Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Smith Rock Half Marathon

This last weekend in Central Oregon was one that not only offered gorgeous weather for playing outside and celebrating Mother's Day, but also several noteworthy races worth writing about (and adding to your must-do race lists)!  Go Beyond Racing put on two days of races this weekend, both in one of the most scenic places in Central Oregon: Smith Rock State Park.

 On May 9th, trail runners from all over came to take on the challenging but gorgeous dirt trails in and around Smith Rock.  There were options for a 50k, 15m, and 4 m.  These races filled up completely and will likely fill FAST next year.  After seeing the pictures, hearing the stories from other runners, and experiencing first-hand how Go Beyond Racing organizes their races, I can see why.  And I hope to be there for one of these trail races next year if my schedule allows.

A shot from the Smith Rock Trail races that I hope to be a part of next year if I don't go back for the Half Marathon road race.  Photo Credit:  Paul Nelson Photography

After the Saturday trail races, runners were back to Smith Rock on Sunday, May 10th, for the mostly flat and scenic road races The Smith Rock Road Half Marathon and 10k.  I signed up last minute for the half marathon and it did not disappoint!  What fun!  When I sketched out my calendar for my ultra marathon training (May 25th Trail Factor 50k), I knew I wanted to include several races to use as fun stronger runs/workouts.  I ran a 15k in March, the Boston Marathon in April, and now this Half Marathon on Sunday. I waited on committing to this half marathon because I wasn't sure my body would be up for this half marathon so close to Boston but I'm feeling stronger than ever and EXCITED for my first trail ultra in Portland in just about two weeks!  I've really enjoyed these opportunities to get into a race environment with having my only goal to run happy, strong and pressure free.

A Little Personal Background (You can always skim/skip and move on to the race review bullets below)
Two weeks until my ultra?  It's weird writing this because I honestly haven't thought too much about what I'm specifically "training for" this time around.  In fact, I really don't feel as if I have been training for something--I've been enjoying running.   The ultra marathon destination is icing on the cake.  What first started out as kind of loosely following my own plan taken from a collection of running books around my house, has now come to Simply ENJOYING the process of getting out there and running my trails! It's training for LIFE and I don't see much changing after my ultra other than my mileage dropping since it is summertime where the kids are all home from school and my priorities change a bit.  I've been taking my running one day at a time and putting in miles as my schedule allows and as I feel like running them.  I'm more relaxed and happy with my running than ever before.  Gearing up to run Boston as a training run of sorts meant that I definitely made my long runs a priority so I would have the endurance to truly run 26.2 miles with a certain amount of ease instead of DYING and having those last 6 miles feel like the dreaded death march like they most certainly can be if one doesn't adequately train for a marathon.  I also added in random speed and tempo work in MUCH smaller doses than I have in the past.  I kept my weekly mileage on the lower end (average probably in the 40's with a range of 30-55 when I was counting).  And last but NOT LEAST (rather MOST), I have almost exclusively trained on DIRT!  Almost all of my runs have been on these mountain trails in and around Bend, Oregon.  This has changed running for me in some of the best of ways!

Highlights and Review Points from The Smith Rock Half Marathon 
Pleasantly surprised with 2nd woman overall and some really great awards! Great start to Mother's Day!

