BY: SARAH BARD
A few weeks ago, I traveled to the Run the Rock race at Smith Rock in Terrebonne, Oregon. There were three trail races, a 50 mile, a 50k, and a half marathon being run through the beautiful state park.
I planned to run the 50k (and even started the race), but was nursing a sore hamstring and decided to give it a rest at mile 6. This gave me the opportunity to quick-change my role from racer to spectator and get out there to cheer on the competitors (with fellow #Birdstrike team member & Bend local: Collier Lawrence).
Trail running is super fun, but throwing yourself into something new in a competitive environment can be a bit intimidating. I caught up with both Carrie and Katie to learn more about why they chose Run The Rock, how they liked it, how they prepared, and their thoughts about trail racing again in the future.
Both Carrie and Katie have a strong running history – they both come from families that were involved in running and have been running since they were in elementary school, through high school, college, and now post-collegiately. When I asked them what surfaces they usually run on, both said that they typically find themselves on roads. Neither of them had run at Smith Rock before, so, why this race? Why now?
CARRIE: “I've been curious about trail running for a while and in September I paced a friend in the Superior 100 Trail Race in Lutsen, MN. It was epic. I was completely captivated by the whole experience - the beautiful scenery, the amazing community of volunteers/fans/pacers, the incredible gutsiness of all the runners. As far as why Smith Rock - I've just been sort of building a base again this fall. But the forecast looked great on race day and I just kind of wanted to jump in there and see what it was like so I signed up about 40 minutes before it started. Mel and Collier said I should go for it and they seem to know what they’re doing, right?”
KATIE: “Fellow bird, Stefani Faunce and I became friends, thanks to Volée! She had decided to run the Smith Rock Half and encouraged me to join her. I just completed my first marathon in October and have fallen completely in love with running. I thought, I haven’t been running trails... but might as well try something new with friends. Smith Rock is absolutely gorgeous and I was really excited to see what the whole experience of trail racing was about.”
Sometimes the most intimidating aspect of trying a new thing can be feeling unprepared - “Do I need specific gear?” Neither one had run there before, though Katie had hiked there a couple years ago. Carrie noted arriving at the line in new trail shoes she purchased just 4 days earlier, and seeing several people with hydration packs – something she hadn’t even considered. There was a slight feeling for both that they were winging it, but it not only worked out, they both had really great race experiences (though Carrie was thankful for the water at the aid stations)!
Running is running, right? Road or trail, it’s the same movement! But I was curious to hear what these ‘road runners’ might have found surprising in their first trail race.
KATIE: “One key difference in trail races compared with road races I’ve run was the size of the field. I haven’t ever been to a race where I could high five the race directors and chat with them after, that was really cool. I was surprised at the way the runners leisurely walked up to the start, how everyone was so friendly and encouraging every single time someone passed by, and how everyone was really enjoying themselves. It surprised me that throughout the race I kept thinking, “this is so much fun!”
Moments before the start of the race
CARRIE: This was the first time I've ever walked in a race! Maybe not surprising given the course, but something I didn't really consider going in. I was surprised at how much the technicality of the course felt outside of my wheelhouse. Overall, I was much more timid with my footing than I expected, but it’s also super exciting because I feel like there is a whole new world of running just waiting for me to explore and conquer. And that makes me very happy.
No matter what level of runner you might be, even if you’ve been running since you were a child, there’s always more to explore and learn!
And even if you have done numerous trail races, you can still find ways to seek new challenges the next day while your legs recover!