Chuckanut 50k – Third Time is a Charm

by Max on March 18, 2014

This past weekend was the conclusion to three years of trying for a successful race at Chuckanut 50k. I don’t know what it was about this race but it’s been one that I know I’d never really run my best at but also one that I knew I could run a CR on as well. My reasons for running it were good old-fashioned redemption this year and that was it, plain and simple. Would the third time’s a charm saying be true this time?
It may have been that first year of running it in 2012, going head to head with Sage up until we both missed an unmarked turn with about 8 miles to go took me out of it. We were both on CR pace that year and while we still had a ways to go, it was looking good that one of us would take it. I think that experience right there is what sealed it for me and I would continue to come back until I had both the win and CR.

2012 Conditions. Brrrr.

So when I entered both Way Too Cool and Chuckanut 50k last year and looking at the entrants list figured I didn’t have much to worry about, you can imagine how much I was kicking myself after racing side by side with David Laney and getting outkicked by him in the final 2 miles. That stung a bit but it was my own fault for A) running a fast 50k the week before and thinking I could actually get away with it and B) totally underestimating what David could do in a 50k trail race. That was my own ego getting the best of me but it made for a great race down to the wire and a lot of fun to go at it for that long in an ultra. That doesn’t happen often.
Now in my advanced age I told myself this year I should be a little smarter. I had to come back to take care of some unfinished business. A two month break during December and January this year was much needed but left me a little unsure if I had it in me to run 31 miles fast. I knew I was in decent shape however so didn’t worry too much. That, combined with the lack of a 50k 7 days prior, good trail conditions, and smarter racing on my part by not letting it come down to the flat interurban trail set me up to finally put to bed what I knew I could do at Chuckanut 50k last weekend.

Always a fast start

The race went out about the same as it always does, hovering about 5:40-5:50 pace for the first 6 miles on the interurban trail. Quick but relaxed. A group of 4 of us led the field where we would exit the interurban and start on the singletrack loops of Chuckanut Mtn.

Cruising the interurban

The first climb would bring the front down to Laney and me as we ground our way up Cleator Rd. Still unsure of how I was going to feel later I was reluctant to push it here so let Laney come up beside about half way up to finish the climb together. We then enter the most technical 3 miles of the course on the Chuckanut Ridge trail. A winding, up/down, rooty, rocky section that has you high stepping and grabbing trees to stay upright. This is the fun section. I sat behind Laney at this point but after some tentative steps I decided that this was probably the best time to make a move and try to get a bit of a gap. I just didn’t realize this gap would remain largely unchanged the rest of the race. By the end of the trail I had put 2min on him (of course I didn’t know that then) so I would be running the rest of the race scared, trying not to let him catch me. A little over halfway coming off this technical section the trail flattens and is pretty non-technical. I had to keep pushing at this point because I knew he would be coming after me.

He right behind me!

Chinscraper

The rest is history. We dashed up Chinscraper, where I felt way better than I did last year and back down the trail to the interurban. I hadn’t seen Laney for a long time now but I still didn’t know how far back he was. I had to keep pushing with the main goal of still feeling good enough on the interurban to hit 6min pace. This is the part of the race everyone hates. You come off a beautiful singletrack trail onto a wide flat bike path for a 6 mile slog to the finish. It’s a race breaker for some. Saturday though I felt exactly like I wanted to. Tired but able to get up and go. I wouldn’t see Laney until the finish. I had raced Chuckanut like I thought I could and how I was capable of. It’s a pretty big sense of accomplishment and relief to be able to do it after three tries.

Just as it had last year, the rain held off until just after we finished. The wind though wasn’t as thoughtful and picked up the whole finish festival and deposited it across the parking lot. This left us with one cozy tent we all huddled under the rest of the day as racers came through until the 8hr cutoff. One of the greatest things about Chuckanut is the hot soup at the finish line.
Ellie Greenwood continues to astound me with her finishing ability, coming from 6min back with 9 miles to go to win by 3min. That’s incredible.

Ellie grinding up Chinscraper

Thanks Krissy for having me back again this year and putting on a great race. Also thanks to Bellingham. What a cool little outdoorsy town. Actually similar to Bend but much wetter. I met some really cool people this year, like I do every year, and reconnected with some old friends.
Bellingham has a strong little running community too. I did a run and talk at Klicks Running on Thursday evening for Swiftwick when I got to town and things like that just remind me that no matter where you go there are always trail runners, and where there are trail runners, there are great people.

Me and RD Krissy

Now with Lake Sonoma 50 mile on the calendar in a couple weeks it’s back to training for two before a taper. The goal there being a top 3 finish to punch a ticket to Western States, yes, you read that right. That’s the plan. Exciting but also daunting. I’m scared to death of running 100 miles. That’s a long way last time I checked.


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