Monday, March 19, 2018

Chuckanut 50k: Take Two

What a beautiful day we had for Chuckanut this year - a stark contrast to last year's downpour. The depth of the women's field gets deeper every year with this year being no exception. A solid race for me could mean barely breaking the top 10. This was my second ultra, the first being the 2017 Chuckanut 50k where I placed 5th female.
Warm-up snuggles with Nikki.

I had a really good training block early this winter and was feeling strong and fit. My first race of the year was the Orcas Island 25k in January in less than ideal conditions. Running aggressively through snow and slush left a lingering twinge in my knee that put a kink into my training leading up to Chuckanut. I took several days off and skipped a couple of weeks of workouts to try to tame the pain and tightness.

With that, my confidence wasn’t high, and I really didn’t know what to expected on race day. About three miles into the race, my left leg started tightening up (a chronic issue of mine that flares up when I run on flats) and forced me to stop and stretch several times on the Urb before heading up the single track into the Chuckanuts. I was running in about 7th or 8th place early on with Sarah Bard who would pull away every time I stretched so I’d put in a minor surge to catch back up each time. Unfortunately, the tightness never let up, so the race ended up being an uncomfortable grind the whole way. Since I know the course so well, it was hard not to feel 100% because I knew every little challenge that was ahead of me and I began to dread each section. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss!
Taking a much-needed GU on Chinscraper.

Because the women's field was so deep, I was constantly trading places with some of the top women, especially Kathryn (Kat) Drew (6th and just over a minute behind me last year), who I leap-frogged with multiple times. She really allowed me to get out of my own head and start racing, which made the experience much more fun.

At the start of the final long 3-mile descent to Lost Lake aid station, somebody yelled out, "Great job, Ellie!" My first thought was, "Wow, somebody has mistaken me for one of my trail heroes and the queen of the Chuckanut 50k, Ellie Greenwood!" My second thought was, "Wow, this is what it feels like to be hunted down by Ellie," as I felt the wind of Ellie screaming by me in classic Ellie fashion. I never had so much fun getting passed by somebody in a race.

When I got to the final aid station, I traded in my hydration vest for a hand-held and braced myself for what every Chuckanut 50k racer dreads the most: the final 10km on the Interurban Trail. I stopped 1-2 times each mile to loosen up my left leg. Unfortunately, this meant watching Kat get further and further ahead (and little did I know Sarah Bard getting closer and closer behind me). She had such a strong race and it has been very impressive to watch her bring her Chuckanut times down significantly every year.

Finish line. Oh, sweet relief!
Given the way I felt on the day, I am extremely satisfied with my 6th place finish. But even more so, I am so grateful for the love and support of my Bellingham community. So much love waited for me at the finish line. Gosh, I love you trail people! I woke up the next morning unable to move most of my body, but with a very full heart.

Congratulations to everyone who raced, from Keely’s super impressive first Chuckanut win and second fastest time ever, to Anne-Marie’s Chuckanut PB, to Ellie’s non-comeback comeback, and so many more standout moments to mention. During the final 10km I told myself that I would never have to race – or run! – ever again after this. Now that it has been a couple of days, I think I might reconsider. This event is far too special to pass up.

Hopefully saying something witty to Anne-Marie and Kaytlyn.
Hard to tell.

Thank you to Krissy Moehl and her team of race directors, and to all the volunteers and aid station crews who help make this such a special and memorable experience for everyone every single year.
A massive thank you to the team of people who have helped me for 4+ years: Kerry Gustafson, Chris Lockwood, Tonia Boze, Jeff Boggess, Jenn Love, Jeff Fisher, my La Sportiva family, my Bellingham family, and my real family. And of course, it goes without saying, to my husband, Tad.
With the champ, Keely.

I wasn’t sure if I should keep doing these blog reports because the message always ends up being the same after all these years, but it is an opportunity to really reflect and remind myself about what is most important in life and the many good people that I am so blessed to have as role models, friends and family.

This was my last race in my 20’s. What a decade it has been! I am so grateful for the experiences I have had the last 10 years and will continue to work hard to learn, grow and open opportunities for the next 10 years.

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