2013 Chuckanut 50k

photo courtesy of Ross Comer

Last Saturday, Angel and I ran the Chuckanut 50k in Bellingham - at its 21st running, one of Washington's oldest ultras, and arguably its most prestigious.  A bunch of other people ran it too, so (spoiler alert!) we didn't win.

The race is among the most competitive early season 50ks, and it always attracts top runners from around the country.  On the men's side, Max King was without a doubt the most recognizable name, but other savvy veterans showed up - Dusty Caseria, Gary Robbins, Justin Angle, Phil Kochik - along with a long list of up and comers - most notably David Laney from Ashland, Oregon, who won the race in his 50k debut and broke Geoff Roes' previous course record by finishing in 3:40:20.  Among Washington runners, the Seattle Running Club's own Maxwell Ferguson made a serious statement by finishing 3rd, a few minutes behind Max King, in 3:47:40 - a time that would have been good enough for the win last year.  A lot of folks were surprised when Laney outpaced Max King in the last few miles, but King clearly made some egregious rookie training mistakes - most notably ruining his taper by running a Way Too Fast 3:08 at the Way Too Cool 50k the week prior.  They also outkicked me in the end - by about an hour and a half - but I got a 50k PR on a course that is only kind of fast, finishing in 5:18, which I was happy with. 

On the women's side, probably the most accomplished runner in the race was Devon Yanko, who finished 2nd with the 4th fastest time ever run by a woman at Chuckanut, 4:22:01.  Alicia Shay, a former Olympic Trials qualifier in the 10k with a really interesting backstory, finished 3rd in 4:24:01. The eventual winner, Bellingham local Jodee Adams-Moore, somehow managed to be both a darkhorse and a favorite.  She's only been running ultras for 2 years, but has apparently won everything she's entered except last year's Chuckanut, when some unknown named Ellie Greenwood beat her.  Those of us who ran or paid attention to the Orcas Island 50k in February could tell that both she and Maxwell Ferguson (the men's winner there) were prepped for potential wins here.  Some locals told me that she'd been focusing on this race with the hopes of setting a course record, but I'm guessing very few people expected that she'd finish 10th overall in a strong field of men (Gary Robbins, this year's winner of the H.U.R.T. 100, would have only been 2nd woman at this race), and would solidly crush Ellie's record by 8 and a half minutes, running an incomprehensible (to me, anyway) 4:01:22.  From what I gathered during my brief internet stalking, she was a high school track star in Washington back in the day, she ran Division I at Georgetown, and now she makes pretty rad pottery and kicks everyone's ass on the trails.  I'm guessing there are going to be some sponsorship offers coming.

Maybe more importantly on the Women's side, while she didn't quite win, my wife Angel also PR'd in 5:35, finished 22nd woman and came in just ahead of the most famous runner in the race - Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie - a Seattle Running Club Member who finalized his resume as the world's most sexually attractive man by finishing his first ultramarathon in a very respectable time.  Angel immediately left me for him at the end of the race, as did everyone else's wife.

Photo courtesy of Ross Comer again.  Not the finish line yet. 
From the perspective of an average runner, this race had a lot going for it - it isn't the most scenic course in Washington (Rainshadow Running seems to have cornered the market on pretty much all of those), but it definitely has its charms with nice views of the San Juans, great soggy Northwestern forest, an alleged view of Baker if the sky's clear, and a start/finish located right in the center of Bellingham's coolest neighborhood.  It's an interesting mix of terrain, with a lot of flat urban trail for the road runners and a 18 miles of forest road and technical singletrack for those of us who think that road runners have something wrong with them.  The history of the race is as interesting and star-filled as any race in Washington, and the event itself feels professionally done, but not in an obnoxious way.  Krissy Moehl's the key organizer, and it feels like a labor of love put on by a real ultrarunner for other runners.  There were more aid stations than I'm used to at ultras, which was great, and the volunteers were typically solid.  These kinds of bigger races often have a great feel about them, because a lot of first time ultrarunners are drawn to them - including several of our friends, like Jaime Clark, who kicked lots of ass in her first attempt, running 5:01 and finishing 3rd in her age bracket and 13th overall.  Distinctively, the organizers went to significant lengths to try to make the race more green, doing away with paper cups for somewhat controversial little plastic sippy cups that all runners had to carry, and populating the course with composting toilets shipped in from out of state.  (I don't know if it was a commentary on the efficacy of sippy cups or a testament to beast mode, but there's a great picture of Jodee Adams-Moore guzzling from a pitcher at one of the aid stations here.)

Also, to finish things out with a feature on me, Glenn Tachiyama was on hand taking photos, which is itself worth the price of admission, because he makes pretty much everyone look cool.  Somehow I always end up making expressions like this in at least one of my pictures:

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama
 But in this one I'm obviously really flying:

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama
Congratulations to all of the runners who made it out and thanks to all of the volunteers and organizers who made it happen!


Nice Tim! Both you and Angle had a super run obviously. It would be cool to read more of a blow-by-blow account of how the race went for you, what you ate, drank, etc., etc. I don't know about you but I read these athlete blogs to live vicariously.