Sunday, August 7, 2011

2011 Speedgoat 50k Race Report

2 hours into the race, about 5,000 feet of vertical completed with about 7,000 still to go, and I find myself in the company of Nick Clark, Scott Jaime, and Joe Grant and we have just spent about 15 minutes climbing an extra 500+ feet of vertical in the wrong direction past 'Larry's Hole' aid station.  As it turns out the pestering and increasingly insistent cries from aid station volunteers far below were directed towards us after all and not merely cheers for passing runners.  A few expletives muttered, we clamored off the steep scree slope and back towards the aid station to pick up the correct trail, now in about 12th-15th places and with a newly found urgency to a run that had felt downright conversational to this point.

Karl Meltzer's sadistic brainchild, the Speedgoat 50k is a true mountain run that begins at Snowbird and climbs and descends a brutal 11,500 feet over the course of 31 miles over single track, jeep roads, creek beds, scree, talus, and snowfields with ropes placed for safety, all between 8,000 and 11,000 feet.

Bethany and I stayed up at Snowbird the night before with my sister Zoe graciously offering to watch Ada during our race.  As we lined up at the start I felt groggy and it slowly dawned on me that I had done very little thinking or mental preparation for what lay ahead.  A heavy (relatively speaking) 4 weeks of training had left my legs feeling pretty dead and I figured I would treat this run as a long training effort in the mountains rather than a real race.  True to form, this intention lasted all of about 5 minutes until I found myself running all alone in no-mans land in 5th place with Nick, Joe, Scott, and one other dude running about 100 yards ahead.  What the heck.  I accelerated to catch up to the back of the lead pack thinking that if I blow up, I'll just have to blow up.

Happily, the running felt smooth and easy all the way over the first ascent of Hidden Peak.  I found that I had a lower threshold than the other guys for breaking into a fast hike on the steeper stuff but didn't ever lose any ground in doing so and my breathing and effort felt controlled.  At the same time I knew I was in over my head based on the company I was with which gave me a jolt of excitement.  All in all it worked out pretty well mentally as I was just pretty damn pleased with myself to be climbing with the likes of these guys in a race like this.

We crested Hidden Peak as a group of four but then quickly spread out on the nasty technical traverse and descent off Baldy.  Per usual form I was a wussy on the downhills and got gapped pretty significantly here despite the fact that I was wearing huge, baffoonishly-cushioned, downhill-confidence-inspiring, Meltzer-sanctioned clown shoes.  Joe and I were a study in contrasts on this section as he basically floated down the steep loose terrain barely touching ground clad in the Tarahumara-esque New Balance MT 110 prototypes.

I gradually made up the gap on the climb to Larry's Hole where we then proceeded to lose between 20-25 minutes going off on flagged trail that we weren't supposed to be on for another 10 miles or so.  Realizing that I wouldn't be in it for the win anyway it wasn't too big a deal to me but it was pretty energy-zapping to rejoin the course now having lost about 8 places or so. Somewhere in rejoining the course Scott Jaime fell back a bit and I didn't see him till the end of the race. I was able to pass a few folks on the long, difficult creek-bed descent to Pacific Mine but this was a tough stretch for me and I quickly lost sight of both Nick and Joe.  On this stretch into the aid station I ran and chatted a bit with Andy Dorais, another resident physician at the Univ. of Utah in Emergency Medicine into the aid station.

I caught Nick and Joe at the aid station and headed out shortly after them (in the process learning that Karl had now designated $1000 bucks for the winner given the off-course meanderings.)  Nick Pedatella, who had stayed on course, had about an 8 minute lead leaving the aid station.  Joe and I traded places for a while, pulling each other up the interminable climb back up to Hidden Peak but about half way up things started going south and I began bonking in earnest: a state unimproved by a 500-700 foot near-vertical grunt off trail up the side of a slope that had me stopping every 5 steps to avoid what felt to be an impending black-out.  Vision black around the edges, I finally topped out and took about a minute breather to regroup and get some calories and fluids in (had neglected this domain in my haste after going off course).  I stumbled off towards the tunnel and another seemingly unending descent before the final climb up the Peruvian Ridge.

While I felt like shit on the whole descent I began to feel pretty good again climbing the long spine back up to Hidden Peak, due in part to the renewed commitment to nutrition but also because of the spectacular scenery.  Despite climbing well I was now pretty far behind the two Nicks and Joe and knew that I didn't stand much of a chance of gaining ground on the 5 mile descent to the finish given my respective downhilling ability over the course of the day.  I focused my efforts instead on enjoying the last hour or so of the run and maintaining my 4th place- which I did until the finish.  6:23:25.  Without the detour this would have been close to 6:00 by my watch.  At the finish I was surprised to learn that Nick Clark had passed Nick P in the final miles to take the win by a few scant minutes and Joe was not far behind for 3rd.  Impressive stuff.

I hung out a bit at the finish line drinking some fluids and chatting and then cheered in Bethany, first Nannie to cross the finish line for a prize of 500 smackaroos and a nice new down puffy with a time of 6:44:30.  I then spent the rest of the afternoon basking in her reflected glory and congratulating myself for staying ahead of her all day.  In what has to be a first, she actually looked worse than I did upon finishing this one: probably something to do with having spent 2 weeks in Ghana with little running and then very minimal running for 2-3 weeks following due to injury.  Our recovery for this one was not helped by the fact that later that evening we boarded a red-eye flight to Maine with a squirmy Ada and slept about 7 minutes total.

Chris Helfer, finishing his first ultramarathon ever, placed 32nd in an impressive 7:26, becoming so hypomanically-excited and disinhibited in the process that he then proceeded to immediately sign up for running over 3 times that distance at the Bear 100 in a short 8 weeks time.  I like the cut of that man's jib.

A couple photos of the course from Tetsuro Ogato's FaceBook postings:

Course profile from


And check out some recent video of running in the Wasatch:

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