Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chuckanut 50k: The Internal Battle

In my head there's a greyhound station where I send my thoughts to far off destinations, so they may have a chance to find a place to where they are far more suited than here. ---Death Cab for Cutie
I had a lot of fun running at Chuckanut this year, and I ran a very mental race.  I battled with my body over my level of "fatigue" just about the whole way. 

My Body: You are so tired! 
Me: I just started, there's no way I'm really tired.
My Body: Really?  Look that person's passing you!  How about some more fatigue in those legs, how do you like that? 
Me: I don't like that, that's not cool.  Sweet, a downhill!  
My Body: Cleater Road is coming up you know...then there's all those rocky and short, but steeeep uphills on the ridge, and mud on Lost Lake area.  Oh, and uphills and Chinscraper, and, and, and, and!

Much to my surprise, I want to come back and run Chuckanut again.  I enjoy the 6 miles of paved interurban at the start of the race and the 6 paved interurban back at the end of the race.  It gives me a chance to stretch out my legs and speed up, unlike much of the technical 18 miles of trail on Chuckanut Mountain.  Another part of the course that I love is the Chuckanut ridge trail, the 3 mile section of trail about 13 miles into the race.  It's a narrow, scenic (mountains, city of Bellingham), boulder and tree strewn section.  It's this part of the race where runners begin to spread out and it feels like there's a new focus in the race.  I am almost halfway though the race and with that comes an understanding of how the race will likely play out.  How much motivation do I have at this point in the race?  Let's hope it's a lot because otherwise it's not looking good for me!  The second half of the course is just as hard as the first half with the never-ending Lost Lake section, the steep, leg burning chin scraper, and the tedious 6 miles to the finish.
Race Elevation Profile
I felt pretty good by the ridge trail except for one key thing: on every uphill, however slight, my legs felt extreme fatigue.  I have a few guesses as to why.  I was pretty sick, more sick than I've been since I was a kid, for two very long weeks about 2 weeks before Chuckanut, then with only two weeks before the race I was left with...what to do for training?  To taper or not to taper?  I ended up being pretty inconsistent for those two weeks before the race, some days putting in good mileage and others not doing anything.  It was pretty frustrating.  I was sick during a time when I had planned to be getting in 80-100 mile weeks, THEN taper for Chuckanut.

Who doesn't have a sob story to play out before a race?  Everyone has an amazingly pathetic and very real reason to suck at any given race.  Question then is, will you use that story or make up a new one?  I think my 2011 Chuckanut landed somewhere between the pathetic sob story and the breaking free performance of the year.  So I did okay.  I had a lot of fun and I PR'd by 27 minutes from my perfornmance at Chuckanut last year.  I finished in 5:47:??.  That's 11.19 minute miles, about 30-60 seconds slower than I'd hoped for.  Pretty significantly slower than my goal, but still a good PR.  Last year, Chuckanut was my second ultra marathon ever, and I struggled with very uncomfortable abdominal discomfort, and, um some lengthy pit stops.  Because of my lack of experience and unfortunate tummy, I figured a PR would be pretty easy to come by.

I was on target pace (5:30) through mile 16 (after the ridge trail) then I lost track of my pace, started feeling that deep fatigue in my legs and I let the excuses take over.  Chinscraper was harder than I'd hoped, and the next 3.5 miles down hill I held back a little so that I could kick some ass on the last 10K. My conservative downhill pace paid off and I was able to average just under 10 minute miles (I know, slow for interurban, but lots of room for improvement).  It was fast enough that I passed runners in the last 6 miles and didn't walk, except for a few hills.

Chuckanut, I'll be back.  I like you, I really do.  I know you well and I think I can conquer you another year.  Watch out!

I also wore my new Inov-8 315's.  Loved them.  The perfect combination of lightweight minimalism with supportive protection.  Lovely.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear that other runners have an "internal struggle". It reminds me of those cartoons with the "angel and devil" on your shoulders.


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