A week after racing Way Too Cool 50k I was back at it again. I definitely don’t recommend running two 50k’s back to back, but as of the time of this writing, I think I survived.
Well, my recovery/tapering combo week was a bit crazy. My wife and I just bought a house and received the keys to our new home the Friday before Way Too Cool. After a super fast competitive race in Cool I was on my way home to start packing. We needed to be out of our rental by Chuckanut weekend, which meant we had four days to complete an entire move, including moving everything, cleaning a house and adding a hole in the front of the house for a new door to my new Massage headquarters.
I almost didn’t go to Chuckanut, but it sounded like a refreshing vacation before tackling the rest of the house. I’m glad I did. Chuckanut chewed me up and spit me out. What a brutal but awesome course. Just what I needed. Each race has moments of pain and the recurring thought of “why do I do this,” but running under 6min pace to start a race is just wrong. From the off we were flying; thank God for the gorgeous Chuckanut mountains to halt our speed.
There was a pretty large group of talented runners pushing each other right from the start. A few miles on the interurban trail, with a stunning view of Chuckanut Bay (Pugent Sound), a lead pack was established with Mike Smith (Olympic trials marathon qualifier) nonchalantly pushing the pace. I let the lead pack of Mike, Geoff Roes, my main man Erik Skaggs (who resides in Ashland as well) and Aaron Heidt go (which was a mistake) because I thought I would save a little energy for the climbs. Every race you learn more about racing and I probably should have tried to hang on to the pack for dear life. As we left the 1st aid station and entered the forest to our first climb on the Two Dollar trail, they already had a 20 second gap on us from behind. The single track was beautiful but with little room to do any passing I slowly crept around a few dudes and by the time I entered the next aid station I was in 4th and climbing up the Cleator dirt road as fast as I could. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the lead folks, but never received that luxury for the rest of the day.
Blazing first 10k of Chuckanut 50k photo by Glenn Tachiyama
As we rose up onto Chuckanut ridge the real party began. Boulders, trees, roots and shrubs pieced the ridge together as far as the eye could see. It was easy to find the trail; if you went off you died. This section was slow for me, but a blast. I’m not used to running on such technical trails, but I really enjoyed the unforgiving trail and its plethora of obstacles. Some boulders were tricky but with swell footing and others were slip-n-slides eagerly awaiting our fall. But what a blast– even when it hurts, ultra-running is blissful.
Blazing Chuckanut Ridge Trail mile 13 photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Normally there’s a chance to catch your breath in an ultra, but not on Saturday. Once you’ve sprinted for miles, climbed the biggest climb, hopped, skipped and jumped over every rock, it’s then time to get muddy. I enjoyed the fact that after miles of slopping through mud, there was actually a sign saying, “mud ahead.” Hahaha, oh the good times we had.
After a little dirt and flying down a dirt road it was time for another climb. They call it Chinscraper for a reason. It wasn’t as long as the other climb of the day, but Chinscraper roughed us up and left us breathless.
Getting ready for a big climb. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
I climbed a good portion of it, but had to throw a little power hiking to polish it off. A hard climb tests your limits and humbles you like nothing else. It’s a beautiful mess that for some reason I can’t get enough of. I didn’t have long moments of Zen-like euphoria, but nonetheless these races allow me to see majestic views and give reminders to live in the present moment and enjoy every precious moment (even the gnarly ones), I’m gifted. Running reminds me to breath and no matter what life brings my way I can summit it.
Climbing Chinscraper Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
What goes up, must come down, and so down I flew. I knew I had fast people behind me and I was told Skaggs was just a minute or two in front of me. I pushed it hard down Fragrance Lake road and even hit 5:40 pace for some of it. It hurt, but I had to test the legs.
With an awkward transition from down hill to the straight (back on the Interurban trail) and fast I wiggled along. The knees were weak and I knew I had someone on my tail. I tried running as fast as I could, even hitting 6:30 pace, which I thought was respectful after such a punishing middle section of the course. I pushed hard, but Aaron still caught me with about a mile and a half to go. It was a bummer, but that’s how the cookie crumbles, as they say.
Looking back, I would have liked to push it a little harder at the end, but all in all I’m quite happy with two good races in a row. I look forward for the season to continue and racing longer courses. I’m not really sure what distance I like the best yet. I do however feel that a build up of races to the 100 is a good way for my body to adapt.
Top 5 (L to R) Geoff, Matt, Erik, Aaron and myself at the finish Photo by Jordan Stead for The Bellingham Herald
I felt pretty spent after the race, but nothing seemed too out of whack. Within the next hour I was bundled up in some warm Pearl iZUMi gear and drinking First Endurance Ultragen to restore my body. I really believe that the effects of Ultragen have helped me recover smoothly and I feel a lot less sore on the days that follow hard efforts.
I want to give a big thank you to Krissy (RD) and Ellen (C0-RD), who put on a wonderful race, which is a classic and must do 50k. However, that last 10k, at least in theory, sounds like a good strong finish, but man did I want it to stop. Thank you to all the extra hands that volunteered and made this such a spectacular event. I had so much fun during and after the race. Great food (thanks Mamma Moehl), jamming music (thanks Naked Hearts Duo), healing massage and lots of amazing friends to keep me company after. What a party!
All in all it was a weekend to remember. I was able to spend some good time (10hr drives) back in forth with Skaggs, Jenn and Maya. We played lots of games and made the time tick by. We finished the move to our new home late on Sunday night. And I had my massage room all ready Monday afternoon to help other running nuts like me recover up and enjoy more beautiful days on the trails.