Our group doing trail work on S mountain the summer of 2009. Now the marathon winds through these trails. (July 2009)
We (Sarah Yon and I) didn't do much of the grunt work... mostly I just serenaded the guys with my recorder. (July 2009)
Fortunately the conditions were good on Friday and we explored downtown a bit, stopping at our favorite shops and talking to some locals. Most people told us they heard that Salida was going to get 2-4 inches of snow and that it was going to be a horrible day for running. Then we went to pick up our packets and I talked to the race directors, Rickie and Jon, who said they thought snow was unlikely and that they heard the high was supposed to be 43 degrees. Anyway I had already resolved to wear shorts no matter what.
When we woke up Saturday morning I felt really nauseous. I've been on antibiotics for an infection all week and I needed to shove some food down my throat in order to take the medicine. I could hardly eat a poptart before I felt like I was going to throw up. After spending the morning dry heaving but trying to keep down the medicine, I was pretty nervous about my energy levels for the race. I just couldn't eat anything.
When we showed up at the Steamplant before the start of the race, it was pretty evident that this was going to be a competitive event. This race doesn't have a super-developed website and there is no way to see who else is going to be running until you line up at the start. In an age where you can usually go to ultra signup and check out all of the other runners rankings before the race, I could see how this might unnerve the top guys a little. And when we walked in the door there was Sage Canaday. I'm sure all of the potential leaders were just a little bit more nervous about their game plan. There was a little cluster buzzing around Sage in one corner and another cluster around Nick Clark in different corner.
When the gun went off the sky was overcast but there was no snow, and fortunately for the guys Sage was just there to cheer for who appeared to be his girlfriend - I think it was eventual 2nd place Sandi Nypaver. The first mile is on gravel roads so that the field can spread out before the switch backs begin. I really had no course knowledge because the website doesn't give much of a description. All I knew is that we were going to go mostly up for the first 15 or so miles. As we started the switch backs I started to feel really faint from not being able to eat, but because the group was so tight I couldn't stop to eat anything without pissing off a lot of people. I was nervous because I was running as the 7th or 8th woman which meant I went out too fast. Finally at the first aid station I stepped off, took a shot blok, and let quite a few people pass.
Even after slowing the pace a bit and putting down a little food and water, I felt like I was going to hurl. There was a guy running behind me who sounded like a buffalo but refused to pass because he wanted to pace off of me. He informed me that after a few miles of rolling switchbacks we were going to hit a jeep road and it would be straight uphill for the next six miles. I forced myself to run through nausea and planned to walk a little after hitting the jeep road. It kind of unnerves me when people run so close behind me so I was really looking forward to being able to do my own thing.
Once we hit the jeep road, I found myself in a cluster of women. Surprisingly I started feeling much better and I put in my headphones to break this hill up into some intervals. I would run for two songs and then take a walk break during part of the third. It was nice to feel like all of my hill work was building to this and I felt good as I started picking off a few people. As we ascended we starting hitting more snow and by the time we got to the end of the jeep road at mile 12 it was thick and there wasn't much visibility.
At this point I think I was around 12th place for women and it had been 2 hours 20 minutes. I hadn't looked at my watch the whole time and I was nervous maybe I was still running too fast, but it felt good. Then we got off the jeep track onto some snowy trails and continued uphill. The nausea and dizziness started coming back. I knew there were about five women close on my tail and so I tried to keep pushing, but the overcast sky made it feel like you were just running into a white abyss. This was probably the hardest thing to deal with because you couldn't see where you were going or where you had come from. My spirits fell and I started to get passed.
Finally we started to get more downhills but they were a lot more technical than I expected. The snow dusted the rocks and it was difficult to pick your footing. I'm used to running in snow but after 15 miles I was starting to lose my ankle strength and agility. Just when I was started to get this hopeless feeling, this girl I had been yo-yoing with the whole race came alongside me and chatted. There were no mileage markings and I had no idea how far we had run. She told me we had gone 17.5 miles and then cheerily passed me. I knew that I would start to fall apart mentally around mile 18.
When I rolled into the aid station at mile 20, two more people had passed me. We turned onto an even more technical trail where my shoes got gunked up with mud. Cory said there was no mud for him, which I guess is just a perk of being in the front. Those six miles were the hardest for me and I was so lonely at points that I started to second guess if I was even still on the course. Finally around mile 23.5 a guy in a Hawaiin shirt passed me and filled me in on where we were going. He pointed to S mountain that was just barely visible and said we had to do some uphills to get there. At this point I was mostly walking the uphills and another girl passed me.
Within 1.5 miles of the finish we came to a point that was poorly marked and we waited there for a minute trying to figure out where to go. Another woman caught us and fortunately she had run the course before. We had seen some people go down a service road (which would have been a nice shortcut) and we saw some others going down some single track. We took the single track which was the right way, but I was kind of mad that apparently some people were cutting the course. Pretty tempting thing to do near the finish line.
I ended up finishing as the 20th girl in 5 hours and 3 minutes. I almost cut a full hour off of my time from the Blue Sky Marathon so I was pretty happy even though I had slowed a bit at the end. Cory almost didn't see me finish because he thought it would take me another half hour. It gave me a lot more confidence to finish closer to the front. Cory finished in 17th place in 3 hours and 40 minutes. He did better time-wise than he had hoped, but he was little disappointed at his place. The field this year was pretty competitive especially for the guys.
It's interesting looking at the stats from past years. If we had run the race last year, Cory would have been 13th place and I would have been 12th place. If we had run it in 2010 (still using the times we got this year even though the course was faster that year) Cory would have been 10th place, just minutes behind Geoff Roes. My point is just that it is interesting that trail running is becoming so much more popular, especially among 20-somethings. While we are working and building towards become better runners so are an unprecedented amount of other people our age. For example, Nick Clark ran his fastest time ever but he was beat by 26-year-old Josh Arthur who only has two other races on ultra-signup. While Cory is hoping for a breakout year, so are a lot of other guys his age and it's going to take a lot of work to get there.
After getting some food in our systems we headed back via Colorado Springs where we ran into bad weather. The high winds were whipping snow across I25 causing a whiteout. We came across a rolled SUV and then there was a 10 car pile-up involving a semi in the Southbound lane. After seeing so many crushed cars and crying people we decided to get off the road for the night. There was zero visibility and the sky was getting dark. Finally we got home safely today and now we are exhausted.
Some scary pics of road conditions last night:
When we passed the accident there were a lot of firemen trying to wrench this car out.
We passed the accident shortly before this.
This was on a different highway last night, but essentially this is what the roads were like.