The New Year can inspire many of us to make a lofty goal. In 2016, I made it my mission to train for and run an ultra. Why? I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and test the limits of my endurance. The goal race I picked was the Mt Hood 50 Miler. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this event produced by Go Beyond Racing. It’s described as a beautiful, heavily shaded trail that provides views of Mt Hood. It’s also a very runable course with over 5,000 feet elevation gain.

Why did I jump on the ultra wagon? I live in a town full of ultra runners, from your back of the packers to some of the best in the world. Being involved in the running community opened my eyes to this sport of long trail runs, amazing fellowship and testing your limits. That last point is another reason I wanted to put an ultra on my to do list for the year. How far could I really run? People are running distances of 100+ miles these days… why couldn’t I at least try for 50?

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Photo Credit: Paul Nelson

I’ve trained, completed and raced marathons in the past and honestly I’ve crossed the finish line thinking how much I hated the experience. It’s more important for me to enjoy the journey then suffer mile by mile along the way. Yes, a win here and there is exciting but it’s not my driving force.

I’m going to dive into details about my training in another article, so stay tuned if you’re looking for advice on your first 50 miler.

The Mt Hood 50 Miler was beyond epic. I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing crew to support me throughout the race. They all wore bright orange shirts with #PoweredbyTNF on the back. Credit to Diane for all her work on those.  Overall I never had any stomach issues which was one of my greatest fears. There’s a lot of horror stories from other ultra runners about that.

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Photo Credit: Paul Nelson

The course involves two different out and back loops, crossing the Start/ Finish Line at mile 28. The weather report predicted showers and highs in the low 60’s. Luckily only a few sprinkles found me along the course and the cooler weather made for great running weather.

The first 10 miles I really tried to hold my pace back and was successful. One thing I could have done better was to stop a little longer at each aid station. Afterwards Jason told me that runners who finished ahead of me did take a little more of a break at the aid stations. I expected it to be the other way around but I think I should of stopped more for a mental break then necessarily a physical one. It would have been good to rest and make sure I was taking in enough fuel.

After the first turnaround at mile 14 I was excited to have crossed the half marathon marker. I knew it was still way too early to push my pace so I tried to stay consistent. The hills along the course were tough but definitely doable. I walked the steep uphills and it was nice to use the different “hiking” muscles in my legs versus the “running” ones for a minute or two.

I ate various brands of gels, bananas and a few chews along with water and Nuun electrolyte drinks. My stomach held up well with no issues. The only thing I would change about my nutrition would have been to eaten a little more and include a bar of some kind to eat, like a Picky Bar. Around miles 28-39 I was struggling with low energy. I think a few more calories would have been helpful. I slowed down quite a bit and put all my focus into simply moving forward and trying not to think about how many more miles to go.

At my last turnaround point at mile 39 the crew at the aid station told me I was in 3rd place. Plus, the girl in front of me was exhausted and if I left immediately I could catch her. The problem with this exciting news was that I was exhausted too. I needed to eat and so I stuffed my face with chips, fruit and whatever I could eat quickly. I took off with renewed excitement only to see another girl who was just coming up to the aid station behind me. She looked strong too. In the last 11 miles I passed a girl and another girl passed me. It was fun to jockey for 3rd place. I was over the moon that it was even a possibility that I’d be a podium finisher. This was my first ultra and my expectations were to finish and enjoy the race. I pushed hard on those the last 6 miles. I didn’t want to lose my position to anyone coming up behind me in the last part of the race.

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Photo Credit: Paul Nelson

As I came off the trail and saw my family waiting at the finish line I was over the moon. I was proud for completing a big goal that I had made over 6 months ago and I also felt extremely lucky to have had my family come from all over the US to see me race. They were by far the best crew in the world.

My specific goals for this race in order were:

  1. Finish
  2. Run it under the cutoff time of 12 hours
  3. Finish between 9 and 10 hours
  4. Break 9 hours

All of these goals were accomplished and I finished in 8 hours and 17 minutes as the 3rd Woman Overall.

Jason made a fun video of the race. Check it out below.

As I think back to the hard work it took me to get here it makes me realize that truly anything is possible. You just have to set a goal, make a plan, have a good support team/person and work towards it everyday. When life’s road bumps get in the way or try to slow you down you need to adjust, but still continue to move forward. If you use this platform for any goal in life then you’re setting yourself up for success.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible for me. To my husband and kids who supported me throughout my training and to my family who made the cross country trip to support me during race day. I could not have done this without you all.