This last Saturday I ran the Orcas Island 50k for the 3rd time, and it’s the fourth straight year I’ve spent on Orcas Island for this particular race (I ran the 25k one year). I love it that much – sun, darkness, mudfest, or what have you. Guaranteed fun: good people, solid organization and good attitudes by race director, employees and volunteers, and just plain fun. The best part are the views – I’ve said it before. Somehow each year I go back I realize I’ve forgotten just how incredible Orcas Island is regardless of the weather. I’m astounded by its beauty and serenity. Yea, it sounds hokey, but it’s true. Just look at this from 2013, we look like we’re standing in front of a ridiculously beautiful photo, but it’s real:
And this from last year
A 50k can be intense, but this course has so many places that make me want to stop to breathe in the scenery and serenity of it all…and then I’m ready to blast down the next hill.
This year was a little different than previous ones: I’m coming off a long stint of not running and not training well, which followed a training heavy summer where I attempted my first 100-miler. After that attempt I just didn’t feel like running. Only recently did I start to feel like it, but even then I’ve still got only one speed, and it’s my 100 miler speed. It is painfully slow. I’ve heard that happens for some when you train to run long like that so I’ve been working on improving my speed, but knew I might drop from the race early, and was fine with that.
The day started with some jokes and a bunch of smelly runners lined up, raring to start on what was promising to be a perfect running day: 45 degrees, overcast with partial views and clear trails. After a sendoff from race director James Varner we were off, headed up the long climb to Little Summit and down to Mountain Lake (mile 6), then around that lake followed by Twin Lakes, up Mt. Pickett, down it, and then back up it again (mile 14), through Cascade Falls and on to Cascade Lake (mile 20) where the course would then send everyone up, up and away toward the summit of Mt. Constitution and back down to the finish line at ~31.5 miles. Map can be seen here.
I didn’t make it past mile 20, mostly because I didn’t feel like it, but also because I’d had a good, solid and enjoyable run up to that point.
the entire run I felt pretty solid, with the exception of somewhere around mile 11 where I started thinking about falling. I passed a few others on the downhill, which is typical. People usually pass me in return when the uphills come along. I’d overheard a conversation from one of them about slowing down because they were afraid of falling. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not for me. But it got me thinking and I noticed myself slowing down, thinking of falling. And then I fell. Twice. I NEVER fall going downhill. I do fall while trail running but it’s usually over my own two feet, or over something painfully obvious where I’m just being dumb and not paying attention. The falls didn’t hurt much so that was good. After realizing that slowing down on downhills past a certain degree increases my likelihood of falling, I talked myself out of the falls and slowing down, and was able to run without mishap the rest of the day.
The only other thing that sucked about the race was purely my fault: my choice of Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar as a source of protein. I usually like the Larabars, and LOVE peanut butter, but this was a bar I had to literally choke down. I needed to eat it so I didn’t crash before the mile 16 aid station, so turned into a drill sargeant to get myself to eat it. I think I told myself “You Love this Bar! It is so good. EAT THE BAR.” It was gross, but my muscles thanked me afterward.
Other than that the entire day was great. As I ran through mile 19, closer to the aid station my friends were volunteering at at mile 20, I made the happy decision to drop out. I felt good, wanted to keep feeling good, and didn’t really feel like doing the crazy work that miles 21-26 involved. They are the hardest section of the course, not least because they come toward the end but also because of the challenging elevation gain. After those hard miles there’s a really fun 5 miles of downhill but you still have to do the hard work to reach the fun stuff, and yesterday it just wasn’t worth it to me. So I got to the aid station, smiled and told them I quit, then wrapped myself up in my jacket and sleeping bag to warm up (cooler temps are great as long as I’m moving but when I stop it gets cold fast). Thankfully, my friends had driven my car up to the aid station so all my things were available for me when I got there. Yay!
Another fantastic weekend spent on Orcas Island, one of my favorite places in Washington state. Thanks to all the awesome volunteers!