After the race, Sarah and I went back to our hotel room where I opened my laptop and re-read my Canyons 50km race report and had to laugh. I felt I had run a pretty good race in Foresthill and I wrote of “running with gratitude and smiling”. Speedgoat was a completely different beast, almost a different sport, and involved a whole lot of swearing, snarling and teeth grinding.
Once at the start area I tried to position myself sixty or so runners back as I had decided earlier that seemed like a reasonable place to start. Karl sent us off and we immediately began our first climb of the day. It was close quarters for a while until the field sorted itself out over an hour later. Some of the running here was off trail, but nothing too rowdy yet. We emerged out of a meadow and onto the rocky switchbacks leading up to Hidden 1 AS. Sarah met me and got me in and out quickly.
The descent to Larry’s Hole is where the sun emerged and the wildflower extravaganza began. Flowers I recognized like penstemon, indian paintbrush and phlox but then lots of other stuff I’d never seen before. I was quick through Larry’s Hole AS and after a short climb, began the descent to Pacific Mine. I found myself at the top of what looked like a steep, boulder choked dry creek bed but was actually an ATV trail and part of the course. Mary Ellen Gulch…my worst nightmare. (I had popped my ankle at the end of training run three weeks earlier. I had stayed off of it, cross trained a bunch, acupuncture, massage, etc. but hadn’t made the final decision to race until the Sunday before the race.) My ankle was feeling great at this point, but what I saw in front of me made me feel like a hemophiliac in a razor blade factory. The trail got progressively less techy and I was able to rejoin the pack and start picking a few people off. I moved into Pacific Mine AS quickly got water and bailed. There were lots of racers milling around here and I gained quite a few places.
The climb out of Pacific Mine back to Larry’s Hole is largely in the aspens which afforded a fair amount of shade. It was still hot, though, and a small group of us worked up the multitrack. Around this time I developed a blister. At first I thought it was a rock in my shoe so stopped and emptied. I stopped again shortly after because I thought the culprit was in my sock. I swore as I put my shoe back on and at that moment a woman piped up, as she ran by, “Hey…I’ve got some second skin. Jog along with me.” Score! Stopped a third time to apply. My new best friend and I rolled into Larry’s Hole together. I refilled, ate a few oranges, grabbed a handful of potato chips, put some ice in my headband and I was out.
As I would soon learn, this is where the course gets serious. This climb up to Mt. Baldy was the second to last climb of the day and it was a bonafide chinscraper. Mostly off trail, I worked up the mountain like I would boot up a snowy couloir, occasionally throwing in some French step to give my calves a break. The slope was south facing, I was cooking at this point, and there wasn’t a whisper of wind to be had. I saw several people in front of me take a step up, struggle, wobble, list over and catch themselves. This section of the course was also choked with the brightest wildflowers imaginable. The beauty/pain dichotomy was too much to wrap my brain around. All I could do was laugh out loud to myself.
After I crested the ridge I turned north and began the descent to Tunnel Aid Station. I entered the tunnel, which spat me out on the other side of the mountain, and I began my descent down to the Ridge Trail. Once at the bottom the course worked its way up the Ridge Trail to Hidden Peak 2. This is where the real high quality swearing, snorting and teeth grinding went down. Karl had been sending us through stupid terrain, aggressively, all day, and it was beginning to grind me down.
But wait …more lactic acid and wildflower fireworks. One guy hung on to a pine off trail and wondered aloud why he kept puking and couldn’t keep anything down. More carnage littered the ridge as My Second Skin Hero and I slogged towards the tram station at Hidden Peak. I pushed up the last section of Hidden Peak to the applause and cheering of an almost European sized crowd. I was in and out of Hidden 2 quickly and began the final descent.
For the time being, my quads wanted to cooperate on the downhill and I quickly picked off a few runners in the first few minutes out of Hidden. I was in the groove, down climbing a loose ravine when I heard heavy, almost panicked breathing above me. I looked up and saw a woman who I had seen earlier in the race. She had an expression that is best described as desperate and crazed. “Oh hey!” I said, expecting either a wounded howl or a string of expletives as a reply. Nothing. Just the sound of loose rock tumbling down the ravine as she took the fall line. We were soon running together and began talking about the new finish and the additional 100m of climbing.
On cue we left the trail and were routed into more subalpine mixed terrain. More steepness, off trail and totally demoralizing. We had been hammering on fast multitrack for good while and now we had to deal with this crap?! We slogged onward and eventually thought we might be lost and running the beginning of the section of the course, not the new finish. Line of sight on the final few miles was short and we hadn’t seen anyone at all in at least fifteen minutes. Soon enough we had convinced ourselves that we were lost. Oddly there was no discussion of backtracking. We struggled through this last hateful bit of the course and got spat out onto some multitrack where I soon saw a photographer. Saved! I’m not gonna DNF after all. The base area was in sight at this point so I unloaded, separated from Animal Girl and picked off a few more runners to cross the finish line in 8:08:20 and 82nd place.