Thursday, March 15, 2012

Salida Marathon Race Report

Date: 3/10/12
Stats: 26.2 miles; ~4,850’ elevation gain
Results: 3:38:03; 11th overall

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of running the Salida Run Through Time trail marathon. I heard really good things about this event and I was looking forward to racing for the first time in almost 6 months. I had high expectations going into this race. My training had been solid throughout the winter and I was excited to see how I felt in a race situation. Jess and I drove down from Denver the night before and stayed at America's Best Value Inn. There's a reason that's the cheapest place in town. Oh well, it still beat getting up at 4am and driving down on Saturday.

The first 2 miles were fast, probably too fast. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype when you’re tapered and excited. After a couple flat miles at 6:25 pace, the trail starts the 2,000 foot climb from the Arkansas River up Tenderfoot Hill. The pace slowed and the field spread out a bit. The scenery and trails were amazing and the first hour flew by.

At mile 7.5 the single track met up with County Road 175, where runners would continue climbing for another 5 miles until the turnaround point. The incline of the dirt road is low enough that I should have been able to keep a steady pace, but for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. It was probably a combination of going out too quickly and not drinking enough water. Whatever the reason, my reduced pace allowed a group of 5 guys to reel me in within a few minutes of getting on 175. Although it was nice to chat briefly with Brandon, Drew and Kyle, I was really frustrated that I couldn’t keep pace with them. All I could do was hope that I would catch a second wind.

At the 12.5 mile mark, runners turn around and run back down 175 for a mile before returning to single track for the final 12ish miles. This allowed me to catch a glimpse of the leaders and see how much ground I had lost over the 5 mile slog up 175. I hit the turnaround at an average pace of 8:00, giving me a good chance of breaking 3:30. That would require me to keep the same pace for the remainder of the race, but it was mostly downhill from here so it should have been feasible.

However, as the miles added up and the temperature rose, my lack of water and calories started to catch up with me. I kind of knew that I was digging myself deeper into a hole, but I didn’t feel like eating or drinking. I cruised through an aid station at mile 14…my main priority was to not lose more ground to the guys in front of me. In hindsight I should have stopped here for a minute to refuel for the final 12 miles back to town.

I ran that final 12 miles alone and I actually made up one position. Despite being mostly downhill, my pace slowed noticeably on the way back to the finish line in Salida. I just didn’t have the energy to produce any kind of leg turnover. The trail was mostly in good shape, with occasional patches of soft snow and mud. I could see the footprints from the runners ahead of me and I was frustrated that I couldn’t put up more of a fight and close the gap.

I was not disappointed with my time, but I know that I have the potential to improve. I definitely learned a few things which will hopefully benefit me in future races:  

1.      Don’t underestimate any distance.
I went into this with the mindset that “it’s only a marathon.” Sure that’s far, but I’ve been running that distance a decent amount lately. However, running that distance at race intensity is totally different. This leads me to the next one…

2.      Simulate a race environment during training runs more often.
Eat and drink while running. Force down food when I don’t feel like it. Add some sections of high intensity during a long workout. Run in the heat. Run at night. Take less social breaks. Always be moving.

3.      Pace myself.
A marathon is a tough distance when it comes to pacing. If you start off too fast (like I did) you’ll lose that time back, and then some, in the second half of the race. Start too slowly and you don’t have enough time/miles to make it up. This is something I need to practice more.

4.      Race day nutrition can be more important than fitness.
As I mentioned above, I did not pay enough attention to food and water. I need to figure this out. I’m still not sure if I like the hydration pack or hand helds, gels or real food, water or sports drink.

5.      Respect the Vibrams.
I was very impressed with Kyle’s 4th place performance, wearing Vibrams nonetheless. I run with him a decent amount so I know he’s fast. But damn…
course map

a few miles into the race
post race "ice bath" in the Arkansas River
Drew, me, Kyle


  1. I missing Salida already, but there is too much to this season left to dwell on that. Next up Quadrock!

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  3. Love reading your blogs. You inspire me!

  4. I'll second Drew on that. We should all get together for another long run before too long.