On Saturday, March 18, Max King sets a course record at Chuckanut 50K; Ladia Albertson-Junkans wins in her debut outing at the ultra distance.
In spite of less-than-ideal weather conditions, both Max King and Hayden Hawks went under King’s 3:35:42 course record set in 2014, at today’s 25th running of the Chuckanut 50K in Bellingham, WA. The 37-year-old Bend, Oregon resident clocked a stellar performance of 3:33:11 with Hawks, 26, St. George, UT, finishing just 31 seconds later. In third, Sage Canaday, in his second Chuckanut appearance (2012 was his first Chuckanut and debut at the ultra-distance), rounded out the top three with a time of 3:40:28.
At the 8 a.m. start time, rain was falling and temperatures were in the low 40s. Rain continued throughout the race with little respite from the moisture. During the few moments the rain let up, fog rolled in and created low-light conditions deep in the forested sections. On the ridgeline and single track sections, muddy, sloppy running conditions were the rule of the day. Something Hawks had never experienced. “I never ran in the mud before,” remarked Hawks who chose a road racing flat for the course, mostly likely based on the relatively smooth first 10K and last 10K on the Interurban trail. “I made a bad shoe choice – no lugs at all. I found that I was sliding everywhere in the really muddy sections.”
And, there were a lot of muddy sections on the middle 30K, which boasted 5000 feet of climbing.
A pack of six – Travis Morrison, David Laney, Tyler Sigl, King, Hawks, and Canaday – ran through the first aid station just shy of 11K, in 37 minutes. By the second aid station at 16.4K, Morrison had taken a slight lead (less than 20 seconds) with King, Canaday, Hawks, Sigl, and Laney in the next five positions, all heading up the 4.5-K Cleator Road climb. About 90 seconds separated first to sixth place.
It was on the 17-K Ridge Trail/North Lost Lake Trail/Chinscraper Loop that the top four positions shifted, with King turning the corner at about the 36-kilometer mark in the lead followed by Canaday, Hawks, and Morrison.
According to eventual fourth-place finisher Morrison, 24, Salt Lake City, UT, “Yeah, I got after it (from the start). They caught me on the technical stuff and gapped me (at about 30K). Max is just an incredible downhill runner.
“My goal going into the race was to have fun. I’ve never been to Washington before and this seemed like a really good opportunity,” said Morrison who has been focused on his PhD qualifying exam (mechanical engineering at the University of Utah), which is in two weeks. “I haven’t been running a lot, maybe 50 to 60 miles per week, compared to the high mileage these guys I’m running against do.”
Morrison finished in 3:45:30.
Unlike Morrison, King had been to Washington numerous times, including three prior races at Chuckanut. Asked to compare today’s run with the others, King said, “With the competition, it was definitely harder. It was racing from about 10K on. It had a different feel to it.
“We were in a pack on the Interurban on the way out,” explained King. “As different strengths play out…the game is on. You use your strengths where you can. This is a great course for the person that is good at uphill, downhill, technical, road…today I felt like I ran each of the sections pretty well.”
Asked when he felt he had the race won, King said, “About two miles to go. I didn’t see anybody. I figured if anyone was going to get me, they’d have to go really fast.” King added, “I didn’t realize Hayden was so close. He picked up some time on the Interurban Trail.”
Hawks said he was clocking between 5:10 and 5:30 pace on the fire trail chasing down the top two runners, passing Canaday, and closing on King with a 5:12 final mile. “I had to at least try and catch him (King). I had a hope that I would catch him. I know his background. He does have some pretty good foot speed. Out of everyone in the field I think he’s the one who could probably outrun me on the flat.”
As to his second-place finish, “I’m definitely happy,” said Hawks. “It was such a competitive field – guys that are legends, guys that I’ve looked up to for years. Going under the course record, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Equally pleased with his effort, Canaday said, “The first time I raced here I fell and got stitches. (Canaday finished in second place to Adam Campbell in 2012 after King made a wrong turn). My time was faster this year and it was a lot more competitive. The depth with the lead pack was good. We were sub-six minute pace for the first seven miles.”
Asked about his favorite parts of the course, Canaday said, “The climb up Cleator road. I like the uphill. I’m doing Mount Washington again this year (an all-uphill race which he won in 2012). I liked the technical spots because we didn’t have to run as fast. I like the technical downhill better than smooth downhill…unless I’m running against Killian.”
Sigl, 31, Seymour, WI, who placed fifth in 3:49:55, said, “I was hoping for a top-three finish, but top five will do. In the last three miles I had ‘star vision.’ Everything was just flickering.” Possibly a lack of fueling he admitted, but also said, “My hips weren’t used to this. I haven’t done any trail running since the fall.”
A first-timer in the Pacific Northwest, Sigl really enjoyed the area and is coming back with his family in August when he will race the White River 50 Mile.
