As I awoke at 6:00am to the rumble of yet another freight train in the clean but rundown Motel 6 in Troutdale Oregon, I wondered if I was a little nuts for dragging my wife and myself 900 miles to go run a 50k on Orcas Island in Washington State. I mean really, 900 miles for 31 miles just doesn’t make sense. It sounded like a great idea in December when I was looking for an alternative to the great but knee punishing Moab Red Hot 50k+. Now as the time and money were disappearing quickly I was starting to question my other idea of driving 900 miles to run a 50k instead of flying. My wife seemed to be taking it in stride and at least we were getting to spend allot of time together. So off we went in good spirits for 6 more hours of driving to catch the ferry in Anacortes Washington.
As we neared the San Juan Islands my apprehension disappeared, I had forgotten just how impressive and beautiful the Islands are even though I had lived on Orcas Island off and on for 3 years in the mid 90’s. Marge and I lucked out and arrived 25 minutes before the express ferry left for Orcas. The ferry was full of trail runners going to the race and the trip passed quickly as it only took an hour to arrive at the Orcas ferry dock. Marge and I were approached by a young lady and was asked if we could shuttle some food for herself and her boyfriend to make there bike trip a little easier going out to Doe Bay on the other side of the Island, we off course said yes we would help it’s a Island tradition to help who ever you can as you’ll will see them again many times, and I was hoping for a little extra good karma for the race.
View from cottage looking south
Marge and I checked into our cottage right on the beach and basically had the whole quaint but rundown resort to ourselves as nobody was staying there accept us two, made for a very quiet nice evening before the race. We had plenty of time to sleep in as the race did not start until 9:00am to allow people to come over on the ferry the same day as the race.
We arrived at the race about and hour early and just got to see the early start 50k runners head out, they were being directed by last years winner Matt Hart, it was a little comical because Matt really wasn’t really sure if he was sending them the correct way, turns out it was, lucky for Matt and the runners. After a short pre-race meeting James Varner R.D sent us on our way, and as usual I ended up somewhere mid pack and just kind of cruised listening to people chat and trying to settle into a nice rhythm. The pack spread out after 20 minutes or so, the trail was slightly muddy but very smooth and cushioned with moss, pine needles and leaves. The trail weaving in and out of old growth Douglas Fir and Cedar trees passing small lakes and streams. There was a bit more climbing than I expected before the first aid station at mile 9.8 but with the climbing also came some really nice easy down hill running on smooth trails and nice logging roads.
Me coming into the first Aid Station
After aid station 1 came the first real big climb of the day, a Squaw Peak 50 type climb with a vertical gain around 1,000 feet. It was basically straight up, and no real trail for the fist half. This was followed by another nice long downhill through more mist filled old growth trees and ferns. We then headed around Mountain Lake for a few miles. At this point I had run out of water and ended up filling my bottles straight out of the lake, I didn’t know they had water available at mile 18 just on the other side of the lake. I was guessing I was somewhere in the top 20 but wasn’t really sure how many runners had gone out hard and had sprinted away.
Great way to cool your knees (aid station 2)
The last big hill started at mile 18 and went up close to 1,500 vertical, my plan was to push hard from the bottom of this climb to the end of the race. For once my plan worked and I passed 7-8 people on the climb. The last aid station of the day was at the top of Mt. Constitution (elevation approx. 2,400) at mile 22. This was followed by some moderate downhill and climbing, and then a very long downhill to Cascade Lake, followed by an easy 1.5 miles around the lake and to the finish. My time 5:42, good for 12th place.
What a great race, 31 miles, 7,000 vertical, fantastic views, forest, lakes, waterfalls and wonderful smooth pine cushioned trails with just enough technical sections to keep your mind busy. There were also the tough competitive Northwest Runners I have come to expect and admire. The overall winner this year was Adam Lint in a time of 4:32 and first place women went to Ellie Greenwood, with a 7th place overall in a time of 5:18. This all followed by a great bluegrass band, homemade chili, cookies, beer etc….. I’ll be back some day but I will probably take that airplane ride.
(Results) Pictures by Glenn Tachiyama