I managed to get out and slip (literally) back into town this past weekend***to run an inaugural marathon that may be of special interest to trailrunners.
Called "The Run Through TIme Marathon," this March 18th run starts in the Salida, Colorado (situated in the Arkansas Hills) and meanders over to the ghost town of Turret, then back on a different route back to Salida. Salida, about an hour southeast of Leadville, is at about 7000 feet altitude. The course was described by the race director as: "very hilly runs on dirt/gravel roads up to 9000' elevation with 2000'+ of total climbing." This was an understatement--I found very few spots where anything was level; we were either climbing or descending. The views were fantastic, even for Colorado, where you expect grandeur. Because of the snow run off, the event was more of a "slog through mud," creating an additional challenge for me, unaccustomed to trails as I am. This was serious mud--it covered the narrow trail in abundance, some times for miles, The miles 9-15 were bad, and then again 18-21. In these spots, you could hear giant sucking sounds as running shoes were pulled up and we pressed forward. I pressed cautiously, as the mud was also slippery. My time for this marathon was greater than my combined time for the marathon, 5K, and 15K Distance Challenge I ran 3 weeks ago in Florida. There, I ran a 3:34 marathon and overall 5:08. I was just over 5:08 in Salida--and that includes my last mile, which was 7:16. I was so happy to get down to the (relative) flats, see the finish line, and be able to really run!
Just finishing this one was a real accomplishment. There were times when I was exhilarated with the views and the run, and other times when I contemplated not finishing. Really. I never got a running rhythm going, mostly because of needing to stop and go gently through the mud. There were many trepidatious trail runners gleefully slamming down their trail shoes and cavorting along at a solid pace. They kept me going with their high spirits and sheer grit. There was one spot where we did have a turnaround and ran back over part of the course, one of those excessively muddy parts--the folks in front, just about to a person, waved as we passed each other and shouted out "Good Job!" as they slogged by me. They were the ones doing the good job--I was clearly out of my element and soaked up the encouragement as I contemplated my feet soaking up the snow and mud. When I got to the turnaround, I found cheerful volunteers with food and homemade cookies that were a topic of conversation for miles. Yum. Then, when we got to mile 16 or 17 (as you can imagine, there were no mile markers), some more volunteers apologizing for the trail ahead, as it was going to be slippery, they promised. (They were right. No exaggeration there.) They also warned us they were the last aid station. Miles 18-19 were mentally tough as I hit them around the time I usually finish a marathon. Right around then, I met up with Kevin and Jerry, two local guys who told me about another race that is run in Salida. They have a fairly stepp hill in the middle of town. For obvious reasons, it is called S Hill, and has a big S on it that lights up at night. In the summer, the runners club holds a run up and back down the hill--Kevin says you do it in about 16 minutes. It sounds crazy, as the uphill is brutal, then the downhill run is run at full tilt speed but they both relish it. I learned this was the first marathon for them both, something I always appreciate sharing with others. I assured them they would be able to take on just about any other course (with the obvious exceptions, e.g., Pikes Peak) and know they could finish! They were great sports and provided the necessary reassurance that I wasn't lost or off the trail. In the last few miles, we descended and were rewarded with more spectacular views.
We were given a card with some background on Turret and the symbolism of the race, which includes the past hope of the settlers who "poured their lives into Turret." The explanation continued: "due to the altitude, hills and general roughness of the course, it is consistent with the rugged pioneers who eked a living out of this earth. It will probably not be your fastest marathon but it may be the one you never forget." Again, no exaggeration. This is one I'll always remember. When the proverbial chips are down, I will remember this experience and remind myself, I finished.
Salida is a thriving town of 5000--wonderful historic buildings and a unique downtown, with many independent businesses. We found Absolute Bikes, where the extremely helpful and friendly staff rented Daniel a great bike for Friday and Saturday and gave him lots of ride options. Frank enjoyed the "Pets stay for free" inn (with fully functional/outfitted kitchen) as well as revisiting his home state. I'd recommend this to all you trail runners, and anyone who wants a challenge.
*** We decided to go out to this at the last minute. My jury trial ended Thursday, the weather report Thursday night was just 20% chance of snow showers Sat. with the real snow not supposed to happen until Sunday. We left Thursday evening, got into Salida on Friday, and planned on leaving right after the race Saturday to beat the storm home. Of course, we ended up accompanying the storm and were forced to stay in Lusk, WY Sat night, happily finding a little window 6 am-9:30am Sunday in which to travel home safely to Rapid, pshew!