Posts tagged ultramarathon

I’ve had my eye on this race for a while. Unfortunately it was canceled in 2011 so my adventure there had to be postponed until this year. Everything happens on the Island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. The course nearly loops around the entire island and boasts two volcanic climbs; Maderas, or as I liked to call it, “The Beast”, is inactive, wet, cold, and MUDDY and Mt. Conception which is active, long, and generally run in the dark. The two volcanoes represent Fuego y Agua. 

Island of Ometepe

Let me start by telling you about the most magical place on earth. Ometepe is a hidden oasis in Nicaragua, even if  you’re not going to run, at least make some time for adventuring on this island. I’ve never felt so welcome in a foreign country. Before and after the race I managed to eat tons of good food, scooter around the island, attend a seriously old fashioned rodeo, kayak to Monkey Island, hike to waterfalls, and swim at the most amazing water hole ever; Ojo de Agua

The island is quite easy to get to; flying into Managua you can hop into a cab to take you to the ferry; the ferry is crammed to the brim with people, livestock, supplies, and food, but it will only run you about $2. Not bad. Once on the island you can walk to a whole slew of great hostels and hotels to find a place to sleep, eat, and drink. I stayed in a pretty tiny room for about $6 a night. Pretty much anywhere on the island you can find amazing cheap food. I’m vegan and I was still able to find plenty of arroz con vegetales mixto.

Race

Some of you may remember my successful Leadville race with hardly any training, well this race I had even less training, and I was totally unprepared with food, hydration and lights. Yeah, I knew this was gonna be a fun one. Luckily, everyone’s favorite Texan, John Sharp, had me covered with an extra light. The race started at 4am, we had a couple hours of running in the dark. The early hours were pretty uneventful, scooting along soft trails through the backwoods of Nicaragua. Some time after sunrise I approached my favorite aid station. Yep, it’s the waterhole I mentioned earlier, Ojo de Agua; this is a perfect spot to stop and take a dip. From Ojo de Agua we were headed towards Madares. This is what everyone came here for.

Maderas

Maderas is brutal. On my way up the steep mountain I learned that just the week before a hiker got lost on the mountain. I could see exactly how this could happen, and I wasn’t even at the crazy part yet. We were warned that the mountain would be muddy and that we should have an extra pair of shoes waiting in a drop bag on the other side. I was using the ATS laces, which at the time were still in prototype, so I didn’t know quite how they would perform, so instead of in my drop bag I just strapped a trusty pair of Leadvilles w/leather laces to my hip belt. This is one really awesome benifit of minimalism, I could carry an extra pair of footwear with me!

Maderas is pretty much always strapped with it’s very own cloud:  

Once I got up into the cloud, things got a lot wetter, and since it’s ALWAYS wet, there is no “dirt”, only mud. At one point I reached for my camera because I was standing up to my knee, literally, in mud, but I forgot to bring it :( No photo of crazy mud. Not only am I supposed to get my leg out of this muck, but I’m supposed to be running. I kept slogging along, mud and vines and water, lots of water, not just on the ground but on everything — grab a branch for stability and a pint of water will dump down your arm. I don’t know if this sounds terrible, but it wasn’t, it was so much fun, I felt like a kid with no cares in the world. I was SO dirty and wet that it didn’t matter anymore, there was no reason to avoid any of it, the best thing to do was embrace it. Let the mud take over.

Once at the top, you drop down into the crater of the volcano where a foggy lake lives. Somehow they managed to get an aid station up here (???), which was a very surreal sight. Some happy volunteers greeted me, I saw a sleepy pooch lying by a makeshift tent placed next the the shore of the lake. This was literally ALL I could see, everything else was engulfed in the mist. I caught my breath here and moved on not knowing that the best part was just ahead of me. After crawling out of the crater, I was greeted with more mud except on this side things felt a little more like a fantasy Tarzan world. I was using my upper body just as much as my legs, swinging and flowing through the swampy jungle, climbing down muddy slopes, at one point I was crawling over a giant root system and suddenly looked down to see nothing below me, just empty space, a few hundred foot drop, the roots had protruded from a cliff side and I was “running” on them. Soon after this I remembered the extra sandals strapped to my back. I figured if I were ever gonna compare the performance of the ATS laces to traditional laces this should be the time.

