Category Archives: Smith Rock Ascent

Smith Rock Redo

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.

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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.

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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.

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By the way, beer tastes so much better out of an earned glass.

Smith Rock Souvenir

I wasn’t sure how the huge blister on my left big toe was gonna turn out. Overall not bad at all.
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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.