March 21, 2016

The Chuckanut Tradition

This past weekend I raced Chuckanut 50k in Bellingham, Washington for the 6th time.  I am sure this is by far the most times that I have run any one race but it's not without reason.  Chuckanut is a short drive over the US border from Vancouver, it's at a great time of year to check in exactly where my fitness is at, there are always so many friends racing and cheering, plus I just love the course.

The course is reasonably non-technical (well in my opinion) but it mixes in a little bit of everything - you better have brought your road wheels if you want to blast the first and final 10k which are fast and furious miles (or should be) but don't forget your climbing legs for the switchbacks up Fragrance Lake trails and for the seemingly never ending Cleator Road, and then there is the fabulous fun of the Ridge Trail where you negotiate rocks and roots whilst admiring the views of Mt Baker and Chuckanut bay.  I love it.

As I blasted through the aid station before the climb up Cleator Road (in 2nd place) I just about heard RD Krissy (Moehl) say, 'You know how to run this race Ellie', and well - yes, after now 5 wins I can play the strategy pretty well.  I had expected Cleator Road to be a slog - it wasn't.  Sure I ran and then I power hiked and then I ran again but I was happy to keep up with friends Anne Marie and Ramsey and the others who were forming our fun and friendly little pack.  I expected Chinscraper to seem long and tough, and once again I did hike sections but I felt strong and in control and was having fun (and now in the lead).

And well, once we got to the final 14km or so which is all downhill or flat, I started hauling - a 3:33/km down Cleator Road, hurtling round the corners of the switchbacks of Fragrance Lake trail with joyful abandon, and then 10kms of hunting down the final stretch of the Interurban trail.  I pride myself on knowing how to 'close' on the Chuckanut course and I think I passed 5 men on that final 10k, putting me 12th overall and 1st female by the time I hugged Krissy at the finish line.

My time of 4:11:58 is within seconds of my 2012 finishing time but the most important thing is that I felt strong.  All day I was just solid - in a great head space, having fun and chatting, running hard but in control, and even down that final 10k if I'd had to chase another woman I know I could have gone just a notch harder (and yes, I did do a few shoulder checks just to be sure!)

I've switched things up a little in 2016 so far - the mileage has been good but not crazy, but I've gone to yoga stretching two times every darn week since start of January.  I have seen a trainer at the gym (Michelle Ford/ Peak Power - good luck at Zion 100 miler in 3 weeks!) most weeks since January, and even this stubborn runner has listened to her coach ... well, about 95% of the time ;) Whilst all this has not resulted in a faster Chuckanut time, it has resulted in an injury free and consistent training year so far, and feeling much stronger and less beat up post race than I have in the past.  I feel very happy with where I am at right now.

A huge thank you as always to RD Krissy and her team of amazing volunteers for putting on such an excellent event, thank you too to Abby Zoomer - trusty crew and friend for looking after weekend logistics and just being super company, and thank you to my sponsors for their ongoing support:  Salomon (I wore the S-Lab X-Series as the trails were dry),  Drymax Socks (I wore the ELLIE sock of course!), Clif Bar (8 gels on course), Sundog Eyewear (I wore the Switch model - see photo for discount code on your purchases!), Flora Health (make sure you visit their booth which is always at the the race finish).

If you really are a data geek, then here are my stats on Strava.

Onwards and upwards to the next race!

Yes, this is a genuine sunglasses offer - no spam ;)

With RD and ultrarunner extraordinaire, Krissy Moehl.  Photo: Abby Zoomer.

Enjoying the descents.  Photo: Candice Ridyard.
Canadian Chicks - 2nd, 6th, 1st, and Abby Zoomer who coordinated the girls weekend ;)

Enjoying some Flora tea in my winning mug post race.  Photo: Catrin Jones.

With my ever enthusiastic Sharman Ultra coaching client, Miruna at the finish.  Photo: Relu Harau.

Start line seriousness.  Photo: Relu Harau.
Tranquil Lake Samish.  Photo: self.

Sunday recovery run at a blistering pace with AM, Catrin and Mike.  Photo: Abby Zoomer.