Orcas Island 50k Fat Ass Race Report

After last weekends trip out to Orcas to do trail work, I was really looking forward to this weekend's Fat Ass. Orcas is phenomenally beautiful and the weather has been so great all week, I couldn't wait to get out and do a good hard training race on Orcas. By the middle of the week, the course was still up in the air but James finally emailed at weeks end to say that we would be doing a snow route since there was still 18 inches of snow on the top of Mt. Constitution. Frankly, I was a little relieved. I did no taper for this race because it was always intended as a training race and thus I put in about 65 miles this week going into the race, with only one day this week under 10 miles. I was pretty pleased with that, but knew that wouldn't have been conducive to running the non-snow Orcas route which has 9,000 feet of climbing. Instead, I come to find out later there was a paltry 6,900 feet of climbing!

I had originally intended to go up on Saturday and spend the night (despite knowing I would not sleep very well, as I have discussed). But on Friday, my mother called me and she was so sick she didn't even sound like herself on the phone. I spent most of Friday at her house taking care of her, fretting and frankly not liking seeing my mother sick at all. It is a very scary thing to see someone you love sick and I think this is especially true in the parent-child dynamic (in either case). I am not sure if I got a touch of what she had or if my own digestive issues just decided to breakthrough over the night on Friday, but I got barely any sleep and spent a good portion of the night in the bathroom as well. Not a good way to get ready for a race. On Saturday, I just couldn't get things together enough to try and make it onto one of the few ferries that heads up to Anacortes and I was so tired and dehydrated that I figured spending the time I would have traveling that day that I would spend it napping and taking care of my mom who was doing a bit better. I had my prerace meal and packed up my bags for the race in the morning. I had to get up at 3:30am to drive up to Anacortes to catch the 6:05 ferry which would put me at the start line a bit before 8am, plenty of time before the 8:30 start. Furthermore, I figured I could 1) sleep more waiting for the ferry/on the ferry 2) actually like being awake for a few hours before a race so my muscles are warm. I had wanted to be able to spend time with all of my friends up on the island but I just felt a bit too worried and stressed to head up.

3:30 came early but I felt incredibly relaxed and refreshed surprisingly. I grabbed my prepacked bags, threw some post race goodies in a reusable grocery bag (including the remaining brownies I made the other day to give to Alison) and a few books, just in case I had to wait for the ferry coming back. I made my traditional pre-race breakfast with a twist. I have a cast iron panini press and this morning decided to toast my sandwich using it. Two slices of brown rice bread, almond butter, banana, all gooey and toasty. Too bad everything was still going right through me. I ate a half and hoped it would stay with me, but it didn't. I was going to eat my Chia Seeds and didn't. That is an error that I definitely felt during the race and one I will not make again. Afterall, I swear by Chia Seeds so much I took them to the Netherlands with me, you'd think I would take them when local. I drove up to Anacortes and could tell that it was going to be a warm clear day, as even at that hour it was already over 40 degrees.

I hoped on the ferry and spotted Brian Morrison's car behind me. I laughed because I thought I had spotted him on the freeway driving up, turns out I was correct. I easily made the ferry and boarded, used the bathroom, again and then headed back to my car for a nap. I was feeling a little nervous about how my endurance would be without much absorption of calories from my pre-race dinner and breakfast, but I told myself again that this was a training run and that it was a good exercise for what could happen at any point in my first 100. I managed to eat the other half of the sandwich which also ended up in the same place as all the others, unfortunately. The cat nap felt good and as we powered along through the early morning, the sun started to come out and was a phenomenal sight.

