Sunday, February 25, 2007

Orcas Island Fat Ass 25K

15 miles, 4:51:36
Orcas Island offered the most beautiful course I have ever been on - despite the clouds that concealed the view from the top of Mt. Constitution.

Chapter 1: In which we travel to the race.
Steve, his 78 year-old father, Bob, Melissa, Eric and I left our house at 1:30 on Friday. We put our car-top carrier on top of Steve's Yeti, loaded up the back as well and headed North. We made one pit stop at a Starbucks on the way and arrived in Anacortes with about an hour to spare before the ferry. In the departure lounge we met up with two groups of runners and had a great time chatting with them. I was greatly encouraged chatting with one of the runners, Herb, who has had a quadruple by-pass and was back running races six months later. He was taking on the 50K this weekend. Once we were on the ferry, we trooped up to the passenger deck and enjoyed the one hour ride. Unfortunately, by then it was dark so we didn't see much - except the lights of other ferries on other runs. Once we got to Orcas, we drove to Eastsound for dinner - we found a great little Italian place with fantastic food. After that, we drove to Moran to drop off Melissa, Bob and Steve. Eric and I continued on to Rosario. We checked in at the main building and were sent off to find our room in a building on the side of the hill about a half mile away. We went in, tossed our bags down and checked out the room. Eric realized that the rug was soaked through - it made squishing sounds when we walked and we left trails of wet footprints on the tile. A call to the front desk resulted in a room change and a discount. That meant getting back into the car and driving higher up the hillside to a new building. It was 10:30 when we finally got into a good room. We both slept really well, unlike the others who suffered through a night spent in a cabin with 20 others, including multiple snorers, someone with a cough and rustling plastic mattresses.

Chapter 2: In which we check-in at Race-Central
Eric and I got back to the park about 7:45 the next morning. The camp center was packed with runners, there was hot water and oatmeal packets available and a lot of nervous chatter. As we looked around, we started to realize just how many of the runners we had seen on the ferry the night before. The race director took us outside for the final instructions. The race started off across the field in front of the camp - a nice lawn but very mucky and muddy.

Chapter 3: In which we climb the Mountain
I was pleasantly surprised that the race started out with some gentle hills on beautiful trails. Sometimes wide and smooth, sometimes single-track, sometimes rocky, rooty and/or muddy. I was really pleased at how much running we actually got to do in the first two miles. Eventually we reached the area where we mostly climbed. Melissa and I were both trying to make sure we ate and drank enough during this run - I absolutely loved my chocolate soy milk. I drank 24 ounces of it during the full run, and 17 ounces of water. But, I'm getting ahead of myself here. I had worn my goretex jacket as rain was threatening and it was much colder than I expected. As we began the climb, I peeled the coat off and tied it around my waist. Melissa was running strong - she'd get ahead of me, wait for me and when I got close, take off again. It kept us moving steadily the entire time. On the downside, I never really got to drop my heart rate - it held at 156-158 through most of the climb. We were running through drop-dead gorgeous forest - huge, old-growth trees, over creeks and little brooks. It was amazing. Eventually we started seeing traces of snow around - just enough to etch the roots and leaves. The wind started picking up too. We kept climbing, and I got cold enough to put my jacket back on. The snow started getting deeper, then before long it started coming down. I can't begin to describe what it was like to run through the snow in the deep forest with the wind blowing through the tree tops and the trees creaking and groaning above us. We came out on to the ridge - there was low-lying brush around, maybe salal, and two or three inches of snow over it. On our right, maybe a foot from the trail, the cliff dropped off to the Sound. We were in the clouds, but when we looked down, we could see the clouds below us blowing by and catch occasional glimpses of the water. The wind was really strong here, but again, it was so beautiful that we didn't care.

Chapter 4: In which we climb the tower at mile six
We turned away from the ridge for a short distance and saw a building to our left, then the trail split - to the left was the aid station, to the right the trail to the observation tower. We went to the right. The observation tower is old and built of stone. It was a relief to get in out of the wind. We started climbing - we skipped the lower decks and went right to the top. The wind was blowing the snow sideways when we stepped out to the top deck. There were ice crystals all over the sides and they were all sideways too. It was bitterly cold, and the fog over the Sound was so dense that we couldn't see anything. When we turned to go back down, I couldn't step off the top step - the wind was blowing so hard it was holding me up. It relented a little and I got back inside - the same gust that held me up had pushed Melissa right through the door. Down, down, down and out to the aid station. The poor volunteers at the aid station were freezing. They had food, water, gatorade and hot cocoa for us, plus our drop bags. I refilled my bottles, ate half a sandwich and stuffed a fresh one in my pack. I didn't want cocoa, but gladly accepted a cup of hot water. It was heavenly.

