I was feeling physically unconfident…I didn’t have anything to gauge my fitness against after 7 weeks off running and only power hiking up and scree bombing my way back down some 14ers with Tony over the last two weeks. I still had pain in my ankles when I tried to run on any grade other than straight up or down. I had been told SpeedGoat was steep so I was happy, until I arrived at Snowbird and headed out on the course. My steep and their steep were slightly different. The first part of the race meandered up and back down on a ski piste before really getting up high for the steeper stuff (which was steep). Unfortunately, this was going to hurt my ankles. I considered not racing, I was a little bit grumpy, but then the competitiveness got the better of me and I made the decision. I could breathe out the pain. I hoped!
The day before a race is always hard…you just want to run and play in the mountains, but saving energy can be hard. A morning run to Catherine’s Pass, sitting on top of the Wasatch Crest surrounded by the wild flowers and looking out at the 360° views got my spirits about the race up again. It would be stunning once we got up out of the ski resort. A hair cut in the Walgreen’s car park thanks to TK and Rickey Gates and pizza and smoothies, and I was ready to go.
I did wonder why we had to do what I thought were ‘quite random’ zigzags before I felt like we got anywhere. I guess it was so that the course added up to 50km. But does a course really need to be an exactly 50k, 50 mile, 100k? Or to make a course the most aesthetic could it just be 46.8k? Does it really matter as long as it is the same every year?
I like racing in America. It is a different flavour. There was a lot of banter, there was no mucking about, the rules, the markers, now get going! And off we went. The time trial to the top of the first hill was an exciting addition to the race. $1000 was up for the first to the top and to finish within 6:30 for men and 7 hours for women. This definitely changed the dynamics of the race. Some wanted this and would forfeit the win; others would play it safe and go for the win. Bethany Lewis and I were both going to go for the top. She was strong, fast and competitive (but unfortunately pulled out of the race with feet problems). I was excited. We pushed each other hard and my strength on the steep hills was enough to put a gap on her, reaching the top in 1:41, 23minutes behind Rickey Gates who lead the men’s field to the top.
I got a quick glimpse of the incredible views before I hit the first long descent of the day. It went on forever before flattening out for a mile out and back where my non-running legs turned to lead in the early heat of the day. Fortunately, the aid station’s were filled with enthusiastic supporters who were filling water bottles, handing over ice waters, cooling necks with iced towels, watermelon, popsicles, and really anything you needed, even hugs!
By now my ankles were hurting on anything that wasn’t steep…which at this point was everything. But the second half of the race was going to be more my style. It was frustrating though. My legs felt great. The strength of the 14ers had paid off and also taking in more gels each hour was definitely giving me a boost, but I still had to walk some sections that I felt I could have run. I had an eye on the record pace and felt I could have a crack at it, but each time I got to the downhills, I was reminded that first and foremost I wanted to get to the finish in one piece
Miles 20 to 26 were brutal. Running high to 11,000 feet, half way down the mountain, back up, half way back down and back up again. But at each summit we were greeted with blue skies, iced drinks, beautiful mountain flowers and energy from supporters.
As I took the final descent all the way back down to Snowbird, I let go of the record and breathed deep. My legs were feeling great, my ankles were feeling horrendous. I was happy to zigzag my way into the finish, but under my breath cursed Karl Meltzer – race director – for making us take the long way down rather than just bombing straight down. I knew he would be chuckling to himself for the pain he was inflicting on us all.
Karl put on a fabulous show. Recovery drink and pizza at the finish, real goat hooves as trophies (I’m not even going to attempt to take that one through customs) and a handy wad of cash thanks to Hoka, RedBull and the SkyRunning Federation. Which I promptly put somewhere safe – in the back pocket of my running skirt – and then put into the washing machine, only to remember about it an hour later…soggy but fresh.
I have taken confidence from the race. That I can still get up a mountain quickly. But it has also reminded me that something is not right. Do I need to rest more? Do I need some more opinions from specialists? Do I need to tune into myself and figure out what is going on and why I am sore? YES, to all of those. I have a few weeks before TransRockies Run3 and the Pikes Peak Ascent to access whether I can race or not. It is more important for me to get rid of the pain and be free in the mountains.