Orcas Island 50k Plus

Orcas Island 50k Plus

I went up to The Orcas Island 50k this past weekend and had a fabulous experience. It is such a picturesque area and the weather gods gave us an uncharacteristically warm and sunny weekend. Dan Olmstead, Tonya Olson, and I rode up together Friday afternoon and had great conversation and laughs pretty much the whole way.

Susannah Beck was so hospitable in letting us stay at her cozy cabin she is renting although many folks chose to stay down by the lodge. I met so many people and shared lots of great stories and laughed a lot. The food was immaculate and I was super impressed by James Varner and the "party in the woods" that he created. Live music, movies, good food, beautiful scenery and accommodations. I definitely recommend this event...It's worth every penny!

Here is a little video that I watched just before I hit the road for Orcas while I was looking for some trail footage. It had me thinking all weekend and...Yes...I think I felt it! May seem kind of weird but, regardless, Orcas Island is a pretty special place.

As for the race...well...I started off feeling really good. Mile two or three a huge great horned owl flew down right in front of me and perched on a tree right above the trail. It turned his head around 180 degrees and gave me a stare with his big eyes. I actually got a little scared and yelled just out of instinct. This is the second time I saw an owl right at the beginning of a race like that. The first was at like mile two of 100 in the Hood. So I looked up if there were any meanings. There were both good and bad omens of the owl but one of the bad omens was misfortune...which happened at both races. Who knows...I like to think about the good omens though but if I do see an owl in the future I will pay extra attention...or just quit then and there! ;o)

I was probably ahead of the others by a couple hundred yards. Eventually, we started hitting some tough climbs and Alex and Dan caught up to me. The three of us ran together until mile 10 or so. Going up some steep power lines I noticed that Alex and Dan were starting to pull away...especially Alex. I finally made the summit and was able to catch up with Dan O. Dan and I ran together for a couple more miles until we came to a junction that went right or left but no marking....ugh...we picked a way and eventually ended up hitting a landing area that had water gallon jugs spread out on the curb. There were some people close to the area and one lady pointed that the first place 50k guy went that way. We thanked her and hustled out of the area back into the woods. Then after a while we saw people running at us! Oh boy...wrong way...again! We ended up going like three or four miles out of our way when it was all said and done.

At that point we were both bummed but after a little while we just decided to kind of shut it down. We were given the choice to feel sorry for ourselves and to be a little angry, or we could accept it and enjoy the absolute beauty of the park and the weather. We chose the latter of the two. We finally got back on to course and as we came up behind people had to explain a bunch of times what had happened. Apparently, someone took down a ribbon....and who knows what that lady that pointed us in the wrong direction was talking about!

We ran the next 13 miles or so at a pretty relaxed pace and were actually able to stop and enjoy some of the spectacular views, which would not happen if we were gunning hard. Also, this was Dan's first race back since his little scare at Western States 100 so maybe it was for the best. With about 10k to go in the race I was feeling really strong so we decided to push it a little harder. I came into the finish a couple minutes before Dan with a time of like 5:42 or so...Probably about 80 minutes slower than projected.

I'll definitely go back to that race and redeem myself. Don't know if I'll be so lucky as to have that type of weather in early February though. Mile for mile that was probably one of the toughest 50k's I've run in my relatively short ultra career. 7,600 feet of climbing in 33 miles (or in my case probably close to 8,000 in 37).

Afterward we hung around the camp for the rest of the day and evening and enjoyed music, good food, and story sharing. I met so many great people including some of the best in the business (Scott Jurek and Krissy Moehl). I was really happy to see Matt Hart finish strong in his first race back since his injuries last year and for Sean to zip up and don the pink vest. We'll see how they do at Pocatello as they go head to head in Idaho in May. Bryon Powell from Irunfar.com, who I haven't seen since Iroquois 100, made the trip and captured a lot of funny pictures I'm sure (send me some if you get the chance!) and was an integral part of the festivities.

Thanks James and volunteers and nice to meet and chat with so many. I feel that the ultra community is such a crazy, eclectic group of people and this was another super fun and adventurous weekend that will go down in the books of epic trail running. Enjoy some of the excellent pictures taken by Glenn Tachiyama by clicking HERE

As for me...this is the third time already this year that I have gotten lost. This has got to stop now! Hopefully, I'm getting them out of the way now and I look forward to the next one which is The Chuckanut 50k on March 20th. Before that I will be volunteering at Hagg Lake 50k/25k and I hope to see you there.

Happy Trails! :o)


From the time I could stand upright I was chasing soccer balls around with older children at the fields where my father...

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