Thursday, June 21, 2012

What doesn't kill you...

...sometimes makes you wish it would.  Oh, and it also makes you stronger and all that jazz, blah blah blah, I guess.

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)
My legs just felt like lead.  Or something heavier (read: denser, for science geeks who care about the difference) than lead.  Uranium!  My legs definitely felt like uranium (minus the whole radioactivity thing). 

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.

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