North Face Endurance Challenge Series-California Race Review

The North Face Endurance Challenge Series Events in San Francisco, CA was an adventure of a lifetime. And getting to share the experience with my November Project-Phoenix friends was icing on one amazing cake!

This is my second time running the Marathon Relay at a NFECS event (Read the NFECS-WI review HERE). For those that don't know, a Marathon Relay can be split between as many as 4 runners, or as few as 2. This year at the ECSCA event, I ran with a team of 4 runners from my local November Project Phx crew. This event has become a small "mini-summit" for the November Project tribes on the west coast (although it's such a great event that many come from the east coast to just to run).

Pre-Race Fun with Friday Hills at November Project SF.
You don't have to be a part of November Project to have fun at this event (though if you do attend, I recommend visiting the San Fran November Project tribe for a pre-race or post-race workout and to make new friends). But having all of my NP friends with me and meeting hundreds of runners from other tribes really made this event special for me.

Let's break down why the event itself is amazing:

Pre-race photo pop with my relay team: "Too Fly for a Cacti"
There are a few shuttles from different parts of San Fran that will take you to the event start/finish area (Marin Headlands).

Whether you're running the 50 miler, 50k, Marathon, or Marathon Relay... all distances start and finish in the same spot. So race-day logistics are fairly easy and you can cheer other runners in as you wait or after you finish. 

Just the start/finish area was beautiful. Amazing trees and all the greenery. A really awesome spot. But the REAL views were during the run! Views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. 

I think the crowd of energized runners and the beautiful city and course really brought out a positive attitude in everyone. High-Fives were everywhere. Thumbs up, cheers, laughs. Really made any race nerves, concerns, or struggles disappear. 

I know the NFEC races are always well marked but I was surprised to see the number of volunteers and course marshals out there. I never had to worry about taking a wrong turn or not knowing where to go. 

I know the aide stations were all well stocked, but in the Marathon Relay I didn't need to really stop at any. However, at the finish, there were those amazing nut butter-filled Clif Bars, Electrolyte drinks, and a variety of natural meat jerkies from bison, chicken, and pork. For those that ran the 50k or 50 miler, there was actually a full meal available. And of course, a Beer Tent for everyone!
The ultra distances sell out b/c there is some big money on the line for winners of this race. So to be running the same course as so many amazing elites out to break records, was so much fun. And seeing people like Dean Karnazes out there... I basically just walk around star struck.

Team "Pretty Fly for a Cacti" with Dean Karnazes himself!
I was expecting it to be freezing, especially coming from the desert, but the weather wasn't that bad at all! It was perfect when you started running, but chilly when you were done. Just enough for an additional layer and you'd be fine. Plus, there were small fires throughout the start/finish area to keep you toasty.

I do want to warn you, the hills are killer. The one hill never seemed to end, and the downhill was brutally steep. But don't let that scare you or deter you from running this race. It's merely a warning you might should hit a few hills in your training runs. ;)

There was only one thing that I would suggest to the race managers: the return shuttle lines/organization was a little chaotic. I understand you've got hundreds of runners trying to leave at once, but the two volunteers there leading the area seemed a little confused themselves. Instead of lines for shuttles it was more of a mass "shoving to make it to the proper bus" crowd. I feel there could have been a little more guidance there. Word of advice for runners: leave as early as you are able to beat the crowds and the traffic to get back into the city.

Overall, the ECSCA was amazing and I really want to do it again next year. 
I'm thinking maybe even the marathon or 50k? Aaaahh! Lord help me but after running this event, I totally can't wait to return and up the challenge even more!

After the race, we hung out with all of the November Project tribes at the after party. And the next day, I made sure to take full advantage of the city by running across the Golden Gate Bridge with friends. 

To wrap up one awesome weekend, we finished up on Monday with more *hills* with the November Project-San Fran crew. Couldn't ask for a better weekend race-cation in my book! 


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