a bit tired and having trouble doing the math in my head and wasn’t sure if I would break 7 hours. Scott rolled up on me and passed me like I was standing still. I just kept my head down and ran the whole climb.. a first for me in my 3 years of doing this race. I got to the final 3 mile descent and did my best to let it rip. I crossed the line in 6:51 which was good enough for 14th overall. Mission accomplished.


Screenshot of a photo that they wanted 29.95 for….. for one digital download of this photo. unreal.

I don’t know what it is but I love this race and I still think I could go faster. I think if I added some actual workouts to my training and went in “faster” I could get to the low 6:40s. I don’t know when but I’ll definitely be back to run this race in the next few years…. maybe next year. It’s a fun way to end the year.


This year has been really fun on the racing front for Maggie and I. We trained hard, had some some good races, but first and foremost, we had a lot of fun as a family… and that’s all that matters.

now onto the holidays…



  2 comments for “The 2016 North Face 50 Mile Championships

  1. December 29, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Awesome work. Way to stick to your plan.

  2. December 29, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Always enjoy your blog posts James. Well done at North Face 50. What are your plans for 2017? Sport + life. Ross.

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