I only read about the SpeedGoat on the race director's website and watched a few YouTube clips of the race in years past. Karl Meltzer, the race director, is one of the best ultrarunners of all time. I have followed his career and he is the epitome of an ultrarunner, including his altered psyche. Yes, ultra endurance athletes are a bit "off" upstairs and Linda and I experienced this first hand on Saturday.
This is the most aggressive course I have ever run in a race or even during training. There are many parts that I compared to certain pieces of the Leadville 50 and 100 courses but the SpeedGoat takes the cake for difficulty. Karl's plan was to make it the most challenging 50k in the States and it certainly held true. The course was either up or down with very little opportunity of "flat" running. In fact, many of the downhills were littered with rock beds, steep grade or loose dirt so it made it difficult to actually run downhill.
Nevertheless, Linda and I started the day with a positive attitude and navigated the course the best we could. There were many lessons along the way including how to climb straight up a snow bowl of about 1/4 mile, how to descend a super slippery and rocky section using a climbing rope, how to traverse a ski mountain to "unload" one leg at times to prevent premature fatigue and how to run through river and stream crossings. Physically it was tough but mentally, it never let up because attention to the trail was required 100% of the time. There are times in the Leadville 100 where you can just turn off your brain and run but not at SpeedGoat. If you do, you will fall and fall hard.
Winding up the mountain was fantastic and I was eagerly looking forward to the snow climb. I pointed it out to Linda as we approached it from a distance and saw the look in her eye suggesting that it would be tough but she was ready to take it on. For some reason, I felt like a kid at Christmas. The snow climb was a gift I had wanted and I loved every minute of the ascent. After ascending to the top of Hidden Peak then the highest point, Mt. Baldy (just over 11,000 feet), we rapidly descended then began climbing again followed by another long descent in a somewhat dry river bed. The rocks in the river bed were relentless, taking a toll on the bottom of my feet. It seemed like it went on forever but alas, Linda and I emerged onto a "normal" trail again and yes, you guessed it, began another climb.
I kept an eye on my watch the entire time and was getting a bit worried that we wouldn't make the cutoff time at the tunnel, which was set for 3:00pm. I did the math in my head and discussed it with Linda. At this time, the altitude was getting to her pretty well and it was forcing her to slow down a bit. I did my best to be her rabbit, trying to get us to the tunnel before 3:00pm. We were making great time and kept moving forward and when we finally arrived at the tunnel, I looked down at my watch and my shoulders dropped. It was disheartening to say the least: 3:25pm. Ugh. We had missed the cutoff by 25 minutes and while I had hoped they may let us continue, I did not want Linda to trudge on due to her altitude symptoms. We stopped, gave up our numbers and the volunteers greeted us with the message that we could take the chairlift back up and then down the mountain to the finish. I politely asked Linda if she minded if I continue to run and after she gave me the okay, one of the race officials gave me the thumbs up.
With Linda safely heading back up and down the mountain and without my official race number, I was off. My main goal was to beat the clouds that were rolling in. Lightning on top of a mountain is not the safest so I was a bit more motivated to attack the 2 mile climb to the 11,000 foot peak so I could begin my final descent. Now, the 2 mile ascent, true to Karl's ultrarunner mentality was not easy. In fact, there was one area were I was literally walking straight up a mountain. No traversing, just straight up. It reminded me of doing the Incline in Colorado Springs minus the railroad ties. I blazed up the 2 mile climb in 30 minutes, got to the top and then, as instructed by the race officials, followed the catwalk down the mountain. Of course, I started on the catwalk but I wanted a bit more of an adventure and I wanted to see more of the official course so I hunted for race markers and followed them. My quad burning downhill pace was exhilarating! I felt effortless descending and was reminded, once again, why I love trail running so much. It is my place of solitude!
I descended about 4 miles in 28 minutes and immediately knew that I would be feeling that one in the morning! By the time I finished running, I had been out there for about 9 hours and 45 minutes and covered approximately 27 miles. A good day in the books, especially considering that I went into this race 1) as a triathlete and 2) undertrained. I had only done two, 17 mile runs in the last 4 weeks and not in the trails in an effort to keep my Achilles from hurting too bad.
Of course, the real excitement of my day was my nutrition plan. I committed to having only Generation UCAN throughout the entire day as my calorie source and I must say, it was nothing shy of phenomenal. Here's the breakdown of what went in my body...
4:30am, 1 packet of chocolate UCAN
6:30am, race start
7:30am, began a bottle of chocolate UCAN
10:00am, began a second bottle of chocolate UCAN
1:00pm, began a third bottle of vanilla UCAN
Upon finishing, I had my post-workout bottle of vanilla UCAN.
I had water throughout and 10 SaltStick tablets. Yep, that's it. One bottle of UCAN pre-run. Three bottles during the run and one bottle post run. Never a dip in energy the entire day. Never.
Here are my hourly totals for the 9 hours and 45 minutes I was out there:
I watered the foliage twice and never felt any signs of altitude sickness, dehydration, hyponatremia or hypoglycemia.
This was my first true test of using Generation UCAN during an ultra (it works awesome for my triathlon training) and I have to say that it did not disappoint me. I remember my races at Leadville and all of the GI distress I would have and it is such a joy to be able to complete a race without worrying about when the gut is going to fail.
While I was not an official finisher of the SpeedGoat 50k, I am extremely proud of our efforts tacking that thing that Karl believes is a race. It was the most challenging endeavor that I have taken on in off-road racing (not even my Leadman series in 2009 can compare to this one day). My quads began to present with a bit of tightness as I approached the bottom of the mountain but I had the biggest smile on my face.
Karl-my hat is off to you for a well-run race. Will I be back? Can't say for sure but I do recall telling my crew during and after my first Leadville 100 that I would never do that again...I later went on to complete it again in the 2009 Leadman series so I'll let you ponder if I will return to conquer the SpeedGoat 50k.
Generation UCAN-you have the best product on the market for athletes. My test this weekend validates its use in ultra endurance situations. Thank you for a great product that is completely unique and different than anything out there!
Now, it's off to a hard recovery week so I can bounce back to triathlon training. I have 4 races in three weeks coming up. Gotta continue my quest for speed!