I've never been one for writing good full-on race reports (especially in this situation where it was more of a workout than a goal race).  Rather than write a complete pre race report from beginning to end starting with my alarm clock, taking you into what I ate and drank, telling you about whether I pooped or not and how much, showing you my outfit and race bib, etc., I'm going to move to bullets to list my highlights from this 13.1 run at Smith Rock!
  • Fist off, this was a very well run race!  The Half Marathon and 10k were started together and the course was marked very clearly.  
  • It was easy to pick up bibs either the day before at Foot Zone in Bend or on race morning.  
  • Parking in the State Park was easy BUT I didn't read the details on the website and didn't realize we were supposed to pay for a parking pass if we didn't have a State Park annual pass.  I wasn't prepared for this since I rarely carry cash.  It is only $5 but I didn't even have that.  Luckily, I didn't get a ticket.  They must have assumed from looking in the windows of my minivan and seeing the kid mess, dirty car seats, and finger prints on the window that I was a MOTHER.  And it was Mother's Day...how cruel to ticket me!  ha!  Or they just had grace on us runners and assumed we'd be out soon enough.  
  • I didn't buy a shirt.  I usually pass on the shirts because I have so many race shirts and running clothes.  However, I heard from my soccer mom friend (2nd place woman in the 10k) that the shirts were AWESOME.  She raved about them for several minutes and said how they were the best race shirt she has had.  So, note: Buy the shirt if you run next year!  
  • These Smith Rock Road races did not fill up like the trail races.  I'm pretty sure many of the people in Central Oregon or traveling to Central Oregon for a race are either A. Looking for a challenge and wanting the outdoor experience of mountain trails.  or B. Assuming that even a road race in and around Smith Rock would be brutally hilly and hard and wanting something flatter and faster.  Well, another NOTEWORTHY point:  These races on this week have something for EVERYONE.  No joke.  If you want a mostly flat and faster half marathon course and still have the beautiful scenery that Central Oregon offers:  these road race options are it!  I imagine more people will flock to this race next year.  And if you do, note that there is also a team option for the 10k that you can read more about on their website.  This options sounds great for families, work groups, and high school runners to name a few.  
  • The course.  Yes, it was mostly flat and fast as the website describes.  However, I must say that it isn't completely flat as a pancake.  The person marking the course AFTER the trail options probably thought it was the flattest darn course they had ever run compared to the intense climbs on the trails.  Ha!  After running my 18 miler on Tuesday and being less than 3 weeks out from Boston, I might have noticed a few spots that felt like inclines but still nothing that was challenging.  If anything, a few small hills, followed by gentle downs and flat again.  
  • Yes, I ran an 18 miler on Tuesday of this week and then this half on Saturday so it was a good week of training.  Granted, my 18 miler was on trails and slow and I walked in several spots.  I guess it still counts for 18 though.  :)  
  • The volunteers on the course were friendly and helpful.  They offered an energy drink (I think GU Brew?  I need to check on that.) and water.  This was one of those races where I wasn't in a rush and didn't mind stopping to drink and then carrying back on.  
  • Since there weren't a lot of people in this race compared to other races like say, Boston (ha!), I ran by myself for much of the time.  I love this kind of course/race though!  There was always at least one person I could see ahead of me and there were a few times during the race where I ran in a small pack but otherwise, mostly in my own zone.  Next year will likely be a fuller race but still offer the same serenity and space.  
  • Being out there on open country mountain roads without a lot of people and having it be such a beautiful day (scenery and weather) reminded me of a couple popular Portland races that I've run.   If I described this course to some of you that have run in Portland, I'd say it is a mix between the Sauvie Island Marathon and Helvetia Half but without the huge hills that Helvetia has! Truly a great course to drive out for!  
  • The race directors and volunteers were so efficient with things...from announcing race finishers, giving out medals, having the food and drink set up, getting us started, announcing winners/awards in a timely manner, and so much more!  Very organized!!  
  • Every mother that finished the race got a special medal and a rose for Mother's Day.  Way to start our day off so special!  
Flowers for all the Mother Runners! 

  • Good AWARDS!  I was pleasantly surprised by the awards!  As 2nd woman overall, I got a really nice pint glass (who doesn't love a good pint glass for beer when you live in Bend?!) and a $50 gift card to one of the local running stores, Foot Zone!  Sweet! This is half of a new pair of trail shoes or a trail pack for my husband!  Thank you Food Zone!  The overall winners got a pint glass and a new pair of Skora Running Shoes! I have no doubts this race might be a bit more stacked with runners next year.  Who doesn't want a new pair of shoes and $$ to spend at a running store?
The winners got to choose a new pair of shoes!  Sweet!

