Smith Rock Ascent or the Hardest 15 Miles I Ever Hiked

I’ve wrote this blog post while running this race but promptly forgot it as soon as I crossed the finish line. And it was funny. Not really. I’m sure it was whiny and pathetic because that’s how I felt while running. I made so many mistakes:

1. I didn’t take this race seriously. I looked at the elevation chart and thought that the training I was doing was going to be good enough.

2. I forgot about running at elevation.

3. I didn’t bring my hydration pack.

4. My nutrition was totally off the day before which impacted my day of.

5. I didn’t wear sunscreen.

There were only 50 people signed up for this race. 50 really fit better runners than me. But that probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I’m sure that’s what I won’t remember about this race years from now. Fact is I was last in this race.

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It was a gorgeous day for a race in Smith Rock. Absolutely gorgeous. Andy drove me to the race and hung out with me while I waited to start.
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The start was a sharp downhill on gravel (my least favorite of surfaces to run on). I slipped and slid a little bit which didn’t help my right knee any. It bugged me from the start.
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The pack left me behind right away which I fully expected. Actually after looking at everyone, I knew I was going to finish last. So I decided to try and have the best day I could have.

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I felt the elevation almost immediately. My heart raced and I couldn’t take in a full breathe. I tried not to panic but it’s hard running uphill when you cannot breath.
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At the 1.5 mile mark, the negative thoughts jumped on top of me and pummeled me down. I was too fat, too slow, too stupid. Why the hell had I signed up for this race? I had no right to be on the same course as some of these people. I was a pretend runner. I had all the gear but I was a fraud. I should turn back now. I was having serious doubts at 1.5 miles. How was I going to even get halfway let alone run the entire 15 miles. And this wasn’t even the hardest part of the race. Then my stomach turned. I was hungry. And I only had 2 gels and 3.5 miles until the next aid station. So I stopped, ate one of the gels and took some photos.

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My knee hurt, I was drowning in self doubt and honestly wanted to cry. But I thought about all the times I told people being a slow runner didn’t matter. How I played it all off like it didn’t bother me. And if I quit this race this 15 mile race, then I was liar. And I couldn’t let all those people down. I couldn’t let Andy down after he drove all the way to Bend and woke up early to support me. But seriously, how was I going to do this. My pace up the hill was ridiculously slow. I was dripping with sweat and was struggling to catch my breath.

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The hill just didn’t stop and I wasn’t even at the 3 mile mark where the RD said the hill started.
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Then I got to the top of the hill and was passed by Jesus. Okay so it was Jesus but it may have been. He had long brown hair, no shirt on and homemade sandals. But I’d like to think that Jesus would have helped me up the hill. The RD said the hill started around mile 3. I turned and saw the steepest trail I’ve ever seen. I swallowed the puke and began my slow walk up the hill. I got about 200 feet up the hill and then turned my Garmin off and decided to take a DNF. This course was just too hard.

I got the bottom of that hill and realized that I had gone the wrong way. That wasn’t part of course. I decided to keep going. And then the course got okay. Things flattened out a bit and I was able to start running again. And I liked that. A lot. There was a wonderful breeze that helped me feel a lot better even if I was only 4.6 miles in and saw who would be the winner passing me.

I got to the first aid station and was greeted by the nicest lady ever. She told me exactly what to expect before I turned around. The course unmarker aka sweeper Jesse ran with me intermittently from there on. He was a super nice guy and I really appreciated the company.

At mile 7.5 I began the slow haul up the biggest mountain I’ve ever run up. I hiked 30 steps and then would stop and take 2 big breathes. I kept doing this until I had to hike 20 steps and take 2 breathes. As I climbed and climbed, I was able to take less and less steps until I was down to 7. The mountain just kept going and going and going. I thought I would never get to the top.
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But I did. Then the wind picked up and totally freaked me out. The descent was hard. It was very steep and it was very hard to run. Jesse said that it really wasn’t runnable and coming from a guy who had done Leadville, I felt confident he knew what he was talking about.

I ignored the blister developing on my big toe and gritted my teeth trying to move as fast as I could down the mountain. Miles 10-13 actually went by really fast. I was able to make up a little time by running rather than all the hiking I had been doing. After mile 13 I really started feeling the fatigue. The very act of picking up my leg was starting to become difficult. I slipped and slid on several parts of the course which freaked me out. There were several drops offs that made me slow down as I didn’t really want to be rescued from a crevasse.

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The last half mile of the course was really hard as it was all the way out of the canyon. I had to stop several times on the switchbacks and try to catch my breath. I really, really wanted to be done. Andy kept shouting my name which made me feel better. But I was exhausted.

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Due to the heat and lack of humidity all of my sweat evaporated but left some awesome salt crystals behind.
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I made a lot of mistakes but in the end, I finished that race. My head tried to beat me but I won. And honestly, I’m more proud of finishing this race than PRing at Vernonia in 2011 or the 50Ks I did. It was really hard but I did it.

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9 responses to “Smith Rock Ascent or the Hardest 15 Miles I Ever Hiked

  1. This is a great race recap. It’s honest, and I appreciate reading about your real experience out there. Congratulations on pulling through. A tough day out there. I really commend you for sticking it out and finishing. It’s not easy being DFL, but it means you finished and you didn’t give in to those negative thoughts telling you to quit.

  2. Way to go! So proud of you for not quitting.

  3. You are awesome! Great recap! Congratulations!

  4. Way to beat your demons & be strong!! I have also finished DFL, and I know how hard it is. But you did it! You completed a really challenging course and you’re much stronger for it. If you decide to do the Backyard Half in June, you’ll totally kick butt 🙂

  5. Awesome report! I’m so glad you pushed through. You should be very proud!!!!!

  6. I am so in awe that you even attempted such a beast of a race– And even more impressed that you came so close to dropping out so early but didn’t. We all battle those mental demons and I think all runners can relate. The best part is that you didn’t let those voices break you.

  7. I ran the race myself, I love hills and have run ultra distances, and it was infact a difficult course, and the climb up the mountain among some of the steepest I’ve done in a race. You didn’t just attempt any ordinary trail race, you finished a steep, grunt of a course. To keep going the way you did when you felt overwhelmed early says a lot about your strength! Congrats. Enjoyed reading this too. Stephen
    ps I ran out of energy on the big downhill close to the end and had a very difficult time climbing out of the canyon to the finish line too. It goes with the territory of real challenge in sports.

  8. This was great! Im running this In May and I appreciated reading this. WAY TO GO!!

  9. Pingback: Smith Rock Redo | Chronicles of me and mine

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