I DNF’d. There I said it. Speedgoat 50k was my first DNF (did not finish). I arrived three minutes too late into the Tunnel aid station (approx. mile 24) and got cut. The race takes place in the Wasatch mountains of Snowbird, UT and according to the race director it is the “toughest 50k in the US.” You can read my pre-race blog post here.
Speedgoat 50k is part of the Sky Runner Series, which means it attracts many of the top ultra runners. My friends and I were in the company of Anna Frost, Ellie Greenwood, Hal Koerner, and Sage Canaday. I’ve read about them in running magazines and have always been in awe of their accomplishments. Now we were running the same race as them. Anxious runners gathered at 6:15 am to hear race director, Karl Meltzer, provide a few important announcements and then it was time to move to the starting line for the start of the race at 6:30 am.
The climb to the first aid station (Hidden Peak) was brutal (it sat at 11,00 feet); however, there would be several more climbs that would leave me wondering if I could do this race. It was suppose to be 8.4 miles to Hidden Peak; though, it turned out to be around 9.35 miles or so, about one mile more than expected, which was a little disheartening. I ran most of this part of the course with my friend, Troy, and it was nice to have him by my side.
Despite that I tend to be a strong uphill runner, there were times when the ascents tested my limits and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about quitting at least once. However, somehow I managed to get myself to the next aid station, which provided the mental boost to keep going. Around mile 11 or so my friend, Gina, caught up with me and we stayed together for several miles and I think we both needed each other at times (probably me more than her). These miles were primarily descents consisting of mostly scree.
Gina and I caught up with Troy at the Pacific Mine aid station (mile 16 or so). This aid station had frozen pops, which was the perfect antidote for the hot weather and my tired mind, and by far the best aid station food I’ve ever had (thanks, Karl). For those not familiar with the ultrarunning world, aid stations are strategically placed along the course to provide runners with an opportunity to refill water bottles, get some electrolytes, grab some food (think salty and sugary foods), and of course, provide encouragement. For most runners, there’s nothing like arriving at an aid station.
The six or so miles to the next aid station would be relentless, roughly 2,500 feet of climbing with the sun directly on us. It was here that Gina, Troy and I split up. I arrived to this aid station (Larry’s Hole) within 20 minutes of the cut off. I was told that I had 90 minutes to get to the next aid station (the Tunnel) three miles away at approximately mile 24 (or was it 26?). No one really knows, as the mile markers seemed a bit off all day. You’d think that 90 minutes would be more than enough time to go three miles and it usually would, but this was not your typical three miles. It consisted of approximately 1,500 feet of climbing all above 9,500 feet. It was brutal. Just when you thought you’d reached the summit, you’d see that you still had more climbing to go. And it was HOT.
It was here at the Tunnel aid station where the race ended for me. I arrived three minutes too late. I tried to convince the aid station volunteers to let me keep going, but the answer was an affirmative NO. So, I sat down in a chair and thought about the day and what I could have done differently. My spirits were lifted by the fact that I knew that there was a very good chance that Gina would finish the race (she did). I sat at the aid station for about 30 minutes eating several popsicles and contemplating if I should finish the race anyways. There were about 10 miles left and I so badly wanted to finish even though my name would still show a DNF. I decided to take the chairlift down instead.
The race director did not lie—this race is hard. It consisted of steep inclines, scree, scrambles, snowy slopes, and relentless climbs. In total the course had only about 2 miles or so of flat terrain! Despite its difficulty, the course was also very beautiful and we were constantly rewarded with 360-degree mountain views and wildflowers along much of the course (check out irunfar.com’s Facebook album for some spectacular photos from the race). A big thanks to all of the aid station volunteers who were helpful and always encouraging.
Speedgoat 50k was by far the hardest and most technical course that I’ve ever run—and a very hard earned DNF. I’m sure I’ll have more, but far now, I can reflect on the day and what I accomplished. And yes, I will be back next year.