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Monday, February 9, 2015

Orcas Island 50K - 4:28:50 - 1st

As usual Orcas Island was a weekend I was looking forward to.  I was excited about the race and just being up on the island.  Orcas Island is a beautiful place to be so if you have never been up there I would recommend heading up to the island at some point.  The island is highlighted with beautiful peaks, moss covered rocks, and some treeless valleys that alway look like a great place to live.

The race course was effectively the same as the past few years with only one or two minor tweaks to the course.  The biggest difference to the awesome course that James Varner and the Rainshadow Running crew laid out was that there was a lot more mud this year than last year.

The day started out warm and wet and the conditions lasted for most of the day, the rain slowly letting up around noon.  I started out near the front and fell into second as we began the climb up the road toward Mt Constitution.  I was within a minute of the leader Nathan Barrett the whole way up that first climb and mainly focused on keeping a comfortable effort.  As I headed up the climb I was excited to be racing again.

After dropping after Pine to Palm last fall, I slowly worked to full health and was able to enter this year feeling healed and strong.  That was the main goal for early in the year, then I though about training for Orcas Island.  The time down after P2P gave me a chance to look at some my running over the past year and try to optimize my training.  In addition to improving my daily running schedule, I put more effort into recovery on a day to day basis.  In the past I only took care of my body when I was sore and hurting but I believe that putting in some extra effort for prevention definitely allowed me to come back to running with no aches and pains along the way (or at least none that I can remember).

I cruised down the first descent catching Nathan about halfway down and then leading to the first aid station with him close behind.  I drank some water my dad had for me and then headed out with Nathan to make our way around the lakes.  I pushed a couple rollers and Nathan fell back a little ways which happened to be the last time I saw another racer all day.  I cruised around the first lake, then enjoyed some rocky sections around the second lake before I headed up to Mt Pickett.

The Mt Pickett climb felt good and I looking back this was one of the strongest sections of my run.  I dropped off the backside of Pickett, descending for a few minutes then headed up the a steep short climb before running down an old road bed to the 2nd aid station.  While the climbing felt good I could feel my hamstrings starting to tighten on the descent which wasn't what I was hoping for at mile 14.

From Mt Pickett(14) to North Arch(20) I didn't feel too great physically of mentally so I don't remember to much.  There was a lot of mud on the lower trails which made going slow but eventually  I got around to North Arch at the bottom of the Powerline climb.

I drank some water and head up the climb, running the bottom section then quickly breaking into a hike.  I felt good hiking up the initial steep section but when I stood up to run my back was so tight I could barely stand up straight.  Obviously leaning over to hike hard uses your back muscles but I think that straining a muscle in my back a week before the race was causing more problems than anything.  Ironically, I was focused on being healthier this year so I when I tweaked my back golfing I wasn't too happy.  I was hoping it would only be a day or two to heal, but after my back locked up in the middle of Monday night, I knew I needed to do something.

Fortunately I was able to get into Healing Motion Physical Therapy on Tuesday morning and with their help I was feeling much better by race day.  They taped my back for race day which helped but my whole back definitely tightened up throughout the day.

At the top of the Powerline climb I thought that I had made good time and turned to take off down hill on some smooth single track when my hamstring cramped up.  Not just a little twinge here and there, instead locking up so bad I couldn't walk.  This was not good, so I muttered some bad words for about 10 seconds then calmed and focused on the problem at hand.  I knew I was low on water and salt so I took all I had, not much, then focused on breathing deep and keeping good form as I was slowly able to run again.

At this point I was a little worried knowing that my easy pace on that descent wasn't near as fast as the guys behind me would be going.  I focused on deep breaths and was able to reach the bottom of the last climb with no cramps.

Uphill turned out to be fine to I as able to run most of the climb, but eased off to a walk at steep section, still afraid to push too hard and bring on the cramps.  I hit the summit drank some sports drink and headed off Mt Constitution.  I knew that the next 4 miles was down so I was just hoping not to see anyone.  I ran downhill at a fairly easy pace, pretty disappointed I couldn't let it loose on the last descent but still focused on efficiency and staying in front.  I hit the bottom of the hill pretty quick headed over a few rollers and cruised into the finish ready to be done.  

All in all, I had a solid run even though I botched my hydration and nearly blew the race 22 miles in finding myself happy to hang on instead of pushing to the finish.  Definitely some room for improvement but a solid early year performance which gave me an idea of what is working and what I can do to improve my running.

Before I'm done here's a few thank yous:

Salomon - a big thanks to my sponsor for the great gear
Healing Motion - without them I wouldn't be back out on the trails yet
Rainshadow Running - for putting on a great race
My family - for always supporting my running, race day or not
My friends and fellow runners - for providing constant inspiration and encouragement

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