Mt. Hood 25k Race Report – Smantha Giordano

Photo: David Burgess

Race: Mt. Hood 25K

Runner: Samantha Giordano

Race Date: 07/10/2022

Location: Timothy Lake / Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon

Results: 3:01:11

Strava Activity Link:

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The Course: it was so beautiful and just the perfect blend of technical and fast. Really beginner-friendly route that ends with a gorgeous loop around a stunning lake!
  2. The volunteers, staff & organizers – it’s very well organized, very well marked, and super high energy. Aid stations (2) are well run, with lots of fuel options at Aid Station # 2. The post-race party is so much fun.
  3. No medals! I loved the commemorative beverage glass instead of the medal! They are handing to you as you cross the finish line filled with cool water (though in my drowsy state, this was quite risky to be handing me a glass, hah!)

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  1. No cell service – if it’s your first time in the woods racing, if you’re at all concerned about being connected, make sure you download your map and music, and share tracking links or anything else that needs to be shared AHEAD of the race. There is no service at the start or anywhere throughout the course.
  2. Lodging – closest lodging is about 45 mins away in Welches, where I stayed. If you want to be closer, you’ll have to camp. Otherwise, get your morning timing right (fueling, bathroom, etc).
  3. Car parking / bag check – I had a crew so they held my stuff, but if you’re alone, I didn’t really see an option to check a bag or leave personal belonging. Perhaps this is just a city thing, or most people probably leave things in their cars. But car parking is along the road leading up to the start at the Ranger station, so depending on how far you’ve parked, it might be a decent back / forth to go and leave things in the car before the race. Plan ahead.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

It’s Oregon – weird comes with the territory 🙂

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I was in a really good groove for the first 5 miles of the race which was where all the incline / vert was. I was really happy with how I managed my start, breathing through the uphills, leaning into the downhills and staying focused to get through the first half before pushing the gas on the back half. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, I was racing with COVID, which would show itself at mile 8, the part of the course that flattens out and is mostly a lake-side loop and the part of the course where I had strategically planned to really kick and go for my time goal (originally 2:30-2:40ish). Calf cramps, heavy fatigue, and a massive headache had me thinking I was dehydrated, but it turns out (via a positive test the next day) that I was actually battling the onset of COVID. When I knew the hard running was out of the picture, I reset my expectations of what the race experience meant to me. So when I needed to pause on running and take a walk break, I allowed myself to do that with grace, and I took in the beauty of Mt. Hood, which I possibly would have missed had I been running. Something I’ve discovered about myself since training with Coach Matt for trails is how much I love being in nature, whether I am running or simply walking, and how to give myself grace. I hadn’t expected to be particularly zeroed in on either of those things on race day, but I’m glad I had them in my back pocket!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • Pay attention to course markings! The organizers do a good job of calling this out, but because there is both a Mt Hood 25K and 50K happening at the same time, there are a couple places where the course intersects. Make sure you’re staying on the right course.
    Make sure you know which course markings the organizers are using! Pink ribbons were hanging from branches, but those weren’t for our race!
  • Download the GPX map and upload it to Strava if you’re racing with your phone and want extra security.
  • Bug spray – bring it and use it. You’re in the woods!
  • Total newb / rookie error but I forgot to bring a change of shoes. If you plan on jumping in the lake (and you should!), don’t forget a change of shoes (/clothes).
  • The town of Welches has a good variety of lodging, dining and grocery store options. The Mt Hood Oregon Resort is owned by Best Western and is the most central to that town. There is another Best Western, called the Best Western Mt. Hood Inn, that is about 15 minutes closer to the start than the Mt. Hood Oregon Resort, but it’s kind of on its own and it’s still going to be 30+minute drive to the start – I’d recommend staying at the Mt Hood Oregon Resort and reap the benefit of being in a town if access to coffee, dining, and other things are important.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  • The biggest red flag for me was that I wasn’t hungry for fuel, and when I forced myself to take in my 1st gel, I could hardly get it down it made me sick. This was unusual because I had practiced – and nailed – fueling the entire training cycle. I should have taken in almost 6-7 gels during that race. That day I only took in 2 because I was so nauseated by them. That convinced me that I needed to reevaluate my race strategy.
  • Trust your body – when you sense that something is off, it probably is.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

First 6 miles has all the incline and is as technical as it’s going to get. Conserve, and then cruise for the remainder of the race!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

There are a few pockets where you get the scenic Mt. Hood view across the lake and that’s really gorgeous, but you have to stop to veer off to the shoreline to see it. The Mt. Hood 50K course runs the Pacific Crest Trail and has ALL the views. The 25K does not run the PCT, so you’re inside the forest and then running a lake / bike trail. It’s beautiful in that nature is beautiful, but it’s not a jaw dropping stunner of a course as some might expect when they think of the Pacific Crest Trail. A couple people I spoke to didn’t realize that the 25K was mostly along the bike trail – I think they had the PCT in their minds as the kind of scenery they’d be exposed to.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No. It’s really manageable for a beginner. I saw a lot of people with road shoes on and they were just fine on the technical parts. Of course that comes with its own set of risks, and a trail shoe is definitely better suited, but for the most part, it’s a really accessible course.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

It was really well run. You can tell the organizers not only have a lot of knowledge, but also a lot of passion for the community, its safety, and its racing experience.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I think the 50K and 50M have stronger fields. The 25K felt really hyper local and not super competitive.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The 50M is a lottery. The 50K and 25K had a waitlist a few months before the race, so definitely act on it if you’re considering racing! And you can’t change distances once they are sold out. (A friend was supposed to race the 50K, got covid a month out, asked if she could switch to the 25k, and she couldn’t).

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

I’ve never seen an aid station with so many snacks! There are 2 aid stations, Mile 6 which has fluids, and Mile 12 which has fluids, snacks, pickles, etc. Both were well-run and well-staffed.

Weather and typical race conditions

Really beautiful conditions and perfect weather. It was probably just about 50 degrees on race morning, and maybe inching into the 60s as we got started. Sunshine was dappled thanks to shaded routes. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

There are no bottles or cups at the aid stations – you must have your own vessel, so definitely recommend a hydration vest or bottle depending on needs.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

It’s a very spectator-friendly start but there aren’t many other opportunities for spectating aside from the 2nd aid station and the start/finish.

How’s the Swag?

I was really happy to get a water glass instead of a metal. They have swag for sale as well. It’s bare bones, but the swag isn’t a motivator for me!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 stars out of 5, totally recommend it for others!! I plan to go back next year and get my fair shot at the race I trained for!

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