Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jbob's Orcas Island 50k Race Report - February 1 - 2014

I want to know what Love is...I want you to show me!

Sunset on Orcas Island.
Orcas Island would be my first race in over 6 months. The physical impacts of running the Bighorn 100 were aggravated while running the Mt. Hood 50 mile race in July last year, and I opted to give myself a long recovery period through the winter. After all, taking a break from crazy ultra running for at least a couple months allows the body a chance to be happy instead of being pissed off all the time.

Building up training for the Orcas Island 50k was not a smooth road.  In the month of January, there were 4 "injuries" that could have mentally prevented me from running this race.
  1. A seemingly chronic ache located where my right achilles meets the lower part of my calf, which has been coming and going for the past 3 months.
  2. A likely case of Morton's Neuroma that started causing bruise-like pain on the bottom of my left middle toe, forcing me to run in Hokas through half the month until it went away. The use of toe spacers, golf ball massaging, and icing seemed to help the healing process.
  3. A rolled ankle (or minor sprain) 1 week prior to the race that didn't pop, yet caused minor swelling and stiffness in my left foot.
  4. Sore hip flexors from falling hard after rolling my ankle (see injury 3). My hip flexors likely suffered from the impact and strain of landing on my knees while cruising downhill. They were plenty sore throughout the week, but started to feel better just a few days prior to the race.
Thankfully, none of these issues affected my race, however, I never felt 100% confident that I would run the race without dropping out.



Many runners opted for the early start at 7:30am, including most of my Portland friends. The course was slow and tough, and everyone wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to finish. Also, anyone who starts early gets to see how the race unfolds when the 8:30am front-runners come passing by. I was excited to be able to see my early-start friends during the race, and it gave me something to look forward to.


Adam Hewey's mustache, leading the way. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
The race started on a gradual downhill, and Adam Hewey's mustache assertively jumped into the lead before the road turned to rolling single track. The trail ran through gorgeous foliage and streams of probably delicious island runoff, and slowly but surely I found myself in a comfortable position (top 10-ish). Andrew Miller and I started to run together just before the first climb up the Mt. Constitution road (asphalt). Not before too long, Andrew kicked into a pace that put me out of my comfort zone. I stayed with him, and together we kept within site distance of the most of the runners in front of us (Jonathan, Hal, Jodee, Hayden). By the time the climb ended, my legs felt worked.

Andrew (eventual winner),
Jonathan (red), and Me (blue shorts).
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
Beginning the first long descent, Andrew pulled away like a fearless teenager and just flew down the technical terrain. I mean, that kid was footloose. Andrew and I stayed close until we hit Aid Station 1 (mile 6.4), and then he bolted out of sight while I filled one of my water bottles. That would be the last I saw of him during the race. As a matter of fact, I didn't see a single front runner between the miles of 6.4 and 21, which allowed me to focus on running my own race.

The trail along Mountain Lake and Twin Lakes was rolling, beautiful, and serene. My legs recovered well along this stretch, and before too long, I was running happy! My legs felt strong on the hills, and I enjoyed interacting with the early starters. One of the early start runners in particular was having issues going down a set of stairs, and then I realized that he was running with a prosthetic leg. Turns out his name is Edward, and he originally attempted the 25k race held the previous weekend, but his prosthetic broke after only 2 miles. After that happened, he resolved to run the 50k the following weekend with a new prosthetic, and you can read his blog here. Inspiring guy!

The climb up to Mt. Pickett was gradual and runnable. The open areas of the forest had a fresh dusting of snow from the previous week that gave a sparking white contrast to the lush green ferns and moss covered trees. It was so pretty, it made ME feel pretty just being there! The next uphill climb involved a series of switchbacks that were steep enough to hike, followed by a quick downhill to Aid Station 2 (mile 14.2). I left the aid station with a mouthful of grapes and peanut m&ms for me to nom nom on the downhill. The trails mostly rolled downhill towards Aid Station 3 (mile 20.6), and this aid station was the gateway to the Powerline Trail. Knowing what was ahead of me, I ingested calories and salt prior to leaving the aid station. As I left the aid station Andrew's father told me to go catch his son. Really? I asked. Go get him! He replied. Okay! Said my mouth.

The Power Line Trail
during a past race.
Photo from the website.
The Power line trail is what some people would call a female dog. It climbs ~2,000' in ~2 miles, and it's steep enough in places to get on all fours if you really wanted to.  When I reached the Power Line Trail, I finally saw a couple of the front runners hiking laboriously up the trail. After shoving another GU in my gut, I hiked steadily with hands on knees, slowly closing the gap. Hayden Teachout (just ahead of me) dropped his water bottle, but he quickly caught it with his foot, otherwise it would have tumbled all...the the bottom. Close call for him. He looked like he was struggling, but I felt awesome despite my quivering calves. Every now and then, the trail would turn gradually runnable, and I pushed myself to run every runnable stretch that I could. Hal was hiking in the distance, but I couldn't quite close the gap. He just stayed 100 yards ahead as we both hiked and ran at the same pace.

