Running the Mt Hood 50 Miler
I spent five months training, planning and getting clear on why I want to run the Mt Hood 50 miler. Today is the day, I am off to the races, I am off and away.
My alarm sounds at 4am. I am awake in a quiet campground filled with people, horses and animals sleeping near. I brew some coffee, use the restroom and spend the next hour preparing for the adventure ahead. My morning routine is relaxing and consists of nothing more than nourishing my body, some reading and getting dressed. All of my gear was in order the day prior.
5am rolls around and my supportive girlfriend jumps out of bed to drive me half a mile to the start line at Clackamas Ranger Station. The wait is almost over.
I checked in, got my bib and lubed up the areas of my body that would otherwise suffer.
530am: The race starts in minutes and I cannot help but just feel an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude. I guess all the training truly did prepare me for this moment.
After a few announcements and some race information from the coordinator we are off.
My girlfriend Nicole stops at mile one to make a silly comment. “Go Scott! You only have 49 miles left.”
The miles begin ticking by as I enjoy some early morning conversations with fellow runners. Little do I know but I am running with an international fleet of 100+ crazy ultra marathoners all with one common goal. Finish a 50 mile foot race in less than 12.5 hours. The elites will finish in sub 7 and by the end of the day more than 25 people will DNF.
Aid station 1 by Little Crater Lake is manned by some cheery and smiling faces. At this point my body is just warming up for the challenges ahead. My mind is at peace and it is just me, the forest and runners spread wide.
Aid station 2 at mile 9.2 was energizing. I saw my parents for the first time and a few other people that braved the early morning hours.
Mile 10 blessed me with an incredible view of Mt Hood and a truly meditative experience. I paused for a few minutes to take in the view, forest and just how incredible it was to be experiencing what I was. A true adventure!
Aid station 3 near Frog Lake was my first turnaround at mile 14.2. I took my time (2 or 3 minutes) to consume some calories, salt tablets and share my thanks to those that volunteered to help support us. Again, I was off. I settled back into a comfortable 10 - 12 minute / mile pace.
Within a mile the elites who started a whole hour after me crossed me running in the opposite direction only to pass me up within a few miles. Wow! They were cruising at sub 8 minute pace. Incredible to see what the body is capable of with the right team, tools, training and attitude. Inspiring!
At this point in the race my mind and body are still feeling full of energy. I feel alive, present and grounded. The miles continue ticking.
Around mile 24 I did not pick my feet up enough and got SLAMMED. I am grateful that my body crashed onto a soft section of the trail. There were several other runners that were not so lucky. These crashes resulted in bruised and battered body parts, twisted ankles and in many cases DNF’s. Who said running was a safe sport? If you try to beat nature you will inevitably lose.
After my stumble I stood up, brushed off the dirt, laughed a little and picked my pace back up.
I hammered out the next 6 miles at sub 10 minute mile pace. My mind and body were floating down the trail toward the start line which represented aid station 6. I spent 5 minutes with my feet resting on a cooler, filled my body with nutrition (coke, candy bars, banana and blueberries) and I was off for the second half of the race.
From this point on things got hard. Real hard. Mentally and physically I could feel myself slipping in and out of states that I had never experienced before. At times it seemed as though the temperature got higher with each foot step. It was only 11am and pushing 90 degrees. Not ideal for a run.
Aid station 7 at mile 33 was fully exposed. The volunteers offered me up a hat full of ice and filled my water bladder with ice. This was truly a life saver. Right before taking off from AS7 someone wished me luck with this statement: “Good luck! The next 11 miles are the hardest.”
Leading up to mile 38 there were many times in which I wanted to turn around and go back to the start or just take a nap on the side of the trail. I made it through some of the most challenging mental and physical moments of my life. For that I am grateful.
The video below was taken during some of the harder moments of the race. I was question why I was really out there. For the challenge I guess. To see what I am really mentally and physically capable of.
With each foot step I was getting further from the finish line, but closer to the turnaround point. The miles seemed to get longer, although I know they were still the same 5280 feet as the last. I kept pushing on.
At one point when I was a few miles to the final turnaround I started asking everyone that past me going the opposite direction: How far to the aid station? I got different answers from everyone. 1 mile. 2 miles. 3 miles. This was frustrating. I do not know why I even cared especially because I knew how far it was. Maybe I was hoping for a different answer.
The final turnaround represented another milestone. A place to relax, nourish my body and thank everyone helping me out that day. After 10 minutes in the aid station I was off for the final 10 miles of the race. The hardest miles of the race. I would soon be climbing a few thousand vertical through the heat of the day and digging deep for the strength to push on to the final aid station.
The final aid station at mile 44.7 was incredible. It was all downhill to the finish line from here :) I watered up and set out to finish this puppy.
The last 5 miles of the race put me on an emotional roller coaster of happiness and such a sense of accomplishment that I felt like crying. My girlfriend Nicole met me at mile 49 to run with with me. Seeing her brought a rush of relief. A feeling that I had almost done it. I had reached the final 2% of my project. Often the hardest part.
My mom met us to run the final 300 yards. Talk about a magical moment. And, to see the smile on my mom dad, Nicole and everyone else watching just because I completed a 50 mile foot race was incredible. It was equally inspiring if not more for me to see how happy people were.
This experience taught me a lot and affirmed some of the drastic changes i've made in my life. Running empowers me to experience some of the most beautiful places on earth, experience pain, challenge myself to finish what I started and never give up.
Remember it is possible for everyone to change. You have to fight. The big battle is won inside of you not outside against everyone and everything. Challenge yourself to be better than you were yesterday. You just might amaze yourself.
I want to thank all of my family, friends and people rooting for me. It is you who inspires me to be a better me each day and for that I thank you.
Summit as friends!
Lessons from my First 50 Miler:
Gear List for a 50 Miler:
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