Race Reports

Beauty and the Beast – Speedgoat 50K

Beauty and the Beast – Speedgoat 50K

Before I even begin giving my race report and background on this years race I have to congratulate my brother-in-law Kevin Conte on his first ultra race and finish at Speedgoat 50K. I would have to say when I approached him with the idea of running this race with me I thought he would laugh it off but instead he trained, and trained at sea level no less, then finished his first ever ultra in 10:47! Speedgoat should never be ones first ultra because it is without question the hardest 50K in the country but I knew he was tough and there is no quit in him so finishing was never in doubt even though he would have to stare down the 11,400 foot Mt. Baldy twice in route to finishing this race. Congrats again Kevin and welcome to the world of ultra running.

I have been putting off my Speedgoat race report so I could enjoy some down time with my family for a week in Park City. I really try to use my vacations to completely get away from everything that puts strains upon my life and that is the iPad, iPhone, and laptop. It sure has been nice to not even carry a phone for the last week and just settle into some perfect Park City weather.

I will get right into my Speedgoat race report since if you’re reading my blog this is why you’re on my site. Speedgoat is unlike any other race that I have ever run and for the second time in two years I have confirmed that Speedgoat is Zane Grey’s big brother. For any of you who have run Zane you’re probably thinking I’m nuts but it is 100% the truth. This years Speedgoat didn’t have snow as an obstacle so Race Director Karl Meltzer decided to change the course up and make it even harder than in years past. We were informed that instead of descending down the back side of Mt. Baldy we would reverse course and head up the mountain instead. That seemed like a good change since there were a lot of people last year who did not like that descent while having to hold onto a rope but the total vertical would not change at 11,800 feet.

When we arrived to the start line in the morning it almost felt like we were getting to sleep in for the race. The race started at 6:30 am and we arrived around 5:45 am and milled around the start line talking to a lot of runners, signing our life away on the waiver form, and taking some pictures. The field for the race this year was probably as good as one can find in any one ultra race from the talented young Spaniard Kilian Journet to the ultra speedy Rickey Gates. Listing those two names doesn’t even do justice for the runners that toed the line last Saturday morning. Anton Krupitka, Max King, Anna Frost, James Bonnett, Joe Grant, Jason Schlab, Jorge Maravilla, Nick Clark, Dylan Bowman, Nick Pedetella, and so many other top runners from the world of ultra running were ready to roll the minute Karl sent us on our way up Hidden Peak.

The race starts with quite a bit of fan fare for an ultra and right out of the chute the elevation smacks you across the face as we would be starting at 8,100 feet of elevation and within the first 8 miles head up to 11,400 feet. When we took off I immediately had a hard time settling into a breathing rhythm since we would need to climb over 1,900 in two out of the first three miles. I slogged along as long as I could before I was relegated to a walk between miles 2 and 3.

Heading up Hidden Peak I

This section is mostly wide trails that are pretty easy to navigate except that the grade is right around 15-20% for long stretches. I ran with my brother-in-law Kevin and Mark Cosmas for this stretch and then I finally started to feel good and pulled away a little. I wasn’t moving fast at all but I was done with the 17 minute miles I had just chalked up in the previous two miles. About half way up Hidden Peak the trail turn to single track Hardrock conditions as we navigated over some extremely technical rocks that were not visible last year due to the snow. I ran/walked through this section and as I made my way around the bend it was the first time I would get to hear my favorite sound in racing…the cowbell. There were quite a few people standing at the top of Hidden Peak cheering on all the runners and getting us aid before we would decent down Mineral Basin.

Running downhill has always been my favorite part about trail running and it doesn’t matter how technical the terrain is I have never had the fear off falling down the rocky slopes. After about a mile of downhill we hit the most beautiful part of a race course that I’ve ever seen as we maneuvered throughout the thigh high wildflowers. The purple and orange flowers were absolutely amazing and I was a little mad at myself that I didn’t bring my camera to capture the moment.

Descending Hidden Peak

Now I probably would not have taken the time to take pictures on a downhill section but I could have at least shot some shaky video as I weaved my way through the amazing landscape. Coming down into Mineral Basin I is a quick 1,900 foot descent and within two miles you’re refilling your bottles, grabbing a bite to eat before heading down to conquer the river rocks on our way to Pacific Mine.

