Mt. Hood 50M

The second weekend in July I ran my first 50 mile race and lived to tell the tale! The Mt. Hood 50M is put on by Go Beyond Racing and I can’t say enough good things about Todd, Renee, and the rest of the team. The course is a double out-and-back course run entirely on the Pacific Crest Trail near Timothy Lake. While we didn’t get the sweeping views of Mt. Hood due to cloud cover, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

The race had a 6am start time, so Matt and I stayed at a hotel in Mt. Hood Village the night before. We rolled into the Clackamas Ranger Station at 5:40, I pinned on my bib, and got ready to go. I had run the first half of the course before and knew what to expect, but I was still equal parts nervous and excited.

Miles 1-6: We wound along Timothy Lake for 6 miles before hitting the first aid station at Little Crater Lake. I took this section slow – falling in pace with whatever group was ahead of me – to preserve my legs for later. I cruised through the first aid station and started my first climb.

Miles 7-14: It was 3 miles of uphill to the next aid station and to the rolling ridge line. I didn’t need to stop for aid after climbing the hill so I kept on going the final 5 miles to the turn around. I was keeping pace with a group of people and started chatting with a guy from Cincinnati, of all places. At this point I was able to count the super speedy ladies ahead of me and knew a top 10 female finish was within reach.

Miles 15-19: I reached the turn around and kept moving forward. The photographer was along the ridge line to hopefully get some shots of runners with the mountain, but the clouds were not in our favor. I still pulled out a big smile and headed downhill.

Miles 20-28: I filled my water at the next aid station and let my legs loose. Downhill felt so good after all the climbing and I was finally ready to bust out some fast miles. I ran into Matt and Snickers around mile 21 – Snickers went crazy! After a quick hello I kept on trucking. Since it was only 3 miles between aid stations, I went right through it, but the Wy’east crew was looking dapper in their suits. The next 6 miles were rolling hills at a slight incline; I took them in my usual manner – run when you can, walk when you can’t – and got to the halfway point in 4 hours and 40 minutes.

Halfway: I stopped briefly here to catch up with Matt and Snickers. We refilled my water, loaded up on food (GUs, potatoes, Nuun), slathered on the sunscreen and Body Glide, and I was ready to go again. I felt really good at this point. The Go Beyond Racing team puts on such good races and there was so much energy at the halfway point. My legs felt good and I was excited to hit the back half of the course.

Miles 29-33: The second half of the course was HARD! Not only was I running on tired legs, but there was a lot of uphill and fewer aid stations. While the first half I ran with people, I didn’t see a single person for the first 4 miles of the second half. It was a 6 mile climb to the first aid station and I was moving pretty slowly. I always hike the uphill sections to save my energy, and 6 miles of uphill felt like an eternity. There was also a bit less tree coverage, so I was thankful for the clouds. I made it to the aid station and took full advantage of the water sprayer they had to cool down.

Miles 34-44: It was 5 miles to the final turn around point with a blissful 3 miles of descent right off the bat. I immediately saw the first place male finisher – he was 11 miles ahead of me! Talk about speedy; he finished in 6 hours, 23 minutes!! I sped down the hill and finished the last 2 mile climb to the aid station. The volunteers filled my bladder with ice and water and it was amazing to finally drink cold water. I was out of there in no time and had 11 miles to the finish! I zipped down the 2 mile stretch and power hiked up to the last aid station. After grabbing a GU and another water spray down, I was in the home stretch!

Miles 45-50: Going into the last aid station, I was still holding 9th place female. I saw a woman who had been ahead of me all day talking to a medic; I felt for her – you truly never know what can go wrong in a race – but I couldn’t help smile as I took hold of 8th place. I took the last 6 miles downhill as fast as I could, which isn’t easy when you’re already 44 miles into the day. I was starting to feel the aches in my joints, but felt pretty good overall. With a half mile left I came upon another lady. I gave it everything I had and pulled ahead of her hoping I could push it to the finish.

Coming into the finish line was amazing! I could hear the cheering as soon as I hit the road crossing and it powered me to push my legs with energy I didn’t realize I still had.

