Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chuckanut 50K and Good Birthday

Having just read Devon's great report about this race, I am ready to report from the other end of the pack. This was to be my second ultra and my first since surgery last August, and I can say I am feeling like I am back! It was a long day, but I am so glad I did it and happy to have made it through relatively unscathed (more on that later).

Friday, I spent the day wrapping up loose ends and waiting for Chris to come by. Midafternoon we, our gear, and the two traveling 5 gallon Gatorade jugs (known from here on as my Ultra Jugs) piled into his VW Golf. We were going to go by Krissy's parents house to drop off the Ultra Jugs before Bellingham, but decided to go into town first to get our race packets. They had the usual goody bag items in them plus a very awesome race technical Tshirt. In fact, it's my new favorite shirt - I am wearing it as I type!

After checking into the hotel and getting something to eat we headed to Bow to drop off the jugs. I had Googled the Moehl's address but Google maps didn't provide enough detail, so, though we were on the right road, we couldn't find the correct address. We ended up pulling into some fellow's driveway (he was watching us) and asked if he knew where they lived. He hadn't heard of them (the houses are like a quarter mile apart), so while he a Chris chatted I called Krissy who said to go further west and watch for her Subaru at the top of the driveway (she was still at Fairhaven Park). We found it shortly and put the jugs on the deck. I looked around to see if there was a front door - maybe we could let someone know they were there - but no luck. There were several cars around the driveway. Unbeknownst to us at the time, James and Alison were sitting in one of them watching us and waiting for Krissy to return so they could get in. Apparently (unbeknownst to them) Devon was in the house* (the basement) and could have let us all in! Too funny! I did notice Devon's car parked there on the way out, but thought she must be at the park.

Back in B'ham, I woke up about every hour wanting water. Between the dinner beer (bad idea) and moisture sucking heater, I was really dehydrated. Finally the alarm went off and we were up, packed and out the door into the light rain. The race start was about five minutes away but we decided to park in a remote lot and walk to the start. The lodge for the number pick up was nice and warm and CROWDED. I saw lots of familiar faces and trash talked with a few. Eric was sitting in a corner and at one point, I wanted to show off my new camera. I was sort of in the doorway and he was holding his camera up point towards me, so I held mine up pointing towards him. I was waiting for it to focus and click and I heard someone say "excuse me." I said "hold on just a sec" and turned to look right into Krissy's eyes - she wasn't very pleased that I was blocking her way. I felt awful - I know how stressed she must have been organizing and coordinating a race of that magnitude! Oy!

From Chuckanut 50K

Soon we were out on the lawn with the rest of the racers and volunteers and ready to take off. The first six miles were relatively flat and the pack never really thinned out til we got to AS#1. There Robin was volunteering and it was good to see her. Van Phan was also there cheering folks on. I had started in a long sleeve T and hat with my short sleeve in my pack. I was already heating up despite wearing shorts so I left my long sleeve T and hat with Robin and put the short sleeve one on, then my Patagonia jacket. I had my buff to keep my head warm when I needed it, and my mitts for my hands. I was off and ready to start climbing. The trail up to Fragrance Lake was different from what we had gone on for our 20 miler. For this, we went back down the to Interurban Trail, then a sharp right onto trail and started climbing. A little ways up, Jamie came limping down, saying she was headed back to AS#1 and dropping. Still don't know what happened, but she looked at her watch, and asked me how come I was running so late. I said, um, this is my usual pace. She looked a little startled for a moment, and then said "I knew that!" Pretty funny. We'll see where she's at pace wise in 20 years. After more climbing and a pretty run by Fragrance Lake, we headed downhill to AS#2 where I got more Nuun. Dan Sears was waiting down there and called out my name - I think I knew someone at every aid station, which makes it all the more fun! We started the long 2.9 mile climb up Cleator Road. I mostly fast walked but occasionally ran, and fell in and out of pace with Cheri Pompeo, who was getting over a nasty cold. She had run a marathon in Greece two weeks ago and finally succumbed to the cold that was making its rounds. This was her tenth Chuckanut! We chatted off and on all the way up to AS#3. Just before that AS, the front runners were coming down the hill by us, and I high fived Scott as he ran by. At AS#3, another familiar face, John Pearch, RD of Capitol Peak Ultras, was waiting to see to our needs. I got more Nuun, some coke, and snacks, and headed out to the ridge trail.

