04 June 2008

Steamboat Marathon

27th Steamboat Marathon
1 June 2008
Hahns Peak Village to Steamboat Springs, CO

Actual finish: 4:58:26
Anticipated finish: 4:35:00.

Overall 242 of 315
Men 155 of 184
M35-39 27 of 29

Hahn's Peak Village sits north of Steamboat Springs by just about 26 miles. It is at about 8200 feet in elevation, Steamboat Springs sits about about 6800 feet. Per my GPS the course had 2000 ft of descent and 600 feet of ascent.

About a week before the marathon I started getting serious butterflies. Not always, just off and on. They peaked the Friday before. The closest I've had to this was the morning of my first half marathon, but it was just that morning and nothing like this. I knew I would finish, knew I was as well trained as any beginner, but logic could not win this battle. Saturday night was better than most that week, probably a mix of having dinner with a buddy who also ran the race and our families and the accepted inevitability by then. But it really wasn't until I started running the race that the nerves completely left.

Riding the bus up was fun, lots of light conversation, some jokes about how brilliant the half marathon folk (lining up on the other side of the street) were, etc. Looking around on the bus everyone looked like a runner of some sort. Not all skinny elites, but everyone looked the part. It was cool to feel part of that group. Feel, heck I am part of that group!

The marathon course was beautiful. It ran down a river valley with only the last 1.5 miles being in town. There were mountain peaks in the distance still partially covered in snow, meadows full of wildflowers, the sounds of the river high from spring run off at times, and very little traffic.

The weather early on was perfect, about 55F at the start, no wind, sunny. I was expecting to be cold at the start, being early and being 1400 ft above the finish, so I knew it was going to be hot before it was all said and done. The first 6.5 miles of the marathon went by fast. I felt awesome, knew I was going a little faster than I wanted to (10:15 mile avg vs 10:30 goal), but I wasn't feeling it at all. My legs were still very fresh and I was having a great time. A net 778 ft down certainly helped!

During the second 6.5 miles I slowed partially because of some uphill sections and partially because I was starting to feel it in my legs some. Not terribly, but there was enough of the race left I didn't want to push too hard. This section saw my average pace drop by 30 seconds a mile to 10:44 over a net drop of 359 ft though there were some rolling hills in this section. I hit the half marathon with a split time of 2:20. A little off my anticipated pace which would have give a split of 2:18. At this point I was starting to feel a little fatigued. I was encouraged by the split time, but could tell my pace was slipping and thought a 4:35 finish was unlikely. I was still in very good spirits and still enjoying myself greatly.

The third quarter of the race was the toughest for me. Miles 14 to 18 specifically. My overall average pace dropped 15 seconds a mile over these 4 miles alone. Mentally I found these miles hard to keep going. It wasn't that I was physically unable to run at pace, I was having trouble mentally focusing on running at pace. When not fatigued it is easy to set a pace and run it almost on auto-pilot. Here I had to focus on running faster or I just slowed down to a 12-13 minute pace. It was about mile 18 that I realized that this is what they mean when they say the marathon is as much mental as physical. There will be more pushing the pace under fatigue conditions during my next training. At mile 18 I dropped my pace down to 11 minute miles or so and held them until the hills at mile 20. The third quarter of the race was a net 248 ft downhill. Overall I still felt good as I finished the leg running strong. Definitely tired, but I could sniff the end.

The last quarter of the race has some hills cruelly placed at miles 20-23. All together about 248 ft of climb. You get it all back in miles 23-26 for no net elevation change in this leg. After running great from miles 18-20 the hills were a rude awakening. I could hold a decent pace on the level, but uphill I could not, a 13 minute pace was all I could muster. At mile 23 I picked it up again and ran a sub-11 minute average for the last 3 miles. I had no kick at the end, but did run the last mile at a constant 10:13 pace for a relatively strong finish. It was 75F for last 1.5 hours I was on the course. It felt like 95F.

I thought I would be emotional at the end, afterall I have come a lot longer than 26.2 miles to get to this point. I had a few moments in the latter miles where I teared up briefly while reflecting, but that was it. Finishing was wierd, after running that long it just felt wierd to stop. It felt good, don't get me wrong, but I just kind of stood there at the end of the chute taking it all in. One of the volunteers even asked if I was OK, I guess because I had been standing there for awhile. With a big grin I told him everything was great. They say you never forget your first one. Of that I am sure.

I awoke on Monday the same guy. Still committed to living a healthy lifestyle, still got a little flab to lose, still love playing with my 2 girls, still like to run. But there was a little bit of pride stuck down inside me somewhere that wasn't there before. As I lost weight I became one of "the other half". Last Sunday I became one of what the other half aspires to be. One of the rumored 1% to ever run a marathon in their lifetime, one of the < 0.2% who will run one in 2008. Damn.

I'll definitely run another. This fall maybe. Sometime I'll run one in a bigger city just to see what the hub bub about, but I suspect I'll prefer the rural locations.

Pics: Up top is from about mile 6, down below is one from mile 18 and one at the finish.

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