Going into any race I usually set three goals for myself: 1. finish; 2. a realistic goal I share with everyone; 3. a secret goal that I can maybe hit if the stars align. For the Mt. Hood 50M my goals were:

  1. Finish standing up
  2. Finish in 10.5-12 hours. This seemed like a long time, but given that this was a new distance and my 45 mile training run didn’t go as planned I wanted to include a large buffer for bonking.
  3. Finish in 10 hours and place in the top 10 women

I not only met all of my goals, but I completely knocked the last one out of the park! I finished an HOUR under my anticipated time in 9 hours, 13 minutes. Out of the 144 racers that toed the line, I finished 25th overall, 7th place female, and 3rd in my age group!! I am still shocked at how good I felt at the end of the race.

As always, I have to give a huge shoutout to the Go Beyond Racing team for putting on another amazing event. To all of the volunteers continuing to bring the smiles and support to the aid stations. To Paul Nelson for always capturing stellar race photos. And to my personal crew – Matt and Snickers – for not only putting up with my crazy antics but supporting me at every step along the way….even if that means getting up at 4am and hanging out in the woods for 9 hours.

Summit to Sea: running from Mt. Hood to the Columbia River Gorge

With a big race coming up in July, I decided to go all out for peak week and chose a trail I knew would be both challenging and rewarding. After debating between a few different trails, I decided to run from Mt. Hood to the Columbia River Gorge. Covering 45 miles with 7,000 ft. of ascent, and 13,700 ft. of descent this trail was going to test my mental and physical stamina.

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PCT at Timberline Lodge

We got a late start to the day, hitting the trail around 9:30. I knew I would be chasing daylight but had high hopes for finishing strong. I started on the PCT at Timberline Lodge with a starting elevation of 6,100 ft. No stranger to altitude, I knew this first section of trail would be challenging on the lungs. The first three miles were fun and quick. There were still patches of snow, which made for some slippery miles, but it was an overall descent to the Zig Zag River. The river was running from the snow melt, but I was able to pick a path across and be on my way.

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Mt. Hood

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Zig Zag River Crossing

The trail proceeded to climb 1,000 ft. over the next 3 miles. With the snow and altitude, it was slow going, but the views of the mountain through the clouds kept me energized. After mile 6, I was met with a blissful 2,500 ft. descent over the next 6 miles. The terrain changed drastically – going from snow, across rocky plains, down a sandy hill, and finally into the pine forest that is ubiquitous in Oregon. I rolled my ankle around mile 9 and thought I might have to tap out. Thankfully I was able to recover quickly. Miles 12-13 were familiar territory – we hiked this portion of the PCT to Ramona Falls way back in 2016.  There was a fun creek crossing across two fallen trees where I had to cling to a rope to avoid falling. Then came a grueling 1,600 ft. climb over 2 miles.

I finally met Matt and Snickers at the top of the hill, feeling a little disheartened. My pace was suffering greatly from the climbing and I was about 20 minutes behind schedule. Nonetheless, we powered the next 3 miles (thankfully downhill) to the car at mile 16 to refill food and water. If I wasn’t able to get back to my normal pace, there was a possibility that I’d need to get pulled from the trail at the next stop to avoid running in the dark. I had 16 miles to the next crew point and at that point we would make the decision whether or not to keep going.

Thankfully the next 16 miles felt great. I had a burst of energy and was able to power through the rolling hills with little issue. There were wildflowers galore and views of Mt. Hood around every turn. This section of trail was very different from the beginning; it reminded me a lot of Utah running. The trail was more rocky and there was a bit less tree coverage. Around mile 28 I rounded a curve and saw Mt. Adams more clearly and up close than I’ve ever seen it before. It was truly a great day to be out on the trail. I finally saw the sign to Wahtum Lake (where I was meeting Matt) at mile 29 and it was straight downhill from there.

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Mt. Adams

I felt really good rolling into Wahtum lake at mile 32 and wanted to keep going. We assessed the map and calculated somewhere around 8-12 miles to the end point at Herman Creek Trailhead. The trail I initially planned took the Eagle Creek Trail to Cascade Locks, but that trail is still closed from the wildfires of 2017. I decided to keep going thinking it was going to be mostly downhill. Boy was I wrong.

