Monday, 1 August 2011

Mt Hood 50 miler and a new race schedule

Mt Hood

Timothy Lake
I've been meaning to run the Mt Hood 50 miler for the past few years since it's a great excuse to run around a striking mountain I can see every day in Bend, albeit very far away. But it's always clashed with other races. In London I always had the Davos K78 since a large chunk of my running club would race there. Then last year I was in the Bay Area and chose the local San Francisco marathon (btw, congratulations to Mike Wardian for winning that yesterday).

So it was great to run it this year, even though it involved a four-hour drive from Amy's sister's PhD graduation in Eugene (another congratulations) and very little sleep in my car. However, once the race starts it's always easy to remember why I do the early mornings and minor inconveniences.

The race started near Clackamas Lake and was mainly shaded under tree canopies, although it was surprisingly cold for the first hour anyway. I'd planned to jog it with Yassine Diboun but he zoomed off with a group of about five others while I started at a more leisurely pace with Amy Sproston. Mind you, we were still going close to a six hour pace.

The trails were gentle enough for a first run back after WS100 and the first out-and-back had some perfect views of Timothy Lake (both with and without mist) and Mt Hood. The turn around was at 14.2 miles at Frog Lake and I was about a mile behind Yassine and his friend Nick Triolo. They were laughing and chatting so I decided to maybe speed up a little or I might end up a long way behind them. I mainly wanted a training run, but I also didn't want to be slow (kind of a contradiction, but hey).

Yasine and Nick headed back while I was still headed out

As the day heated up I arrived back at the start/finish for the 28.4 mile aid station and set off on the second, harder, out-and-back. I was in fifth and feeling fine so jogged off and saw Sean Meissner sitting and spectating (I think he ran to the race through the night, but I'm not sure where from).

It was a gentle climb up almost 1,000ft to the next aid station and just beyond and I saw Yassine and Nick there. They took a bit longer to get through the aid station and get going again so I ended up ahead then had a fairly steep and more technical downhill, although still good trail compared to high in the mountains.

It heated up and that out-and-back was steeper than the first one had been so I drank a lot more from my hydration pack and ran out just before the turn around. But after a couple of minutes of refueling I was good to go and almost immediately saw Yassine and Nick who were jogging uphill well.

It had now changed from a training jog to an attempt at the course record, which one of the other runners told me was 6:30. I would have to do the return section three minutes faster than the out section, but I felt like I'd put in enough effort to justify fighting for a win, if necessary. So I put more effort in to try to stay ahead of the other guys and left myself with 42 minutes for the last six miles, which were mainly downhill.

I felt like I was going fast, although I was barely staying on the required pace, but a little more effort for a CR compared to jogging in and just missing it seemed like a simple choice. Sean was waiting again near the end with a group of people and urged me on to break 6:30, which again suggested that was the CR. And as I sped up I realized it was going to be very close and the undulating terrain in that last mile made it hard to go all out, particularly when I got stuck behind a troupe of horse-riders on the single-track.

Finally I broke out on to the road just before the final turn to the finish and I sprinted through the line in 6:29:10, much more exhausted (and dehydrated, after running out of water five miles earlier) than I'd planned. Todd Janssen, the Race Director, then confirmed I had the 16 minutes. Hmmm...seems like I could have just jogged it in, but I feel fine two days later so no harm was done by speeding up. Yassine then finished in 6:45:00, also just under the previous CR and Nick was another four minutes back plus Amy Sproston knocked a few minutes off the ladies' CR. Full results are here.

The podium. L-R: Nick, me and Yassine

I had a good couple of hours catching up with new and old friends at the finish and was generally satisfied in my decision to move back to Oregon. If this is the type of fun I'll get regularly then it'll keep me happy, plus my Amy knows a lot more people up here too. I'll miss a lot of Californian races, particularly the great PCTR series, but there should hopefully be one of their races in Bend next year - you heard it here first.

The move to Bend, OR, has meant shifting my race schedule around a bit, such as giving up my spot at the SF marathon for the Mt Hood 50. I also turned down my spot on the GB 100k team for the World Championship in Winschoten in the Netherlands in September. That wasn't an easy choice but was made based on costs. I'll be able to do it another year, hopefully many times but it was an honor just to be selected in the first place to run for my country.

Instead, I'll now have space to fit in cheaper, local races instead. Luckily there's plenty of good ones (thank you, Oregon) and the next one is the first race in the Montrail Ultracup, Waldo 100k in three weeks. I've heard it's a hard one and the field looks fast too, so hopefully the Mt Hood 50 signalled the end of my overtraining and fatigue from the past few months.

I've also entered the UROC 100k on the other side of the country at the end of September. It's got a load of elite men already signed up and there will undoubtedly be more given the prize money and the organizers aiming to make it as easy and convenient for fast runners to enter, with help like accommodation and ground transport covered. Any opportunity to race a large, fast field is welcomed since the competitive aspect of racing is one of my favorite things...amongst many. It's what made Rocky Raccoon additionally good this year and attracts people to Comrades and WS100. It's also partly what draws me to the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc next year.

So I hope to see plenty of passionate runners out at the races in the next few months. And one final thought is to point out my fellow Serpentine RC friend's blog. James Adams has got through 44 days out of around 70 in the LA to NYC race, averaging around 45 miles per day. He's gone through days of diarrhea and the current heat wave through much of the US and is still his usual, chirpy self.


  1. Good job on CR Ian.....Hope you'll have fun @ UTMB this year and then officially crush it next Year! If you remember I told you, Mont Blanc is always my dream to run someday!

  2. Congrats on a great race. Well done! Looks like a sweet course. Best wishes with your upcoming races and moving.

  3. Welcome back to Oregon and fun running with you on Saturday, albeit briefly. Nice job on smashing the CR.

  4. Great job! We missed you at the SF Marathon...

  5. Nice run sir. Very impressive, good luck at the UTMB. I'm running the North Face in December, my first 50 miler. Hope to bump into you on the course at some point!

  6. Congrats! Well done on the CR. Nice report - good luck on the the new race schedule.Been following James as well - think the beard suits him :)