Speedgoat 50K, Snowbird Resort, Alta, Utah
Elevation Range 7600' - 11,000'    Vertical Gain/Loss:  11,000+'

Scrolling Photos
July 25, 2015 -  It was with great anticipation that I returned to Little Cottonwood
Canyon to once again take on the country's hardest 50K - Karl Meltzer's Speedgoat.
With the rains of Colorado behind me and nothing but sun and heat forecast ahead
I lined up with hundreds of other fit mountain fanatics for the 0630 start.  The first
objective was to make the over 4000-foot climb to the top of the resort to the first
aid station at Hidden Peak in about 8.4 miles.  Jumping immediately onto the
catwalk gave the field an opportunity to spread out before hitting single track that
would switch back and forth, undulating with variable up and down terrain to take
us to the top.  For the most part the catwalk is runable, as is the single track, but
with hundreds of folks ahead of you, invariably you end up getting into queue and
just biding your time walking when you know you could be running.  A lot of the
reason times for the middle to back-of-the-pack runners are higher than other 50K's
is because you are too often obliged to walk when you could run early in the race.

I found a place in line and was patient with the unfolding race.  It seemed a couple
days of inactivity left me a bit less fluid than I would have liked, but by three or four
miles into the day, I was clicking on all cylinders.  My 28-mile run around the Four 
Passes Loop in Aspen three days before did not seem to have any negative effect.
Everything was good as we chased up through the shadows toward our first objective
at the top.

Starting with a throw-away long-sleeve top it wasn't long before I was too warm.
Once we hit the sunlight at the top I got rid of it and was perfect with a tech shirt.
Over the top it became immediately apparent that Karl had reversed the direction of
the upper part of the route that would take us to the turn-around at the Pacific 
Mine aid station.  It was fine by me, but as the race unfolded it became apparent
that the course with the changes over the four years since I had first raced here made
the entire event much more challenging, not that it was ever anything less than
difficult to begin with.


Not too far down from Hidden Peak I caught a tip while running through the lush
flowers that crowded over the trail, crashing hard into a roll onto my back.  No
damage, but such a fall impacts your momentum and confidence in speed.  As
a result I became a bit more deliberate with foot placement going down the nearly
four-thousand-foot loss of elevation that would take us to the halfway point at
Pacific Mine.


Some speedier, less cautious folks passed right by me on the downhill, especially
on the long stretch that resembles running in a stream bed that goes on for several
miles.  All the pounding sent me into the bushes on a side trip to lose a few minutes
taking care of business.  Those I was running with were long gone.  Since I chose to
use my Brooks Cascadias I had no choice but to slow down because I didn't have the
cushioning needed to really hammer.  They felt really good the weekend before and 
I felt confident their lighter weight would benefit me in ascending the climbs.

The volunteers at Pacific Mine were super helpful in soaking everyone down to keep
core body temperature down.  Reaching half way in under four hours, the temperature
was already quite warm by 1030.  It could have been hotter; at least the humidity
was low and frequent time in the shade down in the lower elevations kept most of us 
away from heat issues.

I felt good as I got tanked up to begin the long four-thousand-foot climb back to the
top.  This is the point in the race where I take charge and move on the field.  And I
did.  In the seven miles it would take to reach the tunnel at the top I pulled back at
least fifty other contestants.  No one passes me at altitude after the first half of the
race.  No one.  My legs were strong and I was able to lay down a consistent,
relentless, tortoise-like attack while keeping my effort below the anaerobic threshold,
pulling back better runners one step at a time.  Anyone can run fast in the early 
stages, but do you have a depth of reserve and experience to draw from when the 
going gets tough?  I felt really good when complemented by a guy who was a Tibetan
Sherpa living in Albuquerque.  He and a couple others told me no one ever passes 
them running up a mountain, let alone a graying old soldier like myself.  Such praise
only served to stroke my ego and eep me moving.

Moving through the tunnel with less than ten miles to go I headed down the catwalk
for about a thousand feet, staying well ahead of those in tow.  Being alone I missed
the vital turnoff to single track on the outside of a curve in the road.  Continuing for
another five minutes or so I had this sense that I was off course.  Turning around,
I headed back up the way I came.  Some tourists out for a hike confirmed my worst
suspicion.  I figure I lost about fifteen minutes on the field that I had worked so
steadily to move in front of.  Finding the correct route I then began to pull back many
of the same people I had already passed while making the climb up the ridge back
to Hidden Peak.  When the climbing was done there were only six miles left of
mostly down hill running.

Starting down hill with some of the same people I was back and forth with all day
I moved carefully through the switchbacks that cut through a broad field of talus.  My
feet were sorer than I would have liked, largely because of my choice to use Brooks
shoes.  With six miles to the resort I had about 75 minutes to finish in nine hours.
I had heard Karl had modified the course by adding a couple hills on the way down.
What I didn't appreciate until I saw them was just how severe the hills would be.
My legs were still good so I made progress on those ahead of me on the climbs.

You get anxious when you can see the finish a few miles below where you started in
the valley.  The catwalk went to single track and then it was back to steep catwalk
before the final couple miles of more reasonable single track.  I maintained my
position in the final miles, watching foot placement so as not to make a faux pas
because of fatigue and finish anxiety.  A couple of the guys ahead of me told me I
had run right past a cow moose and its calf, but I had my eyes on the rocks and never
saw them.  I did have a mule deer doe come within fifteen feet before it wheeled into
the brush.

The finish was bittersweet.  I was still strong and finished about ten minutes faster
than I did four years ago.  Given my getting off course for fifteen minutes and the
increase of difficulty of course design, I was pleased with how good I felt at the
conclusion.  The weather was hot by mid afternoon, so I grabbed a handful of Red
Bulls along with my swag and boogied out of there after a minimal amount of 
exchange with some of those I was running with.  Heading into SLC I had a very
pleasant dinner at a Japanese place with my young friend Martin after cleaning up at
his place. The evening had me driving to and reaching the TH for the next day's 
objective of climbing Mount Nebo.  After such a grueling race effort the next day's
climb would tell a lot about my overall conditioning.