Heading down into Pacific Mine from miles 12-14 really gives runners some challenges running through the ditches that are full of large uneven river rock. I took this section as an opportunity to use my Arizona rock hopping skills to pass several of the runners that were tip toeing their way down the trail. I passed four runners and as I approached the fifth something happened that I’ve never encountered in ultra running. It was a runner who refused to let me pass him even though I was right on his heels and he was weaving back and forth purposely to not let me pass him. I made the only choice I could after a couple minutes of weaving and decided to back off for just a second and wait for him to go to one side so I could fly by. It didn’t take long for this to happen but with the deep ditch and over abundance of river rocks I hopped with one leg in the ditch, one on the side and saved myself from falling four times in route to what I would say is my best recovery ever in trail running. My arms were circling and I gave it everything I had to stay on my feet and after a 100 yards or so I was successful. When my “friend” behind me saw me flailing though the section he proceeded to say “that’s what you get”. What?? Who says that in ultra running? What happened to letting people go by you when they’re slower and saying nice job as you go by? The only thing I can think is he is a mountain biker that decided to come out and attempt Speedgoat. Mountain Bikers seem to really hate trail runners for some reason or another. Just for the record this runner did not finish the race. I guess that is neither here nor there but I can say I found myself getting slightly cocky for a second after I was chastised for passing him and I really picked up the pace as the trail smoothed out and I was my way down the jeep road towards the mine. Being cocky while racing only gets you so far, because after I could feel myself really pulling away I looked quickly over my shoulder to see where he was and pat myself on the back some more for being such an elite runner, when I tripped over my own feet and took a hard fall to the jeep road. This wasn’t the fall where you can wave your arms and hope to not hit the ground, it was a straight smack off the road and of course my palms were dinged up. I swear every time those palm blisters heel I fall again. That’s why I usually carry bottles in my hands but I wanted to be hands free for this race in case there were any rope climbs or descents like last year.

After my almost debacle going to Pacific Mine I decided to slow down a little and just run a steady pace after passing several of the top runners as they left on their way out of the mine. I looked like a fool all covered in dirt with bloody palms and stumps but I got the traditional nice job man, looking good. As I neared the aid station I saw all the runners leaving with popsicles and wet towels around their necks and I got excited to cool off. It was unusually hot at Snowbird with temperatures getting over 90 degrees. Not hot by Phoenix standards but also not what I was hoping for when racing at elevation. While getting a quick bite to eat I overheard on the radio that the leaders Kilian and Rickey Gates were already through Mineral Basin II, a full 5 miles ahead of me just three hours into the race. After shaking my head at this news I cooled off quickly with a towel, downed some potatoes and salt, grabbed my popsicle and headed out. I was smart because I put a little salt on the popsicle first so I wasn’t the guy that found out too late that the frozen popsicle will stick to your wet lips when you start running. Needless to say I heard a few people at the finish describing blisters after yanking the popsicle from their lips. Apparently they never saw A Christmas Story.

So the problem with knowing the race course is that you know exactly what is coming next and I knew leaving the mine was going to be a whore. It is a 2,200 foot ascent that lasts for just 3.5 miles but it is relentless climbing. It is mostly old jeep roads that your climbing but never the less it takes forever. I power hiked this section the best I could and when I made my way to the top I decided to open up my legs and pass a few more runners on the short down hill. I had lots of people move out of the way as I flew down as fast as I could on the single track to get back to Mineral Basin II aid station. I was pretty excited at this point because I knew all I really had left to go in the race was a trip up to the infamous tunnel and then ascend Mt. Baldy, after that would be five miles of downhill to the finish. Getting down to Mineral Basin the second time wasn’t bad as we hit a couple open pipes with cold flowing water to cool off in followed by the on again off again climb and descent into the aid station.

