Monday, June 02, 2008

RR - Steamboat Springs, CO

Race Report
Steamboat Springs Marathon
Steamboat Springs, CO
Sun, Jun 1/08
Marathon # 304
4:01:26 – 3AG

This race was intended to be only a long, high altitude training run for a number of reasons.
1) I arrived at our summer home in CO just one week before the race so didn’t have much time to train or adjust to high altitude
2) As happens very/too often the many hours spent sitting in the car during the long drive from FL kills my back and or neck – this time it was my back that had been sore/stiff for the past week. It became so sore on Fri before the race that I had to call my masseuse - Pegi de Sade - and beg her to work on my back before the race. Thankfully she agreed to let me on her torture table on Sat morning before we left for Steamboat Springs.

The back felt sore after the torture session but was feeling much better when we arrived in Steamboat. I was able to enjoy a pleasant walk around the old western town w/o pain after picking up my race packet. On the drive to Steamboat we had received a phone call from our oldest son, Chris with shocking news. He was calling from a hospital! He had been biking with a group of friends in Seattle and was hit by a truck. The driver had run a red light while talking on a cell phone and hit Chris broadside! He was lucky to be alive! An ambulance took him to a hospital where the most serious injury found was a broken left knee. Needless to say that news put a damper on our weekend and made the race very insignificant and we spent most of the weekend on the phone with Chris. (More news on Chris later).

I had run the Steamboat Marathon three times before – winning my Age Group twice and placing 2nd in the last race. However this year I had no such expectation or aspirations. My only goal was to finish w/o aggravating my back and to finish with a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time – under 4:15!

The Steamboat course is advertised as “one of the 10 most scenic marathons in the world”. The course is point-to-point and starts 26 miles northwest of Steamboat at historic Hahn’s 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. The marathon is limited to 500 runners and the Half to 1000 runners.

After the long (almost 1 hr) bus ride to the start line my back was once again sore and stiff and I had to spend a lot of time stretching and massaging in an attempt to loosen it up. I hoped that once I started running the adrenaline and endorphins would control the pain? Both races started at 7:30am but the Half started at the Half-marathon point of the course. The weather was perfect for running – sunny with temps in the low 40s F and low humidity. The temps warmed up to the low 70s by the finish so I was never hot!
My biggest concern was going out too fast on the first downhill mile. The altitude and some chest congestion took care of that problem. I had been trapped in the car during our drive to CO with the Sports Manager who was sick with a severe cold and chest congestion. She was still suffering from the cold and I thought I had escaped the worst of it – until I reached the ½ mile point of the race. Even though I wasn’t running hard my lungs were on fire and I couldn’t breathe! Part of the problem was altitude but I figured I also had some congestion that hadn’t bothered me during my ‘easy’ training runs? I was forced to slow down drastically just to breathe and I reached mile 1 in 8:46. I struggled to breathe and hold that pace as I climbed to the highest point of the race (8178 ft) at mile 2. As I started the long descent to mile 20 my body and lungs finally started to adjust to the altitude and pace and I was able to run an 8:30 pace w/o difficulty. I passed mile 5 in 43:40 and was able to lower the pace over the next 2 downhill miles to 7:30s. I passed two old farts during that burst of speed but reminded myself not to get caught up in a competitive frenzy! I passed mile 10 in 1:26:21 and reached the Half in 1:54:33.

I knew the 2nd Half would not be as fast because of the numerous hills and especially the BAHs at mile 21. Although my legs were already tired I felt confident that I would beat 4:15 and thought there might even be a chance to beat 4 hrs if I didn’t crash? However as I climbed a BAH at mile 14 my pace slowed to 9 min and then slipped to 9:15s over the next 5 miles! I reached mile 20 in 2:58:13. My back had tightened up and was killing me! I would have to average a 10 min pace over the last 10Km and I knew that I wouldn’t/couldn’t run that pace through the BAHs from mile 20 to 23! My legs were wasted as I struggled to climb the 1st BAH at mile 21. I tried desperately to keep the legs moving/churning but finally had to give in and walk the final few hundred feet to the crest of the hill. I allowed myself to walk for 1 minute. That brief walk seemed to help both my legs and back and I was able to struggle through the final two BAHs before walking again briefly on the final hill. I crested that BAH at mile 23 in 3:29:43 and a split of 10:50!

I had 30 minutes to run the final 5Km! I didn’t think it was possible but mile 24 was downhill so I charged down the hill in a desperate attempt to see if I could break 4 hrs? I passed mile 24 in a 9:16 split and tried valiantly to hold that pace over the next mile. I reached mile 25 in 3:48:59 and a split of 9:59 – and I was finished! There was nothing left! My legs were totally out of energy- my back was killing me – and I was having trouble breathing again! At that point one of the Old Farts that I had passed early in the race charged by and challenged me to finish under 4 hrs! I couldn’t respond – and I didn’t care! I didn’t know if he was 1st or 2nd in our Age Group – and I didn’t care! I realized that I was finished but I could crawl to the finish line under 4:15 so my only goal was to get to the finish line w/o screwing up my back any more. I slowed down and ‘jogged’ the final mile to cross the finish line in 4:01:26.

I finished in 3rd place in my AG behind the Old Fart who passed me and finished in 3:59:11 (good for him!). At that time I really didn’t care but as I slowly recovered and met up with the Sports Manager to take the obligatory finish line photo I realized how close I had come to winning my AG and I became upset with myself for the lack of competitive desire and unwillingness to accept pain and agony to win. Maddog was extremely pissed off with me as he had been during the entire last 10Km of the race when he continuously chastised me and urged me to accept more pain and push the pace! Who was right? All I know is that I achieved my goal of a BQ time and it doesn’t appear that I aggravated by back problem?

When we arrived back home I headed straight for the hot tub with a 6-pack of Colorado microbrew to see if a combination of heat and booze would relieve the pain in my back. I am happy to report that it worked. My back feels much better today?

What’s next? Don’t know? We were scheduled to leave on Thu for a 1-week trip to TundraLand (aka Canada) to visit family and attend a wedding. But now we are waiting for Chris to visit his orthoped and get a final prognosis of his injuries. If he needs surgery for the broken knee or has other injuries then we will cancel the planned trip to Canada and fly to Seattle to take care of our baby (37 years old). He lives in a 3-level town home and will have difficulty getting around if his leg is immobilized? He is not a happy camper! He just resigned from his job last Thu and is scheduled to start a new job in two weeks. His health insurance terminated on Sat? And he planned to join the Sports Manager and I to run the Inca Trail Marathon in Aug and had prepaid the trip! Lots of unknowns to address in the next few days? He is going to need lots of moral support!

Either way it looks like I am going to screw up my high altitude conditioning because it goes away quickly when you leave the High Country! And I have another high altitude marathon in two weeks - the ‘highest paved marathon in the world’ – in Estes Park, CO.

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said.