If you've read my January and February training recaps, you realize that, while not spectacular by elite-level standards, my mileage has been ramped up by Brooks-level standards, and I've been consistantly running more than ever before. All of this hypothetically made me stronger than ever before, too. Saturday morning it was time to find out if there was any truth to this...
I first ran the Salida Marathon last year, and while feeling fit and strong beforehand, I had clearly underestimated both the recovery time needed from the Rocky Raccoon 100 the month before and the difficulty of the race course. My final time ended up being 4:08... a humbling experience, to say the least.
This year the course was revised to include 6 miles of pure, unadulterated single track, and less jeep road. While this made the course itself more challenging - especially since the singletrack came at the end of the race - the overall lack of snow compared to last year made it about a wash for difficulty.
The pre-race lineup at packet pickup was basically a who's-who of Colorado ultrarunners, despite this being a small grassroots event. Case in point: Geoff Roes, Nick Clark, Ryan Burch, Tim Parr. In addition to these recognizable names, there were at least 3 guys running who've had top-5 finishes at the Leadville 100: Dan Vega (2nd in 2005), Rick Hessek (4th in 2008), and Harry Harcrow (2nd in 2007 and 4th in 2006).
Needless to say, my race was going to be against the clock, so I just went out at a moderate, sustainable pace, trying to keep my heartrate and breathing under control during the initial 8+ mile climb, as well as the following 6 miles of mostly rolling gravel roads. At mile 14, while not feeling awesome, I had been fueling and drinking well (as if this was an ultra) and knew I could start reeling guys in who had gone out too hard. Ironically, I was in 14th place at mile 14.
Between miles 14 and 20, which is mostly doubletrack jeep roads, by just being able to run a consistant pace on both the ups and downs, I ended up passing 7 runners. Surprisingly, the last of these was Geoff! Now I fully realize this was only a training run for him, but to just be near/briefly ahead of such a great runner so late in the race was a HUGE boost to me. Not feeling too hot or having anything to prove, Geoff briefly contemplated having a PBR at the mile 20 aid station before hitting the singletrack. I chose to keep on moving and, unfortunately for my already inflated ego, Geoff skipped the beer in favor of chasing me down!
With a couple other strong runners on our heels, I pushed the pace as hard as my body would allow for the final 6 miles. This enabled me to clinch an 8th place finish about 2 minutes behind Geoff.
Final time: 3:35.31 (Full results here.)
This was a 33 minute PR for me at this race, and has solidified my resolve to continue the hard training and see where 2011 takes me.
Redemption is always sweet.