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Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 SpeedGoat 50K: The Best Race I Never Finished

 I knew almost immediately that I was in trouble. As we began the first climb after the start, my legs were dead. Totally unresponsive. I had hoped they would loosen up and propel me up the mountain like I knew they could, but it was no use. I was a victim of my own glutinous behavior and now it was time to pay the price for my greed.

Whatever power and speed that remained after the Black Hills 100 was probably used up a couple weeks later when I ran a hard pace at the Leadville Silver Rush 50 miler. And in between those races, I ran my fastest trail 10k ever and placed in that race.

I'll be the first to admit that I run too much. This is nothing new, but I've been pretty fortunate with my ability to recover quickly and perform well on back to back weekends. But eventually, it will always catch up to me.

Right After My DNF..."I Tried."

I could end my race report right there. There is no glorious story to share and I have no pride in what happened, but this is an amazing race and despite my poor performance, there's still a lot to share.

You may not know much about the SpeedGoat 50k, but everybody remembers the controversy surrounding Kilian Jornet cutting switchbacks to steal a win from Max King and set a new "Course Record" last year. Yes...this is THAT race.

SpeedGoat is probably one of the toughest mountain races in the United States and it draws a stacked field of high level mountain runners. It also boasts a $12,000 prize purse, which has a way of getting peoples attention.

SpeedGoat is a nasty race. It may be "only a 50K" but there's a reason it has an abundance of finishers well after the 10 hour mark.

Course Profile

We drove an hour to the start line, got my bib and mingled with friends and fellow runners. I felt tired and had given serious consideration to arriving as a spectator rather than a participant, but I was also eager to run in the high country.

At the Start!

I was also eager to share the trail with friends from our running group. The Happy Utah Mountain Runners have a lot of talented athletes in the group and it's always an inspiration to see them at work in the mountains.

HUMR Group Photo

Getting Ready to Start!

Like I said in the beginning of this report, I knew right away that things weren't right with my body. We start the race with a serious amount of climbing and my legs were mocking me as I tried to get them engaged in the program. I tried to force a decent turnover rate, but they were totally unresponsive.

I damn near turned around at mile 1, but decided to push on.

After some serious gain, we had a long sustained downhill run. My Garmin was showing a 9:40 pace! Downhill! More proof that things were awry! If it wasn't so annoying, it would almost be funny.

I chugged along, doing my best to run up the mountain, but I was getting passed more and more frequently. I finally found a stable position in the middle of the pack. I don't run in the middle of the pack.

Utah Ski Lifts = Steep Ass Slopes!

At mile 6, we were in the middle of a chin scraping climb and that's when I decided my day was over. It wasn't a rash decision, it was actually very well thought out, carefully weighing the pros and cons.

The Decision Tree looked like this:

- Am I going to place in the top 10?   NO
- Can I use this as a slow training run?   NO
- Is this a good thing for my tired body? NO
- Is my sponsor pushing me to do well here? NO
- Will I be happy fighting through a slow finish? NO
- Is there ICE COLD PBR in the truck? YES!

Decision made! You can clearly follow the logic and I'm sure anybody would have come to the same conclusion.

The first aid station sits at the top of Hidden Peak at 11,000' and 8.3 miles into the race. I had two miles of beastly uphill before I would get there. But my mind was at ease and my spirits were high, knowing that would mark the end of it for me today. So I pushed on. Slowly. Stopping to enjoy the scenery and take a few pictures.

The View Behind Me

Looking Back Toward the Start

 The View Right Before the Top of Hidden Peak

While I was struggling up the mountain, the elite runners were cruising through the Hidden Peak aid station and already headed back down the mountain.

Sage Canaday, First to Reach Hidden Peak

Tony Climbs Like I Do

 Max King, Pole Dancing Up

Timothy Olson Making it Up and Over

Further Back, Michael Wardian

Meanwhile, I was slogging my way up the mountain, half runner, half photo taking tourist by this point. I could occasionally hear the aid station taunting me in the distance, only to hear it fade as a gnarly switchback moved me in the wrong direction. Annoying.

Not long after the elite runners came through, our group began to file up the mountain.

Nick Francis Coming Into Hidden Peak


"Badass" Britta Trepp! Seriously...She's Smiling!

