The Chuckanut Ridge 50k up in Fairhaven, WA put on by Krissy Moehl and company has become one of the most popular early season 50k races around. This year the race was dedicated to the late Dave Terry who was an integral part of the ultra running community for many years up until his death last September. Round pins with the letters DT were seen being worn by runners throughout the race and on clothing afterwards.
I knew that this was going to be a fast and competitive race and was hoping that I didn't use up my speed at the Shamrock 15k the weekend before. Joe Grant, Nick Triolo and I drove up together Friday afternoon and we were all feeling anxious and excited. We have put in a lot of training runs together and we knew it was now time to go test our fitness. Based on past years times I predicted between 4:00hrs-4:15 or so. This year we were blessed again with phenomenal weather. I think the weather gods are giving me a break after enduring the last five years in Central New York ;o)
It was a little chilly for the 8am start but I knew it was going to warm up especially once we started climbing. As I looked around at the start line I see some familiar faces...Craig Thornley, Erik Skaggs, Chris from B.C., and then I saw the speedy Andy Martin show up! Then I reminded Joe about all the Columbia River Gorge runs we did and how now it is our turn to shine. Krissy gave us the countdown and off we went for the flat 7 mile bike path leading us to the base of the ridge. Skaggs, Adam Campbell, and Martin took off at a blistering pace and I found myself in fourth just hanging back. Then Mr. Western States Hal Koerner pulls up next to me and I introduce myself to him as I knew he was back there somewhere. A couple minutes after that as were settled into a nice pace Joe pulls up on the other side of me and when I looked over at him he has blood all over his face! This kind of freaked me out as it was bright red blood caked in his mustache and beard and I was a little worried about him. He assured me he just had a bit of a bloody nose from the cool weather and he was fine. After Joe and I became blood brothers by him accidentally "snot-rocketing" on me, him and Hal pulled ahead a bit.
I was fine letting those two guys go and I reminded myself to run my race. We started hitting some good little climbs. The course was more of the epic green pacific northwest trails and then there were some sections where you could see a long way up in front. I still kept Hal and Joe in my scopes but realized that they were probably about a couple minutes ahead at times. We enjoyed some gorgeous views of the Puget Sound right next to us and was we got higher and higher we started entering some singletrack rather than some of the forest service roads. The middle 30k of the race up on the ridge gave us some pretty technical trail running. That for me equals lots of fun! I got into a nice focused zone as I was dancing through this section and this is one of the things I love about trail running. It makes me feel like a kid again :o)...then I came flying around a corner and there was a big boulder that had like a five or six foot drop off. My momentum was taking me so I just surrendered to it and launched through the air landing on both feet like ten feet away! It was intense and I yelled out loud with excitement as I kind of laughed happily that I was ok.
After the technical section we entered an area that had some long winding downs. I even saw a little sign that said, "Hammer this section because 'Chinscraper awaits'." That is exactly what I did and I was covering some serious ground. I wore my Inov-8 x-talon 212's (in fact Joe and Nick did too) which ended up being great for this course. This lightweight mountain running shoe offers sticky rubber and quick response and also has really good traction.
I came into the aid station right before "Chinscraper" (the pretty steep climb at around mile 20) and was feeling a little worked. I quickly filled up with some Nuun and grabbed a couple gels from the volunteers and hustled out. Just as I was leaving I see Matt Hart cheering me on and doing a little video. Check it out.
After that I started climbing "Chinscraper" and I saw someone up on the mountain side. It turned out to be Glenn Tachiyama who is a great photographer that attends many of these ultras capturing the essence of the beauty and the sport. He got a few shots of me working pretty hard up the mountain as seen below. To see more awesome pictures by Glenn click HERE
I jokingly told Glenn that if he would have not been there I would have hiked that section. As I made my way higher up the climb I did power hike some sections but never for too long and I felt good about the way I tackled that climb. Trying to keep up with Joe Grant out in the gorge the last few months prepared me for this section. When I crested the top and came out of the forest a volunteer told me that Hal was less than two minutes ahead! Whoa! I started hammering as much as my body would let me on the long downhill for the next few miles. With about five miles to go I caught glimpse of Hal at a switchback/bridge area close to the interurban trail. I really started working hard at this point. I decided that I was going to give it my all to try and catch him.
I blew through the final aid station and could see me reeling him in a little. I was feeling worked but started digging really deep asking myself "How bad do you want it?" Over the next couple miles I closed a gap and the white dot of his shirt started becoming bigger and bigger. One of the Fairhaven runners coaches told me that he was in range and encouraged me to use my arms to try and catch him. Then on a long straight stretch I could see a black shirted runner in front of Hal! It was Joe! Man...I couldn't believe it! I just held the red-line pace and tried to surge every so often. There were a couple little slight uphill sections that just killed me and then a little single track area that got me out of my groove. Toward mile 30 I realized that I probably ran out of real estate but still continued to hammer it home.
I came into the finish in 6th place in 3:57 just about a minute behind Hal and Joe was just ahead of him. Hal told me he was trying to hold me off and then Joe said he was doing the same to hold off Hal! It was a classic race and I was totally stoked to be up there with the big guns. It was so satisfying to leave it all out there on the course. I had nothing left and that's the way I wanted it.
We enjoyed socializing afterwards for a couple more hours shoveling in the great selection of food provided by Ma Moehl. Krissy and her crew do such a great job with this race...I totally recommend it and am sure I'll be back there again. Thank you so much to all the volunteers...no really....you guys rock! It helps more than you realize...especially aid station 3 with Tonya, James, Linda, et. al! It's such a positive vibe at these races and I'm starting to meet a bunch of people in the ultra community.
Nick came in with a stellar time of 4:36 and was happy to get another solid ultra under his belt. When we finally left the park we pulled up a table next to the fireplace at a local Mexican restaurant and devoured some more food. From that point on we did not stop talking incessantly about every single aspect of the race and the great sport of ultra running. It carried us back to our respective beds in our Northwest Portland neighborhood with memories of another epic experience out on the trails! It's that sense of personal satisfaction and achievement that keeps me coming back for more.
Great work to all and we'll see you at the next one! Full Results will be HERE shortly...Cheers!