The Grand Old Duke of York,
He had 10,000 men.
He marched them up the hill,
And he marched them down again.
Now when you're up you're up,
And when you're down you're down,
But when you're only halfway up
You're neither up nor down.
-childrens camp song
The Speedgoat 50k was to be a race like none that I'd done before. It was at altitude the entire way (low point of 7,600 ft) and easily had the most elevation gain per mile compared to any of the other events. Really, this would boil down to walking this thing as fast as I could.
On Saturday morning I rode down to the start with Denise Bourassa and Meghan Arbogast at a dark 5 AM. (See I'm dropping names already. I'll try not to trip on them). The race started at 6:30, but it was warm out and it was fun to mill about and visit with people and just enjoy the pre-race atmosphere. I picked up my race shirt, complete with the tagline "A Meltzer Designed Nightmare" and a free pair of Drymax sox. I visited a little bit with Mike from North Carolina whom I had lunch with the day before and Jason Loutitt from BC who won HURT this year. As usual the time went by pretty quickly.
Karl gave us a few minutes of pre-race instructions and we all queued up under the big Hoka arch. I was a little ways back from the front, making plenty of room for all the studs: Tony K, Killian, Joe Grant, Anna Frost, Jason, Gary and several others. After a few minutes of milling about here, we were sent on our way and onto a predominantly uphill jaunt for the next 8 miles. It took me a couple miles to really settle down and start putting out some good effort, since it felt like I was breathing through a straw. As I ascended the valley opened up and was really beautiful with jagged peaks all over and Salt Lake City way off in the distance. This was just a precursor for the views later on.
I gabbed with some people, but the field really spread out quickly after about four miles and most of the time I was alone, and going uphill it was really hard to talk and walk at the same time. I was glad to have my tunes on for all the quiet time. There were only a few downhills on this first climb up Hidden Peak, but they were pretty sweet. The first one was a really rocking hardpack singletrack that we could all really tear up. As we gradually made our way up, largely on rough jeep roads, the trees thinned out and the trail turned onto a big scree field. It had a clearly marked trail, but made for some really slow running since it was so rough. After completing this bit, and a little bit more road was a really steep section up to Hidden peak. 8.7 miles at an average pace of 13:02. Really kicking ass and taking names with that kind of split.
Fortunately the next 7 miles was largely down hill, albeit not easy downhilling. It did get off to an awesome start, though with a quick road down to the Larry's Hole Aid station, then coming out of there was a beautiful field of blue wild flowers as far as the eye could see, and we got to run right through the middle of them. Of course, as Karl would have it, after a carrot like this the stick wasn't too far behind. Coming out onto a road for a long downhill seemed pretty sweet, until the road turned into and endless path of baby skulls (loose rocks, yes, the size of baby skulls). This was an ankle twisting mess that really schooled me on technical running. The locals near me really tore this up, and while I ran it alright, was a bit humbled. After a while, I got into the out and back section just in time to see Anna Frost and Gary Robbins coming back and heading up the biggest climb of the day. This bit of road was easy and went into the turn-around at Pacific Mine, run by Roch Horton. They dumped some cold water on me and wrapped a towel around my neck while I chugged some EFS and filled up my water. Oh yeah, there was a woman dressed as a goat greeting us.
I was just over 3 hours at this point and thought that no matter how hard it got I was looking good for sub-7. Yeah. If only. So I started up the 3000' 3 mile climb almost right out of the AS. See what that does for your pacing. It was rough, and starting to warm up. Partway up, it did get a little overcast. On this long climb I downed my water pretty fast and really regretted only having one bottle. Fortunately, near the top, was a pipe spewing clean mountain water out of the ground. I dumped that over my head, refilled and continued
Leaving Larry's Hole, was a nice gentle cruise before starting the climb up Mt. Baldy at just over 11,000 feet. Near the bottom I caught up to Gary Robbins, who, living at sea level was absolutely knackered. We chatted for a few minutes before he crept under a tree to begin his puke fest (fortunately I missed that part). This was very slow going and for the next 3 miles I averaged 22:51. The trail to the top culminated in probably a 60 degree slope that you would not want to fall backwards on. There were people on top cheering me on, and they even gave me a Mr. Freeze so I could make it the other half mile downhill to the Tunnel AS.
Reaching the Tunnel was a big relief, or so I thought. As I remembered it, the climbing was done, so I asked how far to go, and they said 1600' down hill, another 1600' climb, then down to the finish. Ugh, over Hidden Peak again. It was here that I noticed my kidneys hurting, not bad, but enough to notice. I chugged some EFS quick and had a Popsicle, then started beating it down. For some reason I thought it might be a good idea to get to thicker air. Leaving the AS was through a 100m or so tunnel and nice and cool which spit me out right at the top of a downhill section. I think from here on out, I passed a couple people at this aid and at hidden peak, but no one got by me.
This penultimate down hill was a little over two miles long and was over with pretty quickly. There were a few tourists out, but I could do little more than grunt at them, trying to get out of here in the best time possible. By the time I started up to Hidden Peak I was pretty beat. It was hot, but not humid like back home in Minneapolis, and it had take a bit of a toll, especially combined with being up high all day. I started to close on one guy on the climb, but once I got up around 9000' he just started pulling away. It was pretty neat getting to the top this time, as there were about 20 people up there on both sides of the trail cheering and ringing cowbells, as hands on thighs I pushed through.
Another quick water load, and some instructions from medical regarding my kidneys and I could finally begin the nearly 3000' foot decent, without a lick of uphill. So down the jeep road and into the scree. I could see someone behind me a few minutes back, so was well motivated to push it and not get passed at the end. While some downhill is fun, after 4 miles it does get a bit old. Especially when you can see the finish line for most of it. As I got lower, there were more and more tourists out and about, and I even dropped a couple on bikes. OK, they were going pretty slow. The lower I got the hotter it got. Finally I hit that sweet single-track from early in the day and started traversing the mountain. Yea, almost done. Wait, I traversed right past the finish line. What the hell? At least it was supposed to go this way. Finally, I made the final turn, and relief as I crossed under the arch. Karl was there, and put his hands on my shoulders, asking me how it was. My answer was : "Before someone does that to me, we usually agree on a safe word."
This was a great race. I gave it my all and finished in 7:26, only three minutes faster than my 50-mile PR. I'm hoping that this fits into my schedule next year. Karl and his crew put on a really classy, well run event. Everyone at the aid stations has their crap down and I'm guessing has either raced ultras or worked aid many times. The post race was great with Ultragen recovery drink and all the pizza you can handle. I don't know if I can do it faster, but I'd really like to give it a shot.