Ryan Lauck...Also Smiling. What am I Missing?

I eventually found the aid station. As I made the final ascent, I gave Jo the "I'm done" signal and she instantly looked shocked and concerned. I walked her though my "decision tree" and she instantly recognized that I had made an awesome decision.

My Last Few Steps as a Competitor. I'm NOT Smiling

I wasn't even slightly disappointed in pulling the plug. I felt relatively good, but I didn't feel strong. Continuing on for another 24 miles wasn't going to benefit me in any way. I had nothing at all to gain. Stopping was the only right decision to make.

The top of the mountain was windy and cold. It can get that way at 11,000' and I was ill prepared for it. I hadn't exactly planned to stop here. Jo dug out a blanket and I bundled up while we made plans for our descent.

Meanwhile, I got to greet my buddy Curtis when he came to the top of the mountain.

Curtis Puts the HAPPY in Happy Utah Mountain Runners!

After some discussion with Karl Meltzer, Jo & I decided to run back down the mountain on a service road that met up with the course. Off we went!

Picking My Way Back Down

As with most races, I managed to get lost on the way down. My day wouldn't be complete otherwise. When we finally got off the mountain, we were about a mile away from the start line. I should have assumed that would happen.

After getting back to the start line, I grabbed my much anticipated PBR, a couple of folding chairs and set up camp by the timing tent so we could watch the race unfold. I sat next to Bryon Powell from irunfar.com so I could get live updates from the course.

Bryon doing, what Bryon does!

Not long into my second PBR, the race winner came into the finish. Sage Canaday finished in 5:08, shaving 6 minutes off the phony course record set by Kilian Jornet and a full 10 minutes off the legitimate course record! A killer run by a great young mountain runner.

Sage Getting Greeted by Karl Meltzer

There are varying accounts along the course, but it was reported that Sage had a 20 minute lead on Tony Krupicka at one point in the race. Tony ran hard and closed the gap down to 88 seconds, finishing within sight of Sage.

Tony Crossing the Line

Me, Tony and Sage

Max King Comes in 4th and Was Disappointed 

Timothy Olson Was a Bit Bummed in 6th but Ran a Great Race

Shortly after the elite runners finished, and before the finish line got busy, we were greeted by a moose that was intent on finding a safe way through the finish chute.  She was a little put off my the noise and the crowd, but she eventually picked her way around us, to whatever destination was so important.

She Goes Where She Wants

I was well into my third PBR and enjoying my time chatting with the early finishers when our group began to trickle in.

Nick Francis With an Amazing Finish!

Ryan Killed it!

Well into my 5th PBR by Now. 

Britta Finishes With a Smile!

 Jo and lingered for a while and enjoyed our time watching this amazing race unfold. Eventually, it was time to head back to Ogden and onto other things.

I've had a lot of time to reflect on the events that unfolded for me at SpeedGoat. Here are a few things that I learned...

1. PBR is way underrated
2. Not every race is important, or even necessary
3. I always need to keep my eye on my priorities
4. I will run SpeedGoat next year as a well planned "A Race"
5. PBR actually stands for "Post Beatdown Recovery"
6. Tony paints his toenails pink
7. The Utah high country is beautiful and worth the pain to explore
8. I wouldn't change a thing about my day or the things that led up to it

In the end, I had an amazing day with a lot of very cool people. This was the first race I had ever DNF'd while I still felt good enough to actually finish it. It was an odd feeling to walk off when I could have gutted it out, but it was the right decision.

I hadn't posted a DNF in well over a year, and I had run 42 races since that time. It was bound to happen and I can't think of a better race for it to happen at.

I have a few little things on the calendar before Leadville, but I plan to tackle them in a very pedestrian manner with no plans for big finishes. Leadville is the goal and everything else is just fun on the trails with very good friends.

Thanks for reading and thanks again to all of those that support me!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Leadville Silver Rush 50: Another Breathtaking Day in the Rockies

It occurred to me this week that I have an unhealthy obsession with running in Leadville. After several hours of careful consideration, I decided this obsession is rooted in the fact that Leadville always beats me. I keep returning for the 50 and 100 mile races because I have an unyielding need to settle some score I have with those mountains. It's a battle of determination and I'm sure the mountains are always better positioned to win.



