Couldn’t have ask for a better race. 100 miles, no low moments. Beautiful course! Tough on legs but easy on the body (i.e. big climbs but smooth soft trail)
13.5 16oz bottle of Roctane (250 cal ec.)
2 slices of Pizza
5-6 pieces of Bacon
We arrived at on the island from the 11:20 ferry and made our way around the island. After checking in and getting my race packet, I wanted to drive to each aid station and show Mallory where everyone was so that she didn’t have to worry about finding it for the first time on her own. After finding all the AS locations we headed back to the bunk house and then to the pre-race meeting. I was still running off of GA time, so after the meeting we went straight to bed.
I woke up and made oatmeal and had a cup of coffee. The weather wasn’t too bad that morning. It was about 45 degrees and light rain, so it was perfect for shorts and short sleeves. Soon I noticed everyone else layered up in tights, long sleeves, and rain jackets which had me wondering if they knew something I didn’t know. I was very tempted to break out my arm warmers but I stayed with my gut feeling and started in just my shirt. I was the only person who started in short sleeves and shorts.
James, the race director, gave a few words and announced the start and we were off. The race begins with a climb up Mt Constitution Rd all the way up to the Little Summit TH. I knew from driving to the AS the previous day that the road begins at a very gentle grade before turning steep, so I decided to run the road until it got steep. I ran maybe a mile or so before I began my hike for the remaining 2ish miles. I was able to talk to a lot of people around me and enjoyed the company. I started getting two different kinds of remarks from people at this point, one sounded something like “You were smart and only wore short sleeves” the other was similar to “ARENT YOU COLD?!”. I guess it goes to show that people really do operate at different temperatures. I’m glad I decided to stick with just my shirt because it felt great, although I did break a sweat sometimes.
Once we topped at Little Summit TH, we began the steep decent to Mountain Lake AS. I wanted to take the descents very easy to keep my quads from blowing out so several people would pass me on the down. We were warned that this was a gnarly downhill and the race director advised people to walk it, but honestly it wasn’t too terrible. Pretty soon, I seen Glenn posted up with his camera. I smiled for a picture as I passed and continued on to Mountain Lake AS. I arrived and refilled one bottle that I drank with a pack of Roctane I had in my drop bag and headed out.
This next section started out smooth and flat as it contoured around the lake. It then begins a climb up to Mt Pickett. The slope was runnable, but I power hiked it because I knew that I wouldn’t be running it in later loops. I quickly noticed that I was going up a lot faster than the people around me. I also took this as an opportunity to take in all the beautiful old growth forest around me as well as take in more calories. I cannot express the beauty of this course. The forest looked almost magical (or in the words of Mallory, “whimsical”) Once we reached the top, it descends to the Mt Pickett AS. It descended for what seemed like forever until we finally reached the bottom. All the people I passed on the climb caught back up and passed right as we reached the bottom. I had drunk another bottle of Roctane by the time I reached here, but since I had another full bottle and weren’t allowed drop bags here I just checked in and out without stopping.
The next section was by far the smoothest and easiest of the course. It was gentle rollers past waterfalls and creeks all the way to Cascade Lake. I saw Glenn with his camera once again as he grabbed another shot. I also finished off my second bottle during this section. I rolled into Cascade Lake AS and refilled both bottles with Roctane and headed out for the infamous Powerline.
I brought my trekking poles for just this very section and I’m glad I did. I believe using my poles from the very first loop saved me tons of time on my overall race. I caught up to and passed several people on this climb. Byron, a guy from Florida that I met, caught up to me and stayed with me the entire climb. Honestly, I was surprised at the climb. It wasn’t near as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, it was very steep but it was smooth. You didn’t have to worry about footing, you just had to put one foot in front of the other and eventually you made it to the top. Actually once I made it to the top I thought it was just a false summit but once we started to descend a lot on single track, I realized that the powerline was actually over. From reading course descriptions, I didn’t realize how far we went down before climbing back up to Mt Constitution.
I thought it was going to be a slight drop, then climb right back up…… I was wrong. We descended a lot! All I could think was “Dang, all this down means a lot more up”. Eventually I reached the point where we started ascending again. This section was still steep but much less taxing than the powerline climb. It switched back all the way to the top. Once I reached the Mt Constitution AS, I refilled both bottles with Roctane, put my poles back in my pack, and prepared for the 5 mile descent to Camp Moran to finish the first lap.
Once you leave the AS, you run the ridge along the cliff of Mt Constitution very briefly where you have the most spectacular view of the whole course (and of course with perfect timing, Glenn was in a perfect place to capture another picture). After the short ridge run is a very steep downhill. It switch backed all the way down until it eventually reached Cascade Lake. Here you can see the earlier aid station but instead of hitting that AS, you stay on single track and go up and down a couple times until you drop in right at Camp Moran. I looked at my watch and it read 5:05…. Uh-Oh, that’s an hour faster than I planned on doing my first lap. Did I mess up?
