I signed up for the Speedgoat 50K last year, shortly after a successful run at Sapper Joe. But I injured my knee for the first time a couple of weeks later and ended up deferring my registration. Unfortunately, I've spent most of this year injured, too, so I was going to defer one more time, but a few weeks ago Jared called and peer-pressured me into running. So, after a couple of weeks of light training and a longish run a few days before the race, I found myself heading up to Snowbird with Catherine and Elliott bright and early on Saturday morning.
Here's the elevation profile for the Speedgoat:
And here's my training mileage for the year up to the day before the race. Can you spot the problem?
Anyway, Jared talked me into running by telling me that he hadn't run much either. Of course, his not running much involved a ton of backcountry skiing, including a new speed record on the Grand Teton, whereas my not running much involved not running much or doing anything else.
We decided to take at easy on the opening climb and stay together until the tram. (Andy said he would do the same, but he was gone fifty feet into the race—probably a good call, as he would go on to finish seventh). And we mostly stayed together, I ditched Jared twice on the way up—once when he stopped to figure out how to get water from an aid station with no cups (how's the no bottle strategy working now, Samurai?) and again when he stopped to figure out how to cross a stream without getting his feet wet—but we were still together as we came into the final half mile to the tram station. But then we overshot the trail while climbing straight up a snowy slope, and Jared opened a small gap that would hold for eight miles or so when he slid back down to get on course as I tentatively picked my way after him.
I reached the aid station at the summit and paused long enough to drink some soda before tackling a quick, steep descent along the ridge and then climbing to the top of Baldy. From there it was a longer descent into Mineral Basin, which included a rocky shoot with ropes set up to help me and the other runners not die. Scary stuff.
From Mineral Basin it was a short climb over a ridge, followed by a long descent into American Fork Canyon. The descent was infuriating. I guess you could call it a fire road, but it was covered in rocks and super technical, making it impossible to maintain any speed or develop any sort of rhythm. Also, the course had been heavily flagged up until this point, the flags on the descent were few and far between, making me wonder if I had wandered off course. I reminded myself that I could always just run home if that were the case, but that turned out to be unnecessary, as there was a course marshal at the bottom directing me to the feed zone at the turnaround.
I arrived at the feedzone, comfortably in the top 20, just as Jared was leaving. I loitered for a while before setting back out on course, because I just couldn't bear the thought of the climb in front of me. Although I had felt pretty good for the first half of the race, the long descent had trashed my quads, and 16 miles was about as far as my training had prepared me for. I ended up hiking almost all of the five-mile climb back to Mineral Basin. I wasn't the only one hiking, but based on how many people passed me, I must have been hiking slower than almost everyone. (I say almost everyone because I caught and passed Jared about a mile out of the feedzone.)
I stopped at the feedzone in Mineral Basin to stock up on Jolly Ranchers, salt capsules and water, and I actually felt a lot better for the brtually steep climb straight up a ski slope to the tunnel. But the following descent took everything I had left, and by the time I hit the climb back up to the tram station I was done.
As I shuffled up the ridge, Jared blew past me, then another runner, then another. I eventually staggered into the aid station with my head pounding (from the altitude, the dehydration, the lack of carbohydrates, or some combination of the three) and unable to to walk in a straight line. One of the volunteers asked what I needed and I said a chair. As I sat there with several cups of soda, a tram arrived at the top, and I seriously thought about hopping in and DNFing, thinking I still had 8 miles and another climb to the finish. But when one of the volunteers told me it was only five miles, all downhill, I knew I had to get up and finish.
The descent was slow and painful and slow. And did I mention slow? My quads were so trashed that 12 minute miles downhill were a struggle, and I may have even walked a few stretches. For the last two miles or so I checked my Garmin every 10-15 seconds, wondering why the stupid miles were passing so slowly. But finally I hit the finish line in 7:26. Catherine and Elliott were there waiting for me, and I don't think I've ever been so happy to be done running.
Honestly, this was not a fun race. I was woefully unprepared, and I think I got lucky it went as well as I did. But although I promised myself repeatedly throughout the day that I was going to quit doing this to myself, I'm already planning to go back next year. Assuming I my knee will let me put in the training miles, I know I can do much, much better. My time was the time I deserved, but it wasn't even close to what I'm capable of. Watch what happens next time.