17 March 2014

2014 Salida Marathon

"Good judgment comes from experience 
and experience comes from bad judgment." 
-Mark Twain

Distance: 26.2 miles 
Elevation: 3,546 ft
Time: 5:52

My second running of the Salida "Run Through Time" Marathon didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but it was still a great day both on and off the trails. The opportunity to run through the San Isabel Nat'l Forest with a bunch of my UR friends was one I have been looking forward to all year.

I was looking forward to this race for two reasons. One, it is my season opener since I skipped out on the Moab Red Hot in Feb. I train to race and I'm happiest when I'm racing, not training. I love the energy, support and camaraderie that I get from racing and if I could afford to do it, I'd do it every other week instead of a long training run.

The other equally important reason I love racing is being able to catch up with friends and acquaintances that I hadn't seen in 6+ months. I spend so much time training on my own that I get downright giddy at seeing my peeps. This year, I knew that I'd be seeing Sheila, Steve & DebBurch, Katie, Matt, Joe & Nick. I probably chewed their ears off, but I couldn't help it. I was thrilled to see them, talk shop and shoot the bull with 'em. I love ultrarunners!
Friday night dinner at Boathouse Cantina with the Peros
Last year, I ran with a head cold that was moving into my chest. I felt lousy the entire time and we had "weather" to contend with. This year, the weather was better (except for the periodic wind gusts) as well as the course conditions. With the speedwork I've been doing all year, I expected to better my time from last year. I did, but by a lousy 3 minutes. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Sheila and I snagged a cheap room at the Great Western Lodge and met up with Steve before heading over to the race start. While I was hanging out in the Steamplant, I ran into ultrarunning's biggest fan, Bill Dooper. I introduced myself and told him I was happy to help send him to Western States this year as part of a fund-raising effort orchestrated by a couple of runners in Fort Collins. He was obviously very touched by the generosity of the UR community. First pico-celeb meeting of the day: check.
Sheila, Steve and I at the start
We got off to a chilly start with blue skies and scattered clouds. It's relatively flat for the first couple of dirt/paved road miles then the gradual climbing begins on single track. I determined to run as much of the climbs as possible in an effort to season my legs a little better now that hillwork is a part of my weekly training. I really enjoy this section of the trail with its runnable climbs and occasional techy sections that add to my enjoyment of it. I leapfrogged with a gal named Brandi who wore the coolest skirt that shimmered in the sunlight. Made me happy every time I saw her, which was several times during the race. She then went on to put the hammer down and finish a solid 30 min ahead of me. You go girl!
Somewhere around the 3 mile mark
Brandi and her awesome shimmer skirt
I knew that at the 8 mile mark there would be a 5 mile climb up a dirt road to the turnaround point at approx 12.5 miles. I walked the whole thing last year; this year I ran it. That would be my undoing at the end of the race, looking back. Even though I felt fine at the time, things began to unravel about 10 miles later.
Passed a gal from Alaska on the road section
The deceptive thing about this course is that when you hit the turnaround point (the highest point of elevation) and start to descend, it's easy to think that your climbing is over. It's not. While the climbs are short, they tend to have snow and poor footing. The half-mile climb around 20 miles was particularly demoralizing last year. Since I knew it was coming, I resolved to power hike it and it didn't seem as long this year. 

The other thing that's deceptive is thinking that you'll make up time on all the descents in the second half. Wrong again. Unless you can bomb down technical, rocky descents like one of the front runners you won't be moving as fast as you'd hoped. I have yet to get a negative split from this course and to do so would require some smart pacing and better downhilling skills than I currently possess. Gotta work on that.
The 7-time Salida veteran I leapfrogged with
Clouds moving in
By the time I got to the final 4-5 miles of runnable trails, I couldn't get any turnover, despite the descending. That's when I knew I may have pushed too hard on the initial climbs. Last year, I was posting 9 mpm on those trails; this year, I couldn't get below 11 mpm. I should have done a walk-run combo on the road climb to preserve my legs for a faster finish.

I think I may also have been in a pre-bonk state at that point. I was taking a V-Fuel Peach Cobbler gel every 45 min. During that last hour, I started feeling a little lightheaded and having trouble willing myself to faster turnover. Perhaps because I pushed so hard I should have taken one every 30 min instead. Oh well, live and learn. 

So while it wasn't the best day I've had out on the trails, I learned some important things as I'm pushing myself more this year. I know what pace I can sustain comfortably for 26, 31 or 50 miles. Now that I'm willing to be sustainably uncomfortable in order to improve my times, I'm still figuring out how to listen to my body and adjust my effort accordingly. It's a delicate science it seems to find that line of running to your potential and not blowing up. I do it better when running less than 5 hours, but clearly need to figure it out for the longer races.
I guess it was an ultra after all
Afterwards, I headed over to the home of a family friend of Burch's where a bunch of us gathered for a fabulous post-race meal put on by his parents (who are awesome, just like their son). Now THAT was fun. Usually, I only get to chat briefly with the runners at a race. Getting to sit down and hang out for hours was definitely the highlight of my day. Besides catching up with the FoCo folks that I met last year I met a few others I only knew by name. What a great bunch. I managed to get my lodging squared away for Quad Rock as well as Run Rabbit Run while I was there (thanks Cat!). I mean, who offers something like that when they hardly know you? Ultrarunners, that's who. Just one of the many reasons they're awesome. 

