Oops I did it again…
I ran that stinkin’ Steamboat Classic again. The great thing about being a runner is that you get this thing called ‘amnesia’ and you forget that last year you ran the 15k distance of this race, saw Baby Jesus, begged a frat boy to spray you with a hose, and pretty much came a hair away from a DNF. Never again! I yelled shaking my fist to the sky. But I then remembered that the Steamboat Classic also has a 4 mile and a 4k race. I can stage a comeback and possibly not die over 4 miles, right?
Or maybe even win.
And no, I’m never running that ‘Worlds Toughest 15k’ again as long as I live. That’s just crazy talk. When I watched the 15k runners head off into the park to go climb up endless mountains, I was like, “So long suckas!” and continued on the much better ‘World’s Fastest 4 Miler’.
Oh and I won (did I mention that already?). Not overall, don’t be silly, but I won my division, and after 7 months away from racing, that felt really rad.
So let’s talk about it.
Once again the packet pick up was at the River Plex, and it still went with old fashioned shoe-chip timing, and I think there were issues with the timing system this year. They seemed to have worked out the kinks, but at first the results were bananas. Like, how could a person I beat pretty solidly have a pace time just .02 slower? So it was nitpicky things like that. No big whoop, but not something you see very much anymore.
Check in was easy peasy, not much of an expo, and I was in and out of there in 5 minutes. Everyone is super friendly and it’s just a fun atmosphere. It really is a ‘runner’s race’.
Now let’s get down to business.
Race Day again was super easy to navigate. The start had moved to Main and Adams, which wasn’t a big deal. There seemed to be a LOT more people racing this year. Unlike last year when it was 2349° with 115% humidity, the weather was cool and dry in the mid 50’s at the start of the race. So idea conditions all around. I was so nervous. Like freak out, banana pants nervous. So I had to head to the porta potties before the race.
Last year I wrote about the biggest problem with this race was the porta potty situation. There just simply weren’t enough. Same goes for this year, too. I don’t know if it’s a city ordinance or what, but they need more potties. It was ridiculous. I wound up sneaking in to the Capital Building and heading up to the bathrooms on the 4th floor, but as I waited in line, the flushers started to fail from the overuse. I’m a jerk, but I’m not, “Drop a nervous deuce in a toilet that doesn’t flush” jerk, so I ran back downstairs and headed to the now empty porta potties as the announcer called 5 minutes to the gun.
Just like last year. My warmup will be sprinting to the start corral.
I made it with about 45 seconds to spare, probably with toilet paper hanging off my shoe, and lined up in the 9 minute corral. I knew I had a chance at a divisional placement, but I hadn’t run with a watch for a month, on a new training plan and diet, and a total headcase, so I thought it would be best to play it conservative for the first mile and see how it went.
Looking back, I think I went through the same thing last year. There is a lot of newbie traffic in this race. Tons of little kids, dogs, strollers, first timers, etc. So the start corrals are a bit of a waste because it seemed like all of the 9 minuters were really running 12’s. And that’s fine! Just glad to see people out there running, but for future reference, I need to remember to line up in the 8’s for a good start. Did a lot of bobbing and weaving, and it mentally frustrated me.
First mile: 9:18
I actually raised my eyebrow at that because since I’ve been running on pure effort lately and not time, I wasn’t even pushing myself for that split.
Mile 2 was still congested because we were running with the 15ks and didn’t split off until the turnaround which was still jammed with people, narrow and slow, now I was being a jerk and silently cursing people out in my mind who were just trotting along like this was some kind of shakeout run. WE’RE RACING, PEOPLE!
Second mile: 9:08
I still wasn’t feeling like I was putting out that much effort yet. I usually really struggle in the first 3 miles of any race, especially in miles one and two because I’m slow to warm up. Could this be all of that dreaded speed training and weightlifting paying off? Not mindfucking myself daily with the watch and running based on feel alone? Wow. Maybe there really is a method to my evil coach’s madness after all.
Now as we headed back into town, the crowd was gone and I opened up the ol’ engine. I half expected the ‘Worlds Fastest 4 Miler’ to be completely downhill, but in reality, it’s almost identical to the ‘Shamrock Shuffle 8K’ course in that it’s really flat. Little hiccup elevation changes, but nothing memorable. It was a complete straight shot from mile 2 to mile 3 and I just sat back and kicked.
Third mile: 8:53
Wow. In my entire life I have never run a negative split race. Ever. Not even in my younger days. I am usually all over the place. This is pure insanity. I’m actually doing this right and I don’t feel like dying yet! Holy crap!
Now I was excited, and I kicked even harder. This was better than SF 10 miler last year and I was probably in the best shape of my life for that race.
I wanted to break 36 for this race. Missed it by 16 seconds.
Fourth Mile: 8:42
I crossed the finish line pissed that I missed my goal by exactly those 18 seconds I wasted weaving through traffic. Then I stopped myself and I was like, “You just ran a negative split race after 7 months off, pretty damn fast too. SHUT UP.” Then after I cleared that madness out of my brain, I was like, wait a minute…I might have a divisional placement here.
So I did what every champion does…shotgunned a couple of beers before 8am, ate some of the food they had out and chilled with my homies til the placements were posted. The Steamboat Classic has one of the best post races out there. Band, food, endless beer, fun, it’s the best.
Finally, they start posting the time sheets, and I ran up there to see how I did, expecting maybe to eek out a 3rd. Maybe.
My name was at the top. I freaking won.
Maybe it was the beer before 9am, but for whatever reason I started crying. I know it was only a divisional win, but for whatever reason it meant a lot to me. Every race is special and an accomplishment, but I think because I got serious and listened to a coach for a change, putting trust into a training plan and surrendering my need to control everything, the win was symbolic of that.
So there’s that. I’m going to sit down with good ol’ Patches tonight and come up with another goal race and training plan…something that’s going to keep me on my path to the 1:45 goal at the Chicago Half and defending my Oak Brook Half title this September. But I can’t stress enough how much having a plan that works for you is everything. I’m not just talking about cutting out a magazine training plan and trying to follow it, but looking at who you are as a person. For me, my large muscular frame was treated as an asset and not a reason why I could never be fast. I can’t eat pasta, bread, and the like and do endless miles, I’m not built for it. Just changing that mindset helped a lot, but it wasn’t easy. I had to trust, put my watch in the drawer for a month, and give up control, admitting to myself that I really don’t know everything. Track workouts, a cyclical ketogenic diet, and weight training made all the difference, and actually made me a better runner than I had been when I had to take a break last year. Truth to the fact that if you surrender your own head noise, have some faith and trust in those who want to help you, things can only get better.
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