“Lessons for others: As with any ultra, saving enough energy for the 2nd half can be a game-changer. It can be easy to feel excited for the 1st loop but be aware that all of the little hills turn out to be pretty tough by the 3rd loop! Some sections of trails are pretty rooty and dry, and with the combination of the sun spots, I could see it being easy to snag a root here or there.”
Race: Vashon Island 50k
Runner: Keith Laverty
Race Date: 6/05/2021
Location: Vashon Island, WA
Results: 2nd, 3:51
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/5419805111
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
1. The low-key, inviting, island community vibe and the spirited volunteers!
2. Honest competition up front!
3. The trail systems utilized!
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Not too much to complain about – the design of the 3-loop course can make this race a little tougher mentally but at least always easy to know how far you’re into the race.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
Nutrition and electrolyte intake seemed on point and no major energy or bonking issues.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
As with any ultra, saving enough energy for the 2nd half can be a game-changer. It can be easy to feel excited for the 1st loop but be aware that all of the little hills turn out to be pretty tough by the 3rd loop!
Some sections of trails are pretty rooty and dry, and with the combination of the sun spots, I could see it being easy to snag a root here or there. There was one downed tree but not a huge deal to hop over that one.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
For this course in particular, I probably could’ve worn a more supportive/cushiony trail shoe rather than my more aggressive and minimal Brooks Mazama 2’s. There was enough road and hard-packed dirt that the balls of feet were much more sore than usual. My legs felt a little off and not as zippy, and came apparent when I tried to lay chase on the eventual winner on the final loop. We were together at the start of the last loop and I didn’t have enough in the tank to close it super hard but I was also attempting to train through this event in my build-up toward a 100-miler later this summer.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
The course has changed from the previous years and appears to be longer and closer to the intended 50k and 10-mile distances (about 31.75-32 miles and 10.5 miles for each race distance respectively).
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
I’d say so – fun to cruise through the forested trails. No big views of the mountains or the water but still a fun place to run.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
With only 2500′ of total gain, it doesn’t look too difficult on paper but I’d say it can be deceptively tougher course with the constant tighter twists and turns, and many short ups and downs – so getting into a fluid rhythm throughout is tough. With that said, there are a few longer road sections and wide trails to open up your running gait.
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. Despite the numerous amount of turns, twists and the maze of trails around Island Center Forest and Fisher Pond Preserve, the course was extremely well-marked with extra flagging, chalk, tape and even some fun signage. The volunteers were rockstars!
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Historically, this is not a particularly competitive field but this year’s podium runners on both the women’s and men’s side were very strong, experienced ultra runners.
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.
Check the ferry schedules in advance! There are three different ferry options to board the island.
Usually spots available up until one week prior to the race (then closes for registration the week of). However, if traveling to Vashon Island from out of the region or wanting to spend the night prior, book your AirBNB/hotels at least one month in advance. There is also a free camping option available too.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
All pretty standard fare including watermelon and Coke (which I enjoyed!). I believe this was the first ultra I’ve been to that also had a full offering of several different Spring Energy gels to choose from, which was a nice surprise to see.
Weather and typical race conditions
This race got deceptively quite warm as the morning unfolded and a couple of sections were exposed and felt warm. And probably not too typical but wind gusts were plentiful! I had debris get into my eyes as well as bugs sneaking into my throat. Sunglasses probably could’ve been a smart gear choice for this day.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
Sunglasses probably could’ve been a smart gear choice for this particularly windy day. Otherwise, just plan for enough sodium/electrolyte intake as it can get on the warmer side. With the 3-loop course, this makes it very convenient to use a drop bag at the start/finish area between each loop.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Very much so, yes! Friends can hang out at the start/finish area to see their runner come through twice, plus the finish.
How’s the Swag?
Everyone received a custom, laser-cut, wooden medallions in the geographical shape of Vashon Island. Everyone can get a box of food afterward too.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
4 out of 5 stars – Friendly, welcoming, old-school ultra vibe and always a pleasant visit to the island!
Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Keith, check out his coaching page.