I made my way across the island, noticing as I went that I was running pretty low on gas and noted to myself to get some before I got back on the ferry. I made it to the start, checked in, gave Alison her brownies and glove (yes singular) and chatted with a few people. I hadn't been able to tell anybody that I wasn't coming up on Saturday, as there is no cell phone signal, so they were wondering what happened to me. I got geared up, opting for one waterbottle instead of two (yes, Alison had told me two is good 100 training but I got a TB booster on Thursday and my left arm was still sore from that). I made another mistake by putting only two gels in my waterbottle, thinking that there would be gels available at the aid stations. I tucked some extra Nuun in my back pocket, along with tylenol and ginger. I said a quiet little prayer(to who I don't know) that my stomach would stay together. We gathered out on the lawn, aka the start and with a few brief instructions from RD James, we were off. I hadn't seen some of the "usual suspects" at the start, in fact I didn't recognize a good percentage of the people, so I took off by myself about 10/sec or so slower than the front group which charged out of the gate like we were running a 5k. Matt Hart (Nuun) and Jenn Segger leading the way, we quickly funneled out of the wide field and onto some single track around Cascade Lake. I had gone out incredibly quickly to avoid congestion at the start and worked hard around the lake. I could tell there was absolutely no way I would be able to stick with this pace for a long time, but the field spread out quickly and shook out. After going around the lake, we crossed the road and entered what James had delicately described as a "bit of cross country" which meant a Hardrocker doing what Hardrockers do and having us run up so steep stuff which at some points requires you to stick your hands in the dirt and pull yourself up. It was a relatively short section which I was happy to reach the top of. I was with a pack of guys including Brian Morrison and his running buddy Michael (yeah or was it Eric... we have never been formally introduced, but he and Brian run together alot) and as we came to the top of the hill, we immediately went straight back down the other side. I mean STRAIGHT down. I am a really excellent downhiller and never hold back on downhills, but this hill, brakes were absolutely required, otherwise you would probably end up falling and seriously hurting yourself. We made it down and a few of the guys took off ahead of us. I took pause in my brain, knowing that there was a lead pack beyond them and therein, a woman leader, and I fought the temptation to try and waste myself catching up. Brian hadn't taken off with Michael and company and we conversed about trying to remember when you set foot on a race course what you are there for. He too was out for a training race, we are both doing Western States and so it was nice to have a strong runner to run with for a bit. I knew inevitably I would have to back off the pace further as I could feel my already limited energy stores draining. We crossed a road at one point and I tripped, stumbled and managed to catch myself before doing a full facial into the pavement. Nice save. We made it up through the first aid station and then he and the two others who had been silently running behind us, disappeared in front of me. I ate my 1/2 pack of Clif Shot Bloks and tried to find my groove. I was appreciating the loop around the lake which rolled softly along, just my kind of terrain. I could probably go on forever on this kind of terrain, but alas, after looping around the lake, we take a sharp left up the hill to connect to the South End Boundary Trail. When we had started going around the lake I had "recognized" the trail, though we had run it in reverse and in the dark the previous week. That had given me a boost and it gave me an even bigger boost to know I was running up the hill to the South End Boundary Trail which I had seen not only in the daylight, but in the right direction. I kept drinking my Nuun but could tell that I was pre-dehydrated (from being ill) and that the running was just not letting me catch up. I made it to the SE Boundary Trail and let out a little whoop (or was it more like an overly vocalized sigh of relief) and headed down it, admiring Alison, the ranger and my handwork at clearing the trail. I got down to a junction where we headed up hill again to do the "Secret Loop" which is a bit of trail and a bit more of cross country which takes you to an open mossy field with the most astonishing view of the Sound, the Islands and the Mountains from Canada to Oregon. And it was a crispy clear, sunny day and so everything just glistened. Where is my camera when I need it? In the car of course! As I had been heading into the loop, I saw Jenn coming out of the loop which put me a few minutes behind her, at least 5. I came back out of the loop and as I passed the junction for the Secret Loop remembered that we had marked our mileage from that spot on our night run, 3.91 miles to go. This was both a good and bad thing. I knew this part of the course, but at the same time, my energy levels were tanking and like it had previously, this 3.91 miles felt like forever. I struggled up a few steep hills and finally made it back to the road and headed up to Cascade Falls. Coming down the hill at the base of the falls was quite the sight. This course is a feast for the eyes, especially on a day like it was, sunny and beautiful. Glen was sitting on a rock clicking away on his camera and gave me an encouraging "Go Devon" yell. I smiled weakly and ran up the stairs to the road which takes us back to the start/finish area. A young guy wearing a texas jersey had caught up to me and we ran down the road. I was feeling like crap, a bit light headed and definitely not my best bright and shiny self. We turned down the hill and everyone was there cheering. Now is when I mention that this was a two loop course. I searched the aid station table for a gel of some kind, but there were none, damn. Alison was there, smiling and encouraging, she asked me how I was doing and I growled something about "feeling like crap" and "I started on zero (energy/calories) and am running on fumes". I was definitely not the nice, smiling, happy me that I like to be. I immediately felt ashamed of myself but took off running back toward the grassy field and Cascade Lake loop beyond (proverbial tail between my legs). I decided that my goal for this loop was to 1) suffer if that is what my body asked of me 2) check my attitude and 3) remember that this was an extremely valuable experience even if I had to feel less than 100%. I also reminded myself that how did I expect to feel on the last day of a nearly 100 mile week (nota bene, I have run maybe 2-3 in my entire short running career that have been over 90 miles). Texas and I (for lack of a real name) ran around the lake together and chatted a bit, it was really nice to have someone to take my mind off the suffering. We headed back up the cross-country section of the course and then back down again. We ran along together for a while, but he (as we had discussed earlier) was a good strong uphiller and so when I slowed on a few hills to save energy he kept on going. Before he took off, I bummed a gel off him and downed it twenty minutes later. I had had another gel just after leaving the aid station and was just trying to bring my body back from the brink. I finally made it to the aid station and asked John Pearch for a gel. He had one (lucky me!) and gave it to me. I stuffed it in my waterbottle, downed two tylenol and an S!Cap, since I was very dehydrated. I felt myself coming back together and my attitude thawed a bit. At this point, I knew what was to come and was able to settle into a nice pace and be pulled along by knowing that I only had 9 miles to go. Even turning left up the hill to the SE Boundary Trail was a welcome sight because I knew that meant I was closer to once again being 3.91 miles from, this time, the finish line. My quads were more sore than they usually are from the steep downhills. I went into the Secret Loop and saw Van Phan coming down out of the loop. I assumed that she had opted for the 7:30 early start because I hadn't seen her at the 8:30 normal start. I got to the top of the Secret Loop and yelled, "now that is beautiful" Even moreso this time, with my attitude checked and heart thawed, the sight was amazing. I did a little pep talk with myself and thought of my sister during her first marathon repeating towards the end "you can do it" over and over again, I thought about my friend, Jamie and told myself that this was a heart and gut check time. I zoomed down the hill and worked my way back to the road. I caught up to Van at this point and passed her going up the hill. I was giddy by this point, knowing I was almost done and finally feeling like me again. Glen had moved and caught me smiling as I came down the trail to the Falls. I bounded across the creek and up the stairs. Heading up the trail to the road I caught a guy whose friend had come down to run the final 400 of so meters with. I booked past them, digging deep not in a competitive way, but because I always finish running as fast as I can, it is my way, you must finish strong. I turned off the road and flew down the short time, speeding into the finish at 5:24, second place woman. It was a great run and I am glad, despite its rough patches and such, that I put all I had on this day into it.

