Race: Orcas Island 25k

Runner: Paul Weeks

Race Date: 01/26/2019

Location: Moran State Park, Orcas Island, WA

Results: 2nd place, 2:08:38, https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=58181

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2105374065

orcas island 25k race report
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The people. Rainshadow puts on great events that have a warm and local feel. Lots of smiling faces pre, during, and post-race.
  2. The course. Some sections of this trail were world class in my opinion. Classic PNW coastal temperate vibe in some sections.
  3. The challenge. There are really three significant climbs on this course, one of them is very steep (30-40% grade) but fairly short.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

The leaders had some trouble figuring out where the finish line was. The start and finish area could have been better explained. Overall the course markings were sufficient.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

4,500ft of gain in 15.5mi! We got lucky this year with perfect weather (40 degrees and dry at the start), but I heard that this course has been very muddy in the past.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

The trails on Orcas Island are amazing. I highly recommend running any trail race put on at this special place. The views from Mount Constitution are incredible. Orcas overall is beautiful and has a very low key and happy vibe – perfect for hosting trail races! The views on the ferry ride over are really great. The PNW at it’s finest.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

This race starts out with two miles of steady uphill on the road initially, and then on a runnable trail. Find a groove that puts you in a good place at mile 6 when the real climbing starts. You will be power hiking some of Powerline Trail. It’s too steep to run (either at all or efficiently depending on your mindset). The last major climb up to Mount Constitution is runnable and you can make up some time here before you transition to the last six miles of net downhill at the top. Once you start running down from the top, the trail is quite technical, so focus on not falling down is key. After a mile or so the trail opens up and is very runnable all the way to the finish. Right before the finish there is a very steep but short hill that will sneak up on you!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

This course is amazing with some runnable single track trail that is world class in my opinion. The views from the summit can be obscured by early-mid-day fog, so if you miss out during the race, I suggest driving or hiking back up in the afternoon!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes, this is a tough 25k due to the variability of the terrain and steep climbs. I would say that that also makes it unique and fun though.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

This is a very old race, around 20 years, so it is the definition of a well-run event.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

The field wasn’t huge, but there were a few fast runners throwing down in the front.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

This race sells out very fast, but Rainshadow has a great big-transfer spreadsheet. I was able to buy someone’s bib three weeks before the race. There is a ferry ride to consider to get to Orcas Island. Plenty of accommodations with AirBnb and especially camping on the island.

Weather and typical race conditions

It can be pretty cold and wet on Orcas Island in January. Suggest proper gear and planning!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

I didn’t use gloves, but I would recommend you do! It gets a bit colder as you climb up from 500 to 2500ft.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

The only place to spectate is the top of Mount Constitution, and it’s beautiful up there!

How’s the Swag?

They keep it pretty low key, but the post-race food was incredible and they had cool shirts for sale.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4.5/5 Stars!

Paul Weeks is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Paul, check out his coaching page.