It had been two weeks since the Yukon Do It Marathon and during that time, I successfully registered for the Chuckanaut 50k set for March 19th. I had tried to regisister last year and it had sold out the day it opened. With some quick thinking and nimble fingers, I hit “submit” on the registration form online before the race filled in two hours! Chuckanaut 50k website
And then I looked at the course description: "This is a potentially dangerous part of the course! While not continuously exposed, be very careful, especially since the rocks may be wet...the cliff occasionally precariously close to your right is over 150 feet straight down! Watch for and heed danger signs placed in strategic places where there are sudden dropoffs or slippery slabs."
With two months until Chuckanaut, I don’t have time to slack off on my long runs. Trail running is great fun but I don’t have a lot of experience off-road. Getting in some trail running before March 19th is crucial.
After some prodding, I convinced my friend, Beverly, to join me for a little 17 mile trail run through Capital Forest. The Capital Peak Mega Fat Ass 17 or 34 mile run was held on January 15, 2011. My mileage has been miniscule for the year but since I had done the marathon on December 31, I knew 17 was doable.
I met Bev about 6:00 a.m. at her house and we made the drive to Capital Forest, arriving 25 minutes before race start. After we dropped off our minimal donation and a roll of toilet paper at the registration table, we made our way to a bathroom. Well, bathroom is really too pleasant a word. It was more four walls, a ceiling, and a smelly hole in the ground. Yuck.
After a breath-holding session, we made our way to the starting line, settling in to the back of the crowd. Neither one of us felt like “racing” today and didn’t want to impede other runners. At 8:00 a.m., a herd of runners took off into the endless trails of Capital Forest.
The road was wide for a short while and quickly narrowed, forcing runners to stop/start running. It was easier to relax and not run but wait until there was more clearance to begin running. The weather was thankfully mild once we set off on the trail. I am usually freezing before fall/winter races and chose to wear long pants (mostly in case I fell on the trail), a tank top covered by a long sleeve technical shirt. And gloves. I ditched my coat at the last minute as it felt like it must be in the upper 40s. We climbed and descended trails and within two miles, I had to stop and wrap my long sleeve shirt around my waist. I was overheating! Splish, splash, splish, splash…my camel pack was constantly reminding me of its’ presence. I chose not to listen to music because I wanted to be aware of my surroundings and the people near me.
Somewhere in the first five miles, Bev had fallen behind me on the trail and we were on our own. We sludged our way around puddles and muck, some runners barreling through while others tiptoed around the edges. I have to be honest and say that I was tiptoeing more than barreling. I don’t care if I get dirty; it was more a concern with falling! This mud was slick. Imagine wearing heels (okay guys, really try hard to imagine this), begin walking on marble, and now, add some Vaseline to the bottom of your heels and continue across the floor. Ooh! Now the floor is tilted! Do you get it now?
On narrow trails, I was “forced” to slow or walk due to the long line of people in front of me. There were some hills that I was okay with walking but others, I felt I was able to continue moving forward. Unfortunately with narrow trails, passing people isn’t always easy or considerate. If it’s one person, you can get by fairly easily, but you need to do it with decisiveness. If you pass them only to slow down, well, that is just rude. Passing a line of more than two people on a narrow trail is very tricky. I haven’t mustered up the courage to attempt it as I think I could easily end up breaking my ankle squeezing past runners on an uneven, narrow trail.
About mile seven, I saw a runner go down in agony! She had hurt her ankle, and at her insistence, I continued on the path toward the turnaround. Down and down we ran, runners came back toward me already past the turnaround and a few miles in front of me. It’s exciting AND discouraging. The frontrunner was a woman, Linda Huyck. Her arms flailed about her as she had recklessly pummeled past me. And that’s how you run a trail fast…let go of your fear and fly!
At the turnaround, I took in some water before heading back out. Marilyn, the woman who twisted her ankle, was arriving and did finish the race shortly after me.
Going down, down, down meant going UP! As I neared the crest of one of the hills, an older man had fallen and was bleeding, but like most trail runners, he got up and kept running down the hill, assuring everyone he was “fine!” Finally about mile 11, the seemingly endless uphill battle ended and I could feel myself getting a rhythm in my running. I was alone on the trail and that helped me run at my own pace instead of walking when others walked or moving along at their pace. My arms always seemed in the “airplane”position as I ran down the trail, ready to fall at a moment’s notice. Puddle! I gave up running around them and wow, it felt awesome to splash through the middle of the water and mud! I began to hunt them down, daring puddles and mud to get in my way. I was sure my body would careen and skid on the trail at some point but was undeterred. My shoes nearly were sucked off my feet in one particularly thick section of mud. Yum!
I ran without walking all the way to the finish, falling one time but caught myself at the last moment. In the last mile and I crossed a foot bridge only to be faced with a big uphill. Thankfully it wasn’t too long. I heard cowbells and hoofed it up the hill, splashed through puddles on purpose and crossed the finish line in 3:23. Wow, I’ve run marathons in that amount of time!
Despite my finish time, I did have fun and when I got home, I confirmed on the Garmin that indeed, I ran faster the second half. It felt like I was flying on the trail when my fastest mile was around 10 minutes.
The next day I was so sore! But not in places that usually hurt…ankles, calves and shoulders. I think my arms were almost always extended out to catch myself and that’s why my shoulders were sore. My ankles are not used to the constant variation of trails either.
This is definitely a race I would recommend to others. I’ve been told the race start has had different locations every year.
Next race is up in the air but some choices: Cedar River Trail (1/30), West Seattle Fat Ass (2/6), 4 miler in Gig Harbor, (3/5) Centennial Trail Run, Spokane 37 miles.