I took a second to change from my ATS laces to the traditional and took off again. The difference was night and day, the leather straps weren’t strong enough to hold my foot in place, the layer of mud on the sandal meant that I had zero traction, the ATS laces had been doing all of the work. Within 5 minutes the extreme pressure from my foot sliding pulled the knot through the toe hole. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve run some crazy things in traditional laces and managed just fine, but this was beyond crazy, this was unreal, a Hollywood movie could never capture the raw jungle of this place. With the ATS laces securely back on my feet I made my way down the mountain.

The Rest

The aid station at the bottom, Hacienda Merida, marked the 50k point. I was feeling pretty good, but the volcano had taken a good chunk of energy and time. The rest of the race didn’t go too well for me. I left the aid station not thinking of hydration at all, having just been cold and wetter than if I were swimming. The next 8 miles was along a dirt road that went through a couple small towns. Turns out that that day was one of the hottest of the year, and I was running totally exposed right in the middle of it. I quickly ran out of water and trotted feeling pretty miserable, I had become dehydrated and exhausted from the heat. But I had one thing to comfort me: I knew the next aid station was back at Ojo de Agua and I had a pretty good idea that is where my girlfriend would be. If I said that my plan wasn’t to grab a fresh coconut, take a dip, pull up a chair next to my lady friend, and call it a day, I’d be lying. And that is exactly what I did. This is my second DNF to date, but in my mind it was the absolute best 38 mile race the world has ever seen.

From what I hear the rest of the course is pretty amazing, unfortunately I never got to climb Conception, but you should check out the entry from a good dude (Joseph Ryan) that I met there. The race was fantastic, the volunteers and organizers did a fantastic job. The aid stations were stocked, the course was well marked, and they made sure the each and every runner was happy and safe, They were even quite helpful in organizing much of my travel. The event also hosts a kids 5k where 500 local kids get to run there little hearts out, and the race gives away a pair of shoes and a medal to every child who participates. The next race is happening February 16th, 2013, seriously sign up now. You can snag $50 off for signing up early. I would highly recommend checking this race out. Bring a friend and have a blast.

Fuego y Agua

25k | 50k | 100k
February 16th, 2013
Website
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This was originally posted on Scott’s personal blog.

Mazatlan

We played, laughed, and smiled as we ran in a pack, like a tribe, down the brush and cactus lined switchbacks from the lighthouse. Below the clear blue sky, the ocean stretched out to the horizon on one side and the rolling landscape of Mazatlan stretched out on the other. Shawn was the dj to our mobile party blasting some energizing dubstep from his speaker and ipod. The sun was hot and the ocean breeze felt amazing as we raced to the bottom of the huge rocky hill protruding from the ocean that El Faro Lighthouse sits atop. Vultures and Frigate (aka Friggin) Birds circled high above us en mass.

We ran up to the top of that

We waved to the people who stopped to watch the strange pack of shirtless gringos running by. Once down from the hill we ran along the shoreline boardwalk. We stopped momentarily to buy fresh coconuts from a street vendor and continued on with the cheers from local school children as we ran. We ran along the boardwalk back to the beach in Old Town Mazatlan. Once we hit the beach we stripped off our clothes in mid stride and went straight for the cool waves rolling in.

The beach in Old Town Mazatlan has some great body surfing waves. I felt my body surfing technique getting better. The first time I had ever body surfed was in Hawaii, just a few months previous. Here is what I’ve learned as the basics of body surfing: find the right spot where the waves are breaking, plant your feet in the sand as a good one approaches, don’t let the outgoing current pull you, push off the sand hard just before the wave, paddle like crazy for a few strokes with the wave, then extend one arm so the wave can catch your armpit and push you, then ride it, and as you ride watch for high five opportunities with Sweeney, who is bound to be riding every good wave.

