Chuckanut Or Bust
Four years ago, during a work conference I looked at my pal Sue and said - “We have to run the Chuckanut 50k.” Sue laughed replying - “You’re crazy.” Two years later I repeated myself. Once again, she replied - “You’re crazy.”
This year, something changed. Crazy caught hold of Sue and she believed a 50k trail run wasn’t out of our reach. She in Michigan and I in Connecticut rallied a group of moms (and one dad) to join us in our goal. Together from near and far we trained. Virtually motivating each other mile by mile, stride by stride. Our mantra - “WE GOT THIS!”
A month later the race took on an entirely new meaning. My father, who had been living with cancer for over three years, passed away. I knew the run for me was going to be emotional but didn’t realize, until in moment of the run, how much strength my father had left for me to discover within myself.
Read on to learn that sometimes crazy is all relative to the people with you and the experiences that really define you.
Running the Chuckanut 50k
And there we were virtual friends (strangers really) together at the house, eating breakfast, sharing smiles (and some tears and fears). The start line was not far away and every one of us was about to encounter a goal much larger than we had ever set. From different parts of the country, we had flown to Washington State to run the Chuckanut 50k. Each one of us carried unique personal motivations, but had found ourselves here because of each other.
I laced up my new All Out Rush trail running shoes and we drove to the start line on a crisp, grey, Washington morning. Despite hidden nerves, energy flew between us. It was time. The start was here. “We got this!”
We ran out through the start into a rolling 10k of trails, still full of smiles and exhilaration. Over time, we split into groups over the 50k course. From switchbacks up and down to long gradual climbs and a ridgeline, though not physically side by side, we knew we were all out there somewhere, breathing the same fresh air and living in that moment together. At mile 20 my pal Nicole and I were out of water, completely depleted and felt lost for words. We were more than halfway through and could taste the finish. “We Got This!”
A PB&J and few sips of Coke later, we were on our way. Only to hit Chinscraper!!! A steep climb that sounds and feels like a scary movie. We looked up and took it stride by stride, slowly hiking and using the trees for assistance. It had to be downhill from here! 10 miles to go! Last aid station… here we come!!! Meandering down the switchback we ran knowing that the goal was getting closer. Last aid station – Check! “Only 10k to go. We SO GOT THIS!
It became potentially the longest rolling 10k imaginable. Each step was an effort of mind over matter. We could not stop. We had to get to the finish. Think good thoughts. We are strong.
And then, the “woohoos” of people, the presence of a crowd. We turned the corner to see the finish. We had done it! We had met our goal. Hand in hand as separate groups we crossed the finish line, exhausted but exhilarated. All together “We Had Done This!”
Reflecting on the Chuckanut Ultramarathon
In retrospect, I thought I would finish, be exhausted and feel proud and accomplished. But I felt much more. I found a sense of peace through the mileage. A sense of strength that my father had left within me to discover. An awareness of the trails that gave me more energy as I became tired. The different views (trees, lakes, ridgeline) kept me going through the miles. They allowed me to let go of a lot and breathe in what is important. I found peace.
I still look back and remember different views, the different feelings underfoot, and the different people who passed me or who I passed. As a mom of three, much like pregnancy, I don’t remember any of the pain or scariness. I simply remember the bliss of that moment in time. And am ready for more (trails that is)!