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How to win Chuckanut 50K in six steps

Winner of 2019 Chuckanut 50K women's race explains how it's done

The trail to victory isn’t linear. There are winding switchbacks full of roots and rocks; big climbs, and gnarly descents. The trail is unpredictable and always dirty. Six years ago, Kathryn Drew ran her second 50K trail race at Chuckanut 50K in the respectable time of 5:34:42. Yesterday, she won the female race in 4:26:54, placing 18th overall. Experience and humility are necessities when seeking success in trail and ultrarunning. Drew is in it for the long haul, and her hard work is paying off. Whether it’s a six-, 10-, or 20-year plan, ultrarunning favours experience, patience, and humility.

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In addition to Drew’s victory, Canadians swept in all categories at the 2019 Chuckanut 50K. At first glance, one would assume it’s because of the snowy, icy, and muddy trail conditions. However, doing well at an ultra trail race also involves hard work, patience, and consistency. The bizarre conditions altered the auto-qualifying standards for the 2019 Canadian National Trail Team for World Championships in June. The 3:55:00 for men and 4:25:00 for women remained, yet if a Canadian finished within six per cent of the winning time, that would qualify. 

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Drew has already accepted her nomination for the 2019 National Trail Team for World Championships in Portugal on June 8. Chuckanut 50K was part of her training build for her second Western States Golden Ticket race this year at Canyons 100K in April (she placed third at Bandera 100K in January). For the better part of the last decade, Drew has learned a lot in her consistency with training and racing. She says “put in the hard work, and you’ll see payoff. Be patient and kind to your body, and rest when you should. Don’t push yourself to the point where you don’t like running and you don’t want to train.”  

Drew’s six years of Chuckanut

2014 Year 1: 5:34:42 (17th place in her second ultra trail race ever) 
2015 Year 2: 5:05:48 (10th place)
2016 Year 3: 4:54:21 (11th place, won age group)
2017 Year 4: 4:44:31 (sixth place in muddy trail conditions. Began training with a trail running coach) 
2018 Year 5: 4:32:07 (fifth place behind superstars Kelly Henninger, Anne-Marie Madden, Ellie Greenwood, and Gina Slaby in perfect trail and weather conditions.)
2019 Year 6: 4:26:54 (first place in snow, ice, and mud.) “Felt like a baby deer, slipping all over the place. Hard to get any momentum. Everyone was struggling with the snow. The day was beautiful and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.  

Female results

Kim Magnus, who raced to second behind Drew, is also on the 2019 National Trail Team in June, as well as racing Canyons 100K in April for a Western States Golden Ticket. Magnus raced Chuckanut four years ago, about 30 minutes slower, walking the final and flat 10K. Over the years, Magnus has been “working really hard on fuelling properly in training and during races. This has been a stupendously long and difficult process but I’m seeing major progress. Yesterday I consumed at least double the calories I would have in the same race 2 years ago. I see a big difference, so I’m committing to this as much as the rest of my training.”

Fourth place went to another Canadian runner Allison Thompson. Tara Holland from Squamish, BC won the female master’s race. (Fun fact: Drew, Magnus, and Holland went home with USD prize money.)  

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Male results

The Chuckanut 50K course often favours fast road marathoners with the flatter first and final 10K sections. This year, Canadian elite marathoner Rob Watson made Chuckanut his ultra trail debut. Watson held his own, racing behind professional ultrarunner Hayden Hawks, who was two minutes behind Max King’s Chuckanut course record. Watson’s legs are a “little sore, but the trails are much more forgiving on the legs than a hard road marathon.”

Canadians continued to sweep in the men’s race. Seven Canadian males raced for the top 20 spots. BC’s Andrew Russell (fourth), Dave Stevens (sixth), Graham Forsyth 10th), Jesse Booi (11th), Mitch Howlett (14th) Riccardo Tortini (16th), and Alberta’s Joedy Dalke (17th).  

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