Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Speedgoat 50k 2012

Here is how it started. Randy Thorn asked me if I wanted his Speedgoat entry earlier this year and I asked him why he didn’t want to just do it himself. He said the travel costs and timing were not good so I took him up on the deal. He said he hoped it didn’t get me in any trouble with Michelle and I said I don’t know about that but my kids love you now because we are going to hit Lagoon on the way back!

We got down to Snowbird and checked in around 8:30. We got settled and ventured out to find the pool and watch the sunset which was awesome. It was the opening night of the Olympics too so we spent more time watching the opening ceremonies than I should have but it only happens every 4 years!

Race morning I got up at 4:15 and started shuffling around the hotel room getting ready. I had set all my stuff out the night before so it was pretty quick. We had asked the kids if they wanted to go to the start when we got there the night before and we got a unanimous NO to leaving the hotel at 5:15 to walk to the start. As Michelle and I are walking out Cami, Zach, and Kaylee decide they all want to come too. We hadn’t had time to check out the resort the night before so walking turned out to be the wrong decision. We got the car and drove down with plenty of time to spare.

We pulled in and parked and noticed Lynette and Dennis getting out of the car right next to us! We headed down to the lodge for check in ran into Donna, Frank, and Brian. We even saw another guy from Boise wearing his Shu’s singlet! It was fun to see all the ultra rock stars that were running the race too.

Michelle and I chatted with Vince and Chriss Romney while we waited for Karl Meltzer to give the pre-race briefing. There wasn’t anything terribly noteworthy in the pre-race other than the fact that he DID NOT want anyone to cool down, ice down, clean off, or for any other reason enter the creek near the finish line after the race. He told everyone repeat after me, I WILL NOT GET IN THE CREEK! Everyone got a good chuckle out of that.

After the briefing, we said our goodbyes and then headed down to the starting area. In typical ultra fashion the fast guys go to the front and most everyone else hangs out in the back. I like to be behind the fast guys but in front of the masses so I don’t get caught in the conga line that inevitably forms after the start. SO, I went up and stood behind some of the fastest trail runners on the planet! Killian Jornet, Anton Krupicka, Max King, Joe Grant, Anna Frost, and Nick Clark were among the front of the crowd. There were lots of other pros there but I had no idea who most of them were.

After the race started they all took off like lightning and I settled in to my plan of sticking with my heart rate in the 150-155 range (whatever that pace happened to be). It dictated when I needed to walk, run, speed up, or slow down so that I had a consistent effort over the varying terrain. I had a very rough plan of what time I wanted to be at each aid station but realized very quickly that races are always easier on paper! So my plan turned into following my heart rate, staying comfortable, and feeling good enough at the end that I could push if I wanted to.

The conga line never really happened in the first couple of miles, which was perfect. I had settled in with a group that was going just the right pace for me up the hill. There were only a handful of faster people that were trying to get around and we only passed a few people too. The trail goes from single track to road to cat track in places so there was plenty of room to get around. The amazing views of the mountains across the canyon, the rocky face above, and valley below began to open up as we climbed and climbed. To my surprise I decided to skip the first water stop. Anyone who has ever run with me knows that I never pass on the fluids but at Salt Flats I spent more time taking care of business than running in the second half so I wanted to be a bit more conservative with the water. When I passed water stop at just over 4 miles I had been out for only 50 minutes (1700/700 gain/loss) and I had plenty left.

The next 4.3 miles (2500/700 gain/loss) took us up several cat tracks that led to an enormous rock field. Running through the boulder was a bit daunting at first. The rocks seemed to interlock and not roll under your feet which made it a bit easier to get through. Once we popped out at the top of the rock field there was another cat track that was a welcome sight even though it was still quite uphill. The last several hundred yards before the Hidden Peak aid station were STEEP but the crowds cheering made it pass quickly. Someone even remarked that I still had a smile on my face, no surprise there. I always have a smile :D I got to the top in 2 hours almost on the dot which was a good pace and more importantly I felt good. After quickly grazing at the aid station on bananas, grapes, cookies, and M&Ms I headed out just as they handed me my water bottles back. The total aid station stop was maybe two minutes.

