A brisk start was easy chatter up around the mini starting loop, but as we hit the road, I drifted way off the pack. I was feeling OK, but just didn't have the turnover to hang as 25+ guys left me in the dust. My legs took a while to warm up to the trail, and really lagged on the dirt road to the turnaround. Luckily, I managed to clean my act up after hitting halfway at just over 1:50 in.
Aside from some blowing snow and my lack of hat/sun glasses the trail conditions were pretty ideal, whatever ice was around had a nice coating of snow to add some traction. The middle section of the course is my favorite, steep and nasty downhills let me really make up some ground and just before the final short climb I had moved my way into 13th. I dropped off a bit in energy and Paul caught me and ran with me up to the final aid station. We made a wrong turn shortly after which added a bit of time (not much, really) and as Paul accelerated down the smooth trail, I attempted to match his pace, puked up my gel, and backed off to settle down.
In the end, Paul got me by almost a full minute, a great race there at the end. I was stoked to run nearly 20 minutes faster than last year, and felt strong pretty much the entire second half of the run with a big negative split. To run faster, I'd need to put in some actual speed-work as I lost a lot of time on the smooth sections, and particularly that 4 miles of road early on.
The best thing about Salida remains the low key "family reunion" feel of the race. Friends I've not seen in a few months all seem to show up and we get to chatter about the year's plans and where we'll see each other next.
Big props go to Keith for couching the marathon from sea level in primo fashion. The pizza, beer, and corn whiskey from Moonlight was much deserved.
As usual, the drive home was the toughest part, driving back into the storm on tired legs...