At the start of this year Celia and I got married, but you’ve probably already heard about that! As a result of being busy planning a wedding we forgot that races sell out and you have to enter them early. Upon returning to Seattle I entered a bunch of races that had no spots left, putting me on the wait list. One of these was Smith Rock Ascent 50k, put on by Go Beyond Racing just north of Bend, Oregon. On the Sunday before the race I was notified that I was off the wait list. A quickly entered and we began to plan our trip to Bend.
We drove down to Bend on Friday and stayed at a KOA 15 mins from the race. The race started at 8am on Saturday which was quite civilized. Up at 0540, breakfast, coffee, pack up camp and we were on our way. Celia dropped me at the start area giving me plenty of time to prepare. I decided to go with just a handheld for the race. I expected the course to be quite fast as there is only 1300m over 50k, and thought I would finish around the 4hr mark. As a result it wouldn’t take long to go between each of the 4 aid stations so a single drink bottle would suffice. Nutrition plan was also quite simple, 3 chews (100 cals total) and 4 gels (100 cals each), along with tailwind for each bottle fill, (5 fills 100 cals each).
I did a little warm up and some drills. Rookie mistake was not getting in the bathroom queue early enough so I kicked off needing to pee, oops. Rookie mistake number two is I didn’t pick a great spot on the line. Most people might think that the mistake was getting stuck behind people but this was the opposite. I knew of two people specifically who would be in the top few runners and I was hoping they would lead out and set the pace. However I lined up such that I lead out with the pack behind me. The pace was quite fast as we dropped into the canyon and followed the river south around the rock formations. I soon dropped to third which was a bit more comfortable, however I was still running around 175 bpm, a bit higher than usual. After about 3km I dropped to 4th and took the chance to have that oh too early bathroom break. We started our ascent up toward the 1st aid station heading up a long (~3km) lowish gradient hill. I couldn’t get in a good rhythm here and dropped to 6th. Things flattened out a bit and we came to aid station 1. It was great to see the Wy’east Wolfpack crew rocking out at the aid station, they always provide a lot of stoke! I transitioned through the aid station quite quickly taking back 4th. A short climb over a saddle gave way to a long down hill where I seemed to put distance on 4th. At the bottom I caught site of 3rd, so I concluded I was descending better than these two. The descent had also provided a good chunk of time to settle the heart rate a bit. For most of the race till now I was sitting around 175 bpm and the descent I was around 155 bpm. There was a bit of flat before aid station 2. A hiker told me I was in second on the way there, “Ok so 1 and 2 are quite far in front!”
Again quick aid station transition, just filling up the bottle. We started to climb soon after the aid station. About half way up the climb I came within ~50m of 3rd. I decided just to set back a bit and let myself settle as much as possible instead of rushing to pass. We hit some flat forest road and he pulled away a bit, so I figured best to pass was either up or down, but not to push him on the flat. Eventually we hit some up where I caught him naturally. I pushed through a little bit and then as we hit some descent I tried to make sure I was being as efficient with my steps as possible to try pull away further. When we came out onto some forest road again I’d put about 150m on so that was a good enough gap. It was slightly rolling forest road for the next ~5km to aid station 3. I saw two snakes, or moving twigs, in this section!
Aid station 3 was at 32km. I was starting to feel a bit rough by now, with the speed that forest road gives you starting to take its toll a bit. It was also getting kind of hot, and I was sitting in 3rd place. Soon after the aid station there were some random orange markers, same colour as the course marking, leading up away from the trail. I was pretty sure it wasn’t the course bit spent about 30 seconds here figuring it out before getting back on the right trail. At this point I kind of went into survival mode. I wanted to keep myself moving well for the rest of the race, but trying to get positions or time goals wasn’t really on my mind. I knew if I pushed a bit too hard or missed on nutrition that it could result in a marvelous bonk. about 5km after the aid station, and after negotiating my way past some horse riders. I was surprised to see 2nd place! “Ok so I feel awful but must be moving ok.” Aid station 4 was at he same location as aid station 1, we had a bit of climb to get to it on the saddle. As I did with 3rd I just let my self catch up to second naturally, trying to stay focused on me. At the final aid station I took some water melon, coke, and electrolyte in my bottle. I also tried to cool my self off a bit with some water.
The final section was kind of a V. We had couple of km of flat single track and then hit a steady gradient road down into the canyon. I was surprised to see Celia at the top, she took a picture then chased me down the hill. By now I was feeling rotten. I thought I was about to puke but that didn’t eventuate. Celia said we hit 3:30km heading down the hill so again, feeling rotten but moving well. From here not a lot happened, it was hot in the canyon and I was giving a very weak “mind if I hop past” to the 25km runners I was catching. A final climb up the hill, and across the finish line in a time of 3:59:48, setting a PB for a 50k trail race.
Overall an awesome event on a fast course. Smith Rock is a beautiful park to visit, so if you have a chance to sign up for this race, or even if you are in the area you should go check it out!