Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chuckanut 2012 or how to get 29th gracefully

I've been trying my darndest to put Chuckanut 2012 into perspective. I ran strong, I felt good, I P.R.ed the course in snow and mud, I sucked, I finished 29th (my 2nd worse finish, 1st worse being Whiteriver 50 miler 2008 where I finished 32nd but it was my FIRST ULTRA!) I beat a lot of really strong runners, I wasn't sore enough the day after, I didn't cramp or bonk, I could have run faster, I got 5th masters, I should have only carried one bottle, I think too much.
     The reality of the 20th anniversary running of Chuckanut 50k is this: The field may have been the deepest, most talented group of runners to ever toe the line at an Ultra event in the USA. There were 30 people running with sub 2:30 marathon times, some sub 2:20. I lined up at the start about 50th so I wouldn't get trampled. All things considered, I suppose 29th was pretty durn good.
     I hoped for crap conditions because I figured it might slow down the marathoners and warm weatherites. My dreams came true in spades as the early morning downpour turned to slush for the start. I was vomited out of the start chute onto the interurban trail from hell and as I watched the race disappear ahead of me I was happy to fall in with Joe Creighton and his rugby ear protection headpiece. The miles of horrible flat gravel clipped away and Bill Huggins joined us to gloat about having a full head of hair and to get into a Glenn Tachiyama picture with people as short as himself. Finally the hills came and I felt better, started passing people and felt strong as the slush turned to snow. Fragrance Lake was beautiful but I saw it for about .23 of a second as the trail was super dicey and slippery. I got passed... what? Yeah, some dude in a yellow singlet passed me on singletrack, I took note and slipped it in my shorts next to my bag of peanut butter crackers. I was looking forward to Aid #2 where Team Rain City Ultra Runners aka Team FleetFeet Seattle was manning the tent. I passed a gimpy Jen Shelton and a few more than broke into the aid station and it was a sea of St. Patrick's green and Leprechans and mustaches and it freaked me out and I couldn't really look at anyone because my eyes were used to staring at the rocky, rooty, snowy trail. Sara Malcolm passed me my magic croissant and I bolted just as Allen Skytta was driving in. It took me roughly 3 miles of uphill Cleator Rd. to choke down my chocolate croissant while passing many early speedsters. I skirted aid #3 and passed Jean Pommier in the process and hit the ridge trail. The ridge was like dancing with a professional ballroom dancer, lots of footwork and very scary. I made it through unscathed but just barely. The next part of the trail is usually a bit muddy. This day it was more puddingy. Unavoidable soup. I praised my drymax socks over and over as my feet felt comfortable even though I was clomping through snow covered mud. The trail rose to another extended climb and I saw a yellow singlet in front of me. Ha! So we meet again. I reeled him in and passed him. Downhill bomb to Daniel Probst's aid station #4 with doughnut holes and Bushmills, I grabbed 4 holes, threw them down the hatch and headed up Chinscraper. I felt fine going up the beast and passed about 4-5 sufferers on the way up. Crossing the parking lot at the top there was easily 7 inches of snow. Downhill road run from there back to the Interurban was super soft underfoot and really easy to run. Saw Betsy Rogers and Matt Hagen on their way up Cleater as I was going down. Passed the last aid station then I was all alone on the 7 mile gravel grovel. I pulled out my Ipod and fumbled about until I filled my ears with The Supersuckers and punk rocked my way down the path. As if the return trip wasn't bad enough, I had two stops to retie loose shoe laces, two! I pushed to the finish 'cause I eats my spinach and came in at 4:17:30 for 29th place, 5th masters and a Chuckanut p.r. of 24 seconds over my 2010 time where 4:17:54 was good enough for 12th overall and 1st masters.
     Post race festivities were a whirlwind of recovery soup, Krissy congratulations, chatting with C.R. holder Ellie Greenwood, rubbing elbows with the best Ultra runners in the country, seeing local friends, drinking cocoa, packing my jacket with Udo's Oil samples, peeling mud from my lower extremities, and finally getting a ride home with Allen and some dude named Uli who won the St. Paddy's Day Dash and pocketed more money in his 3.5 mile race than he would have if he'd won this prestigious race.
     I suppose 29th isn't so bad, could have been worse, could have come in 30th.

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