Mt Hood 50 mile – Race Report

07/12/2014 – Mt Hood 50 – Clackamas Lake, Oregon Starting at Clackamas Lake this 50 mile race is split between two out and backs, both along the heavily shaded Pacific Crest Trail. Heading north first, the trail is slightly longer rolling past lakes as still as paintings and stunning vignettes of the majestic Mt Hood, before returning back to start/mid-ish-point/finish line and continuing south to the buttery smooth but resoundingly hilly complete single track and finally finishing with 5,500 feet of elevation gain.

For reference, here’s my version of the sourced and compiled 2014 Mt Hood 50 race preview and the 2014 Mt Hood 50 results – just being on the finish list is more than enough to make me happy, but I outran (see what I did there?) all my expectations and finished in the top third of all finishers.

If you’re looking for The Race Video Recap, scroll all the way down to the bottom.

The Training
Sixth event of the year and 4 weeks removed from my last race, there’s not too much actual training to be done, although I did get a decently higher mileage/elevation gain week in three weeks before the race, so I guess there was that. To be fair the majority of this year’s running have been more or less slowly building in mileage, vert, and intensity, but the last 15 weeks of this training cycle have really been focused on this race.

The Travel
Southern Mt Hood should not too far from Seattle, but for whatever reason it was. No wait, there was a reason and it is traffic. Traffic on I-5 in Washington in the summer is the worst. It’s literally the only north-south interstate on the west side of the state and because July is one of the two months out of the year when it doesn’t rain in Washington, WSDOT feels it needs to cram every single interstate and highway project it might or might not do into these 8 weeks. When you combine that with every person wanting to get out of the city on Friday’s, it means that what should be a 5 hour drive turns out to be a horrifying 9 hours of 35 mph stuttering of a drive.

We stopped in Portland for some some last minute supplies (no sales tax!) and dinner before making the last 2 hour drive to the Little Crater Lake campground 5 miles from the race start/finish line. Arriving at our reserved campsite at 8pm, didn’t give us much light to set up our tent and get everything ready for the next day, but the over-abundance of mosquitos who apparently had been starving/dehydrating themselves in preparation for a feast upon our arrival gave us reason to make quick work of all we had to do. Tent up, vest packed, drop bag packed, race clothes laid out, breakfast pre-prepared, and into our sleeping bags in 60 minutes. If my race is going to be this efficient tomorrow then I’ll be just fine. Or maybe they’ll just unleash a swarm of mosquitos at every aid station to make sure I get in and out.

Alarm set for 5:00am. Second alarm set for 5:02am. Headlamp off. Eyes wide shut. Relax. Think of laying in a grassy meadow looking up at the bluest of blue skies, cloudless and…

The Check-In
*Beep* *Beep* Beep*
*Beep* *Beep* Beep*
*Beep* *Beep* Beep*
No snoozing today. It’s Race Day!

Little known fact: Oregon mosquitos will wake up at the sound of a phone alarm clock. We quickly packed up camp and drove to the Clackamas Ranger Station. Cars lined both sides of the road with equal parts runners, volunteers, and support crew/family/friends making final preparations. It seems as race distances get longer, the easier check-in gets. There’s less people registered and with 50 miles, it’s not their first rodeo, but the distance isn’t so long that it requires a multi-hour race briefing (does any race really require a multi-hour race briefing?) I picked up my race bib, number 12, which (un)fortunately(?) did not have anything to do with a seeding or anticipated finish, just last names sorted in alphabetical order and assigned numbers accordingly.

Dropped off my drop bag for only the start/midpoint/finish aid station with a bunch of stuff I didn’t think I’d need – a change of shoes, socks, shirt – and a few things I thought I would need – vaseline (didn’t use it, but turns out I should have), extra gels (did take them), extra electrolytes (also took them), and some food (bread, nutella, and dill pickled which I took but only ate half before almost tossing my stomach at which point I tossed them into the woods.) This was the first time I’ve ever used a drop bag and I’m still not sure I need it for races of 50 miles or less. There’s nothing I really really needed that I couldn’t carry with me. Maybe I’ll revisit the necessity when the distance increases…

Pre-race check in.
Pre-race check in.

