Monday, June 06, 2005

Steamboat Springs Marathon

Sun, Jun 5/05
Steamboat Marathon
Steamboat Springs, CO
Marathon # 243
Time: 3:57:58 - 1st AG

This was a totally unplanned, impromptu race. There were so many reasons why I shouldn’t run a marathon:
Lack of training – I had run very few training miles since we returned from Europe due to that flu bug and the move from FL to CO
Only one week of altitude training/adjustment
I was in very poor marathon condition

But then again there were a few reasons why I should run a marathon:
I had logged 70 miles in the mtns in my first week in the High Country
What better way to correct all of the above than to run a tough, hilly marathon at high altitude?

Then Mother Nature added some additional concerns/reasons “not to run the marathon”. As you saw by the photos I sent, the weather was horrific for the two days before the race. It snowed Fri and Sat and was still snowing when we (the sports manager and I) left home for Steamboat Springs at noon on Sat. But the weather forecast called for sun and temps in the mid 60s on Sun? The snow soon changed to rain and we even had flashes of sun on the drive to Steamboat – until we drove up Rabbit Ears Pass (9,500 ft) where it was raining and the fog was so thick we couldn’t see more than 25 ft! When we arrived in Steamboat it was raining so I collected my race package and we secluded ourselves in the hotel. We were disappointed because we wanted to stroll and window-shop in Steamboat because it is such a nice place to visit – an old western town – now a ski resort village with lots of neat shops, bars and cafes. No such luck – it was still raining when we went for dinner. I was beginning to worry about the forecast – I did not want to run at high elevations in such terrible weather!

But the weather Gods smiled on us and it was sunny with few clouds when I lined up for the bus at 6am. The course is point-to point and starts at Hahn’s Peak (an extinct volcanic mtn) 26 miles northwest of Steamboat. It was sunny with a light breeze and temps in the mid 40s at the 7:30am start. The temps gradually warmed up to 60F when I crossed the finish line. What great weather for a race!
There were 500 runners in the Marathon and 900 in the Half. The race starts at 8128 ft – drops about 200 vertical ft over the first 3 miles and then climbs to the highest point of the course –8178 ft. at mile 4. The course then drops 1400 vertical ft over the next 17 miles although there are several rolling hills and many of them are BAH (Bad Ass Hills). Coming down off the BAH at mile 4 a runner with a gray hair and beard blew by me. Could he be in my age group? I decided to let him go. I ran this race last year with two mates from the UK. I had been in much better shape and had trained at high altitude for one month. I had started out too fast and struggled over the last 10K so I was determined not to make that mistake this year – especially for the reasons above. My goal was to finish under 4 hours so I tried to run a 9-min pace for the 1st Half. However the hills made it difficult/impossible to run a consistent pace so I decided to pace strictly off my heart monitor. It kind of worked as I passed 10 miles in 1:25 and the Half in 1:54. That was about 3 minutes faster than desired and I hoped it would not bite me in the ass later even though I felt strong and relaxed. I contemplated pushing the pace for the 2nd Half but wisely decided to wait till I reached mile 16 and then make the decision. However at mile fifteen I passed ‘Mr. Gray Beard’ and I decided to charge up the BAH at mile 15 to bury him! When I crested the top I continued to push the pace lest he try to catch me? But it didn’t last long! By mile 18 my legs started to feel tired and I decided to slow down to conserve energy for a really BAH starting at mile 21. I reached mile 20 in 2:57:20 but I was starting to struggle. Another competitor with gray hair blew by me – I had to let him go because I knew I could not survive a ‘running duel’ with 10K left to go!
The lack of training miles was staring to tell!

The course had dropped to 6700 ft at mile 21 and then climbed about 300 vertical ft over the next two miles. I struggled to run a 10:15 pace through those two miles. Finally I crested the BAH at mile 23. The last 5K dropped down to finish at 6728 ft in downtown Steamboat. The time was 3:27:44. All I had to do was run a 10-min pace for the final 5K? But there was no gas/energy left in the old legs and bod – and I was starting to have trouble sucking enough air to keep the legs moving. Only experience and will power kept the old, tired legs running/moving for the final 3 miles. When I saw the finish line with ½ mile to go I asked the old bod to give me one final jolt of adrenaline so I could push the pace and cross the finish line in 3:57:58!

After the obligatory photo at the finish line the sports manager drove me back to the hotel for a soothing hot bath and shower. I wanted to return to the finish line to see where I finished. I figured I had at least placed in my age group. I was surprised to discover that I had finished 1st! Mr. Gray Hair was a youngster in his 50s. We stuck around to collect my award since this race provides nice/practical awards – running gear!

From a race results viewpoint this looked like a successful race but from a personal point of view there was both Good and Bad news.
Good News:
I finished under my goal of 4 hrs
I won 1st place in my age group
I had no pain/problems with my left knee that had surgery in Feb
Bad News:
My time was 13 minutes slower than last year
I finished 119th overall vs 54th last year
My marathon shape can be summed up in one word– PATHETIC

I need to beat my pathetic, old, out-of-shape body back into marathon shape if I ever want to achieve my goal of running sub 3:30 marathons again! To accomplish this goal I have scheduled races (Halfs and Marathons at elevations from 8,500 to 13,800 ft) every weekend for the next month.

I am determined to beat this old bod into good marathon shape or KILL it – whichever comes first!
So stay tuned for more race reports – or an Obituary!


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