Mazatlan was my first Mexican experience and first time out of the country (besides Canada). I really enjoyed spending a few days in Old Town Mazatlan. It wasn’t filled with resorts and felt very culturally rich. I loved walking the bustling markets on the streets and the sleepy colorful back alleys. As for “dangerous Mexico”, I never felt unsafe in Mazatlan, though we never wandered down sketchy alleys late at night. It was strange seeing the police trucks full of armored and masked men with machine guns driving around occasionally. As it turned out, seeing a truck full of dudes armed to the teeth was not an uncommon sight in any of the areas of Mexico we would visit. Most of the time it was police or military, but a couple times in the canyons it was cartel dudes, or mercanaries, or who the hell knows, just a bunch of dudes with machine guns, no big deal, right?

Our ragtag group consisted of eight people crazy enough to make the journey: Barefoot Ted, this would be his fourth year attending the CCUM, the infamous Patrick Sweeney, in full force with all sorts of games, jokes, and antics, my best friend Shawn and his partner in crime Steff, both from Utah, the one and only Eli Duke, from Portland, Claudia from San Diego, and Sabrina from L.A. It was pretty unbelievable how fun and easy it was to travel with all of them. I could go on and on about each of them with stories of how amazing they are. I felt extremely privileged to be travelling with everyone of them.


Sweeney, me, Steff, and Shawn

After three days of playing in Mazatlan the eight of us started our journey to the legendary Barrancas del Cobre. Our travel was thus: taxi, 6 hour bus ride, taxi, 2 hour bus ride, hostel in El Fuerte, taxi, 6 hour train ride, 3 hour layover in Bahuichivo, 1 hour bus ride, switch buses, then 2 hour bus ride into Urique. It was two full days of travel. The main buses were super nice, way better than Greyhound in the States. The train ride was my first time riding a train and was awesome. The bus ride into Urique from the canyon rim was the scariest road I’ve ever been on.The travelling was long but very comfortable and not too expensive.

Copper Canyon 2012

We were on our way to participate in what could be the greatest footrace on the planet, The Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. Inside, I had been buzzing with growing anticipation for weeks, months, maybe even years. We would be running 51 miles in the canyons of the Raramuri. The story of the CCUM, the Raramuri, and the book Born To Run had been a catalyst in my life launching me into a path deeply intertwined with it all. So it was a dream and honor to be going to participate in this celebration of life, running, the Raramuri, and that undefinable spirit of… good intention maybe, korima, community… no, not quite any of those… or maybe this “thing” is better left unnamed and undefined to float freely through the hearts of those that can taste and smell it.

If I finished this would be my first 50 miler. It was Barefoot Ted’s first 50 in 2006, and also Bookis’s (Luna co-owner and my brother) first 50 in 2011. This was a right of passage as one of the owners of Luna Sandals, which was born right there in the street of Urique with a Raramuri man named Manuel Luna. With a knife sharpened on the concrete and a chunk of tire rubber, Manuel made Ted his first pair of huaraches and the seed for Luna Sandals was planted.

Barefoot Ted and Manuel Luna
The birth of Luna Sandals. Manuel Luna making BFT’s first pair of huaraches. Circa 2006.

We spent three full days in Urique before the race. We hung out with new friends, swam in the river, hiked around, and we cooked delicious food in the kitchen of the amazing hostel we were staying at; Entre Amigos. Two nights before the race we played basketball with the local teenagers and it was so much fun. The bleachers were full of all kinds of spectators; Mexican, Raramuri, and gringos. The court was super slick from all the dust. Urique is a dusty place. People were slipping and sliding all over the place and everybody was having a blast. Shawn would run by the girls sitting in the bleachers and get them to chant “vamos, vamos, gringos!” It was hilarious.

Mexico: Basketball with the Locals in Urique

Walking home late that night we had an SUV full of drunk guys stop us a couple times wanting to hang out and drink. At one point they showed us their gun, in a friendly way. But with drunk dudes things can turn from friendly to hostile quickly and it put a little pep in my step to get back to the hostel.

