Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Orcas Isand 50K Race Report 2014

It's ok to miss out on a race if you aren't ready. There will be another race when you ARE ready. Save your energy, money and psyche for a better day... Think about what's best for you in the long term.
That was the last piece of advice I got from Ian. But me being me I said: I'm running it. I've been waiting three years to run this race again. I'm not going to miss it. Even if I have to hobble in.

I spent a night in Seattle with some great friends before heading out to Orcas Island 2 days early. I got a great deal on a waterfront cabin. I can't explain how great it felt to be back in Washington. How peaceful it felt to be near the ocean. To breathe the crisp air. To be home.
I woke up two hours early on race day. I sat next to the window staring out into the blackness warming my hands with a hot cup of coffee. I thought about how it would all play out. How I would hang on to the tail of 8 or 9 leaders. How I would make up all my time on the powerline climb and hammer it all the way down to the finish from Mt. constitution. Before I knew it my coffee was cold and darkness had turned to civil twilight.  I stuffed my water bottle with Clifshots and laced up my N1's.

I'm sorry about the good weather, but I can't control everything. James Varner said with a smirk on his face. The pre race briefing came to an end and we all walked to the starting line. 

5...4...3...2... ONE!

I decided on the count of ONE that I would abandon my plan and stick with the leaders. But in the back of my head I knew that I wasn't fit enough to maintain that pace over the whole course. Suddenly my shoe came untied. I moved off the trail and knelt down to tie it. I lost sight of Maxwell. Hayden. RyanJodeeHal.

The first climb up Mt. Constitution was long and steady on a paved road with sweeping views of the sound and the surrounding Islands. The kind of breathtaking scenery you usually only see in magazines. Ahead of me was a younger guy who I was sure I'd see later in the race, but as soon as we finished the climb and started to descend I never saw him again (he ended up winning in 04:25. You can see his pre race interview here).

I'm pretty irritated with myself for a lot of reasons in regards to this race, but mainly for staying so negative. It was such a beautiful course. But because of the attitude I chose to have I didn't enjoy it. Not even one step.
I kept arguing with myself.
Just drop.
You can't drop, you have to show your team that you'll at least finish.
Your ultrasignup stats are going to look bad.
You hyped yourself up and now you can't perform.
I don't want to do this anymore.
Too bad.
I don't want to race.
Eat a Shotblok.
Try smiling.
Try laughing.
You have to at least get to the finish to tell everyone you're done racing.
I AM done racing!!!

While all of this nonsense was going on in my head the beauty of the island was passing me by. The light sound of the off beat pitter-patter from my broken stride muffled by the vibrant green moss that hung like tangled dreadlocks from the trunks and limbs of massive fir. A mystical forest where strange creatures lurked and curiously watched the passing runners from a distance before timidly returning to their caves and carved out tree trunks where their yellow eyes would dart around in the darkness before disappearing completely. The sound of creeks and waterfalls carelessly rushing through predestined paths over slick green rock towards a vast ocean of uncertainty. The occasional runner glancing over as a I muttered an unsure and awkward hello before slogging off into the depths of the forest like some hopeless broken mountain hermit.

It almost seems superfluous to tell you how the rest of my race went.

The climb up power line (a 2 mile - 2,000ft ascent) felt like I was going backwards. The final climb up Mt. Constitution brought on hamstring cramps that I had never felt before that knocked me on my ass. And the final descent brought a pain in my right leg radiating from my iliotibial band that I hadn't felt since my first half marathon.

The majority of my problems were due to being under trained which was caused by an unfortunate string of events involving a two week flu and a shin/calf injury. I only ran an average of five and half hours per week for two months leading up to the race and most of those runs were not quality work outs. Was it enough to finish the race in a decent time? Yes. Was it enough to meet my own expectations? No.
After reading Edward Lychik's ridiculously inspiring race report  I almost felt silly about the way I reacted, but it's how I felt at the time. I've always been hard on myself which sometimes takes the joy out of simple things. I just have to remember to be grateful for the body I have and to learn from my mistakes. Move forward. No one really cares what you did yesterday.

There were so many great runners out there that had amazing times and finished the race so strong! It was such a hard course (30+ miles with 8,400ft of elevation gain). To even start with the intention of finishing is brave. One of my favorite things to do is to watch people come through the finish line full of joy and pride after their journey. It's an amazing accomplishment.
I feel blessed to be part of such an amazing community of runners and friends. Congratulations to all of you who started and to all who finished! 
Thank you to Rainshadow Running and James Varner who put on beautiful and challenging races throughout the PNW. If you get a chance, I highly recommend running a Rainshadow Running event. They even had live music, beverages and hot food after the race.
Thank you to my sponsors Pearl Izumi and ClifBar for the support! I am so grateful to be part of such a great team. 

Needless to say, I am NOT done racing.

See ya out there!

Team Pearl Izumi Ultra at the start

Heading up powerline with the sound below

Top of Mt. Constitution 

James, the RD, waits for every runner to come through



  1. Good write-up, Korey. "But because of the attitude I chose to have I didn't enjoy it. Not even one step. I kept arguing with myself." I've been there and it's tough to overcome mid-race. Go get 'em next time.

    1. Thanks for reading, Trent. It's always goo to hear that everybody has their days. It's what makes the sport so special!

  2. While that may not have been your best race, in my opinion that is the best race report I've ever read of yours. Hands down. If this sport was easy, than it wouldn't be so damn rewarding! Looking forward to seeing you bounce back from this with even more motivation and success.

  3. Great write-up, Korey. Not every day can be the day, and you get major points for diving into the dark realm of your day to bring forth to the public- Kudos. See you down the road.

    1. I think that the darkest days sometimes end up being the most beneficial in the long run. Even though it's hard to see it at the time. Looking forward to the next time our paths cross!