Speedgoat 50K Has Decadence and Decree - Page 3
The early morning air was filled with jam-band tunes, no doubt from Karl’s iPod—a welcomed deviation from the Eye of the Tiger anthem present at most starting lines. Jerry Garcia sang:
All my life it’s been like this
If you love me it’s your own risk
When the dust hits my shoes
I got the urge to move.
Added to Karl’s signature image of a Red Bull cap, gloves and sunglasses was a walkie-talkie and a spool of orange tape attached to the front of a large backpack. Following a quick briefing, Karl set the Speedgoat 50K into motion. From the beginning, my intentions were obvious. Not wanting to sprint for the grand at the summit, I opened up a sizeable gap on the field and stayed a full minute ahead of Kilian until I was sure that the 10 Franklins were mine.
At the summit, I paused, looked around and took in a lot of nutrients to make up for all that I had just spent. I took in the view of the surrounding Wasatch Range, chatted with my spectating mom briefly and watched Kilian crest the climb and disappear before I continued on my way.
We descended down the backside of the mountain. From 80 yards back, I watched Kilian dart down a narrow eroded slope connecting the upper and lower part of the service road. A race official stood there watching it. When I approached and saw that the race official was in fact the Speedgoat himself, all I could manage was,
“What the f***, Karl?” as though I was blaming him for the blatant course cutting.
I flashbacked to a Skyrunning Race that I had run in northern Italy in 2007. I had begun a several-thousand-foot descent down a steep slope of interwoven tussock and rock. I zigzagged the switchbacks while wildly animated spectators yelled at me and pointed down the slope. “Diretto!” they screamed. “Diretto!” I learned quickly that cutting switchbacks was not only legal but actually encouraged.
Watching Kilian fly down the mountain, I was faced with a decision. At the time, it wasn’t about going faster or slower, or about tromping wildflowers or unnatural erosion. It was about following our rules or theirs. I followed the switchback around. There was no way for me to be maddened by Kilian’s shortcutting—I knew that he was simply following different guidelines.
I continued descending into Mineral Basin, through a large field of flowers that were just as Karl had said, “Amazing. Waist high. Super cool.” The course descended several thousand feet more, then a short out-and-back at the bottom of Mount Baldy allowed me to take inventory on where I stood in the race—two minutes behind Kilian and a few minutes ahead of recently crowned World Mountain Running Champion, Max King, Tony and the rest of the field.
Jerry Garcia sang to me in my head while I began the second ascent of Mount Baldy:
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I’m gone.
I was feeling good, which is to say that I wasn’t feeling bad. Halfway up the climb I spotted Kilian less than a minute ahead. He glanced over his shoulder and looked back at me. I pointed my head down and grunted forth. Looking up would have prevented me from taking a wrong turn, moments later, which cost me another two to three minutes. After getting myself back on track I did the two proper things that can be done in that situation and that is to utter some profanities and remain calm. The race was only half done and a sprint to make up for lost time could have cost me dearly.
After passing through Mineral Basin a second time, 19 miles into the race, the course started up a steep, trail-less slope. It started off as hands-on-knees steep and ended with hands-on-ground—I pulled at the grass in front of my nose so as not to go tumbling back down the mountain. With the vegetation so close to my nose, I caught a whiff of mint. The leaf that I put into my mouth wasn’t mint, though. At the top of the climb near the summit of Hidden Peak, my brother was waiting.
“The rumor is Kilian’s gonna get DQed.”
“I suspected as much,” I said, and then dropped down off the ridge and through a tunnel that connects the north and south sides of the mountain.
I plummeted fifteen-hundred feet down the north side of the mountain and back to the summit of Hidden Peak, where my brother and my mom were again waiting for me. I switched out shoes, revealing a mess of bloody toes. Several glances back and down, I saw no one. I grinded the final five miles to the finish where Kilian and Karl were talking. Karl approached me.
“I’m probably going to have to DQ Kilian.”
Karl looked more tired and less happy than most of the runners in the race. That he hadn’t yet made a decision told me just how much it was wearing on him.
Max came in, and Tony soon after. Forty-five minutes later Anna crossed the finish line—a half-hour ahead of the next woman.