If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chuckanut 50 km

I've been looking forward to racing this event ever since I did it two years ago. Last year didn't work because I didn't have the mileage in my legs to be competitive with myself and I was doing the triathlon thing of course. Also, it sold out before I even thought to look at registering, but that's beside the point. I think it was fate because like I said, I wouldn't have been properly prepared. I thought about how it had been two long years since the 2006 race as we started out on this one and I felt very satisfied knowing this was going to be a fun one. My only goals were beating my '06 time of 4:29 and finishing in the top ten. There were a few heavy hitters here so I was looking forward to gauging my fitness. Most notably was Scott Jurek who competed in the Way Too Cool 50km just seven days earlier in California. His resume includes seven wins at the Western States 100 mile, winning the Badwater 135 mile Death Valley to Mt. Whitney race, and twice winning Spartathlon, to name a few.

The weather was supposed to be non-wet but that didn't work out well, at least until we started. All the way down the I-5 travelling to the race it was pouring which didn't bode well for the condition of the course. I was travelling with Carrie, Tracey, and Scott Corsie, a Burnaby Fire Fighter, who was doing the race, and finisher of a 150 mile Sahara desert stage race in Egypt last November. It had been raining off and on all week so I figured we were in for some muck. Quite a contrast to 2006 when it had been warm and dry leading up to the race and the day itself was beautiful. I felt supremely under-dressed in just shorts and a t-shirt when everyone else had arm warmers or long-sleeved shirts on. I was chilly before we started but the fact that the rain stopped about five minutes to eight was a relief. After we got going it was alright but my fingers were never all that warm for the whole day.

We started out and I guess there was a pack of about eight of us with two more further off in the distance. They were really easy to see because one had a red shirt on and the other an orange one. After two miles or so we come out of a small section of trail and had about three more miles of basically flat, easy running. No one was going very fast, I thought everyone was keying off Jurek or another one of the fast guys at the front. I felt like keeping up a good pace so motored past everyone until I was about a hundred feet in front and in third place. I was clipping along like a metronome doing a 6:58 - 7:03 pace all the way to the first aid station. I guess at that point guys behind me had stopped to fill bottles but I didn't have the need so kept right on going. This put a bit of a gap between them and me and as we entered the forest and the climb to Fragrance Lake I could see the two leaders not far in front of me.

All the way to Fragrance Lake I tried to keep a steady pace and the heart rate low but I know I was going too hard. I felt strong and relaxed but kept in the back of my head the thought of all the other climbs that were to come. I guess I figured I could survive them due to the fact I'd trained here so much in the past. After Fragrance Lake the downhills to the second aid station was where I really noticed the mud being a factor. I kept thinking that the two hundredth person to go through here was in for a rude surprise at the condition of the trail.

At the second aid station I powered through without stopping and was briefly (about five seconds) in first place until Bryan Dayton from Boulder took over his lead again. Second place at the time was Jeff Hashimoto who mistook me for Matt Simms momentarily. I was quite flattered because Matt is an exceptional runner. Jeff and I traded places back and forth up the next thirty minute climb to the top of the mountain via the gravel road to aid station three. Every time he stopped to walk I would pass him and same when I stopped to walk. Bryan just kept on motoring the whole way up. I never saw him walk the whole day, and I could see him in front of me for nineteen miles.

I fumbled a bit looking for my drop bag at this aid station and thought I'd be on my own for a while but managed to catch the leaders again after ten minutes through the most technical part of the race. Once we broke out onto some flat and rolling terrain I was starting to feel like not racing and just trying to maintain a steady pace to the finish. You know, when the legs get really heavy and mentally you're not feeling the greatest? It was a couple miles later on a long climb that Scott Jurek and the eventual second place finisher, Peter Ellis, went past me. Floated past me is a better term for it, they looked awesome. That was the last I saw of him or Bryan Dayton. Jurek was in view once in a while but he too was gone soon enough. I got ahead of Jeff who was having cramping issues and settled into fourth.

The long twenty-five minute decent from aid station four to number five actually felt pretty good, but I knew when I hit the bottom and started back on those flats I wouldn't be so happy. I was right. I think I was doing eight minute miles all the way back and was in the familiar mood of, "I don't care if anyone passes me, I'm tired". I really only had one gear at this point. With around a mile to go as I passed people they would cheer for me and then about fifteen seconds later I could hear them cheering for the next guy behind me. That's when I knew I was in trouble. Brian Morrison went by me with three hundred metres to go looking really fresh. He did a couple shoulder checks to see if I was going to be a threat but I obviously wasn't. I had a feeling he had a good sprint in him if I made a charge. I've never had anyone cruise past me so close to a finish before and it bothered me for a bit afterwards. You know how you think once you're done that you could have gone faster? Well, I felt pretty good with my result and bettering the 2006 time by fifteen minutes in worse conditions and I am truly over it. Plus it's a bit of a boost seeing the results and the time difference between first and sixth being only five minutes.

Overall I'd say I'm happy with this one and that I actually raced it. It'll take a few more events to make me know what I can and can't do and I'm looking forward to figuring all this out.

Diez Vista in three weeks!!

Chuckanut 50km 2008 - 5th place, time 4:14, 150km of racing down

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