Distance: 26.29 miles
Weather: Sunny & Warm
I learned a lot today at the fifth annual Salida Run Through Time Marathon. Here's a partial list:
1. 4:15 a.m. is a hard time to wake up.
2. Many gas station convenience stores don't sell peanut butter
3. Naps before races are cool.
4. Dirt road/off-road marathons in March in Colorado can be messy.
5. A top ten finish feels good.
My alarm did, indeed go off this morning at 4:15 a.m. so I could make the 3 hour drive to Salida and have plenty of time to relax, drink, eat and make 16,253 trips to the port-o-let. Unfortunately, we are a little short on provisions here at the house, so en route to Salida I was on an early morning quest for peanut butter to round-out a pre-race feast. I finally found some at the third place I stopped. Who knew peanut butter could be so illusive. Pork rinds and donuts, no problem - they're everywhere.
I rolled into Salida around 6:45 a.m., and felt beat. My brain was telling me I needed a cat nap...even a five-minute one. So, I pulled into the Stone Bridge river access park just outside of town, set my alarm and slept for 20 minutes. It was perfect. The nap sharpened me up and swept out the cobwebs. On to Salida...
After picking up my number, I ran into JM at the pre-race briefing..The RD explained the course marking color code, thanked the sponsors and gave us an update on course conditions. "How do you feel about dirt, mud and snow?," he asked. He went on to assure us that, as expected, we would see a lot of all three. He was not wrong.
The race started at 9 a.m. sharp along some railroad tracks on the east side of the Arkansas River. The announcer ordered racers to their marks and quickly set us off. The run began on a dirt road, taking us up and over our first hill and dropping us down to a paved road, which we followed for 2-3 miles before it turned to dirt. The good-condition dirt road climbed steadily up through a canyon to an aid station and the half-marathon turn-around spot. The marathoners continued climbing another mile or two until the road began to undulate a bit, giving us a healthy dose of downhills to go with our climbs. Through miles 8-13 was where the mud was the worst. It was mucky and wet, with the occasional stick-to-your-shoes variety. Fortunately, there were enough snow/ice sections to keep the shoes from getting too weighed down with mud.
At about the 10.5 mile mark, Tim Parr came running up the road toward me. The course does an out-and-back to the ghost town of Turret. Parr was running at a good clip and had 3-4 minutes on the next closest guy.
I continued slip-sliding down to the 12-mile mark and the turn-around, located (of course) at the bottom of the muddiest hill we'd seen all day. After a quick water bottle re-fill, I turned around and retraced my steps for 5.2 miles. Somewhere in here I met up with Brownie, easy to pick out among the runners due to his trademark hat and Pabst Blue Ribbon shirt. I continued on to the 17.2-mile mark, where an aid station awaited and race volunteers pointed runners left down a snow-covered two-track trail.
Fortunately, in the last day or so, someone had managed to get a Jeep or other four-wheel drive vehicle up this road - no small feat given the foot-plus of snow that covered the two-track. The vehicle's tire tracks gave us a decent surface to run on as the trail proceeded through four miles (or so) of rolling hills and three miles (or so) of steep, muddy and rocky descent back down toward Salida.
At about mile 24, the Jeep road dumped us out on a good-quality dirt road, which snakes up Tenderfoot Mountain or "S" Mountain from Salida. I had a scare right about here when I thought I went off course. I stopped at an intersection and looked around for the previously-ubiquitous red ribbons. I hustled over to a trailhead parking area looking for a course marker. Nothing.I looked up and remembered an trail junction about a hundred yards and a hundred feet back up. I returned to the intersection, prepared to climb back to the last junction. Thankfully, I found a course marker, sort of hidden in the shrubs on the right side of the road.
Frustrated by the unplanned pause in running and determined not to be caught from behind, I started cruising, running the last two miles (downhill) at around a 6:10 pace.
At last, the road dumped us back down to the railroad tracks the race start. The finish, though, was on the other side of the river. I kept up the pace and crossed the Arkansas River on the bridge at the end of Main Street. A few spectators were waiting and pointed me to a circuitous sidewalk which led me under the bridge and along the river to the finish at the Steamplant Event Center in the heart of downtown Salida..
I ended up in ninth place overall, second masters. Average pace: 8:42. 3,917 in elevation gain, according to the Garmin. See the data here.
My plan today was to run the whole thing steady and treat it as a training run. I was probably using that plan more as a pre-race excuse than anything - giving myself an out in the event things didn't go well. All-in-all, things went well. I'm still learning how hard I can push things without melting down. I definitely had a few difficult spots, but pushed through them and kept moving. Much learned today, my first full-length marathon (the Breckenridge Crest Marathon two years ago was actually 24.5 miles).
The top five looked like this:
1. Tim Parr - 3:13
2. Andrew Henshaw - 3:18
3. Nick Clark - 3:19 (Taking Round One in his 2010 Throw-Down with Ryan Burch)
4. Ryan Burch
5. Keri Nelson
Had a good time post-race hanging out, eating some great post-race food and catching up with JM, who also had a good day, taking 12 minutes off of his previous year's time, despite this year's poor course conditions. Nice job, Jim!
Many thanks to the Chaffee County Running Club for putting on a great race!