Before the race I was torn on whether or not I should take trekking poles. Of any race, this is probably the one for poles with all the elevation gain and loss. Michelle has some really nice Black Diamond Z-poles but I have used them exactly zero times. When I climbed the ski slopes at Bogus with Dennis and Lynette I used a ski marker I found in the weeds and it seemed to help. I normally carry hand held water bottles which made it even more of a decision since I am not used to carrying a pack either. SO, I compromised and brought everything but the kitchen sink! I started the race with my two hand held water bottles and wore my UltrAspire Spry race vest for pockets. My plan was to put the poles, my Nathan Trail Mix belt (that has two 10 oz water bottles), and a 20 oz water bottle that would fit in the front pocket of the Spry once I ditched the hand helds in my drop bag at the Hidden Peak aid station. I even borrowed Christie’s Nathan pack and took with me but left it at the hotel. My thinking was that I would switch out my stuff after the first climb so that I would have the poles for the second climb.

So after all this over-thinking, when I got to the aid station I said screw it and blew out of there in record time! I was feeling good and didn’t want to mess up the good day I had going!

After leaving I headed down from the peak and around to the backside cat track. It wound down a few switchbacks and onto a gorgeous single track trail through the wildflowers. I had been taking pictures before this but only on the uphill power hikes so that I wouldn’t waste too much time. The flowers were too beautiful not to stop even though it was downhill. There were several photographers there and as I passed I said to one of them this view made the climb to the top all worth it! From there the trail winds mostly downhill to the next aid station which was Larry’s Hole at almost 11 miles. I arrived 2:20 into the race and this section had roughly 400 feet of gain and 1400 feet of loss. I got a chance to say hello to Mike Place who was checking in runners as I breezed through.

The stretch between this aid station and Pacific Mine is roughly 5 miles with 750 feet of gain and 2500 feet of loss. Almost 400 feet of the gain comes in 0.4 of a mile just after leaving Larry’s Hole and climbing up over Sinners Pass. It was a grunt and I was glad to pop out over the top! After cresting the pass we dropped down into Mary Ellen Gulch which was on a ‘forest service’ road I’ll call it. Michelle told me afterwards that someone at the tram told her Snowbird gets 500 inches of snow on an average year. When 41.7 feet of snow melts each year, apparently the runoff takes everything but the boulders out of poor Mary Ellen. There was a stretch of 3 miles that was nothing but a collection of rocks. It was all downhill but tricky to navigate. I got passed by many runners as my inability to run the technical downhill showed. There was one other poor soul that was just as slow as me and when I caught him at the end we got a good laugh at all the people who had just mowed us down.

From the end of Mary Ellen Gulch we started a really pretty out and back section to the Pacific Mine aid station. It is the low point on the backside of the course and is covered in groves of aspen trees. Since this was the only out and back section it was the first time we could see who was close in front of us. Just as I got to the aid station I passed by all the runners who caught me on the downhill and even saw Frank. I got there 3:20 into the race. The aid station captain seemed to be Roch Horton. He runs the best aid station at the Pocatello 50 and Pacific Mine was just as nice! They had hand towels soaked in ice water and popsicles which were amazing. This was probably my longest aid stop at maybe 4 minutes total. I wanted to make sure I drank plenty of fluids and ate all that I needed to get me back up to Larry’s Hole aid station. I was surprised they didn’t have gels on the table and asked but they didn’t have any at all. So I stuck 3 shortbread cookies in the front pocket of my pack and headed out with my Popsicle. I didn’t have high hopes for the cookies actually lasting. I figured they would get wet from the sweat dropping off my hat or the water I kept pouring on my head at every creek crossing. Amazingly they made it unscathed up the hill.

Just as I was about to turn uphill at the end of the out and back I saw Dennis coming towards me. I thought I might have been ahead of him but wasn’t entirely sure. It’s no secret that I have wanted to beat Dennis in a race and see his famous clap pushups at the end when he finishes. When I passed by I knew that I was ahead by 20 minutes. At this point I was focused on keeping up my nutrition, hydration and uphill power hike but I definitely used this as motivation to keep pushing. Dennis has better endurance than just about anyone and always finishes as strong as he started which I found out at Bear last year when he put an HOUR on me in the last 7 miles!

The long climb up to Larry’s Hole from Pacific Mine is about 5 miles with 2600 feet of gain and 800 feet of loss. This section was a bit hot when we were at lower elevation and without the benefit of tree cover. At one point there was what looked like a spring that was being piped to the side of the road. I stopped and filled up and the guy next to me asked if it was a spring. I said, I don’t know but it looks good to me! I drank and he kept going! We continued up and over Sinners Pass again and down through the trees before climbing back to the aid station. I got there right at 5 hours and still had 10+ miles to go. I later found out that the leaders finished the race 15 minutes later!

