March 23, 2010

Chuckanut 50km Race Report

Ok, so it's taken me a few days to sit down and get the time to write this and I'll try keep it from being too rambling, but I am thinking that it could turn into a Gary Robbins stylee-epic!

I raced Chuckanut for the first time last year and loved it! So many great runners, Krissy is the most hard working and fun RD, and an awesome course that has a nice mix of laying down some speed and then also working some technical trails. Like 2009 I headed down the night before (us Brits can take a while to get into the US!) and with a few friends we stayed at an awesome friend-of-a-friends place on pretty Lake Samish - just 15min drive from race start.

We rolled up to the start about 45mins before the race and I immediately got excited by the number of familiar faces that I've seen far too little of over the past few months :) But no time to get excited - with about 300 racers and a bib to pick up Jackie and I switched saving places in the timing chip line up and the washroom line up to make sure we were all set for the 8am start. 10mins to go and I was at the start line, noticing that I was a little eager and was further up front that Team Montrail team mates Gary and Ryne! Uh oh, better shuffle back a bit!

It was the most perfect day for running so I was overjoyed to be outside in shorts, t-shirt and sleeves - having left the winter layers back in Banff. It was a little chilly for the first few minutes but soon the sun got warmer and the blood got pumping. Chuckanut starts with 6miles/ 10km along the pretty flat, non-technical Interurban trail. It's tempting to go out fast and wow - a whole pack of guys shot off and I thought I picked out at least 3 women ahead of me. I soon settled into a strong, without being crazy fast, pace with Dave Papineau and Chris Rennaker and clocked into the first aid station just shy of 6 miles in 44mins. The aid stations are super enthusiastic on Chuckanut and it was great to hear friends cheering me on and general merry making of the volunteers.
The mid section of the course is more technical and hilly terrain and I feared that my training hadn't allowed me enough hill practice so I figured I just needed to hang in on them and then get back to a good clip on the flats and blast the downhills. I was pretty content to be in 4th place female, I would never chose to go out in 1st place in a race as I always feel the pressure from being chased from behind. Sitting in 4th I was content I was running well and might be able to gain a place or two later on in the race, for a change I felt like I was running in the more advantageous position.

I was definitely not fast on the hills and need to get back to work on running them more but as usual my steady power hike often proved just as effective as others slow runs. On the section of steady climb up a fire road I inched back and forth with my friend Mike and I was also happy to see that although I walked more than most of the people around me my run/ walk splits meant that overall I kept up with the pack.

As well as the mind numbing slog of the flat Interurban trail and the fire road there is also some awesome technical rolling terrain at Chuckanut - the sort where you can work the downhills to power on up the inclines and all the while hitting soft, lush trail. Bliss :) The Ridge trail is one such section and although I lost a few places to some men on the ridge I also gained on a few others and knew that I could catch many of them on the downhill. And of course Chin Scraper is one of the more remowned sections on Chuckanut - for me it took 15misn of steady powerhiking to work my way up. There was no way I was going to run something that steep and still be alive at the top, so I tucked my head down, hands on my thighs and pushed my way at a slowly determined pace. Just before the start of Chin Scraper a specatator had called out that I was 3mins behind the lead females; this was the first indication that I was within catching distance so this spurred me along and by this point I was pretty sure I was in the top 3 women - extra motivation not to slip back into 4th.

The one good thing about Chin Scraper is that it is the last uphill of any note and I was so looking forward to blasting the downhills after. So I hit the hammer on the downs (shouting hello to Jonathon on the way past!), knowing that 1st and 2nd could clearly run flats so i needed to gain on them in the descents. But by the time I hit the final aid station I was still 1 1/2 mins back (according to spectators) of 1st and 2nd and had 6 miles of flat Interurban to go to the finish line. This I knew was not going to be pleasant but to honest I was so distracted by chasing the lead 2 that I soon settled into a strong pace. I was so busy looking for females ahead that I was stunned when I saw the Broadway Run Club singlet of Dave Papineau and I was gaining on him! I suspected that Dave would not appreciate being chicked by me but with his legs cramping he let me race by and offered up some inavluable words of encouragement. I always react really well to cheering and support from friends so Dave gave me the boost to push a little harder especially as I now saw a woman in sight and soon passed ahead of her.

