Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Salida Marathon 2012

Salida Marathon
3:36 / 10th

Tenderfoot Mountain with the famous "S" for Salida -- Also the "exit" from the singletrack back into town

It's been a couple years, but it was nice to get out to Salida for the annual March trail marathon. They changed the course again this year, adding even more singletrack compared to previous years. I was anxious and excited to get an early season race done, especially at a bargain price ($40 early, $50 late). It's also a great time to catch up with different runners across Colorado.

I came in late Friday night, and although the Hostel is a great deal, I opted again for chez coche, aka The Outback. There's great, free, easy camping within a few miles of town: head to the edge of town and then drive a mile or two towards Colorado Springs, and on the left side of the road, just past the 4 Seasons RV camping, is some open BLM land. Being a calm, starry, windless night, it would have been nice to sleep completely outside, but it was just cold enough (upper 20s) that I stayed inside, and slept remarkably well.

The race also has a casually late start -- 9am, with 8am checkin -- so I was able to get up with the sun and start making some oatmeal and instant coffee. But I still decided to stop into Cafe Dawn for some real coffee.

At the checkin and start, it was great to see local FC crew: race favorite Nick Clark, Shaun Blair, Aaron Marks, and Bryan Stefanovic; and other great Front Ranger regulars like PG and NMP (insert blog link here). I enjoyed meeting some of Bryan's friends from Boulder, who had done a combined one (road) half marathon between them -- it was even better to hear afterward how much fun they both had.

I did not end up seeing JT at the start, which conveniently added a layer of mystery (for him) as to whether or not he would owe me a beer afterward.

With little fanfare, we all assembled by the railroad tracks, for a combined marathon/half-marathon/2-mile fun-run start. The combined start and course meant that the first 2 miles were flat road miles, before going over hill and dale on rocky trail. I decided to push these first couple of miles because they felt so easy, and they went by in somewhere around 13 minutes. Whoops!

The only nice part about being aggressive early was that the singletrack was more open at this point, as it was difficult to pass. I passed a couple guys here and then actually ran sort of alone for a bit, on quite enjoyable climbing and rolling singletrack.

Eventually, as we hit more shaded snow and ice, and I was probably more conservative, a group of 3: Brandon, Kyle, and Drew -- closed up. I let them pass, but then tagged along as we rolled along on some fun trail Eventually, between 8-9 miles or so in, we popped out on the final few miles of dirt road climb up to the turnaround.

Free race photos, courtesy of the race! What a deal!

We stayed fairly close as a group for the next few miles, but not before NMP rolled up from behind and blew past. He was looking strong and obviously paced himself well. What a concept! I still felt fine, but knew on paper that I probably pushed a little too hard early. But the 2nd half is mostly downhill, right?

So now the race hits a 12.4M mark, then runs another 0.7 before the turnaround back to what would be the 13.8M mark, before exiting the road onto a different set of muddy, snowy jeep track. I stopped briefly for some water and we were split up a bit, and now it was time to see the leaders come down, which is a fun treat at this part of the course. Nick was cruising nicely and looking great, just in front of Timmy. Now I counted other folks as they came through....6, 7, 8, 9...crap. I had a goal of top 10, and there I was, in 10th, with a few guys behind me looking good. So I had my work cut out to stay there.

I headed back to the aid station before exiting into the mud. No JT yet, either, so the beer situation was looking good, and I would be able to duck into the woods with him still wondering. Now it was mud and snow, slopping around, trying not to slip but generally having a good time. I guess it pretty much stayed this way for 5 miles, running by myself, trying not to miss any flags -- the course was very well marked. I felt alright here but it didn't feel as downhill as I had anticipated.
Finally, before the next aid station, we had some fast, more technical downhill -- but I also heard footsteps behind. I waved briefly and said something, but got not response (later to see he had headphones in, and it was no slight). I went a bit faster than was comfortable, since it was too hard to pass here, and tweaked an ankle briefly before shaking it off. We were blasting down the hills and I felt a little foolish with more than 6 miles left. Soon enough, we hit a junction with the next aid station and came in together. I stopped for a brief bit for a refill and a gel but let him go by.

Now in 11th, with nobody else close behind (yet suspecting a small pack of a few guys a few minutes back), I lost a bit of motivation. Oh, and it was time for a final grunt of a climb up from the river. I actually didn't mind this, and caught occasional glimpses of 10th, but when we were back on the downhill, I just felt like cruising and not risking anything.

I didn't really know or have any goals at this point, I was kind of in no-man's land. I felt OK but not great. I had kind of thought something <3:30 would be a good goal, but that was out the window (after some significant math calculations). A few casual half marathoners were still out here, and I enjoyed the brief company and cameraderie with them...and then I saw what looked like another marathon runner in bad shape. I caught up to him and made sure he was OK or if he needed anything, he said he was fine but he was going pretty slow.
I was glad to see he was OK and now it seemed like I was in 10th again. That buoyed my spirits more than I thought it would, and I picked it up a bit. What a silly magic number, though. Minutes later it occurred to me that maybe that guy wasn't a marathoner (I hadn't thought to check his bib); maybe I miscounted; and how arbitrary the whole thing is, anyway. At least it kept my mind occupied, and then I settled on, How about just finish this race and don't get passed?

OK, so that's how it was. I enjoyed the downhill spiral down the mountain, at a fun casual pace but not really pushing myself.
I hit the river and saw Shaun there, who had finished the half marathon.


At the finish, I was glad to grab some soup, and eventually a 2nd and 3rd bowl. I didn't have any cramps at all but this suggested that perhaps some salt earlier would have been helpful in the heat and sun.

I really enjoyed hanging out, catching up with folks and meeting some new ones. Happy to hear that Nick won, and NMP finished a solid 3rd. I was waiting for Bryan, and then Aaron to roll in (shown below):

We all hung out a bit...and then eventually JT came in...wearing lobster gloves! He clearly didn't cover the 45 minutes he spotted Nick. Now we all hung out a bit, before heading out en masse to Moonlight Pizza.

That was JT's recommend, and it was a solid one. Great food, and excellent beer -- tried both the solid Irish Red, and the reliable and cheap (always $2.50) cream ale -- both great choices. Especially when the first one was on JT!


Well this is a fun race, and definitely highly recommended -- it's been evangelized by Nick every year, and rightfully so.
I was happy with a decent race, and very happy with the organization, trails, and company of the fellow runners. But it's also a good early-season race for lessons, and I learned some of those. I need to prepare myself to keep pushing when it seems like little goals slip away, and I cruised instead of making myself finish strong. I could have pushed it smarter (slower first half) yet harder (downhill), and I have more trail training to do. That's great to know -- it's only March!


  1. And now a 5k this weekend? Yeesh.

  2. 5k, then marathon, then injuring my ribs would have been a better order of things, if I had my choice...

  3. Obviously, all the FoCo guys (except Aaron) are using PED's.

  4. I wasn't quite sure why everyone was in such a hurry at the start! Fortunately I had (have) no leg speed so can't follow such silliness - I just figured I would catch most of you in the second half ;-)

  5. Looking good! I'm afraid if Brownie loses any more bets he won't be able to afford my beer this July.

  6. Looking at the running pic, I was imagining the self-talk..."Hey, there's a photographer...close the mouth...smile, but not too long...don't want to mess up the breathing...come on...smile!...got it!"

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