Runner: Jeffrey U
Race Date: 03/09/2019
Location: Salida, CO
Results: 3:49:27; 9th OA
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2202490792
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- The trails around Salida were amazing. I would love to come back and explore the area more.
- I loved the no frills, easy-going feel of this race.
- The start/finish is right downtown by the river. It ends in a park, so it was awesome for my wife and daughter. They just played in the park until I came running in. It was ideal for spectators with a kid.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Given all the snow this winter, there were 4-5 miles of postholing on the north side of the mountains. I couldn’t help but smile as I was going through it because it was so beautiful, but it was really a lot of work – and they even changed from the higher elevation course to the lower course that they used from 2012-2015 because of the heavy snow year.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
I got a killer sunburn on my shoulders and neck (wore singlet and sleeves), and it was 30 degrees outside! I kind of forgot about the intensity of the sun when you’re at that elevation regardless of the temperature.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I was pleased with how I raced the first half of the race. The whole first half was clean, rolling, and mostly uphill. I was hoping to be competitive, but I wanted to go out under control. I felt great, so I just tried to settle in and gradually catch the people I let go early on. That all went well until I got a little excited around 14 and made an ill-advised move in the snow.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
I was thinking to myself the whole first half that the conditions were great, and I didn’t understand what everyone was worried about. I got to mile 14 and it was supposed to be largely downhill from there, so I was feeling pretty psyched since I felt great. It was mostly downhill with rollers throughout, BUT there was a ton of snow and mud on the north side of the mountains. Everyone had to deal with it, but it just wasn’t fast-moving or conducive to gaining ground on people. I underestimated the toll it took on my quads when I tried making a move to drop someone around 15. The snow didn’t let up, so I spent a lot of energy trying to pull away only to really not create much of a gap at all (it wasn’t worth it!).
Navigate the snow miles and then crush the last 5-6 downhill miles.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
This is a cupless race, so I had a bottle in my belt. For whatever reason, I really didn’t want to stop at the aid stations and refill my bottle. Because of that, I didn’t drink much, and I think that added to my trouble. I should’ve drank more water early on, refilled at the mile 13 aid station, and then finished strong. Proper nutrition can make or break a race, so I should’ve known better.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
The first half has rollers and is largely uphill; however, the back half is no joke. There are still rollers on the back half with the addition of potential snow and/or mud. Save some juice in your legs for the last 4 miles of clean downhill.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
The mountains down in Salida are beautiful. This one had stunning views that will leave you with a smile on your face.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
I haven’t run many trail marathons, so this was a different kind of experience for me. The course was tough, but certainly 100% runnable. If you manage the first half climb well, you should be in good shape. ~3,500 feet of climbing total
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
There was constant communication on race week. With all of the snow in CO this year, they had to revert back to the lower elevation trail course from 2012-2015. They kept us posted with photos a couple times the week before and on race week, so I felt like I knew what I was getting in to. They did a great job.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
This traditionally has a strong field. It’s kind of an early-season Colorado trail kickoff race, so expect some quality competition.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
This one was really easy. I signed up a couple weeks before, and I think the race was 5 people short of selling out. It’s out in Salida, so it’s a good 3 hour drive from Denver, but it’s a pretty drive through the mountains. We booked a hotel with ease, and it was a perfect 1.5 mile warm up run to the start (you can leave a drop bag at the start/finish). Everything is super close in the little historic downtown area in Salida, so it made for easy eating, lodging, etc.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Given that I didn’t stop until the last one, I don’t really know what they had. I believe they had pitchers of Tailwind and water to refill bottles. Honey Stinger is also a sponsor, so I saw HS gels available as well as other aid stations classics.
Weather and typical race conditions
We had a beautiful sunny day, but it was super windy. As previously mentioned, it has been a huge snow year, so that came into play in a big way. Given that it’s a mountain race, I think it’s best to look at the forecast and prepare for anything (rain, snow, wind, ice, etc.)
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
Since it’s a cupless race, you are required to carry some kind of bottle. I wore my Naked belt with bottle in the back and gels in the front. There were plenty of handhelds and vests out there too. I recommend applying sunscreen as well since the mountain sun is intense…even in the cold.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
This isn’t much of a spectator race. It runs through the mountains, so there really isn’t anywhere for spectators to see you after mile 2 or so. The start/finish area is awesome though, so that helps if you have people along for the ride.
How’s the Swag?
This one is pretty no frills, so you just get a pair of socks. The registration price is really low though too, so it all seems to make sense.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
This race was fantastic. I give it 5/5. I will certainly consider coming back in the future (and I don’t say that about many races)!