If I were to describe this race in one word it would be “humbling”. If I were given two words, I’d say “fun and beautiful”, and if I was told that’s actually three words, well, I’d kindly tell you to shove it.
The Orcas 25k is not only a race, it’s an event. It’s held on Orcas Island, the largest island in the San Juan Islands here in Washington. In order to get there I had to first take a plane from San Francisco (because I was working up until Friday morning), rush to REI to get a hydro pack, get in a car to Anacortes, then get on a ferry to the island. It was quite the adventure, but we made it just as the sun was setting over the islands.
We had two other couples going with us and carpooling was very easy. After getting off the ferry we went straight to the park where the race was being held so that we could check in to the cabin and get our race packet.
This cabin happened to have no heat due to some wiring issues, I worried this might be an issue because I hate being cold when I sleep, but thankfully the sleeping bag I was using was comfortable and warm. The start line was directly behind our cabin, so the commute to get there in the morning was non existent. If you’ve seen my recent race reports (ahem, CIM and NWM SF) you’d see that I’ve had some major issues with getting myself (and others, sorry Hutch!) to the start without stress.
I can happily report that I woke up at reasonable hour, stretched, and made my way over to the pre-race meeting without any problems. Go me!
Here we were told about the change in the course this year. Apparently James, the race director of all the Rainshadow Running events, felt bad for the 25kers, since in the past we did not get to experience the power line trail that the Orcas Island 50kers do. So he added that in this year. He wanted to make the 25k more challenging, and adding a hill that goes straight up, will do it.
Happy faces before 4 hours of running, climbing, walking, etc.
A 25k equals 15.5 miles, which is just about 3.5 more miles than a half marathon. Because I love half marathons and can usually do well, even on little training, I went in thinking this will be hard but doable. While I was right, “hard” was tear-inducing/ agonizing at points. I’ll get to that in a sec, first
I’m someone who trains on roads, races on roads and generally doesn’t mind roads minus the car exhaust. Trail running is something that I just don’t have a strong desire to do, I like it well enough, but I don’t go out of my way to find trail races or do trail runs. This race was John’s idea of a good time, and since I’m always down for a good time, I said sure thing, I’m in.
One of the lakes
A gorgeous waterfall that I couldn’t capture quite as well as I would have liked.
Part of the power line trail when we first started seeing snow.
The scenery didn’t disappoint. This was our first time to the San Juan Islands and running this race was a wonderful introduction to them. Yes the race was hard, but the experience was fantastic. The race was well executed, the course was easy to follow and clear of almost all fallen trees. The aid stations were stocked with all sorts of goodies including Oreos (thought of you Karen!), Sprite, PB&J mini sandwiches and other calorie-happy snacks.
John and I ran together without any arguments and many parts of the course were really fun and enjoyable. A slight decline and clear path means joyful frolicking in the woods and there was plenty of that.
The post race food, entertainment, and dance party also contributed to making this a great event. Despite the fact that my cabin did not have heat, I would recommend staying in the cabins or very close to them so you can experience the full after party if you plan on doing this race.
Had we done this race last year, this view:
would have looked like this:
Apparently it was blue bird conditions last year, we missed out! Weather was not ideal. I wore too much at the start and had to stop and stuff my jacket in my bag right before 2.5 miles. Then at the top of the mountain I had to put it back on along with the second pair of gloves that I had with me, which still didn’t help to get my hands warm.
Also, had I trained for this race, I may have felt much better about it. Having not run, besides in a crossfit workout, since the 10 miler two weeks before this race, I wasn’t in tip top shape to be racing up a mountain. That’s obviously on me, and I know that I’ve been waiting to ramp up my training for the half marathon so I’ve been giving myself some time to rest (both mentally and physically) before I need to truly buckle down and start doing some hard miles.
There were tears. My hips were not happy, I got a blister that was then jabbed by a rock, my hands were ice cold and I had been on my feet much longer than I ever have in a race.
This is me moving up the Power Line trail as fast as I could, ie walking
My reaction was to completely fall apart. I broke down shortly after the top of the mountain, in between miles 11 and 12. I wanted to get to the aid station, since it signified almost all downhill from there, and it just was not coming soon enough. John, being amazing as usual, tried to help me in every way he could. He did not get impatient with me and helped get my second pair of gloves out. We tried to use expired hand warmers (by the way, their date matters, they were a year past expiration and did not activate very well!) This is the first time I’ve truly broken down from exhaustion during a race. It’s so darn overwhelming, and hard to imagine going much farther, and that in itself is just upsetting. I pulled it together though and when I realized that short steps were what was really hurting my hips, I changed my stride and was then able to pick up speed and feel less pain.
It’s still a PR. 4:08:42
First time running a 25k, and I’ll be back. It actually doesn’t bother me that much that this race wasn’t perfect for me, it gave me a good beat down, which I need from time to time. When I can feel great about running 10 miles on no training, I need a good ego equalizer to tell me that I need to work harder if I want better results. I also realized that I need to be more understanding when John is having a bad day, because we all have them. We plan to do this again, and next time I’ll make sure to train out on Tiger Mountain.
Have you ever had a breakdown in the middle of a race? How do you feel about trail races?