Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chuckanut 50K: Time in the woods.

The Chuckanut 50K was held this past Saturday in Bellingham, WA. The field was stacked for both the men and women and neither side disappointed with some stellar results.  Both the men's and women's course records fell, with Geoff Roes and Ellie Greenwood crushing the previous course records.  The course was a bit sloppy up top, but overall not bad; there is enough gravel road/trail on the course that even a muddy year isn't going to be that bad, as the mud sections aren't that long and are restricted to sections of the ridge line.  Other portions drain pretty well, so while the course was slower than normal, the beautiful conditions--bluebird skies and pleasant temps--made for a near perfect day for running.
Start of the Chuckanut 50K. Some major names on that line. Yowzer. And then there's me staring blankly at Glenn (click photo to enlarge). All photos by Glenn Tachiyama.
I was a bit anxious going into Chuckanut, and my stomach has been off for weeks, both of which combined for a fairly miserable day for me, at times. Overall, the end result wasn't terrible--about 10-15 minutes slower than I had hoped for, so not abysmal, but not great.  I was shooting for 4:40, and finished in 5th in 4:52.  I hoped to be top 5, really hoping to crack top 3, but had no illusions of being truly competitive. Some might call that a negative attitude; I like to call it realistic. I'm guessing most people would have predicted that Ellie would run away with it, and she did, with 2nd place a good 20 minutes back. I  had hoped to be more in the mix for spots 2-3, but I really suffered from about mile 6-16, and once I finally got into the groove, the race was over.  I've never run a super fast 50K, and for the first race leading into a series of races for me, it was an OK effort.  Hopefully someday, I'll run a 50K that feels like I've laid it all out there, but it certainly wasn't this one.
No crashes!  A 0 crash day. Is that a good thing or a
bad thing?  Upright = cautious? Upright = Coordination?

My main issues were stomach-related, and this blog post might sound a bit focused on that, but my thoughts during much of the race revolved around when and where to make a pit stop.  I wasn't thinking, "Oh, look at the view," or "I should really focus on powering up this hill," but rather, "If I pass up that big tree, how long until I see another suitably-sized tree?"  Pre-race I was in a revolving line for the bathroom, and would have been happy to stay in that revolving line another 30 minutes, but the race start beckoned.  The first 6 miles felt flat and slightly too fast--kind of like racing a road 15K.  I worried what the transition to the hills would bring, and worried that I was going to be spending valuable time off-trail.

I should have stopped to use the pretty little bathroom at the mile 6 aid station, but didn't.  I then spent the next 10 miles trying to decide whether I needed to stop or not.  I would start feeling like something unpleasant was about to happen, and slow down.  Slowing down made things settle a bit, and the whole process would begin again.  Start to speed up a bit, have pangs of issues, and then slow down.  This section included some long gradual climbing, which I would normally try to run, but I found myself hiking more than I would have liked. The woods finally beckoned loudly and I stopped around mile 16.  The result was that I could actually run again without issue.

Life was definitely better after stopping, although I had to make another stop at mile 25, deciding not to pass by the pretty little bathroom that I had passed by at mile 6.  The last 6 miles are fairly public, and the thought of an emergency stop on a well-used bike path wasn't pretty.  It all worked out for the best, because as I exited the bathroom, Sara Wagner, who had been in front of me and in 5th place passed by me in the aid station. Apparently she had missed the turn off of the gravel road, and had to back-track about a quarter mile.  Seeing her there motivated me to stick close, and I soon passed her and just kept moving.  If there was any redeeming portion of the race, it was the last 6 miles.  I was cruising, relatively speaking, and moved up about 10 places in the final 6 miles.  I felt pretty strong for the first time all day.  If only there'd been a few more miles....

I appear to be running up Chinscraper.
Looks can be deceiving.
So, this report reads as a  summary of a couple of bathroom stops, but seriously, I didn't think about much else during the run. Well, I thought about how insanely unrealistic my goals for future races are and how they need to be reshaped to better match reality, but I've happily gone back to my unrealistic goals post-race.  Not every race is a good one, and 50Ks are not my favorite distance nor what I would call my strength. 5th place in a 50K does not mean that I suck.  I'll be back to run a stronger race on another day, hopefully one of which coincides with my racing schedule.  Hopefully I'll figure out my stomach issues over the coming weeks so as to not have 75% of my racing thoughts focused on tree diameter. Ovearll, an OK day race-wise. I'll call it a building block for things to come.

