This last Saturday I went back and ran the Smith Rock Ascent 15 Miler and it was awesome. As you might remember, I ran this race a few years ago and it was well…not good. I really love running out at Smith Rock so I decided to give this one another shot.
I ran the entire race without my Garmin. It was dead when I turned it on at the start line. I put my entire pack (and my Garmin was in a pocket) in the fridge which I think drained the battery. Running without knowing your pace and mileage is surprisingly freeing.
When the race started I was in the back of the pack but totally fine with it. I passed a few people as we ran along the river. I wanted to run faster but knew the course so I decided to play it safe. It was a warmer morning even at 8:45am. The forecast said it would be about 80 degrees by noon which was warm for early May in Oregon.
As we started up the hill beginning our climb, I felt the negative thoughts start to circulate within my head. But I focused on how many squats I had done in the last couple of months, how many hours of hiking and high altitude work, and how fast I had run my last mile (9:29). And amazingly enough — I PASSED PEOPLE!
Don’t get me wrong. Sweat was pouring off me but I felt good. As my stomach churned with the effort, I reminded myself that it was no big deal and this is how I felt when I climbed bigger hills. I drank my cold Nuun and chugged up the hill. I cheered on other runners who weren’t having the best day and joked with others.
Many runners stopped to take photos at the top of the hill but I wanted to beat my time. My goal was to run it in 4 hours. My realistic goal was 4:15 and even at the slower time, I would beat my previous time by about 30 minutes.
My favorite part of the course was running along the ridge. I love the flatter single track trail and the breeze that came up the side of the ridge felt great! Before long, we were at the first aid station. I ran through as I had my pack and no need to stop. I saw Willie and he cheered me on.
I ate a Kind bar while we snaked our way up another hill and before long we were at Gray Butte. I remembered this area very well. It was a motivating factor in my desire to train in the altitude room at Evolution. I stopped at the top of the mountain to enjoy the view and snap a few pictures.
The run/walk down from Gray Butte was slow going due to the steepness of the incline and the size of the rocks of gravel (huge). My legs were a bit tired and shaky but I knew the hard part was over. I stopped off at the aid station for some Sprite which tasted better than unicorn tears. I tried to push the pace a bit as I knew I had a little more than 5 miles to go.
The sun really spotlighted me at that point. I failed to put sunscreen on the back of my neck and back of my arms and started to crisp and burn. Later it would look like I was wearing one small red sleeve on my left arm. Some of the faster 50k runners passed me along the single track trail which was nice as the 15 milers were a bit spread out.
The hikers along the way cheered the runners which always brightens any run. I slipped on the damn slick dusty rock which I tried to hustle down. I hit my ass and then hopped up slightly embarrassed. Running along the river was slow going as the river was full and looked deliciously enticing. I really wanted to jump in.
I hiked slowly up the hill to the finish line and pretended to run across the finish line. I was so excited to see 4:06:01. I beat my time by 40 minutes and 48 seconds. I realize that it sounds incredibly impressive and it is. But when you are slow, you have a great opportunity to make some huge gains. I really want to come back and run this again. My goal will be to run it in 3 hours and 30 minutes. That means I would need to cut 2 minutes off of each mile. But I think it’s doable.
I learned so much from the two races at Smith Rock. You cannot fake hard work. But positive thinking and confidence mean so much. There’s a lot of tall mountains out there. Don’t put one in front of yourself by being your own worst enemy. You have to believe in yourself, do the work, focus, and fully commit yourself to your goal.
By the way, beer tastes so much better out of an earned glass.