Wowza, what a weekend! First off, before I even begin about my running experience, I just have to say how much I really love Steamboat Springs and the friendly residents. This town is quickly becoming one of my favorite mountain spots to get away from the city. A mere 3 hour drive from Denver and suddenly you’re in a beautiful mountain getaway, with friendly people and good beer to boot.
The Steamboat Stinger is a full on 2 day event, with mountain bike races on Saturday and the running races on Sunday. I decided to head up first thing Saturday morning so I could get checked into the hotel and catch some of the bike races before packet pick-up. The running races on Sunday consisted of a full and a half marathon. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I of course opted for the full 26.2.
This was a tough race. In retrospect, I think I didn’t lend this race enough respect since I was coming off my performance at the Mount Werner 50K. Perhaps I was a little too dismissive and careless with my attitude of “it’s just a marathon, how hard could it be?” I went out way too hard, and paid for it in the later miles.
The course was beautiful – rolling hills, aspen trees, and serene mountain scenery. However, once my IT band starting flaring up, I knew it was going to be a long day. The course challenges you in every way possible – up and down, narrow single trails that test your ankles, rocks and stubs everywhere just waiting to catch your foot and make you eat s***. I never knew 26.2 could feel so long and never-ending. It almost felt like an ultra to me. I popped a few aspirin to try and dumb down my knee pain, which did help, but then I think the aspirin made me nauseous. I kept as hydrated as I could, but there were a few moments where I thought I was gonna hurl. Thankfully I didn’t.
On the positive side, the aid stations were great and the volunteers were super supportive. When you are nearing the end of your wits, it’s really amazing how far a few kind, encouraging words can go. About 10 am, it really started to get hot, which in itself presented a whole new set of problems. There was about a 9 mile stretch between aid station 2 and 3, which seemed like an eternity. I had run out of water and was now trudging along, tired, hot, and increasingly dehydrated. Thankfully, a female runner saved the day when she came up behind me (obviously noticing I was hurting) and gave me some of her water. I thanked her and continued on, a renewed sense of energy and hope.
The last 6 miles or so simply would not end. Switchback after switchback. It’s usually at this point that I begin traveling deeper and deeper into my own psyche. The questions I ask myself always becoming more and more philosophical and introspective the deeper into the race I go. “Why do I suffer like this?” “What am I really proving?” Usually I just remind myself of how good I’ll feel once I finish, knowing full well I could’ve quit and walked away.
Finally, when I was really nearing the end of my physical and mental limits, I could hear the faint sound of the announcer and cheers coming from what must have been the finish line. I came to a clearing and could see the finish line. A wave of relief came over me and I gathered the rest of my energy to pick up my pace to cross the finish line. I immediately collapsed under the nearest shade. Grateful for the experience but also grateful that it was over. “What a run” I thought to myself.
The more and more I do this, the more I realize that some races you run to compete, and others simply to survive.
Steamboat Stinger website: http://www.honeystinger.com/steamboatstinger.html