The Run That Nearly Cost Them Their Marriage, Health...

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc… From The Other Side

October 2, 2017 Comments (0) All Posts, Tips & Inspiration


RainShadow Running puts on a calendar year of phenomenal ultrarunning events, all taking place in the beautiful and rugged terrain of the Pacific Northwest. This week on October 7th, the air horn will sound for the start of the Oregon Coast 50/30k races, of which I (Jonny McLean, inov-8 USA Grassroots Marketing Manager) will be toeing the line for the 50k, my first ultramarathon.

“Did you lose a bet? Are you crazy?”

“No. Maybe? I just think I can go further than I did last time.”

Orcas Island Doe Bay

RainShadow’s first race of the season took place back in January on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state. Orcas Island is absolutely breathtaking, with the snow-capped Cascade Mountain range rising out of the distances, it is a constant reminder the terrain is as rugged as it is stunning. For the race distances of 25k, 50k, and 100 miles Orcas Island offers some of the hardest races in the country. Boasting 4,450 feet of elevation for the 25k and roughly 26,000 feet for the 100 miler… 26,000 feet!

Orcas Island 25k Elevation map


So, there I stood, toeing the line of the Orcas Island 25k; before me a marked trail system boasting 15 miles of harsh terrain, heartbreaking ascents, snow-capped mountains, and downhills steep enough to make your quadriceps cry with each bounding step. I had no idea what I signed up for “25k, let’s see trying to do the math in my head how many miles is that… I’ll worry about it later.” No matter what, I knew my comfort zone was going to be left far behind during this trek and that to me was the exciting part. Something new, something uncharted, something which excited me as much as it frightened me.

Areas for Improvement

Almost to the top of the first climb- a crushing false peak. If you could see my face here I’m surely grimacing with pain.

  1. Fuel properly before/during the race
  2. Control my pace, walk the uphills, and control the decents

I started the race at an unrealistic pace, most of which was at a gradual incline. By the time I reached the first aid station (5.6mi) I could already tell this was going to be an uphill battle (no pun intended). Because I didn’t fuel properly before the race I had zero chance of catching up on that cycle. At around the 8 mile mark this lead to me barbarically ripping into and scoffing down a Cliff Bar (250cal). Gulping down water to combat the Cliff bar working its way back up from the depths of my stomach.

Not even 10 minutes after this I experience excruciating leg cramps, like nothing I have ever felt before. Every muscle in my legs, from my smallest phalange all the way up to my gluteus maximus, it felt like someone was ringing out my muscles like a dirty, old used up sponge. Thoughts of quitting easily slipped into my conscious thoughts; in the midst of an uphill climb the only path to the finish lay on the other side.

Don’t Stop Moving

RainShadow RD James Varner applauding finishers as they approach the finish line

“Focus on the task at hand, one step at a time, and then the next one, and then the next one…”

I was one of the last 45 people to finish (4:40:26) in a field of 270 runners who valiantly cross the finish line that day. As all sports can be, Orcas Island was a metaphor for life; this race was a tool of reassurance, proving to myself anything I put my mind to I can do. My body was beaten and battered, but my mind was as strong as ever. And I did it, through running, hiking, walking, and virtually scratching my way across the finish line.


Warming up for a WOD with CrossFit Big Dane. Footwear: F-Lite 235 v2’s.

I’m a M.O.P. (a Middle of the Pack runner), and there’s no way around it. If anything this is an improvement from my previous races.

The last 9 months have been dedicated to experimenting with my training regimen using a combination of aerobic, cardiovascular, and weight training. During peak weeks of running I would hit between 25-30 miles over 4-5 runs. And over the past month I have focused on increasing distance and controlling my pace, getting in between 8-12 miles in 1-2 long runs. Capping off my training with a 13.5 mile run with an 8:07/mi pace. Race day will be much slower.

My aerobic training has been supplemented with a combination of CrossFit, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and circuit training for accessory work. Utilizing CrossFit’s training philosophies has been one of the biggest factors in watching my mile time decrease and the distances I can cover increase. Each WOD is created in a way that will push your mind and body to the brink of wanting to quit or as some refer to it the “pain cave”.

Implementing HIIT into my medium runs of 3-6 miles helped try and mimic what my mind and body could potentially be going through when I start hitting “the wall”. The training would look something like this:

  • 2 mile run @ 7-8 min pace
  • 10 rounds for time: 30 Double-Unders, 20 air squats, 15 v-ups, 10 push-ups
  • 3-5 mile run @ 8:30-9:30 min pace

Over the past thirty days I have incorporated circuit training into my weekly routine which allows for isolation of certain muscle groups CrossFit or my HIIT training might brush over, but not necessarily focus on. Utilizing these training philosophies over the past nine months I have improved across the board in CrossFit’s 10 fitness domains. Setting PR’s this summer in my mile, 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, 1RM squat, 1RM deadlift, and power clean.

It’s not just Point A to Point B

A quick google query for “Ultrarunning Nutrition” pulls of a list of 718,000 results. I did my fair share of research and came across a lot of good insight, but everyone has a different system and no two runners are the same. It was an endless sea of do’s and don’ts.

I would be doing myself a disservice by not utilizing inov-8’s network of athletes. Our Ultrarunning team is comprised of some of the country’s most elite athletes. Long time team members- Amy Rusiecki and Yassine Diboun both came back to me with well thought out detailed notes on their experience with race nutrition and what has worked for them. Both made sure to iterated this is what has worked for them and their advice should be taken with a grain a salt. Either way it gave me some much needed insight on how/when/what I will use to build my race day fuel plan.

Amy Rusiecki and Yassine Diboun share their Ultrarunning Advice.


Pushing your body to cover a distance like 50k is no longer a “Point A to Point B” afternoon run, it becomes much, much more complicated. Calculations of calories burned per mile, average pace needed to beat cutoffs along the course, and hydration to match your levels of perspiration, are just some of the key components a runner needs to be aware of. With this being my first attempt at a distance of this magnitude it is important to stay realistic and focused. It’s now t-minus five days until I’ll be at the start line of the Oregon Coast 50k.

My goal is simple, finish all 31.0686 miles, one step at a time.

Oregon Coast 50k Map and course elevation.

Gear I Used

Running: RoadClaw 275 v2

HIIT: All Train 215, F-Lite 195 v2

CrossFit Training: F-Lite 235 v2, FastLift 325


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