the chuckanut mountain marathon is described as a course that "...will test runners' skill on narrow and technical single track trails, long climbs and descents, a shorter steep climb, with some beautiful views from the Chuckanut Ridge, Fragrance Lake, and Lost Lake Trail. Course has about 4,525 feet of elevation gain."
all true, but it doesn't quite capture the, uh, focus required to take advantage of all the beauty.
chuckanut is a beast.
there's a lot of steep vertical on the course, which makes for a lot of compartmentalization. no point in looking all the way up there (squints at some theoretical top of a burly climb), when the steps right in front of your face will do.
several times i thought of a line recently shared by a very wise ultrarunner, john morelock, in reference to the riders in the tour de france: "All they can do now is drop their eyes and drag themselves on up the mountain." it was a very useful reminder, as was one of my go-to kicks in the behind:
"you're not puking and nothing's broken, so get going." ~ vivian mcQueeney
despite the many rigors, i didn't really blow up until the aid station at about mile 17.5. within a few minutes of leaving there, my stomach went bad, my proprioception started to fail, and my head went all foggy. maybe i was dehydrated, i don't know. sitting here today, slightly less foggy, i still don't know. and i certainly didn't know at mile 18 or 19 or 20...
...all i knew was, suddenly everything was harder, and i still had a long way to go. running along the spectacular chuckanut ridge i stopped, probably half a dozen times, to self-assess or just collect myself, but nothing enlightening came of it. there was no epiphanous thought other than, "these miles aren't gonna run themselves." so, i kept going.
there was an aid station mile 21-ish, and in retrospect i wonder if i was looking kinda lousy. "are you doing okay?" asked one of the very nice volunteers, looking me in the eye. "yup," i said, looking him back in the eye. i'm not sure why it seemed important to do that. i mean, it's not like he was going to drag me off the course (at least, i don't think so). either way, he seemed to believe me, as i slurped down a couple orange sections.
meanwhile, another runner sat next to the aid table, his head down, looking like he might've recently thrown up. the volunteer called down to the finish line, requesting a ride for the guy, at which point i said, "thank you," and trudged away. "don't sit down," i reminded myself. "whatever you do, don't. sit. down."
inconvenient tune playing on endless loop in my head for many miles (thanks, brain!):