Chapter 5: In which we climb some, and run downhill even more
For a while after leaving the aid station we mostly had gentle downhill with some short climbs. Then we hit another area where we climbed and climbed. The wind was still blowing hard and in few spots still blowing sideways. We caught up and passed a couple that we had passed earlier - they skipped the tower, came into the aid station while we were in the tower and got out ahead of us. We eventually left the snow behind, and came to an area that was steep down-hill switch backs. Melissa and I started running - we ran for 20 minutes without a break, all down-hill. I figured I could skip the walk break because my heart rate was about 138. We caught up and passed two women in this section. Down, down, down. I felt like we were flying, but it looks like our pace was about 13 minute/mile. Once we got to the bottom and leveled out a bit, I discovered what runners mean when they say their "quads are trashed". For the rest of the run I didn't feel like my quads would hold when we hit a downhill - though they did. I'd run, but oh-so-slow. Somewhere in here, I can't remember exactly where, we were running in the opposite direction from the 50K runners. The front pack passed us by - about 15 or so before the trail split again. We kept hoping to see Steve and Eric, but missed them.

Chapter 6: In which I hit the wall and we travel around the lake
I'm not sure what happened - I think I did really well on fueling, so I'm not sure if I ran out of energy, or my worn-out legs caught up with me, or what, but man-oh-man were those last two miles long. I kept trying to get Melissa to go without me because she obviously had energy and pep, but she wouldn't do it. I've been teasing her since the race finished that she was mean, but really she wasn't. She was determined to get us in under five hours and she wasn't going to let me sandbag like I did at Pigtails. She kept me moving - and okay, I don't like to think this is true, but I might have whined a bit. I tried really hard not to, but it's entirely possible that I did. This section of the trail swung us out and around the opposite side of the lake that we had run past in the beginning of the run. By then one of the women we had passed had passed us - I didn't care at all.

Chapter 7: In which we finish
Melissa told me to let her know when we had a mile to go, so I did. She told me that I was going to run that entire last mile, no breaks. Well, that didn't happen, but I gave it my best shot. She would let me walk to a certain point then encourage me to run again. We finally came back to the muddy field in front of the camp - we had to run across it and slightly up hill to finish. I almost lost a shoe in the mud through here. Melissa wanted a strong kick - but I didn't have it, I just put my head down and slogged up the hill. Finished! 4:51:36.

Chapter 8: In which we wait for the guys and worry about Bob
There was two gigantic pots of the most wonderful homemade vegetable soup I have ever had. We rested and ate soup. Melissa was ready to go run the 25K again - she was feeling really good. I, on the other hand, was done. We wandered over to the bunkhouse, waited our turn for the showers. The guy in front of me got a warm one, I got lukewarm and Melissa got cold. The guy after her waited long enough to get hot. We went back to the center to see if the guys were in yet - they weren't, so we pulled our chairs up to the window to watch for them. We started worrying about Bob, Steve's Dad. We kinda thought he should be in (he was doing the 25K). We saw Eric and Steve coming in a group of four and went out to cheer them in. We grabbed them some soup, and talked to Steve about his Dad. He had just decided to backtrack the trail and look for him, and was putting his stuff back on, when we saw Bob come in. 7.5 hours - not bad for a 78 year old man. Bob is quite a runner - he's run well over a 100 marathons - so many he lost track. He's run ultras, ridden his bike across the states, and just ran a half marathon two weeks ago. He is simply amazing.

Chapter 9: In which we read the ferry schedule wrong
The three guys ate, got showered and we loaded the car. Our plan was to catch the 7:20 ferry. We had time to stop again at the same great restaurant for dinner. We were still there eating when the 6:15 ferry pulled out. We got to the ferry dock with about 45 minutes to spare, wandered down to the store, loaded up on chocolate and back to the car. We were kind of curious about why there were so few cars in line, then heard the announcement that the Friday Harbor ferry was coming in. That really got us wondering - so Eric went to find out waht the deal was. Whoops. The 7:20 ferry was a westbound ferry. We wanted eastbound - which went at 6:15 and 9:00. We had an hour and 40 minutes to kill. Melissa saved us - she had a DVD player and a ton of movies. We propped it on the dash and watched "Double Jeopardy". It was like being at the drive-in theater -the windows steamed up, there was a running commentary from the front seats and chocolate galore. The time sped by.

