Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Orcas Island 50K

The Orcas Island race was beautiful and a whole lot of fun. Between the isolation, runner cabins, post race party, and easy going nature of the participants, Orcas Island felt much more like a running camp than a race. Being the first race since Western States and my seizures last year, my goal was really to just have a good long hard run. I carpooled up with Tonya Olson from Eugene and then Yassine Diboun from Portland and it was great to get to know each of them. We had no trouble making the ferry and had a nice ride over. After the check in (complete with pot luck dinner), we stayed with a long time friend from Eugene, Susannah Beck who recently moved to the island. The park is beautiful with lots of old mossy growth forest, ever changing twisty trails and some hidden lakes. From the start there were about 5 of us together up front, spreading out and then grouping up again depending who was better at the climbs or downhills. After summiting Mt. Pickett (no view) we found our way back to the start at Cascade Lake for our first aid station at mile 9.7. At this point there were three of us within about 20 seconds, Alex Henry who would go on to win by a large margin, myself and Yassine. The climb up the southwest face of Mt. Constitution was quite steep and generally just followed the power lines. The lead runner, Alex was fast out of the aid station and quickly put a big gap on Yassine and myself. It seemed his climbing skills had doubled since our first big climb of the day. Along the way we got to pass many of the 25K runners which made it fun to chat with folks along the way. On the north side of the mountain we had an amazing downhill section that when on for miles. I felt amazing, and then some woman who I hadn’t met heading up the trail for the 25K say’s “go Tapeworm!” And another woman says “go Sunsweet” “my husband runs for Sunsweet”. I still have not figured out who she was. Anyway I had a huge smile and energetically greeted everyone going up the hill. “Dude, you are in first place for people wearing a smokey the bear hat!” By this time, we had passed a number of signs that said “50K first time, 50K second time”. I was starting to lose track which ones we had passed already. Yassine caught up to me at a junction near twin lakes and we ran down together to Mountain Lake. At an unmarked junction near the lake (about mile 17-18) we made a right hand turn and should have made a left. Along the way we asked a few folks “did you see the first place guy go this way?” Two parties said yes, so we thought we were still on track. However pretty soon we saw the first place guy running towards us. “All well” I thought, I remembered the course circled a lake and this seemed to be it. So what did it matter what direction we go? Well I was wrong, you only run about 2/3 around the lake and then head up Mt. Constitution for the 2nd time. Anyway it took us some time to get things sorted out, but eventually we found our way back. My high times were now long gone, as was my motivation and energy. Yassine and I settled in and tried to just focus on enjoying the run. At the top there was an amazing view, and not having to worry about place I stopped a few times to take it in. In the end, going the wrong way forced me to not overdo it, which I probably would have done if I had stayed in 2nd place. At the top I took my time, re-fueled, tried to take a mental picture, and started down the hill towards Cascade Lake and the finish. I was getting pretty tired by the end and was really glad I didn’t feel obligated to be pushing it hard. I think I came in around 35th place and 5:42. Hard to say what I would have run. At the finish camp we had food, live bluegrass music, beer, and (thanks to Susannah) homemade pizza. The post race party went on well into the night, but by 9pm I was cooked and ready to go to bed. On the drive home we added Sander of Corvallis and had lively conversation that cut the drive in half. It was a fantastic weekend. (I stole the above photo from Sander’s 2008 collection)