Chuckanut is a race I'd recommend and one I'll return to, as it has a little something for everyone--fast flats, good climbs and descents, and technical sections that keep you hopping. The start/finish makes for a fun festive atmosphere, and Krissy and crew put on a fun post-race gathering. The beautiful sunny day, which many of us in the PNW hadn't seen since October, and won't see again until July, was an added bonus.  The post-race gathering continued on to a local brewery, and quite possibly the best part of the day was when we happened upon a local foot massage parlor open until 11 p.m. Score! Out of a group of 7, only Aaron and I ventured in, but the foot massage made what had turned out to be a pretty good day even better, and I woke up with absolutely no soreness and ready to jump back into training for the Lake Sonoma 50 miler, which is now just 10 days away.  So, yes, I'd recommend Chuckanut, and if you go, hit the Boundary Bay Brewery afterwards and follow that up with a trip to Golden Foot Massage (207 East Chestnut Street). 


Hone said...

Good job powering through it and still finishing strong.

Pretty much my only worry at the start line of every race is about potential bowel issues. It completely occupies all of my thoughts. I also never head out for a daily run without a pocket full of TP. I am not trying to be gross but it is a part of running.

Have fun at Sonoma. It is one of the few races I want to run but it did not work out with my schedule this year. It looks awesome!

Ronda said...

Wow Amy, I would say top 5 with all that potty drama is quite commendable. However I do understand not having the day you wanted and are capable of. Still a very nice start to your season. I can't wait to hear what you have to say about LS 50M. That is on my list for next year.

Gretchen said...

I hate it when all I can think about is the potential location of the next bathroom stop. Definitely been there. It's especially annoying in 50K's because everyone's running so fast that you know stopping will cost you at least a few places. Chukanut sounds like a great event though, especially with the good weather and lots of friendly faces. I love that you thought about how unrealistic your goals were, but that now you're back to those goals. :)
Nice job on pushing yourself in spite of some issues. I think 5th is strong in such a stacked field.
Have fun at Sonoma!

Olga said...

It seems that all of us can recall plenty (!) of times when ALL we think about is if that next turn will have a fat tree or tall grass. Try running in Texas! Not to mention I was just thinking 50k is SO not much distance...and this is why next year I will try and focus on it:) Way to go, Amy! Power up!

sea legs girl said...

Amy, I totally laughed when I finally found you staring at the cameraman at the start. Looked like a woman who already was thinking about finding a place in the woods to before the race even began, he he.

But other than that ghost-look, you are looking good, woman! I know this is going to be taken as a weird comment, but you have such beautiful legs and now I'm like is it those fashionable shorts you've got on (they haven't made it to Denmark, yet, btw) or do you simply have nice legs? Well, I won't lose any sleep over it, I guess.

But gosh, it is a frustrating feeling when you know you could have run faster if only the intestines would have cooperated. Is it okay that I take consolation in that it happens to top runners like you, too? Anyway, you STILL had a great race!

amy said...

SLG--your comments always make me laugh. :) Must just be the fashionable short shorts.

Olga, just another reason to appreciate the PNW--lots of well-sized trees. I, too, have some not-so-fond memories of getting caught in a tree-less landscape with my pants down, so to speak...

Thanks Evan, Ronda and Gretchen--I'm looking forward to Sonoma!

Gary Vale said...

When we have you back on 3nonjoggers we will have to talk about your bathroom issues because that's a perfect topic for us.

I envy the fact that the 50k distance is not your strength because it isn't long enough. I sure wish I got stronger as the distance of the race increased. Great job on a solid race, even with the stomach issues. I think your upcoming races are going to be very successful, and I can't wait for Western States!

Anonymous said...

Hey Amy!

Love your blog! I am familiar with the bathroom issue factor. I am always looking for that perfect tree. ;)

So, bathroom issues aside, what do you eat during a 50K? I'm training for my first, Capon Valley in May. I've only ever eaten GUs during marathons, but I figure I'll need some real food during an ultra. I've practiced eating crackers and cookies which seemed safe...any other suggestions? Thanks! And congrats on pulling through when not feeling 100%.

amy said...

Thanks for the comment RacingTales!

Regarding fueling for a 50K, I usually stick to gels or shotblocks. Usually gels, if I'm carrying a handheld water bottle, as they are easier to carry. For a 50 miler and above, I actually don't vary that too much and still prefer gels and shotblocks. I nibble on real food depending on how I'm feeling, but usually rely on gels/shotblocks/liquid calories (Ultragen). For me, they seem easier to digest.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice, Amy. I guess I was mistaking a 50K for a foodfest! I'll stick to the GUs.

ultrarunnergirl said...

Beautiful photo of you running, in that second one. Amy, you are HOT!!

You passed TEN people in the last six miles? DAMN!

Hope you get the tummy settled down.

Just returned from hiking and backpacking the Osa Peninsula - thought of you often.

amy said...

Thanks Kir--I think you're the first person to ever call me hot.

Oh, the Osa Peninsula. Glad you and Tom had what sounds to be another fun Costa Rican adventure. I love that spot!

Hostpph said...

I think that it is better that women and men start a the same time. It makes more interesting the race.