Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chuckanut 50K Race Report

Fast Runners
It felt awesome to race Saturday.
I have been dealing with some negative energy since my DNF at the Bandera 100K in January and furthermore, I feel like I haven't had a good racing experience where I was well prepared and able to execute since last March at the USATF Nueces 50 Mile Championships.  After Nueces, I had to deploy to Iraq for 6 months with less than ideal training and no racing.  Once home, I jumped into The North Face 50 mile championships only weeks after returning from the desert and muscled my way through a race I wasn't well prepared for.

Everyone has challenges in training, rather it is a demanding job, having a family to take care of, injuries or sickness, but I am thankful to have had the opportunity to prepare properly for Chuckanut and then perform well. 
My goals for Chuckanut were to 1)Place in the top 5 2)If I felt great ultimately to place in the top 3 at this unbelievabaley stacked race. 

Check out the line-up that included the Ultra Runner of the Year for 2011, a world champion mountain runner, 2011 national ski mountaineering champion, two sub 2:20 marathoners, a dozen sube 2:30 marathon runners, etc...

On Friday before the race I drove to the airport and flew with Dave Mackey, we had a good time hanging out.  Mike, who graciously hosted me this weekend, and his family just moved into a beautiful house right on a lake in Anacortes with over 50 miles of epic trail access right in his backyard.  I had a great night and Zeffy, Mike's wife made some awesome homemade mexican food.

I slept relatively well and after a quick bite, Mike and I headed out to the race.  I did a little warm-up, something I don't do for Ultras, but with the first 10K of the race being at tempo pace, I needed to warm-up.  The weather in the Pacific Northwest was unseasonably cold and even wetter than normal.  At the start, it was raining and only in the upper 30s.  This would also be my first race in the Hoka EVOs and second run in the shoes period.     

As the gun went off and  we began our wet 10K tempo, things were feeling good.  I was happy to see no one, besides Jason Loutitt, felt the need to go much faster than 5:45 pace.  I ran part of the first 10K solo and some of it with Mike Wolfe, Max King, Adam Campbell and a few other people I don't know.

At the turn onto the climb and single track, Adam Campbell lead with me behind followed by Mike Wolfe, Max King and another guy.  Not long into the climb Dave Mackey, Tyler Olson and a few other joined the locomotive charging up the hills.  We quietly cruised along until we started to hit some snow and then Fragrance Lake.  At one point we caught a glimpse of Jason Louttit, but I think he put a surge in after we saw each other.   I had a few moments where I considered taking the lead, but I was rather enjoying being right behind the leader of the locomotive.

Then came the climb up the road.  Once we hit the road, Max and a few other fast marathon guys went and joined  Jason Louttit and gapped the rest of the train of trail ultra stars.  I picked up the pace and effort slightly, but knew it wasn't the right choice to cover the gap the roadies had put on us.

 From this point in the race, I ran without any contact besides seeing someone stopped at the aid station of Chinscraper, until I passed Jason Louttit with about 4 miles to go.  I find that I almost always run my races solo.  I think that I do best when I am not worried about people right in front of me or behind me. Being alone helps me tune into what pace is absolute best for me.  I believe one of my best strengths in ultra trail running is staying very comfortable for the first 85% of the race.
Adam leading the locomotive with me and Wolf following

The Chucky Ridge trail was indeed technical and awesome.  I enjoyed the scrambling across the classic  rooted, rocky and undulating trails of the pacific northwest.  With no one right on my heels or directly in front of me, I was able to focus on my line and keep the body in control.  I managed to have no falls the entire race, which was a bit luck and a lot of focus.  I was in 5th or 6th place from the road on.  

I felt great, but was beginning to get anxious for the "Chinscraper" climb at mile 20 and the following downhill and flat to the finish.  I was drinking most of my 20oz hand water bottle every hour and consuming my standard  1oz of First Endurance EFS every 30 minutes.  It is nice to have a system that works for hydration and nutrition that never results in dehydration, stomach issues or bonking.  Also nice is running with Hokas.  My legs and feet have never been hapier and healthier.   In particular, today the large surface area of the Hokas enabled me to not sink into the mud and slop as much as I would have wearing other shoes.  As I cruised in and saw the small crowd at the aid station at the base of chinscrper I saw another runner stop and not leave... looked like he was hurting, I moved into 4th place at this point.

After reading a few accounts of the runners ahead of me, spectator's accounts and even some pictures, I am pretty confident I made some time going up chinscraper.  I never walked or power hiked, but kept a faster cadence and ran the whole ascent.  At the top of Chinscraper, I think I was close to Jason Louttit, but never saw him.

