2012 Chuckanut 50k Preview

Chuckanut 50kWhat sport opens its season with its championship? Ultrarunning, that’s what! This Saturday’s Chuckanut 50k will likely be the most competitive trail 50k in the US this year.* Co-Race Director Krissy Moehl has loved growing this race over the past 10 years and stepped things up yet again for this the 20th running of Chuckanut by raising the field limit from 350 to 1,000 runners. Race day is likely to see 700 or so runners toe the line. There’s also $2,500 in prize money and $200 course record bonuses from Udo’s Oil this year.

The entrants list looks like a who’s who of the speedier end of North American ultrarunning with a good number of fast-as-heck studs that I’ve never heard of. Needless to say, I’m quite excited to be traveling to Bellingham, Washington today to bring you athlete interviews as well as live race-day coverage on iRunFar’s Twitter feed.

Men’s Chuckanut 50k Preview

The men’s field at Chuckanut is so deep and so varied that I hardly know where to start. However, if I had to start somewhere, I’d start with Max King. It’s hard to bet against a guy with such a fast marathon PR (2:14:36) and serious trail credentials. Then again, numerous speedsters – some with solid trail experience of their own – will also be racing this weekend.

On the speed-oriented side of things, there’s quite a bit of talent. As many iRunFar readers will be less familiar with some of this group, we’ll provide a bit more info for these runners.

  • Adam Campbell – Adam has a 2:29 marathon PR, while last year he set the Canadian national record for a trail 50 miler (5:44) and placed second at the CCC in France.
  • Sage Canaday – This 2:16:52 marathoner will be making his ultra debut.
  • Peter Ellis – He’s got second (’08), fourth (’09), and seventh (’10) place finishes at Chuckanut.
  • Gary Gellin – Gellin just set a course record at the Way Too Cool 50k last weekend.
  • Aaron Heidt – The 2009 Chuckanut champ was fourth last year.
  • Max King – Might as well mention him again.
  • Jason Loutitt – 2:24 marathoner who was second at last year’s IAU Ultra Trail World Championships and has run for Canada at the World Mountain Running Championships.
  • Dane Mitchell – 2:25 marathoner with numerous 50k course records and a fourth place at the JFK 50 in 2010.
  • Luke Nelson – Luke could also be in the list below but (1) the guy can haul up a hill and (2) he recently won the US Skimo national championship, so he’s primed for going anaerobic.
  • Jacob Puzey – This 2:25 marathoner had strong showings during his ultra debut season last year, including a 12th place at Chuckanut.
  • Justin Ricks – A 2:22 marathon PR with a 3:23 trail 50k PR (Greenland ’08).
  • Jason Schlarb – 2:27 marathoner who was 5th at the TNF EC 50 mile championships in 2010 and was the USATF Trail 50 national champ in 2011.
  • Oliver Utting – He was seventh at Chuckanut last year and has a handful of solid finishes at the Knee Knackering 30 miler with a 2:29 marathon PR.

It’s worth noting that four of the above – Campbell, Heidt, Loutitt, and Utting are Canadian.

[Edited for clarification] While I’ve broken out the above as more speed-oriented runners (mostly for the sake of not having one huge list), there race contains a no less talented group of folks I’d (arbitrarily) categorize top notch longer-ultra-oriented runners who’ll give their early season legs a speedy test:

  • Jared Campbell
  • Mike Foote
  • Joe Grant
  • Hal Koerner
  • Adam Lint
  • Dave Mackey
  • Dan Olmstead
  • Timothy Olson
  • Joe Uhan
  • Mike Wolfe

Other notables from the ultra crowd: Justin Angle, Jonathan Basham, Jeff Browning, Topher Gaylord, Adam Hewey, Scott Jaime, Nico Mermoud, Brian Morrison, Brett Rivers, and Ian Torrence, and, for some fun, a couple longshots: John Berta, Dusty Caseria, Ryne Melcher Aaron Pitt, Jim Rebenack, Shane Ruljancich (added), Brian Todd, and Steve Vesbach.

Finally, there are a few top dogs who are entered, but not running, including Geoff Roes and Duncan Callahan. Inevitably, some of the other runners I’ve mentioned above won’t make it to the starting line.

Women’s Chuckanut 50k Preview

Our women’s preview may have a few less runners, but that does not diminish the considerable female talent that will be duking it out on Chuckanut Mountain on Saturday.

