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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chuckanut 50 KM Trail Race

I had been training for this race for quite some time. I usually don’t trail run much over the winter because of the snow but that didn’t stop me this year. This was my 3rd 50 km run and I was happy to get out onto some new terrain in a different country. Chuckanut 50km

I woke up at 5am to prepare my pre-race meal- oatmeal w/ banana. I like eat at least 2 hours before race time. The race starts at 8am and I didn’t get there until 7:36, so I was a little rushed for time. I waited in a 15 minute line to get my race number and then give the volunteers my drop bag for mid race. It was raining so I packed an extra pair of gloves and a shirt to change into in case I was soaking wet. We all piled up near the start line and I moved my way up to the front of the pack. The race director did her final countdown and 3…2…1, we were off. The first 6 miles runs along fairhaven’s interurban trail. The trail is pretty much flat with a couple undulating hills. This is a speedy section but because it is at the beginning of the race it is really easy to get caught up and start too fast. I made sure to hold back a little bit but my heart rate was still in the high 160’s almost 170’s and I was iffy on whether I went out too fast. I was running with these 3 guys and we were all shooting for a similar time (break 5 hours) and they were locals. We ran together for the entire 6 miles. That is one thing I love about ultra-running, you get to meet so many people all along the course. You may be with them for 5 minutes or 1 hour but you always chat after the race and talk about your experience. After you reach the end of the 6 mile trail you pass by the first aid station and loop back onto the interurban trail for about 100 feet and then head up. I got to see the leaders pass me by on this loop and they looked strong.

Me and my boyfriend/training partner Peter had ran part of this course a couple of months ago just to get familiar with the trail. I knew that the upcoming section was all uphill and if I was to run it I would completely deplete my legs and struggle the whole rest of the race. My plan was to hold back and power hike until I got to the top. All of the men around me flew right past and surged up the hill. I am very much used to that. I let people get tired running up the hill and pass them once I get to the flats and down hills. The next 1.8 miles consisted of uphill switchbacks. I made sure to keep a steady tempo going up. Once you get to the top, descend by a beautiful lake and follow a narrow path going uphill again and then downhill. I reached aid station number 2 as the 6th place female. Knowing this gave me a little but more of a push because I really wanted to try and catch the top females. For the next 3 miles you ascend up a logging road. Some of it is quite steep. I started the ascent with another guy but he started to run and I continued to power hike. It didn’t take long before he was 20 feet ahead of me doing the same thing. I kept him in sight the entire way up and it didn’t take me long to pass him once we got into the descending trail. Before the descent, I reached Aid station number 3. This station had my drop bag. I gave my camelpak to the volunteer to fill up and changed from a thicker long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve shirt. I don’t sweat a lot and therefore I have a poor cooling system and tend to heat up quickly, which I really dislike. The volunteers were very helpful and after thanking them I was off. Nutrition wise, I had a gel right before the gun went off at the start and I continued to have one every 30 minutes. I only take water as my liquid fuel source and gels as my source of calories. I have had much success with this in the past and it was working well for me today.

This next section was really fun! It was mostly singe track along this scenic ridge trail. I think if it wasn’t so foggy it would have been a bit more scenic but I used my imagination instead. They had all these fun signs up along the trail such as “everyone loves hills” and then 10 feet later “ok…maybe downhills are better” and I also saw one that had a picture of a girl on it that said “you are fast and sleak”. They are good for a little distraction here and there. I passed the 5th and 4th place women during this section and was now in 4th myself. I find it very motivating to be a placing contender. It only drives me to push harder and I really wanted to try my best to catch the 3rd place female. There was a lot of mud at this point. It was almost impossible to dodge so I just accepted having wet and muddy feet. It’s part of the game so you might as well embrace it. I was now running with a group of 3 men. One was a little faster than the others and once we got to a hill he would just surge ahead. It wouldn’t be until the last 2 miles that I could catch up with him. We were now going back up…and up…and up. Don’t get me wrong I like hills because they give me a break from running and my heart rate settles a little bit, but this ascent was relentless. Now I have heard people use that term for many races and never have I said it myself, until now. Just when you thought you were near the top, it would only get steeper and then level off and you would get to run for a minute, only to begin to ascend again. It was so steep in some parts that I began to walk sideways to give my calves a little bit of a break. I finally reached the top and had the pleasure of heading downhill. This is where I get to have a little bit of a break and have some fun. The descent consisted of some muddy switch backs and then spitted you back out onto some logging road. I caught up to quite a few men on this section but hadn’t seen any females yet. The logging road was pretty steep going down and was hard on the knees. After a short while you turn left off the logging road to head back into some non-technical trail. This was just as steep as the logging road but the ground was softer taking some of the load off your knees. Before I got to the bottom of the steep descent I experienced a little bit of gastro intestinal difficulties and had to head to the bushes a couple of times to relieve myself. This is pretty common because my body can only handle so many gels. At that point I had probably had about 8 or so. After dealing with that the trail met back up with the first aid station.

Once I reached aid station #1, I expressed a big sigh of relief and a lot of excitement. All I had to do now was run 6 miles of flat trail all the way to the finish. I soon realized that this was going to be very mentally tough. My legs were already pretty cooked from all the uphill and steep downhill and there was about 5-6 men up ahead I really wanted to try and catch. I felt like I was going at a snails pace but I just kept moving my arms and putting one foot in front of the other. I guess I wasn’t going that slowly because I ended up with the 16th fastest time on the last section of the race. As the numbers started to decrease from the 6 mile marker to the 5th, to the 4th, I just kept thinking to myself how small of a number that was and how close I was to being done. I purposely inhaled about 2-3 gels in that last section to make sure I had enough energy to keep going as strong as I could. I ended up passing about 4 guys right in the last 2 miles and I was pretty excited. There is something about passing someone that drives you to go faster because there is no way I want them to pass me again, not in this stage of the race. One of the guys was someone who I had been going back and forth with the entire last ½ of the race. I could finally hear the announcer calling out people’s names and I knew I was close. I really started to pick up the pace because I wanted to have a strong finish and came across the line in a time of 4 hours 55 minutes. I was so happy and so relieved. I hugged a few of my friends who were already finished and waited for some of the men I had previously passed near the end to congratulate them on a good race. It is these guys who help you stay on pace and motivate you to go faster and harder and that is worth thanking them for. I immediately headed over to the massage tent and had a 25 minute massage that felt heavenly. Afterwards you are directed into the food tent where they have an amazing spread of homemade burritos w/ all the fixings.

I am very happy with my finish. I ended up being 4th place female and I achieved my goal of a sub 5 hour finish time. Would I do this race again? Of course I would! They are thinking of changing the course for next year which would be nice because there is a lot of flat trail and too much logging road without enough technical trail sections. Living in North Van I get spoiled with how much technical trail running there is here.All in all a great experience and would suggest this well organized race to anyone.

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