Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Whale of a Run (It's a Killer)



James Varner the RD for the Orcas Island Fat Ass 50K race is a sick, cruel, and twisted man. Oh, did I say that out loud? I know I said it to myself and had the conversation with Steve S. my running buddy as we contemplated the use of mountaineering gear to make our assent up the Boundary Trail. If you have ever finished a 50K saying things to yourself like, "gosh I wish I could find a 50K that was more challenging", LOOK NO MORE!

Steve, Michelle, Melissa, and Bob (Steve's 78 year old dad) all loaded up into Steve's white Ford Expedition (The Yeti) and headed to Orcas Island early Friday afternoon. Melissa, Michelle, and Bob were running the 25K and Steve and I ran the 50K. We drove to Anacortes WA and boarded the ferry to the Island. The race start was at the Moran State Park and James Varner reserves a camp area with a lodge and boy scout camp bunk cabins for the participants. Steve, Bob, Melissa all stayed at one of the cabins but Michelle and I elected to stay at the nearby Rosario Resort.

Morning came early and I flipped on the TV in our room to find out that there had been some unexpected snowfall in the night. Sure enough the rain we were concerned about had turned to snow at about the 2000 ft elevation on the island. Before the race start runners gathered in the lodge which had a wood stove and a large heater. The wind was blowing so it was nice to be able to stay warm and dry up to the start. We were surprised by the number of day of race entries with several runners barely making in on the ferry that morning to participate. Steve jumped in to help assist James with the registration and check in process which really helped out.

The race started a little late due to the DOR registrations however the whole crew got off to a start around 8:40. The 25K course headed off in a different direction as the 50K runners however there were areas where we shared trails however really never saw each other due to the distance of the 50K first loop. The 25K course was marked with yellow tape and the 50K course was marked with orange tape. Steve and I made our way up to the first summit Mt. Pickett at a nice energy conservation pace. There was some confusion near the top of Mt. Pickett when we ran into a runner coming down to the marked trail we were on from a side trail that apparently was marked with orange tape as well. Steve and I went ahead a back tracked up to the other summit and then turned back only to find that most runners were taking the trail we had been on so we ended up getting passed by quite a few runners. We actually managed to catch up to most of the runners again during our climb up the Boundary Trail because Steve is part Mt. Goat and really pushed on the climbs.

The cloudy / foggy weather cheated us out of some spectacular views as we ran along some of the high trails. When we got above 2000 ft. the snow made for soft trails but did tend to hide some of the chunky stuff on the trail. In the exposed areas the wind and snow really chilled you to the bone but fortunately the trails tended to stay within the deep old growth forest which provide a nice canopy and shelter from the wind. There were areas at the summits where the wind blew ice from the trees and bushes which pelted you with a bunch of stinging ice chunks.

When Steve and I made it to the summit of Mt. Constitution we climbed up to the top of the tower which is about 70 feet. The rock tower was covered with frozen ice crystals and the wind created a flash freeze effect that was not to enjoyable. Steve and I got the the top and snapped a couple of pictures and then headed down to the aid station that was nearby. We felt sorry for the aid station volunteers but sure appreciated them being there. I ate my pork and beans and a cup of hot chocolate before we started our way down the Mountain. I should have eaten more at this stop and it caught up to me the final two miles of the run.












We started down a long stretch of switchbacks that seemed to go on forever before the course went to a rolling up and down section that allowed us to power hike and then run occasionally. We had continually played cat and mouse with two runners from Canada and another from Mt. Vernon WA during the entire run. We joined forces the last 6 miles of the run and stayed together to the finish. It was interesting talking to the guys from Canada as they were both quite accomplished runners have run the Grand Slam and both had run Western States 100. I got lots of good advice from them as we made our way to the finish. At one point we were going so fast we made the rocks and trees look like they were standing still.

Steve definitely was the stronger runner of the two of us yesterday. He did a better job of fueling and uncharacteristically ran very fast down the Mountain. The last two miles I got hungry and started to lose my energy. I slammed a gel down and started feeling better about a mile from the finish. It was nice to be with the group that helped pull me along.

The five of us all came in to the finish together holding hands and hooting and hollering. Michelle and Melissa along with several others were there to cheer us in. Our time was 6:58. The winner came in at 4:30.

This had to be one of the most scenic trail coursed I have ever run. I highly recommend this race to anyone who loves trail running. If you can't make the race just go camp at Moran State Park and go on some trail runs on your own. You won't regret it.

Thanks for reading! Hope you all had a good weekend of running as well!

16 comments:

robtherunner said...

Sounds like a great run that I will have to get on my calendar in the future. Glad you all made it home safely. Nice job reading that ferry schedule :)

Backofpack said...

I think we should do it again next year - there probably won't be snow two years in a row, right?

angie's pink fuzzy said...

this sounds like an awesome run. i love the fact that it was such wintry conditions!

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Well done, how'd those nappies work out? Did you enjoy the pork n beans? Did Steve? Sounds like an overall great run. And an adventurous weekend altogether!
Jenny

Wes said...

Sounds like you guys had a great time, with all the appropriate adventures along the way!!

Meghan said...

What a miserably fun weekend! I haven't visited that area, but your race report has lit a fire under me on getting to the island. Nice job putting up with the gauntlet that Mother Nature created!

Meghan
www.running-blogs.com/meghan

Steve said...

Thanks for motivating me on the last 10 miles, I just wanted to keep ahead of you after the pork and beans and cocoa aid station. I think I may regret not wading into the lake after the run. My legs are starting to feel a little sore.

And ohh yeah, what's next, amigo.

Sarah said...

Pelting ice? What fun! ; ) : ) I'm not sure that pork and beans *and* hot chocolate would be my preference, but glad it worked for you. Sounds like a great training run!

Donald said...

Well, at least you had a picture of an orca ...

It looks like a beautiful race, and perfect preparation for WS. Nice job.

Darrell said...

Great race, Eric. Michelle made it sound as though it were freezing, or at least cold and windy, yet you and Steve are out there in shorts, hard core! I definitely see this one on your schedule next year.

Thomas said...

Nearly 7 hours for a 50k. It must have been a brutal course.

Journey to a Centum said...

Darrell - It was a tough call on clothing choice for the day. I've felt like I was dressing too warm for the other 50K's I've run this year so I went with shorts, a long sleeve technical shirt, and my vest. My camelbak also helped keep some heat in on my back. I was very comfortable on the climbs and would usually pull my hat off on the steep uphills. When we hit the snow and wind I was just barely comfortable. I don't think I would have survived 30 min if I had to stop. Especially in the hard wind driven snow. As long as I kept moving I was good. Steve started the race with long pants and pulled them off at Aid Station 1. He was glad to have his yellow windbreaker as we hiked up the Boundary Trail with the wind blowing up our backs.

olga said...

James Varner IS a sick man and prides himself as such:) And if you think this is toughest - go to his Epic 50k in CO. Or at least read my report on Epic 50k 2 years ago - it took us 11 and half hours.
So I say you had it easy:) Good job!

mtnrunR said...

Yea, I don't think they even run at the 50k in Colorado. 17K of gain, Yikes.

Great Report Eric. Keep'em coming! Love reading your reports.
tom

runliarun said...

Wish I had been there to see you five guys holding hands and hollering at the finish line. Must have been quite a sight.

Of course, you and Michelle are welcome to come to New Mexico and stay awhile :). There's nothing like green chile for breakfast. We'll make quesadillas - beans for Michelle, meat for you.

And we have trails, just ten minutes from my house, steep, rocky, rugged, beautiful under the burning sun.

Anonymous said...

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