Orcas Island 50k Race Report – Amber P

Race: Orcas Island 50 km

Runner: Amber P

Race Date: 02/02/2019

Location: Moran State Park, Orcas Island

Results: 8:15:55

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

The course is fast and not super technical. In the right conditions, you can fly on the downhill. The scenery is amazing. You run past lakes and through old growth, forest with huge trees. The volunteers and aide stations were awesome.

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

It’s a bit mentally tough at the end when you come down the last hill, and can hear the cheers from the finish line, but you have to circle to your right and around to get there.

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

It’s surprising that the climbing is so tough on such a small island. It’s almost as if you would expect a course that challenging to be part of a larger, continental mountain chain.

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

I ran this race as a training run to see where my fitness is at, and what I need to work on in the coming months to prepare for Fat Dog 120. I lost a lot of my leg turnover speed after the stroke. I have been working with Coach Maxx on improving leg turnover and climbing. There is a lot of climbing in this course including the infamous power line and the mini power line right before the finish. I was happy to see that my climbing is definitely improving and my heart rate stayed at an appropriate level. I did a great job of managing nutrition, and overall fatigue. Finished upright and smiling and could have kept running.

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

A solid running base with emphasis on vert will help you to prepare. If you’re a flat lander or stuck in ice & snow, the Roche Mountain Legs routine will definitely help to get you the quad strength you need for the climbing and sustained downhill. This course is built for speed. If you’re in good shape, it’s a definite PR opportunity for the 50 km. You do need to be careful to save some quad strength for the trip down Mt. Constitution.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

There are cold pockets around the lake and going up the power line. Be sure to have gloves and a buff, and a vest would be great. Again, working on downhill running/strength training for your quads, and intervals for leg turnover will aide the climbing. It’s also great to find a buddy to chat with as you climb the power line. It makes it go by pretty quick.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

If you are a slower runner you will need to keep track of time to meet the cut offs. Keep moving and don’t waste time at the aide stations. If you’re a faster runner, this a beauty of a course. It’s challenging, and fun, and you can really fly on the downhill as it’s not too technical and super soft, dirt trails.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Gorgeous. Loved the huge trees, streams, lakes and waterfall.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes, it rivals Squamish 50 km and Bucking Hell 50 km in terms of climbing and descent, but is less technical in that there are not too many rocky sections or huge drops on the downhill.

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

Very well organized, great volunteers and course is well marked.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Definitely. Male winning time was under 4 hours for 50 km. To break the top ten for female, you would need to run under 7 hours.

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.

There is a limited time to put your name in the lottery in August. Also, be aware, that if you’re Canadian, you can’t go from Victoria to the San Juans by ferry in winter (ha, ha). It’s better to fly to Vancouver and drive. It was pretty easy to book a bed and breakfast and to find restaurants to eat at while there for race weekend. Ferry reservations definitely recommended.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard fare with excellent volunteers who had you in and out like a Indy car changeover. My husband loved the Oreo cookie/peanut butter wrap at Aide Station 4.

Weather and typical race conditions

Weather is typically around 6 degrees Celsius. You could get anything from sun, cloud, rain, fog, mist and/or snow. Course was muddy around the water areas, but otherwise, soft, firm dirt.

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

Faster runners in shorts, tees or long sleeves with gloves, hat and/or buff. Slower runners in 3/4 or full tights, long sleeves, hat and/or buffs and gloves.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes, you can bring friends and family. There are a number of places where they can cheer you on.

How’s the Swag?

Patagonia long sleeve shirt was optional to purchase. Did get one and love the design & fit. Won a $50 draw prize to a Seattle running store.

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

10/10 Definite, yes!