The first Raramuri person I saw was in Bahuichivo on our way to Urique. She was a short, small woman in bright orange and red with a walking stick and the traditional tire huaraches. A smile came to my face when I first saw her. I was excited to finally get to meet the Raramuri in person. This woman ended up on the bus we were on down into Urique.

tarahumara woman on bus wearing sandals

The Raramuri poured into Urique as the week progressed. They were dressed in their bright blouses and skirts and tire sandals. It is true that the Raramuri are a very beautiful people in general. Their skin tone is a vibrant brown and they have handsome facial features. Combine that with their bright traditional clothing, their timid personalities, and their reputation as legendary runners and they have a very awe-inspiring presence.

So much happened in those few days before the race there is no way I can write about all of it. I met so many amazing people. Including two local women who invited us to their home and taught a group of us how to make tortillas from scratch and how to roast and grind coffee.

Race day morning came fast. The hostel started stirring around 5am. As the race got closer I got nervous about it. Would I actually be able to run 50 miles? Especially with the tiny amount of training I had been doing. After the Orcas Island 50k a month before, I had only done a handful of short runs in the 5-7 mile range. I would definitely be testing the least amount of training possible approach to running ultras. With my drop bag packed and my sandals adjusted for racing, a group of us walked in the early morning pre-dawn darkness to the center of town and starting line. Excitement hung in the air as we all prepared ourselves. Then came the countdown and just like that we were off, running the dream that is the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon.

Just as I had heard, the Raramuri and front runners burst from the starting line as if they were running a 5k. I found my groove at a nice trot and waved to the cheering people lining the streets. In the early morning light we followed the Urique river out of town and off toward the Guadalupe school which would be the turnaround point for the first 10 mile loop. Which would also be the last loop and last 10 miles of the race. Running along the river the sun began lighting up the high canyon cliffs as we rolled up and down on a gradual climb to the school. It was a gorgeous morning in those canyons. At one point I thought about how on this stretch I would see the sunrise and later if I was still running I would see the sun set on this same stretch. It was a little shocking to think I was going to try to be running until the sunset. But I didn’t dwell on it and focused on the moment surrounded by beautiful people from all over the world all running together.

In no time the front runners were zipping by me on their return from the turnaround at Guadalupe. There were so many Raramuri running fast, just huge lines of them streaming by me at a pace that was mind-blowing. At the school I grabbed a snack and got the wristband indicating I had made it there. I cruised back, running with Shawn for a little bit and chatting with other runners. I was feeling great. My body felt 100% and my mind was reeling, trying to take it all in. Around mile 10 was the start of the first big climb. We left the dirt road for a switchbacked single track trail winding its way up the canyon. We climbed high and the miles were flying by. At the top was bracelet number 2 and a sweeping view of the canyons.

From the top was a 6 mile steady downhill dirt road. At the Orcas island 50k my approach to the downhills was to be conservative, take it slow, and conserve my leg muscles. But for Copper Canyon I decided to try the opposite and open it up, let my legs spin, and let gravity pull me down the hills. This approach felt so right and I hoped my legs wouldn’t regret my decision later. I cruised down the path feeling amazing. I caught up to Ted on this hill and chatted with him briefly. The trails and roads in the canyons are as you would expect, very rocky. On this long downhill I was really noticing that I was having to watch my steps more carefully than I wanted. Every once in a while I would catch the point of a rock right in the ball of my foot and when I was trying to open it up and run ‘fast’ it was slightly annoying to attempt to avoid every pointy rock. Watching the Raramuri running around me in their nice and thick tire sandals got me thinking. Their huaraches are heavy but they sure aren’t feeling the rocks that I was. I was making mental notes on the ideal sandal for Las Barrancas that I would develop later. Something even a little closer to the Raramuri’s tire huaraches. There is a reason the Raramuri don’t use thin sandals and prefer the beefy, thick stuff. I was also thinking about Ted’s concept of ‘Portable Ground’, which is the idea that you are running barefoot with a piece of ‘portable ground’ strapped to the bottom of your feet. Thinking about it this way makes the concept of ‘ground feel’ way less important. And in those canyons I was getting sick of “feeling” the ground. I was wearing the Leadvilles with a leather footbed and the ATS laces. They were performing wonderfully other than that I would have preferred a little more rock protection. The LeadCat would have been a better choice for rock protection.

