Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chuckanut "Charms"

PACE athletes experienced it all on the weekend at the 20th anniversary of the Chuckanut 50km in Bellingham Washington.  Rain, mud, sun, snow, tears, laughter, determination and celebration!

I want to say that this weekend marked one of the most memorable moments in my coaching career.  I credit this to the quality of people that I shared it with.  I have always believed that a race is just a race to me until I add the most valuable component to it… friends!  They enrich your memories… your attitude, your energy and overall experience.
Friday Carter and I flew into Belllingham after spending a glorious two weeks in Palm Springs with my parents.  The first week down there I ran just over 60k.  Not exactly part of my original taper plan, but I was sucked in with the big blue sky, energy and warmth of the sun and the newness of all the trails.  By Sunday I was sick L  Sure enough, I couldn’t quite shake my cold despite not recreating at all the 2nd week I was down there.  Even though I have been training hard since January, I was in a really good place just knowing I had 15 athletes I wanted to support and to share the weekend with. 

Friday night we gathered in the lobby at the Hampton Inn for our pre-race meeting.  Looking out at everyone, the energy was calm, but I could tell nerves were alive!  We discussed pacing, fueling, visualization, went over the course and also just made some jokes and had some laughs.  Mostly we focused on problem solving and discussed how identifying a problem and dealing with it is the best way to keep yourself going when the going gets tough.  Too often, something small can manifest itself into a really big deal that isn’t’ even there and before you know it, you’re not finishing.
I had a little gift for all my athletes too and a story that went along with the cheesiness of it all…
Chuckanut was actually my first ultra.  I ran it with my husband (boyfriend at the time) for my 30th birthday.  It was my 2nd trail race to the first being a 5 day stage race in Northern Thailand.  My family (at the time) thought I was a little nuts.  I went from running a ½ marathon on the road, to a ½ ironman to a 5 day stage running race to a 50k ultra in a little over 1yr.  I did however have an Aunt who gave me gift before I ran the chuckanut in 2006.  It was a pink lady bug pin.  It was attached to a little card that read: Journey and had a description with it.  I remember taking the lady bug and putting it on my arc’teryx running pack for good luck.  It meant a lot to me and I still have that little lady bug and circa 2006 running pack!  I originally thought I would be out there running and not get to see everyone; I bought every athlete a little charm too.  I wrote each of them out a good luck card too. 
It was like an unspoken energy that hung from everyone’s pack the next morning.  A symbol of friendship, determination, endless possibilities and excitement.  I have my Auntie Theresa to thank for the idea.  It was a good gift to pay forward…
I won’t go into detail with the actual race report other than the morning brought a chill to the air and wet skies above.  Our crew, none-the-less, geared up, smiles on their faces and prepared to follow through no matter how much rain, snow, sleet, mud, mud, mud, mud, mud (you get it) crossed their path!  There were 3 waves and PACERs were scattered through-out based on their previous marathon times.  (I think via ultra sign up)
Never have I enjoyed a race that I didn’t actually run in more.  Life as a coach brings riches and rewards far beyond that of crossing the finish line “once” as an athlete.  Instead, I felt like I got to cross it 15 times!  With each PACER that came across the line that day I felt such a sense of pride, excitement and just sheer joy.  Trent was there to capture each one of them finish.  With each athlete I had flashbacks to the training they did in the winter.  Moments of hardship and struggles they worked through to prepare themselves for this day.  Breakthroughs in their training which only propelled them even more closely to achieving their goal.  The trust.  The trust they put in me to ensure that I would guide them and prescribe the appropriate training to prepare them for the daunting task they had in-front of them.  All but 5 athletes were first time ultra runners and even one of them, Nathan, had less than 1yr running experience his whole life!  Each one of them can celebrate their finish for different reasons and reflect back on the journey that lead them to Fairhaven Park that day.  I would go so far to say that they would all agree that life is about the journey… not the destination and prove that through hearing them all talk about the ‘next one’.
uh, huh.  I totally embarrassed Trent, but I just had to ask for a photo :)
Ellie Greenwood :)

Carter handing out the toque to 1st place finisher (and his new idol) Adam Campbell
I also have to say how proud I was of our son, Carter, that day too.  Carter volunteered to hand out the toques to all the finishers.  We were suppose to help over volunteers such as Geoff Roes (I made Trent take a photo of me with him.  One of my cheesier moves in life) however Carter got right in there and took over.  He took his job very seriously and even told Trent and I that ‘he has a job to do.  People are depending on me.’  And for almost 4hrs that kid ran back and forth from a cardboard box, retrieving hats and didn’t miss ONE athlete who finished.  (I am sure he covered close to 50k too ;)  Even if it meant running after them to give them their prize toque.  And a highlight for Carter (oh, who am I kidding… for ME) was when he got to give the top male and female their finisher’s toques.  Adam Campbell (OMG!! OMG!!) And Ellie Greenwood (OMG!! OMG!!) And I have to say… these were the only two athletes who made a point to come back to personally thank Carter for volunteering.  Now that’s Canadians for ya ;)  first class athletes.  More importantly, what role models, setting such a good example for the 10yr old volunteering that day. 
Chuckanut used to mean a lot to me because it was my first ultra finish.  Now, it means even more because I got to share it with good friends, new memories and 15 very special finishes!

I also just want to say thank you to all my athletes and friends who made my birthday celebration so special that weekend.  Complete with fairy wings, a very snazzy headband and carrot cake!  xo

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