Marsha, the lady of the house, is from Memphis and once I heard her accent, I fell into my old Nashville drawl instantly. I spent most of the 90's living there and it only takes a little inspiration to resurrect my twang. Love that gal and hope to see her again next year. 
Dooper, Burch & Katie
Nick (#2) and Josh (#1) were only 5 secs apart at the finish
Last year and this year's winner, Josh Arthur, laid down an impressive time of 3:06:29 with Sir Nick just 5 seconds behind him. Wowza. I couldn't come near that time on the Chicago Marathon course, let alone in the mountains. Respect!

Speaking of Josh, he happens to be a rep for V-Fuel, which is the gel I've been using since last summer. It's the only one I can stomach that doesn't make me want to spew. I like Peach Cobbler the best, but they do have other flavors. He gave me a 20% discount code of JCA20 that you can use to order online, so go to their website and try a sample pack. They just added a few new flavors like Maple Bacon, Cool Citrus & Fudge Brownie.

As if this weekend wasn't awesome enough, we celebrated my daughter's 4th birthday with a gaggle of princesses and purple cupcakes. I love that girl. Being a mama and runner is pretty damn awesome. Life is full and it is good!
After taking it easy for the next week, I'll be gearing up for the Rockin' K 50 Mile with speed and hill work as it will be a faster one in Kansas. Another chance to work on pacing and snag a 50 mile PR. Giddy Up!

Happy Trails,



  1. Great seeing you this weekend, Shelby...thanks for the ride to the start and best of luck at Rockin' K!

    1. Thanks, should be a different ultra experience with the water crossings I've heard about! Great seeing you and Deb...much too short. Looking forward to Jemez!

  2. Congratulations, Shelby, on a good race. I was looking forward to your report when I saw the results. Esp your photos! Good luck with next one. Less hills, more run, will require diff training.

    1. Thanks Lori! I hope your Incline run went well...sorry I couldn't make it. Hope to catch up with you gals soon.

  3. You're amazing! Congrats on your first race of the season. And K is totally looking like a mini you these days - cept the blond hair of course!

    1. Cat, she's like me in all my bad traits too! I hope you & Matt are enjoying the incredible ski season you've had. I for one am done with the white stuff.

  4. nice job, Shelbs. if you're having trouble with gels, I would try something else as your primary nutrition. too much of anything is going to get old, especially as you step up to longer and longer distances.

    my disdain for gels and any type of sports drink began with my first Crow Pass Crossing. I had gel-belly like you wouldn't believe, the only time I've dealt with nausea, and that is only a 25 miler! that began my road to discovery, first cutting highly sugared drinks and switching to shot blocks instead of gels. this worked for a few years, then I began running LONG. I discovered Hammer Nutrition products on my first ultra attempt, a 50 miler, specifically Perpetuem. That stuff is gold for me.

    long story short, I can now run up to 2 hours with nothing, and 3 hours with water only. anything longer is supplemented with Perpetuem, snickers, and nut butter. if I'm going really long and unsupported I'll add in some chia, gummy bears, or pb&j. occasionally on mid-distance stuff (3-6 hours) I will use Hammer gel, but it took me about 6 years to come back to gels.

    experiment; try real foods, junk foods, aid station fare...you'll figure it out, but if you can't stomach gels (or only 1) don't.

    will we see you this summer in A-town?

    1. Hey Jeremy, I find I can tolerate gels for about 6-7 hours so I usually start with them since they're easy and add Osmo or Skratch Labs powder to my water, which I really like. When I'm going longer, (40+ miles), I add real food and some chews. The VFuel gels are easy to digest b/c they use dextrose. I like that their ingredients are all-natural too. I've never had an issue with them, but I do find my body needs real food when I'm running more than 35 miles. My main issue was that I needed a little more than what I was putting in -- new things I'm figuring out now that I'm not lollygagging around the course!

      We won't be up this year as J is taking the kids back east to see their other g'ma. I suspect it will be 2016 before we have the Ak Air miles to get up there. I wish we could every summer. Bummed I'll miss Mt Marathon this year, but thrilled to be at HR when there's so much competition at the front.

      Congrats on your big win recently...hope your recovery is going well!

  5. Hi Shelby! Loved reading your report, and seeing your pics. It was really nice to connect with you out there. As I mentioned to you, there's something particularly special about meeting other mamas!
    It was also interesting to read that you felt like you may have pushed too hard initially. I felt like maybe I should have pushed a little harder in the first half, because as you wrote about, it's really hard to 'make up time' during the last half. However, maybe I actually benefitted from staring out really easy because i was able to push the second half, and I felt really good....hard to know!
    Let me know if you come back this way! Best of luck with your training! xo brandi

    1. Brandi! I told you that you'd get a mention with that awesome shimmer skirt and fast finish. Last year, I had the same experience that you did -- running the first half or 2/3 too slow for fear of blowing up and then finding I had plenty in the tank at the end. This year, I'm trying to correct it... guess I over-corrected at Salida.

      Great meeting you and I hope to see you again next year, if not before. Good luck with your training and racing and motherhood!