Orcas Island 50km Ultra
saturday my friend ellen parker and i headed out to orcas island for james varner’s orcas island 50km. from what i know of james he likes good tough courses and this one did not dissapoint. even though he had to alter the course because of the snow up high.. it meassured out at 31.7 miles (i probably ran more than 32 miles) and 6,660 feet of gain and some very tough patches of hands on knees (or ground), head down, crazy steep uphills. see the map here.
as an early season 50km we were all there running this as a “training race”. in my previous 7 days before friday i had put in 91 miles. so i figured running on tired”ish” legs would be a great barometer for my training and general fitness… but without a real taper i knew it wouldn’t be my finest work. i also knew with the talented field showing up would be perfect for pushing my pace. the idea of fast guys making me move faster was very exciting.
it’s pretty crazy how the rumor mill gets going at these races. by race start i was told multiple times that brian morrison, justin angle, scott jurek, brandon sybrowsky and scott mccoubrey were all lining up to race. i had only seen a few of said top runners and this ended up only being partially true. unfortunetaly justin and scott never made it out. the woman’s race seemed to be stacked too. my adv race teammate jen segger had come down from bc to race. nuun ultrarunners devon crosby-helms and kendra borgmann were also in attendance. i was excited to see how the woman’s race would shake out. i had seen devon running on the burke earlier in the week and she had said it was a training run but mentioned “i still want to win it” with a smile – nice.
my plans to test out the top end were almost derailed the night before the race. i forgot my quinoa, salmon, asparagus dinner in the fridge.. in seattle. ellen was kind enough to share her dinner. only problem was it wasn’t obvious that there was lots of cheese melted into the sauce. let’s just say i’m lactose intolerant and that caused “stomach issues” through the night. that and the fact that we were sleeping in the back of flat bed truck meant ellen and i probably only got about 3 hours total of very broken uncomfortable sleep. i try not to let these things worry me however, they are bound to happen… no sense stressing out about it. plus this was to be a hard “training run” anyway right (notice how i added hard?)
over 200 runners lined up for the 25km and 50km race start. at 8:30am we started running across the open field of moran state park. the course was two times around an awesome 25km that looped both mountain and cascade lakes. my plan was to run with the front runners of the 25km for the first loop as long as that felt ok. the beginning felt kind of frantic, but it was cool to have seegs running in the front pack with me.
during the first real climb i became inpatient behind the first two runners and passed them on the super steep, mossy rock climb. now in front i put on a little space from the pack until i hit the downhill. on the downhill the flagging lead me into the woods to an overgrown trail. as i searched a few runners with more local knowlegde charged downhill. this wasn’t good.. back onto the mega-steep dirt road i set off to catch the first guy, which i was able to do in 1/2 mile or so.
back down by the lake seeg’s friend norm was there cheering us on. norm was an awesome help for both jen and my effort at the race. thanks for the help norm, much appreciated!
the first and only aid station was at 6.7 miles on mountain lake. i had run from here on my 30th birthday (years ago) with my friend jenny so i knew the trails around the lake were flat. not good for me. let’s just say i don’t have the leg speed of a real runner so flats aren’t my thing. i drank my new bottle, pleasantly suprised it was lemon lime nuun and tried to focus on quick turn over. by the time i got to the next climb i had two guys biting at my heals. the climb couldn’t have come at a better time! as we passed each other on the switchbacks i gave the guy a “whoot! nice running!” and started to pick it up. the secret loop was a super steep climb to the high point and was the highlight of the course. at the top we were greated with amazing views of the islands of the puget sound and soft moss covered rock to run down. with the sun out the views were “stop you in your tracks” good. i slowed a bit to make sure i took it in.
i came through the first lap of 25km in 2:15 and hadn’t seen anyone in a while so i figured i was in good shape. i was feeling great but had started to lull myself into running easy. however by the road i heard that i was just 2 minutes up on 2nd place. rob and big’s favorite saying “do work son” rang in my head as i, well, put in work to try and put this one out of reach.
it seemed to pay off and by the aid station at mile 22 i now had 9 minutes on 2nd. but of course then came the very flat section around the lake where i knew the entire race would put in time on me! i managed to hold them off and once again the secret loop view was amazing. the last big climb i started to feel a bit bonky. at the time it seemd like a pain to eat a clif shot so i didn’t bother and really started to bonk as i approached the finishline. i managed the last few miles and came in first in 4:42. my teammate jen segger ended up winning the woman’s race shortly after! nuun ultrarunners devon crosby-helms took 2nd and kendra borgmann came in 3rd looking and feeling sick. my friend ellen won the woman’s 25km race! awesome day. james and alison sure put on a great event. thank you guys!
my hot shoes: montrail highlanders with teko ecopoly socks (no blisters)
fuel: clif shots
jersey: retro montrail jersey – courtesy of ty draney!
photos of nuun athletes from glenn tachiyama (all photos):
jen segger (1st female) – on first climb, by waterfall
devon crosby-helms (2nd female) – on first climb
kendra borgmann (3rd female) – downhill
ellen parker (1st female 25km) – on first climb