Run The Rock 50K

In my third and final ultra for the year, I raced the Run The Rock 50K at Smith Rocks State Park in central Oregon.  It was a fantastic race, well run, and in one of the most gorgeous places out west.

The day was perfect: clear skies and 35-50* during the race.  The sunny parts were warm and the shady sides cool, but nothing extreme or worrisome.  The rain from the previous day left a few puddles on the course and a few thick and yucky mud spots, but again, nothing terrible.  I was excited to run!

I toed the line behind a handful of men, including Elvis Sharman, and tried to hold back in the first miles.  It's hard to restrain yourself on a steady downhill, but much easier to do so on the first big uphill: Misery Ridge.  It's not even a hill, more of a staircase up the rocks.  I tried to channel my decades old training on the Manitou Spring's (Colorado) Incline, where I often trained for my collegiate XC seasons.  On the downhill once more and around a flat loop along the river, which was so pretty I was glad I didn't take my phone on the course with me; I definitely would have stopped for a selfie!  Circling back through the start line at 5.5 miles, then down the steepest smooth grade I've ever seen for a quarter mile and back the way we came- next to the river and out beyond the rocks.  We climbed steady switchbacks in the shade, traversed a long ridge (though the trail sat about 50ft below the ridge crest so the wind wasn't an issue), and finally we were to aid station #2 at 13 miles.  I realized I hadn't studied the maps well and had no idea how far along I was in the race.  Or what lay ahead in terms of elevation gain and general climb/descent profile.  #rookie  As we circumnavigated Grey's Butte the elevation continued to climb, keeping my pace steady and slow.  Before it seemed like time to descend, I was dropping quickly through miles 15-18.  The wind was strong on these downhill miles but I forced myself to keep a good pace.

When I am crawling up the hills and getting passed by all, I tell myself I am better on the downhills and try to keep that positive thought in my head.  Often times I am better at the downhill, or at least holding my own against the competition.  So when the downhill miles come, I feel I have to take advantage and not rest in my happy pace.  I remind myself that this is still a race and these miles still count.

After the 3rd aid station at mile 19 (which I didn't believe the volunteers as they announced this mile marker and assumed they meant to say mile 20!), the race fatigue started to catch up with me.  The trail began rolling with more up than down.  My nutrition was better than the last race but I still felt undernourished and wanting more sugar in the muscles.  But maybe that's just how it is at 20 miles, not matter what you eat.  The deprivation beats stomach issues, I am fairly certain of that!  Running through a burned patch of forest and right by five cows lounging on the trail, the race course wound around until we reached Skull Mountain trailhead.  I feel like this name would have/ should have stood out to me but could swear I'd never heard it before.  I worried I was lost and heading for the coast, some 300miles away.  A hiker cheered and gave me an update on who was ahead and how far to the saddle.  A saddle?  nearly 2 miles ahead?  That sounded like a big climb, much bigger than I expected, and I settled into my uphill slog.

I was passing people now.  Though I thought I'd taken the pace out a touch too fast, I wasn't suffering the same as some of the men with whom I'd run out of the park and up the first switchbacks.  At the aid station I rested for the first time all day, allowing for my mini water bottle to be filled twice and asking what lie ahead.  We were to come back across the traverse we did at miles 11-13 and then down quickly to the finish.

I did remember the elevation drop in that last few miles looking brutal on the course map.  On paper, it looked like a straight line down.  In reality it was nearly that.  Holy Quadzilla!  Too steep to let yourself tuck n' roll (especially at this late stage in the race), every step reminded me of the Boston Marathon at mile 21 when your quads ached but the finish line was close enough to smell the hay in the barn.  Don't stop, keep moving, the muscles will hold.  Maybe.  I'm pretty sure, at least.

In the final miles, I just prayed that no one would surprise me as I pumped my arms and begged my legs to follow their lead.  30 miles in, 1 more mile to go.  A race volunteer gave me a high five and congratulated me on a strong race; but all I could think was that he must be jinxing me.  I wasn't there yet and I knew the final climb was a doozie.  That steepest grade I'd ever seen?  That one paved area in the park- paved because the hill would never withstand erosion on a slope that like?  That one we ran down just 10k into the race?  Now we got to run back up! ha!!  Fortunately, I wasn't running scared as the climb did allow a view back to the trail we came from.  I knew I would win the race now and it felt great.  Almost like I could sprint to the finish.  Almost.

I suppose I finished strong.  I definitely had fun, both in the race and at the after party.  I really enjoyed this event and would recommend to anybody!  Even with the additional challenge of the hills and their placement in the race, it was possibly my favorite race of the year!


Shoes: Scott Supertrac RC, with Altra gaiters (still training in Altras and ready to give the new King MT a try!)
Socks: Feetures ankle sock, thin (always the fav)
Pants: Lululemon Fast & Free Capri (perfect for 30* not bad at 50*)
Top layers: Lululemon Switly with an old Brooks thin Lycra shirt on top. 
Vest: Camelsback Marathoner
Hat: Brooks marathon cap
Gloves: Brooks ultra thin fleece (so old, needing a new mitten!)


1 full banana, 1/4 at a time from the aid stations.  Really thrilled with the mid race banana!
Sport Beans
1 Nuun Performance hydration mix concentrated in 6oz water (orange mango flavor, yum!)
1 Oatmeal Cookie Picky Bar
1 gel packet (why did I do that to myself? ugh)
carried 12oz of water, took 12 oz from aid station #4.

Baby steps up Misery Ridge.  Mile 2 in the race! photo Trevor Lyden Photography