Chuckanut 50k 2022: The Long Awaited Return

Sometimes, a big goal is what you need to execute on the day

5:26:46. A 48 minute course PB & an official 50k PR, and a 33 minute PR from my solo virtual Chuckanut effort 1 year ago.

All credit to AJL Images

This special race was my first ultra back in 2018. I chose it then because of the beauty, community, notoriety, and somewhat fast course in a very unique elevation profile. After I got that first ultra experience out of my system, I knew I would go back again.

I have only really run more mountainous ultras since then, so this was my first chance to truly measure all the hard work and experience these past 4 years. I set what I felt were bold intentions to take a good chunk out of my PR. In my head, my stretch goal was just sub 11mm and about 5:40. It felt within reach and doable, while at the same time like a big jump from the runner I think I am & have been. I’m not sure I ever even said it out loud, for the natural fear I might not be able to hit it.

But that number of 5:40 was in my head all race. I stayed focused on what I felt like was the effort I needed to hit it. When I went through the first flat 10+k and saw my pace was faster than I was planning, I thought about that number and whether this could jeopardize it. I knew, however, that equally important to the numerical goal was the effort I wanted to run and how I wanted to better each individual section of the race. So I kept the balance between effort and time in mind.

As I rolled through the middle 30k, I knew this is where this race is made. Especially on the ridge loop. I finally found myself often in step with another woman, and stuck with her knowing she was running the effort I needed and wanted. We pushed each other, having fun doing it and enjoying the scenery and carnage as we watched the race play out. It gave me the distraction and the extra motivation I would need to stay relentless.

All credit to AJL Images

When I hit the final downhill & then the last flatter 10k, I could feel a hamstring cramp waiting to pounce. I even pulled my pack off at the last aid station to grab my packet of Skratch Hyper Hydration, as I knew this probably was a salt issue since my calorie and fluid intake had been on target. Of course my hands were cold and I had stuffed all my layers in the top of it, so with the stress of watching a couple women catch up to me, I only fumbled around quickly, swearing, before giving up on it. I thought I had a few minute buffer for my goal, so I kept on my target finishing pace waiting to see what would happen.

I often do mental calculations within a run or race on pace, time, nutrition, hydration, etc., part to keep me focused and part occupied. I had realized in the first couple hours that (for the first time ever!) I mentally miscalculated my race needs and under packed my preferred fueling. I had finished all of it by the time I got to that aid station.

Thankfully I always throw a few extra things in my pack in case of desperation. Stupidly, I was so focused on time I didn’t just take the opportunity of aid station snacks and the untested race electrolytes as well, and just filled one soft flask with water and got a high five from a little girl as I headed out. Starting with leaving that aid station for the painfully flat 10k, I ate and hydrated as much as I could with what I had. I pounded the bottle I refilled and more calories (495) than I ever have in half an hour of a race, draining every nutritional & physical ounce I had. I had to stall or slow a few times when the the cramp did soon hit.

I was resolute, though, and still clung as hard as I could to that number. 5:40. I worked through wild and strange pains, smiling and grimacing through it. I hoped I had been able to save my race enough to still finish on my terms. That number and my pace goals for the final miles were now constantly in my head as I flung off negative self-talk with more positive and determined thoughts. Even coming in to the finish, I thought I was right on it.

Imagine my shock when I saw the clock. I did a double take, maybe even a triple. I finished in pain, triumph, and with my usual kick. I held back tears of disbelief and joy. I gave almost everything I could on the day (minus a few minutes to cramp & wee). I don’t regret much and I’m stoked on the execution. I came out and had the race I wanted and dreamed of.

Part of the ridge loop. I relaxed enough while lgetting the legs have some hiking recovery to finally take a photo & enjoy the new sunshine, views, & ferns.

This may sound like the seriousness that a competitive runner who runs a 4:xx 50k may take, and occasionally I find it hard to not compare myself to fast friends and all the people who might not think a sub 5:30 50k is all that impressive. But at least for now I quickly remember how damn proud I am of the improvement I’ve made, and that in the end I am doing this to compete against myself. I also know that my training and taper into this race was sprinkled with skiing and skimo training. It wasn’t entirely restful, and is technically the last of training for an even bigger race 2 weeks after.

As I reflect on the race and think ahead, even now, I know if I had fresh legs and executed just a little more smoothly I could’ve dropped a few more minutes. Let alone off of better summer training and just future gains I haven’t realized yet. That’s what’s fucking exciting and makes me want to keep adding faster ultras amongst the more mountainous ones.

I am thankful for the support I get as part of the Altra RED team, for Spring, Skratch, & Muir keeping me from ever having to worry about calories or tummy issues, and Krissy Moehl and the Chuckanut team & community for putting on a consistently incredible event. Also, huge kudos to Tony / AJL Images for being in this spot each year with his lighting setup (!) and for gifting racers such dramatic photos. Please go check out his work at or on IG @AJLImages & reach out for yours at

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