Last Saturday I ran the Run the Rock 50k in Smith Rock State Park, just outside Bend, Oregon. My hubby and I arrived in Bend on Thursday. We went to check into our VRBO, and realized quickly that I’d messed up the dates on my reservation, we were supposed to be checking in on Friday! Whoops. It turned out to not be a big deal. I quickly booked a hotel room online, and we got checked into our hotel. We had a fantastic dinner out, and a pretty relaxing evening.
On Friday, I wanted to do a quick shakeout run, and hubby wanted to see where the park was, and how long it took to drive there. So we made our way to Smith Rock, wow. It was spectactular. If you saw the pictures on social, all I can say is that it’s better in person. I did my short shakeout and snapped some pics. We headed to the VRBO, got ourselves checked in and made a simple dinner of pasta with shrimp.
Saturday morning we made our way to the race start, just in time. the 50k started at 7:15, and we pulled in at 7:00 just as the 50 M’ers were taking off. Remarkably there was no line up at the bathrooms, so I easily made one last pit stop, and was at the start line in time for the quick pre-race meeting. Before we knew it, we were off. I really hadn’t studied the course in much detail, I knew the approx gain/loss and knew it should be similar to the Grizzly 50k, but with the climbs being longer and more sustained. The 50k course can easily be broken up into approx 10 k sections, with an aid station between each.
The first 10k took us up the hardest climb of the day, it was pretty steep, with lots of stairs. It was also spectacular. As we headed over the rock and summited we could see the beautiful vistas of the red rocks in the foreground, with the plains, and then mountains in the distance. Wow. I stopped a couple of times on the way back down to snap a pic. It was a fairly steep downthill with switchbacks. I did not feel warmed up, well I was technically warmed up from the climb (as it was a doozy), but not for running downhill, so I took it pretty easy heading back down towards the river. We took the river path around the base of the Rock, crossed back over the river, and climbed back onto the Ridge to the start line. I grabbed a quick pit stop, and some aid station food, saw that the half marathoners were lined up to start, so I grabbed a quick hello w/ hubby, and headed back down to the river valley.
The next section took us around the river pathway once again, but back towards where we’d just come from. We circled around the Rock, and started up our longest climb of the day. It was not nearly as steep as the first climb up and over the Rock, but was long, as we spent nearly 7 miles going up. I took on a jog, hike strategy here. I wasn’t going super fast, but my effort felt constant, my heartrate between 150 and 160. Aid Station 2 was 2/3rds of the way through this climb, just pas the half marathon mark. I again grabbed some chips, an oreo, and continued my climb.
My nutrition strategy was to eat every 30 minutes or so, alternating between my food and AS food. I had brought Apple Sauce pouches and a few other bars, and chews that I could eat if they struck my fancy. Around 15 miles in we started our long descent of the day. I’d passed by 25k and the approx halfway mark in 3:18, so had guessed that I’d be finishing around 6:30 if I was lucky. I really hadn’t studied the course maps very well, so didn’t anticipate next 8 miles of downhill running. I got in a nice groove and made up a lot of time in this section. It was fun! We were out of the beautiful red rock of the state park, and onto some private lands, but the ease of the running, and the speed that the km’s flew by made up for the more “ordinary” vistas.
The third AS came around 2/3rds of the way down the long climb. I’d spent most of this descent completely alone, not seeing any other runners. I was paranoid of going off course! I had no idea where I was, or where the course should be going, so I was relying solely on course markings. Luckily they were very good. Every time that I’d get paranoid that I hadn’t seen a marker in a while, I’d come upon on a hundred meters up. Running into the third AS had been on a gravel road, I was especially paranoid on the road, thinking that the race was going to veer off at some point onto a trail, and I sure didn’t want to miss it! Well it did veer off, right at the AS, and I totally missed it! Whoops. Luckily, I’d only run a couple hundred meters down the road when an AS volunteer rode down on a bike to set me straight. I hoofed back up to the AS and continued on the trail. I had a few more km’s of down hill running from here, and kept my eyes peeled for course markings!
Around 23 miles in we started to climb backup towards AS4 (which was also AS2). I was pretty sure that this was my last climb of the day. I did some quick math as I started it, and thought, if I run 6:00 min / km, I’ll come in under 6 hrs!! I knew that I wasn’t going to be running a 6 min / km pace up hill, but for every km that I came close, my time would be closer to 6:00 hrs. So I made this my goal. I ran what I could, and hiked as fast as I could. Once I passed the 40k mark, and knew that it was just 10k to the finish, I pushed myself as hard as I could. I knew I could do anything for 10k.
When I reached that last AS, I was super happy, almost done I told myself! I grabbed some chips, a cookie, and had them fill my softflask. The AS volunteer told me 4.5 miles to go! My running math told me that was around 7 kms, not far now! There was a couple km’s of easy downhill along a ridge path, I was passing a lot of 50 milers coming towards me on their second loop. It was a narrow path, and someone had to step to the side each time, but I was just grateful to be seeing people again, and back on a trail that I’d been on. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to go off course from here on. The course turned down the front side of the Rock, and there was a long (almost 2 km’s) steep downhill. This one hurt, my quads were toast. I did not have it in me to run it hard, but I ran as fast as I could, knowing that after that it was around the river path, and then back up the other side to the finish.
I ran the river path, again not fast, my legs were tired, but they felt pretty good. I think the best that they’ve felt at the end of a ultra. Once I got to the bridge, I texted the hubby and headed up the hill. This was a nice steep hill that I was more than happy to hike up, no more downhill! Got to the top, and ran in the last couple hundred meters! I finished the race in 6:12, which I was overjoyed at, since my halfway time had me coming in 25 minutes slower. I had a nice cold beer (or two), plus they had a taco food truck at the finish for racers. The food and beer was great!
My quads are still sore 4 days later, so I guess that’s a good sign that I raced hard! As far as the numbers fall, I finished in 6:12:55, was 21st place overall, 9th woman, and 2nd in my AG (out of 3…). It was also a 50k PR.