2013 is turning into what appears to be a very successful running year for Max "Woodpecker" Ferguson. Already this year: a near Course Record, and first place overall at Orcas Island 50k; a Course Record, and first place at Mountain Marathon; and now, a third place overall finish at Chuckanut 50k.
After his return from Bellingham, WA Woodpecker and I sat down for a beer with pen and paper and conducted the following interview:
PHOTO CREDIT: Dylan Dahlquist
This has been a very successful year for you.
Yeah, I'm pumped. Most of '13 is a by-product of my 2012 training. A lot of really long, hard runs during the summer, and a sub-par cross-country season.
How long has Chuckanut been in your cross-hairs?
Since November. Four straight months of a lot of rainy miles
Why the focus on Chuckanut 50k?
It's one of the races out there that tests all elements of a distance runner. You can't be a one dimensional ultra-runner and compete. You need legitimate flat land speed, good climbing skills, the ability to descend on technical trails, and you have to be a finisher. I think very few races outside of Chuckanut 50k have that requirement to race.
What were your race goals? Before and during.
Top 3. If it happened, it would be perfect Top 5 felt realistic. During the race, with seven miles remaining, Erik Skaggs time on the course in 2011 saturated my thoughts. I have no idea why. I just realized with seven miles left getting under his time was possible.
Worst fear about the race?
Going out too hard, blowing up on the final downhill, and then getting caught on the flat finish.
What was Pre-race like for you?
I left work at 8 PM the night before. Stopped at Wendy's for dinner, and the crashed at James Varner's, of Rainshadow Running, house. I think I went sleep around midnight...big mistake. I slept horribly, and when I woke up I realized that I didn't pack anything for breakfast, so I began bumming tortillas and peanut butter. The peanut butter was way too chunky judging by its looks during the middle of the race.
Where did you line up at the starting line?
Outside front line, always. In fact, I line up there every time because I've waited for years for someone to ask me that question.
Take me through the race.
I tried to stick to my usual: I go out honest, but fast. It's free time to get a head start on everyone else. King, Laney, Krar, and I grouped up around mile three, and by mile six King and Laney pulled away. After aid station two, at mile ten or eleven, Krar dropped with a calf issue which moved me up to third. I really suffered from mile seven to mile eleven, but on the climb up Cleator Rd I started feeling a lot better. As I got on the ridgeline I felt my strongest, and the backside of the ridge was definitely my fastest. Coming into Chinscraper I started to cramp. It was unusual because I usually don't start getting cramps until mile twenty-five. So everything else was really tough for me. During the final seven miles I just ran as close to red-line as I could. I knew how long I'd suffer, if I kept my pace. So I dug deep and finished. I just had so much fear of getting caught, but within eight hundred meters of the finish I eased up.
First thing you did after the race?
A hoot, a fist pump, and then I sat the fuck down.
Overall happy with the race?
Yeah, happy enough that I cried a little while changing into warmer clothes.
What's next for Woodpecker?
White Rive 50 mile. I'll use Yakima 50k as tune-up where I'm hoping for a course record effort.