Orcas 25… 27k

I didn’t feel like the coolest kid on the block yesterday, not the toughest in the world. I was actually ready to give up for a short period of time, but that is not really like me so I kept going. I am usually pretty good at mentally preparing for difficult things and keep on going even if I hear strange voices in my head. A marathon is a marathon, you kind of know how it’s going to feel but this was totally different. I know how 25k feels but I had no clue how bad 25k going up Mt Constitution could be. I swore, I cursed and I kept going in snail pace… and I forgot to bring gummy bears. My water froze, my clothes were soaked of rain and covered with snow. And it was actually a great day.

On Friday morning I took the ferry from Anacortes to Orcas with four friends. All the orcas seemed to have hidden out in the cold but a few seals were bobbing around and eagles routed over us. We arrived and checked in at the glamorous Doe Bay, a quaint cabin by the sea. We went around the island, had coffee and enormous cinnamon rolls and then we drove up the whole mountain. We didn’t get all the way up because of snow and ice, but the view was stunning, sunny, light blue skies and dark blue water. It was a beautiful day!

We stopped by and checked in and got our bibs and chatted a bit. We listened to a few of the organizers and that was a big mistake. We overheard one of the pros saying that she ran the course in medium tempo in four hours last week. What does that mean for us? 5, 6 or 7 hours? How bad can it be? Holy &%$#. It did not look good, 4500ft elevation, rain and a lot of snow. They decided to add on a 1000ft compared to last year for an extra challenge. I looked around and felt like I was standing in a room full of experts. They all looked the same, puffy coats in bright colors, sunburned in January, cool shoes and smiling faces. Really smiling! Nothing to smile about here. Have you read the map people!! I pulled my puffy coat closer to my body and had a feeling that it was going to be a long day and a very long run tomorrow. Or hike?

The wind woke me up around 5am. It felt like our cabin was about to take off and sail away. Nothing to worry about and I slept for another hour and woke up and heard the rain. Excellent! We had breakfast in silence, I guess we all tried to figure out whose idea this was from the beginning. Three or four layers? Coat or no coat? A short car ride and it is time for the Garmin to locate satellites.

250 happy trail runners take off and I swear 235 looked like pros. Raincoats, trail shoes and hydration packs. I have always wondered how you choose to run with a bottle in your hand when you can wear a pack. Time to start and everybody takes off. It starts with a 5 mile loop around Cascade Lake. Beautiful, soft trails and the rain drizzles down. It is Alice in Wonderland kind of pretty and I feel all smiling and happy for a while. This is easy and I take it really slow waiting for the big bang. And then it comes! The wall! Of mud! It was so steep that we more or less had to crawl up for a mile. We are moving slow, very slow and my thoughts wander away. How can I feel this weak? How can I be this tired after an hour? I need to spend more time on the Versa. Do I like rain? No. Do I like mud? No. Do I even like running? We keep moving and keep talking and I have absolutely no memory of what we talked about for one hour.

8 miles and halfway, 2000ft elevation and I feel great. Who’s complaining now? Keep it up ladies! I am trying to hold back a bit so I don’t burn myself out. Something buzzes on my arm. My new, shiny watch makes a noise and I look down for a half second. I hear myself say 9 miles and… flying, moving in thin air… and somehow I make a ninja move and turn myself around and end up on my non broken side but quickly jump up. OK, my elbow is still in one piece but I now have a bleeding knee and a bruised hip. Nothing feels broken and I keep running. We actually keep a pretty good pace now and it is snowing hard. My soaked clothes starts to freeze. We reach the second top and the snow is deep. But this is great! We have been moving for more than 3 hours and we need to finish this now. It is cold and windy. We stop at the aid station and drink a cup of Coke and start to chat with the volunteers. They look really cold. We are the lucky ones here.

After one minute, we continue to run and it feels like my knees are locked. Wonder if they rattle loudly or if I only hear it in my head. We are going downhill. It still feels as if I should hold back. I check my watch and we should be close to the end. Surprise! They added on 1.5 miles (2,5 km). What the heck, I paid for 25k not 27. New hills, new mud. Please let me finish this thing now. The mud is packed, people are cheering and we drink an organic lime drink. Wet and slippery as an eel, cold as a popsicle and reasonably happy to finish this climb even if Garmin said 4.12. It could have been worse. But… as always 10 minutes after I start thinking. I am standing here, breathing, talking, and having a drink… why didn’t I run faster? I am still standing. And we all looked at each other and agreed that we will not do this race again.

After a couple of hours when we sit in the car waiting for the ferry, listening to old 80s music I can’t help about thinking of next years race at Orcas Island. Maybe 2014 will be the year for a 50k. It was a really pretty mountain.