I don’t think it would surprise anyone if I were to pick last year’s champ and Chuckanut course record holder Ellie Greenwood as the favorite. Yes, she’s coming down from wintry Banff, but look at what she did last year (4:12:22) when there was considerably a more “Canadian” winter in the Rockies. We caught up with Ellie for a pre-race video interview.

For the past seven years, Joelle Vaught has kicked off her season at the Way Too Cool 50k with three wins and three thirds to show for it. This year, she skipped Way Too Cool to run Chuckanut. That says something both about the race and Vaught. Look for her to be up front all race long.

I’d pick Pam Smith as the woman most likely to battle Vaught head-to-head. Smith is already well into her season with a third at the Bandera 100k in January (USATF 100k trail championships) and, in February a win at the Orcas Island 50k to go along with fourth at the Hagg Lake 50k. She’s gearing up to once again represent the US at the IAU 100k World Championships next month in Italy.

[Update] Last year’s Chuckanut runner up, Jenn Shelton, is back to give it another shot. Expect this last minute entrant to push Greenwood, Vaught, and Smith.

Here are some other women who’ll fight for a spot on the podium:

  • Jodee Adams-Moore – A former 4:49 miler/17:03 5k runner for Georgetown U has returned home to Washington and has won at least half a dozen trail races up to 50k over the past few years.
  • Melanie Bos – This Canadian 50k specialist has won three 50ks over the past year and a half and has never finished off the podium in her eight 30-mile to 50k finishes.
  • Jenny Capel – Capel has been cranking out a remarkable number of solid ultra finishes over the past decade.
  • Stacey Cleveland – Eleventh at the TNF EC 50 mile championships last December, she could go top five this weekend.
  • Lindsay Mann-King – Mann-King has bettered her Chuckanut placing each of the past three years: 21st (’09), 13th (’10), and 11th (’11).
  • Susan Reynolds – Ninth place woman at last year’s Chuckanut.
  • Darbykai StandrickA young Canadian with limited (two) ultra experience, but ran a 3:07 marathon in 2009.
  • Nichole Sellon – A young (25 y/o) Seattle-ite who’s placed second in her two ultras to date.
  • Sara Wagner – Sixth at last year’s Chuckanut. A short distance speedster, Wagner made her ultra debut last February.

Additional Chuckanut Resources

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think will contend for the men’s and women’s wins?
  • Any contenders that we didn’t note?
  • Do you know that one of the runners listed above won’t be racing? Do tell.
  • Likewise, there are a lot of facts in this article, please let us know if we didn’t nail one of them!
  • Have you run Chuckanut or are you running Chuckanut this weekend? If so, let us know about you experience or what you’re looking forward to this weekend.

Thanks from iRunFar

Thanks to Adam Campbell (for the Adam Heidt scratch and Shane Ruljancich addition)

* Karl, keep working on that Speedgoat field.

There are 33 comments

  1. Dvroes

    I can't pick a favorite from this impressive group but I know that Geoff will be there to cheat someone on to take down his CR.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Anonymously commenting in an insubstantial negative manner is also weak. You comment would be much more helpful is you explained why crews are needed for a 50k or provided useful suggestions regarding how the race organization could logistically handle the possibility of 700 crews in a relatively geographic? Personally, I think it's a reasonable decision.

      1. asandh

        I must be naive, then again I rarely do 50k's, opting for the slower longer distances.

        I didn't even realize runners had crews for the 50k distance.

      2. OOJ

        Very reasonable. My girlfriend crewed for me (though, as most crews go, it was more for cheering/watching than actual need) and wound up accidentally driving up Cleator Road! Ha! Oops! There's no way such a thing would fly this year with double the field.

        Overall, there's very poor access to any of the AS', which are all remote except for the 1st/last; I think that's the reason why there's no crew access this year.

  2. Gary Gellin

    Bryon – me with the "Two Two X" marathoners in the favorites list and fellow old fart Dave Mackey in the also ran list? You are too kind! I'm just going to Bellingham to drink a beer with Scott Jaime and Tim Olson.

  3. Jeremy

    "XXXX – There could be an exciting surprise entrant. Stay tuned!"

    Hmmmmmmm. Frosty? Trason out of retirement? Goucher deciding the Olympics are less important than the local 50K? A Kenyan/Ethiopian marathoner? Shelton? A Kardashian?

  4. Brian Todd

    Thanks for the "long shot" shout out, Byron. If you saw my recent training log, you might reassess. Based on the current weather, I'm also planning to run in hip waders, which might slow me down a bit in the opening flat stretch.