It was pretty cold up there and we were socked in with a misty fog that chills to the bone. With the first step up over a boulder, my calves seized up. Very painful. I took an electrolyte tablet and sucked on my Nuun, but it took a while to calm down. Every time I lifted my leg it would cramp. I soon figured out that if I focused on using my psoas muscle more, it wasn't so bad. It was pretty rooty and rocky, but my ankle was holding up really well! I got to one huge boulder that I started to crawl over. it was slanted down and about 3-4 feet long and very slippery. I slipped and sat down hard on it, and started sliding down it. There was a hole at the bottom and all I knew was I didn't want to go into that hole. I managed to land in soft ground on my feet bit got pretty dirty - in fact later at home I discovered dirt all inside my shorts, and well, I got dirt in places that had never seen dirt before. I also felt my leg scrape as I slid down, and thought, ooh, that's gonna hurt later. After shaking off the fall, I started running again and actually started feeling a bit better. Finally, Dan's Traverse sign appeared and the trail turned more level and easier to negotiate, but I knew mud lay ahead.

A guy I had seen climbing Cleator came by me. He had been walking with his buddy whose achilles tendon was in pain. His buddy decided to stay in the race, but told him to go on. He stopped at one point (up ahead of me) to shake a rock out of his shoe. As I passed, I reminded him wryly not to get mud on the velcro of his timing chip. Yes, the timing chip guy asked that we wear the chip UNDER our sock to keep the mud out of the velcro. I can only imagine what shape they came back in since no sock would protect from that much mud. Anyway, the trail continued on, and my ankle did well through all the mud.

Finally I came to Chinscraper and began the climb. I was so glad we did this in our training run! It was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. There were a few people down below me, and a mountain biker came through from above. As I stepped aside, I asked if he was going to catch some air; I thought it would be so cool if he sailed over those below. Climb climb climb - finally I reached a little sign telling me to turn left!! In all the climbing I thought about me turning 53 the next day and how my mom had her first heart attack at 53. Of course, she was in a high stress job and smoking three packs a day. I, on the other hand, was out here climbing up this monstrous hill.

Soon I came upon Glenn taking photos; I was so happy to see him - I think he got a huge smile out of me! Cyrus Gates overlook soon appeared, this time with no snow. Back out onto Cleator road, I came to AS#4, which was also #3. John gave me some hot soup, and I got more Nuun. I thought about changing into new socks, but the niggling spots I felt coming on had settled down, so I stuffed my dry socks into my pack in case I changed my mind and headed down to Fragrance Lake.

The road descended and a sharp turn took us onto a nice soft trail. I went into a sort of Fell running mode, using my quads and hips to keep stable. My ankle just loved it! I ran pretty much the whole 3.9 miles to AS#5, save a stop or two to catch my breath and take a photo. As I came into AS#5 they were closing up shop. I grabbed more Nuun and headed down the flat trail to the finish. This part seemed more difficult than some of the climbing I did and psychologically was harder to run the whole way. I would imagine seeing myself running 3-4 feet in front of me, and get a good clip going, but soon as I looked up towards the horizon, my mental fortitude would fail me and I would have to walk. I did this most of the way, playing leap frog with another woman. Finally about a mile before the end, I was able to maintain and run into the park, finishing in 7:56, just under the 8 hour cutoff.