Lap 1 Down, Now on to Lap 2
I ran into Camp Moran because I didn’t see Mallory right away. I figured she was out exploring because I told her not to expect me until at least 6 hours. I was in the process of walking to my drop bag when I heard her say “Hey!” I turned around and Thank God! It was her and she had my bottles ready. I got my bottles and asked her for a pair of socks. As she got them out of the crew pack I had for her, she said “You an hour early”. I nervously laughed and said “Yea but I don’t know where I could have slowed down at unless I hiked the entire road section”. I changed socks and was off again.
This time I decided to hike the entire road all the way to Little Summit. I started up the road and soon saw Max, a guy I talked to before the race this morning. I asked if everything was ok and he told me he forgot to get his headlamp. The climb up went pretty well and since I hiked the entire thing, Max caught me right around the top. We talked a lot on the way down. I told him I did the first lap an hour faster than I anticipated but couldn’t think of anywhere I could have really slowed down and he said he was an hour faster too. We rolled into Mountain Lake AS where Mallory greeted me and gave me a new bottle.
Max and I left the AS the same time and ran together around the Lake. He asked if I wanted to pass and I told him “no that this was a perfect pace”. I also told him I didn’t want to feel like I was pushing him but this was the pace I was going to run whether I was in front or behind him. He agreed that it was a good pace so we ran together until we started the climb up Mt Pickett. This time I grabbed my poles and used them on the climb. I didn’t feel like I needed them, but I knew that if I waited until I needed them that the damage would already be done. I must have been going faster than Max wanted to go, so he let me pass on the climb. I didn’t see him again for the race. Once I topped the summit of Mt Pickett, I packed my poles back up and began the descent to Mt Pickett AS.
I ran through the AS again without stopping because I still had a full bottle of Roctane. I was also making a conscious effort of spending as little amount of time as possible at aid stations during this race because I know that you can kill a race if you spend too much time there. Also the aid stations were heated and heated aid stations are just DNF traps. I left and said I would try to make it to Cascade Lake AS before I needed my headlamp. So I rolled along at a pretty good pace, relaxed but still solid. It started to get dark but I made it to Cascade without stopping to put on my headlamp.
Mallory greeted me with a kiss and new bottles. She said “You’re doing Great! I wasn’t expecting you for another 15 minutes” I asked her for a fresh pair of socks and she said “OK! Want me to put them on for you so you can get everything else ready?”…… WHAT? She wants to change my nasty socks? My feet are so disgusting; I don’t even want to change them. I told her “You don’t have to do that, my feet are nasty”. She insisted that she didn’t mind, so I gratefully let her. All I have to say is that’s love right there…. I’m a lucky man. While she changed my socks I put on my headlamp and got out my poles. Slipped my shoes back on, gave her a kiss and headed off for the powerline once again.
|Post race feet|
The Powerline wasn’t bad this time either; however it was getting muddier just as I thought it would from all the people during the day. Up, Down, and Back up to Mt Constitution.
Mallory was there waiting on me. We switched bottles and I asked her to grab my arm warmers out of my pack. The wind was whipping pretty hard up there at the top so I figured it might be time to join everyone else and put some sleeves on. As I put my arm warmers on, she put my poles back in my pack. And I’m off and another quick and efficient AS transition down. I don’t recall anything descent down constitution other than it being very very foggy. It took me longer than it normally would have because I had to really focus to stay on the trail and where I was putting my feet. But before long I was down by the lake again and headed to Camp Moran.
I got there and asked Mallory for a fresh pair of socks. A volunteer asked me if I wanted anything hot to eat. I knew that were making fresh pizza there and I had been thinking about it the whole time since I left Constitution. I asked her for some pizza with “Lots of meat and not a lot of veggies”. She said “Ok Veggies and No Meat” and I quickly corrected her and said “No I want lots of meat without many veggies”. I guess vegetarians are taking over now…. As she got me a slice Mallory changed my socks once again. The Volunteer came back with a piece and a couple pieces of bacon. I have no idea what all was on there but I threw the bacon on top and ate it in 3 bites (the time it took Mallory to finish with my last sock). I slipped my shoes back on and was out the door.
Lap 2 Down, Now on to Lap 3
I expected this lap to be the worse both mentally and physically just from the experience from my previous 100 milers. With that in mind, I set out with a positive attitude that no matter what low spot came that it would go away eventually. I used my poles on the climb back up to Little Summit this time. Again I didn’t feel like needed them like I said earlier once you feel like you “need” them, it’s too late. It didn’t take any time before I climbed back into the fog and this time I swear it was worse. I couldn’t see anything other than what was 10’ in front of me. If It hadn’t been for following the edge of the pavement, I wouldn’t have ever been able to find my up the mountain. All I could do was look at the side of the road and push on. I reached the top, but didn’t put my poles up. I used them to help brake on the downhill and help me stay upright on the decent. Again, this descent took longer than I wish it should have because of the fog being so thick. I also had to force myself to finish off one of my bottles. I was starting to not to want to take in fluids as regularly as I was during the daytime. I knew this would happen; it seems like something that the night does to me. Regardless I made it to the bottom where things were much clearer.