Coming down the hill my goal was to keep these two girls in sight. They were really cruisin. The Raramuri never ceased to amaze me.

two awesome girls...

Before I knew it I was rolling back into the edge of town at mile 22. The first 22 miles were the easiest 22 miles I had ever ran. Not that the terrain was easy I was just feeling really good. I grabbed some snacks and ate some food in town and was on my way. The next stretch was relatively flat dirt road following the river for 5 miles out to the bridge and the biggest climb of the course up to Los Alisos. The sun was getting higher and the temps were rising fast. By the time I got to the bridge and started the steep dusty singletrack switchbacks the sun was in full force. It was really cookin. I power hiked up the mountain and saw Sweeney and some other friends on their way down as I was on my way up. Some people like to run parts of the course and get familiar with it before a race, which makes sense, but sometimes I really enjoy seeing the course for the first time as I’m running it. It helps keep me present by not being able to anticipate what is coming up. Instead I just take it as it comes. On the climb up to Los Alisos I was expecting it too be higher and was pleasantly surprised when all of a sudden I was at the top at the nice shady grove of grapefruit trees. The top of Los Alisos is about the 50k point in the race and it means most of the major climbing is done. At that 50k point I asked someone the time and found out we were 6:45 into the race. I was stoked to have done the first 50k in 6:45 and I still felt great. My legs felt surprisingly totally fine.

On my way down I saw Ted, Shawn, and Eli coming up and we exchanged words of encouragement. I strolled down the mountain and by the time I was at the bottom I was hot, really hot. The out and back up to Los Alisos was fairly exposed in the sun and it was now the middle of the day and really scorching. I went down to the river and filled my hat with water and dumped water all over myself which helped a lot. The 5 mile section back to Urique was brutal. It was just too hot. I made several trips down to the river to cool off but my brain was frying.

I made it back into Urique at mile 40 in just over 9 hours. My legs were still feeling great but the heat was getting to my head and stomach. I sat and snacked from my drop bag and chatted with Caballo and Steph. All I had left was the 10 mile out and back to the school at guadalupe which I had already done that morning. I left Urique again feeling determined and excited. It was still really hot but evening was around the corner.

Sweeney coming in as I'm going out.

On my way out I was seeing a lot of strong runners coming in for their finish and it was very appearant that the heat was taking it’s toll on most of us. I saw Sweeney coming in and he said he had laid down on the side of the trail and passed out for a while. I would really have to be careful if I didn’t want to bonk in the heat. So I would run for a stretch then walk for a stretch. This time out to the school felt much longer than the first time out. I eventually made it out there and got my final bracelet. The sun had gone down considerably by this point and it had cooled down quite a bit. My stomach was bothering me a little and after a bathroom break behind the bushes I felt much better.

Back on the trail I immediately ran into Flint from Montreal. Flint is such a positive and upbeat guy, he is amazing. This was his first 50 as well. He would make the perfect companion to tackle the last five miles with. As we chatted we would trot some and then walk some more as the last of the light left the canyons and we entered the darkness. I watched the sun set on those same rocks that I had watched the sun rise on. And I was still moving and still amazed by it all. Some kind of magic happened as we made our way with headlamps in the darkness. As we were chatting all of the sudden the bridge, that meant we weren’t too far from town, appeared out of nowhere. We were so excited and it hit me that we were going to finish this thing. We walked up a small hill, then with one mile to go we started running. As we approached town I could see lights and people about. Then I heard the music playing at the finish line and it pulled me in. When we hit pavement our pace picked up. My heart was beating fast from anticipation. People cheered as we ran through the streets of Urique and I was all smiles. A tunnel of people opened as we approached the finish line. Together Flint and I sprinted through the people, under the banners, and across the finish line of the greatest footrace on the planet.


Me and Flint just after crossing the line, running on magic. Thanks Flint!

Sprinting into that finish line was one of the greatest feelings I had experienced in my life. After the race I was floating. I felt great. I just wanted to sit, eat, and be.


Me, Sweeney, Maria, and Guadajuko, all grinnin.


Victory is ours! Me, Shawn, Steff, and Sweeney.

