Last Saturday I ran Smith Rock Ascent, a challenging 15-mile trail race in Central Oregon.
The race was held in Smith Rock State Park and provided 360 views from beginning to end—the kinds of views that makes it hard not to stare—however, take your eyes off the trail for one second and you risk going down; at least for me, as I tend to be a pretty clumsy runner, always tripping on rocks and roots.
I had no expectations going into the race other than to finish. I heard rumors that it was a tough course and included a few steep hills. I didn’t look at the course map or profile ahead of time (tends to be a habit of mine), but I did view the race video so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into.
And boy, did I get myself into something. It’s not every day that you get to run such a special race. Everything came together last Saturday. The weather was perfect—not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The sun was vibrant and provided clear, unadulterated views of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and probably another mountain or two that I couldn’t name—and of course, stunning views of the grand rocks and cliffs. As a runner, these are the kind of moments and views that remind you that it’s okay or it will be. I had a good friend waiting for me at the end, which always makes the reward of crossing the finish line that much sweeter.
As I was making my way through the course, I had plenty of time to reflect on the day, the race, and life in general. Here’s my top 10 reflections from Smith Rock Ascent:
- There’s great camaraderie in the trail running community. It’s extremely supportive – throughout the race, I constantly heard words of encouragement, and even concern, as runners passed by those who stopped to stretch or take a needed break. “You got this” was the common theme of the day.
- You see one deadly, venomous snake while running on a trail in Australia (think Black Tiger Snake) and from then on, every stick looks like a snake until, well, that stick is a snake…a sizable rattlesnake wanted to be my pacer (luckily for me, I didn’t need one and left him behind).
- Pringles provide great fuel. I probably lost about five minutes eating these salty treats at the aid stations.
- I’ve earned that beer.
- “I love Gray Butte” or put another way, “Is this hill ever going to end?” There may have been a few expletives.
- When it seems overwhelming, taking a few deep breaths can get you through most anything.
- I picked up three gel tops during the race, as well as a few older pieces of trash. We need to be conscientious out there and work together to keep our wildplaces pristine and waste-free (trail tip: tearing the gel top off halfway keeps it attached to the package, preventing any accidental litter).
- I’ve earned that beer (yes, I do realize I’m repeating myself).
- A race is always better when shared with friends.
- I’ve run some spectacular races and I’m pretty sure that Smith Rock Ascent is my new favorite race. Toward the end of the race, I passed a woman who said she couldn’t wait for it to be over. I didn’t want it to end.
A very special thank you to Go Beyond Racing for organizing the race and to all of the volunteers who encouraged and cheered me on at the aid stations (and didn’t say a word as I kept stuffing myself with Pringles). Also, I’m honored that I was able to give back to the community as part of my Small Change initiative.
Do you have a favorite race? What goes through your mind during races? Please share.