This is where the race really changed from last year. I was expecting to have to climb up the grass wall in route to the tunnel but we were sent in the other direction. As we left the aid station I looked at the sign and the 1,900 feet of climb in 2.5 miles we had coming up, I tried to tell myself that I just had a trip up Bell Pass in Scottsdale and I would be at the tunnel. The first half mile was completely runnable and I felt good looking at the climb thinking I could possibly slowly slog up the hill. As soon as I started reality set in and I was huffing and puffing watching a few runners pass me. Looking up the mountain didn’t bring me any relief because of the steepness of the hill. There were about four of us who decided to work together in this section and try to pass the time by chatting and moving as quickly as possible but it just didn’t seem to be working and one at a time we all fell off the pace. I kept looking at my watch thinking I had to have gone 2.5 miles by now, it had been close to 50 minutes since I left the Mineral Basin II aid station. Finally as I looked up I could see the plateau and the flags were laid out in a nice flat section of the course but as I looked in the distance I was no where near the tunnel. I sulked for a few seconds and then began to run again as I said to myself “run when you can and hike if you have to”. I ran for about a 1/4 mile and then I saw the sign. This sign most likely deflated the front runners, and surely killed the people at the back of the pack. The sign looked like an advertisement for an inhaler because it said “you’re going to need another lung”. WTF?? I slowly ran up the first 20 feet before I was hunched over with my hands on my knees cursing Karl. Just when I was happy knowing we had avoided the dreaded grass wall from last year we were sent up a different grass/scree slope that was so slick and steep it was tough to maneuver without poles. I would prop my foot up on a rock and try not to slip as I pulled my other foot up to take a breather. Runners seemed to be gaining on me so I would hike a little faster and as soon as I would look back to see where they were I noticed they looked just like me with two steps and then hands on the knees. I have no idea how far this section was, maybe 1/2 mile but it was the most brutal climb I’ve ever encountered in race. I consider myself to be in good climbing shape but my calves were burning from the rugged steep trail.

Almost 20 minutes later I had finally made it to the top of the trail and was pretty happy to know we were at 10,000 feet and would only be going back to 11,400 feet before the climbing would be over. I tried to run but it felt like my legs were tethered to 50 pound weights and the tunnel didn’t seem to be getting any closer.

Heading up Mt. Baldy ridgeline

I could hear the volunteers but I couldn’t see them at first and then I saw the tunnel down below us about a 1/2 mile in the distance and I dug deep to hammer my way there. A lot of people were cheering as we made our way to the aid station and I could see the top of Mt. Baldy just up ahead. This was going to be my first chance to meet my crew and since I was at mile 23 on my watch I figured we had about a mile of climbing when we approached the ridge line. Leaving the tunnel we took a route that I completely wasn’t expecting and we made a hard right leaving the tunnel and descended about a mile and a half. The whole way down the hill I feared I had pulled another classic Jay Danek and made a wrong turn, but I kept seeing the fat orange ribbons so I had to be going the right direction. I pushed as hard as I could through this section knowing that the ridge line was coming next and it was going to be long, brutal, and hot. When we finally reached the bottom we were back at 9,200 feet, as I looked at my Garmin’s total ascent I realized we would have a 2,200 foot climb up to the top of Baldy. Running was not an option in this section and at times hiking didn’t seem like an option either but slowly and surely I made my way up the steep slope. The distance to the top is pretty deceiving because you can see the tram car station at the top but you’re never really sure how far it is. When I finally reached the false summit my wife was there to greet me and walk with me for the next 400 yards straight up hill. She was moving fast and telling me to get going but I couldn’t keep myself from bending down, from sucking wind at the high altitude. The first question I asked her was if we had to go around the back of the tram station like last year and she assured me that it was just straight up. Last years kick in the balls was when you came close to the top, you saw your crew, but Karl sent us around the backside of the mountain to get an extra 400 feet of climbing. I think it probably works out to the same vertical but it did save the headache of going past your crew once seeing them.

When I got to the top I saw crew (that included my Mom). This was the first time my Mom had ever seen me race and she appeared to be a little nervous asking me if I was okay as I hunched over trying to catch my breath.

