Reading through the race report (article will print in next issue of Ultrarunning Magazine) written by 2016 3rd place male finisher Matt Flaherty this afternoon triggered some reflection. The 24th running of the Chuckanut 50k has been written into the record books as one of the most seamlessly run events. Everything flowed. Typically as an RD there is something going on behind the scenes (hopefully) that causes stress. This year, with the dry weather and relatively warmer temps the day worked exceptionally well.
It's easy to give the weather credit for the good or bad that happens on race day as it is a big influencer, but I really feel that the credit goes to the community that continues to bring amazing energy (no matter the weather) and support the Chuckanut 50k year after year. Truth be told, the support grows each year. In all of my years as RD I have lived everywhere but Bellingham. This year being a local I really felt the support and excitement for this annual event.
from Matt: The community’s embrace of Chuckanut and its traditions gives the race a grassroots feel. Among those who Moehl praised is second-year co-RD Kristie Ensley, who organizes all volunteers, even making lunches for them. “She brings so much love to the race,” Moehl exudes. Race co-founder Doug McKeever still meticulously marks the course, not only with pink flags but also with hundreds of encouraging and silly signs. Glenn Tachiyama—well-known in the Northwest for his stunning ultrarunning photography—perches in the most picturesque spots on the course, capturing the difficulty of the technical Chuckanut Ridge Trail and the grit demanded by the late-race Chinscraper climb.
In the week prior, a major windstorm hit the PNW and Chuckanut ridge saw countless blow downs. The course was essentially impassable in places, but you didn't know it on race day. The collective effort of Larrabee State Park staff & volunteers, Whatcom County Parks and Rec staff, Whatcom County Mountain Bike Coalition and Chuckanut RDs removed every obstacle from the trail in time for this year's field of 312 runners to pass through. Local businesses donated soup from Book Fare Cafe and coffee from Tony's as well as discounts - Great Harvest Bread & Terra Organica - to feed our runners along the course and in the post race. Our post party at Wander Brewing capped of the weekend with a great celebration raising $1212 for the local Girls on the Run chapter. All amazing add-ons to organizing the local 50k.
While maintaining the local, grassroots vibe, the event draws a competitive field and handing out significant prize money each year thanks to our hearty list of SPONSORS is an exciting plus. I love hearing the stories from the trail, no matter where you are in the field. Matt details out his own drama while capturing key aspects of the course that makes the Chuckanut 50k a special race.
From Matt: In my case, I felt confident in my technical trail and descending abilities, as well as my speed on the flats. I thus briefly and intentionally lost contact with Kraft and Werhane on the climbs up to Chuckanut Ridge, careful not to overdo it. On the beautiful section of technical ridgeline trail that followed, I quickly passed Werhane and gradually caught Kraft. The sunny day granted clear views of Mt. Baker to the east, though my energy in that moment was fully devoted to the roots and steep rock slabs underfoot.
To read the full write up, check out the next issue of Ultrarunning Magazine.
2017 will be be 25th running of the Chuckanut 50k and the Bellingham crew has already gathered over beers at Wander to detail out many possibilities of what will make the event a great celebration. Watch for early registration and plan to spend March 18, 2017 in Fairhaven, Washington. I'll be here :)