Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chuckanut 50k

Dinosaurs make the best cheerleaders

The Chuckanut 50k is one of the classics of trail ultrarunning. Year after year, people ask us if we've run it and our curiosity finally piqued. The timing has been difficult as we've always had other races; the two previous year's we've run Peterson Ridge 40 miler, and before that it was our cyclone-enhanced Tarawera race in New Zealand. This year is also Chuckanut's 25th anniversary, a milestone we seem to enjoy since we ran Miwok on its 20th and Hood to Coast on its 25th.

At the start

We’ve had a quite a winter here in the Pacific Northwest, and there was snow on the course until about a week before the event. I knew better than to expect good weather, but I checked frequently and was excited to see some not-rain moving closer and closer to race day.

Traditional starting line selfie

Chuckanut starts in Fairhaven, on the southern outskirts of Bellingham. It was forecast to rain all day until we finished the race and hover in the mid 40s (F) so we knew we'd have to gear up just right to stave off feeling cold, especially after last week's taper that ended up feeling rather miserable in the shivering rain and splashy mud.
First use of the ultra-light waterproof gloves we were required to have for CCC

Ann got to Bellingham first and picked up our race packets. I stayed in a hotel to the north with my family, and Ann stayed to the east in a rental house with hers. She and her husband came to pick me up just before 7:30am and he dropped us off near the race start, leaving my family peacefully sleeping. With later-than-average an 8am start, it was nice to take it easy in the morning and not feel rushed.

The bay, from the long, flat gravel road out

We walked from the designated drop-off spot, along a greenway trail that would be part of the race. Ann told me that the first and last 10k of the course was on this same flat, gravel trail. I hadn’t looked at the course map or description at all, and this was not welcome news.

Enjoying the hippie aid station perhaps too much

We didn’t have too long to wait at the start/finish area in Fairview Park. We took a photo with a woman welcoming runners in an awesome T-rex costume, someone recognized me from a mutual friend a decade-plus ago, and we rehashed our gear choices while getting used to the steady rain. Then we were off, chatting in a tight pack of people right back the way we came on the trail into the park.

View of... clouds

The greenway connected us through neighborhoods and parks, then up to a flat, straight road where we could see the bay through the trees. When we saw runners headed toward us, we knew we were near the first aid station. After that, the flat part was over and we headed up the mountain.

It was fully cloudy and the view was all cloud

We ran up fire roads to the next aid station. I was grateful that Ann wasn’t pushing to run all the uphills, because I sure wasn’t. We got to the next aid station, which was strung with rainbow flags and hippie-themed. After getting a bite to eat, we made a beeline for the kissing booth. “You’ve got a customer!” shouted one of the volunteers. As the man made his way over, I said “No, I want to kiss HER and I want YOU to take a picture.” He obliged.
Long, flat gravel road

Then we were off the gravel and on to a trail along a ridge—surrounded by lovely trees and huge rocks, with what would’ve been amazing viewx if not completely obscured by clouds. As one of the volunteers at the aid station told us, this was the best part of the course. It felt worlds away from everything else, and we could finally relax and enjoy the trail without a crowd.

Some very technical parts

There were small laminated signs all along the course, and it was on this section of trail that I started to pay attention to them and realize how hilarious they were. We came to what should’ve been a stunning view of Mt Baker, but only saw white. Just next to the open vista was a sign with a photo and the words “Just in case it’s cloudy today, here’s what you’re missing!” We laughed about that one for a few miles.

A huge rock and maybe a view, if it wasn't fully cloudy

Then there was the downhill. By now we were long since soaked through, so on a particular stretch of trail that could be described as a mud slide, I let loose and flew right down the middle, splashing through the water and laughing. It felt like flying.

A lovely, full waterfall along the trail

This muddy stretch led us right into another aid station, this one pig-themed. From here we had the section called “Chinscraper” and it got significantly colder, not just because we had a slow climb up some extremely steep, rooty, rocky, technical sections. The sleet and hail didn’t help.
Downhill mud

Finally, we came back out onto the same gravelly fire road. Familiarity made it seem like we were getting close, but running memory is typically full of holes. We hit a long section we didn’t remember, and worried when we didn’t see trail markers for a while.
Chuckanut trail signs

But we were on the correct course, and eventually got back to that first aid station—now the last one. Just the long, straight, (mostly) flat 10k lay between us and the finish. We could easily see a half-mile or more ahead of us, people walking at the end of a tough race. It remained unspoken between us that we wished we, too, would stop and walk. But we didn’t. The rain finally stopped, and we slogged on at a slow, steady pace, reeling in the walkers. That felt good.
Right before a massive puddle/lake near the end

We made it back to the connecting parks and through an unfamiliar neighborhood, seeing runners who had finished their race walking away. Then we turned two corners and there was my family, right at the finish line.

After taking some photos and changing into dry clothes, we went back to our accommodations to clean up, and met up again for dinner at Wander Brewery, where the race was putting on its 25th anniversary party.
Ann, ready for more action

Chuckanut is a well-organized race, with a great sense of humor in all those signs and the themed aid stations. I enjoyed the middle 30k loop, but the 10k out-and-back section was not my favorite. I really liked Bellingham, in all of its moody forests, friendly runners, and great breweries, and I’d love to return for an adventure run. In the meantime, we’re keeping an eye out for a new race to start off next year.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

30 mile taper




Susan planned out our long runs leading up to the Chuckanut 50k and for some reason she put a 30 mile run on the calendar 12 days before the race. I would never do anything like that before a race. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Searching for Savory: Part 6

Full disclosure: I love olives in general and have gone through nearly a dozen Oloves packs during the course of my running career.

