Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sweeping Orcas (or Cleanup On Isle 100)

waterfalls look different at 3 a.m.
at midnight friday, feb. 9, my friend kay and i left the warmth and comfort of the camp moran aid station to do a safety sweep of the orcas island 100-mile course.

our task was to circle the 25.2-mile loop to make sure runners were right-side-up, moving the right direction, and generally not in any more physical danger than you might expect during a 100-mile race fraught with muddy cliffs, seething waterfalls, and packs of ravening mountain lions.*

this is not an easy course. with 7,600 feet of climbing per loop (featuring the famously toilsome Powerline ascent), subfreezing overnight temperatures, and constant mountain lion* danger, getting around four times takes a special breed of cat.

there were several times along the way when kay and i agreed doing the course just once was plenty, and twice might be feasible. but four times? damn. go, runners.

at one point during the night i noticed i had snow in my jacket pocket.

as far as i know, there was no snow anywhere on the island but in my pocket. but there it was, in sufficient quantity to make a small snowball. it took me a minute to figure out why...turns out the lid on the water bottle in my hydration pack wasn't on properly. so for several miles it was leaking down my right side, soaking my clothes, and turning to slush in my pocket.

this reminded us that conditions were fine (and we would stay warm), as long as we kept moving. stop for a few minutes, though, and we'd be popsicles on the side of the trail.

the aid stations and volunteers on the course are the best. 

  • the miso soup at mountain lake was amazing ~ pure genius
  • the tomato/red pepper soup at mount pickett was the kind that comes from a box...and it was delicious
  • there was more box soup at cascade lake, curry-lentil this time ~ fantastic
  • at the top of mt. constitution the team 7 hills crew was serving up more tomato/red pepper (and chicken noodle), but by then my stomach was no longer accepting food 
  • back at camp moran, there was a smorgasbord going on, none of which my stomach found remotely interesting ~ but then somebody brought out pancakes, which were exquisite (and i never eat pancakes)

two years ago, during our sweep of the inaugural orcas 100, kay and i encountered several struggling, straggling runners in the wee hours. we saw only two or three who fit that description this year. of the 91 who started the race, 69 finished; far more than either of the event's first two years (49 and 45, respectively).

among the images that stand out in my mind this year:

  • a crystal-clear night sky over the island ~ the stars were dazzlingly clear and bright
  • the orange glow and welcome heat of the fireplace at the mt. pickett aid station
  • an icy wind foiling the fire pits outside the mt. constitution aid station
  • glimmering purple and pink morning light above the cascade mountains
  • tired but vigilant volunteers at every stop
  • hand warmers in my gloves

once again, i am grateful to kay, who prompted me to do this for the second time in three years. at a time when i'm content to be warm and comfortable and most importantly ASLEEP in the middle of the night, it's good to have a friend who says, "let's head out and be the opposite of all those things for several hours! woohoo!"
* not really. ravening mountain lions are not known to exist on orcas island.
that's right, ha ha.
probably not.

No comments: