Race Report: Salida Run Through Time Marathon
This was a challenging race! It started in town and climbed 2000 feet in the first 8 miles averaging a 5% grade. After that there were several more 500-600′ climbs and descents to negotiate. A lot of the course was snow packed dirt road, with icy sections and some parts that had 12″ deep ruts in the frozen mud. The turnaround was at a long abandoned ghost town in the mountains above Salida. We backtracked a couple of miles before breaking off and taking a different way back to town.
There were close to 200 runners that started the race with just under 100 racing the full marathon. The rest were doing a half marathon. I was in the middle of a full training schedule, so I was just using this race mostly for training and for practicing pacing/fueling/hydration strategies. I rested the day before, and will rest the day after, then it’s right back into it as I ramp up for a 50 miler I’m targeting next month.
The race was organized by the Chaffee County Running Club. Obviously a tough group with a no-nonsense approach to running and racing. I like it!
We are a smaller non-profit race and there are no bands, dancers, jet flyovers, etc. along
the course. We do not provide a finisher medal, bouquets of flowers, space blankets, etc. at the finish.
My drive down on Friday afternoon went along the beautiful Arkansas River. It was nice to stop and stretch my legs and spend some time on the riverbank.
I arrived in Salida to a temperature in the 20’s and a blinding snowstorm. Luckily it didn’t dump all that much, but since the course topped out at 9,000′ I knew we would be in for some snowy travels. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice in that department this winter!
We received an update from the race director a few days before the race that described the last several miles of the course:
Yeah, baby! Needless to say, that just added fuel to my fire…
Thankfully, I actually had a good plan (and mostly followed it) for once. Thanks to my coach. I took it a lot easier than I normally would have on the first climb and didn’t get caught up in chasing or trying to stay with anyone – no matter what. Just my own pace.
I had hoped to keep my heart rate under 160 and still hold a sub-10 minute pace up the first climb, but the truth was I worked fairly hard (165bpm) to keep it under 11 minutes. I had done some research, but the climb ended up being steeper and feeling longer than I thought it would. I did much better once the grade eased off just a bit and I was able to drop down to a 9 min pace and keep my heart rate in the 150s.
Even though I worked harder than I would have liked on the climb, I was still very careful to keep my effort manageable and save something for later. Good thing, I would definitely need it! I was somewhere between 25-30th place when I got to the top at mile 8.
There was another very STEEP climb around mile 10 before a long descent took us to the turnaround point. I hit that in exactly 2 hours. A little tired, but fairly comfortable. I was optimistic that I could step it up a notch and maybe squeak in under 4 hours, but first I had to climb back up the long hill I had just run down…
Things were going pretty well, and I was starting to pass people more frequently. It was obvious that most had simply gone out too hard. Not me for once! By my count I was 21st at the turnaround, and when I reached the mile 18 aid station (which was also the mile 7 aid station) the volunteers were telling me great job and that I had really moved up a lot (they were keeping track of everyone’s number as they came through).
I started the deep snow section of the course, thinking – this is tough, but not too bad. Ha. Ha. Within a mile I was trekking across a vast expanse of snow, trying to stay on top of the crust, and breaking through every couple of steps up to my thigh. Ok, that just got a whole lot tougher – and no end in sight.
All time goals went flying out the window at that point. I just concentrated on passing people when I could and got another 5 or 6 in this stretch. I was hurting, but they were hurting more… On the plus side, the route was easy to spot as those of us wearing shorts were leaving a blood trail for the rest to follow. That crusty snow was hard, and sharp! My shins looked like I took a cheese grater to them.
Finally, the plunge to the finish line. I told the race director afterwards that it felt like this course had about 24 miles of climbing and 2 miles of descent. That final drop was pretty steep! He laughed knowingly and said it was like an Escher drawing.
I finished in 13th place out of 89 starters, with a time of 4:35. The winner made it in 3:49 (the only one to break 4 hours), which was about 40 minutes slower than last year – definitely tough conditions this time around! I was psyched to run a smart race and stick to the plan my coach worked out. It was a great race in a beautiful setting!