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Carol's Fat Ass

"Double" Chubb 25K

April 16, 2011

Perhaps it's a case of familiarity breeds contempt. I run the Chubb trail once or twice a month. It's a great trail. The half-marathon distance makes it a good intermediate run and it's easy to add distance using connecting trails if you want to go long. The hilly and technical portion through Tyson drains well and can be run in almost any conditions. When it's dry and the Meramec River is below flood stage, the bottoms section is fun, fast singletrack. The gravel road through Lone Elk is less than inspiring, but it's only a mile long.

And yet, I've never run Double Chubb.

Now in its 13th edition, the Double Chubb is arguably the most anticipated trail race in Missouri. No other trail event fills faster (10 hours this year). Some of this is a consequence of logistics. Most of the trail is singletrack and it's an out-and-back course. Therefore, the SLUGs (St. Louis Ultrarunners Group) have wisely held the field limit low to keep head-on traffic manageable. Also contributing is the fact that there is a non-ultra distance offered (the 25K "single" Chubb) which expands the appeal to a broader range of runners. But, mostly, it's a great race on a great trail.

Falling just two weeks before Illinois, I decide to enter the single. Even at a training pace, a 50K would be too much so close to a marathon. My plan is to run the race at marathon effort (that is, the pace I can hold for three hours), which should have me done in just under 2 without destroying my legs. As that's a reasonably competitive master's time, I leave open the option of kicking it a bit in the last few miles if there's an age group win on the line.

Due to a minor informational snafu on the SLUG website, I end up missing packet pickup the night before. While that's not a problem itself, it leaves me not knowing what time to show up the next morning. I decide to arrive at 6, which turns out to be a bit on the early side. Only Race Directors David and Victoria White are there. I offer some assistance in getting the registration tent set up and then take a nap in my car. By 6:45, the registration area is hopping. While standing around chatting with my friends sounds appealing, the damp, chilly morning has me shivering a bit so I get started on my warmup. I don't want to start with my feet all gooped, so I jog easily on the road for half an hour, then change into my orienteering shoes for the race. While just a bit heavy for trail racing, my hope is that the open tread on the O-shoes will shed the mud we'll be running through along the river.

At the gun, Andy Koziatek and Ben Creehan bolt off up the steep road to the trailhead at a pace I reserve for track work. Ben's in the 50 and I've never come close to beating Andy at any distance, so I don't concern myself with them. Behind, a pack of six quickly forms including Chad Silker, Joel Lammers, David Frei, Jeff Sona, Mitch Faddis (all in the 50K) and me. While it's nice to be leading the masters in the 25K, it's still way too early to assume I won't get a push from behind.

David sets the pace for about a mile at which point I decide to up the tempo a bit. Only Chad follows, but David comes blasting by when we go down the first descent. "Your quads will remind you of that in about three hours," I tell him. "It's free speed!" he responds. Yeah, free just like charging things on a credit card is free. He'll pay, but that's his problem. As we start the big climb to the picnic table (the high point on the course), I resume the lead and, again, only Chad matches the effort. By the time we're heading back down the other side, we are clear of the rest of the field.

Despite the heavy rains of the preceding week, the footing on the rocky descent to the river is fine. We get to the aid station at the train tracks in 24:27. Though I have run the opposite direction (which is slightly tougher) a minute faster during tempo workouts, I'm a bit surprised we're that quick. The pace feels right, but just to be sure, I strike up a conversation with Chad to keep myself from overcooking it.

Turns out, Chad doesn't need much encouragement. He talks nearly continuously all through the river section. I don't get in too many comments myself, but it's enough to keep the pace in check. The mud isn't nearly as bad as feared (even the big culvert crossing can be taken without resorting to hands and knees), but it seems reasonable to expect that to change once the entire field has splashed through. Along the gravel road, I intentionally run through some of the puddles to clean my shoes for the climb up to the turnaround.

As we start the climb, Chad decides to back off a bit. After all, he does have lap two to think about. At the top of the hill, I meet Andy coming back the other way and still looking quite strong. Ben is a couple minutes behind him having obviously thought the better of trying to match Andy's pace when he has twice the ground to cover. I arrive at the turnaround in 55:22. I don't really have a context for that split since the turnaround is beyond the trailhead, but it seems like I'm still moving at about the right speed.

