The race starts with a bang, as it always does. I haven’t ran this fast since last year’s Chuckanut, having a definite preference for the more leisurely “mountain jogging” as Nick Clark would put it. The quick early pace comes as no surprise though and I feel comfortable running with the lead pack en route to hills. I revel in the exhilarating feeling only a race can provide in the pull of those ahead and the push of those in pursuit. Mike Smith leads the charge and opens up a couple minutes gap by the first aid station, with Geoff and Eric right behind him. I’ve settled in with a group of about six guys strung out a couple seconds apart. On the first climb up to Fragrance Lake, I start doubting how judicious my choice of shoes was. There are few features on this trail and my flats slip back a couple inches at every step. Luckily though, we soon pop back on to the road and begin the long grind up Cleator - up the crappy “tweener” grade which is neither steep, nor flat. I never feel good on this type of climb and today is no exception so I just focus on staying in contact with those ahead and waiting for the fun stuff to begin.
I started the race with half a bottle of water and planned on refilling by the third aid station just before the ridge trail. As I get to it though, I decide I don’t want to carry a full bottle through this technical section so I drain what I have left, stuff the bottle back in my waistband (thanks TK) and engage the ridge. Tight, twisty, rooty singletrack, short little rollers, primo trail, some of most enjoyable I’ve ever run. Geoff told me after the race, he found this section so good, he nearly forgot he was racing. I feel exactly the same way and after passing about 5 guys or so, I hope it never ends. It does of course and I’m back on some “tweener” climb, muddy this time, on the way to chinscrapper. I can see Tim Olson about 10 seconds ahead and keep telling myself to hold it together and stay with him. Sucked into the motion of the race, I skip aid 4 and start the short grunt up the chinscrapper. I laugh when I see Glenn with his camera as I’m not sure how I’m going to get up the bump with my tread-less shoes. I b-line for the bushes and struggle up, pulling on roots and branches but can see Aaron Heidt closing the gap.
Slip-sliding up chinscrapper - photo Glenn Tachiyama
9 miles to go - all downhill and flat. My hammies are starting to lock up and I do what I can to maintain a good cadence to the last aid station. Aaron nabs me just before that and I come sailing in with my bottle cap off, shouting “electrolyte drink”. The aid station volunteer points to the table 5 feet away and says “you’ve just passed it”. Now if this were a film, this scene would be in black and white, slow motion, with me looking back, considering for second, closing my bottle cap and thinking “ah fuck it” and knowing perfectly well that this is a mistake.
With 5 miles to go my hammies are now so tight it’s hard for me to get the proper running motion going. I’m thrusting my arms, moving my legs, seeing the movement in my head but not feeling my body respond correctly, just like fumbling with keys with frozen hands trying to open the door. I look back a few times but see no one behind me until the very last mile and half where after a short rise I gaze back and catch a glimpse of Oliver Utting and Adam Campbell charging at me. I have a quick flashback of the cheshire grin coming to haunt me from last year’s race and decide I won’t let them pass me. With 800 meters to go I can hear their footsteps so I give one last little push to outkick them by a few seconds.
I’m glad the race is over so quick as the best part of Chuckanut is hanging out with all the good company at the end. After congratulating Geoff for yet another spectacular performance, I head over to the “Ultragen bar” and consume way more of it than is recommended on the box. My body’s definitely pleased with a little food and water and I immediately feel restored. Yassine and I now kick back in the sun, catching up with friends and enjoying the award ceremony conducted by MC Jurker. Krissy with the help of all the volunteers pulled off another stellar event and I’ll most certainly be back again next year.
Hoka One One
Jlu - stoked after a 17min PR!
Corle and GRoes
Jenn - whatevs
Eric with a strong 3rd place finish
Poles and spikes..of course.
The happy winners - Geoff and Ellie