The Chuckanut 50k is a northwest favorite. It usually draws a good field, and the course has a bit of everything. The scenery feeds your heart, but parts of the course might make your soul cry a bit. There is over 5000’ of ascent and descent – which you will remember when you’re trying to take that final flat 10k fast.
climbing up the chinscraper – photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama (http://www.tachifoto.net/).
I’d signed up for Chuckanut on kind of a whim, thinking it would be a great stepping stone on my to longer runs. Drove up Friday afternoon, glad that I was staying about five minutes from the start. It was nice to coast over about 30 minutes before the start, without a worry.
They sent us off at eight on the dot, all 400 of us packed into the narrow interurban trail leaving Fairhaven. As we set off, I got to see a bunch of familiar faces – Chrissie out there doing her first 50k (just three weeks after breaking her tailbone!), Gunnar from work – intense and focused on the trail as he is at work. I chatted with Barb and Lisa during that first stretch too.
By the time we reached the first aid station, the pack had spread out quite a bit – which made the single track climb that followed much more relaxed. I settled into a steady walk (up the hills) and easy run (on the more level or downhill parts), knowing we had some hard miles ahead.
The hardest part of the course for me is the three mile stretch up Cleator. Two years back, this had been an icy slog. This time was much easier – we’d been blessed with great weather. I reminded myself to be patient, but was very happy when we made the turn on to the Chuckanut Ridge Trail, around mile 13.1.
This is possibly one of the more fun places to run in this part of the country. We run along a fairly narrow ridge, nestled between a long drop on the right, and one that would involve less-than-fatal injuries on the left. Even those of us who don’t like heights will find this scramble liberating. You focus on getting your footing right, while trying to enjoy the view along the way.
The run along the ridge, and then back on the Lost Lake trail reminded me why I was out there. Along the way I thought about my friend who’d wanted to be out there, but was ill. We’d shared some miles, and stories together. I hoped he’d be out on the trails again soon – things had been tough for him lately.
When we came to the base of the climb to the Chinscraper, I was tired, but felt pretty relaxed about what was ahead of me. The climb was longer than I remembered, with the steeper parts slowing me to over a 20 min/mile pace. When I reached the final climb, I pushed hard – making up this time without having to use my hands to help. Better than last time – felt good, but I definitely paid for it on the long steep downhill that followed.
And it was sorely tempting to pound down those hills. But having done this once before, I remembered having spent my legs doing this last time. So I downshifted and hoped I’d have something left during the final 10k.
I wouldn’t have guessed that my fastest mile splits would come so late. I was on the edge of losing faith, but somehow managed to keep moving. Each mile got a bit faster than the last. Down below 10, 9:30, 9, then below 8:30. It didn’t feel fast, just hard. But it was great to keep moving. Rounding the final turns before coming out into the open air I was able to dig even a bit deeper.
pushing to the finish – photo by Ather Haleem
I crossed the finish in just under 6:22 (chip time), and felt better about my effort than other recent events. I put on some dry clothes, enjoyed some wonderful lentil soup, and watched some friends finish.
charts and graphs for running geeks
The splits mostly reflect the course topology, but comparing the first and last 10k makes me feel good. By the orange line (indicating pace) you can see that there was a bit of walking involved.