Done with chinscraper, I was feeling great and was ready to put forth some fast running to finish up.  While I do remember reading Timothy Olson's race report from last year and how he felt many killed there legs on the descent back to the flat trail, I didn't realize the long down hill was all smooth road.

Not long before the left turn Max King and Sage Canaday missed, I began to get repeat warnings about the upcoming left turn.  I had a feeling someone had made a mistake and probably had to turn around.  I also realized I was very close or now in front of those who made the mistake.  Making my way down after the turn I was told I was in second place.  I nearly harassed the individual that they were wrong and that I was in 4th, but then the wrong turn came back to mind.  I got confirmation from Bryon Powell at the turn to the flat trail section that I was in second and not far back off the leader, who was Jason Louttit.

I was motivated, excited and feeling pretty good.  I have never really memorized race maps and all the turns involved in an ultra, as I am not the best at navigation and memorization. I recalled that there was about 10k of fast smooth trail at the end of this race, but for some stupid reason I thought that 10K measurement was taken before the final turn and that I only had maybe 4 miles to go once I made the final turn.  This underestimation of distance to go to the finish would hurt me later.

On some of the longer straightaways, I could see Jason Louttit in front of me and I started to build confidence that I could catch and pass him.  It is so much better to be the one chasing, than the other way around, at least for me it is.  I caught Jason Louttit with around 4 miles to go.  Jason was really cool and actually gave me a high-five, which means a lot to me.  Once past Jason, I began to get emotional as the idea that I was leading with very little to go with no sign of someone who was going to pass me.  I made a point of never looking back the whole race, as looking back and seeing someone throws me off my game and potentially motivates the person behind me.

3 miles to go, in the lead and holding pace, I was becoming desperate for the finish.  I wasn't slowing, but I was certainly doing everything to finish strong and couldn't run any faster.  Shortly after 3 miles to go I heard the dreadfull footsteps... Adam Campbell was passing me.  I was surprised and couldn't field Adam's move and I was ready to be done.  I put the chin down and gave it all I had to keep the gap small and to prevent other guys from passing me.  With around 1.5 miles to go I was at the end of my rope and heard the footsteps again.  This time I reacted and kept in front of the challenger, Sage Canaday.  As we crossed a wooden bridge, Sage totally slipped and crashed off the end of the bridge (at the same place Adam Campbell did as well, I later found out).  I looked back at Sage and asked if he was OK and he said he was and slowly got up.  This fall didn't stop Sage and I couldn't field his attack, he passe with not much more than a mile to go.  Needless to say, I was huring physically and was bummed mentally to lose the lead so late.  Not being familar with the finish was mentally draining, but the end came and I sprinted in to get under the 3:50 (3:49:58) mark.  Adam finished just 63 seconds in front of me and Sage 31 seconds ahead. 

Again, I had a fantastic day racing, met my goals, posted the 7th fastest time all time at Chuckanut and I am very happy with the results.  The trails were awesome, the competitiors were classy and the race as a whole was wonderful.  I am excited in moving forward with this result and this first real race of the season.  It feels wonderful to have a solid race performance under the belt.  I am excited to see many of the competitiors from Saturday at a number of the races on my calendar this year.  Just over a month to Leona Divide 50 Mile and I feel confident I will be able to have another great experience out there in California. 

Weekly Summary

Monday 8M
Tuesday 7M
Wednesday 7M
Thursday 6M
Friday 4.5M
Saturday 32M
Sunday 6.5M

71 Miles For the Week


  1. Jason, I was happy to see you have a stellar race at Chuckanut. Always pulling for you. Are you trying to qualify for WS at Leona Divide (it is a qualifier isn't it?)?

  2. Nice job out there, Jason. Can only imagine what was going through your mind those last couple of miles.

  3. Congratulations! Amazed that you raced in only your second run in a pair of shoes!

  4. Killer, what a race Jason. This is only the beginning of a GREAT season of running.

  5. Michael,
    Thanks man, likewise, hoping you will have an epic season. Good question on Western States... I will be in the San Juan mountains of Colorado from late May into July and I would LOVE to run the San Juan Solstice which is the same weekend as Western States. I will make that decision shortly after Leona Divide.

    Those last miles were an emotional roller coaster; 4th to 2nd without passing, take the lead and loose the lead. Overall I'm very happy with the result.

    Thanks, yeah, the EVO isn't that different from the Bondi, which I have been training in. The EVO has a little more tread, lighter upper and a touch more "sporty" of a forefoot cut, if you will. My feet don't mind new shoes at all.

    Thanks, I sure hope so. As long as I keep myself under control for training, it should be a great ride this season.

  6. But it is also part of the life. but you will more time to get to a race with a lot of training. As the pay per head service community says that you have to keep forward.