This year marked my 7th consecutive year of running the world-famous Steamboat Classic races. I have a love-hate relationship with the Steamboat events. I love having this yearly tradition (this is the only event I have run every single year since I took up running), and because it's always the same, it's a good gauge of fitness.
But, it's always so frickin' hot! (Feel free to replace the word "frickin'" with another suitable adverb of your choice. I can think of at least one better one.)
For my first five years as a Steamboater, I ran the "World's Fastest 4-Mile", and the last two years, I stepped up my game, opting for "Illinois' Toughest 15k". When I ran the 15k last year, I was in tip-top running shape, I had run the course several times prior to race day, and I breezed through the race in under 1:25.
Oh, the difference a year can make!
|A first for Steamboat: gender-specific tech shirts. Very nice.|
I hadn't trained for this at all. In fact, I hadn't so much as looked at the Hill of Death since last year's Steamboat race. I knew I could finish the race (it's "only" 9.3 miles), but I knew I wouldn't be able to beat last year's time with ease. I wasn't even sure I could run under 1:30 with ease. But that was my goal - to finish in under 1:30. My friend Mike was running the 15k for the first time, and had a similar time goal, so we lined up at the start together. I gave him all sorts of sage advice about the course, because, you know, I ran it last year. *looks smug* But I knew he didn't need it. He would do just fine without my help.
|I can't speak for these people, but I was sweating just standing here.|
The Trifecta of Running Misery - heat, humidity, and hills - was in full force this day. Steamboat is always too warm (it wouldn't be steamboat without the steam!), but I think this year may have been one of the warmest I've experienced. The first two miles weren't bad, but once the hill-climbing started at Mile 2, I struggled for the duration of the race.
|Before the hills... I actually look like I'm having fun!|
(photo courtesy of meandeene)
I took comfort in seeing other friends along the course - Louisa, Yvonne, Bill, Jose. We were all suffering together (although it seemed like I was suffering a lot more than any of them - they must've actually trained for this!). Mike and I leapfrogged each other for the first 6 or 7 miles, and at one point, after we had completed a couple of the tough hills, he looked at me and asked, completely deadpan, "When do the hills start?". I responded with my evil death glare and briefly considered tripping him. He was definitely handling the race better than I was, and after 7 or so miles, I just couldn't keep up anymore. I watched him cruise ahead and out of sight in the last 2 miles. I attribute his race success to all the sage advice I had given him earlier. I'm sure he would agree. Yep.
Meanwhile, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and tried to ignore the increasingly heavy feeling in my legs and the rising temperature. I was starting to see spots, and images of giant ice cream sundaes danced around in front of me. I rounded the corner to head toward the Riverfront, and there were Becky and Nikki cheering for me. I shamefully admit to not enthusiastically acknowledging their encouragement because, well, I was half-dead and just trying to remain upright. Under better circumstances, I would've smiled, waved, given a few high fives, done a few cartwheels, that sort of thing. But I just didn't have energy to spare.
|Becky and Nikki (far right) watching me have a near-death experience.|
(photo courtesy of meandeene)
"What? You're not even gonna give me the finger???" Nikki yelled. Well, that I could handle. So I flipped her the bird as I trudged past, which earned me an even louder cheer.
Then I was running the gloriously downhill final 800 meters. I didn't have much left to give - my finishing kick was pathetic - but the end was literally in sight and I could almost taste that most noble of post-race refreshments.
|Crappy beer! Yay!|
As I rounded the final turn, the announcer called out my name and I dashed to the finish line, relieved to see the race clock was under 1:30. I didn't do as well as last year, despite suffering a whole lot more, but at least I met my goal. Whew!
I collected my medal and headed to the post-race party to meet my friends and listen to a favorite local band, The Corn Wolves. The race medal, by the way, is really quite unique. It has a slot to slide the timing chip, so the chip becomes part of the medal.
Since this was only the second time I'd ever run a 15k race, and it wasn't a PR, I suppose that makes it a PW (personal worst). And you know what? I'm okay with that, because I intend for this year's Steamboat 15k to remain my personal worst. Next year will be better. I will see to it.
And now for a few thoughts for the race organizers, should they happen to stumble across this blog. First of all, thank you for finally ditching the cotton unisex t-shirts in favor of useful and flattering gender-specific tech shirts. Much better! Secondly, thank you for making sure there was enough food and beer at post-race to satisfy the 4-milers and the 15k-ers. Thirdly, as of Thursday post-race, the only times posted on the results website are gun times. Those of us who did not start with the elites (which would be 98% of us) would like chip times. And lastly and most importantly, who the heck came up with this port-o-potty arrangement?
|Why? Just... why???|
So to sum up: for next year, keep up the good work with the nice shirts and plentiful refreshments. But please, give us chip times, and for the love of Pete, put the port-o-potties in a straight line!
Peace. Love. Train.