It’s hard to believe that this race could get even more competitive than last year. Just looking at the entrant list in the days leading up to the race was humbling (check out Talk Ultra’s men’s preview & women’s preview and iRunFar.com’s men’s preview & women’s preview). Even if I improved my time I’d likely not feature in the top 10 again. And it’d be next to impossible for Ryan, who came in 14th place last year, to squeeze into the top 20, much less break through the top 10 this time around. So we both just focused on a goal time. Ryan set his at sub-6 hours (he ran 6:11 last year) and we both decided that I should aim to finish within an hour of him – which meant that I would need to shave at least 32 minutes off of my time! Last year’s race went well for both of us but we also endured our fair share of struggles along the way – which meant we both had definite room for improvement this year.
Speedgoat 50K is infamous for its intense 11,500′ of climbing but every single step of uphill is matched by an equally relentless decent. I knew that if I wanted to break 7 hours this year I would have to focus particularly on releasing the brake on the downhills. I vividly remember during last year’s race hating everything about the rocky descent down Mary Ellen gulch (mile 11-14) and feeling completely dejected as runners flew past me like I was standing still. I also lost my 5th place position in the homestretch as Denise Bourassa caught up to me on the final 3000ft decent off of Hidden Peak to the finish.
I wrote my 2012 aid station splits on my forearm and focused on annihilating each and every segment, with particular ferocity on the descents. I bulldozed 8 minutes off of the first Hidden Peak ascent – I was warmed up and ready to unleash a beast on the Mary Ellen gulch descent. I blew past the first Larry’s Hole aid station and bullied that Mary Ellen gulch descent into submission in 53 minutes (7 minutes faster than last year). A super quick refuel at Pacific Mine and I set off to chase the four women (Krissy Moehl, Becky Wheeler, Anita Ortiz and Erica Baron) who I saw ahead of me and outrun the women who were hot on my heels (Sandi Nypaver and Francesca Canepa) on the 1-mile out-and-back section. I ran strong on the long and steady climb out of Pacific Mine last year but knew I could go harder this year. By the time I hit Larry’s Hole again I had knocked another 4 minutes off of my time, overtaken Anita and could see Erica ahead in the distance. With the steepest but most amazing part of the course ahead I pushed with my hands on my quads on the 20-47% grade off-trail slope. Boom! I slashed another 6 minutes off, blasted past the aid station and opened up through the tunnel. This next section is torturous as the course drops you 1500′ down the mountainside only to turn you back around and make you run back up along an incredible ridgeline. I had overtaken Erica but could see her not far below – just the motivation I needed to keep on pushing it to the top of Hidden Peak. With a quick adrenaline boost from seeing my friend Mike Randall at the top of the climb, I put my head down and charged the final 5 miles to the finish. I ran 1:30 minutes per mile faster on this final stretch this year than last year, opened up the gap between myself and the next woman and safely held on to my 7th place position. Success!
2012 / 2013
2012 / 2013
|1. Hidden Peak #1||8.4||2:01 / 1:53||2:01 / 1:53|
|2. Larry's Hole #1||10.6||0:22 / 0:20||2:23 / 2:14|
|3. Pacific Mine||15.5||1:00 / 0:53||3:24 / 3:07|
|4. Larry's Hole #2||21||1:23 / 1:19||4:48 / 4:27|
|5. Tunnel||23.6||0:57 / 0:51||5:46 / 5:19|
|6. Hidden Peak #2||26.2||0:51 / 0:46||6:37 / 6:05|
|7. Finish||31.2||0:54 / 0:46||7:31 / 6:52|
Last year, Ryan suffered on the climb out of Pacific Mine – barely managing to hold on to a power-hiking pace in the heat of the day. He knew that he could come most of the way to his sub-6 hour goal by just focusing on this section alone. Thanks to cooler temperatures and a lot more Rocky Mountain running under his feet, he exacted sweet revenge on the climb out of Pacific Mine by running every single god forsaken step of it this year.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss on a course as backbreaking as this one, but this year, we both knew exactly which battles we had to fight and how to fight them. And somehow or another we both managed to not only make our goal times (Ryan finished in 5:53 & I finished in 6:52) but also finished within the top 10 in each field!
Many people think that the Speedgoat course is big on elevation but not much else. I can assure you that the course is a proper mountain course with a heavy dose of technical terrain on top of the steep grades. The race course constantly switches between endlessly rock-strewn and monochromed tracks:
and thick, bright and fragrant meadows:
Can you spot the runner on the course in the photo below?
And that’s what makes this course “a Meltzer designed nightmare”! Every now and then just as you’d be plugging along on an open (but still hellishly rocky) trail, with no warning and for seemingly no reason at all, the little blue course marking flags would make a sharp 90° turn off the trail and lead you straight up the mountainside. No trail, no switchbacks, no mercy. Just straight up… and up… and up… and then down… and down… and down… and down!
Here are a few snaps of me and Ryan out on the course:
The top women:
As much as we spend most of the race begging for any excuse to put us out of our misery, actually making the decision to drop is one of the hardest things to do. The mind battles the body, battles the mind, battles the body. Ultrarunners are a tough breed who silence the inner daemons, push through the physical pain and carry on against all odds. There are moments, however, when stopping is the best decision you can make for your body, as agonizing as it is for the mind to surrender. Kerrie’s ankle injury from Western States 100M came back out to haunt her despite cutting her shoe to alleviate the pressure and pain. She was a sure contender for the top podium spot this year, however, we’ll have to wait ’til 2014 to see her win the big cash prize.
Special shout out to the Rocky Mountain Runners who came to cheer us on!