Welcome sign

I did the only thing I could at the time and that was to say “I feel great”, handed them my pack and said I just needed one handheld for the finish. I decided to take a Coke down here but ended up spitting it out probably making my Mom even more nervous. I wasn’t in a talking mood at this point and with five miles to go in the race I just wanted to be done. I was at the top of Baldy in 6:55 and with five miles to go I knew I had a chance to break 7:30 if I killed it. I grabbed my bottle and took off as fast as I could down the hill scaring a few of the runners as I ran with reckless abandonment. I had 35 minutes to run 5 miles and it is all downhill. I felt good, my legs were back to normal and I was on pace until the rocks became way too dicey to run fast over. I slowed down quite a bit for the next half mile and made my way over the large loose rocks. This cost me some time so I decided I just needed to break 7:40. In my mind I was happy with that time if I could finish strong. After coming out of the rocks there is a nice descent from 9,500 feet to 8,100 left to go so I pushed until I felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest giving it everything I had. I crossed the finish line in 7:38 with an 18 minute PR.

I thoroughly enjoyed this race and it is one of the few races that will draw me back year after year. The race director Karl Meltzer did a fantastic job and the volunteers were amazing making sure the course was well marked and everything a runner could possibly need was provided. It was much hotter this year than last year and without the snow it made for some fast times and let’s not forget the controversy of Kilian cutting switchbacks throughout the race. For those of you who don’t know Kilian won the race in 5:14 over Rickey Gates who came through in 5:18 but Kilian was not awarded the cash prize for repeatedly cutting switchbacks. He was warned throughout the day that he needed to stay on course but continued to disregard the instructions therefore leading Race Director Karl Meltzer to give the prize money to Rickey Gates.

Final descent to the finish

Kilian said he was following the Skyrunning rules which states cutting switchbacks is okay as long as you cross each flag marking. Since this was a Skyrunning race and it was not discussed in the prerace rules he was not disqualified but did not receive any money for the win. This was a very tough decision for the RD to make but in the end I think the right decision was made and I think the course record should go to Rickey Gates. What are your thoughts?

Congrats to fellow AZ finishers Eric Bohn, Mark Cosmas, Travis McMaster, Margaret Dehesse, and to Brian Ricketts from San Antonio who really finished the race strong. Nothing like seeing people from the low deserts go out and finish a brutal race at elevation like this.

Jay with Brian Ricketts

I have to leave everyone with one last moment that happened on Sunday after the race, if you know me at all you’ll say this is classic Jay Danek. I set out to run my easy four mile streak run through the streets of Park City but got overzealous and started going down different streets only to end up getting completely lost and having to run 6 miles. As tough as it is to get lost on the road doing an out and back I managed. After telling this great little story to my San Antonio friends Liza, Chris, and Brian they have volunteered to write my entry essay to the Barkley’s next year. It should only take 5 search and rescue teams to find me.

If you would like to watch an awesome video of the Speedgoat race produced by Matt Hart click here: http://vimeo.com/46700499.

Here is a look at my Garmin stats for the new Speedgoat 50K course if you’re interested:

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This post was written by:

- who has written 22 posts on Trail Running Club.

Started running for the first time in my life three year's ago after losing my Dad to a pulmonary embolism at the age of 58 and since he began running he has lost close to 100 pounds. On 9/23/2012 Jay finished a running streak of 923 Consecutive days with at least 4 miles while compiling over 9,400 miles with 975,000+ feet of elevation gain and completed 15 Ultra's in honor of his Dad who passed away on 9/23/2008. Jay holds a Bachelor's Degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences.

Jay's recent trail ultra running results:

• 13th OA at San Diego 100M in 22:01:26
• 10 Top Ten Ultra Finishes in 14 races
• 4th overall at Lean Horse 100 in 19:01:12
• 9th overall at Javelina Jundred in 2011 in 18:28:26
• 100K Javelina Night Run Champion in 2011
• Cave Creek Thriller 50K Champion in 2010
• Runner up in 2011 DRT Ultra Series

2013 Race Schedule includes:
• Castle Hot Springs 22M
• Phoenix Marathon
• 3 Days of Syllamo
• Miwok 100K
• Speedgoat 50K
• Pike's Peak Marathon
* Mogollon Monster 100

Jay Danek is sponsored by iRun Honey Stinger

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