Gary had run the race last year, placing 9th one week after taking 3rd at Way Too Cool. This year, Gary won WTC, setting a new Course Record (both overall and Masters) and he was excited about coming back for another back-to-back. Before going to bed, Gary shared his knowledge of the course and I'm grateful because that helped me visualize the whole profile. The sky was super clear at 10 pm so we fell asleep wishing for sweet dreams of a nice sunny run this Saturday. A look by the window at 6 am brought a different perspective though, with a good rain going. When we picked Gary at Starbucks, Dave said: "look, it's turning to snow!" (1st photo, credit Greg Lanctot)
Greg's video at the entrance of the aid station (I'm the "yellow jacket" followed by Brett in blue, then Toshi and Joelle, Jen, Pam Smith, ...):
A couple volunteers were picking our numbers at the switchback marking the middle of the course. I don't recall exactly my time but it was slightly over 2 hours. After going down Chuckanut Ridge Trail we were now on North Lost Lake Trail which was very soaked and muddy. Here again, it felt almost better running in the fresh snow, aside from the muddy single track. I was thinking of how the trail will become after 650 runners have gone through... After 40 runners, it still looked beautiful, it seemed like running in the wonderful pictures Glenn Tachiyama shares in his Tribute to the Trails calendar (which raised $18,500 for the State of Washington trails this year). Glenn was actually shooting in the middle of the steep Chinscraper hill and got great shots of some of us sliding in the mud! (See in FaceBook his "Chinscrapper Flip & Slide" album.)
I passed a few runners before the fourth aid station located at the bottom this infamous Chinscrapper and didn't stop, excited to see what this beast was about. As Gary told me that everybody had to walk it, I felt not ashamed to do so too, although I was surprised to find some short downhill sections between steep uphills one. My Garmin indicated close to 1,100 feet at the aid station and almost 1,900 of the hill. I actually saw Brett a few switchbacks ahead but couldn't close the gap. Running with Tamalpa and training on the Dipsea trail, Brett has amazing strength in such uphills. It felt good to be done with this last hill, with 3 miles of downhill ahead to get back to sea level then the final flat 10K. I pushed the pace in the downhill feeling great, using Vespa and having only eaten one GU before Chinscrapper to get a boost. I caught up with Brett who was complaining about cramps. I kept pushing, getting my average pace down from around 9 min/mile at the top to 8:30 by the 5th aid station, Clayton Beach again. I didn't stop either at this aid station and kept moving fast, passing a few runners in the next 4 miles. With 2 miles to go, I passed a runner who was begging for gels. I stopped, had trouble opening my jacket pocket and gave him a GU. He was wearing bib #18 and it's only later that I found out he was actually the king of our sport, no less than favorite Max King. Poor Max was leading by mile 22 on Fragrance Lake Road and missed the sharp left turn where the course marshal wasn't posted yet. He kept going down and went of course for about 4 miles, killing any hope of a win with such competition just a few minutes behind him. Sage Canaday was just behind and made the same mistake but was fortunate enough to get warned by someone before going too far off course. I was of course far from the excitement going on at the front but read with some excitement the Byron's coverage of the race on his iRunFar tweet. As Gary said at the finish, it had some flavor of a championship! Here is a great shot from Greg of the top finishers (photo credit: Greg Lanctot):
I finished in 4:23 in 31st place and 6th M40-49. My strong finish showed that I could have pushed more along the way but, given the circumstances, especially the heavy workload during the week and my fighting of a virus since Monday, I was quite happy with this time, one week after my 4:06 Way Too Cool.
The delicious home-made soup of Krissy's mom and the gas heaters under the food tent next to the finish line were most welcomed by all the runners. Apart from a few short rain showers, the afternoon ended up being mostly sunny. Krissy Moehl did a fantastic job directing her tenth Chuckanut and celebrating this 20th anniversary of this event.
PS: a few more pictures in my Picasa album.