I exchanged bottles and a quick kiss with Mallory and was off. I should also note that I never put my poles up for the remainder of the race. When I wasn’t using them, I just kept them in my hands. These Black Diamond Carbon Distance Z poles only weigh 9oz for the pair so it wasn’t that big of a deal to keep them out. Anywho, up Pickett and down without anything interesting happening. I kept waiting for the low moment to come but it never did. I left Pickett and ran the rollers to Cascade Lake. That section was probably my favorite part of the course because it seemed so easy and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I got to see Mallory again. I couldn’t help but think “Man I feel great! Everything is going way better than I expected”
I reached Cascade Lake where I had another sock change and headed off to the Power Line once again. This time it was very muddy right at the start of it. I tried dancing around the mud as much as possible to keep my new socks dry for as long as possible (I did an ok job at it at first). Up, Up, Up. Relentless forward progress. I reached the top once again. Down the single track and then it started raining very lightly (or at least I thought it was rain). I started climbing back to the summit and I was thinking “Man! these are some big rain drops. And Wow! I must be super tired because they look like they’re falling really slow….. Wait….. that’s not rain, THAT’S SNOW!!” Ok I got kinda excited because being a Georgia guy, we don’t see much snow.
I got to the Mt Constitution and asked Mallory for a fresh shirt while I got my jacket out. The snow would melt when it got on me so I wanted a fresh dry shirt before I put my rain jacket on (plus a fresh shirt just makes you feel good). I was off once again feeling really good. It started snowing hard on the descent, like real hard. I wasn’t so excited anymore because I couldn’t see very far. Sooner or later, the snow faded to rain and I made it to the bottom.
Rolling into Camp Moran, I was happy as could be. I made it through 3 laps without the dreaded “Why am I doing this” moment and I knew this was the last time I had to do any of this. No matter what happened now, I was going to make it. I ate another slice of Pizza and some bacon while Mallory changed my socks again. BTW I stopped and paid attention to the toppings this time. It had to be the weirdest pizza I’ve ever heard of: Pineapple, Pepperoni, Olives, Garlic, and Mushrooms. It’s like somebody got stoned/drunk and came up with pizza toppings. It may have been because I was exhausted and tired from having run 75 miles already but it was pretty damn good.
Click, Click, Click with my poles all the way to the top of Little Summit and then carefully headed back down a very muddy descent.
Mallory was at Mountain Lake AS and I decided it was time to switch over into my tights. I got in the corner and tied a jacket around my waist (to stay modest in front of people) and stripped down then put my tights on. I also switch headlamps from my Petzl Nano to my Black Diamond Icon because my Petzl was getting dim and I didn’t know how much longer it had. And I was off once again.
The next part up to Mt Pickett was pretty much a blurr and the only thing I can remember coming down from it was “Dang my Quads hurt! I’m sure glad this is my last lap”. I reached Mt Pickett and one of the volunteers said “How ya feeling?” I told him I was feeling good and he asked “How’s those clothes working for ya? You aren’t cold?” I laughed and told him that I was fine and actually up until 5 miles ago I was wearing shorts. I thanked them and was off again.
This next 5 miles was a muddy mess! I slipped and fell for the only time in the race here. It wasn’t a bad fall though, just enough to get butt muddy. I ran into Cascade Lake AS feeling happy that I had only 10 miles to go. When I got there I asked Mallory how long it took me to get to Mt Constituiton from here last time and she said she thought it was just under 2 hours. If I could do that again I could break 26 hours. I told her I was going to try to push and beat 26 hours for a finish.
I pushed hard up the powerline and after about 20 minutes I was able to switch off my headlamp. My calves were burning something fierce but I didn’t stop to rest. I made it to the top and began the descent of the single track which seemed like it took forever this time. I kept thinking “ok the turn to the right to begin the climb out should be right around the next corner” and it wouldn’t be. Or the next corner, or the next, or the next. Finally I reached the right turn to begin the climb and I started climbing. Up, up, up. Soon I heard Mallory’s voice say “Hey!” it kinda startled me because I wasn’t expecting to hear someone. She had come down the last switch back to grab a picture of me on my climb out. I asked her how long it had been and she said “A little over 2 hours. 2:04 to be exact” Dang! Sub 26 was slipping away.
I walked into the AS tent where I asked her to switch jackets with me because I wanted to descend with a jacket that breathed instead of my rain jacket that would make me sweat. I threw my jacket on and was off for the last 5 mile decent!
Phew did it hurt this time. My quads were just about gone. I alternated between power hiking down and a very ugly “run”. I finally reached the road by the lake and knew I had less than a mile to go. I hiked/ran those last few rollers. Once I popped out onto the road I ran the rest of the way to the finish. My official finish time was 26:12. My altimeter watch got just shy of 26k’ of ascent and descent, but with the weather changing I’d definitely call it 26k’.
Orcas was an incredibly beautiful race and went extremely smoothly from a runner perspective. You would never guess this was an inaugural year. This race also could not have gone better for me personally. I call running 100 miles without a single low moment or significant blister afterwards a huge success.