Interesting People: Riva Muehlbauer Goes Distance in Life and On the Trail

Riva Muehlbauer crosses the finish line of her first 50-mile race at Champoeg State Park in St. Paul, Ore. Racing beside her is her son Troy with her daughter Camille ready to give her a high five. (Submitted photo)

As a kid you always wonder what your teachers do outside of school. Well, one White Salmon Valley School District employee runs 50-mile races.

Riva Muehlbauer, 37, a cook at Henkle Middle School and a mom of four, recently participated in the Autumn Leaves 50/50 marathon.

The race took place in Champoeg State Park in St. Paul, Ore., on Oct. 27. Muehlbauer was the overall winner, for both men and women, with a time of 6 hours, 56:49 seconds.

“This was my first 50-miler,” said Muehlbauer

Muehlbauer ran her first marathon at the age of 23.

“I was a young mother and college student at the time and running helped relieve day-to-day stress. I went on to have four kids in seven years, and my husband worked on a Hot Shot Crew for the Forest Service, so it was hard to run consistently. I did run a few trail races when the kids were little, but not much,” said Muehlbauer.

It wasn’t until 5 years ago that Muehlbauer really got into long-distance running.

“My oldest son was running for a track club in Sonora, California, and one day I decided to go out for a run with the team. I was out of shape at the time. I ran about 3 miles and I remember I was dying! I kept running though,” said Muehlbauer

Within a year, Muehlbauer had lost 30 pounds and run two marathons with plans to run the 2016 Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, Muehlbauer suffered a femoral neck stress fracture during a training run seven weeks before Boston and had to drop out of the race.

About a year and a half ago, Muehlbauer decided to switch to ultra-running. Ultra-running is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles.

“I trained for my first 50-miler, but I got injured three weeks before and had to drop out,” said Muehlbauer.

This year, Muehlbauer was able to run her first ultra-race on April 29 at the Mt. Si 50K with a time of 3:57:55, and finishing first overall among women. Following that she ran the Three Corner Rock Pacific Crest Trail 50K on Sept. 1 and was the first overall woman with a time of 4:59:40.

“I told myself that if I could get up the next morning and go for a 7-mile run pain-free, I’d give 50-miler training one more try. I did, and this time, I made it to through 50-miler training injury free!” said Muehlbauer.

When it comes to training for these long races Muehlbauer doesn’t really follow any set plan.

“Every time I have tried to do that, I wind up injured. What I have found that works for me is to alternate “low mileage” and “high mileage” weeks for about 2-3 months leading up to a race,” said Muehlbauer.

On “low mileage” weeks, Muehlbauer sets a goal of running about 55 total miles a week, with long runs on weekends, around 15 miles. On “high mileage” weeks, she aims for 75-85 miles or more a week, with back-to-back long runs on the weekends.

“On a typical high mileage weekday, I run about 3 miles before work, then 7-9 miles after work during the kids’ cross country/football/soccer practices. Sometimes I sneak in a few miles around the track in between kitchen duty and getting on the afternoon bus shift,” said Muehlbauer.

Muehlbauer always keeps her running shoes and clothes in the car for an opportunity to run during the workday.

“On the weekends, I run around 20-25 miles on Saturday and 25 miles on Sunday. Many Saturday mornings are spent squeezing in an early run before my kids’ games or running around the soccer field during my daughter’s warm-ups to squeeze in some extra miles,” said Muehlbauer.

In terms of upcoming races, Muehlbauer would love to run the Western States 100 Miler. But in order to do that, she would have to run a qualifying 100K or 100-miler and then get in through the event’s lottery system.

“It’s a big goal but I hope I can reach it someday,” said Muehlbauer.

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