Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chuckanut 50km

Peter and I drove up early (5:45am) Saturday morning to participate in Chuckanut 50km. NOTE*** If from Vancouver, make sure to take the truck crossing and not Peace Arch. We had a one car wait while our friends didn't even move for 30 minutes and almost missed the race. I did this race back in 08' and I really enjoyed the course, people, and post-race festivities. This year the field was super stacked and the results rally are impressive.

We were there an hour before the start which was perfect because if you come to late there is a huge line-up out the door to get your race number and goodie bag. In 08' it was pouring rain and we had to stand outside for over 20 minutes to get inside. Luckily for those in line, it was turning out to be a beautiful day.

The race started right on time at 8am, I wished Peter good luck, and before I knew it, we were off! The first 6 miles run along the interurban trail which is pretty much dead flat. This is where the field spreads out a little bit and let's the 'fast guys' get ahead. After you pass Aid Station #1, you head directly uphill to fragrance Lake for 2 miles, followed by a couple miles of traversing and a quick downhill, followed by a 2.5 mile logging road ascent. Back in 2008, I pretty much walked the entire first hill and most of the logging road. While comparing my splits (from 08') with the other 3 females who finished before me I realized that the only place I lost time was in that first flat and uphill section. My goal this year, was to run all the hills to see how much time I could take off. In 2008, my split was 2:05 from the start to Aid Station # 3 and this year I came in 1:45. I was super stoked to see that I had taken 20 minutes off my time.

The rest of the run was great and I felt consistent, smooth and controlled. I was really looking forward to 'chinscraper' which from what I remember is this arduous and relentless climb right before the final descent of the day. I remember it seeming to go on forever, like this never ending hill. This year however, it seemed like a piece of cake and it was over in the blink of an eye. I ran much more of it this year, with a few power hikes thrown in on the steep sections. Before I knew it, I was descending the logging road which would take me back to the 6 mile interurban trail return. I passed quite a few people on this final downhill and I tried to take as much advantage of this section as I could. I wasn't pushing too hard because I knew if I fried my quads, the final 6 miles of flat running would just destroy me and I wanted to finish strong.

I had passed the 5th place female (Meghan Argobast, 2:46 marathoner) just before the flats and I was worried that she, with all her leg speed, would catch up to me. I ran well along this section. I didn't top up my camelbak at the last aid station as I thought I had enough water to get me to the finish. As it turns out, I was on the verge of cramping in my right hamstring, which forced me to take more slat pills and therefore, I needed much more water. I didn't pass very many runners along this section, however, there were a lot of non-racing walkers and bikers. There were 2 guys wearing matching blue shirts out for a run ahead of me. At first they were quite far ahead and I was unsure if they were part of the race or not. Along this section, mentally, chasing people in front of me is one of the only ways I stay motivated. I eventually caught up to them and told them to keep it up and pace me (half joking, but secretly hoping they would stay with me). They asked me how far along I was in the race. I wasn't able to run and do math in my head but I eventually said "I don't know how far I am but I only have 4 miles to go". One of the guys had a bottle of Powerade in his hand and because I was low on water, it's all I could think about (slash drool over) a I ran with them briefly. They were very impressed at how fast I as moving considering I had already run 46 km (now I can do the math). I quickly dropped them and carried on chasing after the next.

I should add that this 6 mile trail back to the finish has mile markers for every 1/2 mile all along the way. I had a mini celebration in my head every time I passed one. I was smiling on the outside but fist pumping on the inside!!! Just after the 2 mile marker (at 47km) you get off the gravel path and enter the rolling single track trail for a mile. This is such a nice change because it gives your legs a break from the monotonous straight flat running. The final mile is back onto the gravel path, which is slightly downhill. I passed one more guy here. I decided to look behind me with a little less than a 1/2 mile to go and to my surprise, Meghan was right there! I still managed to have a little kick left in my stride and quicken the pace. I looked back again with about 200m to go and this time she was even closer. I pretty much booted it into a full sprint (which hurt) and never looked back. I finished in a time of 1:35 and change. I was 4th female overall and 1st in my age group. This was a big confidence booster for sure and I am really happy with my effort. I guess my dead legs from the week came around after all! See here for full results...

For those of you who are new to ultra running, I guarantee that as the years go on and you gain more experience, your times will improve. I have been ultra running for 3 or 4 years now and it wasn't until the end of last year that I really figured myself out as a runner. I experimented a lot with different fuels and running styles. When I first got into ultra's I took a of advice from different people. Some of it was helpful to me and some wasn't. Peter taught me a lot about power hiking. However, he is a power hiking animal and for him, it is a more efficient way of climbing a hill. I did this for years before I realized that I am actually a pretty inefficient power hiker (needs much improvement). I feel much more comfortable when I run them and I find it easier to transition at the top of the hill onto a flat or downhill section if I have been running. When I get to the top of a hill when I am power hiking, running again almost feels like a chore and it always takes me a few extra seconds to start the run again. With that said, how much running I can maintain depends on the distance of the event as well as the terrain. Obviously on a ridiculously steep climb, some hiking is necessary and in a 100 mile event where your legs are pooped, some hiking breaks will serve you well.

Gear for the race:
- La Sportiva crosslites. I would have gone with my North Face single tracks but I was having a blister issue that needed to be addressed with the shoe. I was nervous that the crosslites would be to low profile for me over the 50km distance but they were great. I like to feel light on my feet and they got the job done great.
- North Shore Athletics team gear socks. I have worn these for each and every race I do. I think they are made by Defeet.
- North Face light series shorts. I absolutely love these shorts and they even have an inside pocket that fits 2 gels.
- North Shore Athletics shirt and arms warmers
- Way Too Cool 50km hat I won in 09'. The only hat that has ever fit my head!
- Camelbak siren. The same pack I have used for 3.5 years (change of bladder of course)!

- 6 GU gels. 5 x just plain and 1 x vanilla orange Roctane (not my favorite flavor). I ate a bit less than normal. I find it hard to eat gels on the descents as they mess with my GI system.
- Thermolytes- Salt Pills.
- Water baby, and lot's of it! I have been having some GI tract distress in every ultra I do. I thought it was the gels but through talking with someone I figured out that maybe I wasn't drinking enough water to digest the sugars fully. I had no issues, just 1 pee stop.

My only issue is storage space for my gels/salt pill container. My pack has no front pockets for easy access to my fuel. I had a gel stashed in my sports bra (thanks Tamsin for that tip), I held my salt pill container and a gel in my hand the whole way, 2 in my shorts, and 1 up my arm warmer sleeve. That is creativity at it's finest!

Pete and I enjoyed the rest of the weekend hanging out at my parents cabin in Baker. They have a hot tub and it was heavenly to soak in that night and the next morning. We went to the North Fork (short drive from Bellingham off the Mt. Baker Highway) for the most amazing pizza and homemade beer. That place is a must for anyone staying in Glacier.

Hope everyone had a great weekend of running! I'll post some pictures once they are up on the site.

See you in the trails!!!!