Thermonuclear reactor

Mt. Hood 50 miler race report –
(Watch died a few times during the day…)

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I literally enjoyed every second of the race. Truly enjoyed it as in, I relished the entire experience… except for the falling… but I’ll get to that part.

It was close to 32 / 90  deg on Saturday and very dry and dusty on the Pacific Crest Trail. I brought along 6 frozen bottles of Tailwind, carried them with me in a cooler and divided them at the start among 2 drop bags. I only swapped one of them at the first aid station and didn’t touch the others the entire race.  My strategy for the day quickly moved to 1 bottle of water, 1 bottle with Nuun (electrolyte drink) and sodium caps.  I was checking my hands to see if they were swelling at all (too much sodium, retaining fluids) and if so, I skipped an s-cap delivery and drank water or diluted Nuun. The best thing that I learned is that my stomach is like a thermonuclear reactor…meaning – I took in calories all. damn. day. Half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a piece of banana at every aid station worked for me all day with no issues. A theme I gathered from a few other runners was that they were getting nauseous. I felt that a little bit early on when I was only drinking Tailwind – I think it was because I was intaking too much sugar and it was too hot. My body couldn’t both process the sugar and sweat off the heat. That’s my theory anyway. When I switched to water I was good to go.

I was most concerned with my stomach going into the race. If I couldn’t keep calories going in, things can go pear-shaped quickly unless you puke and reset (I’ve heard). I started with a couple of gels and some Clif blocks, then found that the PBJ’s were what my stomach wanted. It was like throwing logs on a roaring fire all day.


  • After tagging the 40 mile aid station (furthest aid out on the figure 8 course), I pulled out my shuffle and burned down a huge climb – probably my fastest mile of the day. I reeled in quite a few people in that section.
  • Thermonuclear reactor for a stomach. This may not always be the case, but I’m pleased that I assessed the situation quickly, adapted, changed strategy and got my game on. OODA loops.
  • Mundo legs. The last 10 miles were rolling descent to flat terrain all the way back to the finish. There were some runners who would run and stop – I think it was from being very tired, but also the pounding rocky singletrack descent- it completely trashes your quads to the point where it’s too painful to run – I know b/c I felt it  running into the finish at Beacon Rock 50k. I think commuting with a kid on the back of an 80lb bike has worked my quads. I had no issues bombing down very technical singletrack. So fun.


  • The first 25 miles were relatively flat… a few steady climbs, but on the way back in to the start/finish to begin the next big loop, I must have fallen about 5 times. I remember one particular tumble that ejected both bottles from my vest as I landed on my side. There was a guy behind me who sympathized that he had taken a tumble too – but it was really no consolation as I did the same thing a few more times (sans ejecting the bottles). In retrospect I think I was going through a mental low and I was being lulled into a really efficient running gait where I was keeping my feet just skimming the ground – and each time something got in the way I would catch a toe and down I went. The running wasn’t difficult, but it was hard to maintain mental focus as the terrain was kind of boring. I can’t stress how frustrating and difficult it was to dig myself out of this mental hole I was in. I kept asking if there was something wrong with me… was I really that exhausted? The worse part was that each time I fell, I worried that I was going to do it again. When I stumbled and caught myself my feet skidded in my shoes and I could feel the bottoms of my feet burn – super painful for a few seconds. I started to worry that I was going to hit my head or break my wrist… all dark/negative thoughts. Once I realized what was happening, I upped the self-talk about being in control and getting my shit together… that worked and I was back and into the start/finish and back out again.

The volunteers were phenomenal. Rolling into aid stations and having your bottles filled with ice and being sprayed down or having cold water dumped over your head – it was like having the best crew evAR. The long climb up to the aid station at Warm Springs was particularly grueling. It’s such a relief to finally see that aid tent and hear some music and roll up on some friendlies. Every aid station was a power-up.

When I saw the final course markings back to the finish, I stashed my headphones and listened for the cheering and the cowbells. I passed a few hikers at one of the final turns and a women said to me, “almost there – enjoy it!”. I took a deep breath to take in the moment and then climbed up out of the forest onto the road for the final 200 yards into the ranger station and finish line.

IMG_0900Sunset on Friday night rounding the bend on 26 just before Gov’t Camp. I bivy’d near the start on Friday night, set the alarm for 4:30 to make coffee and oatmeal on the Jetboil for b’fast.

It was a good day to run in the mountains.

6 thoughts on “Thermonuclear reactor

  1. Shawn Hines

    I too enjoyed the hell out of myself on this one. It was my first 50M and I could not have been happier with the support, although next year would be great if they could rent some heavy equipment and move some of the climbs to the front half of the course!


    1. chrisrivard

      The last climb to Warm Springs aid station was tough. A runner I passed on the way to Warm Springs told me, “soon” … I spent the next 10 minutes pondering what “soon” really meant. When I was on my way back to Red Wolf Pass, I told runners “2 mins… 5 mins… 7 mins…”. Fun course overall but they definitely saved the climbing for the back half.


    1. chrisrivard

      Hey Adam –

      I took Sunday off, then commuted to work on my bike on Monday and ran 4 miles at lunch (Portland Waterfront – flat), then rode home. Monday night I foam-rolled (like deep-tissue massage). Today (Tuesday), I commuted by bike again (8m RT) and ran with Dolan Halbrook at lunch in Forest Park.

      He showed me no mercy on our 7 miler…as expected of a good training partner.


      PS – this wasn’t my first rodeo though. I’ve run a 50 miler in the past and have built up to this one with lots of long runs and 2 50k’s this season.

      You should go for it if you’re interested 🙂


  2. Adam Steffes

    I’m just starting-out, so it will take some time before I reach your level. My first 5k is next month, followed by a 10k in September.


    1. chrisrivard

      Awesome! Good luck! The running around the office in Palo Alto is a treat when I’m in CA. Through Stanford and up around the dish – hilly, but lots of fun.


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