— from Rainshadow Running Staff —
Over the past few weeks, you may have gone for a hike or a bike ride in Moran State Park or driven through the park on Olga Road. However you choose to enjoy the park, you probably came across some pink ribbons hanging in the trees, road signs that read “CAUTION RUNNERS ON ROAD,” bright yellow arrows staked into the ground, and some runners along the road. You may be wondering to yourself, “What’s going on?”
The answer to your question would be three separate trail running races that Camp Moran played host to. Jan. 28 was a 25K trail race, Feb. 4 was the 50K version, and this past weekend, the Orcas 100 miler took place. Both the 25K and 50K races, which usually have about 300 runners each, have been happening since 2006. The 100 miler, which began last year (2016), had about 60 to 70 runners for its first two years.
James Varner, founder of the Rainshadow Running Club, first got the idea for creating these races when he came to the island for Christmas in 2005 to visit his sister, Melissa Varner. She was working at The Rosario Resort, at that time. Since then, James has fostered a relationship with many of the Orcas Island locals. Race staff and local volunteers even spent many hours out on the trails cutting away trees that had fallen onto the trails this winter. Rainshadow Running also encourages local runners to run in the races and allows island residents to register for the race, even after it has officially sold out.
Each race brings hundreds of folks to the island, many of them for the first time. Most of these runners and their families/friends stay for multiple days. The races, which are permitted via the park staff and are fundraisers for the park, also benefit the local non-profit Friends of Moran. These races help to keep many of the island businesses busy at an otherwise slow time of the year.
The race supports quite a few local businesses, such as Island Hoppin’, The Madrona, Mia’s Cafe, Brown Bear Baking, The Kitchen, Orcas Co-op, Island Market, Country Corner, and Ace Hardware by purchasing food, beer, and supplies. Rainshadow also holds their awards ceremony for the 100 miler at the Seaview Theater in Eastsound.
Rainshadow Running has also supported local non-profits, like The Funhouse, The Exchange and Friends Of Moran.
The Orcas races have a reputation in the running community for being more difficult and more scenic than the average trail race. The routes go up Mt. Pickett and Mt. Constitution, around Cascade Lake, Twin Lakes, and Mountain Lake and go past Cascade Falls using nearly all the various trails in Moran. The runners even go up the notorious West Boundary Trail also known as The Powerline Trail which the runners love to hate because it’s so difficult–ascending 1600 feet in just two miles.
The 100 mile route is a 25 mile loop that is run four times. Each loop has 6500 feet of elevation gain for a total elevation gain for the race of 26,000 feet. The runners begin at a.m. on Friday and have until 8 p.m. on Saturday to complete the race.
The are a few spots along the race, aid stations, where runners can get food, water, and medical attention. The rest of the time, the runners are on their own to carry their supplies, like flashlights and spare clothes. The race routes are marked with pink surveyor’s ribbon and the runners must follow the race route–taking a shortcut is grounds for disqualification.
In the first year of the 100 mile race, there was a 64 percent success rate, with 49 of the 77 runners finishing the race. This year, the finisher rate skyrocketed to 79 percent with 45 finishers. The fastest male runner this year, Nickademus Hollon of San Diego, CA, took 20 hours and 44 minutes. The fastest female runner, Janessa Taylor of Redmond, OR, took 24 hours and 8 minutes. Todd Silva, of Eastsound, was the fastest and only island resident in the race. 15 states and four foreign countries were represented in this year’s event.
The dates for the 2018 races have been set (pending permit approval) for Saturday Jan. 27 for the 25K, Feb. 3 for the 50K, and Feb. 9 and 10 for the 100 miler.
More info about all of the Orcas races can be found on Rainshadow Running’s website at www.rainshadowrunning.com.
There’s also a 25 minute documentary film from last year’s Orcas Island 100 mile race that co-features local runner Todd Silva who also finished the race that year as well. That film can be watched online for free at vimeo.com/176703800.