Smith Rock Ascent 50k Race Report – Ron Kelly

Race: Smith Rock Ascent 50K

Runner: Ron Kelly

Race Date: 05/14/2022

Location: Bend, Oregon

Results: 33rd overall, 26th Male, 2nd 50-59 Division

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3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The race course and scenery was stunning – Great views of the valley and snow capped mountains (Smith Rock State Park outside of Bend, OR)
  2. Race organization was top notch, volunteers amazing and post party atmosphere a super fun vibe
  3. Trails were in great shape and runnable

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Only downside of the course is spectators/crew can really only see you and the start/finish. The straight downhill start and uphill finish is a monster after 30 miles (I don’t think Walmsley could run up this to the finish!)

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Not weird, but you have about 170 feet to descend/ascend from the start/finish before you hit the main trails in maybe a third of a mile. They had a staggered start (runner every 5 seconds) and you must walk solo (safety precaution) across a foot bridge before you reach the main trail.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

This is only my 3rd race longer than a marathon (one 50K and one 50 miler prior) so still have so much to learn. I felt pretty good heading into race day and was curious to see how it would go. Translating marathon pace/effort to trails continues to be my biggest area of opportunity. I’ve consciously practiced hydration and nutrition and don’t think I could have done much more. I consciously tried to hold back in the early miles and walked many of the uphills in an effort to conserve energy. I ran a good solid pace up until about mile 22 and then just didn’t have any legs. I felt fine and don’t think it was hydration/nutrition related, and though the sun came out and it was warm, it didn’t feel too hot. I just couldn’t get myself to run with much (if any) pace. Wasn’t a total walk but was very very slow! The last 6 miles or so are very runnable with a long descent and mainly flat sections and I lost a whopping 16 places from the last aid station (26.5 mile mark) to the finish. While humbling to be passed by so many people near the end, I did set a 50K PR and was certainly pleased with the day and the overall experience of the race.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • It can get lonely in the middle miles on this course to try and find people to run with nearby if possible.
  • Try and save something for the end. Last aid station is at 26.5 miles and basically flat/downhill from there to the finish.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  • Pacing, pacing, pacing. Figure out how to push myself on tired legs while not overdoing training. A hard balance.
  • Appreciate Keith’s help/training and look forward to growing as a trail runner.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The first few miles are super smooth with some gradual uphills so be careful not to go to hard. The last 5 miles starts with a big descent and then basically flat until the uphill finish at the very end. The climbs were tough, but most of the elevation was spread out over say 3 sections with no massive long climbs like you might find in a true mountain race. Given the course is challenging for spectators, you could find yourself all alone in sections. Was nice to find people to run with during the middle part of the course where you are out of Smith Rock State Park and very few people around.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The course is stunning and hard to describe the beautiful landscape. Smith Rock State Park is known as the birthplace of American sport climbing.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

The course is pretty runnable, not overly technical and while ~4,700 of elevation doesn’t sound too daunting, it is a challenging course and given not much tree cover, you are exposed to the sun. Some sections of the trail were a bit sandy but a good mix of terrain from flats to uphills to downhills.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

My first event with Go Beyond Racing. They certainly know what they are doing. Well organized. Great volunteers, fun atmosphere.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Seemed like it. Bend is a popular place for elite level type runners. Ian Sharman was the overall winner and he’s well known in the Trail running circles.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The race is popular but I do believe runners were able to sign up in the weeks leading up to race day. The 50K is run on Saturday and on Sunday they had a 15 mile and a 4 mile option. Free kids races were conducted each day as well. Smith Rock State Park is in Terrebonne, Oregon which is about 35 minutes north of Bend. Bend is a popular town but has several hotel and Airbnb type options as well as nearby camping. Great destination race. The park is extremely popular and busy, parking is offsite with a shuttle the last mile or if you have a spectator, you are able to park near the race start for a daily use fee of $5.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Volunteers were great. Everything you would want/expect from aid stations to support your hydration and nutritional needs.

Weather and typical race conditions

Turned out to be a nice day post some rain/sprinkles at the start and I even got quite sunburned. In May, in this part of Oregon, be prepared for all types of weather. Rain, sun, cold, heat …all conditions could come into play during the race. Weather changes quickly in Mountain towns this time of year. Most of the course is exposed so not much tree cover/shade at all. If its sunny, you will feel it (I certainly did). The trails were in good condition and not overly technical but did have a few sandy spots to manage through.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Nothing special other than to be prepared for various weather conditions throughout the day.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

The race course is not friendly for spectators unless they want to run quite a few miles. You do see other park users. The first 5-6 miles and last 4-5 miles are conducted within the State Park.

How’s the Swag?

The logo beer mug at the end was great swag. And nothing like a second beer mug that says 2nd Place 50-59 year old division to make you smile!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 star race. I would highly recommend this race. Bend is a super fun town to spend a few days, Smith Rock State Park and the race course is runnable, with stunning scenery, great organization and volunteers, and a fun after race party vibe. Great destination race.

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