Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Speedgoat 50k

Speedgoat! Wow, where to begin...

This is only my 3rd year of trail running, but I have been dreaming of running the Speedgoat 50k long before I was even a runner. Anyone who knows me well, knows I LOVE the mountains. More specifically, I love to get above timberline where the air is thin and the views are endless. Speedgoat is a 50k mountain race with ~11,500ft of climbing and descending, up and around Snowbird ski area in Utah and is described by many as the toughest 50k in the US. Sounds perfect, sign me up!

After completing my first ultra marathon last November (White Mesa 50k), I was ready to tackle something with a bit more climbing. I convinced my brother that we should run Speedgoat, so as soon as registration opened we were both signed up. Now it was time to train, as the last line of the race information page on the website says "Start training now……cuz’ it’s gonna hurt!"
Great looking elevation profile!
I had big plans for my training, which included long runs with multiple ascents of the La Luz trail and hiking up the Sandia Ski area slopes with my son in the backpack for a little extra weight. Unfortunately all those plans were destroyed when most of the forests in New Mexico were closed down due to the extreme fire danger. So my training was modified to include more flat road running, lower elevation foothills trails and long drives to get in my long run on the weekends. I managed to get in some quality high elevation long runs, but could tell I was not handling the higher altitudes as well as in the past, not being able to get over 7000ft during the week. I noticed that unlike in the past, I felt really solid. No aches and pains like I have usually experienced while increasing the miles before a race. I was feeling pretty confident in my fitness before I started tapering off the miles a couple weeks out from the race. However my taper was terrible, every run was a struggle. Even an easy 3 miler around my neighborhood was a struggle just four days before race day, my legs just felt dead. My confidence was slipping away...
Up bright and early with a smile!
My wife, son and I headed to Snowbird a couple days early to relax and enjoy the mountains. I was excited to get running and climb the mountains surrounding our hotel at Snowbird. But I held back and relaxed in hopes of giving my legs a chance to come back to life. My brother and I both felt like a couple kids on Christmas Eve. After all the planning and training, it was time to see how much suffering Karl Meltzer could dish out on this course!

Taking a nap, waiting for the action!
Race morning went well, my wife and son were a couple troopers getting up and ready at 4 am. We headed to race check in and were all ready to go with plenty of time to spare. We headed out for a nice gentle 10 min jog to get the blood flowing just before the start, as there is not much opportunity to warm up on this course. Lining up at the start amongst some of the best mountain runners in the world was pretty awesome. It was a bit like being out on the field for the start of an NFL game... Not many sports allow average folks to be lined up right next to the pros.

The start/finish at the base of Snowbird
Heading off the start, my plan was to take the first 4000ft climb up to 11,000ft at a comfortable pace. I knew it was going to be a tough race and wanted to make sure I had enough left in the tank for the big climbs towards the end of the race. My legs felt pretty good on the climb, but I noticed immediately on one of the short downhill sections along the way that my ankle was hurting! I hadn't had any ankle pain during training and didn't twist it or anything, so I was baffled by the pain that seemed to come out of nowhere. I was not sure if it would allow me to run all the rocky downhill that was ahead. It continued to hurt on every downhill but didn't seem to get any worse.
And we're off!
Don't waste anytime starting the climb to hidden peak.
Most of the course was run on a mixture of steep rocky service roads and single track, but around mile 6 we got our first taste of the completely off trail sections of the course. It was a blast! Bombing down the mountain through grass, wildflowers, jumping over downed trees and boulders. I was laughing and smiling like a fool, life was good except for my ankle that kept reminding me to keep it under control. It was also in this section where I first witnessed the incredible descending skills of Ruby Muir from New Zealand. I thought I was moving quickly when she came blowing by me like I was standing still, wearing Vibram fivefinger shoes(closer to no shoes...!). Pretty amazing to see!

Approaching the top of Hidden Peak, 11,000ft (mile 8.3)
My brother stayed a couple minutes ahead on the climb, but I could see him most of the way and noticed he was not gaining any ground. I hit the first aid station on Hidden Peak(8.3 miles) at ~1:45, about 20 min behind the leaders. Those boys can fly! At the first aid station I was able to see that despite the cold wind and rain my wife and son were doing great. I dropped off my handheld bottle and grabbed my hydration pack which was filled with ~700 calories worth or tailwind nutrition and off I went.

The descent down Mineral Basin to Larry's Hole aid station(10.2 miles), was relatively uneventful. A nice cruiser section of service road and single track through a wildflower filled high alpine basin. I reached this aid station in about 2:02 and kept moving through since I had a full hydration pack filled with everything I needed.

Shortly after Larry's Hole was a short steep grunt up over Sinner's Pass which lead us to a nasty bowling ball sized rock filled jeep road down Mary Ellen Gulch to the Pacific Mine aid station. On this climb I continued my game of leap frog with both Ruby Muir(3rd place woman) and Stephanie Howe, who would go on to be the women's overall winner. I would usually pass them on the climbs only to be passed shortly after on the descents. This descent was relentless and felt like it would never end, and once again Ruby made me look silly as she flew by right through the loose rocks! We rolled into the Pacific Mine aid station(14.8 miles) around 2:47 into the race.

