Where do I begin? I wanted to leave the house at 3 pm to bit the traffic, but had to deal with a (little) family crisis and didn’t hit the car till 4:30 – the worst time possible! It took me an hour and half to go 20 miles from our house to Vancouver, WA, and my butt was killing me from sitting. The traffic lightened up later, but the damage was done – 4.5 hrs drive turned into 6. I didn’t stop anywhere, until reached Bellingham and Michelle's parents’ house, where Michelle, Eric, Steve and his wife awaited for me before turning in for the night. It was 10pm, and it didn’t take us long to say good night, such a “party-poopers” we are.
I got up at 5:10 am to a quiet morning…one that in about 10 min turned into a rainy one! Guys woke up shortly after, we quickly swallowed what each wanted and got in my car to drive to Chuckanut start – we wanted to get there before 7am to grab a parking spot close to the start. photo by Eric After checking in I walked around some – friends, friends and more friends, people who have become my family, and who I haven’t seen since a year ago with my travel-races! It was so lovely to see everyone! I felt good. I did show a few people a bump I developed on Wednesday from this condition (it started bleeding again), but nothing too worrisome – I trained through it last year and only expected it to bother me on downhill.
photo courtesy of Glenn T
I aligned myself in the middle of the pack and squeezed a few more friends with a hug (Annie-bee, dear, missed you so much, beautiful, tony!, sorry you had little time left for a bigger hug). Off we go…
As may know (or not), the first 10k is mostly on gravel FLAT road with a small 1M section of trail near the start (1.5-2.5). As everybody shot out with a speed, I shuffled, listening to my compartment. Lisa B and her husband David caught up and ran with me a bit until I sent them forward – but I wasn’t worried, it is a custom sign for me to have pain in shin elevating for the first 40 min or so and then slowly subside by the end of the hour. It gets worse on hard and flat surface, so here I had it, and just shuffled along. There is a small out-back after a short loop at the end of this section, and it was fantastic to cheer on all my friends! By then I started to get feelings in my lower legs, and reached 6.3M AS in 65 min – slower than previous years, but I wasn’t surprised or worried. From now on things should be fine – and they were.
Next comes a trail that goes pretty steeply up for a long time, and I had to work more than I thought I would to get into a good power-hike mode, but eventually I did. If in the first stretch people were passing me like crazy, this is where I began to stand my ground more or less. We had some downhill there too, and more up, and AS at 10.4M (4.1M section) came at 2 hrs flat (55min). I refilled my bottles, put a mix in there and moved onto a dirt road straight up for 3.2M. It did have some short (200 yards?) flat parts twice, and I honestly ran them, but mostly it was a good power-walk, I felt strong and began to slowly pull behind some people and even passed a few, getting up in 40 min. Another bottle switch at the top – and on to the Ridge section!
This is where things gotten different from years before. I used to own this section! I mean, it is gnarly roots and rocks, short ups and downs, very bad footing – and I would fly here like a goat! But now something turned around. Somehow (I heard it happened to others too), after been injured (not chronic, but a tear kind of stuff, or say a twist) I developed a fear of ripping something again. I was careful on the trail, and had folks passing ME! Never had it happened before here, and I think it put me in a mental flank on top of been careful, to the point I don’t think my heart rate exceeded 50% there. I wasn’t even breathing hard. I think eventually I decided I can’t dwell on it, and it helped me to pick it up a bit. This is where I cam upon Lisa B. and David as they were making their way down a big slimy rock. Lisa forgot her trail shoes home and ran in roadies, not to mention weak ankles she had to protect for the main project of the year. I bid goodbye, and began working hard again.