The Race
This was the longest amount of time and the farthest in distance I’ve ever run continuously and I was pretty concentrated in both taking my mind off running, breaking down the run to just a little stroll from aid station to aid station and simultaneously being in the moment enjoying every bit of the race. So I remember bits and pieces quite well and seriously blank out on larges swaths of the run which makes writing a race report a bit harder, so instead superlatives! Who doesn’t like superlatives? Wait, it doesn’t matter, it’s my race superlative report.

Mt Hood to the north. The GPS bugged out for a few miles or I literally flew over that section of the course.
Mt Hood to the north. The GPS bugged out for a few miles or I literally flew over that section of the course.

Most embarrassing (and equally exciting) pre-race encounter: A guy, Russ, coming up to me mere minutes before the race, introducing himself and asking me if I was going to be recording the run today. Embarrassing because everyone looked at me afterwards with the look of, “who is this guy?” and exciting because Russ was the first person to ever recognize me at a race. Not gonna lie, I ran those first few miles of the race a little giddy.

"Anyone attempting their first 50 miler raise their hands." You can't see me because I'm in the very back.
“Anyone attempting their first 50 miler raise their hands.” You can’t see me because I’m in the very back.

Wisest aid station volunteer: The guy who told me that I looked like I was sweating a lot and that I should take a salt pill. Duly noted kind sir.

Most scenic vista: Somewhere around mile 12 looking north at the majestic Mt Hood. It’s amazing and the view lasts for a half mile. And you get to see it again as you’re heading back around mile 16.

Majestic Mt Hood.
Majestic Mt Hood.

Number of times I almost threw up: Three. Once after half a fig newton around mile 22? Once after eating half of my disgusting potato bread, nutella, dill pickle sandwich. Once after another half a fig newton around mile 34. Wait, possibly four, although I don’t remember where or why for the fourth one.

Rootiest section of the run: Between Little Crater Lake and FSR 58. This probably isn’t technically true, but I tripped and came within inches of totally biting it multiple times, sometimes on the same root with both feet.

Funniest aid station: Red Wolf Pass aid station on the way back to the finish. They chanted USA USA USA as I came into the aid station, because I was wearing a USMNT jersey, then said we lost in the World Cup because of Michael Bradley and if I knew then I’d have to drop out of the race. They also had a Peanut’s comic book lemonade stand, which may or may not have had a Lucy look-a-like behind the counter with the words, “Lemonade. 5 cents” written in sharpie on the front.

Best person who let me run with them: Ben, a teacher from Bend, Oregon, who I latched onto around mile 6 let me tag along and run and talk with him all the way to mile 28. He was in and out of aid stations faster than me and I maybe should not have ran as hard as I did out of aid stations to try and catch back up with him, but his company was so awesome that I bordered red-lining a few times just so I could run with him some more. Ben had run this race multiple times, has a few 100’s under his belt and unfortunately lotteried out of Western States, never getting in even though he had qualified for the race.  4 hours of conversation cannot be boiled down to a sentence, but here are 10 subjects that pretty much sums it up: baby-food as race food, race lotteries, Peace Corps, maple bacon VFuel, dead guard dogs, Autocad and BIM, second graders, the second half of the race, puking, and Killian Jornet at Hardrock.

Best item at any aid station: Ice (ice baby). It was hot outside and ice wrapped in a bandana draped around my neck was fantastic. Second place was the woman who dumped ice cold water over my head at the start/finish aid station. Third place would be the misters and popsicles at the Warm Spring aid station even though I didn’t take one.

Most exposed section: Second half of the race around mile 32 and 46 and another section around mile 36 and 42. Somehow 95% of the race stays under the cover of trees, except for these two little stretches of trail which you only encounter when the sun is sky high and blasting hot and you’ve already run a marathon+.

It's a trail with no one in sight which sums up about 99% of the last 40% of my race. Have fun with that math.
It’s a trail with no one in sight which sums up about 99% of the last 40% of my race. Have fun with that math.

