It's been a nice little break from racing. My psyche reset, I felt my training coming along mostly just because I have loved spending time on the Boulder trails and getting up high in the Colorado mountains. Time in Leadville, Silverton and on top of some peaks has been rewarding outside time, connecting me with this state I moved to over 18months ago, but am just getting to know.
About a month ago I got the itch to run a race and checked in with Karl about the possibility of checking out his Speedgoat 50k course. After a few high miles and hearty workouts it seemed like that would be a great test as well as an awesome fit to the start of a developing road trip. The Speedgoat 50k would kickoff my 6 week road trip filled with lots of fun visits, some great running and time in Utah, Washington, Oregon and California. My logic for living out of Simba again? Rather than ping back and forth through DIA every other week, it seemed to make more sense to just pack up the things I need and stay out for the duration. I needed to be in Salt Lake for the OR show and Speedgoat fell the Saturday before, a perfect start.
Yesterday finding my way to Snowbird with some good friends that were volunteering made the start to the early morning mellow. A little back story on these good friends, Lesli and I met while crewing Karl on the Red Bull Human Express October of 2010. Living in a motorhome for a month crewing Karl every 5 miles, 50 miles a day has a way of bonding people. There will forever be a connection between this small crew and the many stories that came out of that journey. I feel lucky to get to connect the dots and spend time with her & her husband while also running Karl's race.
The energy for the race quickly built as I got closer to check in and the the starting line. The Ultraspire crew was there selling cups along with the collection of awesome supportive sponsors. It felt like an event, well organized, good energy, efficient check-in, many speedy runners readying for the day, an obvious start/finish arch... yet had the good ultra feel with Karl on the mic going through the rules of the course and having us repeat our responsibilities as runners.
The course profile does not lie. The 8 mile climb out of Snowbird is a legit start and does a good job of spreading out the field fast. With enough double track to keep people flowing and not creating a congo line and a runnable grade that left me questioning... will I be able to run this grade at mile 20? But I wanted a test and I ran what I could and power-hiked when needed. A few dips down gave the legs a break before returning to the relentless up and we soon found ourselves cresting the top of Hidden Peak. With the mass number of spectators and cameras I couldn't help but feel like this was a taste of racing in the Alps, in fact the closest I think I've felt on US soil. Here we'd been climbing for 8+ miles and when we reach there top there is a good size crowd ringing cowbells and cheering us through. The ease of the tram allowed volunteers and spectators to easily reach the top and provide some good energy to the field of runners. Nice touch Karl.
Descending the other side found a series of photographers and with the abundance of wildflowers it was obvious why they chose that spot. Matt Trappe posted some of his photos today and he did a great job capturing some of the beauty we were privileged to pass through. My mental strategy was to adopt the motto 'take it as it comes'. I had only heard stories about nearly cresting a peak only to be diverted back down a few hundred feet and then twisting back around to truly go for the summit. Or how about off-trail, super technical, wicked steep climbs, quad busting descents; all indicators of a challenging event... I decided I didn't want to have any expectations of what the course was going to be like. This coupled with trying to test my body and fitness made it a little difficult to jug how to spread the peanut butter and I may have wound up a bit thin for those last two climbs, but oddly enough I enjoyed those tough spots the most. With the technical terrain, bouncing around on rocky descents, charging through off-trail uneven ground and breathing in the thin air there were countless times during the day that I was thankful I had spent time running up high, especially pacing Darcy for the final miles of Hardrock.
The climb to Baldy was taken directly from the Hardrock 100 course description and the final ridge line ascent bringing us back to Hidden Peak was absolutely gorgeous. You could look ahead at the skyline and make out the silhouettes of the runners working hard in their final uphill push. An image I have captured in my mind. Trusting that I would find some downhill speed I tried to suck down the final bits of my EFS liquid shot for a bit of energy, pushed my water bottles off my knees in hopes of gaining a few inches each step.
At the top I handed off one water bottle to a volunteer with the request of putting it in my drop bag and kept running. Time to Run, by Lord Huron (funny video, but I like the song) filled my ears and it seemed more than appropriate after the long hike up and the turn over I was now hoping for. Emma had past me heading into that last climb and while I kept her in sight on the climb I could not find her on the descent... but I still wanted to give it a try. It is fun to try and run fast at the end of a challenging run like this and throwing in the technical boulder field section and the steep gravely hillsides, pushing the pace also required a lot of focus. The only person I caught in those final 5 miles was Jon, the blue shirt I had been following all day. It felt a bit wrong to blow by him in my pursuit of the finish line and another place forward among the women, but testing my turnover rolled me down the hill a bit faster.
I didn't know where I was among the field, but using the chase helped in the final push and test of my body and fitness. The obvious Hoka arch awaited in the final switchbacks down, you could see it, but it seemed to be just one more switchback away. When I finally rounded the last corner and through the arch Karl stood on the other side with a pint glass and Speedgoat medal, but more was the proud look on his face. I'm not quite sure, but it felt like a proud Papa smile. Proud of the course, proud to see me finish it, happy to hear my enthusiasm for it. Thanks for a great run Speedgoat.
Perhaps my favorite part of running an ultra race is the people that come together around it. Such that we end up in these beautiful places running, it seems to make sense to stick around after and enjoy each others' company, hear the stories that happened throughout the day and share a bit of life outside of our time on the course. Snowbird and the Cliff Lodge were great places to spend the evening with fellow runners and round out an awesome event.
Race coverage: iRunFar.com on Twitter
Additional clothing: Buff
UltrAspire: Isomeric Pocket Handheld x 2 (Use this code for 20% off your UltrAspire order!! 9FUbzvTj)
Julbo: Ultra glasses
Additional Nutrition: Clif Bloks, Honey Stinger chews
Pro-Tec: pre and post run self massage - Travel Roller