Today's race went fairly well. It was the Steamboat Classic 2012 in Peoria. Here's the breakdown.
I have been running the TNAM route as often as possible - about once a week, 4.37 mile route - as my training for this 4-mile race, so I felt pretty well-prepared, but haven't been running as often as I would have liked. It may have been a mistake to run 4.37 yesterday morning, but I just couldn't help myself: I had the day off work and it was great to get out there on Constitution Trail in the morning with my dog! We took it pretty easy, did plenty of walking and didn't push too hard, knowing I was racing this morning.
I laid out all my gear last night, got up at 4:45am, hit the showers, dressed & headed out the door. I planned to get coffee at the gas station on my way out of town but had to wait several minutes as they weren't open yet when I arrived! It was me and the 5 old men who clearly gather there each morning for their coffee klatch, waiting for them to unlock the joint. Got the coffee but in my caffeine-deprived state, I forgot to put any sweetener in it (guess it's been quite a while since I hit up Casey's for my morning joe) - turns out it wasn't half bad. Maybe I can start reducing the amount of artificial sweetener I use each day??
Hit the road about 5:35 headed for Peoria (about 40 miles), feeling behind-schedule but knowing the race doesn't start till 7am and my race bib / chip / packet had already been picked up by my good friend and former boss, Joe. I made great time - ate most of my PowerBar on the way so my stomach wasn't empty, parked the car and texted Joe right about 6:10am. (It was already over 70 degrees and fairly humid.) Joe and I failed to properly designate where we were meeting so that he could give me my bib and timing chip, so a bit of confusion followed. I did get a good stretch and warm-up walk in while waiting for him to meet up, but ended up making a last-minute rush to find him (amid approximately 5,000 people) and get my gear on with just a couple of minutes to go before the starting gun!
Last-minute snafu aside, I found the group of 11-12 minute pacers and headed out. I felt like I was stuck behind a whole bunch of really slow runners, might have joined the group too far behind the starting line... but then I got to the first mile-marker and my phone (MapMyRun app) announced my first mile was at a pace of 10:40!!!
I knew I was in deep trouble. I started out WAY too fast. Tried to get my pace under control at that point, but it was tough because the runners never really spread out the way they normally do: usually, within the first mile, especially if you're relatively slow like me, the pack spreads out quickly and you can find a nice space where you're not jockeying for position and cutting through / around groups all the time. This didn't really ever happen with today's race... it got better after about the 2-mile mark, but not until the last 800-1000 meters did it really clear up.
There was also the issue of water-stops (or in this case, the lack thereof). When I ran this race two years ago, there was a stop with water and Gatorade just before the 2-mile mark. My habit of running with a bottle of water in hand saved my bacon today for sure. In the heat today, even with my bottle (which was getting warm and also a bit salty from all the sweat on my lips as I took a sip every few minutes), I was looking for the water stop, hoping for a few ounces of Gatorade to keep me going. NOPE! The first water-stop was just before the THREE-mile marker today, and then another was set up at about 3.5-miles. (I'm still pondering what the hell was the point of that.) And, you guessed it, no Gatorade. Just a couple of really nice families, filling pitchers from their front-yard garden hose!
At this point in the race, having started out way too fast, I was flagging. My walking breaks were getting longer, and my running intervals were getting shorter. I was really pushing, using all my willpower, to run for just 3-4 minutes at a stretch. If I remember correctly, my phone told me I was at 23 or 24 minutes at mile 2 (still not bad for me, but I was really feeling spent already), and about 37-38 at mile 3. I was getting slower.
One really great thing about Steamboat is the route for the 4-mile run. It's essentially an out-and-back route, on major roads near downtown Peoria, with a (mostly) gradual uphill terrain for the first two miles, and mostly flat or downhill heading back. I pushed on and found a little energy once I saw the "800M to go" sign. Not coincidentally, I think that was about when the leaders in the 15K race began to pass us. Then "400M to go" and finally rounded the corner for the final straightaway to the Finish Line and I REALLY found the Afterburners! For better or worse, I did finish strong.
Steamboat had a kind of disorganized post-race party. I had trouble finding water, and food, but they DID have plenty. In fact I wished they'd had little grocery bags or something to carry things in, because I grabbed a couple of granola bars, a banana (only at a little of that, was NOT what my body wanted today), and a nectarine, plus a can of Diet Pepsi and an ice-cold bottle of water. Did you catch that word, "nectarine"?? I say this is the best damn post-race party anywhere, I've never seen nectarines after a race, and wow, do I LOVE me some nectarines!! What a great surprise! I went back for a couple more after I rested a bit.
I went and found Joe, with his brother, his son, and two of their friends. We compared notes and decided to head back to the food/ water area and get our free beer. There really is nothing quite as tasty as a Bud Light at 8:30am after a hard-run race in the heat!!
I didn't take any "Before" picture today, and normally don't take "After" pics, but when I met up with Joe, and the others they insisted on taking several. I haven't seen them yet but I'm certain I look positively abominable! If they are at all presentable, I will consider posting one (but don't hold your breath).
OK now for the stats: I've run this race only once before, and two years ago at that. Time to beat today was 52:45. I haven't checked online yet for my official time. I was concentrating so hard on sprinting to the Finish Line that I failed to check the Big Clock, but my phone said I ran today in just under 54 minutes. This would be disappointing, except the phone also says (based on GPS) that I ran nearly 4.5 miles! (Not the 4.0 that I was racing...)
So, drum-roll, please... (I'm sure you'll wait patiently while I go check the web site.)
OH SONOFABITCH! The results haven't yet been posted, though the race has been over for 3+ hours!! Guess you'll have to wait along with me!