Ultrarunner celebrity spotting: Yassine Diboun was filling water bottles and offering as much encouragement as he was getting congratulations just two week after his 15th place finish at the 2014 Western States Endurance Run. Inspiring!

The point it hurt to run, walk, or stand: Around Mile 43. If it hurts to do any of those three I might as well run. Or whatever it is I’m actually doing even though it feels like I’m running.

Hazy photo, much like my memory of large portions of the race. Are we there yet?
Hazy photo, much like my memory of large portions of the race. Are we there yet?

The most Oregon part of the race: Besides the view of Mt Hood, the woman sitting by herself on a rock playing the acoustic guitar just off the trail at mile 49 singing some folksy song made me smile and think, only at a 50 mile race in Oregon, because why not?

Best post-race encounter: Russ came over and found me after the race as I was sitting and stuffing my face with a veggie burger, introduced me to his three kids, told them that they’ve seen my race videos and asked me how my race went. Super nice guy. Did a bit of research after I got home and turns out he’s running Leadville this year! Amazing. Good luck Russ!

Best finisher’s award: A pint glass with the race logo on it. Finisher medals are nice for posterity, but really what can you do with them besides put them in a box or on the wall? Now a pint glass I can actually fill this up with a cold tasty beverage everyday.

My finisher's pint glass will be put to good use.
My finisher’s pint glass will be put to good use.

The Finish
Popping out of the trail (finally) after 49 miles, we turn right onto the side of the road where everyone had parked many many hours ago. It’s a quarter mile of cow bells, clapping spectators and volunteers saying, “great job” and “nice work” before crossing the road and running up the last few hundred feet of more cow bells, clapping, a few whoops and hollers and smiles all around. A high-five from the race director, a finisher’s pint glass as you cross under the finish banner and that’s all it takes to run 50 miles!

My first 50 mile finish!
My first 50 mile finish!

The Post-Race
The best way to placate me after running 50 miles is to let me sit while chowing on a veggie burger, potato chips and a cup of slightly melted ice crew, stopping to look up only to cheer for runners coming into the finish area. A great race with great volunteers, well marked and almost impossible to get take a wrong turn, a great atmosphere and camaraderie among runners, and no excuses to come back and run it again some time in the future.

Lessons (Re)-Learned. What went well? What could be better?

  • 50 miles is a long ways to run in one go and you’re not going to finish in an hour, so enjoy it. I mean, you won’t enjoy every second of the race, but take it all in. Give yourself a moment to embrace the gravity of what you’re doing, then dial it down and focus on the task at hand.
  • The vaseline I applied at the beginning of the race lasted for about 45 miles. If I’m not going to be using a drop bag, I’ll need to carry a small amount of lubricant with me to reapply at some point during a 50 mile race before the debilitating chafing ensues.
  • Just because some weird concoction of bread, nutella, and dill pickle tasted incredible at one race, doesn’t mean it will at the next race.
  • Tape your nipples. Your nipples will thank you.
  • Sweeping the trail with your eyes when you run will not only help you from crashing through roots and rocks, but it’ll naturally pull your head up which will have the rippling effect of keeping pressure off your shoulders, opening up the lungs, engaging your core and keeping your stride and form in check.
  • Even pacing. I ran the first half of the race pretty much exactly at the same pace, but the second half of the race was everywhere. The discrepancy could have been because of the more varied terrain, because I was tired, or because I wasn’t running with Ben.
  • A bandana filled with ice or cold water draped over the back of the neck neck will help normalize excessive body heat. I didn’t think a rising body temperature would affect me as much as it did, but everything was just slightly off as the temperature and my body temperature rose – I didn’t feel like eating or things which normally taste good, didn’t anymore, I got a headache and my feet hurt (ok, that may have been because I was running 50 miles.)
  • Fuel, fuel fuel. I ate something every 30 minutes whether it was VFuel or a Honeystinger waffle or some kind of aid station fare. I also took a salt stick pill and bit it open to get a slight taste of salt on my tongue before washing it down with some liquid. Might try alternating food and salt every 15 minutes next time, still keeping them on 30 minute intake schedules.
  • Visors don’t trap heat, but do keep the sun and it’s heat from hitting your face and neck directly. The downside of course is you can’t put ice in them, although I guess you could fashion something out of the bandana.
  • Keep moving regardless of how much you don’t want to move. Don’t sit down. Ever. If it hurts to stand, walk, or run, you might as well run. At least you’ll be moving faster.