Fueling might have been an issue for Laney as well. The 28-year-old from Portland, OR, finished sixth and said, “I thought I could run 3:40, and I ran 3:50. It was a little bit disappointing. With six miles to go, I should have grabbed something at the last aid station. I could see fifth ahead, but I was just trying to get to the finish line.” Laney raced in a singlet and said maybe a hat and gloves would have been a good addition. “You don’t realize how much the cold takes out of you. You need a lot more calories. Next time.”
Whereas the top men were all experienced at the ultra distance, three of the top five women were debuting at the 50K including winner Ladia Albertson-Junkans. The 31-year-old from Seattle admitted being a little nervous about the distance prior to the event, but she raced to a solid victory in 4:17:44, finishing 21st overall.
“I felt great,” said Albertson-Junkans who had been on the course to train several times before the race. “It’s kind of like a wildest dream come true to win this race. I came into the race just wanting to compete and run hard and see what the 50K was all about. My plan was to start out conservatively. I ran with YiOu (Wang) for the first six miles. We were chatting, catching up. It was a good way to ease into it.”
Albertson-Junkans took the lead up the first climb after the Interurban Trail and held it to the finish. “I knew I wanted to run by feel. I wanted to give it an honest effort.”
Asked about her strongest points in the race, “The climbs,” she said. “I attribute that to all the mountain running I’ve been doing. And, there’s more uphill than you’d think.”
Finishing second was Wang, 31, San Anselmo, CA, timed in of 4:23:31, who, unlike Albertson-Junkans, had never run on the trails at Chuckanut. “I did the Lake Padden Half and ran last summer around the trails at Ranier so I had a taste of some climbing – long, sustained, steep climbs. I really liked the fast start of the bike path, and the finish on the bike path.
“On the first climb, my quads were complaining. They just felt really tight and not ready for the steepness,” said Wang. “I haven’t done a tremendous amount of uphill training. I wanted to keep a handle on my uphill efforts (today). I wanted to have legs for the final section on the bike path coming in to the finish.
“At the start, I kept Camille (Herron) in sight. We (with Ladia) were chatting, catching up. Ladia was just so strong on the climbs,” said Wang. “We passed Camille on the beginning of the first climb. I dialed back the effort, then Camille passed me back and then fourth place (Rachel Jaten) caught me. I passed Rachel on the more technical sections on the ridge. It took another couple miles to catch Camille. I passed her on the descent.”
As to the course, “I loved it,” said Wang. “I thought it was a really interesting mix. You had to put all of your trail running skills to practice. A lot of people were dreading the ‘drag race’ finish, but I was looking forward to it. I really liked the section between the ridge and before Chinscraper. It was really rolling, runnable along the lake with single track. I’ve been practicing descending and more technical trails. Confident and competence are key on technical sections.”
Next up for Wang, Lake Sonoma 50 Miler next month. “This was my last long, hard effort getting ready for Lake Sonoma,” she said. “I want a Golden Ticket to go back to the ‘Big Race.’” That Big Race being Western States 100 in June.
Wang recently signed with Under Armour and is also sponsored by (ATRA corporate member) CamelBak. Today she wore the Circuit hydration pack. “I wanted to carry a little more food,” said Wang. “I ended up not stopping at any aid station.”
In third place, debuting at the 50K, was 41-year-old Rachel Jaten, Spokane, who posted a time of 4:33:13. A 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier with a time of 2:42:39, Jaten said, “I’d like to get into trail racing to see if I can hang. I was pretty cautious (today) in the mud. I’ve only run two weekends on the trails because we still have snow on the trails.
“I had a great time,” Jaten added. “I’m not being too hard on myself because it’s my first one. I wanted a faster time, but with how sloppy the course was…kind of had to plan for that.”
In fourth was early race leader Herron, 35, Warr Acres, OK, who finished in 4:37:14, followed by Bellingham’s Maria Dalzot, 28, who in her debut at the distance, finished in 4:43:42.
“That was hard,” said Dalzot, who trained a lot on the course, “Every Saturday at 8 a.m., rain, shine, misty rain. My first ultra. I’m super happy. I really didn’t have any bad patches. I kept rolling. It was great. And, at 20 miles, I started feeling really good, but, I had nothing left at the end.”
“It’s super fun to have people from out of town experience our trails, our community,” said the local favorite. Next up for Dalzot, the Mont Blanc Marathon on June 25, which is also her one-year wedding anniversary.
A total of $4500 in prize money was distributed to podium finishers and the top male and female masters’ runners. The race also served as the final selection race for the 2017 US Trail Team. Both King and Albertson-Junkans earned automatic spots on Team USA for the 2017 IAU/ITRA Trail Championships on June 10, in Italy.
Results for the 411 finishers can be found on the BuDu Racing website.