A Course Record, Covered in Blood
By guest blogger Meaghen Brown
Montana’s Mike Wolfe won the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile on December 3rd in 6:19:04, beating what some called the best ultrarunning field assembled in 2011. Both Wolfe and 21-year-old Dakota Jones broke the old course record—Wolfe by 15 minutes—after running together for much of the race. Wolfe's win comes after second-place finishes at the prestigious Western States Endurance Run and the Miwok 100K, plus a win at the Way Too Cool 50K. Meaghen Brown caught up with Wolfe, 34, to find out why he crossed the finish line covered in blood and his plans to quit his day job and run full time.
You were a little bloody at the end of the race. What happened?
About halfway through, there’s an out-and-back section that’s really narrow. I was passing a woman running fast and just smacked my head on a low-hanging tree. Within 30 seconds my head was like a fountain of blood. It was all down my side, my neck. My girlfriend Steph was crewing for me at the next aid station, and she happens to be a doctor, so I yelled, “Steph look at my head!” She looked at it and said, “Yeah, you’re fine.” It looked way worse than it was but it made for a grisly photo finish.
What was it like running with Dakota Jones the whole race?
We talked a fair amount, but by the time we pulled away from the rest of the pack, around mile 30, there wasn’t really much talking. A little bit here and there but you’re working so hard you don’t have any energy to talk. I think it might be different if it was a cutthroat competition, but it’s almost like we were working together. You’re not necessarily thinking about breaking the other person and winning. I don’t think either of us was. He even said, and I felt it too, that running together the whole time made him push harder than he ever had.
Nutrition is a huge part of ultra running, obviously. What did you eat?
On the run, Cliff Blocs and Honey Stinger chews, and some water with electrolyte tabs. I did drink some Coke and eat a little fruit in the aid stations. At Western States this summer I blew myself out on gels, got really sick off of them late in the race. Ever since then I just can’t stomach the things. And I think you need to eat solid food in really long races.
What was the course like?
In a lot of ways, it feels like a fast course because everything’s run-able. There aren’t many steep climbs so you can hammer the whole time. But you’re always gradually going up or gradually going down, and you don’t realize how much pounding your legs have taken until later in the race.
Do you like your courses hilly?
Yeah. I’m not into the flat thing.
I’ve heard you might quit your job as a lawyer and become a full-time runner. Are you thinking about that?
Good question. I like to have balance in my life, and I like my job. But I’ve put a lot of time and effort into running and I don’t want to see it go to waste. I’m really enjoying the sport and I’m racing better than ever before. I’m not getting any younger, either. Sometimes you’ve gotta do it when you can. It’s something I’m thinking about.