07 February 2015

Orcas Island 50k

Yes! This was my first time running 50k in five months and that in itself got me pretty excited. I had tried last month but my back blew up so no dice. Today the course was way more aggressive and although I could feel my back in the last 15 miles it held up.

The Orcas Island 50k is a tough race. You climb Mount Constitution three times, once on the paved road and twice on trails. Both of the times on trails it feels like you are going straight up. Maybe because you are. This year it was wet, super muddy, but it didn't seem to slow most of the runners down much. Personally, I was loving the conditions.

Prior to loving the conditions I was HATING the conditions. I hitched a ride with Jon Robinson and as we drove north the rain was absolutely pounding down. Let's just say the mood in the car was not optimal. It eased a bit by the time we started running but starting in the rain is never on my to do list.

ASIDE - you heard right, we drove up the morning of the race. To do this race in one day makes for one loooooong day.

Luckily the temperature was mild, it hovered around 50 degrees all day and because most of the course is really well sheltered I never got cold. In fact, I nailed the clothing today and was incredibly comfortable the entire time. I also tried to carry all of my nutrition and it worked! Well, except for fluids, I had to top off my bottle twice. This was huge, I ran straight through the first two aid stations and only had to fill one bottle at the third and fourth aid station. Efficiency is everything and my Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 was/is awesome. Speaking of awesome, my nutrition today was spot on. The reason I decided to carry everything is I love Hammer Nutrition! I'm positive I saved way more time by carrying what I needed than I ever could have gained by being infinitesimally lighter and just going with one handheld bottle. Lesson learned.

ANOTHER ASIDE - speaking of aid stations, it was so cool to see Maxwell Ferguson out there. He cheered me on at the first aid station and as I pulled into the third it was awesome to hear him yell, "Martin! What can I get you?" I handed him my bottle, done. Gone in 60 seconds.

I think I have never been this muddy. I was dancing around the puddles for the first 10 miles (in spite of the fact that it was pretty ineffective after mile six) and from then on I didn't really care. My Brooks PureGrit 3 shoes drain extremely well and later in the race I was actually looking for puddles and streams just to rinse off the the grime. I thought traction would be a huge issue but I was pleasantly surprised. The tread on these shoes is fantastic so I had almost zero issues on the climbs and on the descents when I started to 'ski' it always felt like I was in control and actually fun for the most part. Sure there were a couple of dynamic recoveries but I never fell down. I felt very balanced today.

I started slow and couldn't ever really speed up. :) On a couple of the climbs it felt like my heart rate was up there but the numbers below don't lie and the truth is this was just an endurance zone training run for me. Luckily I felt pretty good on the all the power hike sections because there are a lot on this course. It was a bummer to feel so slow on the flats but I was really enjoying the descents and kept catching and passing people on the downhills that had passed me on a climb or the flats. After the last climb there is a bit of flat before the last descent and three guys were right in front of me. I had to watch them slowly run away from me before we got to the steeper section but managed to haul them all in (plus a couple more) and hold them off to the finish.

My goal going in was to run sub 6:00. Because there is only so much you can do on any given day I didn't look at my watch obsessively but after the power line climb I looked down and thought, "Oh man, I've got this in the bag!" Boy did I underestimate the last climb... At times I was clocking 21 min/mile! That'll trash your average in a hurry. When I hit the bottom of the last descent I still had about 10 minutes in hand but 1) I didn't know far it was to the finish and 2) I simply couldn't speed up! Bottom line I missed my goal by two minutes. My only previous time on this course was just three minutes slower and I ran the last two thirds of the race on a badly sprained ankle. I guess I was faster then but here's to regaining that form!

Shoutouts to fellow Seattle Running Club members Steven Kent (who crushed it with a 15 minute PR!) and Glen Mangiantini (who is the ONLY person to have run all 10 editions of this race).

I'm so grateful for the support from The Balanced Athlete, Hammer Nutrition. Brooks and Ultimate Direction. It makes this just a little easier and a lot more fun.

Here are all the pictures.

Sleep 4.5
Waking HR 2:30 AM - 44
Body Weight
Body Fat
Breakfast 5:00 AM - applesauce, 2 bananas, 1 scoop Hammer Whey Protein, non-fat Greek yogurt, Udo's Oil, tea
Nutrition 7:00 AM - 3 Perpetuem Solids
race - 2 large bottles each w/2 scoops Perpetuem and 2 Endurolytes, 6 Hammer Gels, 1.5 large bottles of energy drink from race
Time of Day 8:00 AM
Workout Type race
Weather 50 degrees, light rain for the first couple of hours then dry, foggy, some wind up top
Results 1st - Men 50-59
39th - Overall
official results
Time 6:02:04
Distance 50 km
Equipment Brooks PureGrit 3, Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0
Clothing Injinji Run 2.0 Original Weight Mini-Crew, Brooks Equilibrium CoRe Short, Brooks 5" Essential Run Short, Craft Active Classic Long Sleeve Baselayer, Brooks short sleeve EZ T III, Patagonia Nine Trails Jacket, light weight buff


  1. Nice write-up Martin. Excellent work out there!
    I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on starting in the rain and how it brings your mood down (thought I was the only one) but really once you get out there it isn't so bad.
    Also cool to hear that you don't use every aid station, just by carrying a few extra things. I'm going to work on that. I noticed you don't eat any carbs, even for breakfast. Is that something you have done for a while?

  2. @Michael Linscott - Oh I eat lots of carbs...! :) In all seriousness, I do try to limit the super simple carbs in my diet like grains, rice and especially sugar. I used to lean more Paleo than I do now but limiting simple (read: empty) carbs for me anyway really makes me feel better. Been doing that for about three years now. I get tons of carbs from fruit and veggies and I did eat 6 gels on the run. In theory this is what I subscribe to:


    but in reality I have the occasional pizza or plate of nachos, ice cream, etc.

    The driving force behind this diet for me was I used to get the massive blood sugar spike and crash. I'd be about to pass out and starving, I'd stuff my face and then I'd go to feeling like I had a food baby in my stomach. Repeat. Fewer simple carbs keeps my energy level way more constant.

    I think carbs are essential, and fat only burns in a carbohydrate fire so to speak meaning if your body is out of carbs it makes it difficult to metabolize any fat. But I have totally gotten away from pancakes, oatmeal (any hot cereal really), cold cereal, etc. for breakfast. I also eat less breakfast these days and I think that helps too, see this:


    Hope that answers some questions. If you have more fire away.

  3. That does help Martin, thanks! I'll take some time to read the article from Hammer. I eat lots of good stuff too but fall into the trap of empty carbs quite often. And it was interesting (knowing how strong of an athlete you are) not seeing bagel/cereal/oatmeal on your morning's menu.


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