Survive and advance. These words of wisdom apply to college basketball teams in March and accurately describe my Salida (5-hours-is-actually-an-ultra)Marathon. In my effort to shave 2 seconds off of last years time (4:00:01), I managed to add 58 minutes. After running a full hour slower than last year I better have some damn good excuses, and I do! My first mistake was going after the 2-mile Fun Run win while concurrently running the marathon. I was out kicked by “Think Pink” and didn’t leave enough in the tank for the ‘other’ race. I should have cut my loses and taken the silver in the Fun Run.
After a blistering opening two miles with Brian, the conga line (which seemed to have buzz-word status at this race, conga line is the new “heel-toe drop”) pulled me up the first little climb and onto to some really sweet new single track. I stopped for a bathroom break and to tie my shoe, which is probably where that hour came from, and tried to keep JT’s signature bucket hat in my sights. No matter how hard I worked, my legs just would not seem to move me any faster. Actually, the harder I tried to work, the more I noticed the altitude, lactic acid and general state of discomfort I was descending into. Since it’s cool to keep pushing when things aren’t going great, I did just that. I pushed and pushed up the pleasantly graded dirt road, pushed to the turn around and then right through the next aid station – without refilling my water bottle or taking in a single calorie…Slow Aaron indeed.
At this point I was moving at a moderate pace, but it felt like I was working harder than the speed I was running. I passed a PBR-loading JT while leaving the aid station (not only did he catch me later, but he has built a commanding lead in the defense of his Golden Sundial Award). My water bottle mishap became an issue shortly thereafter, and for the next 1:20 I suffered immensely. This did not feel like a marathon, and I stopped treating it like one. Hiking uphill became routine, and once I was really dehydrated I was forced to walking some of the downhills too. Snow found its way into my hat and waterbottle (FYI- no matter how hard you shake, you won’t get water). Recalling a Man vs. Wild tidbit, I found a barely moving trickle of murky water and drank some of that. The mud-water and corresponding grit in my teeth amounted to my first calories and water in an hour. The next aid station came, mercifully, and I was in no rush to leave.
Four cups of water, several orange slices and a handful of chips later, I begrudgingly left the aid station. My stay lasted long enough that the volunteers should have charged me rent. My best efforts to get one of them to trade roles failed (he could take my number and run, I’d man the aid). I moved slowly (duh!) and enjoyed the scenery and day as much as one can with a cramping back. Not much changed in the last 2 hours except that I had water in my bottle.
Now for some perspective (aka an excuse). When I signed up for this race I had an injured foot and was running 15-20 flat miles a week. That injury emerged at last seasons Salida Marathon. With a lot of patience I fixed myself, and managed to spend 5 hilly hours on my feet with zero foot pain. So even though I was an hour slower, I think I have bought myself many more hours of enjoyable running this summer. I’m going to need them to whip my butt into shape for Solstice, Speedgoat and Steamboat (it’s an alliterative race year for me!).