Sunday, May 8, 2016

Smith Rock Ascent 50k: Reflections and Photos.




Thirty one miles is a long way to run.  Thirty one miles on mountain trails with steep ascents and descents on a hot day in the high desert feels even longer.  I'm not entirely sure what made me want to sign up for another 50k after my first one last May where I said I'd never do another.  We runners are kind of weird like that.  I think I was in one of those moods where I wanted a challenge.  I wanted something to work towards or look forward to but I wasn't ready to train for another road marathon.  I'd heard good things about this 50k.  I'd even written about it for Go Beyond Racing in this post: Visit Central Oregon for Mother's Day Weekend.  After running a couple of the races that Go Beyond puts on (my first 50k, the Trail Factor 50k and the Smith Rock Half Marathon), I knew this trail race would not disappoint.  So, one random mid week evening, I asked my husband  if he wanted to do a 50k in May.  He said "Sure! Why not? Sign us up!"  So I did.  That's how it went.

From there, we both started off with kind of following a plan from a trail running book but by week two, we were simply running when we felt like it and making time for longer runs on most weekends. Very loose training! More than ever before.  Our long runs weren't really according to a "proper" training plan but we still fit in a few 17, 19, and 20 milers.  I ran two 21 milers but my second was a week before this race yesterday so I'm pretty sure it did more harm than good. It was good for my mental game though! Then, since there wasn't a logical training plan, there wasn't a true taper. Really, this race was more like another long run. Exactly as I wanted.  From the start, I knew this would be a race that I wasn't going into with the intentions of competing (with my self or others).  It was a race I wanted to run for the experience.  Finishing and taking it all in with gratitude was my number one goal!  Goal accomplished!  With that being said, I much prefer being in the kind of fitness that allows me to perform a bit better.  I think next time, I want to be more prepared for this kind of thing.  I'm not sure I like the feeling of being out there and feeling depleted with a good half of the race left to go!

My body and brain are TIRED right now.  Every time I try to write something about this race that flows, I get stuck.  So, for the purpose of getting something written, I'm going to do some random bullet points:

  • It was HOT.  At least for a trail race with very little shade.  I think the high was 79 degrees.  
  • This course was beautiful.  I've often said I don't find this area so pretty since I much prefer lush forests with lots of trees to the high desert canyon type terrain found at Smith Rock.  However, I ran on all new trails with climbs that led to gorgeous views!  
  • Such a well supported race!  There were 4 fully stocked aid stations throughout the course and all the volunteers were beyond helpful.  
  • I love this sport of ultra trail racing (although I think 50k is the longest I will ever go).  So much love, support and compassion among the runners out there.  If it weren't for a few of them, I'm not sure what I would have done.  The race is all very blurry to me at this point even though it's only been since yesterday but somewhere between the second aid station at mile 12 and the third at mile 19.4, I started hurting pretty badly.  By mile 20, my back was cramping and I was doing good to walk/hike/barely run for the next 6 miles to the last aid station.  Along the way, I met a man who helped me out so much.  He was having a hard day too and having someone to walk with me and talk to me helped a TON! At mile 25 I threw everything up.  This was scary and relieving all at once.  Scary because I was already light headed, thirsty and cramping.  Before we even got to the next aid station, someone from medic was running down to find me after hearing from another person that I might need help.  Also, when my back was cramping up around mile 19ish, a man who passed made sure to tell his wife and kids to look for me when I came by.  I was brought to tears at all the support.  As soon as the woman told me her husband was in the race and asked her to check on me, there was no holding back the tears.  She gave me a couple fruit strips and I was on my way.  
  • I learned more than ever what it means to be ok with one foot in front of the other!  When I was walking, I was still moving and this was getting me closer to the finish.  I did what I could with what I had.  I gave my all!  No doubts about that!  I walked when I had to (some parts of the course there was no choice) and ran when I could.  
  • This race was HUMBLING!  I don't like the feeling of running a race like this without having trained my best.  I don't like the feeling of having women 10 years older than me (but much much fitter) fly passed me and up the hill in the last half of the race.  I did my best yesterday, yes. But I didn't like how it felt to be unprepared. At the same time, since I had no real expectations, I was ok with it.  I never felt like I was fighting myself.  Always like I was right there with myself...running within.  Grateful to be out there.  Grateful to GET to push myself in this way!  
  • I learned a lot from this experience!  I think my next post or journal for myself will be reflecting on the lessons I learned... about myself, this sport, and life.  
  • Yesterday, I found myself start to say "This was the hardest race I've ever run." or something to that tune.  However, when I really think about it, that's not true.  This was the longest and most challenging course I've ever run for sure!  But not the hardest I've pushed myself on a physical level.  I can think of a handful of marathons where I trained hard and went in with a goal and pushed myself so hard to the very end.  The kind of hard where I had to dig deep in a way I never got to yesterday.  This 50k was hard in a different way.  But I knew at any time during the race that I was ok with taking my time at aid stations, walking, standing, stretching...taking my TIME!  It wasn't about pushing forward for the sake of a time on the clock.  A different kind of hard for sure.
  • Where was my head during this race?  You know, I think I was truly in my moment for almost all of this race!  Very little thought about anything else...future or past.  When I really think about this, this is what makes this kind of thing so INCREDIBLE!  6 plus hours of mindful moving meditation of sorts!  In my moment!  There were a few spots where I'd start thinking about life or some issue and I'd instantly come back to where I was... my breath, footing, the gorgeous earth surrounding me!  
  • Side stitches.  Oh boy, I hate these.  I got one that wouldn't go away for several miles.  So frustrating because there really isn't much you can do other than slow down and breath them out.   
  • I did really good at fueling!  I choked down Honey Stinger gels, made sure to eat and drink plenty at aid stations and drank a lot!  My favorite thing at the aid stations?  Pickles!!!  Oh my, pickles have never tasted so good!!  
  • At the third aid station, mile 19.4, I knew I was in trouble for burning up my leg energy somewhat between aid station one and two.  I was flying down the hills and having fun... and being STUPID.  I have one 7:4x mile in there on a flatter portion.  Stupid, I know.  At mile 19 I was chugging coke and ginger ale ...another thing I've never tried during a race but OH, MY, this was GOOOOOOD and hit the spot!!! As I was stuffing my face, I laughed at the song playing by Nine Inch Nails with the lyrics:  
You're going to get what you deserve
Bow down before the one you serve
You're going to get what you deserve.
  • Yup, I got what I deserved.  I should know better than to not be super conservative in a race like this.  I paid for it.  And maybe the gummy bears mixed with the coke might have had something to do with throwing up at mile 25?  ha!  
If you look closely down below, you can see the switchbacks we ran for our first ascent.  This was taken from the mile 29 spot.  


