Disclaimer, this is a really hard 50k in the best conditions, 8,500 ft of climbing and descending with some technical difficulty thrown in for good measure. I think that’s part of Rainshadow’s MO, hard races in beautiful places. I’ve never run a race with this type of gain and loss in such a short distance and was really unsure of how it would go. Everything you read below was experienced with a very wide shit-eating grin on my face. It turned into more of an adventure than a race for me. I took more pictures in this race alone than I have in every other race I’ve run combined. Even the trip up to Orcas is beautiful.
Me and two friends departed Portland early Friday not really knowing what the following day would look like for us. Weather reports would swing from wind, cold and snow, to calm and mild. Needless to say, the van was full of gear. Took our time getting up to the ferry, grabbing another runner at Sea-Tac along the way. I’d never been up to the San Juan’s before, can’t recommend it enough, just the ferry ride is worth the trip.
After the 90-minute ferry ride, it was a quick 20 minutes to Camp Moran. After a hearty dinner, we stepped outside into a downpour and hustled to our bunks to settle in for the night. It rained all night, hard…
I’m basically an Oregonian (30 plus years), I know what water is and what mud is and what running in them is like. Orcas was a whole new level of wet and it wasn’t even raining during the race, in fact, it was really great running weather, the mid 40s, wind but not too much. Like we really really lucked out with the weather. I like it when factors I can’t control work in my favor. Did I mention it was wet?
I don’t know what the rainfall total was in the week prior to the race but let’s guess 8 feet give or take 7 feet. The starting line was in shoe deep flooded grass. This wasn’t just wet sloppy trails in fact lots of the course was perfectly dry and buffed out, no this was literally running through flooded lakes and up and down trails that were, dare I say, rapids.
We’re talking quarter-mile sections of water rushing over your shoes. As the trail would dip towards lakes or you’d hear rushing water you knew you’d be in it shortly. At one point around mile 10 we dipped towards a lake and the trail disappeared, there were flags in the trees and you could see the other side some 30-40 yards away, so in we went, up to our knee caps in at best 40ish degree water stumbling over rocks and stumps then crossing an underwater bridge that seemed like it had been covered in bacon grease.
Side note my buddy Eric approached the flooded lake full steam not realizing the depth and ended up going in neck-deep, he somehow managed to regain his composure and trek on, nothing like an ice bath 10 miles into 31…
Seeing as how this race goes up and down a lot spend a lot of time yo-yoing with folks. Good climbers beat you to the top good descenders beat you to the bottom. It was unique to me to have so many conversations with people during the race. Or you eat shit and have to regain your bearings and people will stop and help you up, like me just after the second aid station. Speaking of aid stations seems to be a great equalizer as well. At the mile 20 aid station, where the race really starts, I caught my buddy Eric (the wet one) and we started the climb up Powerline. Anyone familiar with Forest Park in Portland knows BPA road, Powerline is like that only steeper and longer.
Parts of it are at a 30% grade and it goes on for over two miles. You get an awesome view and a slight reprieve at the top as you descend towards the final big climb of the race Mt. Constitution. Another 1.5 miles and 1,100 ft up.
Again, great reward with an aid station and view from the top of the race. From there Eric and I cruised the basically 5 miles downhill (downriver?) to the finish.
There’s another small climb before the end because why not. As you come off the road towards the finish you cross that same flooded grass area where it all started and that provided for some comedic finishes, including my own. I managed to keep it rubber side down but two near falls got a good rise out of the crowd. Total time 6:54:02, a full 1:30 longer than any 50k I’ve run to date. Overall the race had the slowest winning time ever (5:03) or at least that’s what I heard.
To wrap this up that was an adventure, the word brutiful comes to mind. I think Shane said it best though “it’s a 50k steeplechase.” I’d recommend this race for anyone who likes a challenge with some sweet rewards. I can’t imagine what this place is like in the summer. This race is part one of my “cramming for ultra” training block which consisted of about 4 weeks of hard work before this race and then Black Canyon 100k two weeks later. So far it’s a success…Talk to me after Black Canyon though.
- Shoes – Evo Speedgoats – very appropriate for this race
- Socks – Swiftwick Vibe Crew – no blisters after 31 miles of wet feet
- Shorts – Altra Performance 2.0 – so glad I didn’t wear tights
- Shirt – Ice Breaker GT long sleeve, dri-fit T over it – plenty warm
- Poles – Black Diamond – first time ever using poles, highly recommend for this race
- Pack – Mountain Hardwear – 1.5l bladder
- Hat – OR mesh – floppy brim
- 5L bladder with 2 packs of Naked Tailwind
- 1 sleeve Clif chomps
- 1 GU Chocolate Mint
- Carried a soft flask that I’d either fill with water or coke at aid stations
- Random aid station fruit and chips