As I stood at the Chuckanut 50k starting line, I wondered what state I’d be in by the end. Had I trained hard enough? How was I going to react when I hit “The Wall?” I hadn’t even run a marathon. Am I a cupcake? Should I have drank less beer last month? I tried not to focus on the other runners, they looked like they had done 100 burpees for every beer I drank. Elite ultra runners like Ellie Greenwood and Max King toed the start line as I shyly slid in with the mid packers.
The first 10k followed the gentle inter urban trail to the base of the Chuckanut mountains. But all that worrying made my stomach queasy, so the first 10k I felt nauseous. To settle my nerves, I found a rhythm where I could breathe easily. Other runners passed me like their life depended on it. I’m the mutherfuckin turtle.
As I approached the first aid station, a ’10 PCT hiker named Calorie caught up to me. And then shortly after, Anish called out my name from the sidelines. Oh how I love thru-hikers! A bit of chit chat with Calorie and a hug from Anish lightened the mood. This is fun! This is where I belong!
I grabbed some boiled potatoes and a half a banana to start the climb to Fragrance Lake. My legs already burned! I kinda freaked out about that because a month earlier I was able to run most of the way to the lake, but now I was too tired. I settled into a power hike and let people pass me.
I would gain 5,000 feet over the next 18 miles of single track trail. I ran along ridges with views of the bay, through fern and moss covered forest, amongst deer and crows and old growth and slugs. All this right here in my backyard. For years I’ve been hiking these trails, using them as refuge from Bellingham. And now I was RUNNING them?! If you had told my middle school gym teacher that I was one day going to be a distance runner, she would have slapped you in the face.
As the course unraveled I learned that it takes me like 10 miles to warm up, that I’m not the slowest runner, I’m strong on uphills, and I can keep up with or even pass! the people who look like they’ve been doing 100 burpees everyday for a year.
I ran downhill to the last aid station at mile 24 a little choked up. I had an emotional reaction because I knew I was going to finish strong; I had far exceeded my expectations for this point in the race. With 10k left to go and three hours to the cut off time, I grabbed some potatoes, ingested a GU, and took off in a shuffle. I thought of Joey, a hiker from PCT ’09, who taught me the “Carolina shuffle.” In my head I heard Cro telling me “You’re made for this.” One foot in front of the other one foot in front of the other you got this don’t stop running. When I hit The Wall I embraced it like a sister I’d never met. So this is what you’re like! I loved it: the utter exhaustion and twitching muscles; I felt like I had smoked the biggest joint of my life.
I crossed the finish line in 6 hours 30 minutes grinning like a hobo with a ham sandwich.