Today was the 20th running of the Chuckanut 50k trail race – the same race where I completed my first ultramarathon last year. This year, instead of running Chuckanut, I signed up for a different 50k race – I swapped out conquering Chinscraper at Chuckanut for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k. But this year, everything is a bit different. Chuckanut received permits to increase their capacity to 1,000 people, which has received mixed reviews. (Results here). And for Gorge, because some trail construction wasn’t completed, it’s not an out-and-back course.
So, instead of being in Bellingham, I set out for my last long run on the North Shore with my friend Ron and my ultra pooch! I had heard that conditions at Chuckanut were wet and cool so I was pleasantly surprised that it was dry and mild here. We did get a mixed bag though. For the first half hour or so, the trails were to be expected – technical and a bit muddy, and plenty of uphill. I love running trails with Ron – he’s actually the one who got me into ultramarathons. He invited me out to that fateful first long – and i mean L-O-N-G – trail run up in Manning Park. What I thought was going to be a 3ish hour run ended up being 5 1/2 hours. And surprisingly, I was hooked. So we had a great time catching up and running. After about 45 minutes, we started getting into higher terrain and we started seeing hints of snow on the trail – until it was all we could see. The interesting part was that the snow wasn’t the typical snow you see – it was more like corn kernels. Very cool.
My pooch, though, had a hoot on the trails, as she always does. From day one, she’s been there with me for those long North Shore trail runs and still had energy at the end to play in water. The darn dog was fitter than I am! But, if you’ve followed me on Twitter or on Facebook, I have many pictures of her pooped after our runs. So, technically, I win!
Today’s run was only 90 minutes – we started at the top of Riverside Drive and went up the Seymour Grind (ugh!), across the Baden Powell, down Ned’s, down Bottle Top, and back to Riverside. Ned’s is fairly technical and rocky and a pretty good downhill. I LOVE downhill but because of the snow, and some turned ankles from previous runs, I’ve turned into a bit of a pansy on Ned’s. Bottle Top, however, was less technical, not as rocky, and was bliss. Ron scooted over and let me pass him because he said this was my element. I never thought of it that way but I guess it is .. a bit rooty, a little rocky, and on a trail where you can just open up your stride and .. let yourself go. I’ve been told that when I get in my “element”, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I guess I am .. it’s just so .. FUN.
Anyway, 90 minutes came and went and it was great. We bumped into Hozumi and Jeremy on the way – my travel buddies for Gorge – so it was a pleasant surprise. It seemed short today but I also have to keep my eye on the prize – which is to get to my first race of the year. My 2nd ultramarathon. The first part of my Year of the 50/50.
So, I’m in a final countdown until race day. Friday night, we’ll cross the border and drive somewhere between Seattle and Portland and hunker down overnight. Saturday, drive to package pick up and overnight it in Portland. Sunday morning, run that 50k in the Gorge (see some of Glenn Tachiyama’s pictures here – he’s phenomenal and the pictures thrill and freak the crap out of me). Secretly, I’m SO excited to run THROUGH Ponytail Falls. Well, not so secret anymore.
Another day has now come to an end, another mile has been run, and I’m one step closer to reaching that first goal for 2012. Bring. It. On.