I had gotten on the course twice a few weeks prior with some success staying on course. Despite having a course map and GPS on my phone, I still managed to get off trail. The second time I was a bit more successful, but still only ran the first 9 miles. During the race, I don’t think my course preview did much for me. Part of it was just my inexperience with GPS mapping, and part of it was just not running far enough.
Knowing a course can make a huge difference in how well your race goes.
The more obvious reason is staying on course. Twice during the race I went off course. Once with two other runners and once by myself. Luckily, there were runners nearby to correct me. It is super important to be mindful that you are actively looking for the proper flagging and not just blindly following the runner in front of you. For this very reason, I prefer to run in front of people because it forces me to pay attention.
The more subtle way course knowledge affects you is how you pace yourself. How long is this hill going to last? How many more big climbs are left? how hard can I take this downhill? How many f*cking switchbacks are there before the finish? Knowing where and when to push yourself and when to hold back allows to be more judicious with your precious energy.
Not knowing what’s coming up can be demoralizing. After I reached the second main peak around mile 24, I mistakenly thought it was all downhill from there. But it wasn’t. There was still another major climb. I should have known since the race claimed around 12,000 feet of vertical and my Garmin was around 9,000 feet.
Let’s talk about the actual race distance. How far is it, really? Just because the race has 50K (Or whatever distance) in the name doesn’t necessarily mean that is the actual distance. It could be longer or even shorter. The Speedgoat race was a bit more than 50K, which is not surprising, since it’s a hard race anyway. I’m fine with a few extra miles, as long as I know in advance. Finding out that instead of the 3 miles you’ve been fixating on is actually 6 more miles is tough. So in the future, if the distance isn’t listed explicitly, just assume that you might very well have “bonus” miles. If you finish at the expected distance, awesome! But if your watch says you should be done and the finish is nowhere in sight, you won’t be as upset.
Finally, if you are familiar with a course, it just seems shorter. It’s like when you are driving to a place you’ve never been before. You are taking in all sorts of sensory information about the scenery around you. So getting there takes forever. But on the way back, it seems much quicker. It’s sort of the same thing with a race course. Once you become familiar with it, your brain stops taking in all the minute details and just sees big landmarks, which breaks things into bigger chunks. Now you can’t always get on the actual course, but you can look at maps, YouTube videos, and read about the course.
Some other minor things.
I’ve only been in Utah for about 2 months now, and I’ve seen at least 4 guys suffering from heat stroke, only one during the race. Not sweating, the chills, sunburn. I don’t know much about heat stroke, but I think these are three obvious symptoms. I plan to have an extra stash of salt pills and crystalized ginger (or even pepto pills) and maybe sunscreen for those unlucky souls. If you know you are going to be in the sun all day, use sunscreen and/or cover up. Hydrate properly and take electrolyte/ salt tablets.
Late in the race, my inner thighs started to cramp up in a major way while I was climbing a short steep hill. I had to sit down. Once during a 100K gravel ride my legs quads locked up in a similar fashion. It was nuts. I think it might have been an overuse issue combined with an electrolyte imbalance, or it might have just been too much steep climbing. Once I made it up the section, and it flattened out, I was able to run just fine. So that is an interesting mystery. In the future, I’ll go back to having two liquids with me at all times, water and some sports drink. I think that will help keep my electrolytes in balance, provide some additional calories, and avoid flavor fatigue of warm water.
I was honestly worried about finishing. I haven’t had any runs over 20 miles in what seems like forever. And my knees were sore after 4 miles the other day, how would they handle 30? Things turned out fine, and it gives me a bit of hope heading into Bigfoot 200. A lot of this dumb sport is mental. You sign up for a race, you’re at the race waiting for the start, you start, there’s non stop mental anguish for however many hours, then you finish and drive home and think,” Holy shit the race is over.” And life goes on.
Overall, I think this was a great race. Great location, super challenging course, great schwag (although we didn’t get finisher’s medals because of a snafu, but they are available), super aid stations with choice options (it wasn’t all just candy) and great post race options (although I didn’t get to spend much time there afterwards.) So if you are considering running Speedgoat, I’d highly recommend it.