After leaving the parking lot, I was immediately greeted with a 700 ft. climb in 0.7 miles. It was brutal and I felt like I’d never reach the top. The PCT was rolling hills for the next 9 miles. It wound through rocky terrain and a portion of forest that was burned in 2017. Every time I felt like I was finally descending, the trail would shoot me right back up to the ridge line at 4,000 ft. I was expecting 9 miles to the finish but it was actually closer to 13. When I hit mile 40, knowing I still had 5 miles to go and still hadn’t started the descent, I was hitting a breaking point. I finally hit the descent with 4 miles to go. This part was very rocky and technical and my tired legs kept tripping, so for safety reasons I slowed to a walk. I was finally able to get ahold of Matt at this point and he ran in 2 miles to help me get out. Night was fast approaching and I was so angry and frustrated at myself for not moving faster. When I saw him with 2 miles to go, I officially broke. Mentally and physically I was done. I’m sure I was a sight to see hobbling down the trail with tears running down my face 🙂 . Bolstered by some food, hiking poles, and a pep talk we finished the 2 miles to the parking lot just in time for dusk.

I finished 45.5 miles, 7,000 ft. ascent, 13,700 ft. descent in just over 11 hours total. Even looking at the moving time, which was right at 10 hours, my pace was the slowest I’ve ever run. Mentally I’m disappointed I couldn’t maintain the pace I wanted, but rationally I know that’s silly. I covered more ground and more ascent – by a good 10 miles and 2,000 ft. – than I’ve ever done in a single run. I would’ve liked to finish much faster, but I’m really amazed at the distance I was able to go. I finished standing up with no injuries or GI issues, which is a feat in and of itself.MVIMG_20190622_204617_v1

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Sunset in the Columbia River Gorge

I’m ready for my race…let’s just hope my legs stop hurting before then.

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Wildwood Trail – end to end

Portland is rife with hiking trails throughout the city. Forest Park, alone, has about 70 miles of trails within its boundaries. The Wildwood Trail runs for 30.2 miles through both Washington Park and Forest Park. When we moved here in October 2018 my goal was to run the trail end to end, and I finally did it in June 2019.

Forest Park is gorgeous this time of year. The trails have dried out from all the winter rain, and the spring foliage is incredibly lush. There is plenty of canopy coverage to keep you cool on a hot day. Spring and summer running make up for all of the wet, winter runs through ankle-deep mud.

Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 10.15.14 AM.pngI run portions of the Wildwood twice a week, and have run approximately 22 miles of the trail. Since I’m in the thick of ultra marathon training, it was the perfect time to do the trail in its entirety. I needed to hit 35 miles for the day, so I tacked on an additional 6.5 miles to get from our apartment to the trailhead. I started at Portland State University running on Terwilliger to the Marquam trailhead, followed the Marquam Trail up through Council Crest, before finally meeting up at the start of the Wildwood in Washington Park.

The weather was cool and cloudy – perfect for a long run. The first 2.4 miles to the trailhead are on the road and quick. The next 2.6 on the Marquam Trail up to Council Crest are always slow-going for me; the trail climbs roughly 1,100 feet in this section and I end up doing quite a bit of hiking. Thankfully, the next 1.5 miles to the start of the Wildwood are downhill. The Wildwood is mostly rolling hills the 2-ish miles through Washington Park giving a bit of breather before climbing to Pittock Mansion. The trail is closed for about 1/2 mile at Burnside before the hill to Pittock Mansion, but luckily someone posted a detour that runs along the road. After Pittock there’s a downhill to McLeay Falls before a long, rolling climb to Fire Lane 1 (my halfway point). I got to Fire Lane 1 where I met Matt for a refill of my water and to grab some snacks.IMG_0550.jpegThe second half of the run felt a lot slower than the first. I was able to keep a decent pace and just kept moving forward, even if that meant walking. The Wildwood is a fairly easy trail without a lot of climbing. While this is usually a good thing, a very runnable trail means, well, a lot of running :). I enjoyed the rolling hills and quiet section of trail for next 8 miles, when I started to get pretty fatigued around mile 25. I fueled myself with plenty of GUs, potatoes, and peanut butter crackers, ensured I was staying well hydrated, and kept chugging along. There weren’t any more major climbs after Pittock, so it was mostly a mental game to move forward as quickly as I was able.