Now in 2nd place I didn't dare look back; I didn't want to look like I was running scared and knew that I had to focus on catching first place! The next racer I saw up ahead bowled me over - surely I wasn't cacthing fellow Montrail runner, Ryne Melcher???! Ryne is one running friend I have utmost respect for and would never suspect coming close to in a race like Chcuaknut. So I focused on catching Ryne but also the fact that there was still one more female somewhere ahead of him. As I caught up to Ryne I was sure that he would lay chase but most of all he gave me the extra mental kick I needed right then, 'You've got to go now Ellie if you're going to catch her. You need to push hard - she was logging 6min/ miles on the way out so will be tired but she's fast!' That was it - I was exhasted and figured I had about 15mins to the finish line but dug even deeper and didn't want Ryne to think I was a flaky runner that didn't have a finishing push! Just ahead of Ryne I passed another guy and tried to ignore them behind me and instead just chase, chase, chase. Now the Interurban is flat - but there are a few hills, and I will totally admit that the main thing that kept me running up them was the fact that I knew Ryne could still see me and I didn't want to lose face!
Soon I was rewarded - lead female (later I found out was Susannah Beck) was sporting a mini-kilt and running strong - and I could see her ahead on the never-ending Interurban. The tough thing about the Interurban is that you can see racers so far ahead that even when you are gaining on the racer in front it is so slow progress it is painful and I knew that I was running out of trail! Just back of Susannah I passed fellow Canadian Darin Bentley (wow - did I really pass him too?!) and now Susannah was the next one to catch.
But the course was just a little too short and as I hit the downhill tarmac to the finish line I saw Susannah cross......13 seconds before I did. I was so stoked to have knocked 15mins 23 secs of my time from last year (and I'd say the course was in about exactly the same shape as 2009). Ok, it wasn't first place but I was 17th overall (same as 2009), a lot faster and ahead of many guys & ladies that I respect as awesome runners. Plus I later found out that Susannah's marathon PB is 2.34 (OMG!)

Such a super-stellar race that I would so recommend and the rest of the day was spent chilling and sharing stories with some of the best people on the planet (aka trail runners :))
1st place male was Andy Martin in a crazy fast 3:49:39 (6 men broke the 4hr barrier)

On the course I used:
- Montrail Rockridges (love them a little bit more every time I put them on)
- Descente arm warmers
- Mountain Hardware pacer shorts (my favs) and MHW short sleeve T
- Nathan HPL pack
- Pink socks (the brand is unimportant, the colour is not!)
- 1 litre of gatorade, 4 cups of coke, 3 chips (approx!), 1 pack of Clif shot blocks (mmm, lemon lime)
See you on the trails...


  1. Congrats Ellie!

    Loved the report and especially like the picture of you and Paps!

  2. Great effort Ellie, enjoyed the race report and you kicked butt as usual. Will be back one day, maybe a Knee Knacker and Stormy for old time sake. Tanya says hi and sends a big congrats on your run.


  3. Great race, Ellie! Loved your report, very exciting!!

  4. Nice reflection. Nice run. If I am not mistaken, only three guys (Martin, Campbell, Diboun) ran faster than you over the last timed section. And you had plenty left over for Sunday. I think your best Chuckanut is yet to come.

  5. Awesome run, Ellie! You were smoking and determined on that Interurban stretch- I tried to hang on to you but you were flying. I second all your comments about aid station volunteers and the ridge section.

  6. I sure hope that the reason you did so well compared to the rest of us is because you actually tapered for this event!!!!!! I don't even think knocking 15 minutes off my time is possible!!! Maybe if I decided to power harder up the hills...but even then you killed it and you said you walked...jeese louise!

  7. Thanks for the comments guys! Great to race with you Lia - it seemed like I could see you forever on the Interurban before I passed you. Nicola - I really need to work on my slug like pace on the uphills (well maybe not for Elk B!). Mike - has the course split into 3 - and yep, I seem to be 4th fastest on the final leg - I need to learn to hit it hard earlier in the race!

  8. Damn Ellie you are fast like superwoman! I'm glad I had enough of a lead to finish ahead of you before you caught me too!! Oh yeah and thanks for the little shout out, welcome to the long race report blog club!


  9. hey GRrrrr! To be fair Chuckanut is my kinda course - not too technical and lots of flat! No way did I have you in my sights - gotta leave something on the table for my next race - ha ha!

  10. Hi Ellie, Never realized you were a 'local'...weird. Great pacing job on the Chuck - I always admire good discipline like that - now if only I could resist the urge to take off with the leaders...I'm looking forward to doing my first 50km in 2 weeks (DV50k), should be interesting...Although I kind of wish this white stuff would disappear. See you on the trails!

  11. Hey Phil, DV is awesome - I am soooo jealous. There is just something about that race - it is amazing :) Oh, of course snow free trails are just a treat too for us Banffites at this time of year!