This was the first long run I had done that my legs felt pretty damn good afterward. It was really crazy. My legs would be stiff after sitting for a long time and they were a little sore but for the most part they were fine. I could trot around the day after the race without too much effort. During the race as well, my legs got tired but they never got sore or achy while I was running which I was so excited about and not quite sure why or how that is possible since I hadn’t trained much.

The next day we said goodbye to the amazing people we had met and started our non-stop journey back to Mazatlan and the States. The further we got from the canyons the more surreal the whole experience seemed.

The Crew. I love you all!

There is a lot more I would have liked to talk about here but it’s going to have to wait for another time.

Until the next adventure…

Muchas gracias a todos!!! Thanks to each of you in the Lunatic tribe above, Ted, Sweeney, Shawn, Steff, Eli, Claudia, Sabrina, and to Flint, Caballo, Maria, Caleb, Tyler, Tony, the Raramuri, the people of Urique, Sterling and Leslie, Jeff and the Luna crew at home for holding down the shop while I was gone, and all the other beautiful people I met, too numerous to count.


This was originally posted on Scott’s personal blog.

The orange and red Madronas contrasted sharply with the dark green evergreens, all clinging to a steep rocky slope spilling into the sea. Our ferry had just left Lopez Island and was rounding the northern point of the island on our way to Orcas Island. The four of us lounged in the cushy seats of our booth on the ferry. The sun was blinding and irresistible. I stared out the window, blocking my eyes from the sun with my hand and soaking in as much as I could. In the grey overcast winter of Seattle, sunlight is the most prized commodity. No amount of money can buy you sunshine in Seattle. You just have to wait and hope. But when it comes out it’s glorious. Something that I don’t notice until the sun comes out is the lack of shadow and color in the normally overcast weather. When it’s overcast everything is muted. People and objects lose depth in appearance. The trees and water are a bland shade of the their true colors. Skin pigment fades away. And then it happens. The blue water glimmers. The vinyl seats shine with warmth. The evergreens of the islands bursting from the sea are bright green. The white seagulls drift in the cloudless blue sky. The faces of my friends, chatting and smiling in our booth, have a depth of shadow, shades, and light that give a better glimpse of who they are. And the Madronas… wow. Light is beautiful.


Photo by Feist, Micheal via flickr.

We were on our way to run the Orcas Island 50k. I was nervous because I hadn’t been running much over the winter and didn’t know how I would do. With 8000 feet of elevation gain, Orcas is known as a tough 50k. Looking at the previous years results a lot of people were finishing in the 6.5-8 hour range which gave me an idea of how hard it is. Also, I am signed up the for Copper Canyon Ultra, which is a 50 miler I’ll be running just a month after Orcas. My performance at Orcas would be a good indicator for what to expect in the Copper Canyons. It can be hard for me to train in the winter, especially when choosing between a nice, warm bouldering gym versus a run in the drizzly 40 degree city gloom. Let’s just say that I’ve been getting a lot better at bouldering. Regardless, mentally I had a lot hinging on how things would go at Orcas.

I was excited for Orcas. I had never been to the San Juan Islands, the weather was supposed to be perfect, and the course is mostly soft single track through old growth rain forest in Moran State Park including summiting Mount Constitution. Orcas is a Rainshadow Running event and I had heard really good things about Rainshadow events.

I was lucky enough to catch a ride with a great group of people.Tom, who just joined us at Luna; Yitka, who I had only met once at the Vashon Island 50k; and Glenn, who I had never met, and who was going to be shooting all the official race event photos. We pulled off the ferry and drove around the island to the Moran State Park as the sun set with golds and oranges. That night there was a potluck style dinner and a lot of people hanging out in the lodge. I don’t do very many events but I recognized a lot of people there. It felt good to talk to friends I hadn’t seen in a long time and to meet a lot of new people. That night we stayed in one of the bunk houses that slept about 16 people. It was interesting sleeping in a room with 15 other people. Im glad I remembered my ear plugs, I woke up quite a bit in the night but still got good sleep.

Mountain Lake
Mountain Lake, the first time by.