So hard (impossible) to do this image justice.  After I started that last 5 mile stretch toward the finish, I felt so grateful for the support and nutrients that replenished my body and mind.  After walking for a good 6/7 miles from 19 to 26, and then fueling up at the last aid station, I felt energized to run again but had to stop and take this picture to capture my moment in the last stretch.  Lovely day!  Hard work!  Humbling!  Glad to GET to do this!  




  • At the mile 26 aid station, after walking for lots of miles, I made sure to fuel up adequately.  I spent a good five minutes getting down what I could.  A man helped pour water on my had and showed me  how to bite the salt tablets to get the salt in my body quicker.  At that point, I knew I had 5 miles left and most of it down.  I had it! 
  • The first few miles out from the last aid station were the prettiest parts of the entire course!!  I was actually running again and feeling good!  My mile pace creeped down to the single digits again and I knew I was going to do this!  This was the only place I stopped to take a picture.  Time wasn't an issue so why not?!
  • Miles 29-the finish were BRUTAL!  Ugh!  Steep steep down hill for a good mile.  So much that my quads felt like they were going to burn right off.  Then a flatter stretch with no relief due to being so tired and the final .25ish was up up up up to the top of the canyon.  OUCH!  

Love this man!  My partner in all things LIFE.  

Well earned Fresh Squeezed IPA at the finish.  Took awhile to be able to keep anything down  but once I could, this plus sunshine, good tunes, great company, and gorgeous views made for a happy afternoon.  
  • I was a mix of feelings to be done.  On one hand, I was deeply relieved.  At the same time, I was so depleted, and my body hurt!  It was a very uncomfortable feeling until I took care of myself.  
  • The finish line is in such a cool spot of grass off the trail... overlooking the scenic canyon of Smith Rock State Park!  As soon as I crossed, I came onto the lawn with a group of runners and their families who were already finished.  Renee, one of the race organizers, gave me a big hug and congrats... along with handing me my awesome finisher pint glass (so much better than a medal IMO). Then a fellow runner came to get my glass and filled it with ice water.  Again, such support!  Before I even had food, I grabbed ice to rub all over my legs.  Otherwise, I knew I would hurt so much more over the next few days.  Then, when I could, I ate a huge burrito and relaxed on the grass with everyone else.  
  • I guess I should say my finish time even though time wasn't an issue.  I know that's really all people read these things for anyway, right?  Ha!  6:22!  I'll take it! And I'll remind my ego what my intentions were with this run... I did exactly what I said I would and for that, I am happy.  It's a good hour slower than my last 50k but I am in a much different place with fitness.  What's funny to think is:  I essentially ran an entire school day for my kids!  This was how I put it in perspective for them:  Mommy ran for as long as you are at school... including lunch break!  
  • I'm so glad to have a husband that loves these adventures as much as I do.  A perfect partner for me.  We didn't run this race together (I ran ahead and finished only 20 min or so before him) but we did celebrate together.  And experience together.  Here's to many more trail running adventures for both of us!  
  • Even though our daughter was performing in a big musical in town, we were in no rush to move out of there too quickly.  We still made it back home in time to eat, shower, and make it to the theater performance! Before leaving, we enjoyed a couple of Fresh Squeezed IPAs from Deschutes Brewery, along with music, open blue skies and glorious sunshine!  All but the blue skies and sunshine put on by Go Beyond Racing!  I WILL for sure do another one of their races!!  And if you are looking for a first or next trail race, you can't go wrong with their races.  

