Chuckanut 50km Race Report
The last time I ran Chuckanut 50 km was 2007. I remember four things about that race. The first was that I wasn’t in great shape; I had not trained as much over the winter as I would have liked. The second, I was sick; I had come down with a cold three days before the race and felt generally crummy. The third, the weather on race day was terrible, torrential rain at the start that continued all day. The fourth, it was St Paddy’s Day, and we did a post-race trip to Boundary Bay Brewery, where the IPA was cold and the bar was warm and dry, really the highlight of the day.
Since 2007, I had hoped to get back to Chuckanut, but it just never seemed to fit with my race schedule, until this year. The last few years I have done an early-season 100 miler in March but this year I decided to hold off until April to do my first 100 miler. That meant I had a window in my race schedule to run Chuckanut. So, to avoid disappointment, I got up at 8:00 am on January 2nd and registered for the race, which filled in a couple of hours.
Unlike 2007, I have been training pretty consistently all winter, averaging 40 – 60 miles per week, so I felt I was in pretty good race shape. The week leading up to the race was busy at work but I was managing to get enough sleep and there were no signs of a cold looming. The weather forecast was calling for a mix of sun, cloud, and rain; not very helpful, but I figured it couldn’t be worse than 2007.
We had decided to go down the night before to avoid the morning rush and the potential of getting delayed at the border. This was a good decision; with an 8:00 am start time I was able to get a full night sleep and have a leisurely coffee and bagel before heading to the start. The weather on race morning was a little overcast but looked like it would clear up and be a great day.
I arrived at Fairhaven Park about 7:30 am, just enough time to get my race number, say hi to a few friends and get to the start line. Once the race began, I found myself running with Jackie, fellow Kintec Race Team member, and Wade Repta. As we headed out on the Interurban Trail, we reminisced about the last time the three of us ran together at Western States in 2009. I really enjoy the run out on the Interurban, 10 km of nice wide open trail with some great views of Chuckanut Bay, as it is a nice way to ease into a race. The run back on the Interurban Trail is another story. Flat, runnable trail late in a race is not my strength; it is usually a never ending demoralizing slog. I was hopefully optimistic that this year would be different.
For now the pace felt comfortable and I was really enjoying what was turning into a beautiful day. With this being my first race of the season, I planned to not go out too fast. My goal was to run a smart race and finish really strong over the second half of the course. As I came into the first aid station there was a short out and back, and I was happy to see a lot of good runners who weren’t that far out ahead of me. After a quick stop at the aid station, I was off and soon making my way up the first climb of the race to Fragrance Lake. On the climb, I was moving well but a lot of racers were passing me as they ran this section. I was a bit surprised; I knew the race field was deep but not that deep, and so I guessed it was some enthusiastic racers who I would likely see later in the race. With that thought, I just let them go and settled into a power hike, running the flats and downhills. Once the climbing was done, I headed around the lake and then down into the second aid station. The next section of the course seems to go on forever but since it was a nice day I just enjoyed the long climb in anticipation of the fun to come once I got up on the ridge.
My favourite type of running is technical single track – not saying I am great at it, but I do enjoy it. The ridge trail is about as technical as you’ll find on the course and it is super fun to run with some great views. As I tried to run this section as aggressively as possible, I found myself on the edge of losing control a number of times, but I only bailed hard once when I blew off the trail on a tight corner and ended up landing on my head in a bunch of deadfall. The fall didn’t seemed that bad at the time but the next day I noticed a number of new cuts and bruises.
After the ridge trail it was on to Little Chin Scraper, a short but steep section of the trail that climbs over 1000 feet. In 2007, this section killed me; I remember being doubled over trying to catch my breath and hating life. Not this year. Instead, I powered up the trail, only slowing down on some of the steeper sections because of the slick mud. As I reached the top I was ready for the nice long downhill back to the Interurban Trail for the final stretch back to Fairhaven Park.
Typically in races, this is where the wheels fall off for me. I usually hate long, flat, easy-to-run finishes, because I am not that fast at the best of times and even worse at the end of races. One of my goals for the race was to try and run the final 10 km at close to the same pace as my first 10 km, and I would have to say I was pretty close. I actually felt good and really enjoyed the run to the finish in a time of 5:02 , finishing between Mike and Jackie.
Overall, a fantastic day at the Chuckanut 50 km, capped off with a pint of Boundary Bay IPA and a plate of yam enchiladas, yum. I was really happy with my race and how the Hokas performed on the trail – the shoes were just a lot of fun to run in. On the flat sections, I was just bouncing along the trail, and I flew down the descents with ease. The day after the race I was surprised how good my legs felt, with no soreness in my quads. I would say good training and the Hokas were the reason. I am really looking forward to testing out my fitness and the Hokas at the Lumberjack Endurance Run later this month.