In the midst of tearing out our basement carpet, having the professionals come in with their commercial fans, and generally stressing about homeowner’s insurance, we managed to leave town over the weekend for my favorite hometown event of the year.
I apologize for the length of this post, because I am chock full of lots of sentimental babble that I had planned to stretch out over the course of the week before we had to build an ark…
My parents started running in the early-to-mid 90’s, and I often tagged along with them to road races because hey, why not? In 1996, they convinced me to run the Steamboat Classic for the first time. I covered the 4-mile course in 34:55, and I can say in the cheesiest way possible that it changed my life. Not only did I fall in love with this event, but this sport, and later on, the close-knit community of runners that surround it.
It was then, in 1996 – inspired by then-Congressman Ray LaHood’s impressive streak of 23 consecutive Steamboat appearances – that I vocalized a goal to run this race 50 years in a row. (Aside: I can not find now-Secretary of Transportation Lahood’s name anywhere in the results this year. Could his streak be over?)
I’m proud to say that I have not yet let my 12-year-old self down; this year was the 15th consecutive year that I showed up to race. There have been a few years out of the last 5 that had it not been for this vow, I may not have made it back to the homeland. I’ve been out of shape; I haven’t always had vacation time; it’s not exactly convenient to drive 1,000 miles round-trip for a race. But when it all comes down to it, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. For the atmosphere that comes with the presence of elite runners; for the time spent with friends and family; for the joy of being a part of a very special hometown tradition. Every runner should have a trademark event. This one is mine.
I commemorated the occasion by busting out some suh-weet retro shorts, which were actually worn at Steamboat back in 1997. Here is the 2010 throwback edition, since in 1997 there was no such thing as a finish-line photographer:
(Image from Fujimo Sports Photography. If this is you, you should buy this image. Partly because your leg muscles look cool, but mostly because that girl behind you is wearing AWESOME shorts. And for the record, I totally beat you if you look at chip time. And to the kind people at Fujimo: at $4.50 for a 4×6 print, I totally would have bought one had you caught a good image.)
Apparently, retro shorts = retro times. Because for the first time since graduating from college, I brought something that resembled a game face. After a faster-than-planned start (fueled by meeting up with old teammates at the starting line) we kept up a decent pace and ran a nice negative split for the second half. I haven’t run into so many friends mid-race in YEARS – since they’ve been running faster while I farted around. It felt great to be the one doing the passing in the ever-brutal (although flat and shaded – there is no explanation) third mile, as opposed to watching old rivals blow by me as I gasp for air…hot, humid, miserable air. (But if it’s not muggy, it’s not Steamboat!)
What might be the best part, though, is that Mike tagged along on my fun little run and turned in a big PR by over a minute. He’s finding his racing feet, and is now talking a big game about potential 5K goal times. It’s nice when I’m not the only race-crazy person in the household!
My official chip-timing finish time this year was 28:58 – my fastest since 2005, and only slightly slower than what I once considered my “cupcake” pace. Which of course has me dreaming about my 2003 Steamboat PR of 26:45 – but let’s not get too carried away.
My lifetime Steamboat pace goal is to always finish in the top 50th percentile of all-time Steamboat finishes. As time goes on it will get increasingly difficult, and I’m sure it won’t happen all the time. I might even have to start running the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 15K. But for now, I am well-pleased.
Race splits, for anyone who’s into that kind of thing:
Mile 1: 7:00
Mile 2: 7:24 (First two miles 14:24)
Mile 3: 7:17
Mile 4: 6:51 (second two miles 14:08)
Mile 4.09: 0:27 (I guess next time I should try to run in a straight line.)
15 down, 35 to go!