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Adam Campbell’s Chuckanut 50km Race Report

So I raced my first Ultra, the Chuckanut 50km in Bellingham WA. It is one of the most competitive ultra races around and I wanted to test myself to see how I would stack up. I finished 3rd, having a solid battle between the 3 podium finishers. It was a super fun and hard race and I’ll definitely try more ultra events.

What I (think I) did well:
  • I trained relatively well for the event. Jon Brown set me up very well with his emphasis on strength and endurance. When a runner/coach of his caliber gives you advice, you listen. Our long tempo outings and hill reps are not fun, but they build character. There is no focus on one big workout, or key day, rather it is the consistency over a season and years that really count. I also find that with my schedule of school and being a husband that I have to be okay with allowing some flexibility into my program (although Lauren is incredibly understanding of my NEED to run).
  • After talking to Hal Koerner (aka the Man), I understand that a lot of the bigger ultras will have some “running sections”, so being fast will definitely be an advantage here. I think that keeping up some sort of efforts, mile reps, tempo work etc… will make a huge difference.
    I realized that I have become a decent single-track and downhill runner. All my work on it last summer paid off. So yes, it can be trained. Still, I needed a few more long downhill efforts, but those will come over the summer. This is a big advantage, sort of free speed, so hopefully I can work these parts of the course, taking people out of their comfort zones during the race.
  • For the most part, I managed to stay emotionally neutral. Never getting too up or down on myself. The few times I did, it cost me. I think these emotions can be related to and managed with nutrition (yes, I am an emotional eater).
  • I was glad that I was aggressive. I like to be at the front of races (who doesn’t). I feel that you have to take some “calculated” risks. It is a race after all, so treat the event as a race! You do need to be realistic about what your abilities are though, so aggressive is a very subjective term. Unrealistic aggressiveness=a whole bunch of suffering.
  • No blisters/chaffing! I have wicked gear!
  • I made sure to enjoy the experience. As cheesy as it sounds, I know that I am fortunate to be able to run a hilly 50km and also that I am confident enough in my abilities to be able to “race” my first ultra. Not everyone can. Also, I really enjoy running along trails, so I don’t want to get too worked up about it.
What I could/need to improve:
  • What I think I was lacking was training on long sustained climbs at effort and working long downhills. I also probably should have done 1-2 longer runs. Most of my long runs were in the 2.5 hour range, but I was getting in good total weekly volume.
  • I needed to get in a massage or two. I definitely need to make sure that my hips and back stay loose, especially after long runs. I spend a lot of time sitting now, so I need to be more diligent about moving around and getting up to stretch out my hips while in class/working. I also need to be more diligent with core work.
  • I think that I need to get back on the bike. For some reason, biking (not just easy spins, but actual steady rides with some climbs) helps my uphill running. It strengthens my back and allows me to practice getting in calories during long sustained efforts. If I lived right at a trailhead this might be different, but for now, I don’t, so I have to figure out how simulate it. Running is, and will always be, the best training for running!
  • I remember reading a quote once, either by Peter Reid, or Mark Allen about nutrition during ultra events. That is when you feel good, eat, when you feel bad eat! I skipped a few gels and that was a mistake. When racing, I need to make sure I get at least a gel down every 40 minutes or so. I should also always have a “Just In Case” (JIC) gel on me and I need to keep eating through the last miles.
  • I also need to make sure that I practice getting gels in at effort. I also think I drank a bit too much fluid early on, or was a tad short on electrolytes.
    Remember that in long races, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. A lot can happen in the last few miles. I was passed with about a mile to go. I don’t think that I expected to be in that much of a race at the end.
  • Obviously, I need to do a few more races. I had never run that long at a hard effort, so not surprisingly, when it came to the unknown part of the race, the last few miles, I was unprepared to deal with what came up. Although I had an idea of what it would feel like, you have to actually experience it a few times before you can develop coping mechanisms, or develop a plan to manage the pain/emotions of the rough patches.
My Nutrition:

Dinner
•Woodfire Pizza-ham/cheese/onions
•“schooner” of Porter
•M&Ms

What I ate that AM (8am start):
•2 pieces of raisin toast-almond butter+honey (6:20am)
•shot of oil (6:20am)
•Starbucks Americano (7 am)
•3 sharkies about 30 min. before the start
•some sips of Vega electrolyte drink, maybe a 1/4 bottle

During the race:
•started with a capful of CarboPro+Nuun (not a great xombo)
•5 gels—too much caffeine in my gels (70min, 2hrs, 2:30, 3:00 , 3:20).
o 1 Power Bar, 4 Cliff shots.
•second bottle with Nuun (Mile 20)
•top up of Nuun at Mile 24