Final Race Goals Recap and What’s Next? I had five main goals for this race…

1. Make it to the Start Line.
2. Keep hydrated. Temperatures are forecasted to have a high of 88 – that’s hot for the Pacific Northwest.
3. Take my time. It’s my first 50 mile race and I really want to accomplish goal number 4.
4. Make it to the Finish Line.
5. Breathe. Take in the landscape. Thank volunteers. Smile.

Goal #1 – Completed with minutes to spare.
Goal #2 – Stopped to pee a couple of times and it was an acceptable color which means I drank enough though probably still could have drank more. Had a slight bit of a headache for the last quarter of the race.
Goal #3 – Completed although I ran faster than I thought I would, partly because I wanted to run with Ben and partly because I’m just not sure I know how to completely take my time.
Goal #4 – Completed! And a full two hours faster than I thought I would finish!
Goal #5 – 50 miles gives you plenty of time to breathe, take in the landscape, thank everyone and smile.

Next up is Squamish 50 mile in British Columbia!

Gear used

  • Nike Dri-FIT short sleeve (USMNT away replica jersey!)
  • Arm sleeves (from the Bryce Canyon 50k)
  • The North Face Long Haul shorts
  • Bandana (from an outfitters store in Portland)
  • Visor (from an outfitters store in Zion National Park)
  • XCCU Unisex Experia Multi-Activity micro mini crew with COOLMAX fiber
  • Hoka One One Stinson Trail shoes with quicklaces
  • Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 Set pack with 1.5L bladder
  • Suunto Ambit 2S
  • Garmin ANT+ Heartrate belt
  • Sony HDR-AS15 Action Cam with waterproof housing
  • Vaseline lubricant for legs and armpits
  • Athletic tape – two 1″ pieces – one for each nipple – and one 3″ piece – center of chest underneath heartrate monitor
  • (Phone, insurance card, credit cards, and license in a zip lock bag – in case I get hurt, can’t talk and need to be identified)

Fuel used – (not consumed in parenthesis)  Pre-race:

  • Banana – two x 105 = 210 calories total
  • Kroger brand Hazelnut Spread with Chocolate – 2 tbsp – 160 calories
  • NUUN Active Hydration Tablets – 10 oz – ~5 calories


  • VFuel Gel – single serving – one fudge brownie and two each of peach cobbler and cool citrus – 100 calories each – total 500 calories
  • Hammer Nutrition Energy Gel – single serving – two squeeze packets of apple cinnamon – 90 calories each – total 180 calories
  • Honey Stinger Energy Waffle – 1 vanilla – 160 calories (1 chocolate and 1 vanilla not consumed.)
  • Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem Drink Mix – one single serving mixed before and drank during race – 35 oz – 260 calories
  • Skratch Lab Drink Mix – lemons and limes – 60 oz – three x 20 = 60 calories total
  • Aid station electrolyte – GU Brew – 200 oz – ~700 calories
  • SaltStick Plus Electrolyte Salt Capsules – consumed 25 (brought 40) – 0 calories
  • Fig Newton two x 108 = 216 calories total
  • Half a white bread, Nutella, dill pickle sandwich – 35+100+3 = ~138 calories
  • Two hands full of potato chips ~300 calories
  • Coke – four small dixie cups – ~80 calories


  • Veggie burger, bun, lettuce, tomato, a few chips – 100+100+5+5+40 = 250 calories


  • Calories burned ~4,148
  • Calories consumed pre-race ~375
  • Calories consumed during race ~2594
  • Calories consumed post race ~250
  • Average heartrate – 141
  • Max heartrate – 164
  • Time in heartrate zone 1 and 2 – 1:42
  • Time in heartrate zone 3 – 5:46
  • Time in heartrate zone 4 – 2:08
  • Time in heartrate zone 5 – 0:00

The Race Video Recap

6 thoughts on “Mt Hood 50 mile – Race Report

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