The North Face Endurance Challenge Series is a two-day trail running festival that takes place at six different locations in North America. This edition was set in Blue Mountain Resort, around two hours north of Toronto, Ontario in Canada from the 16th - 17th July. I opted for the Half Marathon distance as a preparation run for my next big race that is just over a month away. Whilst the long distances took place on Saturday, the shorter ones, including my 21 kilometers, were scheduled for Sunday.

The North Face has organised a truly wonderful event, which has seen incredible success since its introduction a couple of years ago. The organizers saw their entry numbers doubled from last year. Almost 2000 eager men and women were running the breathtaking trails around Blue Mountain Resort. The sun was shinning throughout the weekend and the village was filled with hundreds of running enthusiasts. Along with the renown outdoor company, and additional support by outdoor specialists Atmosphere, the Endurance Challenge is hosted by Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes, who became famous, when he run 50 marathons, in 50 consecutive days, in all 50 states of America. 

I was able to meet Dean twice during the weekend. We had short, but fruitful conversations not only about running, but about what drives people. Out of a business and personal perspective, I wanted to learn from him about how he believes his epic doings and super-human achievements can motivate individuals to surpass their own boundaries. I could elaborate on our exchange of thoughts, but the key take-away was to simply lead by example. In other words, he told me that the only way to convince people is do it yourself. However, bearing in mind that we have to differentiate between people that are extrinsically motivated versus the ones that are driven by intrinsic motivation. It is the later that we cannot influence, but little surprise, such has to come from oneself. Leading by example is one way of convincing someone to do something, but above all, it can make a person adopt a trait, task or duty intrinsically, in order to follow through to achieve his or her goal.

Anyways, away from philosophy, on Sunday at 8am the race commenced. 21 kilometers with a total elevation change of 1700 meters were lying ahead of me. The course began with two relatively step inclines right away, which pretty much accounted for the majority of the positive altitude meters. After I run around six kilometres and put the second climb behind me, I arrived at the first aid station to refill my water tanks. I felt pretty good. I had set out at a decent pace, but wanted to pay particular attention to my heart rate, which is crucial for the ultra-distance races, and I had very much underestimated in my first ultra in Italy a couple of months ago. The following 13 or so kilometres mainly consisted of flowy single-trails through the woods. I had found my pace and was able to run at a pretty constant pace. It seemed like the training, as well as the change in my dietary routine had paid off. I was able to overtake a couple of runners, before I approached the final leg of the trail. The last one and a half kilometers led down, what is normally used as a ski slope during the winter. So, with declines of up to 75 per cent, I was flying towards the finish line and saw the clock stopping at exactly 2:06:58.

Overall it has been a fantastic weekend in Ontario. Though, I did not quite reach my target time of undercutting the two hours mark, I felt great throughout the trail and know that I would have been able to save a couple of minutes here and there to reach my time. Anyways, I am now going into the final weeks of training, before heading to Zermatt for the 46K race at Ultraks on August 20th.