In the morning everyone was up early. I had decided to run the early start at 7:30 rather than the normal 8:30 start. On the race’s website they suggest you start early if you expect to take over 7 hours to finish the course. Being that my plan was to take it easy, enjoy it, and just finish I expected to take over 7 hours. I put on my sandals (Luna Leadville with ATS laces) and strapped on my water bottle waist belt and was out the door to the starting line. It was chilly and beautiful. James, the race director, said a few words, gave a countdown, and we were off. Down a short little stretch in the campground then into the soft singletrack forested trails that would make up most of the course. Right away I realized I had made a mistake by not starting closer to the front of the early starters. I was close to the back and on the singletrack I was stuck behind lines of people going considerably slower that I wanted to go. It took two to three miles of leap frogging before I got into a place between people going a similar pace. Once we were running and on the trails a lot of my anxiety slipped away as I breathed in the crisp air and ran by giant old growth Douglas Firs. Coming up the back side of Mount Pickett I caught glimpses through the trees of the sun rising over the sound and Cascades. After the summit I started down the easy graded and surprisingly soft fire road leading back towards Cascade Falls and let my legs spin and pick up some speed coming down. I was feeling good and rolled onwards.

Cascade Falls, Moran State Park
Cascade Falls. Photo by stevevoight via flickr.

I pulled back into the campground lodge and first aid station at mile 9.7, grabbed some snacks, and was back on the trail. Shortly after leaving the lodge the front runners started passing me having started an hour later than me. It was pretty amazing that at mile 10 they had already caught up to me. I strolled next to Cascade Lake before turning to head up the infamous powerline climb. It’s definitely steep and full of false summits. Going up my legs were starting to feel worked and were actually getting a little crampy. Which got me worried. Did I just need to eat and drink? I started eating and drinking more and trying to analyze what was going on.

I finally made it to the top of the powerline climb and the trail flattened out and then started heading down around the back side of Mt. Constitution. My legs were still feeling a little crampy but as I moved from the steep climbing to the flat and downhill running my legs started to feel better. I really liked the varied terrain. When one muscle group was feeling tired the terrain would change and I would use another group for a while. The backside of Constitution and the run around Mountain Lake were very meditative. It seemed like a time of transition from a little anxiety about my crampy legs to determination and hope by the time I rounded the lake.

When I reached the aid station at mile 19 at the base of the climb up Mt. Constitution I was feeling pretty good. My legs were getting a little sore but not cramping any more. I climbed up Mt. Constitution and the view from the top was spectacular.

Coming down the steep switch backs of Mt Constitution my quads really started feeling my lack of training. By the time I was at the bottom they were pretty shot and I still had another big downhill coming up. I rounded the mountain and the last big downhill was brutal. My quads were done. I pitter-pattered slowly down the steep hill while others were racing by me. My friend Danielle flew by me ecstatically, urging me to run with her. I had no delusions that I could run that fast right then and she was two switch backs below me in no time. Near the bottom of the hill I stopped to look at a huge old growth Red Cedar towering above the trail. This was an amazing course. Back on flat ground my legs felt great and I was flying around the lake on the last couple miles to the finish line. Finishing felt amazing as it always does.

20 yards to the finish line:

Besides my quads being brutalized I was feeling pretty good after the run. Orcas is actually a little over a 50k at 32.75 miles. I think I had a tiny bit of gas still in the tank (Im telling myself that now, after the fact) so that leaves me hopeful for running 50 in the Copper Canyons. We’ll find out soon. CCUM is March 4th!


Urique, Barrancas del Cobre. Photo by Ravi.

My Lunas performed great. The course was a little muddy in places with a tiny bit of snow at the top of Constitution but nothing we couldn’t handle.

On the journey back home that evening I was sitting in the car feeling completely satisfied. It’s funny how quickly memories of struggling on the course fade and are overshadowed by these celebratory feelings. I felt warmly content like I had just purged every ounce of anxiety out of my body. I wanted nothing, well food and a shower sounded nice, but really I was completely happy just to be. I remembered and I felt why I love to run in the wilderness.

Thanks to Tom, Yitka, Glenn, Rainshadow Running, and everyone at the event for facilitating such a wonderful time!