Chuckanut 50k 2012.
Let me start by saying how thankful I am that I still have my hands.
March 17, 2012 was my first ever Chuckanut 50k. I had heard lots of great things about the course and was excited to run what has become one of the biggest 50k’s. It draws so many incredible runners I almost feel a little embarrassed writing about my not-so-fabulous achievements, but it is my story and they are my achievements; small steps forward in my relentless attempt to progress into a runner. A few notes about this race: it was awesome (weather conditions aside). Krissy and crew did a great job of organizing the race. It was the most well marked trail race I have done, complete with signs full of whimsy and love.
I went in to this race with 2 goals: (1) Try to walk as little of the course as possible (ideally limited to the infamous Chinscraper) and (2) finish in less than 6 hours, something I’ve never done before (previous best 50k time being 6:15). This was going to be my first race after having gone full Paleo with my CrossFit gym.
My alarm went off at 3:46am. I was meeting up with new running buddies Adam Way and Meredith Cale to carpool down morning of. We wanted to be sure to beat the border traffic and find parking. I ate some almond flour cookies and a ‘larabar’ I had made for breakfast, hoping these paleo treats would give me sufficient fuel to start. We arrived at about 6:30am, in cold rainy conditions. The rain never let up as the waves began to start. I was in the second wave of runners. I had decided to run without my gloves as I run quite hot and after a short while I start looking for ways to ditch my gloves. However, my hands were close to numb by the time we began. It took a few miles and my circulation kicked in and I could feel my fingers again! The first 6 miles of the course were pretty flat gravel trail. At the aid station as the course turned up to the actual trail, I grabbed a few Clif shot blocks. Though they are not Paleo, I knew I would need the calories and energy. I kept on at a decent pace running up the trail. At the mile 10 aid station, the rain was still coming down, I was getting tired of running in thick deep mud, I saw some date squares on the table. I pounded a few and grabbed some for the next few miles of uphill on the logging road. And then…snow. The entire section was getting slick minus the two ‘lanes’ runners were trying to stay in to gain traction. It was POURING snow. Since I had no gloves and my clothes were drenched, the only way I could stay warm was to run. This kept me moving and I passed quite a few people…and I was yet to feel fatigued. My hands were a different story. I had to keep switching which hand held my bottle, while tried to bring some warmth to my free hand.
After the long cold ascent, I had made it to the Chuckanut ridge. It was rooty, rocky, and atrociously muddy; and gorgeous covered in snow. And it was still snowing. I took a gel and could not believe how well I was feeling. This was the first time I’d felt like I was handling my race nutrition right. The hardest part was being unable to recognize what was just mud versus mud covered rocks; VERY slick. I almost ate it a couple of times. What made it even more difficult were the snow-covered low hanging branches. If I kept an eye out for them, I lost my footing in the gnarly muddy trails. If I looked at the trail for foot placement, I got smacked in the face with branches. On top of all of this, clumps of snow were falling from above. It felt like the elves were throwing snowballs at me. At about mile 18 (I’m guessing) was the first time I noticed some tightening in my legs, and in spots I was unaware of. The deep mud was causing me to land in odd foot positions stressing out unfamiliar parts of my legs and feet. I got a foot cramp at one point. Once, I was preparing to jump over a fallen log as I ran, planted my right foot for take off and instead of gaining air realized I was sinking further in the mud. Somehow I made it over the log without tripping.
The only section of the course that I walked was the Chinscraper; something I am quite proud of. Granted some of the other uphill running was closer to shuffling, I did not walk it! Just before the steepest section of the course I made a tough decision. I knew it was time to get some calories in me and as I scanned the aid station I did not see any of the date squares. There was a bowl of doughnut holes. I ate 1 and grabbed 2 to go. These ‘gluten bombs’ were going to be the best or worst decision of the race. Since going Paleo a little over a month ago, I have not had white bread or refined sugar. These were either going to give me a crazy burst of energy or give me intestinal hell. After I got to the top of Chinscraper I was starting to feel not so good. My legs were showing the first signs of fatigue (at mile 21!) and I didn’t know if it was the gluten bombs or what. A few minutes later, I was back and had the biggest surge of energy yet. It was time to go back down the logging road and I was feeling really good at this point. However, the snow covered road was now turning slushy and made running downhill a little difficult. After that the snow/rain had stopped, it was just a little more downhill until the last aid station that sits just 6 miles before the finish. There I grabbed more of the date squares and kicked in to gear. My pace fluctuated a lot during the last 6 miles but I felt stronger than I have before at this stage of 50k. It felt good to be able to push these last few miles, mainly because I knew I had dry clothes waiting!
I finished with the clock at 5:50, but I was the second wave, so that’s 10 minutes less…5:40. I had completed both of my goals and did it mostly paleo! The worst post-race ache was my foot cramp from odd landings.
As I crossed the finish line, Krissy Moehl was there to greet me. She was trying to give me a ticket for my post-race beer but she also had bracelets in her hand which was all I saw. I kept sticking my wrist out as she kept trying to give me a ticket. Finally she just put the ticket in my hand and then gave me a huge hug. Great meeting her. She is a legend. Watch this video.
After I finished I took the shuttle back to the parking lot with Adam to get changed and then came back to enjoy the finish line goodies. While I was there I saw Geoff Roes pass by and decided to say hi. I assumed he would have said hello and continued on to wherever he was heading, but he started chatting with me about my run that day. I was shocked I was standing there watching people cross the finish line talking with Geoff! I asked him how the recovery from his Iditarod run was going and he said that he is just now getting back on normal rhythms. I told him I would be attempting Wasatch this year and we talked about that course for a while. He is very humble and I am glad I got the chance to chat with him.
For those of you who are not familiar, Goeff Roes has an outstanding running resume. In 2009 he won and set the course record for Wasatch 100 miler, and two weeks later won The Bear 100 miler! Two weeks! He holds the course record for Chuckanut 50k (2011). Geoff had just finished the Iditarod Trail Inviational, placing 4th overall and 1st runner; that’s 385 miles in 6 days 23 hours and 25 minutes. Incredible.
There was a post-race party at a local brewery. We had the beer garden to ourselves, quite a feat considering it was St. Patty’s Day. Thanks again to Krissy for phenomenal organization of a great race and to all the volunteers who kept us all warm, in spirits at least. And a huge congrats to fellow Vancouver runner Adam Campbell taking 1st place with a time of 3:48.