Oregano’s Mt. Hood 50K Race Report

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My mom and me before the start.

If you’ve been following my training logs, you know that I have been training for the Mt. Hood 50k since I recovered from the Chuckanut 50k in the early spring. I used Krissy Moehl’s book, Running Your First Ultrato train for Chuckanut, even though it wasn’t my first ultra. And after Chuckanut, I contacted Krissy and she coached me individually for this race. Thanks Krissy!

My goals going into this race:

A Goal: Win or PR (Sub-4:44:00)

B Goal: Top Ten or Sub-5:00:00

C Goal: Finish

Overall Goal: Be mentally tough

I slept over at my parents’ house the night before the race as they live an hour closer to the start than I do, and also because they were kind enough to cheer for me and drive. Race morning dawned dark and with fairly aggressive rainfall. I got up at 4:40am, showered, stretched, organized, carried three loads of various gear and clothing to the car and made my traditional pre-race meal of coffee and oatmeal. At 5:30am my sleepy parents and I staggered out of the house for the hour drive up to Timothy Lake, where the second annual Mt. Hood 50k was to start.

I checked in, used the port-o-potty a few times, wrote the distances between aid stations on my arm for reference, prayed with my parents, was happy that the weather was ideal for running, cool and cloudy, drank some water and ate half of a banana, and was ready to go at the 8am start!

Coming into aid station 1 at mile 6. Feeling good!

Start – Aid Station 1 (Miles 0-6)

The race started off fast on a gravel road that  narrowed quickly to single track, going partway around Timothy Lake and then out on the Pacific Crest Trail. There were two women ahead of me from the start. I stuck with them through one mile, but then looked down at my watch and realized we were running 7:30 pace, which I didn’t think I could sustain for 31 miles. I consciously backed it off and was suddenly running alone. Then I fell. Fortunately there were no witnesses and the trail wasn’t too hard, so I got right back up and kept running, nice and easy. I had a gel about 15 minutes in because I was hungry and figured I should eat if I had any inclination whatsoever to do so. I ran through the first aid station feeling great. (43:19)

Aid Station 1 – Aid Station 2 (Miles 6 – 9.2)

I felt great coming out of aid station 1 and took another gel as the trail remained flat for a bit. But then it began to climb. Though this race is VERY flat for a trail 50k, almost all of the climbing happens between miles 6-12, and the hardest climb was in this section. I jogged up the hill, moving aside for two guys who passed me midway up. It was disheartening, but I could only do what I could do, so I just kept going. When I became a bit discouraged I walked for 15-20 steps, but then I felt like a wimp and started jogging again. The trail leveled out before the second aid station and I ran through this one as well. (1:10:51)

Aid Station 2 – Aid Station 3 (Miles 9.2 – 13.4)

And this was the rest of the climbing. A moderate grade hill and descent followed by a steeper hill and descent. There would have been beautiful views of Mt. Hood except for the clouds and drizzle. Aid Station 3 was the turnaround, so toward the end of this section I started seeing the leaders coming back toward me. There was a man leading and then second and third positions overall were both women! They were significantly ahead of me, but I was in the top 10 overall at this point, though it was still early in the race. I didn’t stop at the aid station, but did a quick u-turn and headed back the way I came, excited to run down some hills this time! (1:50:38)

Aid Station 3 – Aid Station 4 (Miles 13.4 – 17.6)

This section was fairly unremarkable. Because this part of the course was an out-and-back I got to cheer on everyone in the race as we squeezed by each other on the single track. It was fun to see so many people out there working hard and having fun … well, mostly! My left leg was feeling a little sore at this point: my hamstring was tight and my quad was tight and the top of my foot was sore and I kept turning my ankles on all of the rocks because there was something in my right contact making my right eye all blurry, BUT there was not really anything I could do about any of this, so I just kept running and enjoying it. (2:29:03)

The battle at the finish!

