Sunday, August 3, 2014

What a View from the Top of a Mountain! Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon Race Report

Last week, I flew across the country with my 13-year old son to visit some wonderful friends and former next-door neighbors, who now live Tacoma, Washington.  My friend was one of the inspirations for me starting to run seven years ago, and she happened to be signed up for the Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon during the time we could visit.   I jumped at the opportunity to run in the Pacific Northwest with her!

It was my first visit to the PNW, and I made the most of the five days I had there.  After a few days of seeing the sights in Tacoma and Seattle, we headed to the beautiful town of Bellingham, Washington, home of Chuckanut Mountain.  We drove the two-and-a-half hours north on Saturday afternoon, checked into our hotel, picked up our race packets, and then spent the evening visiting shops, walking around, and enjoying dinner at a fabulous restaurant on the water.

The Chuckanut Mountain Marathon is billed as the "toughest marathon in the Pacific Northwest," so I was glad we signed up for the half!   After I signed up, my  high school friend Stacy, who lives in Bellingham, also signed up.  We met up with Stacy and his wife for dinner on Saturday evening.  We had 26 years of catching up to do!

Race morning arrived, and Rebecca and I found the mountain.  I spent a few minutes wandering around while she was charging her phone.  I found a sign that said Beach, and hiked down for this view:

A few minutes later, we ran into Stacy and his wife and kids.  His kids did the 1K race just before ours.  Here we all are just before the start:

To prepare to run up a MOUNTAIN, I tried to train on as many hills as I could, but Clarksville, TN just doesn't have any mountains.  I had a pretty good amount of elevation change in two 13-mile trail training runs at Beaman Park and Rotary Park though.  I also ran the Jackal trail marathon (no big hills really though) in June.  I practiced power hiking.  Oh, and I did lots of squats!  

The first four miles of the race were not what I expected.  They were down a gravel road, which kind of reminded me of my training spot, the Cumberland Bicentennial Trail.  I suppose I expected views of lakes and mountains right away.   This is around mile 4, when we had to cross a road to enter the real trail.

Soon after mile four, our climbing began and the scenery changed dramatically.  Now, this is what I was imagining!   Ferns were everywhere.  Huge old growth trees dwarfed us.  

Some areas of the trail were smooth, others were rocky and rooty.  Once, I had to climb up a huge, flat boulder.  My training paid off.  There were only a couple of really steep sections that stole my breath.  At the top---this view was amazing.  We stopped for many pictures.  This might have been a 24-minute mile on my Garmin......  Worth it.  

How crazy is it to be ABOVE the trees???  And these weren't any little trees, either!   I was a little apprehensive of being so close to the edge of the rock I was standing on.  I did peer over the edge for just a sec!  That's Mount Baker in the background, I think.  

Two crazy climbs and then we started to descend.  My two trail-running, Washington-living friends were BOMBING down the trails at full speed.  I was mincing down them.  I just haven't trained for technical downhills enough to let go.  For me, letting go on a downhill equals about a 98% chance of falling! 

Not that my run was completely free of falls!!  At some point around mile 10.5, a huge tree had fallen over the trail.  We couldn't go under it, so we had to climb across it.   My 6ft tall friend did this with ease.  I wound up sort of straddling the tree awkwardly (both feet dangling off the ground) and sort of slid over to the other side.  My right foot landed on solid ground.  Unfortunately, my left foot landed on a big, wet, mossy, slanted rock.  The second I put my weight on it to take a step, I went DOWN on my left side.  Hard.  Water bottle flew out of my left hand.  I was stunned for a second, but hopped back up.  The damage wasn't too bad.  The side of my knee was bleeding from slamming into the rock, and I had trail rash on the back of my thigh and palm of my left hand.  

About a half mile later, though, my left ankle was really hurting.  It definitely twisted at an awkward angle as I was slipping off that slanted rock.  I just tried to ignore the pain. We didn't have any more climbing after mile 11, just net downhill.  Mile 13 was a steep downhill (again, not my forte), and I just tried to be careful.  I tripped once on a steep section and went flying briefly, but landed on my feet.   13.1 came and went.  Stacy and I crossed the finish line at 13.9 miles, around 3:40.  My friend was just a few minutes behind us.  WE represented the LCHS Class of '88 well!  

The next morning, my sore legs and I flew home to Tennessee.  I loved my trip to the PNW!  If it didn't rain 9 months of the year, I think I could live there.  

I cannot wait to climb my next mountain!!

10 Years of Running: Confessions of a Declining Runner

Two months ago, I hit a pretty significant milestone:  ten years of running.  I began in June of 2007 at the age of 36 .   On day one, I tho...