Of Mountains, Moose, Marmots and Masochism- Speedgoat 50km Race Report by Ruby Muir
I loved the Speedgoat 50km. But Why did I love Speedgoat? Christ only knows. It was miserable as f^$#…………
It was the first time I’ve ever felt so low in a race. It was the first time I’ve ever doubted my ability to physically finish a race, let alone worrying about time or placings. The altitude completely ruined me; it chewed me up with its mountainous teeth and spat me into a tumble drier. After that it put me in a sack on the back of a great white American SUV and drove me halfway up the side of a mountain, threw me off the tray and said “run.” I never pretended to myself that it would be easy, but I had no idea I would ever find it that hard.
I arrived a week before the race in an attempt to get used to the heat. I was staying at the race start so managed a couple of runs out on the course and bagged a couple of sweet peaks on some relaxed runs with the locals (here I mean actual people not the marmots who were my main company for the week). I noticed two things in this week. The first was that I was panting just walking up the stairs to my room. The second was slightly more worrying. When I cut myself my blood came out as a slow, thick glue. As a vegetarian female long distance runner I do have problems with iron and normally when I cut myself I bleed like a tap; thin and light red. I knew I wasn’t really taking this whole altitude situation as well as I’d hoped.
To be honest, in spite of all this I was actually feeling quietly confident at the startline. I guess because I’ve lined up to a lot of races with doubts about my training etc. and done a bit of sandbagging but always pulled through. As soon as we were off up the mountain I had to re-asses. My breathing was ridiculously labored, it was also wet and ragged yet I couldn’t cough and run at the same time as it was such a struggle just to get in enough air to keep moving. I made the first summit as fourth female, with a lot more hands on knees then I felt I should have been doing on gradients I would have been running here in NZ. I was breathing at far to0 high of an effort to sustain for a 50km race, it felt more like a 5km effort, just trying to force my chest to open wider and wider.
From there to the halfway point was primarily downhill. I turned up some fast tunes and hit the descents the way I love to, working my way up to second and reeling in Jodee, who was running in first. During the fun rocky descents I was able to ignore my breathing and lose myself in the pleasure of movement. I deluded myself that my day was turning around… maybe I’d get a second wind.
Then we turned around.
I instantly realised nothing had changed. If anything, things were worse. If I tried to run anything that climbed even slightly I began to feel dizzy. As I pushed, dizzy became queasy. I quickly resorted to the hands on knees slog that became my staple for the rest of the day. Needles to say people started to pass me as easily as if I was standing still. When Julie jogged passed me I didn’t even try to hang on. Instead of feeling discouraged though, I was starting to really enjoy the challenge. I am used to running well within my comfort zone. When I finish I often have the guilty feeling that I could have gone harder. At least I knew that wouldn’t be the case.
The next big climb, straight up the side of mount Baldy was a joke. I actually almost ground to a halt. I don’t think I’ve ever moved that slowly in my life. I’d lift one leg up onto a dusty slippery rock, stumble a bit, drag my body up with it, pause to absorb a wave of dizziness then repeat. Due to the dizziness, food had stopped being an option way back at the halfway point and up until then I’d only managed less than one packet of Gu Chomps. Things were pretty dire. I looked up towards the summit and wasn’t actually sure my body could physically make it, let alone finish. I paused to have a laugh with a guy beside me about what a pathetic state I was in, looked out at the beauty of the surrounding mountains, took a deep empty breath that was no help whatsoever and just kept going.
From Baldy we had to descend almost all the way down to the finish only to climb back up to hidden peak and do it all again. The way down was mostly gravel road. Needles to say I wasn’t too inspired about this. I yet again managed to reel in a few of the folks who had passed me on the last climb but felt it was pointless as we were just going to go up again. The climb up was a fun one heading up a handsome ridge track. I could see the bright orange shirt of Stephanie (in second) ahead of me up the ridge; I must have made some ground on the descent. When I made it to the top, however, I was told she had an eight minute lead, so I must have slogged that last climb at a wretched pace.
It was all downhill from there and I was ever so grateful. I ditched the useless weight that was meant to be my fuel and attempted to finish ‘fast.’ This went okay for the first half of the mountain. There were some engrossing rocky switchbacks and a ludicrously steep road that kept me moving fast. Then we turned onto a mountain bike path through the trees with a painstaking number of gentle switchbacks. The finish was in sight and here I was going around in circles for no purpose that I could ordain. After the day I’d had I didn’t have the patience for it. I was slowing down, two kms from the finish on a downhill… there is a first time for everything I guess. As I rounded switchback 397 making a grunting noise and flapping my arms around like a deflating balloon man I came head to knees with one hell of a black moose. It was a bit of an anticlimax really, I was too over tired to react and he was less than surprised, I just gnuughed off around the next corner and he trundled down into the bushes.
Bare with me, we are nearly at the finish, or so you’d be right to think. Instead the track went right past the finish and started to curve gently upwards. You should have seen my face. My poor abused stomach spat the dummy and started to cramp. I jogged, I ultra shuffled, I walked. I gave the man now right behind space to pass, he tried to spur me on with some comment about how close the finish was, but after the last few looping kms I didn’t believe him. It wasn’t until I could actually see the blue markers heading down to the Hoka One One arch that I summoned the last of my will and ran down. I’ve never felt so happy to finish.
So my fist time in America. My first time getting chased by a moose (on my first run during the first hour of daylight on my first day). My first meeting of marmots, who I dearly hope to meet again. My first percolator coffee with ‘non dairy creamer (WTF?). The first race I’ve ever walked downhill. And the first race I truly felt I couldn’t have done any harder. The first race I was 100% satisfied to finish. I hope me and altitude can get on better terms, because lets face it, it wasn’t even that high, yet it didn’t just bring to my knees; it reduced me to a grovelling, darth vader breathing mess.
Speedgoat 50km results HERE Ruby placed 3rd, less than 10mins behind first and is now 5th on the Speedgoat all time list (in 6th is another Kiwi- Anna Frost, who won the race in 2012)