Monday, July 28, 2014


well...that was hard.

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!): 

You asked me
How long I'd stay by your side
And so I answered
With only just one reply
Til the casket drops
Til my dying day
Til my heartbeat stops
Til my legs just break
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa,
Til the casket drops

such a happy little slogging tune!

chuckanut mountain thoroughly kicked my behind this time around. and as i was finishing the last couple miles i was thinking i would never want to run it again. that thought didn't last 24 hours. sitting here now, i'm already thinking what it will take to do better next year. there will need to be lots more hill repeats, that's certain. and maybe a better race day plan than, "____."

maybe bring along some ginger for the belly issues, which should let me hydrate more effectively, which should keep me from feeling like i'm stroking out. 

there. it's a plan.


arbitrary, unsupported theory: this course has a lot more than 4500 feet of elevation to it. or, maybe i'm just a big baby.


update: post-race, upon hearing my travails, a concerned mrs. spaceneedl asked if at any point i considered dropping from the race. she thought it might've been the smart thing to do.

full disclosure: i did think about it. but i never considered it. as long as i was conscious, i was going to finish.

reason #infinity why she's the smart one in the family.


update II: according to my garmin data, the elevation for 26 miles was just over 5900 feet.