    1. Anonymous

      Hip waders? I'm thinking of running with a float tube as well, just in case… ;-) I can't wait to run trails without microspikes for the first time since December. I just hope my "snow legs" can transition to mud fairly quickly.

      What's the best clothing strategy for a long run in the rain? I bought a Brooks LSD Lite jacket yesterday (haven't tried it yet) but I suspect it'll just soak through and feel clammy. What works for you guys?

  5. Andy

    Personally, I believe that I'm going to take the win for my age group, stacked field of elites be damned! Meaning, of course the micro age group… no one born on the exact same day and exact same year as me will best me, mark my word. Then again, in a field of seven hundred plus… maybe I'll just shoot for the born in the a.m. category of my age group, we'll see.

    When I first registered for this race, I was a little bit bummed when I realised how enormous the field was shaping up to be. No wonderfully solitary hours alone out on the trail this time. But the more I thought about it, the more stoked I got. How often does an average schlub like me get to rub shoulders with so many big-wigs of the sport? And so close to home! I'm really looking forward to Saturday, good times ahead…

  6. Adamo

    Thanks for the write up Bryon. Sadly, I have it on good authority (i.e. him personally), that Aaron Heidt won't be racing, but I'll toss Shane Ruljancich as another Canuck to watch. I'm also certain that there are a few other sleeper short course racers looking to test themselves out there on the weekend. Although the "ultra" guys like Mike Wolfe, Tim Olson and Dave Mackey etc… might be unfairly pigeonholed-they can roll with the best of them and have experience over the long haul. It's going to be a fast and fun race.

    As for Brian's comments about hipwaders, I agree-she'll be a fun meddy mess in places.

  7. OOJ

    Any word on if us "longer-ultra" old guys are in the slower wave? You wouldn't want our trekking poles, canes, or four-wheeled walkers to clog up the Interurban trail… :p

    1. Bryon Powell

      There's no discussion of age between the two groups. Just figured I'd divide the 30+ guys up in SOME way. ;-)

      Ps. I'll be sure to buy you a glass of port Saturday night or would you prefer a Shirley Temple?

  8. Mike

    Awesome field! Surprised to see Mike Wolfe in your "second tier", though. I'm stoked for the race… this will be my first ultra and it sounds like I picked a good one.

  9. Bryon Powell

    I've revised my preview to try and more accurately convey that the second list is not a "second tier." In creating two lists, I was simply trying to break up what would have otherwise been one huge list of "first tier" runners. :-) There's no reason that you couldn't see a couple guys from that second list on the podium.

  10. Jeremy

    Miss Molly Eimers should knock off a few of those name brand runners in the women's list, but I'll take "Pig Tails and Montrails" for the win. In the men's field, with the mucky conditions, I would look for the "slower" 100 milers with lots of mudder running to roar. I like the "Montana Mikes" to podium with Mackey.

  11. Daniel Gamble

    I've been running the Chuckanuts for the last couple months with a local running group and they are beautiful. On the course, be ready for mud, soft earth and puddles/runoff, the course is a great series of alternating between trail and crushed gravel road with miles of each mode allowing you to lock in. The volunteers are all great and a few even sacrifice their ability to contend and enjoy their friends running, in order to give you all a warm (well, rainy) Bellingham Welcome! You can count on aid station 4 to lift your spirits!

    This is my 2nd, 50k, I've been running for almost 2 years, and last August I had the pleasure of running Ashland OR's SOB 50k. With only a 3:00 marathon at the time, I made the terrible mistake of starting out with the likes of Sheldon, King and Skaggs. I don't regret getting the chance to hear Shelton yammer with the boys, or seeing Max double back on single track around mile 3, in order to pick up a piece of trash that likely wasn't his. I enjoyed their company not even to the first aid station, and suffered horribly till the finish.

    My 2nd 50k, I've got 3 things to guide me,

    1) The experience of going out too fast…never again.

    2) A mantra, Henry Rono–""It is better, I think, to begin easily and get your running to be smooth and relaxed and then to go faster and faster."

    3) A community of runners, who, as AJW in Alone Together mentioned, in part, give running purpose and meaning.

    Thanks Bryon for continually creating what has been my main hub for the online running community. Wish AJW was going to be there, I'd buy him a pint, for the bumper sticker you guys sent me!

    I'm cheering for King and Adams-Moore to take 1st!

    Thanks everyone else and welcome to Bellingham–enjoy the race and I'll see you at Boundary Bay!


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