Exhaustion. That’s what I was thinking about today on my very easy and very short recovery run while taking a break midway to check out the view of the snow-capped Mt. Hamilton across the San Francisco Bay. Admittedly,having 7 days to recover between races is a lot better than running two 50k’s in one weekend,such as a handful of people have done with the Silver State/Ohlone Wilderness combo. However,the cumulative effects of multiple,maximal efforts can’t be denied.
Recovery from Way Tool Cool went well,with just a couple road bike rides,and a super easy run around Green Lake in Seattle two days before Chuckanut. I felt good enough on Thursday evening to drop in on a yoga class in downtown Seattle which was attended coincidentally by Menno Van Wyck,the former CEO of the Montrail shoe company. Menno noticed my Inov-8 shoes and we chatted enthusiastically for a while about the trail running world.
My main goal for the Chuckanut 50k was to win the Masters competition. I knew that there would be a tough and experienced competitor in Scott Jaime from Colorado who I had battled for most of the whole 50 miles at the San Juan Solstice race last summer. My secondary goal was a high overall finish,but with the incredible depth of the field this year –elite ultrarunners Goeff Roess,Erik Skaggs,Joe Grant,Tim Olson,and many more –I’d be happy to crack the top ten. The event grows every year and sold out within 2 hours. Adding to the draw for elite runners,and new to both Chuckanut 50k and the ultra world in general,were cash prizes for top 3 men and women overall finishers and for top Masters. A $500 course record bonus was also up for grabs.
I hadn’t run trails in Washington State other than an epic 30 mile training run last year near Seattle with Chuckanut RD Krissy Moehl. I didn’t realize that “Chuckanut”is the name of the mountain we climb up and over twice,and not a bodily malfunction as a friend had misinformed me. The 50k course requires a diverse set of skills. The first 10k,which is run in reverse for the final 10k,is a primarily flat,gravel road,with a couple short hilly rollers,and one very short section of hilly single track –perfect for road marathoners. The main part of the course consists of a fair amount climbing and descending along with a very fun and highly technical,3-mile-long single track along Chuckanut Ridge. For the speed hikers,there is the “Chinscraper”climb at mile 20,which is steep enough to come close to hitting your chin on the ground.
Muddy,wet trails were expected,but the rainfall during the week was light and we were treated to sunny skies,albeit cold weather,on race day. A fast,but reasonably comfortable pace gave way to a very fast pace only 2 to 3 miles in to the opening 10k. Adam Campbell from Canada,hoping for a repeat podium position,and myself were at the front for a while until the real,elite bunch got to work. I fell of the front group as the pace hovered around 5:45 mpm. In the meantime,Mike Smith from Flagstaff,tore off the front by himself. This was Mike’s first ultramarathon,but he is a former collegiate All-American and winner of the Trans-Rockies stage race.
Tim Olson of Ashland,Oregon,who I had battled with the week before and narrowly beat,was obviously feeling good and pulled away strongly from me through the middle section of the course,never to be seen again. The top 3 finishers were settled early on,but from 10k all the way to the finish,there was a constant shuffling of the next 7 places. I was able to pass a few guys in the technical sections,but then would come back on the gradual,fire road climbs. Stopping to pee a couple times didn’t help,but I did save a bit of time by blowing through all of the aid stations (no disrespect for the wonderful volunteers),stopping only once at around 30k for a bottle fill. I was comfortably in 8th place and had held off Adam Campbell from mile 16,but I couldn’t dig deep enough to match his speed on the flats,and was caught at mile 27. I immediately stopped to pee again,thinking that 10th place was far behind. Seconds later I caught a glimpse of the next runner and he appeared to be closing fast. It was Phil Kochik,who has finished 2nd in this race in the past and has also won Way Too Cool. The last 4 miles were nail biting,but I persevered and narrowly stayed away for 9th place overall. Two minutes ahead of me there was a close,3-way sprint for 6th place,with Joe Grant staying away by two seconds from Adam Campbell and Oliver Utting. Oliver,who I had leapfrogged with until mile 17,has run a 2:21 marathon.
Prior to this year,and since 1995,there had been a total of 12 sub-4 hour times. This year alone the top 10 were all under 4 hours. I won the Masters race in a time of 3:56:58,taking 21 minutes off the previous Masters course record. Inov-8 teammate Yassine Diboun,a highly accomplished ultra runner in his own right,finished close behind me in 11th place. Goeff Roess had no trouble winning the race in course record time. The performance of the day in my mind is the Women’s winner Ellie Greenwood. Ellie’s split time for the last 10 miles was the 6th fastest of the entire field!
The post-race party was a lot of fun with great food,friends,and music. Many stayed for the 3PM awards ceremony MC’d by ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek. It will be a tough decision next year to pick just one of these two classic 50k events.
You can read Part 1 of Gary’s Way Too Cool/Chuckanut double HERE