Speedgoat 50K, Snowbird, UT 5,5

Elevation Gain: 11,693'; High Point: 11,051'
July 30, 2011 - I made a "Speedtrip" to get to Speedgoat by first traveling to
Vail, where I rented a car which then delivered me to Snowbird Ski Resort 
after an all-day drive.  After finding a parking lot close to the start of the race
to stop and rest, I got a good night's sleep before almost sleeping in and
missing the start.  I arose after 0500 and hurriedly got around, taking care
of business, then checking in for the crisp 0630 start.  The event starts up the
catwalk at the base of the Snowbird Ski Resort.
                                                  Aerial View of Snowbird Ski Resort

I decided to start easy as it was the beginning of a four-week vacation to be
filled with lots of mountain climbing and more racing planned.  I didn't want
to put it all out there on the first day of my vacation, so I got into line once the
trail became single track, winding back and forth on switchbacks through the
woods as we wound our way ever gradually up the ski slopes.


Because of the slow rate of climb it seemed to take forever to reach the first
water stop at 3.5 miles, called Mid Gad.  With continued climbing there was
little change of positioning as everyone settled into a comfortable walk/run
pace.  The climb would ultimately reach the ridge at Hidden Peak at 7.7 miles,
but not before ascending a steep snow-covered bowl with 500 feet of assisting 
ropes to keep from slipping back with each step in the snow. Below is a picture 
of Little Cloud Bowl and the climb to the ridge (without snow).


Spring had come late to the mountains, so there was a lot of snow remained.  
Traction devices would have been nice, but the snow was soft enough even
early in the morning to self arrest when slipping backwards.  I found salvation
when I finally reached the aid station at Hidden Peak in 2:27:23, as I found 
indoor plumbing to relieve some pressing lower GI problems I had been having 
for a couple of days.  Whew!  After relaxing a few minutes and refueling I 
headed across the ridge toward Mt. Baldy, highest point of the course, where 
I found a gurney for helicopter extraction turned upside down near a small 
weather station there.  Guess it was that kind of race!  Below are pix on the 


The downclimb from Mt. Baldy was precipitous, again with more ropes, and 
required careful foot placement in the loose rocks, shale, and scree to 
negotiate successfully.  I was feeling good after Hidden Peak and running 
well within myself, though my lower back had become tight with so much 
initial vertical.  The trail was rocky and steep going down the other side
of the saddle to the next aid station, called Larry's Hole at 9.9 miles.

After this I began to recognize a pattern where I would climb past several
runners who would in turn race past me down the hills.  For the next three plus
miles we followed a cobbley stream bed down Mary Ellen Gulch that was 
quite challenging to the feet and one's agility.  I managed to keep a good 
pace for the entire descent without falling or being passed by anyone before 
leveling out at the bottom for a mile into the turnaround aid station at Pacific 
Mine, mile 14.4.


Temps were heating up mid morning as we climbed back toward Larry's
Hole via a different route through the woods on an old Jeep road, mostly.
It was slow going enough that the run became more social as runners
seemed to move more in small groups.  One 23-year-old from Duluth 
named Meg kept my attention for much of the rest of the race.  Bubbly
and smart we talked geology and flowers, philosophy, and racing.  She
was a TA in geology at the University there.  The rocks here in Utah were
a mix of limestone and quartzite, a metamorphic concoction unlike the
sandstone and igneous formations I would enjoy later in Colorado.

While we had climbed the entire way up Miller's Hill to reach Larry's Hole 
at 19.4 miles, it would serve as a reprieve, in hindsight, for what we would 
face in the next segment of the course.  After a quick stint on a valley
service road we would bushwhack straight up the grassy ski slope.  We
were advised not to step on the flowers or create any kind of trail, or
this new section could not be used again.  While the steep section was
short it still climbed about 400 feet in just .18 miles, which is the 
equivalent of over 2000 feet of steep climbing per mile.

After crossing a fairly steep snow slope with kicked in steps to avoid
what could have been a nasty glissade off course, we reached the Tunnel
aid station at 21.5.  We ran for a couple hundred yards through
a skiers' tunnel, linking the other side of the mountain with the ski lift
on the resort side.  Emerging from the lit tunnel there was even more
snow than previously, pehaps up to twelve feet along the road that had
been plowed to allow us to run on the catwalk below the lift.  From
here it was a race straight down the catwalk at a good stretched
out pace before climbing back along a rib leading back up to Hidden Peak.

Climbing the rib was long and arduous in the heat of mid day.  I was
running low on water, so drinking less to conserve, despite the heat.
I finally hit Hidden Peak the second time in 8:09:31 at 26.5 miles, not a very
quick marathon time, but reasonable given the climbs.  After refueling,
the rest of the route to the finish was downhill - five miles of switchbacks
and mostly dirt single track.  The highlight of the journey back had to be two
glissades across the snow fields we had climbed up Little Cloud Bowl.
While there were assisting ropes, I along with most of the guys I was running
with made two fantastic buttslides of about 200 yards each.  I was glad I
was wearing my spandex instead of a regular pair or racing shorts. I
couldn't help but let out a hoot and a holler as this was an enjoyable
escapade at this juncture of the event.

The rest of the way down was anti-climactic, as I crossed the finish in
9:11:41 for 104th place of 188 finishers, behind Nick Clark's winning
time of 6:09:50.  Hell, I'm old and not in a hurry anymore!  What can I
say?  This was the kind of race I could do again and again.  Very tough.
Very beautiful.  Full of danger.  Great people.  I thanked Karl Meltzer and
told him I enjoyed every step of it.  It makes me wonder why I fool with 
anything offering less.

                                                   Experience Speedgoat with YouTube