After leaving the aid station the big climb up to Mount Baldy kicked us right in the gut! For the most part this stretch was either bushwhacking or narrow single-track. This 2 mile section gained 1600 feet with a loss of 300 and took me over 51 minutes. That was without stopping too, just slow forward motion up the hill. I caught Mindy Campbell on the uphill and we chugged along to the top and when she crested the hill she went into turbo mode never to be seen again! I think she finished 30 minutes ahead of me. I need downhill lessons from her! 

At the top of Mt. Baldy there were some spectators there with a cooler and lawn chairs just hanging out. I asked if they wouldn’t mind taking a picture of a baldy on top of Mt. Baldy which they were happy to do and then I headed down from there. The descent was rocky and technical but a welcome sight after the last two miles. At the bottom in the saddle between Baldy and Hidden Peak there were more spectators that offered me a Popsicle which was heaven. I took the whole thing in one bite and handed the wrapper back with a big Thank You!!

The next aid station is the Tunnel Aid Station that came at mile 24 just after a short descent from the saddle. I arrived there with a time of 6:06 and was cheered in by a number of spectators who had ridden the tram to the top of the mountain and walked down to see their runners. It was a very uplifting moment to hear the cheers. I waved my arms a bit to get them excited and came rolling in with a huge smile! A very quick refueling that consisted of bananas, grapes, 2 PBJ squares, coke, and another popsicle for the road hit the spot and I was on my way very quickly again.

My very rough plan I mentioned earlier consisted of getting to Hidden Peak at mile 27 by 1:30 or 7 hours into the race and then getting to the finish line by 2:30 with a 1 hour descent. Early on I decided to run comfortable and see how it all worked out and now I was within reach of my goal so I decided to push it to the Hidden Peak. The only thing that stood between me was 3 miles and I had 52 minutes to get it done after the aid station stop. The only problem is the 1.5 miles drop 1200 feet which was crazy steep for my tired legs. The following 1.5 miles is 1500 feet of gain with 1140 coming in the final one mile before Hidden Peak. I gave it everything I had and actually passed a number of people on the downhill. Too bad they were hikers, kids, and old ladies!! Once I hit the bottom the mountain goat power hike went into high gear. About halfway up the climb Brian Snyder was coming down the other direction. Brian was there with Frank so I asked him if he was close and Brian said he was in the next group of trees just up the hill and told me to go chase him down! This gave me a bit a motivation to pick up the pace as I charged up the hill. Charging might be a strong word because it took me 28 minutes to do the last mile before Hidden Peak but I did reel in about 5 people in that mile although I never did see Frank.

 As I got near the top I saw Michelle and the kids waiting for me and I got a bit emotional. It had been a long day and I had pushed the whole way. I was very happy to see them and they helped get me situated at the aid station as I ditched my UltrAspire vest and hand held water bottle and put on my Nathan waist belt. I also took a 20 ounce bottle of Gatorade. I was very close to my goal of being at the top by 1:30, coming in at 1:34 and change. I mugged for a couple of pictures with Michelle and told the kids I would see them at the finish and headed down.

The final 5.3 miles to the finish has virtually zero uphill and 3400 feet of descent. The second part of my goal was to make it from the final aid station to the finish in less than 1 hour. Over this distance it is a modest pace of about 11 minutes per mile. But we had to traverse the very technical rock field once again and the miles were beginning to take their toll on my legs. I decided to just go for it and see how it turned out. I was sure that I would get passed at any moment by Dennis too, so I pressed on.

The rocks slowed me down a bit but I definitely enjoyed the trip down more than the trip up! Once I got out of the rocks and was able to get into a rhythm my tired legs began to loosen up quite a bit. I managed a 10 minute pace over the final 3.3 miles which made up for the slow going through the rocks. Just before the finish the course has several switchbacks that are very frustrating because the finish line is within sight for a long time. About a mile from the finish I toed a big rock in the trail that rattled every joint in my body and nearly took me to the ground. I had some unpleasant things to say to the rock and the worst part was I dropped my water bottle! Bending down to the ground at this point in the day is not something I was looking forward to! Anyway, on the final switchback I unknowingly cut it short by 50 feet. Someone was in the process of passing me and alerted me to my error so I turned around filed in behind him to the finish line. As I rounded the last corner the crowd cheered me in and it was an amazing feeling. I was really looking forward to seeing Michelle and the kids at the finish line but they weren’t there! My kids have never seen me cross the finish line at an ultra so I was kind of bummed. They arrive about 2 minutes after I finished though.

