What 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 Standrick – A 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
- Official Chuckanut website
- Karl Meltzer’s Chuckanut discussion
- Ryne Melcher’s preview
- Adam Chase’s Running Times profile of the race
- Jacob Puzey’s preview
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)