photos by the amazing Glenn Tachiyama

I checked my watch it was 2pm. I had hoped that I would be done about that time so I could attempt to make the 2:55 ferry back to Anacortes since I was still worried about my mom and had no way to call her out there at camp. I ducked into the mess hall (for lack of a better term) where alot of the 25k-ers were hanging out as well as the other 50k finishers. Alison was giving a massage and I saw Laura, who rumor had it had made not one but 2 gluten free cakes. I told them that I was going to try and catch the ferry and dashed off. I said bye to a few others, felt a bit bad to have been able to spend so little time on the island and with that, dashed to the ferry. My gas gauge was on zero as I drove but I knew I couldn't stop if I wanted to make the ferry. I got to the ferry rolled down my window and the attendant told me, "you will be on the 6:15 ferry!" Dang and blast! It was 2:30. So much for that wonderful idea. It was sad since I was now stuck on the other side of the island and couldn't go back to camp to hang out with the crew, which I really wanted to do. I went into the bathroom and cleaned up and changed. I ate a bar, apple and banana and attempted to rehydrate.I headed into the Cafe with Van (who had similarly tried to make the ferry) and Brian & Co and a few others I didn't recognize and hung out while they enjoy beer and burgers.. The time passed relatively quickly and we boarded the ferry which was filled with other runners who all had been at camp and come later. I hung out with Daniel whom I had met on Krissy's bday run, who just ran the Arrowhead 135mile race! My car managed to start to get off the ferry and I made it to the gas station and then home where I finally enjoyed my post race dinner, veggie pad thai with hard boiled eggs. Delicious. After a long day, I collapses happily into bed, content at a good days work and a fun run.
What a great day. My only regret is not being able to hang out with everybody and relax out on the island, but I am happy to report my mom is doing much better.