I finished in 8:06, which was 1:02 from when I got to the Hidden Peak aid station. The aid station stop was a couple of minutes but I’ll take it! I sat and had some pizza and recovery drink while the kids told me how bad I stunk! We waited at the finish hoping to see Dennis before heading back to the hotel but never did see him. As it turned out, he came in just a few minutes after we left. I told him afterwards that I appreciated him pushing me all day whether he knew it or not. Dennis has been a wonderful mentor for me and a number of other aspiring trail runners in the area.

All in all I had a great day, never felt sick, ate like a king, drank like a fish, never peed once, stunk on the downhill, killed it on the uphill, and had a wonderful time! The course was beautiful, challenging, and worthy of the nickname Karl gave it, Speedgoat 50k - A REAL MOUNTAIN RACE!

After each race I like to do a self-assessment to remind myself what went right and what I can work on in the future:

• They didn’t have any gel on the course, strange? I ate real food from start to finish with the exception of one gel I had in my pack.

• I can’t run downhill with any efficiency but have asked advice from a number of people who are more experienced and smarter than me. I’ll get it figured out.

• Keep the gear, bags, and distractions to a minimum. This was probably the best day I have ever had at aid stations. I am learning through experience what is actually necessary.

• Run my own race and make time and goal decisions near the end of the race, not the beginning. Making the decision in the beginning leads to meltdown from going out too fast and over-thinking the entire thing.

• No matter how you feel or how the run is going, remember that you are lucky and fortunate to be here, right now, in this moment, surrounded some of the most beautiful scenery mother nature has to offer….and always have a smile on your face. NO MATTER WHAT!

......(Pictures and garmin stuff I posted earlier)

Me and Michelle at the start - just happened to get Mike walking behind us too!
Getting ready to start
The rock field leading up to Hidden Peak the first time

Wildflowers just before Larry's Hole Aid Station

The 'road' down the Pacific Mine - about 3 miles of this?

Pacific Mine out and back

Climbing up to Mt. Baldy

Still climbing up to Mt. Baldy

Baldy on Mt. Baldy

Leaving Hidden Peak - Yes it's that steep. Heading toward the rock quarry to the right of the lady.

Running back down the rock field after coming off Hidden Peak

Me thanking Karl Meltzer for putting on such an awesome race at the finish

Fortunate to have my family there to share in the fun!

Some of these are my pictures and some of them are from this race report a friend sent me (they were better than mine)...


  1. Ryan--You ROCKED--literally!
    Great job on all that hiking, and Paul said you're a stud for doing Lagoon all day Sunday!

  2. Thanks Kathy! I have to admit I was going to make some smarty pants remark and then click on the link by your name to see if it was you. My parents names are Paul and Kathy! Here is my smarty pants remark anyway. I AM A STUD for going to Lagoon! That was more draining than the race!

  3. I have to admit, I had no idea that Speedgoat was such a beautiful, diverse course before I saw all of these pictures! It looks like an amazing place to race! Great job! And, P.S. The Mt Baldy picture is my favorite! :D

  4. I have to tell you Christie, this is the cliff notes version of the race report. More to come.....

  5. Great job Ryan, I love your write-up. Thanks for the motivation to continue to push myself, and as you say, enjoy it too!

  6. Les, I always love passing people on the trail with a smile and try to incite the crowd with my enthusiasm. At Silver City just before I saw you I saw some pretty long faces on a few people. They were on mile 2 or 3 and we were just over 20 I believe. I came bombing through yelling, SMILE PEOPLE THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!! WHOOHOO!!

    Having fun is always my first priority :)

  7. Great write up. The course is pretty but it looks very technical. Running 3 miles on the "road" to Pacific Mine does not look fun. Great job.

  8. I've read a ton of race reports of Speedgoat getting ready to finally do it myself and this is hands-down the most detailed, helpful of them all (and has the best photo journey as well!) :D I kid you not, I took down an entire full page of notes from everything here and really think I can picture the course now. Thanks, coach! I can always count on you!!! I'll do you (and most importantly - ME- proud this weekend!!) :D


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