Friday afternoon I ran across a message on Facebook asking for someone to sweep an organized fun run called The Bad Ass 50K and Marathon Trail Fun Run. A voice in my head was screaming to take on the challenge of gaining 9000+ vertical feet during the course of a 32 mile run through the Central Oregon desert.
I volunteered to sweep the trail with a bit of hesitation because of my 26th birthday marathon ran just 5 days prior. My mind and body were stoked for the next adventure.
My coworker and fellow ultra-marathoner picked me up at 545 Saturday morning. We drove out to Skull Hollow Campground near Smith Rock and discussed the event ahead as the sun started to rise. My excitement began to build as he spelled out to me his trail marking strategy, the major intersections, hill climbs and additional details. This was going to be one bad ass adventure.
We arrived at the starting point (Skull Hollow Campground) around 7am and waited as runners began to show up.
By 815 there was some 40 runners anticipating what was ahead of them. Each one of us was running 10, 20, 27 or 32 miles (majority were running 10).
Runners began to disperse across the trail at different paces. I settled into dead last with a sluggish 13 minute mile pace and was content knowing that thousands of feet of climbing and miles were waiting ahead.
By mile five I had gained 2000 feet in elevation and stood atop Grey Butte where my eyes overlooked a magnificent desert landscape with the cascade mountains in the backdrop.
I started descending Grey Butte and my ill trained quads started burning. It felt like an on and off wall sit for the next five miles. By mile ten my body began to clearly tell me that a 50K was not going to happen today, but I had the strength to push through the challenges that lie ahead.
I ran up Coles Trail, hit an out and back to Nicols Spring and began zig zagging down Cougar Canyon.
As I got deeper into Cougar Canyon my mind started drifting back to a story that Jeff shared with me during the drive to Skull Hollow just hours before. This section of the trail is known as Cougar Canyon because one of his friends once came upon a fresh cow kill in the canyon surrounded by cougar prints. I have a hard time getting this story out of my head for the next few miles, but I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I reached a turn in the road and where we could have continued descending into Smith Rock State Park there was a left hand turn up a hillside that would take me to the Burma Rd Saddle and a major decision point.
Do I turn back and run a 20 miler or push on and experience an additional 2000 feet of climbing and a full marathon. I fight through the voice telling me to take the easy option and turn down into Smith Rock State Park for a full marathon route.
I zig zagged down into the park and took in some views that I had never before experienced. As Monkey Face came into view I prepared my mind for the steep and grueling climb that lie ahead.
People started giving me rather odd looks as I scaled the hillside faster than them with streamers hanging off my pack. I did not care. My mind and body were in a state of zen. I was present.
Scaling Misery Ridge was only half the battle. I now had to descend roughly 1000 vertical feet. At this point my quads were screaming at me. I kept telling myself that I was getting much stronger.
I ran a few miles up river toward Burma road where the next 1600 feet await. These few miles rolled along some of the most peaceful areas in the park. I passed a few people that asked what the streamers were for. There face gazed in utter amazement as I explained the adventure I had been on for some 5 hours now.
I walked up Burma Rd, picked up the intersection marker and scanned the landscape to find Scar Trail. This is a very steep section of hill climbing that takes you up to a viewpoint known as Eagle Roost that overlooks all of Smith Rock and the Cascades landscape.
I turned around after a five minute rest at Eagle Roost and started a brutal descent of over 2000 vertical feet in a little over 7 miles to finish the run. Today, I ran roughly 27 miles and gained 7000 feet in elevation. This was right near the top of my list for physically challenging adventures.
With each passing mile I found a deeper reason for why I run. I run for the freedom found in the hills, the peace of mind, the thought provoking clarity and the simplicity of the sport. I run for the beautiful scenery and areas I get to explore. I run for the mental and physical challenge. I run because I love it.
This day was more than just another run. It was an experience that enlightened my life and brought me a sense of true being. It made me feel more alive.
I learned that my mind is getting stronger with each experience life throws at me. Deep in me there lives a burning passion for running that was just a small smoldering ember only months ago. I am learning how to push through the voice in my head that starts screaming at me to give up. The one that tells me I am not fit for this. The one that wants me to fail.
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