Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Orcas Island 25k Race Report

I went into this race with one goal and that was to have fun.  And fun I had! The course was beautiful with stands of old growth timber, beautiful rolling single track and breathtaking views of the San Juan Islands from atop Mt. Constitution. 

However, this course wasn’t for the faint of heart. With almost 4,000 ft of climbing and five miles of snow covered single track it was one stout course. The bulk of the climbing was in two major climbs with two demanding descents to follow. If you didn’t have climbing legs…this course hurt.

As the gun went off I quickly found myself with the lead pack. The pace was comfortable and we cut through the first mile in the mid 7’s. However, as we neared the start of the climb up Constitution I backed off the pace. With only 4 weeks of consistent running leading up to this race I knew I didn’t have the strength needed to stay with the lead pack. 

I had heard stories about the climb up Constitution and I can honestly say everything that I heard was true. It was a solid climb and I used a combination of power walking and running to complete the climb. 

The climb itself is just about a mile before the trail turns to rollers leading to the summit of Constitution and the only aid station on the course. I was feeling comfortable with my nutrition and hydration and passed by the aid station without losing any time. The only downfall to breezing by the aid station is that you miss the beautiful views out over the San Juans. Not that they aren’t visible from the course, but it sure would have been nice to sit down with a nice cup of warm soup and take it all in!

The descent off Constitution was fast, but it also required considerable concentration due to the snow-covered switchbacks. There was a fine line between being in control and over running a turn on an icy corner.

When we started up the second climb I could tell that my legs didn’t have the conditioning to match my cardiovascular fitness so I again backed off the pace and really focused on using my glutes to push me up the climbs. Sounds funny I know, but you can really feel a shift from the quads to the glutes. After a quarter mile or so the legs started to feel better and soon I was back in my rhythm.

After the second major descent I was really feeling the fatigue in the legs and had to dig deep during the last two miles around the lake.  I crossed the line in 2:30. Good enough for 16th place. 

I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I experienced crossing the finishing line. I was ecstatic, thrilled, elated!! 2 years ago I was told I needed a spinal fusion and would never race again. 7 months ago I under went major shoulder surgery. 2 months ago I went for my first run. 4 weeks ago I started running consistently. And on January 28th, I crossed a finish line! 

It has been a long road back and I couldn’t have made it without the support of my friends and family. To Dr. Jon King who performed my shoulder surgery. Thank you. I know the extent of the damage was more than anyone imagined, but I am so thankful to have had such a skilled surgeon and caring team of specialists in the operating room including a long time client, friend and head surgical nurse Maggy McPaul. To Tyler Blackwelder, my friend and PT. Thank you so much for everything that you have done to get me back out on the trails, I know it was no small task. To my beautiful and caring wife Michelle, thank you for always being my rock and never letting me believe for one second that I would never compete again. To my parents, thank you so much for all the support over the last several years - I know it cannot have been easy to watch me go through all the ups and downs. To my athletes, thank you so much for your support and inspiration. I am so fortunate to have such a great team! To all my friends, thank you for being there for me.

I’m back!!


Scott McMurtrey said...

Awesome, Chris. Looking forward to following this new chapter.

Doug Heckman said...

Great report. And really good to read about the recovery and this first race. First run two months ago and now this grueling race?!? I'd say your rearing to go. Let 'er rip.

PNW TIDS said...

Thanks guys. Feels good to be back at it!