Chapter 10: In which we finally, finally make it home
The ferry came and we finished the movie sitting on the car deck. There were eight cars on the whole boat - and this was a huge ferry. We went upstairs to hang out for the hour long ride. We made it home about 12:30 am, unloaded the car, pulled the carrier off the top and went straight to bed. Needless to say, we didn't make the 8:00 run this morning, but don't worry, we did make it to Starbucks by 9:10.

I loved this race and hope to do it again next year. In fact, I hope we can get out there for a weekend sometime this spring to run. I highly recommend it - though I will warn you the 50K is tough. Check in at Eric's blog for a race report on the 50K. I want to thank Melissa for hanging in there with me and helping me pull in a great time! I had a great trip thanks to the wonderful people I travelled with - what a weekend!


robtherunner said...

Sounds like a wonderful time and I guess I know why it took so long to get a report posted. I hope your quads are feeling better today and if not I hope you're icing them at least.

susie said...

Great report...congrats, Michelle. Some whining was very appropriate (at least that's what I tell David when mine starts). Your races all sound like so much fun:)

angie's pink fuzzy said...

what a great recap; i loved this. the race sounds beautiful and gorgeous and breath-taking.

Wes said...

Nicely done, Michelle! That's so cool that you came in under 5 hours too. Hats off to Melissa! Now, get warm and enjoy your recovery!! (which I understand will be a short one ;-)

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Great job Michelle! I'm glad is was a fun trip and the run ended well. It's always good when you say you'l do it again! Hope your legs are feeling okay.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Michelle, you're a stud!

You are a wonderful encouragement to me, and I love reading your race reports. It almost makes me feel like I'm there - so descriptive!

Congrats again!


Juls said...

Wonderful recap. I loved the references to the food. When I ran my first trail race that was also associated with an Ultra event, I was pleasantly surprised at the difference from road races. The food was really good and the racing approach was so different.

JustRun said...

How awesome! What a great report and congratulations to you! I'm so envious or jealous or living vicariously or something- it just sounds beautiful and fun.
And I know you had a huge race and all but I gotta say, Chapter 9 was my favorite- how cool!

Jessica Deline said...

wow another great report and race and I LOVE how you broke it into chapters. very cool :)

Meghan said...

Alright, fine, I'm officially intrigued. About this island, and about this race. I read Eric's report and now yours, and I'm hooked. Maybe next year? ;)

I'm glad you had a great weekend, despite the mini-bonk and the weather and the ferry mix-up!


Donald said...

I finish that whole report, and there's not one picture of a fat ass anywhere. How disappointing.

Congrats on a wonderful race. It sounds awesome. Despite what I said above, I enjoyed the report.

Sarah said...

Maybe it wasn't your best run, but it sounds like you had a great time....despite a little whining. ; ) : ) Thanks for a great report!

Darrell said...

It sounds to me like you've been completely converted to a ultra trail runner. I sounds beautiful but dang cold, too.

Hopefully you can find us a good place to eat in Eugene.

Joe said...

What a great race, and a great report! What cool scenery! And under 5 hours to boot!

You've really acceleaerated your running is cool.

And inspiring to meet the 77 year old guy. I hope I can be there when I'm 77!!1

Ironayla said...

Loved your race report and chapters! :)

Thomas said...

Fantastic report, sounds like you had a whale of a time. Glad you didn't miss the last ferry.

olga said...

Very well written - and very well enjoyed run! Glad you liked it so much you want to come back. next year - a full deal?

D said...

I love your attitude Michelle. This sounded like a great race. Did you take any scenic photos??

Anne said...

You, whine? I'd be wailing! Great report as always. I love the way it's organized by chapters. I may need to borrow that literary device during my next epic run.

Jack said...

Great race, great report, congratulations.

TryAthlete said...

Congratulations and well done Michelle.

runliarun said...

I've been in the area once. Not the San Juan Islands exactly, but the general vecinity. We once had breakfast in a little eatery in Anacortes, and I remember the mural across the street. And once we took the ferry to Port Townsend on a day that was both sunny and bitterly cold. When I read you race report, I can follow you with my mind's eye - where you went, the mist, the hills, the green.

Chad said...

sounds like a great run.

Maybe I'll find a way to join you guys next year.

Dori said...

What an incredible race! You are just amazing. When you described running through the forest in the snow, I thought of the February picture on my Runner's World calendar. I laughed about the whining; sometimes it's hard not to.