This year’s Chuckanut 50K was quite the experience and a real contrast to last year’s race! This year heavily featured mud, rain, and a dash of hail. While that may sound pretty miserable, I still had a lot of fun! Unfortunately, due to the (rather incessant) rain, I wasn’t able to take many photos. The weather gods did not wish it, so you’ll have to use your imagination instead. 🙂
Before I get into the report itself, I just want to say how amazing all of the volunteers were! Volunteers are a huge part of any race, but I was even more impressed on this particular day because of the awful conditions. It’s one thing for the runners to be cold and wet, but at least we’re moving, and not having to huddle under a tent and focus on muddy, addle-brained runners coming through an aid station looking for food, drink, and encouragement. So, THANK YOU Chuckanut volunteers!! My sweaty, rain-soaked running hat is tipped to you and your awesomeness!
This year they changed things up a bit in the park, so we had to park elsewhere and take a shuttle to the start/finish. It was well-organized and easy to manage, and they allowed us to bring a drop bag for post-race change of clothes, etc. That was thoughtful and ended up being key since the weather was, um, rather damp.
The course was slightly different than last year, but still very distinct sections, so I’ll utilize the colors on the map to indicate which bit I’m talking about.
Interurban Trail (orange on the map):
The start was slightly different this year in that ran a bit around Fairhaven Park before getting onto the Interurban Trail. There was definitely a bottleneck, and a little jostling to avoid some huge puddles (no point in getting soaked less than 100 yards in.) After a mile or so, we spread out a bit and settled in to this straightforward part of the course. It’s mostly flat, and a nice warmup for the challenges ahead. Not much for scenery, especially in the foggy rain (Chuckanut Bay was hidden from view.) However, it’s mostly gravel, so I enjoyed the mostly mud-free miles.
Fragrance Lake Trail (pink):
After the aid station (which moved due to the course change), we began our first ascent. These switchbacks aren’t the most fun when it’s dry, but certainly less so in the rain and mud. My feet were sliding out from beneath me (sort of like a roller-blading motion, but without the 1999 nostalgic fun), but I knew this was just the beginning of the mud – so I had to get used to it! There were some nice views of all of the very green moss, ferns, and trees – pretty classic Pacific Northwest. We ran around Fragrance Lake (I honestly don’t know what the ‘fragrance’ is referring to, but I do wonder…) and then onto…
Two Dollar Trail (pink, part II):
I remember liking the Two Dollar Trail last year as it’s a nice place to pick up the pace because of the runnability of the trail. However, the first part was quite muddy, so it wasn’t as quick as I had hoped. Roots and rocks were hiding in the mud, and you didn’t know until your foot was already on it. It turned out to be an exercise in quick and light feet (not a bad skill to acquire in trail running!) The very end was a bit drier, and the shouts of encouragement from the aid station was very heartening!
Cleator Road (green):
Normally, I thoroughly dislike this part of the course. An unlovely 3 miles of annoyingly pitched road. Ugh. However, due to the weather, I was looking forward to it! Why, do you ask? Because I knew it’d be mud-free. 🙂 I’ve recently been doing some tough but awesome long hill repeats on an equally unlovely forest road (thanks, Jess!), so I was mentally prepared for it. I was determined to not let the pitch get to me, so I challenged myself to run as much as possible (it seemed like many folks walked most of it.) In the end, I don’t know if I did better than last year, but I was pleased with my progress nonetheless.
Ridge Trail (purple):
When I reached the top of Cleator, I smiled at the aid station’s 60’s peace & love theme, complete with a kissing booth. (I wonder how many runners partook?)
I had just blown through the other aid stations since I was fine with my own food and water, but I paused at this one for a refill, some oranges, and a moment to mentally brace for the Ridge Trail. Last year I had fallen twice on this part (luckily, no injuries), and with the very wet and muddy conditions, I was certain it would be treacherous. Well, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared. Granted, I got passed the most in this section, but I know technical trails are my weakness (I just value my limbs and joints whole and undamaged, okay??)