After crossing Germantown Road around mile 30, I knew I was in the home stretch with about 5 miles to go. I took a tumble a mile in – tired legs + tree roots are a recipe for disaster – but, aside from a slightly bruised ego I was fine to keep going. I met Matt and Snickers at Firelane 15 with 1.8 miles to the end. They helped me keep moving, though at this point my knees and feet were achy so I was going pretty slowly. We finally made it to the car in around 7 hours. Not the fastest by far, but it felt really good to accomplish something of that magnitude.Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.58.37 AM.png

Smith Rock Ascent 50K

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A few weekends ago I ran my second 50K at the beautiful Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, OR. I couldn’t have asked for better weather – the temps were cool and the sun was shining. The course was a lollipop on a mostly single-track trail with about 4,600 ft of elevation gain. There were roughly 300 racers toeing the line and the excitement at the start line was energizing. I didn’t feel very strong with my training, so my goal was just to have fun and hopefully finish in around 6 hours.IMG_0675The first three miles were fast – we wound along the Crooked River through the basalt cliffs. Miles 4-5 started a steady 1,100 ft climb with plenty of switchbacks. This is where the pack started thinning out and racers fell into place. I did a lot of hiking on this portion but the sweeping views of Mt. Hood and Three Sisters made it worth the slower pace. The next two miles I fell in line with a group who kept a quick pace into the first aid station at mile 7.SmithRock1After swinging through the aid station, it was another short climb before four miles of downhill relief. I chatted with another runner through this section about all of the other races he’s done (he had quite the impressive resume!). He helped me keep a sub-10 min/mile pace – and even one sub-9 minute mile – and before I knew it we were done with 12 miles and rolling into the second aid station. After refilling my water bladder I was on my way again.

I need to work on my facial expressions when I see the photographer!

There were about 7 miles to go until the next aid station with some killer climbing. We climbed 1,400 ft in the first 4 miles before diving back down. This portion of the trail was also through some ranch land so we saw plenty of cows. Matt and Snickers had been out hiking and surprised me at mile 17! It was nice to see some familiar faces just past the halfway point. The trail turned into a gravel service road so it was a couple of fast and easy miles into aid station 3.

It was another 7 miles to the next aid station; the first couple of miles were on the gravel road and I sped down those at a quick clip. I ran into Matt and Snickers again around mile 23 where I snagged some sunscreen and body glide before continuing on. The next three miles to the aid station were at a slight incline. My mind was saying “run” but I had a hard time getting my legs to follow suit. It was no doubt a combination of fatigue as well as altitude – the course started at 3,000 ft. and had a max elevation around 4,700 ft. I ended up hiking a good portion of this section before hitting the final aid station at mile 26.IMG_6639 v2 I refilled my water bladder, grabbed a popsicle, and hit the trail for the final 5 miles. I fell back into step with a couple of the people I had run with earlier in the day and we cruised along for two mostly flat miles. We hit a steady descent where I gained some speed and peeled off from the pack. The last mile wound along the river again before a final steep climb to the finish.

I cruised across the finish line in 5:52:49, besting my 50K time by 20 minutes! I was 30th female out of 118 and 13th in my age group. There were a lot of amazing, fast women in the field and I was happy finishing strong. The biggest surprise for me was just how good I felt at the end. In my last race I was dealing with some intense IT band pain, and, aside from the usual aches that come with running for 6 hours, I ran this pain-free.Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 7.54.20 PMScreen Shot 2019-05-19 at 7.52.58 PMIt was another amazing race put on by the Go Beyond Racing team! A huge “thank you!” to all of the volunteers and support teams who made it possible, especially my personal crew. Matt and Snickers have pushed me along through miles and hours of training and put in another long day cheering on me and the other runners. I truly couldn’t have done it without them.