Mount Hood PCT 50 Mile Race Report

6:30am clackamus lake ranger station, oregon – mount hood pct 50 miler

the race started with a couple miles of an out and back on a paved road. i took off at the start pretty fast. the excitement of the race must have propelled me out of the gate. i was a bit surprised that no one was giving chase at first. then i figured i was probably running 6 min miles to start, reason enough. then as i rounded the corner i could see the rest of the race. there was one guy making an effort to bridge the gap between me and the field. as i passed the rest of the field on my way back to the pacific crest trail i knew some of them must have been thinking “he’ll blow up”. from the road the course headed north on the beautiful pacific crest trail towards mount hood (11,249 ft). as i entered the woods i looked at my heart rate monitor… 168, time to take it down a notch.

the pct is an amazing trail. i was so happy to be running trail (after what seemed like a decade long taper) it was truly hard to bring my speed down to a reasonable sustainable level. i was in heaven as i got my first view of timothy lake. wow, i knew this was going to be a great day out. i wasn’t sure i could “race” the entire 50 miles, but i was going to try and see what happened.

i’ll be completely honest.. i had splits on my mind. i was chasing john ticer’s course record. i had memorized his splits from the year he ran the course record of 6:45. It was clear very early, after a few aid stations, that he is a bad ass, and i, a lesser man, was not going to run anywhere near his course record.

so i focused on running myself into the ground.. or ah, running my best race. the first half of the course is uphill to timberline lodge. i was feeling strong and fast through the first few aid stations. most of them didn’t know what to do with me, help or just stare. between frog lake aid station #3 and #4 i saw a black bear! it was climbing a tree down slope from me. it looked small enough to be a cub so i picked up the pace and started to sing. the last thing i wanted was to run into the bears mother.

i had my watch set to beep at me every 20 minutes. this was my reminder to take a clif shot (100 cals). at big horn this year my buddy karl meltzer told me ate 65 gels during his 100 mile win (3 gels an hour). yes you read that right karl ate 65 gels! i was on track with my fuel, running pretty well and feeling great – loving being out there actually – i guess this could be called a “runners high”… wait for it, the “runners low” comes later. actually around mile 20 my right hip started to really bothering me. i have an old groin/ab/hip flexor injury from last october that has lingered, and it was creeping out of the closet with every step.

for some reason i was looking forward to the sandy section that leads up to timberline lodge. i personally think that any section, or adverse condition on a course, be it weather, sand, massive climbs, bushwhacking, etc.. play to my strengths. maybe that is adventure racing arrogance, or stupidity.. not sure. but i love it when things get redonculous. so i put my head down and ran to timberline. in hindsight i bet a fast hike would have been just as effective, but mentally i wasn’t willing to walk one step of this race. being out of the tree cover meant the sandy running effort was compounded by the sun beating off my bald head. when i arrived i pounded a bottle of nuun, took some ibu (for my hip) grabbed a new bottle, a clif blok and bolted.

back on the trail i was surprised to see the next guy so close to me. he was about 12-14 minutes back. he looked so fresh that i started to think, “was that an early starter? hmm, i don’t remember passing him.” i should have paid more attention to the guy that was bridging the gap on the road at the beginning of the race… because that was him, running really strong and holding pace with me. i let this fuel me as i ran the 25 miles back to the finish.

i love downhill trail running! so much fun. the combination of risk and skill really appeal to me for some reason. i guess it’s the same reason i love skiing and downhill mtn biking. down down down i ran. as i approached clear lake i almost stepped on a frog, the size of my two fists, being consumed by a snake! crazy. i’ve never seen something like that.

it was aid station #8 (same as #2) i started to get my runners low. i think i had too many caffeine gels. i had also ran out of water on the way back from #3 to #2. ugh.. this slowed my pace. the last 6 miles were my worst. i kept thinking i had to be closer than i was and i ran out of water after a couple miles. usually when i’m in this “runners low”, dehydrated, or low blood sugar state i just suck it up and run. but i needed to know how much further! so i asked a hiker, “how far to the road?”. the “4 miles or so” response was not what i wanted to hear. needless to say i was happy to hit the road. as i approached the finish line i could hear olga yelling my name with her awesome russian accent. in the end i ran a 7:13 for the 50 miles with 5,410 feet of elevation gain (suunto stats) and 1st place.

it was a great day out on a beautiful trail.. and a well run race. thanks to olga and monica! also congrats to fellow montrail-nathan team runner floren ansley for winning the womans race in 8:05! you can read olga’s race director perspective on her blog here.

my gear:

**most photos stolen from http://journeytoacentum.blogspot.com/