When I am at REI (which is not very often), I almost always pick up a package or two of Oloves. They're shelf-stable, convenient, and delicious. They have four flavors, and I enjoy them all. I think lemon & rosemary is my favorite because it's delightfully piquant, and although I love the spicy flavors, you don't always want spice or garlic on a runner's stomach. You know what I mean.

Olives make for a great running food. They're savory, salty, and juicy, not messy or crumbly, and easy to eat. In fact, I would bring olives more often if I could find a good way to carry them, so they don't leak juice or go bad. Oloves solves those problems and provides a great portion size.

Unfortunately they also cost more than I'm willing to spend on a regular basis... at least at full retail. For some reason I've never purchased them on Amazon until today, when I looked and discovered that you can get variety packs or even just one flavor in multiples for just over a dollar each! Woohoo! A search successfully completed.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Searching for Savory: Part 5

Go Umami baked tofu
I was at a different grocery store from my usual, and saw these Go Umami tofu sticks in the refrigerated section. I was excited at the prospect of a savory protein-- baked tofu meant for immediate consumption, rather than to be used in cooking. There were three flavors available, so I bought one of each.

I brought two on a snowy run, and we shared them to try both. The packages weren't too hard to open (a plus with cold, stiff fingers, and something that's been an issue with some other, similarly-wrapped products) and the tofu was firm but juicy with a good, firm texture.

The flavor, however, was too bland for me. I couldn't taste much difference between the two; couldn't taste much at all, to be honest. Ann liked them a bit more than me. Based on their relatively short shelf life (the best-by date was within a week of purchase) and limited availability, I likely won't buy these again. Primal Strips are a much better option-- they don't need to be refrigerated, last ages, and have really bold flavors.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Landslide marathon



I started with an old 24 mile route, knowing it would be easy to add 2 miles on somewhere. I thought a little loop out along Wildwood on the way back down Saltzman would be perfect, but it only added 1/3 of a mile... or more than 3. Ann suggested adding the Dogwood-Kiel loop, which sounded perfect.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Rerouting

Most of our recent runs have started at one of the trailheads on NW 53rd, which is convenient since it is close to my house and cuts down on travel time and gives us more time to run. This week I decided to start our route from the Springville trailhead, to give us a change of scenery. 

Mt. Hood from Firelane 7A


Right off the bat we took a wrong turn going down Springville instead of Firelane 7, once we hit Wildwood we decided to head to Firelane 7A and readjust the route at the end. We headed down 7A to Leif, but it wasn't obvious where 7A continued on the other side of Leif. We ran back and forth on Leif looking for the trail and finally decided to head down what appeared to be an overgrown trail without a trail sign. The trail ran parallel with wire gate for while, making us feel like we were in the tv show Lost. We got some good views of Portland and Mt. Hood, it wasn't until we made it to the end of the trail that we knew we were on the right trail, only because there was a trail sign. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Product Review :: NANOSpikes

After sliding around on icy trails during the last ice storm in Portland, I decided it was time to invest in some Yaktrax. I did a little Googling to figure out the best pair to buy for trail running and I came across NANOSpikes by Kahtoola. A lot of reviews said the coil/spring system of the Yaktrax didn't actually work that well for running especially on the ice, this didn't seem to be the case with the NANOSpikes, so I bought a pair. 




This Saturday we got 0.5 inches of snow, which turned to ice by Sunday morning. Since our street was covered in ice I wasn't going anywhere for awhile, I decided to give the NANOSpikes a try. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Good Bye 2016

One of the last runs of 2016

2016 was a good year, but it wasn't a great year. 2016 was the year of readjustments, I spent a good part of the year dealing with a knee issue, a herniated disc and an iron deficiency, Susan dealt with knee and achilles issues. We were an hour slower at the Oregon Coast 50k, Peterson Ridge 40m and Wildwood end to end

Despite all the set backs we still had a pretty eventful year. We crewed our first race at Bandera, we traveled to France to run CCC and experience all that is UTMB. Every race we ran this year we had family who traveled with us and sometimes crewed for us, which made the experiences even more special. 

I learned a lot about recovering from an injury and that taking a break is ok. Susan and I both want to be running trails many years from now, I think this year taught us a lot about what we need to do to accomplish this. 

One thing we didn't do much of in 2016 was self supported runs outside of Forest Park; this is our 2017 running resolution. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Wildwood E2E 2016

It's our yearly tradition to run Wildwood from one and to another during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which is usually in between our birthdays. This year, however, the weather was awful and we just weren't feeling it... so we postponed til the next weekend.

When the next weekend came around, Ann had just got back from a conference in Las Vegas, and we postponed again.

Then there was snow, twice, then Ann was in Michigan, then it was Christmas... and finally, we had a day when everything aligned.

Festive bird feeders that look like donuts (chocolate, pink, and rainbow sprinkles)