That was hard.
That was really hard.
Never before in the middle of a race have I openly shouted an obscene word at the race director (no he was not around, I was entirely by myself) until this race. And then of course nearly hugged karl Meltzer at the end, the RD, for putting on a great race and a brutal course.
I had no idea what I was in for at the Speedgoat. One of the most fantastic fields I've ever raced in with the likes of Max King, Ricky Gates, Kilian Jornet, Anton Krupicka, Nick Clark, Nick Pedatella, Brendan Trimboli (gonna be one of the top runners emerging)...it was a stacked field.
The race started out uneventful enough. I drove up from Pagosa on Friday night and arrived at the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird at 12am. Up at 5:00 for a 6:30 race start. Tired but not overly. I got plenty of sleep the days ahead because I knew it would be a long travel evening prior too.
Race starts with some undulating climbing up the first 8.4 miles to Hidden Peak. Following that was a drop through the most incredible field of wild flowers I've ever seen. No joke, they were absolutely incredible. It was the most amazing smell and sight. Hopefully I'll be able to snag some pics to add to the blog but right now, they will live in my mind as one of the highlight memories of the run.
I could already tell that something seemed off in my legs as I started getting the early early warning signs of cramping in my hamstrings and adductors. Usually not a problem early on, this has been an issue later in 50mile races for me the past couple years. The descent down to the turnaround is not with out a few steep efforts scattered in. 31 miles and 11K of elevation gain means that there's not alot of time for flat but that you have lots of steep descending and steep ascending. I didn't feel like my body would be able to handle quick descending and so I held back a bit. At the turnaround, mile 15ish, I could tell that I was going to have a long day. I wasn't able to get anything out of my legs for the 1 mile flat section to the Pacific Mine aid station at the turnaround and that should have been an easy thing to do at that point in the race.
There is an incredibly long moderately steep climb out of that aid station, that takes you back to Larry's hole Aid station. At this point, I had no idea what or where the course went so I had no idea what to expect. I did have to power hike everything with incline at this point. I was using my new Black Diamond Z-poles and was very glad to have had them along for this run. I don't even know how long the climb was but by the time i got to Larry's Hole I was beat. My legs were both cramping, I wasn't even running and my Left Fibularis Longus and Brevis had also started to cramp so my foot wasn't hitting quite flat during stride anymore. Hate that!
I took a breather at the AS and took in some water, watermelon and grapes. I must say that the AS's were all incredibly well stocked and the volunteers were fantastic. They knew exactly what to do and were very attentive to the needs of the runners. From this point, there is a long climb up to Baldy Peak before a drop back down to Tunnel AS. This is where I cursed Karl. Here's how it went down....
Climbing....climbing....oh, there are people on top of that peak, that must be it....climbing, hurting....climbing....oh, I have to go down that road before I can get back up to the people cheering me at the peak....^)(#_#...okay....descending....descending....ouch....and then....volunteer points up the side of a cliff and says...with a devilish grin...."up.".....%)*& Karl! And then a hands and fist, literally, climb up the side of this gulch to the top of Baldy. I had to keep stopping because my legs weren't working. It was horrible. The only redeeming fact at this point was that I thought this was the last climb and that then I was going to be able to recover and go down. What was I thinking? The top of this climb is Baldy Summit, from there you traverse a ridge to a saddle and then...descend down back into the same area that I just came up, which is on the opposite side of the mountain that I want to be on if i'm going to be descending to the finish.
That for me was the most down part of the run. I had my hopes set on recovering during a descent and realized that it wasn't over. So I dropped down back into the valley on the Southern side to Tunnel Aid Station. This was a great stop for me. I took 5 minutes, sat and just relaxed. I needed to regroup and get my legs back. I didn't realize that "tunnel" literaly meant tunnel. At this point the course goes back through to the north side via a tunnel in the mountain...pretty cool.
So I'll spare the rest of the details except to say that following this AS, there was about a 400' descent before a climb back up to Hidden Peak which was in truth the final climb. From there it was a slow descent. I did finally seem to come around with about 3-4 miles left and was able to get some speed into the finish but it was a bit late for me to break 7 hours. My A goal had been 6:30, B goals 7:00 and C goal was to finish. This race...I feel like hitting my C goal was a solid job well done!
A shout out to all the wonderful people I met, wonderful volunteers, great RD'ing by Karl and my car trip buddy Brendon Trimboli. Max King, my good friend from Bend, OR took 3rd on the day and put in a fantastic race and it was great to spend time catching up with him. Believe it or not, I will definitely go back and do this race again. It's a pain and suffering thing I think. Plus, I want to hit my A goal still.