Much like the 2014 Speedgoat 50k terrain, Ellie Greenwood had an up-and-down race on her way to taking the final women’s podium spot. In the following interview, Ellie discusses what hurt the most about her first time racing a mountain ultra at high altitude, whether or not she enjoyed herself, and what she plans to race later in the summer.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2014 Speedgoat 50k results article.
[Ps. We know the audio in this interview is not up to our standards. We shot it with a second camera for which we don’t have an external mic. You can help upgrade our interviews by making a donation in support of an equipment upgrade. Thanks!]
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Ellie Greenwood Post-2014 Speedgoat 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan here with iRunFar, and I’m here with the Speedgoat 50k third-place finisher, Miss Ellie Greenwood. How’s it going, little lady?
Ellie Greenwood: It’s very good, yeah.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your day out.
Greenwood: Yeah, I’m super happy, right? Coming into something like this at altitude, with big climbs and big descents—it’s not something I’m very familiar with. So I didn’t know how it would go. I’m very happy with it.
iRunFar: So is that kind of your synthesis of the day, that all in all you’re happy with how it went?
Greenwood: Yes. I did think maybe I’d run faster, but then I thought other people would run faster as well. So maybe it’s a slower time, but then you can’t always go based on time. Sometimes you have to go based on who else is running. So, no, I’ve got to be happy, right? I did feel I struggled on the uphills, but it was kind of like once the first uphill was over, then I was with some men and even though I was hiking a lot, I wasn’t losing ground on the runners around me. So, I thought I was going slowly and maybe it’s still something I could work on, but I obviously wasn’t going too, too slowly.
iRunFar: No, you weren’t going too, too slowly. You took third place in a pretty stacked field today. I want you to walk us through your day. When I saw you the first time at Hidden Peak which was a little over eight miles you said, “I can’t go uphill.” What was going through your head then?
Greenwood: At that point, I knew Kasie [Enman] and Anna [Frost] had gone out ahead and I was totally fine with that because starting on an uphill is probably like my worst scenario in a race profile. I was fine with that. But Joelle [Vaught] went past me and Ashley [Arnold] went past me and Hillary [Allen] and I was like, Oh, my goodness, I’m getting a lot of women past me, which I was like, Fine, maybe this is the way it is and maybe I can’t go uphill at altitude and I’ll have to go with it. Of course, I knew there were the downhills coming. So at that point I was just, Oh well, maybe I’m going to be further back position-wise than I expected. But on the later uphills, like I said, I felt like I maintained well with the other runners around me and then I’d overtake the women on the downhills. It was really funny. At the Pacific Mine, I’d looked at the course profile and said, “Oh, look there are about two kilometers of running that suits my strengths because it’s running.”
iRunFar: In and out of Pacific Mine? Here’s my chance to open it up.
Greenwood: Here’s my chance—two kilometers in a 50k race that suits my running style. But that was kind of nice because then I got moving and began to run… I’m not saying like a crazy thing, but I felt I got warmed up, so then I was running a few more of the uphills than I had done previously. Plus, once you hit some of the super-steep uphills, I think anyone is going to be hiking and I’m a pretty good hiker. I think altitude probably has less effect on hiking, so that was a bit of a leveler. Whereas the trouble was in the first eight miles up to Hidden Peak, there were sections where if you were acclimated to altitude you could run it and I wasn’t running it. So that made for some differences. But I decided from the start that I was going to enjoy the day regardless.
iRunFar: So immediately on that first downhill after Hidden Peak, it’s down, down, down with a couple little ups on the way out to the halfway point at Pacific Mine, you made up some ground both minutes-wise and position-wise relative to the other girls. Downhills were fine all day or what happened?
Greenwood: Downhills were fine and on that first downhill, I was careful and kind of go-with-the-flow and didn’t push it too hard because I was aware, now we then have to go back up and then there’s another big downhill. I was kind of careful and go-with-the-flow because you don’t want to hold back too much because that gets your quads just as much. But I realized if I push this too much, then I’m going to be stuck down at Pacific Mine—Oh, no, I’ve got to get out now. But yeah, immediately, and I wasn’t surprised in all honesty, because it was… I was better on downhills.
iRunFar: Lots of people talked about the heat today being a factor. It’s definitely hot here at the finish line. Even up at 11,000 feet people were down to as few clothes as you can wear in the state of Utah and get by. Did you feel the heat? You’re a Pacific Northwest girl.
Greenwood: No, not really. I think the good thing about that is we’ve had the annual heat wave of 1.5 weeks.
iRunFar: So you got your heat training in.
Greenwood: It’s so horrible because it’s humid when it’s hot as well. Then I got here on Tuesday and I had the chance to preview the course by doing some hiking and riding the tram up. So I think having spent a bit of time outside, and no, I didn’t find it… I drank a lot and was conscious of making sure, and I was always thirsty. So I definitely was always thirsty I guess because it’s dry and it was hot, but yeah, I think it will definitely be more of a factor for the runners who are still out there. Going up to start with, it was light when we started but just light, then even there were little sections where you could try and stay in the shade—just short bits—but I think that helped.
iRunFar: This course has a lot going for it. There are some cool rocky zigzag switchbacks and you drop into a couple nice green gulches in terms of moose hanging out and wildlife and stuff. Did you find a favorite part of the course today?
Greenwood: I think there were two bits—actually an uphill section, going up to Hidden Peak, but then we came down as well. The switchbacks where we cross a little bit of snow and it was quite rubble-y and rocky there—I actually love that sort of running. Though it is quite technical, it really feels like you’re up in the mountains. So that was absolutely beautiful. Then when we got up to Hidden Peak the first time and then went down over and we were running through wildflowers and there’s still that snow there on the scree slope you’re running towards, that was absolutely beautiful. It is a stunning course for sure.
iRunFar: Last question for you, you said before this race that this is kind of going to be make or break for whether Ellie Greenwood is going to do some more experimenting with some higher-altitude mountain races. Was it a make or a break?
Greenwood: Well, it’s funny, I just saw Mike Wolfe and he said, “Oh, you’re coming to The Rut?” I said, “Well, no, no, today was a test. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I will go to The Rut.” Yeah, I’m prepared to do races that don’t necessarily suit my strengths. Part of it is that it’s nice to improve on and do something that is outside of your comfort zone. But equally, I don’t want to keep going to races and have a total sufferfest again like if it was just horrible, you have to have some enjoyment. Yeah, I think I will probably go to the Rut which by the sounds of it is…
iRunFar: A nice mountain race.
Greenwood: A nice mountain race.
iRunFar: Put on by the mountain Mikes—it can’t be anything but.
Greenwood: It sounds awesome. They seem to say it is similar in altitude and elevation and that kind of stuff. It is good to mix it up.
iRunFar: Visit another ski resort in the state of Montana.
iRunFar: We’ll see you there. Congratulations on your third-place finish today at the Speedgoat 50k. Happy recovery.
Greenwood: Thank you so much.