You have seen the Mt Hood to Columbia River Gorge run report from Beth detailing her 45 mile back country run. However, you haven’t ever seen what the support crew, the dog and I, have to do to support such a monumental effort! Spoiler: It involves a lot of driving (200 miles), a lot of waiting (10 hours!), and some fun hiking.
Resupply points are important for water, nutrition, and a mental break
Although there are some beastly runners that go unsupported for a hundred miles or more, we found a nice balance by resupplying every 16-20 miles. Beth is able to pack enough nutrition to last a 50k, but her 2 liter water bladder runs low after 3 hours running the trails. This is the single biggest thing we provide to her. If we meet her in a remote area, I will pack in 4-5 liters of water to fill her up and have enough for the pup and I to make it out. If we meet up at the car, we will have ice-cold water waiting for her in Yetis–now that’s a real treat!
Although Beth can pack enough nutrition for a 50k, having some fresh crackers, baked potato wedges, and dumping the sticky empty containers provides a nice relief. You can see below the typical food I carry for the resupply: Lots of Gu gels and gummies, Kind bars for later in the run, and even Nuun electolyte tablets for really long, hot runs. Missing from the picture is perhaps the runners best calorie-packed friend: bananas!
Besides water and food, we also provide a mental break for Beth–imagine that! After 3-4 hours of nothing but her own thoughts and hearing her feet plodding on the ground, she is excited to have the goal of seeing us and taking small break. We make sure she’s feeling good all around and provide her any support material such as K-Tape, sunblock, Body Glide, or even bug repellent.
Route planning happens days before the race and needs to work for both of us
Beth ran through some remote, back country areas in Mount Hood National Forest, so it was tough to plan where to meet up that I could drive and hike in the time it would take her to get there. We broke this course into 3 sections (check the map). Each section allows Beth to cover 13-16 miles and me to arrive there well before she did so I would be ready and could get in some hiking myself.
Beth was able to cut a mostly direct path through the forest, but I had to drive about 150 miles total to accommodate each one of the stops and the final pickup (gray lines indicate my driving route).
One of the hardest parts of doing these back country runs is that without cell phone reception, there is no way to check in with each other about timing, trail conditions, or change-ups. We do well, though, by having a good handle on estimated time, distance, and elevation gains. When I prep my resupply pack, I carry just about anything she may immediately need.
Ran 45 miles in 11 hours with 2 resupply points
Started at Timberline Lodge Ski Area at 9:30a
We drove from Portland to the South side of Mount Hood at Timberline Lodge Ski Area to reach the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) starting point at 0900. The elevation here is around 7,000 ft above sea level and really puts a burden on the lungs and legs. After a bit of wandering around to find the trailhead, Beth started her run at 0930!
We knew we would be pushing dusk in 11 hours but were excited for this journey–C’est la vie.
Stop 1 at Lolopass Rd and PCT at 1:30p, 4 hours running
Stop 1 was an easy 45-min drive for me down the mountain to the North side of Mount hood. That gave me plenty of time to hike up the trail a few miles to meet Beth at the trail intersection. The pup and I went 2 miles up the trail to a big intersection and waited about an hour for Beth to come rambling up a brutal climb to greet us. We all run back to the car together and got a feel for the next 30 miles!
Notably, this first leg took almost an hour more than expected because of the high altitude and 3k ft worth of climbs, setting us up for late and dark post-9pm finish time.
Stop 2 at Wahtum Lake at 5:30p, 7 hours running
It was a windy, single-lane, paved road to Wahtum Lake for stop 2. Snickers and I arrived two hours before we estimated Beth would come through, so we took a nap in the car in the busy little campground parking lot. 🙂 Afterwards Snickers and I headed down to the lake to see the sights and capture a few photos.
Beth came rambling down just before 5:30pm at 32 miles run! We jogged up to the car to resupply Beth with some water and food. At this point it was getting late. Although there was 3.5 hours of sunlight left, that would leave very little room for error if the last 13 miles took longer than expected. Beth was motivated to finish the course she had planned at 45 miles! She was feeling good and chose to continue forward. She had to finish at the Gorge because there were no roads or pickup spots in between Wahtum Lake and the end.
End at Columbia River Gorge at 8:30p, 11 hours running
By 5:30pm we were both getting pretty hungry: Beth having eaten mostly Gu gels, some granola bar, and half a potato, and I only had some trail mix and a granola bar. I had made a plan to have food ready to go by the time I met Beth at the trailhead. I stopped in Hood River at a Hawaiian BBQ place and got a couple big containers of meet, rice, and noodles–post run power food??
I arrived at the trailhead a little after 7:00pm, and I scarfed down half the food in no time. Beth had gotten cell reception and texted me around 7:30pm that she was really feeling fatigued. I had been debating on hiking in to meet her, but that sealed it for me. I loaded the pack with some snacks, electrolytes, and the hiking poles and headed up the trail to meet her. I left the dog napping in the car. I was glad I ate food, because I wanted my strength to help Beth–it’s like they say on the plane, put on your own mask before helping others.
We were losing light fast in the woods near the Gorge, so I was a bit worried we were going to have a dark hike back to the car. Two miles into the Herman Creek trail I made it to the PCT intersection. I had estimated I would meet Beth at this point and not seeing her I was a bit worried she had run our of steam up the hill. I gave her a call in hopes I could connect with her live and sure enough I did! Luckily she was only a quarter mile up the trail! I rambled up and we were able to meet there! I immediately gave her some more potatoes and electrolytes along with the hiking poles. She was looking totally wore out but was still on her feet. After a couple minutes to get set we were on the trail back to the car. The sky was growing darker and the air cooler, we moved at a good pace mostly downhill to get to the parking lot.
We arrived at 8:30pm, 45 miles into Beth’s run, 11 hours after she had started on the trail at Mount Hood. Beth was overcome with joy and relief. We took no time to load up the car and get on the road back to Portland. She has two weeks to recover and then we will be back at Mnt Hood for her 50 mile race! And she will definitely be able to do it, because… What’s 5 more miles??