One of the nice things (perhaps the only nice thing) about out-and-backs is that you get to see what your competition is up to. Clearly, Andy is going to win, but the Master's prize is still up for grabs as Bob Fuerst is less than a minute behind me. I may have to push that last stretch through Tyson after all. The top two 25K women, Mary White and Laura Scherff, have a tight battle going and are putting away nearly all the men in the process. Joe, David, and Mitch are still running well in the 50 but Jeff looks like he might be off his game today. Travis Liles has worked his way into the mix and looks quite fresh. I make it back to the gravel road before hitting the bulk of the field, which makes passing easy.

The mud has certainly gotten worse on the flood plain, but it's still not as bad as I was anticipating. About half way through it, Chad catches back up to me. I worry that maybe I'm slacking off the pace and letting Bob back into the race, but we hit the midway aid station at 1:25:46 which is within a minute of our split time heading out. I can't see Bob behind me, but just in case he is closing, I decide to firm up the pace a bit. Chad takes some time to get food at the aid station so I'm left on my own to push up the ridge away from the river.

I've run the Tyson section from the tracks to the trailhead at tempo pace so many times, the added pace feels quite natural. I don't quite match my normal tempo effort, but I'm not slow by much, hitting the trailhead at 1:49:56 for a 24:10 split. Having found my groove, I keep it going through the final loop on the Chinkapin trail to finish at 1:55:13. Andy's been done for over ten minutes, but as he's a young pup, I get the 40+ win. Chad comes through a couple minutes later looking relaxed for lap 2. Bob finishes at 1:58:43. While he may have missed the Master's prize, he does win Senior as he turned 50 last year. I put my finisher's medal and winner's plaque (both quite nice) in my car and then head back out for a few easy miles. Joel and Mitch have already come through. David is just starting his second lap, so I run with him for a while. He admits he took it out too fast, but he's still moving well enough that after about half a mile I let him go. He says he really wants to try to beat Mitch who is less than a minute up the trail. David always saves his best efforts for beating his friends. I consider it something of an honor that many of his best performances have come in the process of handing me a loss.

I plod along easily, internally debating the wisdom of going all the way to the aid station. Travis comes by at a pace indicating he's saved himself for lap two. At the picnic table, I rest for a few minutes and then decide to head down to the aid station to say hi to the volunteers. I'll walk back if I have to. At the base of the descent, Jeff catches me and we jog into the aid station together. He's not feeling great, but doesn't expect to have any trouble finishing.

I hang at the aid station for a few minutes, chatting it up with the volunteers and passing runners. All I ate during the race was a single packet of Gu, so I take this opportunity to down some of the refreshments. As usual, the SLUGs have a fine spread - their aid stations are among the best.

It's turning into a longer run than planned and I don't want to put myself too far in a hole for Illinois, so I go back to the start straight through the woods, which is not only a mile shorter, but also a softer surface. I've done enough navigation training at Tyson that I have no trouble doing this without map or compass.

I get back barely in time to clean up and change clothes before Ben comes in, winning the Double in 3:56:19. He looks pretty fresh for having just finished an ultra. Given that his second lap was nearly a minute per mile slower than his first, I have to assume he got off the gas when he realized he wasn't going to be challenged for the win. Chad takes second in just over 4 hours, then there's a pretty good gap back to Joel in third (winning Masters). Travis follows just a couple minutes ahead of David who admits that the thought of catching and then staying ahead of Mitch had a lot to do with holding onto a decent lap 2 for a 50K PR of 4:21:47.

While the cool, misty conditions may have been a bit uncomfortable for the volunteers, the runners all seem to agree it was a great day to be out on trail, even with the mud along the river. Personally, I would have loved to run a second lap hard. It was definitely a day to shoot for breaking 4 hours (my PR for a trail 50K is 4:06). My intention is to run Boston next year, so I won't likely try the double until 2013, but I'm already looking forward to it.

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