The obvious thing to do after you suffer a femoral stress fracture, followed by a puncture wound in the calf, and topped off with a nice dose of chondromalcea is to run the Chuckanut 50k. After the aforementioned series of unfortunate events in the latter of 2012, I found myself a bit torn on how to begin the 2013 season. I decided I really had three main goals: 1. Stay Healthy 2. Enjoy the woods 3. White River 50. With these main goals in mind, I was a bit unsure if it was wise to still complete Chuckanut. My running over the last 6 months pretty much took a big back seat to rest and recovery and I knew that if I did end up doing Chuckanut, I would have to take it easy or risk inflaming my knee and/or completely blowing up. I chose the former.
Approaching this race as a training run turned out to be a great thing. I ended up having a great time, stayed injury free, and was able to experience some of the finest single track (the infamous “ridge”) that exist in the PNW. Here is how it went down:
Start to AS1: Interurban Trail
This section consists primarily of 6.75 flat miles on the interurban. I started out feeling a bit sluggish as I was not use to running in a fully loaded pack and I was having some chest congestion from the blossoming flower buds that induce my allergies. I settled in to a nice little jog and just focused on keeping an even pace till AS1.
Nutrition for this section consisted of water when thirsty, 1 Gu halfway, another at AS1, and a quarter banana.
AS1 – AS2: Fragrance Lake
After departing the first aid station, you begin the first real climb of the day up the fragrance lake trail. I jogged up the first bit then settled into a nice power hike trying to keep my breath at an even pace. My longest training run prior to this was about 18 miles and I was a bit worried about not having enough for the last 10k of the Interurban. I chatted with a few folks but was mostly just enjoying the trail to myself. This was a big difference to 2012 when I was stuck in a long Conga line for most of this climb. It was nice to have some folks around but was also nice to just hike to my own rhythm.
Nutrition: water to thirst, 2 GUs
AS2 – AS3: Cleator Road
After enjoying the sweetness of Fragrance lake, you hit up AS2 and then start a 3 mile uphill climb to AS3 along Cleator Road. I was not looking forward to this section as these fire roads can seem like you are perpetually chasing the horizon. I started at a nicely controlled jog up the hill and was feeling good when I looked up and saw a fellow runner power hiking roughly the same speed. At that moment, I realized that at the grade I was on, it was much more efficient to hike and wait for the road to flatten out a bit. I chatted with some of the folks as we hiked along and then as the grades varied we would break into jogs now and then and before I knew it there was AS3 at the top of the climb. Cleator Road- not really a big deal. Note: goal for next year: run this sucker. the whole thing.
Nutrition: more water to thirst, Gu, and the 1 Package of Perpeteum. This was the first time I used Perpeteum on a race day and I must say: I’m not a huge fan usually, but man, this shit tasted goooood! I guzzled it down and felt like a new man ready to take on the Ridge.
AS3 – AS4: The Ridge, Lost Lake Trail
This is why you do this race. Its technical, rooty, rocky, mossy, muddy, wet, green, undulating, and just badass. I challenge anyone to run this without a smile. Pure bliss. I was having a great time and mostly had this to myself except for a few folks here in there. It was about halfway on the ridge that I ran into C (Sister-in-law) who had previously jetted out of the gate with Todd (broski). It was nice to see a familiar face and have someone to chat with for a bit. After the Ridge, you drop down to the Lost Lake Trail which for me was the mental barrier that was on my mind for the last year. In 2012 this is where I bonked. According to the elevation map this is a relatively flat section but when you are on it, it’s mostly slightly uphill. This is also the longest section between Aid at about 7miles. I paced with C and we kept a schedule for Gu’n up about every 30 minutes. We took our time and finally made it to AS4 which is at the base of Little Chinscraper
Nutrition: 10oz electrolyte, 3 GUs, water to thirst
AS4 – AS5: Chinscraper, Cleator, Fragrance Lake
Good old Chinscraper. Yep, doesn’t really need more explanation then that. Its 1.1miles of solid uphill climbing. Despite its harsh reputation, this is actually a fun part of the course. Its relentless and beautiful at the same time. We power hiked up this and were pleasantly surprised on how fast the climb seemed to pass. Once you reach the top, you head down Cleator just for a half-mile or so then you make a turn to head back down Fragrance Lake Trail. This was a change from previous years and man, was it an improvement. Usually you have to run down 4 miles of boring fire road. Nope, not this year. We were treated to sweet downhill single track that you could just fly down. The rain really started to come on and the mud was pretty sloppy. This made it all the better. I arrived at AS5 (same as AS1) a soaking, cold, wet mess with a grin and some lame jokes for the volunteers.
Nutrition: 10oz Electrolytes, 4-5 GUs, 3 Blokshots, 1 Small Bite of Salted Potato, and the rest of my water (cumulative consumed water was 2 Liters at this point).
AS5 – Finish Line: Interurban
Now most people think, the hard climbs are out of the way and the technical ridge is in the rear view mirror so just let’er rip on the easy flat Interurban. I beg to differ. I believe this is the crux of the course. At this point, your legs are toasted from all the climbing and ascent and your mind is a bit sluggish. You leave the aid station, and look down the path: I honestly felt like I could see the border crossing. That damn trail looked like the Oregon trail. So to tackle it, we broke it into 2x2x2: run 2 miles: Gu. run 2 more: Gu. run 2 more: Finish Line. Se we set off in a nice jog kep to plan, stopped to pee, Gu’d up, felt like crap and then realized that we could still break 6:30 if we hustled the last 2 miles. So C and I dug deep and went from 10min pace to 8 and sub-8 for the last 2 miles hoping to break 6:30 (which i admit is not significant but at the time felt like Roger Bannister going for the first sub-4 min mile in history). We dug deep and felt trashed but in the end made it to the finish line in 6:31:xx. It wasn’t a record, I didn’t make the podium, and didn’t win any prize money. I did however stay healthy, enjoy the woods, and have a great training experience for WR50.
Nutrition: 2 GUs, 10oz electrolytes, water to thirst.
Next Up: Yakima Skyline Rim 50k, April 21st