I checked in and quickly left the aid station after rinsing my head off with a sponge full of cool water. It felt great and for the first time in the race I was ahead of my brother, as he had to stop and fill his bottles. That didn't last long though and we ran the long uphill back up to Larry's Hole mostly together. This climb was rough as it was just a little too steep to run in most parts, but not quite steep enough to feel like hiking was the only way although we climbed ~2400ft in the 3 miles to the top of the climb. Towards the top of the climb, we hit a steep off trail section that really slowed me down. I could tell the legs were starting to tire from all the climbing and the fact I was getting behind on calories. A short steep downhill and a short climb put us back at Larry's Hole aid station(19.4 miles) with about 4:03 on the watch.

We were now to the toughest part of the course as we climbed the mostly off trail route up Mt Baldy to 11,051ft. I ran right through Larry's hole as I still didn't need to refill my pack, this wasn't good because I knew it meant I still wasn't drinking enough or getting enough calories. I was really thirsty but just couldn't seem to drink enough for some reason. The grunt up Baldy was ridiculous, in an awesome way... Just straight up the mountain through the grass, rock and wildflowers. With grades approaching 40% near the top, it was a struggle just to keep putting one foot in front of the other and I watched as my brother slowly pulled away up the mountain.

Coming into Tunnel aid station (mile 22.3)
Once to the top of Mt Baldy it was a fun little rocky descent back down to the Tunnel aid station(22.3miles), which I reached in 4:54. This was a fun stretch as I could now hear my wife and the others cheering us on as we cruised the last switchbacks to the tunnel. That is always good for a little energy boost. I took a big swig of water and grabbed my trekking poles. I gave my son a big zerbert on the cheek, smooched my wife and headed off through the tunnel with my brother who I once again caught at the aid station.

Grinding up Hidden peak. Photo: Derrick Lytle
After getting through the tunnel it was about a 2 mile 1000ft descent down a service road before beginning the final 1500ft climb back up to the summit of Hidden Peak. The poles helped with the steep climb but since I hadn't used them all year in training, my arms quickly tired. It was in this section where Stephanie Howe dropped the hammer and pulled away from us for the final time. It was impressive how quickly she dropped us and was able to hunt down the leader on the final descent. At mile 26 we reached the final aid station on top of the 11,000ft high Hidden Peak, with about 5:42 elapsed. I could only think about water at this point so had my wife dump out the Tailwind she had mixed up for me and filled the bottle with water, after chugging a bit of coke. I ditched my pack and poles and headed out for the final descent.

Arriving at Hidden Peak for the final time (mile 26)
It was here where I finally realized breaking 6:30 was very possible. My original thought was that 7:00 was a realistic finish time, with 6:30 possible and maybe 6:00 if all the stars aligned and I grew wings somewhere along the course. With 5 miles and 3000ft of descent to go, I dropped the hammer down from the peak until I hit the super rocky switchbacks where my ankle once again forced me to slow down. I could see my brother a ways ahead and realized I was catching him pretty quickly. As I came up behind him, I yelled "we can break 6:30 if we keep cranking!" His response was something like "I'm about to go into a bilateral cramp, my legs are toast!" I went past and figured he would hang on for the ride as he seems to have mastered the the ability to push through the pain. I was surprised when I looked back to find I was pulling away at a pretty quick rate, I knew he must have been hurting.

Shortly after that Andy, a local from Salt lake caught me and we chatted for a bit. He was moving well at this point and helped pull me along at a nice pace. I tried to hang on, but couldn't quite keep up and he ended up pulling away from me to finish about two minutes ahead. So after about 32 miles and 11,500 ft of climbing and descending I crossed the finish in 6:22:13, good enough for 22nd overall. My brother finished about four minutes later in 6:28, good enough for 25th overall.

Run details on Strava
Coming across the finish line!
Brother coming into the finish
I was pretty happy with my time and ranking, considering the crazy level of talent that was at the front of the pack. Sage Canaday took first in ~5:08 with Anton Krupicka chasing him down in the final descent to finish ~90 seconds behind. They both broke the previous course record set last year by mountain running legend Killian Jornet. It was an amazing day in the Wasatch mountains. Thanks to my amazing wife and son for continuing to support me through these crazy adventures, couldn't ask for a better crew! Also thank you to the Speedgoat, Karl Meltzer for putting on such a great event and laying out an awesome course!
Survived the Speedgoat!
Coolest trophies ever
Women's podium
Men's podium

Pearl Izumi Trail N2 shoes
Injinji 2.0 Mid-weight socks
Patagonia Strider Pro shorts
CEP calf compression sleeves
Black Diamond ultra distance z-poles
Ultraspire Surge hydration pack
Amphipod 20oz handheld bottle

~800 calories Tailwind nutrition - planned for ~1600, so I was way behind
~70 ounces water - way behind on this also
~5oz coke


  1. Awesome write up Wid! It was great racing with you, as always. The pain memories are starting to fade already, I can't wait for next year!

  2. Sweet shirt! Oh and nice report.