However, by expecting the worst, it ended up not being so bad. There were some runnable bits near the end of the Ridge Trail, and it all went by much faster than I remembered. My only real tragedy was losing a precious handwarmer in the cleanup after a poorly executed ‘farmer blow.’
North Lost Lake Trail (purple, part II):
Even though it wasn’t as bad as I expected, I was grateful to get off the Ridge. I remember feeling pretty drained last year at this point, but this year I was just thankful that I had already gotten through some of these tough sections. That gave me some energy to get moving and try to tick off some miles before we found the real mudholes a little further down the trail. At this point, the rain had continued in earnest, so I didn’t get any great photos of some of the slop we ended up going through. What I did find interesting was all of the different colors of mud that we ran through: yellow, gray, and red-brown. As I’m not a soil expert, I couldn’t identify why it was so different in just a span of a mile, but it was sort of interesting anyway. OKAY, maybe not so interesting, but 16 miles into a 31 mile race, I’ll take just about any external distraction.
I also decided that the sound my shoes made while running through the very wet mud was slorp slorp slorp slorp. I mentioned this to another runner, and her response was, “ohhh, now I want a milkshake. But not a chocolate one.” Ha!
There was a full aid station at the bottom of Chinscraper, and I paused for a snack and a mental break. At this point, I was tired and sore (duh), but my bigger problem was how cold I was becoming. I was completely soaked through – honestly, I would be drier stepping out of the shower – and the wind was starting to pick up. I was a bit worried since my hands were already numb and not working, but there wasn’t anything to be done except get moving. Chinscraper wasn’t going to climb itself, so off I went.
I remember last year being focused on distracting Adam with lots of chatter because he was struggling a bit mentally. Without the need to create a diversion for someone else, I became more aware of this vertical beast, and it ended up being longer (but not steeper) than I remembered, ha! Turns out the amazing photographer Glenn Tachiyama isn’t at the top like I thought, but only halfway up. Oops. Also, remember how I said I was soaked through and the wind was picking up? To add to it, it starting HAILING. I employed some colorful language at this point, and then just started to find it funny. At least with hail I wasn’t getting any wetter? Type two fun all the way.
Fragrance Lake Road (blue, part II):
Once I reached the top of Chinscraper, I was happy that all the vertical was behind me! It was all downhill or flat from here on out. Last year we had headed back down the Fragrance Lake Trail, but this year the course went down the Fragrance Lake Road instead. Turns out, it’s much nicer to run on! A gradual descent on a gravel road. Just what the legs needed – some non-technical, easy miles.
I was starting to feel a bit tired (huh, wonder why?), so I decided it was time to blast some music to keep my energy up. I had brought headphones, but with the rain that was a no-go. Fellow runners, I hope you didn’t mind my music choices!
Interurban Trail (red):
Once I hit the final aid station and knew that I only had 6 miles to go, I was hopeful I could beat last year’s time by a little bit. This became my sole focus. Legs were tired and sore, of course, but luckily, it hurt less to run than to walk. This section, being mostly straight and flat, is nice in the beginning of the race, but is a soul-sucker at the end. It seems never-ending…but it’s not. This too shall pass.
Also, this is when the rain stopped, and we started to see patches of blue sky. Ah, well, better late than never, I suppose??
I passed a fair number of people in this last section, and was happy I still had some energy left. Some kind strangers told me when I had less than a few minutes to the finish, so I was able to even give a bit of a kick at the end (I’m sure it still looked like a jog, but whatever.) Yay – DONE!
Some quick numbers:
Finishing time: 7:26:09
Elevation gain: ~5,500 feet
Calories consumed: ~800 (6 Glutino Oreos, 2 pouches sweet potato/apple baby food, 2 homemade almond cookies, bite of potato, 1 orange)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to food to eat and some shoes to wash… 🙂