At last! The climb gave way to a ~2 mile descent, and my legs shifted gears. Running steady, I slowly caught and passed Hal. As always, he had a big smile on his face and offered words of encouragement as I ran by. The trail soon turned into a steep (but not too steep) climb, the last significant climb to the top of Mt. Constitution. I tried running, but hiking was a wiser choice at this point. Some switchbacks were runnable, but it was mostly a hike-fest. After about 1.5 miles of ascent, the trail dumped into the aid station on the top of Mt. Constitution (mile 25.8). The views were PHENOMENAL! I knew a couple of the volunteers at the aid station, but I didn't recognize them since my mind was too focused on what my body needed. Quickly downing coke, salt, and calories, someone told me I was 3rd male and 4th overall with Jodi just minutes in front of me. The last 6 miles of the race were mostly downhill, and my feet were ready to set sail. After thanking the volunteers, I flew down the trail with the hopes of a top 3 finish. Get on your horse, Jbob!

Near the top of Mt. Constitution. Photo by the stellar Glenn Tachiyama.
Shortly after running past Glenn Tachiyama (photographer), my right hamstring quivered. Gah! No no no no no, not now! The transition from the uphill push up Mt. Constitution to the downhill push for the finish line was not a smooth one. Fearing a total cramp of my hamstring, I stopped to stretch it for 10 seconds before restarting into my downhill gear. Now, my mind was filled with the fear of an impending cramping. My mantra at the time:...don't cramp, don't cramp, don't cramp, don't cramp... 

A pack of mountain bikers appeared on the trail before me, and it took my mind off things for a bit while trying to keep up with them. The last rider kept looking back at me to see if I was gaining on them, and they stopped at the next intersection and let me pass. Score 1 for the runner.

Within a mile of the finish, I saw her. Jodee was still going strong, and she was hiking the last hill on tired legs. My legs were tired too, but I was slowly closing the gap. I had no idea that I was within a mile of the finish line at this point, so I kept my pace strong/conservative considering my legs were borderline quivering. When we hit the homestretch, I knew there was no way I was going to catch her. She'll always be the one that got away...and I'm okay with that, because she's outside of my age group/gender and she earned it.

RESULTS: 4:46:59, 3rd male (4th overall) out of 200 Finishers
PACE: ~9:10 min/mile

After hugging the Race Director, James Varner, my right hamstring seized and I was on the ground in pain...smiling and laughing. There wasn't a single moment during the race where I wished I was done, and that says a lot about how much I enjoyed the course. My mood was blissful as I was lying on the grass laughing, full of joy and gratitude that my body held itself to the very end.

Mad Props: Andrew Miller, 17 years old, won the race with the 3rd fastest time ever! He's a humble kid and super kind hearted. I'm excited to see how well he runs at Zane Grey 50m this year.

Photo Credit: Gary Wang.
After showering at the nearby bunkhouse, I cheered on my friends and enjoyed great food/beer as the after race celebration was slowly getting started. Most of the runners stuck around for a while, and the party went well into the night with a live bluegrass band The Pine Hearts playing their hearts out. Eventually, the evening turned dark, the lights went down, and people started dancing. I was amazed at how limber some of these runners were, considering they just ran a tough 50K. One guy was jigging so aggressively, I prayed for his legs.

Samantha, Ann, T.J., Kevin, and Jesse! Photo Credi: T.J. Ford's Camera
T.J., Samantha, and me. Photo Credit: T.J. Ford's camera
The Pine Hearts! Photo Credit: T.J. Ford.
Not every race ends in a party that goes until 2 am, and certainly not every race celebrates community & achievement quite like a Rainshadow race. I would return and run the Orcas Island 50K again in a heartbeat, and YOU should definitely consider running the 25K or 50K someday.

Thank you James Varner, the volunteers, Glenn Tachiyama, Project Talaria, and everyone else who helped make this race happen.

Also, a special thanks to those who've helped me in my journey, especially: The Float Shoppe (Recovery), Trailbutter (Sustenance), and Dr. Brad Farra (Sports Chiropractor).

Shout out to my bunk mates who helped make my weekend so special: T.J., Ann, Annie, Samantha, Jesse, and Kevin. Love you guys!

Trailbutter on Orcas Island

The improved "Tribute to the Trails Calendar" at my work
Thanks for reading!

Much Love,



  1. Awesome read! I really liked that one! Congratulations, again, on another really fantastic accomplishment!!!

  2. Awesome! I have Morton's Neuroma that just flared back up with a vengeance yesterday! I think it was Hagg this time! So happy you finished well! That write was inspiring!

  3. I love Orcad Island! What an amazing race!