A Big Thanks to the Cloud Gods

After a little bit of debate, I decided to spare everyone from a fourth consecutive post on the bird haul at Henderson, Nevada.  Since this is June, the annual steam bath was was on the docket.  Hopefully by now, everyone here is familiar with the Steamboat Classic having competed in it every year .. and of course following up with posts about the experience.  Just in case you are new, the Peoria Steamboat Classic is a multi-event race.  There is a 4 mile race which is considered one of the World’s Fastest (with the exception of a small hill at the start, it is basically flat if not downhill the entire way).  In addition, the race also boasts Illinois’ Toughest 15K (translated.. hills).  Guess which one I usually run?

That’s right, no wimpy 4 miles for me.  Way I see it, if you are going to get up early on a Saturday morning, you might as well make it worth it.  That and the fact I LOVE hills and HATE flats.  I know, I know that puts me in the quirky category but don’t forget what usually comes after a big hill… a runner’s best friend, the descent.

Putting on the orange this year would be a little extra challenging.

Linda and I took a two week vacation three weeks before the big race.  Not an ideal time for a runner, but the race season doesn’t leave a lot of openings to schedule play days.  Adding more difficulty, the short races were officially out of the way leading to the middle distances (15Ks and 7 miler) before the half marathon season starts in the August timeframe.  This just meant the luggage was going to be heavier than usual having to add all the running clothes/equipment for training during the vacation.  I think we may have set a record this year for the number of shoes we had to bring along with us – at least we were driving.  There were two other aspects of this vacation that didn’t bode well for proper training.  First of all we were headed into the mountains which takes elevation training to all new levels.  Piling onto that, the spring season out there comes a lot later than it does here in the Midwest (ugh, need to add TWO season’s worth of running clothes).  I did manage to get a multitude of runs in including hotel treadmills, rain runs, cold runs, sleet runs, hill runs and… mountain runs.  The good news is my body was becoming accustomed to running anywhere from a mile to 8,000+ feet elevation.  My friends accused me of “doping” for the big race.  Sure, that is one way to look at it, but there was still a definite concern I’d need one of these below before the end of the race.

Hit the jump to see how the race turned out!

With the exception of the runs in the Hotel workout rooms, all the training was done with the temps in the low 40s or mid 50’s.  The Steamboat race is aptly named because it is always held in the hot humid days of Midwest Summers.  The mild Spring we had before the vacation combined with the cold mountain air meant the heat conditioning was basically non-existent.  A quick run in the immediate days after vacation left little doubt it was going to be a struggle if the temps rose during the days left before the race.  Although I should have been tapering more, I did add in a 10, 8 and  6  mile run in the final week before the race.  Every day I was watching the weather forecast trying to figure out if luck was on my side.  The weather heads were predicting cooler temps with rain, but there is zero confidence in their predictions these days. It wasn’t until the night before the race when I let my hopes start to build. At 4:40 am on Race Day the alarm went off, rubbed the sleep from the eyes and dashed outside for some confirmation.  Sure enough, the Cloud Gods had taken pity on me.  Enough worrying about that issue, now time to focus on getting ready to run.

The sprinkles subsided and the participants took to the street. It was time to for the test to begin – so far everything was working out for me.  A few minutes for the Anthem, words of encouragement from the race coordinators and then the race was underway.   My personal photographer managed to find me in the mass of runners.

It probably helped I as prairie dogging it.  Somehow she missed all my arm waving trying to get her attention but if you look close you can still see me.  Still struggling?  does this shot help.

I would be one of the two guys in the shot that isn’t focused on the race.  Linda always makes fun of me for my lack of “discipline” at the start of the race, but there is no reason to get too wrapped up in the moment, not like there isn’t  9.29 miles more to get focused in.  Since there are two races essentially starting at once, it is important you do not get caught up in the 4 miler pace.  Those wimps will be turning around at the two mile mark where the 15Kers will be preparing to take on the first hill of the day.  Run your race or you’ll be hurting on the second trip through the hills.  This year felt pretty good through the hills (the mountain work paid off dividends).  The new running mechanics were helping out as well allowing for efficient hill climbing and crazy fast downhills.  In fact, I was moving so fast down on the second pass of the big hills I pulled up a bit towards the end afraid my tiring legs might miss a stride and introduce me to the pavement.  This resulted in another black toe in my running career – that’s okay, chicks did black toes hehehe.  The overcast started to dissipate at the 7 mile mark bringing some unneeded heat to the struggle.  I needed something to stop the internal debate between my legs and lungs so opted to fall in behind a much younger runner that had started to pass me.  He looked like a well disciplined runner and more importantly kept a steady fast pace for me to draft off of.  That drafting allowed me to chase down Mario and his girlfriend (spotted them at the start but couldn’t track them down no matter what I did – you never want to lose to a costume if  can at all prevent it).  All of a sudden at mile 8 my rabbit stopped cold.  WHAT THE HELL.  How do you just give up like that – there’s just a bit more than a mile to go and it’s essentially downhill at the half mile mark.  Oh well, time to put this run to bed.