Yes, I did put an effort. I ran everything that was no more than 5% grade, and started to finally passing people. Especially when my strongest point came – the Chinscraper. It is a climb straight up for I’d say a bit less than a mile, and I love it. It did take me 5 extra minutes comparing to last year (20 min from bottom to AS at 21.2M), but I even managed to run those tiny sections that is possible to run. photo courtesy of Glenn T, coming off the Chinscraper climb . I didn’t slack off a bit. The whole 7.6M took me 2 hrs. But as I looked at my watch, I realized there is no way I can make it 6 hrs. No way…does it mean, shit, bummer, I can relax? No, I didn’t. I passed on an AS (knowing course has great benefits) and hit the dirt road downhill of 3.6M. I was still gaining on a few people here and there, what meant to me I am still hanging in ok. Last AS at 24.8M was in 5:15 total, and there was no way I could make last 10k in under an hour.
Kelly (Sean’s girlfriend) was there turning around from her run with Sascha-the dog. She made me company. Thanks, Kellbelle!! I downed one gel right after AS and one with 3M to go – I think it worked wonders on me! We ran together for 3M, and I only broke into short 20sec walks 3 times, then she had to stop, and I kept running! OK, it is a stretch calling “running” a 10 min/mile shuffle, but I did run the entire section with only one tiny hill walk (a mile to go) non-stop, what is unbelievable for me here! I was so darn proud of myself. I passed another 6 or 7 folks while was passed twice myself. Finish line was crossed in 6:20:xx. I had a near perfect day, never a bonk, great fueling and hydration, positive attitude and good effort run.
photo by Michelle
Michelle was there taking pictures, and Kendra who worked the chute gave me a biggest squeeze! Was I happy? Hell, yes! I did work at this run as promised, most of the time anyway (I’d say 70%), and if it resulted in a 6:20 time – so this is where I am. I had the biggest smile (rumor has it I won a spectator’s award for it – thanks, Maniac Hippo!) and felt happy! Not “happy it’s over” and not “happy with the outcome”, but just plain highest “happy” possible. I also felt great as if I could go another round of it. Does it mean I didn’t push enough? Nope, don’t think so. This is my speed, and my gift is endurance. While I still can’t understand why I lost so much fitness on my time off as I did keep active with other thing – is beyond my comprehension, but this is where I am now, and this is where I have to work up from. Can I get where I was? By now I am not 100% sure, but I will strive to be may be at least half of it. It’s a challenge I have no choice but to take upon. Did I enjoy it? Oh, yes!! Every moment of it! Was I disappointed? Not a bit. My only concern is for folks who came at the start and after hearing my “goal” of breaking 6 hrs said “sandbagging”, or those at the finish who immediately asked “anything happened?” I know I do same thing – and now I know why I shouldn’t. See full results here.
I had the best-est time ever talking at the “eating” area. Hiding from the rain (that never let up), we had famous burritos made by Krissy's family and talked, talked, talked…Annie, I love you so much! Guys and gals, all of them, smiling, hugging, sharing…this is my family, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just wish I could stay longer…These people, Mr. G, Don M, Annie, tony!, Mr. Prez, Varner, Sean and Kelly, Dave T. (finally I got to me you personally!), Kendra, Bushwhacker, Van, Eric, Steve, Michelle, Clem, Marty and Chris…OMG, the list will never stop – these people deserve to be called a “family” for one simple yet most important thing they possess – unconditional love to each other and to what we do. How can I bottle up this love and carry it with me throughout every day’s life?
I drove to Seattle with Mike W. and his cousin, dropped them off, and after 6 hrs in the car yet again made it home, where I got the biggest hug of the day from Alex and Stephen.
p.s. There is a reason I try to write a report and hopefully post it the very moment I get back home. Just as any regular drug, endorphin release from trail ultrarunning brings you unbelievable high…and just as that very drug, it drops you later to the very bottom. It happens not only after bad days, but even after successful runs, and it is normal…Sunday was still very evenly happy for me, but last night I woke up to a dream where I was sobbing on Rob's shoulder for my running. I got ready for a run, felling damp. As the first half went in a dark, so were my thoughts, but as light began to squeak and the birds to chirp, my mood brightened up as well. So what I need to step back, so what if I have to work hard and not even know if it’ll help me, so what if I will be adjusting my race goals one by one as they come – I am not giving up, and I’ll have a helluva fun time doing it!