A few words that jump to my mind to describe this course are: steep, rugged, rocky, brutal, and steep. Did I mention steep? Apparently switchbacks are out of style in Yakima, because these trails seemed to march straight up the hill, no matter how steep the grade. I believe there was somewhere close to 10,000 ft vertical over the 31 mile course and the day was warm – highs in the low 80’s. This made for a very challenging day. I went out strong and at the halfway point was still feeling good. I knew that I was within shooting range of the top ten at that point, and I had hopes of running the second half as fast or faster than the first half. That, however, was not to be. The heat of the day combined with dehydration and muscle fatigue caused me to run the second half 30 min slower than the first half and I ended up finishing 14th overall in 6 hours and 32 minutes.
So, on the positive side, the views were spectacular from the ridges. Here are a couple photos I snapped with my phone.
Here are a few of my favorite things about the race:
– The fact that we were warned at the starting line about rattlesnakes on the trails and told to check carefully for ticks afterwards.
– There was a section with absolutely no trail. Just ribbons tied to sagebrush that you were supposed to follow.
– At one point I got excited that I was getting near an aid station because I thought I heard people talking. Turns out it was just a flock of ravens circling overhead as if they were hoping one of us would drop off.
– Immersing my entire body in the ice cold river at the end of the race. This was one of the most refreshing things I’ve ever done and my wife appreciated that I smelled a little better afterwards.
– The opportunity this race provided to remove much of my Seattle pasty whiteness. Unfortunately it has been replaced with a very painful bright redness. I shouldn’t have worn those little racing shorts!
At the moment, I’m not sure if I’ll ever do this one again. Then again, I do have a pretty short memory when it comes to ultras. Ask me next week and I’ll tell you it was the greatest event ever.
Today I participated in a brilliant event. It was called the “Big Climb” and took place in the Columbia Tower in downtown Seattle. The race was up 69 flights of stairs, 1311 steps,788 ft vertical elevation. I say that this was a brilliant event, because the goal was to raise money to fund research related to Leukemia and other rare forms of cancer. As far as races go, I’m pretty sure this one had pretty low overhead. No shutting down streets and re-directing traffic. I’m pretty sure the stairwells weren’t going to be used by anyone else this weekend. The race was very short, so they didn’t need many volunteer staff to run aid stations, etc. All of this will allow a very large percentage of the funds raised to go directly to the research.
Now, as far as the experience as a racer, I can’t say that this was the most scenic or enjoyable race I have ever run. The stairwell was crowded, hot and stinky. It was very difficult to pass people in the narrow stairwells. And once you got to the top, instead of fresh air you got more stuffy under-ventilated canned air. But I’m pretty sure that running this race is nowhere near as difficult as having cancer, so maybe the suffering helps you appreciate the pain others go through more.
I was part of a great team, Team Ezra, in honor of my friend’s son who died a few years ago of Leukemia. Take a minute to watch this video about him that his dad made.
Ezra’s twin brother, Milo, was determined to beat me up the stairs. He had a good fast start, but unfortunately didn’t pace himself well enough, and go tired halfway up, so I was able to pass him. Better luck next year, Milo!
The fundraising effort is still ongoing, and out team is currently in 5th place! I however, haven’t raised as much money as I would have liked. If you made it this far in reading this entry, please follow this link to donate as little as $5 to help find a cure for leukemia. Every dollar counts. Thanks in advance.
Finish time: 5:42:32
Position: Overall: 20th Mens: 15th
If I wasn’t already convinced that ultrarunning is the greatest sport on earth, this last weekend tipped the scales. Combine beautiful soft trails with clear blue skies, amazing scenery and good friends, and I’m hooked.
This was my second running of the Orcas 50k, and both times have offered an incredible experience. The main difference for me this year was that I was anticipating those wicked hills. Last year I trained mostly on roads leading up to the race, and my hill legs were jello by the end. This year I trained smarter and it paid off. I also nailed the nutrition. My game plan consisted of a GU every half hour, salt pill every hour and a bottle of water every hour. Then as much food as I could stomach at the aid stations. This played out very well as I had no nausea or cramping. This is a big contrast to the previous ultras I’ve run. This was the first time where I felt energized and strong the entire race. Very encouraging.
I think that one thing I like best about these races is that they provide such a contrast to the rest of my life. Being a father of three and having a demanding job usually requires that I am always thinking about several things at once. When I get out there to run, I have one task: keep moving forward. This is all that I have to think about until I finish. It’s very therapeutic.
This year I was joined by two good friends and their families: John Maytum and Josh Heckathorn. Unfortunately John got sick the day before the race and should have just stayed in bed Saturday morning. He ran for a while but eventually had to admit that he was whooped. Josh finished in 6:16, which was a stellar finish for his first ultra. We had lied and told him this would be a good first ultra to ease into the sport.
Jenni had the camera with her throughout the day and captured some of the beauty on film. Enjoy.