Will I do this race again?  I think so.  Next time, however, I will go more prepared!  

Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful Mothers out there!  I love this day for so many reasons!  

-Amanda


29 comments:

  1. And you're already talking about another one...*shakes head* Congrats, you finished a tough race, and happy mother's day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Gracie. Ha ha... yes! Another marathon first...going to train proper this time. In fact, I have a fellow running blogger friend that I'm going to have train me for Twin Cities. I'm excited.

      Delete
  2. Awesome job Amanda. I would do this race with you. Maybe the only 50k I'd ever do, but it sounds amazing. I'm so impressed and inspired.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jodi, it is one worth doing! Hard but rewarding as I'm sure most trail ultras are. You should totally sign up for this someday!

      Delete
  3. Looks like a beautiful place to run!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That looks hard and beautiful all at once (that's what she said...) great job getting it done in tough conditions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha ... yes, hard and beautiful and well worth all the many hours it took!

      Delete
  5. Congrats on finishing such a tough race! A marathon is a long enough distance for me, I couldn't imagine running any farther - in the heat, no less. Be proud of yourself for a successful completion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Linda. I am feeling proud...yes! So grateful to be able and strong. Next time I will run it faster though. ;)

      Delete
  6. Congrats on your finish! I bet that race was just gorgeous! I wish we could get back out there for some of those amazing trails!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sandra. If you ever do get out here again, let me know!

      Delete
  7. Loved reading this! Proud of you! I can't even imagine!!! And smiling from the support you got on the course! I NEED to come out to Bend to run my first trail race I think! Perhaps not this bitch but another one-ha ha! Great job my friend! Excited to hear more about it face to face:) XO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you sweet friend! Oh how fun would it be to have you out here to run a trail race with me!! Or you run and I'll cheer! This one is a good one but I think a trail race in the more lush forests would be my first choice/recommendation! Love you.

      Delete
  8. I love that within the first couple paragraphs you talk about "next time".... I love that you make the distinction between hardest and longest/most challenging course..... The other day something came to mind that relates not to this post but to prior ones, and I thought to myself, I need to tell Amanda that the next time I comment.... I can not remember what it was now....so when it comes back to me at 3 am, maybe I'll just send you a private message through instagram or something, before I forget it again....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, let me know if you remember! ;) And yes, there will be a next time for sure... I had fun out there in a sick kind of way. This was hard and more distance than most races but not my hardest in the sense of mental and physical and pushing my limits combined.

      Delete
  9. We were just talking about ultras this morning over coffee and it's something that I don't think I ever want to do. But I have enormous respect for people who are prepared to find out what they're really made of. And you are one of those people. RESPECT!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can see how you would never want to do it. I never want to do one longer than this! Thank you friend.... for your respect. Right back at you!

      Delete
  10. Tough one!! And I think your time is SUPER considering the terrain and altitude. Your reflections show some real honesty and I always enjoy that about you. Super job to you and W!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks friend. I'm sure to most ultra runners, this one wasn't any tougher than other trail races... probably less than lots. It was hot and hard but I think I'm mostly happy with the time considering where I was mentally and physically and my intentions for this race. Next time will be faster. ha!

      Delete
  11. Great job! And thank you for the recap.
    I am doing the Trail Factor Half Marathon on 5/28. It's my first trail half. I did their 5 miler a few years ago and loved it. I've been hooked on trails since. Although this course is really challenging and my running partner is injured and had to back out. I'm determined to finish it and enjoy Forest Park in all her beauty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Ohhhh, that one is a good one. The views get a little monotonous since it is mostly all forest but it's cool, beautiful and well supported! Good luck! Enjoy!! Hope your running partner heals soon too.

      Delete
  12. My step-brother did that race and said it was one of the hardest courses he has done (and he has done several 100-mile races). I loved reading your thoughts and reflection on the race and course... and what you gained mentally and emotionally by being out there. Beautiful recap of the experience. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was definitely HARD! Thanks Kristen...good to hear from you!

      Delete
  13. Wow, Amanda- that looks beautiful. And sounds so tough!! I am in awe- I don't think I have a 50k in me, but I guess I shouldn't say never. Congrats!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Laura. Never say never, yes! You never know! For now, it looks like you're loving your running where it's at so that's what it's all about!

      Delete
  14. 31 miles is a very long way to go. Great job out there.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hey! What a lovely article! 👍

    I absolutely admire your passion for running and thought you might be interested in a giveaway I'm running. You can win Nike+ Apple Watch, a perfect running partner! It ends in 6 days so if you're interested, follow this link >
    http://www.shapescale.com/blog/giveaways/shapescale-nike-apple-watch-giveaway/

    Keep posting your awesome blog posts!
    Enjoy the rest of your day and have a wonderful weekend xx

    ReplyDelete