Tuesday, June 06, 2006

RR Steamboat Springs

Race Report
Steamboat Springs Marathon
Steamboat Springs, CO
Sun, Jun 4/06
3:38:06 - 38 OA - 2 AG

This marathon was the first of a tough racing schedule that Maddog had established for the month of June. I looked forward to running the race because it is rated in the ‘top ten’ scenic courses in the country and I had run it and won my age group the past two years.

I had two goals:
1) Win my age group for the third straight year and defend my senior title
2) Beat my course PR of 3:44:50 (2004)

However as race date approached a few circumstances beyond my control arose that could seriously impact my goals:
1) Weather – the forecast called for hot weather with highs in the mid 80s on race day
2) Health – a few days before the race I was suffering severe neck pain. I believe it was the same problem I experienced last summer when inflammation settled in my neck. Any movement of my head caused severe pain. Of course the pain got worse on Fri night which meant I could not visit my orthoped until Mon for the Steroid Pack needed to cure the problem. In desperation I started taking Ibuprofen in spite of the high risk and history of internal bleeding that it causes to my stomach. The drug enabled me to control the pain enough to get to the start line on Sun.

On Sat the sports manager and I drove over to Steamboat Springs – an old western mining town that has been converted to a ski and summer resort for economic survival. After picking up my race packet we did our usual stroll along Main St. and bought a few more Indian artifacts to decorate our house. After a traditional pasta dinner and a few more Ibuprofen I retired to bed for the early start on Sun. I had to take two more Ibuprofen on Sun morning (on an empty stomach) to get me to the start line – and I carried two more through the race in case I needed them. However once the race started and the endorphins kicked in I felt no more pain in my neck. Those endorphins are wonderful little buggers – and you wonder why I run??

The marathon course is point-to-point so we were bussed 26 miles northwest of Steamboat to the start line at historic Hahns Peak Village at the base of an extinct volcano. The race starts at 8128 ft – drops about 100 vertical ft over the first mile and then climbs to the highest point of the course –8178 ft. at mile 2. The course then drops 1400 vertical ft over the next 18 miles although there are several rolling hills. At mile 20 the course climbs about 300 vertical feet over three miles and three BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) before dropping back down to 6728 ft at the finish line in Steamboat.

There were two races and both reached their entry limits – 500 in the Marathon and 1000 in the Half. The race started at 7:30 am. It was sunny and a warm 56 F! Knowing it would get hot I dressed in shorts and singlet and for the first time started the race without my usual garbage bag for warmth! The past two years I had gone out too fast and ended up struggling (painfully) through the BAHs and the last 5 Km. I was determined to run ‘smarter’ this year! My strategy was to run 8:15s for the first 20 miles – try to run a 9- min pace through the BAHs and then back to 8:15s for the final 5 Km. That should get me across the finish line under 3:40. If I had a good day I might try to break the course record of 3:35?

I lined up on the start line with the BIG Dogs so I could check for old farts that might be in my age group. I let them pull me through the first downhill mile in 7:50. I knew that was too fast so I started to slow my pace down but still passed mile 5 in 40:02. There were at least two ‘old farts’ in front of me and two more passed me at mile 5? Decision time! I decided to slow down and not worry about the old farts in front of me. I was running an 8-min pace and nobody in my age group had ever finished this race at that pace because of the hills and the altitude. Since those old farts were running a sub 8-min pace they were either in the 50+ age group or I would see them later (hopefully)? By the time I reached mile 10 in 1:20:30 I had settled into a smooth and easy 8:15 pace.

I passed the Half in 1:46:00 – about two minutes faster than planned/desired but I still felt good. I knew that there would not be another 1:46 in the 2nd Half because of the BAHs and the temps were starting to soar but I still managed to hold an 8:15 pace through mile 20. As I passed mile 20 in 2:43:31 and started up the 1st BAH I spotted one of the old farts that had passed me at mile 5! I couldn’t tell if he was in my age group but I had to make the assumption that he was so I decided to chase him down. I thought it would be easy because he was walking up the BAH. But he was looking back over his shoulder (for me I later found out) and when he saw me closing on him he started running and surged ahead to increase the distance between us. That didn’t concern me initially because I figured that if he was already walking he would soon fade or crash? On the 2nd BAH the same scenario evolved. He started walking up the BAH and I closed within a few hundred yards before he looked back – and immediately took off like a scared rabbit? I couldn’t understand/believe how he could run so damn fast after walking? If I start walking in a race it usually means the race is over for me?

It was getting very hot – temps near 80 F and I was beginning to get frustrated because I was holding a 9-min pace through the BAHs and yet I was not catching this guy! I decided to make my move on the 3rd and baddest BAH at mile 23. As expected he started to walk and I pushed up that BAH and mile in 8:53 – but as soon as I closed within a few hundred feet he took off again! When I crested the BAH at mile 23 in 3:10:33 I made my move. I lowered the hammer and dropped my pace to sub 8-min over the next mile! But that son-of-a gun responded and increased his lead on me! I had used a lot of energy in that push/move and I realized by then that even if I continued to push and catch him he would undoubtedly respond and we would be in a serious (and painful) pissing match to the finish line! I decided to wait for the final mile because I knew there was a short hill around 25 ½ miles. I continued to close on him slowly and when he started to walk on that hill I made my move. Son-of –bitch! He saw me closing and accelerated again! With only ½ mile to go I figured the only way I could catch him would be to push my pace to the point of crashing and if he responded when I passed him (as expected) I would have nothing left to respond.
Instead I continued to push the pace as hard as I could (w/o crashing) and followed him across the finish line in 3:38:06. After we passed through the finish chute he collapsed on the lawn of the courthouse and I walked over to congratulate him on a good race and asked his age. Damn – 61 years old! Then I was even more upset when he reminded me that we had done the same duel (with the same results) last Feb in the Orlando Marathon!
He had recognized me when he passed me at 5 miles and was expecting me to chase him down by the end of the race! Shit! I had been so focused on my pace when he passed me that I did not look at him closely and failed to recognize him!

Thus for that painful duel through the BAHs and the last 10Km he knew whom he was competing with and I wasn’t even sure he was in my age group! If I had known it was he I would have changed my strategy over that last 10Km! But I have to tip my hat off to him and pay him respect. He is a good runner and he sure can ‘gut it out’ in a race when needed! I truly hope that we meet again at another race and I recognize him – Maddog will not let him beat me a third time!!!

After the sports manager took the obligatory finish line photo we returned to the hotel for a quick hot soak and shower and then went back to the finish area to check the results. I had finished in 2nd place in our age group so all those other old farts had been in the 50+ age group. I had finished 28 seconds behind the 61-year old runner (from NJ). I had also finished 38th Overall, which is the best finish I have had in this race. I had beat my previous PR by almost 7 minutes but that was not good enough for Maddog! He was very upset that I had lost 1st Place by a mere 28 seconds! I fear that there will be a lot of extra hill work added to my training program over the next few weeks to toughen and speed me up in the hills?

Now I have to start preparing for the next race/challenge – a tough/hilly Half Marathon next Sat. The Race – called ‘Run The Rockies’ starts at 9600 ft and finishes at 9100 ft in Frisco, CO.

Stay tuned for the next race report.

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