Steamboat Springs Race Report

bestmarathonlogo_2006_colorThere was something special about the Steamboat Springs marathon; it was to be my 25th race of 26.2 miles or better, and I had been hearing about the race for years. For some reason, a friend had consistently referred to the Steamtown marathon as Steamboat. So when I moved to Colorado and had the opportunity to run the race considered to be one of the best of the 18 in the state, I couldn’t say no!

During the month of May, I was very active! I worked out daily, often more than once. Two weeks before the marathon I did the Bolder Boulder 10K, and the whole week before the race I did my best to taper: cut out yoga and derby, and did my best to carb-up!

The day before the race I headed up to Steamboat Springs. I’m not a big fan of driving through the mountains, so the drive was pretty unnerving for me. I think I actually get a bit light-headed even driving through them (I crested 10,000 ft). I arrived in town and registered for the small race, reminded of the “small town” feel of Steamtown. I stayed at a La Quinta Inn, which was actually pretty amazing – a jacuzzi, a fridge and microwave and a gas fireplace for less than $100! Ah, the joys of being in a ski town in off-season, I suppose! I’d only spotted two Italian restaurants in town so I went for an early dinner (4:30ish) and brought my leftovers back to the hotel. I relaxed in the room, reading the new Advanced Marathoning book and registering for workshops at Rollercon. Around 10pm I had my second dinner, and headed for bed.

I had only been able to secure a noon checkout, so I packed up all my belongings before the race. The schedule for the buses to head to the race start was pretty tight: between 6:00-6:15am. I headed to the parking area in plenty of time to be safe. There were only a few hundred marathoners, so things went pretty smoothly. I wore my sugoi shirt and shorts, my she-beest arm warmers and recovery socks, and then bundled up with warmup clothes for the ride to the start. The woman next to me on the bus was nice and chatty: she didn’t usually do marathons, but had heard this was a huge course. We chatted with the guy ahead of us, who’d recently completed the Leadville 100, and had been 3rd in his age group in this race last year. She had plenty of questions for him about the course, and pacing. I felt like a veteran, just taking it in but not putting too much stock in someone else’s experience.

Soon we were at Hahn’s Peak Village, where the race was to start, and it started to drizzle. We huddled on the porch of a cabin, and I declared to some of the other runners that it had never before rained on me during a marathon, so we were fine. As it turned out, I was lying.

We actually were allowed to go into the cabins, so many of the racers chatted and visited while we waited for race time. It was a nice relaxing environment, as opposed to the corrals at large races. Soon enough it was time to throw our gear bags on the bus and get lined up. I had brought my ipod shuffle, as I wasn’t sure how remote the run would be and if I would need the added motivation. I had just learned that the USATF actually lifted their ban on portable devices last year, so I felt no guilt in having it.

steamboat start

And then we were off! I had been worried about the course description; that I would tear up my legs early on and be in pain later during the race. As it turned out, the downhills were not near as steep or damaging as I had feared.

I didn’t go into this race with any strong goal, although I had thought 3:40 would be great. The more I talked to folks in Steamboat the night before the race, however, the more unsure I was that that was possible. Everyone asked if I’d considered the effects of the altitude. Yes, Denver (5280) is “high altitude” compared to Ohio, but this entire race was above that (starting at 8100 and finishing at 6700ft). When I woke up on race morning, I was having “female difficulties” as well, so I was uncomfortable pretty well the entire race.

steamboatThere were only water stops scheduled every three miles or so, so I carried my own water. I found out that Honey Stingers are actually from Steamboat Springs, and they had gels and chews (as well as gatorade) at every stop. Yum!

It certainly was a pretty course, although I can only imagine how much more beautiful it would have been if it were sunny.

M1: 8:58
M2: 8:33
M3: 8:15
M4: 9:01
M5: 7:36
M6: 7:46
M7: 8:11
M8: 8:31
M9: 8:20
M10: 8:30
M11: 8:29
M12: 8:24
M13: 8:42
M14: 8:32
M15: 9:05

balloonpinpopIn the first half of the race we got some rain, and I did turn to my iPod for a few miles just to break up the monotony. I felt decent when I hit the half way point, and then all of a sudden – pop! like a pin had been put in a balloon, I reached the 16th mile marker and just stopped running. It wasn’t that my legs were burnt out (those recovery socks are amazing, really), I was just …done. I chugged along to finish, but had plenty of time to think.

This was my fourth marathon this year, and they weren’t getting easier. I had considered running the Estes Park Marathon with my friend Chuck Engle the following weekend, but that wasn’t going to happen. I run a lot of races because I love running: but this wasn’t fun. I needed to get back to actually training – training for marathons – before I was allowed to treat myself to another race.

To top it off, around mile 17 or 18 the sky opened up. Thunder, lightening, the whole bit. I almost laughed aloud when I turned on my iPod for a distraction and the Veronica’s song “When it all falls apart” started playing.

M16: 8:44
M17: 9:47
M18: 9:10
M19: 10:28
M20: 9:29
M21: 10:16
M22: 10:49
M23: 10:47

At mile 23, the race course approached town, and we were on the side of the road with traffic coming by. Yet it was sign that we were close to the end, and that was motivation for me.. that, and the handful of women who’d passed me in the few preceding miles. Within the last mile or so, I picked off five women in the homestretch. Gee, Andrea, if you have that much energy at the end, why don’t you use it at mile 16??

M24: 8:18
M25: 9:18
M26: 9:08
.2: 7:49pace
____________
3:53:29

steamboat finishAs soon as I passed the line, I was handed a cold towel to place on my neck, and then a printout of my race results and place. Wow, not bad considering the race wasn’t chip-timed!

Gun time: 3:53:29
Overall: 95
Gender: 35
Age Group: 7

I grabbed some water and a subway sandwich, then picked up my gear. It was just after 11, and I realized that I had til noon at the hotel, so I headed in that direction to see if I could manage a quick shower before heading home. Almost as soon as I got in the car a horrific storm blew up, and I decided racing back to the hotel to try to make it before noon was foolish. Instead, I stopped at a local starbucks, changed there and treated myself to a Venti Triple-Shot White Chocolate Mocha with three pumps of Hazelnut! (and thereby gaining back almost all the calories I’d just expended). I waited out the rain for a bit, and then headed home. I realized I had a Wayne Dyer audiobook on my iPhone so I listened to that, and the drive home was much more relaxing than the drive out. As I said, I did some thinking about my approach to races, and while I wasn’t particularly happy with how I did, I know that that’s a result of choices I’ve made. I had already decided to approach things differently for the Fall, so now it is just about putting those plans in place.

When it comes right down to it, a 3:53 marathon at altitude without real formal training for it isn’t too shabby. I just know with the right focus, I can do better and enjoy it more.

Oh, and the woman next to me on the bus? I’m pretty sure she was the first place woman: 3:02. I guess she got the right answers to her questions!

EDIT: I should add – I didn’t have any unusual soreness during the race. I mentioned my recovery socks helped, but I didn’t have any hip or other weakness during the race nor after. Interestingly enough, I wore my recovery socks race day as well as Monday, and felt great, and then on Tuesday DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) started to kick in! But I do think that the socks alleviated some of the initial soreness and probably prevented my legs from being sorer than they were. Although I hadn’t done yoga in the week leading up to the race, I do think that the additional flexibility, and the cross-training I’m getting from derby are affecting my overall strength and fitness. I’m glad to be doing more than just running, I just need to fit it ALL in!