That’s me turning the final corner to the finish.  You can see I took out Mario by then but that lady to my right was fighting through some major suffrage.  Thanks to the pictures I can now tell how my new form was holding up – legs and posture look good, but my trainer wouldn’t be to pleased to see my left hand crossing like that – bad Bri, bad!  There was still some left in the tank so time to kick it in gear and end strong.  Kudos to the lady for fighting through her fatigue but wow..

Almost done, engage the afterburners.  Looks like I corrected my form problems but need to keep that arm swing more down and to the back.  Other than that, not bad.

the 2013 Illinois’ Toughest 15 is now in the books and I owned it.  The time in the corner is the race time which in itself puts me at a brand new PR for this event.  Dialing that back to chip time and I came in at 1:15.9 which is close to a whole two minutes lopped off my record.

Give the lady in peach some props, she drove hard for the finish.  Nice to know all that extra effort during the vacation paid off along with all the new running mechanics.  Guessing all the time was gained on the hills (up and down) with a little bit gained on the flats with the new mechanics.  I’ll take an 8:04 pace for that distance any day.  Granted, had it been hotter it is likely the results would not have been that impressive, but every once in awhile a little luck will come your way.  Oh, and congratulations to my friend Rhonda!  If you recall, we teamed up to conquer the Screaming Pumpkin Race last October (link here).  This year she also took on Illinois’ Toughest and spanked it – finishing well ahead of her goal.

All that’s left is the traditional post race shot.  Another race and another safe finish.  Well, for the most part.  The excitement of smashing my PR made me forget the post race stretch.  Piling on to the bad judgement, we went out shopping afterwards instead of giving the legs a rest.

Want to know what happens when you do things like this after a hilly 15K?  Your calves lock up like steel rods.  It took an entire week for them to loosen up even with a regiment of foam rolling and deep tissue massage.  Lesson learned, lesson learned.

That’s all folks.  Maybe this will inspire you to come out and join us next year.  Come 2014 I’ll be there and pretty sure Rhonda will be there ready to test our training against the best Illinois has to offer… if only we can get Mr. Sun to stay away for another year.

With that, we can officially close the book on June – a whole 3.5 hours early by the way (no thanks to June cheating me out of a day).  Now back to training for the Bix7.

2 thoughts on “A Big Thanks to the Cloud Gods”

  1. So…, let me get this straight. Here you have this woman who is nominally not as strong as a male, and she has gone ~15K and is near the finish line, and you kick into gear and manage to beat her at the line. Look at her face in the last photo of her? “What will my kids think now?”

    I had to go back and verify it, but the bunny you chose was male, which does concern me a bit. And speaking of that, is drafting a fair thing to do to someone??

    Just thinking about the larger issues here. Otherwise, congratulations! It seems that every time you run you achieve a new personal best. My practice runs generally involve chasing cats that escape.



  2. yes, you have that quite straight. A lady was giving it all but NOT enough to actually take me at the end – nice try and tell your kids to train harder hehehehe (unless of course you want to look like that lady at the end of the race).

    Ummm, this was a little different than usual – It was late in the race and he is the ONLY one that was passing me in that entire stretch. I would have gladly picked someone else had I been given the opportunity (they apparently didn’t train hard enough hehehe). As far as this “is it fair”. You seem to be thinking this a gentleman’s sport or something. If I choose to draft, I’ll draft, if I choose to execute my normal end of run sprint well, someone is probably going wonder why they didn’t train harder. Basically if I know you, I’ll do everything I can to help you through the race.. if I don’t know you then it basically becomes all about me (although I do tend to point out hazards on the roads to people behind me and I’d clearly stop and help if you literally dropped but other than that, it’s an individual sport me me me me.

    There is no larger picture! but glad to see you are getting interested in this sport – a few more episodes of cat escapes and you’ll be toeing the line with me at a future race – yeah! (course then I’ll have to discuss the finer points of passing people, spitting, snot rockets, nip tape, chaffing, water stations, New Skin, farts and .. well, we’ll leave it there!

    appreciate the comments from afar!


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