Aid Station 4 – Aid Station 5 (Miles 17.6 – 20.8)

THE DOWNHILL! YES! Other than the ankle turning and blurry contacts it was super fun to fly down these hills. I ran this section entirely alone and when I came into the aid station my parents were there to greet me and cheer me on! I stopped only at this aid station during the entire race. I refilled my water and grabbed a couple of S!Caps as a substitute for the salty potatoes, which the aid station did not have. I lost about two minutes here and was passed by two people, but I think it was still a good decision to stop. (2:52:09)

Aid Station 5 – Aid Station 6 (Miles 20.8 – 26.4)

This was a grind. I got off the Pacific Crest Trail and needed to run the rest of the way around Timothy Lake before branching out and heading back to the Ranger Station for the finish. It was flat and wooded with few views or variety … or other people. I definitely ran the majority of this race entirely alone. I didn’t have a lot in the tank so was trying to be good about eating and drinking while also not letting up on pace. I passed a guy (peeing toward the trail) and then was passed by a different guy which put me on alert. I did not want to give up my position as third woman. (3:34:05)

Aid Station 6 – Finish! (Miles 26.4 – 31.1)

I ran through the last aid station and up an unexpected hill. This did not feel very good, but I was running scared and knew that I only had 4.7 miles remaining. Just do it. No walking allowed. I jogged on, smiling for a photo, drinking some water, rolling my eyes at every rocky, rooty incline. With two or three miles to go I saw a guy walking in front of me, it looked like he was cramping up a bit, so I said something encouraging as I passed. Then, suddenly, my legs got super mooshy. Uh-oh, not enough food; the bonk was coming. I quickly rummaged around in my pocket and ate another gel, kicking myself for not staying on top of nutrition and hoping the sugar would kick in fast.

And then, with a mile and a half to go I saw something very surprising; there was a woman in the distance ahead of me. I was under the impression they were both far far away, but defying all expectations, there she was. I don’t love racing hard at the end like that, but thinking back to my goal of being mentally tough, it seemed like the right thing to do. I felt bad that she had done all that work up front and appeared to be bonking in the last mile, but it’s a race and as my legs were feeling better, I started running. Pretty soon I recognized the trail and knew we were close, I caught up to her with about 600 meters left and said something like, “I’m going to pass you, feel free to pass me back if you want to.” To which she replied something like, “I’ll try to stick with you.” We both thundered through the end of the race, pushing hard to the finish – only 13 seconds apart. We finished and hugged and I think we were both pretty psyched about our times and the experience. (Finish: 4:08:16 – 2nd for women, 7th overall)

Top Three Women!

Gear & Consumables

2 Tri Berry Nuun Tablets, 5 Plain GU, 1 Salted Caramel GU, 2 S! Caps, Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3 Shoes, Nike Kiger Vest, Nike Elite Cushioned Crew Socks, Shorts & a Chicago Marathon Race Tee, Arm Warmers, Gloves and a Non-Trucker Hat (the trucker hats always fly off my head).

Postscript  

This was a great race run in perfect conditions. I had no issues with breathing (the bane of my Chuckanut – thank you inhaler), my IT bands (thank you PT and strengthening exercises), or cramping (thank you S!caps and a solid build-up). I had a wonderful experience and am still glowing. As I was running I was thinking about how blessed I am to be able to do this. To have a supportive family, the resources to buy entry to races, PT appointments and coaching, the time and motivation and capability to train, amazing friends who are always up for running long distances and breathtaking trails all over the place. I am so thankful.

Also, I would like to say that the overall winner of this race was a woman! She won by over two minutes in a jaw-dropping 3:50:22!

What is your most exciting race finish? Have you ever felt guilty passing someone at the end of the race? 

I'm a proud resident of Portlandia, ex-running store employee, pulmonary emboli conquerer and connoisseur of high fives. I write about running community, trail running/training and anything else that grabs my immediate interest. I'm currently running for fun with my crazy friends - no races on the horizon YET.

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13 comments

  1. Way to CRUSH that 4:44 PR goal! Super exciting! I don’t love racing hard at the end, either, and I always feel bad about passing people (at pretty much any point in the race…I know, it’s weird…) Sounds like you ladies had a fantastic finish — I’ll bet it was exciting to watch! Congrats!!

  2. OMG what an incredible PR and placing, you worked for it and deserve that so much. I remember your frustrating about your breathing after the last 50k so I’m so glad that you were able to get through this one, and not struggle with that at all.

    Yay for overall winner being a woman too!! Sounds like this was a great race, all in all.