Monday, August 5, 2013

Speedgoat 50k 2013

Near the top (the second time) - Photo: Cody Draper's wife.

Occasionally in life there are times when everything comes together.  For me, the 2013 edition of the Speedgoat 50k was one of those days.  I had a great training block leading up to the race, listened to my body, and took a little extra time off the week before the race.  I went in rested, and I was in the right mindset before the race.  Nerves kept me awake the better part of the night before the race, which, for me, is a good sign.  At 4:00am, when the alarm clock finally sounded, giving me permission to get up, I was ready to get at it.

Flash forward two hours and fifteen minutes, Karl is giving last minute instructions about the race, and I am headed to the bathroom for my third or fourth nervous pee.  As I emerge the crowd is making its way to the start.  I take a spot on the second row, right behind Tim Olsen and Tony Krupicka.  I wanted to be near the front, but not out front for the first climb.  Karl started the countdown, and as he yelled go, the front line of runners exploded forward, pulling the rest of the field along with them.

Coming into this race I knew for certain that the pace from the start would be quick and relentless.  I also figured that a smart race would pay off.  I didn't have the confidence in myself to think that I could run with Sage, Max, or Tony, but figured that if I could run a smart race, I may not be far from them.  I was surprised that, with what at the time felt like a moderate effort, I was not getting immediately dropped by the leaders on the first climb.  I continued to hold my pace somewhere just past comfortable, but not all the way uncomfortable.  Max, Sage, Tony, and a few others crept away, and the group began to spread out.  I found myself running in a small, loosely bunched chase pack.

Before the race Andy Dorais had warned me to watch out for his friend Lars. He explained Lars had been training super hard, and as a former MMA fighter the dude knows how to suffer.  I was psyched to be running with Lars in the chase pack.  Rather quickly we made our way to the top of Hidden Peak, passing Tim Olsen on the way up.  It was a good sign that things were going well, or we were running too fast.  As we left the Hidden Valley Aid Station we passed Cameron Clayton.  I was very surprised to see Cameron and to pass him on the down.  He said he felt pretty crappy and when he dropped his jacket I made a move to get a little ground on him.
Power hiking in flowers - Photo: Aric Manning

I tried to just flow down the first descent like water.  No braking, not hammering, just flowing.  I needed to not destroy my legs now.  Larry's Hole came by quickly and in a blink Lars and I were up and over Sinner's Pass.  We continued to flow down the rough descent towards Pacific Mine, moving in low 7:00 minute pace through the technical, loose rock.  When we hit the smoother dirt road Cameron blew by feeling a little better and using his legendary leg speed to make up lost time. I let him go knowing there was still too far to go to get reckless and chase someone like Cam.  As we got onto the outback section we saw Max and Tony working hard, Sage had already gone by, and by the time we hit the aid station Lars and I were in 11-12.  I took an extra minute at the aid to clear out my shoes, drink a Red Bull, and fill my water bottle and flask (with EFS LS).

The next few minutes I spent chasing Lars to get caught back up.  I had decided before hand that the climb to Baldy from Pacific would be the time to start making a move, to push things a little harder.  I caught Lars and he jumped on as we caught and passed several people.  When we caught Cameron, I told him to jump on as well. Cam did, and then he stayed on for quite a while.  Near the spring I started to feel really good and began pulling away from the group with my sites set on a couple of lone runners up ahead.  By the time I hit Larry's hole #2, I was in 7th.  I could see Justin Yates and Jason Loutit up ahead.  On the steep section of the climbing I went back and forth with Jason after passing Justin early on.  I hit my only low of the race as we topped Baldy and both Justin and Jason went by me again.  At the tunnel aid station I put myself back together and set out to catch back up.
More Hiking - Photo: Cody Draper's wife

Starting up the final climb I had gotten back within eyeshot of Jason and Justin, but I could also see Timothy Olsen creeping up in the rearview mirror.  When I caught Jason and Justin, who were together on the ridge, I warned them that Tim was coming.  Jason said something about not being worried as Justin and I put the hammer down and went around him.  The warning must have really hit Justin as he steadily put time on me for the remainder of the climb.  As I crested Hidden Peak into the aid station Justin was dropping out of sight ahead and Tim was no more than 100 yards back.
Rallying - Photo: Cody Draper's wife

I pulled out all the stops on the final descent, running as quickly as I could muster in an all out effort to stay ahead of Tim.  I did a pretty good job for a while.   As we dropped onto the mountain bike trails just over a mile from the finish Tim moved up and caught me.  He agreed to finish with me as long as we continued to motor.  It was one of the highlights of my running career to come into the finish with such an amazing runner as Tim and to finish amongst the some of the best mountain runners in the sport.

Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better race day.  I felt pretty good all day, stuck to my plan, and then laid it all out there at the end.  It was counted as a 6th place finish, but I'll rank it as one of my best ultra finishes ever.  It isn't everyday that you can toe the line with such a deep field, race well, feel good, and finish in a solid position.  I have to make sure to give a thank you to my coach, Adam St. Pierre, for helping me to continue to hone my craft and sharpen my skills as a runner.  Now my sites turn to UROC, with El Vaquero Loco and Run the Rut along the way.

Gear used for the Race:
Shirt: Patagonia Airflow Sleeveless
Shorts: Patagonia Strider Pro
Socks: Patagonia Ultralight Merino

Handheld: Ultraspire Isomeric Race

Pre-race: two packets instant oatmeal, 1 bottle Ultragen.
During: Two flasks of EFS LS, 1 bottle EFS, 3 bottles plain water.
After: 1 bottle Ultragen, and all the food that got in my way on the drive home.

Awesome race photos here:


  1. nice write up. i finished a little under 6:30 in my first ultra (or longer race than a half marathon). good to know even you more experienced guys get nerves too.

  2. Congrats on a well run and fast! See you at El Vaquero Loco

  3. Awesome race Luke... inspiring to watch you have such a good day and great last surge through the last sections of the course.

  4. Nice job, Luke. Go have fun at EVL and UROC!

  5. Nice work. As a recreational trail runner, backcountry skier, new father, and first year PA student your website is a huge motivation.

  6. Nice work Luke. Fun to read of the tactics as if it were a bike race. Interesting. My only question is the finish with Tim. Was there any kind of battle. You make it sound like the competitive mojo was gone between the two of you. I was hoping for blood! What gives?

    1. Brian- Tim caught me within maybe a mile of the finish. I didn't have the leg speed to hold him totally off, but he didn't pull away once he caught me. We stayed together, both pushing hard, until the finish. Karl and Bryon Powell claimed I crossed first and placed me ahead of Tim, but we finished together. I tried to hold him off, but it worked out ok. It was pretty rad to cross the line with one of the very best ultrarunners in the world!