I run the Silver Rush 50 every year as a test for the Leadville Trail 100. It's a great opportunity for me to test my conditioning at altitude so I can better forecast how I might perform in the LT100. While this sounds logical, I think it may just be an excuse to go run in Leadville for a few days.

As tradition dictates, Jo and I bagged a 14'er as soon as we arrived in Leadville. We had failed to fully plan for this climb in advance, so we decided to summit Mt. Elbert because it was nearby and we were familiar with it because we had climbed it two years earlier. We were a little bummed to be hitting the same peak twice but we didn't have time to waste on last minute logistics.

Near the Summit of Elbert

The climb was fairly uneventful, but breathtaking as the Rocky Mountains came into view near the summit. Standing at the highest point in Colorado grants a perspective like none other. 

With my Bride at 14,440'

An important note...when I'm not bagging 14'ers or running in the mountains, it's a safe bet that you can find me sitting in the Silver Dollar Saloon. What else is there to do in Leadville?


Like the LT100, the Silver Rush 50 is an out and back course. It starts on the outskirts of town and meanders through the mountains, crossing two major mountain passes and a lot of rocky terrain before turning around to head back to town. The climbs are steep and the descents are equally brutal.

Silver Rush 50 Profile

The race begins at the base of Dutch Henry Hill, which is a small ski slope in town. This initial climb is steep and the footing is terrible. A smart runner will go easy up this ascent and hit the trail at the top with fresh legs. But most ultra runners aren't smart.

Looking Down at the Start Line

Charging up the Hill!

At the top of the hill, I spend the next two miles trying to recover my breath and get my heart rate to slow to a reasonable rate.

The trail is initially jeep roads and double track that grind uphill for the first 7 miles to the first aid station. Shortly after that, the ascent gets far more serious and the conga line slows to a crawl as we make our way over the first mountain pass.

After cresting the summit, we're treated to a long, gradual downhill run on a well maintained dirt road. I let my legs loose and I began to gain several spots.

Our dirt road meets up with a section of paved road and we make a short climb to the Printer Boy aid station at mile 13.5 and my first opportunity to see Jo. I stripped my pack off, handed it to Jo and headed to the aid station table for some bananas and potato chips. By the time I was done gorging myself, Jo had my pack ready and I was gone. My aid station stop was less than 90 seconds.

Just like the two previous years, I made it to Printer Boy in 2:15. I can't seem to get there any faster...

Coming into Printer Boy

Heading Out of Printer Boy, Chasing them all Down!

After leaving the aid station, we run a few hundred yards on smooth, level double track before bailing off the ridge into the valley below. This descent is about 1 mile long and can be run fast. I took advantage of it and gained a few spots.

Bottom of the Descent...before heading UP!

The next section of trail is a LONG climb to the Rock Garden. The ascent is relentless but I know that I'll be rewarded with the most beautiful views that the course offers. I make the climb quickly and the Rock Garden aid station comes into view much sooner than I had anticipated.

View of Turquoise Lake From Rock Garden

Leaving the aid station, we're headed to the the pass around Ball Mountain. This is a long and challenging climb, but nothing compared to the climb on the return trip.

Heading to the Turn.

I made it up and over the pass and was now running in total solitude. I seemed to be running behind the "fast guys" but ahead of everybody else. It was a nice opportunity to settle in and enjoy the ride.

Coming to the Stumptown aid station is maddening. We can see it from the top of the mountain pass, but the trail winds its way toward the aid station, then turns away. As the cheers and cowbells fade, so does my spirit. It's similar to climbing a mountain with a dozen false summits. I keep thinking I'm there, only to realize I'm not even close.

Coming to Stumptown, My Crew, and the Halfway Mark!

I made it in and out of Stumptown in record time of 4:12! I fueled up on some aid station grub, grabbed a reloaded hydration pack and headed back toward Leadville.

I was now pondering the possibility of a sub 9 hour finish...

I like the out and back format because I get to pass all the runners that are behind me. I find that this helps to pass the time and the smiles as we greet each other are an inspiration that helps to push me along the trail. I was able to see a lot of my friends that were running deeper in the pack and I was happy to see their smiles and pass along a few words of praise and encouragement. It's the highlight of the race for me.