I love these nice pint glasses that were given as overall and age group awards!  And the $50 gift card to Foot Zone  for being 2nd woman?  So cool!  I will be putting this towards new trail shoes or my husband's trail pack! Thank you Go Beyond Racing and Foot Zone

  • Post race Atlas Cider! I'm pretty sure they had good beer there too but I wasn't into drinking alcohol before noon this time so I passed.  
  • As far as my personal race...what fun!  As soon as we started, I knew there wouldn't be a ton of people to run with so I settled into a pace that felt happy but strong and enjoyed being out there pushing my body a bit!  At around mile 7 or 8 there was one of those kind-of hills that felt bigger than it was.  I snapped out of my zone for a bit and started hearing all those negative voices that used to fill my head.  I felt tired and distracted.  Then a bigger hairy guy came up behind me.  I said something about the hill and he gruffed back: "Ah, this is nothing...just a tiny bump.  I do Ironmans." And on he went, plodding right by me.  What?! Did he just call me a wimp?  Ha Ha.  Clearly, he DID NOT call me a wimp.  No such thing.  But in my head, I felt a little made fun of over my pathetic whining over the not so big hill.  Right then I decided to stand up straight, run with my natural but awkward and so not beautiful form, and return to my zone:  "Stay Within Yourself Amanda.  You drive this bus! You're in control. Run on. And don't let that big hairy dude beat you!"  After this, the rest of the race was comfortable and strong again.  As if I never had a rough patch at all.  Weird how our minds work. My finish time: 1:37:32.  Splits: 7:14, 7:14, 7:22, 7:19, 7:36, 7:28, 7:39, 8:02, 7:40, 7:32, 7:29, 7:18, 7:01...6:29 pace for last .1.  Lately, these moments in races have been so powerful for me in seeing what it's like to really be in a ZONE and know how to tap into my own mind effectively.  I haven't always been able to do this.  Granted, I'm not in race situations where I'm pushing myself to my limits or racing all out but I have found that I have more control over my mind/body connection.  I love this!  Now, if I ever go for a sub 1:30 half marathon, then I might be struggling with this again!  I'm pretty sure the sub 1:30 ship is about to pass though...if I'm going to do it, I need to train for it before 40!  

This is right around the finish. If you look closely, you can see a herd of deer grazing in the field.  Where else can you see snow capped mountains, jutting rocks, dirt trails, and finish a race next to a herd of deer who keep on eating as if you aren't even there?  Maybe they were watching the finish?  

I'd highly recommend any of these races!  If you're looking for a fast and scenic road half marathon or 10k in one of the most beautiful places in Oregon, this is such a good one to do!  Not only do you get to run a fabulous well-supported course with fun awards and pre/post running environment, but you can finish off the weekend exploring Bend, OR and the surrounding areas!

Happy Running,



  1. Interestingly, I enjoy reading the part where you can say you can skim or skip this best...more about how you keep evolving as a runner....I love to see that even after years of running, you can discover new aspects of it.

    1. So many things about running to keep enjoying! It has much to offer! Thank you.

  2. Congratulations! Those are some awesome prizes! And I think Ironman dude DID call you a pussy. Ironpeople do that sometimes. So uppity. Good thing you showed him.

    1. Thanks Gracie. ha ha...maybe he did! ha!

  3. Looks like a really nice race!! Beautiful scenery for sure. Congrats on the placement as well. Awesome.

    1. Thank you Robin! Surely one I'd jump in again.

  4. Great race, both your run and the scenery. Congrats on your prizes too, how fun!

  5. Congratulations. That's a great result. I like that they gave out flowers to all the mums too. It's a nice touch.

    1. Thanks Char! The flowers were a nice touch. Special.

  6. I need to come and race in your part of the world! These races sound gorgeous and super fun. Congrats on your results- what a fast finish!