First off, a HUGE thanks to all of the race organizers and volunteers for putting on an incredible race! James and Rainshadow Running were top notch, with great food, beer and music waiting at the finish line.
We left Victoria mid-day on Friday. A couple bushy-tailed Ultramarathon rookies heading for the promised land. Hopped the ferry over to Tsawwassen and drove across the border (pulled in for extra questioning), continuing on to Anacortes where we took an evening ferry over to Orcas Island. We met up with the rest of the running group at the hotel, had a quick visit and it was off to bed.
Up early and to the chagrin of our fellow housemates, we fired up the old magic bullet and blended some delicious and nutritious treats. We prepped everything for the race, jumped in the car and cranked up Robert Palmer’s Greatest Hits (?) In hindsight this was not a great pre-race album selection. It didn’t matter. What a stellar day for a race it was! Nice cool temperatures and clear sunny skies. This was the first Ultra for both of us and we were eager to find out what the whole thing was about. We rolled into the Moran State Park lodge and checked in for the race, toeing the startline shortly after. This is what happened next…
Matt’s race report:
I was so pumped up for this race! Felt healthy, strong and rested going in after a good taper week. I started near the front of the pack as I wanted to get a feel for what the lead pace would be like. I settled in around 10th place and felt good over the first 15k or so leading up to the first aid station. I made up a few places at the aid station and on the massive climb up Mt. Constitution that followed. Soon I found myself in 4th place and running strong. The course came down the mountain and then flattened out along a lake leading up to the halfway point. Over this section I started feeling some leg cramps coming on. I tried to fight them off by drinking more water but they kept getting worse. I was out of water by this point and still had some running left before the next aid station. Looking back, the cramps weren’t so much a product of poor hydration, but more a product of simply running the first half too fast. Rookie mistakes! I came into the halfway aid station feeling pretty beat up and thirsty. I refilled my water and started what is a savage climb up the other side of Mt. Constitution. The leg cramps were coming on strong now and I was passed by a 4 savvy Ultramarathon vets. The views from the trail were incredible, and the sun was energizing as the trail started opening up. I reached the top and refilled my water again, choked down more gels and started the descent. My legs were in and out for the rest of the race, there were good parts and… not so good parts. I finished in 8th spot overall in a time of 5:05.
Overall the race was spectacular. Despite making things difficult for myself by going out a little too fast, it was an awesome experience just being on the course, enjoying the views, meeting new people and testing the limits. I learned a lot and am eager to get back to training and keep movin’ on up!
Dave’s race report:
Pre-race had a pretty exciting feel. There was the familiar migration of dozens of runners towards the registry, their loud, synthetic running garb hidden beneath their layers of wool and down necessary to keep the morning frost at bay. But the distance the legs were expected to cover that day was more than I had any experience with. I was stoked. With the paperwork done, the safety announcements and aknowledgments out of the way, the line was packed with smiles and excited yips and yowls. 3.2.1…. and it was underway. New territory.
Deciding to stick with Matt proved to be and arduous task and after about 12km I fell into a comfortable rhythm and began to really take in the surroundings and the comrades on the course. The first real descent was a BLAST!! Wide open trails and a comfortably steep grade allowed a person to really let ‘er buck!
The morning chill was long forgotten but nearing the first Aid station runners found themselves in an open field covered in frost and barred by the tall trees from the rising sun. Though it was a very chilly site I received some very important and appreciated advice from a new friend Rob Bowden who had experience with this event. Shedding my thermal top as advised I soon reached the first REAL climb and immediately felt a deep gratitude for Robs wisdom. This climb was a tough grind and in direct sun the basically the whole way. Near the half way point I turned to see the good people dotting the trail below and realized that while mesmerized by the punishing ground ahead we had all been missing the spectacular views behind of Mt. Baker and the rest of the all-star line up of the Cascade Range.
Happy to be done with the hill and again making up good time on the wide open downhill I found a rhythm and cruised along feeling a lot of love for this place and opportunity to participate in it. I was excited to hear how Matt’s race was going up at the front. The only thing that was bothering me at this point was the lack of blood in my hands which was resulting in continuous a dull ache that, from experience, I had written off as part of the game…. but the game was about to change… After a small handstand-ninjaturtleroll-style bail as a result of trying to use to unusable hands to open and consume an energy gel I was a little shaken but very stirred to continue.
**I want to take a time out to really stress my appreciation for the AMAZING volunteers at this race and just how positive, dedicated and helpful and down right instrumental they all were in making this race a fully enjoyable event**
Back on the trail I came into the third aid station and was approached by eager helpful faces asking what I needed. I explained that because I couldn’t feel my hands I pretty much would just settle for some conversation but one man said no problem I’ll give you a hand-warmer. Expecting him to start rubbing my hands at that moment I admit feeling awkward but when he handed me a little packet of heat and even tucked it in my glove for me I was a little overcome. I’m not sure I said thank you enough before I carried on, but I tried. This magical hand-warmer was like carrying around a little sunshine in my hands bringing my entire body to life and renewing a slightly waned enthusiasm. There were a few simply breath-taking view points on this climb where I just had to stop and take some video to share with you all and also to really let the warm sun soak deep into my body. The Oceans. The Mountains. The Islands. The Sun. And Me. what a life! Matt has probably finished the race by now I figured.
At the top of Mt. Constitution was a throng of excited supporters poised to re-energize the trail weary runners, calling support to them by their race numbers. A youngster with the excitement of christmas eve asked me if he could get me some potato soup. How can a person say no a kid, so clearly thrilled to share his treasure? While a delightful woman refilled my water pack, this vibrant young soul fixed me a cup’o’soup and with soup in belly and pack on back I tried in vain once again to convey the appropriate amount of gratitude.
From this point on I only saw one or two more people as I screamed (literally) down the mountain and negotiated the final climb. With the knowledge of the last decent and no more major climbs to come was beggining to feel the miles stacking up but reached a calm excitement knowing that there was A LOT of food and drink at the end and that Matt must be packed and ready to go by now!
The final 2.5 miles of this race are magical. A flowing trail with small rises and dips around a calm sun-shimmering lake that stir a song in the soul. And then a real song, that honestly almost brought me to tears; an eagle flying along the trail above me singing in what felt like appreciation for what I hoped was an understanding of why we were both here. To enjoy this life.I enjoyed this life right across the finish line and straight into a hug from Matt, hastily followed by a trip to the apple cider table! I found myself overwhelmed by the energy of the people, the quantity and quality of the food and drinks and the sweet dulcet tones on The Blackberry Bushes ( theblackberrybushes.com ) a magnificent string band based in Olympia Wa. It would take some time to really get my head around just what an amazing and powerfully positive experience it had all been. But at that moment, all I couldn’t think about, was the next run.