Chris was waiting for me at the end - he did it in 7:29:09. His first ultra in six years! He was beaming and it was so good to catch his excitement! Olga was at the end and I was a happy recipient of one of her famous hugs. Robin and Jeff were there as well, and kept me company while Chris went to get the car. After getting some food, and putting on my dry tights over my shorts, we headed for home, making it there in record time.

Today was my birthday and I headed to the pool for a short stretch out swim with the masters group. Turned out that one of the gals, Jerri, works two doors down from Chris. I can't wait to hear what he says when she tells him she saw his results in the paper! Hee hee! Donn and I went to lunch at Senor Moose, and then over to NWOC to look at kayak paddles. I'm heading over in my boat next weekend to demo some carbon fiber paddles - can't wait!

*Apparently Devon was still at the park earning her stay (see comments).


Anonymous said...

Great race report! Congrats on another successful ultra and a HUGE happy belated b-day to you! If you changed the 53 to 35, you'd be my age- that seems about right! :)

Devon said...

Happy Happy Birthday!! Great run and report!

And BTW, I wasn't in the basement, I was at the park helping to unload the food with everyone I couldn't have let anyone in!

Let me know when you are ready for your delicious surprise (it will be a surprise to me too since i haven't decided what I want to make) gluten free vegan treat!

olga said...

Happy birthday, Laura! I saw an email from ultra-list:) It was great to meet you, hope the fall didn't leave any aches for later!

Alison said...

great job, laura, and happy birthday! i had a terrible race and dropped early (very early). i'm trying to get over it now. see you next week!

Rooster said...

Happy Birthday and congratulations on Chuckanut! I enjoyed your report.

Backofpack said...

Happy Birthday! Great report on Chuckanut, glad it didn't pour on you like last year. Sounds like everyone had a great day!

Journey to a Centum said...

The camera seems to be working well for you. You got some good shots.

I somehow subconciously was able to put Cleator road out of my memory. That climb is one tough SOB! I ran about 3/4 of it and hiked the rest as fast as I could. I wanted to stop for some soup at AS#4 but I was on a roll and knew I had some speedy downhill ahead of me. I wish I could have kept the momentum up after AS#5.

Take care of that ankle!

Trail Scat

Laura H said...

Thanks all!

Devon - any time you want and have time is a good time for me! I won't turn down food - against my religion!

Alison - so sorry you had to drop - I hate that. Hope you're feeling better soon and back on the proverbial horse! See you next week!

Kathleen - I'm telling those who ask I turned 35. Those who know me figure it out soon; those who don't walk away trying to figure out how I had a son who is 25. Hah!

And last - ankle is still good! It's almost scary....Thanks again!

olga said...

Laura, what you said to me in comments was the best summing up: "you remembered how much you're loved". This is exactly the point - we love each other unconditionally, something rarely left in the outside world and something we all need so much. Thanks!

Chris said...

Nice job Laura. Good times! Happy Bday. Thanks for the team spirit and the BROWNIES!!


Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Well Done! great report and what a fabulous way to spend your birthday, running in the mud! I'll have to give Chuckanut a try sometime! Sounds fun! Hope you enjoy your new camera... great shots!

robtherunner said...

Congratulations on a great race and Happy Birthday as well! Sounds like a great time was had by all.

Steve S said...

Happy Belated b-day. The Glen T photo from Orcas is fantastic. I ran Chuckanut last year with Eric and could re-live each section with you. Glad your ankle and running are doing so well.

shawn said...

Laura, I have never been so vocal reading a report - from laughing at your comment regarding your "ultra jugs" (and wondering where were the pics of your jugs!) to "ouching" as you described your fall on the rock and laughing again at you finding mud in places you didn't know existed. What a fun day.

Happy Birthday to you, my fellow Pisces!

Laura H said...

Happy birthday back at you! I knew there was something even more special about you! ;-) As for the "jugs", I love that I can put these jugs down anytime and not have to lug them through a race! Sports bras are mainly for warmth for me! Hah!