Editors Note: Tayte finished 7th at last weekend’s Speedgoat 50K and is already thinking about next years race.
“This cannot be your first 50k.” These are the words of legendary ultrarunner and Speedgoat 50K race director, Karl Meltzer. He said this to me in early 2016 when I wanted to run my first Speedgoat. I had messaged Karl to see if he would let me into the 50K, which at the time I thought was going to be my debut ultramarathon race. Karl, however, said, “No.” He said he wouldn’t let me in the race until I had done another 50K to prove that I could go the distance. Even then, he warned me, no 50K is quite like the Speedgoat.
Karl’s crazy race is held in Utah’s Wasatch Range and boasts more than 11,000 feet of ascent with most of the course at elevations between 8,000-11,000 ft (2,400-3,300 meters). Runners scramble through boulders, wind down gnarly single track, climb up dusty hot service roads and navigate narrow ridgelines. Many famous names in our sport have come to test their inner goat on this incredible course, including Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Max King, Anita Ortiz, Jim Walmsley and many more. Everybody, even the elites, expect to endure lots of pain, and run their slowest 50K ever.
Since Karl would not let me into the race until I had run a 50K, I needed to find one to race before the Speedgoat. I chose the inaugural 2016 Broken Arrow 52K Skyrace in Lake Tahoe, purported to be an extremely tough course with around 10,000 feet of ascent. Unexpectedly, during the race, many of the runners ended up running off course, including myself. I ran an extra two miles but luckily I found my way back on course and still finished 5th overall. Most importantly, however, I’d completed my first-ever ultra. I remember emailing Karl after the Broken Arrow and he didn’t hesitate to enter me in the Speedgoat.
I was so excited to race the Speedgoat! As soon as we crossed the start line, we were climbing. We went up a long, relentless service road at the Snowbird ski resort. The pack quickly spread out on the climb and one runner, Hayden Hawks, went charging in front and was quickly out of sight. By midway through the race, I was in the top 10. I remember a key turning point in the race was just past halfway when Alex Nichols went charging past me on a rocky descent. I was amazed by Alex’s technique on the uneven terrain and I struggled to push myself down as fast as him.
I didn’t know it then, but I later learned that Alex is a several time champion of the Pikes Peak Marathon and he placed 2nd at the 2017 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Alex eventually disappeared from my sight, but I kept wondering if it was possible to go as fast as him on such difficult terrain. He seemed to be effortlessly floating over the rocks. As the descent continued, I tried running more like Alex, lighter on my feet, as opposed to charging down like I was doing before. To my surprise, my feet started moving quickly and I started gaining speed. Thank you Alex for showing me to stay light on the feet and to, “dance the downhill,” not to fight it!
I finished third overall in my first-ever Speedgoat, behind Alex and the winner Hayden Hawks. I remember it was an incredible day for all three of us, especially Hayden, who was relatively unknown on the trail scene until after this race. In the weeks following Speedgoat, Hayden secured a Hoka One One contract and now he continues to rock the trail running world. Hayden found his inner-goat at the Speedgoat and so did I. I knew that after this race I wanted to find more crazy races with lots of climbing. I wanted to practice floating on the downhills like Alex and wanted to push my body to the limits on the steep slopes.
“You know it.” These are the words from Karl this year when I asked him if he could enter me in the 2018 Speedgoat. No Broken Arrow test this time! He knows I’m a goat now. Since my first Speedgoat, I’ve run many more steep and ultra distance trail races and physically I feel more comfortable with this kind of distance than I did back in 2016. Speedgoat taught me to harness my strength as a fast climber and learn to descend well on tough terrain. For my next Speedgoat, I imagine all the pain I will go through during the race, but somehow I know I’ll be smiling because I’m a crazy goat and the steep slopes of the Speedgoat are where I belong. I’m going to cross the finish line smiling, give Karl a high-five and…drink some goat’s milk. I’m always ready for another Speedgoat.