My training leading up to Speedgoat was stellar. For the last two months we have been in the San Juan mountains of Colorado and my training has been exclusively in the high alpine. My race at the San Juan Solstice 50 was a great stepping-stone to getting into great mountain running shape and I was very happy with my fitness going into the race.
Tuesday night of the week of the race I woke up with a sore throat and by Wednesday I had a full on head cold. Wednesday, I wasn’t optimistic that I would be racing, but still thought it wasn’t impossible to recover before the race. Thursday I felt pretty weak but not terrible, so I decided to head to the race and see how it would work out. Thursday night I didn’t sleep well and only got maybe 3 hours of sleep and my head cold was still there Friday morning, but my legs and energy levels felt reasonable and so I decided to give it a go.
Hydration, Nutrition, Gear:
I raced with Ryder sunglasses, a visor, Injinji socks and Hoka Bondis. For hydration I used my trusty 20oz Amphipod hand water bottle. For nutrition I used Vitrago. This race I further increased my calorie intake to nearly 400 calories per hour, which is double what I was able to do with EFS or GU. My stomach felt fine the whole race and I never felt I was “bonking”. I know taking in double the calories and furthermore, taking in double the calories of anyone else I know or race against, is a HUGE advantage.
The pre-race was a serious social event. We all sort of hung out and chatted for quite a bit before the race started, which wasn’t bad, but different. Karl gave the go and we began up the mountain. Just a few minutes into the race Ricky Gates and Killian were ahead, but had made a wrong turn and Anton and I directed them back the right way. Over the next few miles Thomas Lorblanchet, Jason Loutit, Anton, James Bonnet, Jorge Maravillia, Dylan Bowman and Max King shuffled back and forth and stayed within visual range, but Ricky and Killian were out of site up front. My body felt pretty good and I didn’t notice any terrible flatness, but I also didn’t feel outstanding either. I kept things under control, but tried to make sure to keep the effort harder than a 50 mile effort, as most of my races are 50 miles, not 50k, in distance.
I forgot my racing watch (women’s basic running timex), so I was a little lost a few times on where I was in the race. I did know the mileage at most of the aid stations. Getting to the mile 8 summit seemed to take a long time and I’m not sure if that was a sign of me not feeling great or if it was just not having a watch. At the summit, Ricky and Killian were long gone and James, Loutitt, Anton and Max were out of site. I was running just behind Dylan and Lorblanchet coming to the summit in around 8th place. I felt confident and was full of smiles for all the awesome fans at the peak. It was really cool having some people out to watch the race supporting, cheering and just watching the athletes.
The next few miles down from the summit were OK, but from about mile 10-14 I pretty much had a disaster. The whole day I struggled on the down hills and on this down hill I was passed by close to 10 people. I had no energy and I just wasn’t able to turn it on at all. The wheels had come off and the fatigue from being sick was unavoidable. Before the turn around for the out and back I made the decision that I was A) Going to just take it easy and jog and walk the rest of the course as a training run or B)Drop when I got back to the other side of the mountain. I was 100% decided on this decision for at least 2 or 3 miles headed to the aid station at mile 15.
At the turn around we started back up-hill and within just a few minutes I began to gain on the runners ahead of me. All of a sudden, in just a couple miles, I was back in the top 10 and dropping or giving up on racing was out of my mind. I was shocked. About a thousand feet below the ridge I moved into 9th place with Bonnet just ahead of me and Dylan not far ahead either. I passed Bonnet and then Dylan. Dylan made the comment, “I suck at climbing” and I replied back that he absolutely does not and that we are just racing with the best climbers in the world today.
Less than a mile from the summit I caught up to Anton where we caught and passed Lorblanchet and moved into 4th and 5th place. I was feeling really good at this point, but shortly after passing Lorblanchet, Anton put a minute or two on me over the next few miles that I couldn’t cover (at around mile 20).
I was very happy to be in 5th place and had certainly re-focused on racing after my earlier decision to totally give-up. I have never had such a huge change of heart during a race before and have only once before ever decided to pretty much quit (DNF at Bandera this January). Heading back downhill I lost a lot of ground to Lorblanchet, which was the trend the whole race. My downhill running was just horrible. On the way down to the final climb of the race, around mile 23 I think, I was passed by Lorblanchet and moved into sixth place. On the last climb I really, really slowed and was moving at a crawl. A kilometer from the top, Phillip Reiter passed me and gave me some words of encouragement, as it was obvious I was dying.
I probably lost around 4-8 minutes in the last climb over a few miles. I was miserable and the only thing that mattered to me was getting to the top and then finishing without being passed. At the aid station at the summit I took the longest break I have ever taken during a race. I drank two cups of water, filled my hand water bottle and nearly fell down in exhaustion. I proceeded to use wet towels to soak my body with cold water and then finally started down the trail. I needed a re-charge and break. Needless to say the last 5 miles were rough. I was dead set on not being passed on the finish descent. I gave everything I had getting down. I was grunting, hugging and puffing the whole way. I played mind games where I would reward myself for getting down the trail. My first rewards were drinks of water, then it was pouring water on my head, then pouring the remainder on my head and putting the bottle in my shorts and then finally taking off my shirt.
My rewards were over and I still had another solid mile of endless back and forth switchbacks. The grade was really mellow for the last few miles, which was in one way nice, but made the finish descent take forever.
I finished 7th in 5:44 and change (less than a minute from the old course record) and accomplished my goal of not being passed on the final descent. My legs are now ridiculously sore from the final descent, but it was worth it. At the finish I was more exhausted than I have been at any other ultra race. I forced my body to perform in a compromised state and I am proud of how well it did. I certainly know being healthy for the race would have made a significant difference, but as it is with endurance athletics, there is always (or almost always) something, some factor, some excuse, some injury, change in training, a wrong turn, whatever, that isn’t as we wanted or planned. I had a few firsts this race and it overall it was a magnificent journey. I am very happy with my result and more encouraged than ever on what I can do as a trail runner.
Karl really put on an awesome race. Hanging out with friends, meeting new people and of course racing against many of the best in the world made for a fantastic weekend.