Shortly after leaving Stumptown, we have the toughest climb of the race. All I can do is settle in and grind my way back over the pass. If I can get to the top and still have decent legs, I know the race is going to end well. But I also know this is where my race has gone to hell in my last two races here.

I finally crested the mountain pass and still felt good, so I grabbed a few deep breaths, settled my heart and ran down the mountain.

Coming back to Printer Boy

It had taken me 2 hours to get from Printer Boy to Stumptown. It took me 1:55 to make the trip in reverse. I had never come close to a negative split on this course and the notion of a course PR was firmly planted in my head.

Like all the other stops, Jo had me back on the course in a matter of seconds. I took a little extra time to grab my iPod before I left because I was running in total solitude and needed the distraction. I rolled out of the aid station with adrenaline pumping rock music blaring in my ears. I was pumped up for the finish and feeling good.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...The storm was brewing. I had been watching the storm clouds gather and darken the sky for the last hour or so. There was no doubt we were in for a big rain event, and in the high Rockies, that means lightning too. I was running with the storm at my back but it was headed my way and gaining on me.

The Storm was Brewing

The storm caught me at mile 43 and dumped rain on me for about two miles and finally passed over me. I was drenched from the rain but it did nothing to dampen my spirits. I was on my way to my best finish at Leadville and nothing else mattered.

I was totally lost in thought at mile 46 when two mule deer decided to cross the trail in front of me. I had my music going and was totally zoned out when I saw them. Evidently they were equally surprised by my sudden arrival and as a result, we scared the hell out of each other. They panicked, I panicked...and we all wet ourselves a little bit. Normally, I'm not afraid of deer, but when I'm totally lost in thought and something starts crashing in the woods a few feet from me...it has a way of bringing me right out of my trance in a very abrupt manner.

Coming to the finish is a lot like heading into Stumptown. I can hear the race announcer and the cheering crowd long before I actually arrive at the finish line. One minute, they sound really close, then the trail takes me deeper in the woods, away from the festivities. This little torture game repeats itself several times before the finish line comes into view.

Eventually, I see the finish line at the bottom of the ski hill and drain the rest of my energy to bomb down the hill and cross the line.

Finishing my 3rd Silver Rush in Record Time!

I crossed the finish line in 8:42:44, which was 1 hour and 6 minutes faster than the previous year. There were 450 starters, 305 finishers and I came in 35th place and 6th in my age group. Not my best race for the year, but it sure felt like a victory.

Celebrating With Two Things I Enjoy. My Beautiful Bride and a COLD Beer!

I rested briefly then headed to the hotel for a quick shower before returning to the finish line to watch some good friends and great runners finish their races.

I got to see my friend Jeff Gould finish in just over 10 hours. He's an amazing runner and ran a very smart race. His time was amazing, especially considering some of the issues he suffered through at altitude. I was thoroughly impressed.

Jeff, Just Happy to be Back in Leadville. Well Done!

Next, I got to see Anthony Parillo finish his day. Anthony is my stalker. He seems to be at almost every ultra I run and he's a far batter athlete than I'll ever be. We ran the Black Hills 100 together two weeks before Leadville and he finished one spot ahead of me. He also won the Old Dominion 100 in June and laid down an amazing finish time. He's an amazing athlete.

Greeting Anthony, All Smiles!

A few minutes after Anthony finished, I was able to greet my buddy Craig Branaghan back to Leadville. He's a great runner from Boulder and a really great guy. He worked his guts out for a solid finish in Leadville.

Well Earned Congratulations, Craig!

Overall, I'm really happy with my race and my faster finish time. I owe the improvement to living at altitude and having access to the Wasatch mountains for my training. I also credit better endurance nutrition strategy for my improved performance in these long and difficult races, and I can thank the professionals at Hammer Nutrition for their guidance and support.

I look forward to heading back to Leadville in August for the Leadville Trail 100. If this race is any indication, I should have a pretty fulfilling race this year.

Jo and I will be making an appearance at the Speedgoat 50k in a few weeks and I'm sure Karl Meltzer will do an amazing job of brutalizing my body on his course. Nonetheless, we're looking forward to it.

Thanks for following along and thanks for all the support.

Happy Trails!