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Chuckanut 50K

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Pre-Race T-Minus 17 Days (Race: March 15, 2014; Start: 8:00 am)

Approximately 24 hours after the Chuckanut 50K (the Chuck or Chuck) opened on Ultrasignups, I discovered that the race was full. I decided to add my name to the waitlist, hoping a spot would open up. What a bummer it was to have this thorn in the flesh.  Ultra runners from around the country repeatedly enter for this annual spectacular event course, but I never imagined it would fill up so quickly.  I found myself listed number 18 on the waitlist.  The thought of not being entered due to my procrastination with the registration was difficult for me to swallow.  This year would be my second Chuck and I’d looked forward to improving my time for over 9 months.  Needless to say, the Chuck is a highlight in my runner life that had just become tentative. 

I feel it is critical to keep a good frame of mind while training for a race in which I have been waitlisted.  I train as if I am already a race participant so I can be ready no matter what. A friend of mine decided that he was too far down the waitlist so he let his training go.  He didn’t bother training for the course or mileage for this 50K.  Now, he won’t be ready for the Chuck even if he does make it into the race. 

Early on I decided that my training for this race was crucial for this year in order for me to reach my goals for other races down the road.  I plotted my training plan and selected some specific benchmarks along the way in my training.  I planned to train for the Chuck and if I did not make it onto the roster, then I would run a slight variation of the course start/finish on race day so I could run still run the 50K with a race atmosphere.  This would give me an opportunity to gauge my yearly improvements and opportunities.  This way, I would also be ready on race day if I was in fact selected as a registrant. 

Along with plotting my training plan, I also read a number of blog posts of other Ultra runners.  I learned the tactics of gorge running to be better prepared for the steep section of the course, known as Chinscraper.  I also learned about doing what I call “Daily Doubles,” which includes a morning and an evening training run.  I also focused a number of training runs on the technical section of the course to see if I can improve on my technique on the more difficult trails. 

I wanted to shift my focus of my waitlist status to measuring various aspects of the race to monitor specific gains.  I knew by doing this, I would not get discouraged along the way.  Sure enough, as I carried out this training while on the waitlist, I reached levels that indicated huge gains with increased speed and stamina.  An example of this improvement is with my time on training runs of the “middle 18.”  This section of the course is entirely mountain running in the middle of the 50K race course.  My first attempt of the “middle 18” took me 5 hours and 22 minutes.  On my third attempt, my time was reduced to a crushing, 4 hours and 28 minutes!  Ironically, it appears to me that my training while on this year’s waitlist is far more effective than last year’s training when I was not on a waitlist. 

17 Days before the Chuck, I did my morning online check on the waitlist status and discovered that I was accepted to be added to the race!  That got the victory hand raise from me.  One of my co-workers laughed out loud at me.  Typically one does not see the spirit of an athlete in the office at work.  I was absolutely thrilled when I saw my name on the accepted list.  Following a few high-5s, I went to my email and found the acceptance link.  I made it official with a little click on “the mouse” on my computer.  The thorn was removed!

This year, I have decided to use a similar strategy for the race as last year.  One adjustment will be my printed plan that I carry with me on race day will only focus on my nutrition.  I will exclude my mile post goal times.  By simplifying this plan for race day, I will have fewer things to focus on when I become really fatigued near the end of the race.  My intent is to make it as easy as possible to keep on track nutritionally throughout the whole race.  When I run these distance races, I’ve noticed that my plan becomes hazy and blurred as my fatigue increases near the last few miles of the race.  I want to set myself up for success by avoiding any type of hydration or nutritional issues along the way.  I’m pretty confident that my training will take care of my race times along the way this year. 

Last year’s Chuck was a pretty stormy day.  A lot of rain fell before and during the race, making the course like soup in some sections.  I am hoping for better race conditions this year.  Regardless, once again I find myself with that competitor’s attitude toward the Chuck’s challenging mountain run:  Bring it!  (I intend to post a post-race report.)

If you’re an Ultra runner, how do you prepare for the big day?

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