The SpeedGoat 50K is touted as the ‘hardest 50K in the USA’ and now I know why! This race is the brainchild, or quite possibly, stepchild, of one Karl Meltzer. The race is held at the Snowbird Resort located just southeast of Salt Lake City, UT. The course begins at an elevation of approximately 7,500 feet and climbs to an elevation of just over 11,000 feet. The race culminates with just over 11,000 feet of total elevation gain. And if that were not enough, the morning of the race, Karl warned us to be on the watch for 5 moose that were wandering in the area of the race!
Day Before the Race
I arrived on Thursday evening where I met Erin. As an aside, I met Erin last year running my first 100 miler, the Pine Creek Challenge, as she was pacing Gina. Erin and I picked up our respective rental cars and made our way to Snowbird.
After a good nights rest, I got up and met Erin and we drove back to the Salt Lake City Airport to pick up Gina. We were all very hungry, so on our return to Snowbird, we decided to stop for breakfast. After eliminating a few options, we finally settled on Johanna’s Kitchen. What a great find. Just what we needed prior to taking on SpeedGoat the next morning.
Our first task was to undertake some reconnaissance of the actual race course. The course appeared to be well marked with blue Hoka tape and flags. Although, the trails did not appear to be very technical, I was beginning to feel the effects of the altitude.
We hiked back down to Snowbird where we decided to take the ski-lift up to an elevation of 10,500 feet. However, before Gina would have any part of that of that, she insisted that we ride the Mountain Coaster! Needless to say, that was a lot of fun!
Following our conquering of the Mountain Coaster, we ended our stint on the mountain with a ride up the ski-lift. Even though we were at an elevation of 10,500 feet, we were still about 500 feet from the top! It was here that we took in the expanse and beauty of the mountains.
My alarm was set for 4:30 am; however, that wasn’t necessary as I was awake by 3:30 am! I tried to fall back to sleep, but gave up and climbed out of bed at 4 am. After making a weak cup of hotel coffee, I began the multitasking ritual of dressing, eating and applying Body Glide at almost the same time! It is amazing how proficient one can become with such things…
The weather was supposed to be in the mid-50’s in the morning and climb into the mid-80’s in the afternoon. The lack of tree cover meant that sunscreen was going to be necessary.
We decided to depart for the race start area around 5:20 am as we were told by hotel staff the it was only about a quarter of a mile away.. Wrong! As it turned out is was at least a mile. Fortunately, we met some race staff about halfway through our journey and were offered a ride. We were all very thankful.
While waiting for the race to start, and in between intermittent bathroom breaks, I was able to catch glimpses of some of the elites. It was exciting to see the likes of Sage Candady, Anna Frost, Ellie Greenwood, Hal Koerner, etc.
We’re off! Although some much faster than others! It was now that we began the long arduous 8.4 mile climb up to Hidden Peak. This climb wasn’t all that bad as I was able to run most of the lower altitude portions of the trail but as we reached higher elevations fast walking became part of the mix. As I inched forward and upward, I took time to appreciate the beauty as we passed through mountains flowers in full bloom, sections of snow, scree and areas of very sharp angular rocks. Let’s just acknowledge that hiking made up a large part of the latter stages of this climb up to Hidden Peak! When Hidden Peak was finally breached, a little more than 2.5 hours later, it became apparent that the mileage on the course map was there merely for entertain value!. I say this because it was actually 9.4 miles to Hidden Peak and not the advertised 8.4!! But the day was young and I was still in good spirits.
As I reached Hidden Peak, it was like reaching a party – the Red Bull truck was playing party music, the aid station assistance was incredible and lots of people were just milling around. I have to give a huge shout-out to the aid station volunteers. You didn’t have to ask for assistance. The volunteers would run up and ask what you needed and immediately seek to fulfill your request.
The next 8 plus miles meandered down the mountain through Mineral Basin to the turn around at Pacific Mine was relatively fast. The trails were great, fast, technical and steep. There was only one section of trail that resulted in hiking. There was about a 2.5 mile section that was comprised of, as Sage Candady said, human head sized rocks. Somehow, Sage was able to run this section while most of us ‘humans’ were forced to walk long sections to avoid tripping!
Upon reaching the halfway point, Pacific Mine Aid Station, the sun was out and it was warming fast. Again, the aid station volunteers were excellent. They were very efficient in filling bottles, ferrying popcicles, and providing either a cold pitcher of water and/or a cool towel to your head to cool you off. The water was COLD but most welcome! It was also at this point that Erin and Gina caught up with me.
Now it was time to begin the final 16 miles. Together, Gina, Erin, Marky-Mark (don’t ask) and I set-off. It was on this climb that I started to fade. For some reason, this 5 mile plus unrelenting climb taxed my breathing. I felt the need to stop to catch my breath every few hundred feet or so. It was also during this stretch that I concluded that walking poles would have been of great assistance. Lesson learned! This was the most unrelenting climb! Every time I rounded curve, it appeared as if the crest was near but only to disappear into another incline! Ugh!
Sometime during this section, it became apparent that I, most likely, would miss the aid station cutoff by a few minutes. Once I finally reached the top, I was able to bomb down the hill. I thought I might just make it! However, upon crossing the last stream about 1/3 of a mile from the aid station, the volunteers were walking towards me. I knew that I had just missed the cutoff.
What a bummer! My very first DNF!!! Although I was disappointed, I was not terribly upset. This was a hard race in which more than 30% of those starting DNF’d! Another interesting note is that only 4% of those who finished were not from the arid mountainous western USA. While sitting under the tent reflecting, I was jolted back to reality as the aid station volunteers began running back and forth – apparently a person, or two, had collapsed somewhere on the trail. I was happy that I made it as far as I had.
I eventually made my way back to the hotel room. I showered and drove back to the Finish Line to look for my friends. It was here that I saw Erin. Erin also DNF’d – she missed the 26 mile aid station cutoff by about 4 minutes! Tough call! We waited for Gina who was the only one of our group to finish. Gina made the 12 hr finishing cutoff with 38 minutes to spare!
1. Drink more water. Although, I was consuming 2 bottles of water between aid stations, I began to feel like I was suffering from dehydration towards the end.
2. Hiking poles! I have never used them, but they appear to be very helpful to many towards the end of the race.
3. You can never do too many hill repeats!
Random pics of the elites and Anna Frost jubilant with her winnings: