Chuckanut 50k Race Report – Austin W

Race: Chuckanut 50k

Runner: Austin W

Date: 3/17/2018

Location: Bellingham, WA

Results: 5:44

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The weather was unbelievably perfect. Not sure it’s possible to get a better running weather and trails were perfectly saturated and gummy, with very little mud.
  2. Awesome course and I surprised myself by really loving the flat 10k lollipop stretch at the start and the finish. Everything else was great too; logistics, trail marking, aid stations, volunteers, organization, etc.
  3. The incredible Team RunRun support at the race! The cheering crowds are always wonderful but it means so much to see TRR friends out there on the course and finish encouraging you along. Honestly made every step of my day better.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  1. Not knowing how to set overall or incremental goals for a trail race. Realizing a couple weeks ahead of the race that I have zero idea how to ‘push’ on the trails (excited to talk to Matt more about strategy here) but came to the conclusion that I tend to take it easier on the trails than I do on the road (where splits can be tracked consistently) and am probably not pushing myself to capacity. This is clearly my fault and nothing to do with the race but definitely want to get to a place where I’m challenging myself in entirely new ways on the trails. (Of course Matt was incredibly helpful in suggesting a couple of excellent goals ahead of the race, but this is something I want to focus on being able to articulate for myself in 2018)
  2. I really wanted PB&J sandwiches, not wraps, at the aid stations. My entire ultra running career (which is not long or impressive) is fueled by pb&j so I really want to look forward to the next square or two at each aid station. I’ve convinced myself that the bread sops up some of the belly slosh from all the liquid. And they are really delicious, so win win!!!
  3. I hate GUs and while I know they do the trick, I spend a lot of time thinking about not wanting to eat one. Can someone please design one that is truly flavorless but still provides all the stuff you need?

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Perhaps the finishing magnet? Although certainly much more useful than a medal…

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  1. The Interurban portion of the race was outstanding and while not my favorite part of the trail, definitely a highlight for me. Matt encouraged me to go out pretty strong, since I’m not really good at climbs or downhill (hopefully, not good at these things YET) and it was excellent advice, as usual. I didn’t blow out but I didn’t hold back too much either and then spent the rest of the race excited to get back to the flat with enough energy to push a steady pace. I was a bit worse for wear on the way back but still able to run and I loved looking for people ahead to pass.
  2. I loved running along the Chuckanut mountain ridge–it was clear day and the views were stunning. I was by myself for a lot of this section and couldn’t help but let out a couple of delighted cheers along the way.
  3. I was worried about nagging hamstring and knee issues but was pretty good about getting into PT (Dr. Z is amazing) and focusing on the troubled areas all the way up to the race. I think this helped a lot.
  4. This race gave me a shot of confidence about the possibility of getting faster and better at the up/downs, so I can push myself harder and set more challenging goals.

The TRR crew was so amazing–so grateful for the support and encouragement. Absolutely made my day!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

This is a great PNW classic race and while it isn’t always ‘fun’ to slog through winter training miles, it was a great way to stay motivated and focused through the dreary grind of short, grey days. Training in the summer is fun too, but it seems like there is a lot more stuff to work around (adventures, weddings, BBQs). I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything in putting in the miles Nov-March instead.

I don’t have enough experience to confirm this but I expect this is a great race to try as a first ultra, as the trails are not too technical, it’s well-supported, you gain some vert but not too much and not all at the same time, and 20k of the race is mostly flat and fast.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Figure out how to run downhill faster, better, and more strategically. Get way stronger on climbs, so I can shuffle most of the way up instead of hiking so much.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Pretty standard/classic: very runnable throughout, some sections on roads (sharing with cars and bikes), with plenty of ups and downs and awesome single-track.

There is often an organized training run or two on the course a couple weeks out from the race. I did this for White River and again for Chuckanut and was really glad to run the trails and know what to expect on race day. Highly recommend.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes! Mostly wooded, very green, lakes, and great ridgeline views on a clear day.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Not enough experience to say but it seemed faster than it was difficult, and very approachable for any level of runner.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Yes, very well-managed and executed.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes, it definitely seemed like a competitive race–fun to see those fast racers FLYING by!!!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Seems to sell out the day registration opens, so you have to commit early. However since the wait list is long and people are eager so you can drop in mid Feb. and get most of your $ back. It’s possible to drive up in the morning on the day of the race from the Seattle area, and there are lots of places to stay in Bellingham.

Aid Stations

Awesome–positive, helpful, and wonderful.

Weather and typical race conditions

We had incredible weather this year but last year was miserable, so impossible to predict. Always going to be variable and I think you have to be prepared for anything. We ran an organized practice run on the course in early March and there was still a lot of snow up high, everything was melted by race day but it easily could have been snowy, rainy, muddy, and windblown.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Only variable is the weather–everything else is standard.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not sure if some courses are way more open but I was happy to see the TRR crew at the start, mile 7, mile 24 and the finish.

How’s the Swag?

Great long sleeve technical Patagonia shirt. I can see myself wearing it a lot. Also good free stuff after the race. I didn’t go to the bib pick-up but expect there was probably great stuff there too.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5/5 especially in such spectacular weather, it was a great day!

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