Perfect – PeRfect

Good news, it’s dog show weekend which usually means two things – a) I’ll be sitting around on my butt most of the time because that is the true essence of this hobby they call Dog Agility even though the name does imply a lot of motion.. that is generally for like 1 to 2 minutes at a time for the trainer.. and then you go back to sitting.  For the drag along Sherpa (me) .. that translates to basically just sitting – and b) more than enough time to get some posts out to put this month in the books.  Last I looked I was down only two so that should be pretty easy to tackle.  A staple blog entry for June is always the Steamboat Race and this year is no different.  Once again I toed the line for Illinois’ Toughest 15K.  One more medal to add to the growing collection of distance accomplishments

For the record, I cannot stand the logo for this race.  Hard to put my finger on exactly what the issue is but pretty sure it centers around having to wear a naked guy (except for shoes) with crappy running form.  Spent months and months eliminating heel striking and yet the race swag is a walking advertisement for it.  In the past the biggest complaint has always been the medals.  Steamboat still uses the hard chips in the shoe which is now pretty annoying seeing as most of the big races use the bib RF tags.  Pre-2014 the medal was a literally a hunk of metal you slipped the hard chip in for display purposes.  Either they knew nobody liked these chips and were just trying to trick people into keeping them to deplete their supplies or they wanted to keep reminding the participants of how awful that timing method is.  Luckily for 2014 they went to a standard medal – small, but better than in the past.  The back side actually has a remembrance to the race coordinator’s father who passed away this year.

Linda went with a more artsy pre-race picture.  Guessing so she had something nice to display on her desk if I didn’t make it! (took her like 20 minutes to get it right hehehe)

Prep time was over, it was time to make this Toughest 15K my bi… umm teach this Toughest 15K who was boss.  They changed the starting point this year – moving it a block over and to be honest taking out a small hill that was at the original starting point (does that still make this the toughest?).  As a result, Linda wasn’t exactly sure where to set up her photography perch.  It also meant I did not know where she was forcing me to scan the sidelines for her.  Not a big issue since I tend to goof around at the start anyway – it’s 9.3 miles people, no need to get all worked up at the start unless you happen to be in the rare air with the elites.  Soon I spotted her (before she saw me) and started my traditional wave.  Saw she was wedged in by other people and noticed she almost hit a lady in front of her when she swung the big glass around to snap some shots.  Only later did I learn that lady moved over and jumped in front of her as soon as the race started causing Linda to add some choice comments on Facebook afterwards.

Hit the jump to see how the race went!

From a conditions perspective, they were perfect.  Normally Steamboat is aptly named being a heat and humidity bath.  Last year was overcast so betting on another good day was asking for a miracle.  I’d say the 58 degree weather when I got up WAS a miracle.  It was probably mid 60s at start which I’ll take any day.  Weather wasn’t going to be an issue and with two Halfs already on the medal rack this year the distance should not be as much of an issue either.  Just needed to watch the hydration (last year had a small issue) and run my race.  The first loop of hills went quite well.  No issues maintaining form or speed and nobody passed me on the way up (like to pride myself on my hill endurance – getting beat by anyone going up is a disappointment regardless of age).  I did move my footfall placement further back towards the heel this year to address some injuries and some tweaks from the rehabilitation center (Accelerated Performance) I’ve been working with.  This reduced a lot of the calf stress that plagued me towards the end of the 2013 race season.  This helped manage the soreness that usually comes toward the end of a long hill climb.  The remaining flat to close out most of the first loop went well thanks to the Peoria Half training.  About a .5 mile to the last hill before repeating the first hill, a male racer came up and started informing everyone how lucky he was to even be racing today having lost 30 gallons of blood a month or two ago (that may be a slight exaggeration but to be honest whatever number he provided.. I didn’t care).  This story went on and on and on… to the point where it was time to give my ears a break.  At the last small (but steep) hill to end the first loop I bolted up the hill and left the rest of group to listen to the story.

About a quarter of the way up the second loop hill a lady blows past me.  Definitely fit and quite impressive stamina – quickly decided I was outmatched, took the pride ding and kept with the current cadence.  Somewhat in the form of redemption she totally stopped at the half way point and started walking up the hill.  I’d gloat a bit but the truth of the matter is she caught up to me and smoked me on the flats – she gets well deserved kudos for that.  Being in good shape after the second loop hill pretty much put the race in the bag.  There was plenty of gas left and only the small steep hill at the end and then it was essentially flat or downhill all the way home.  It was a little hotter by then but the body felt good.  The additional miles training for the longer races helped tremendously.

One thing I forgot to do at the start of the race was inspect the finish line.  With the course change I was not sure how much to reserve for the final kick.  Not sure, I decided to wait until the final turn to drain the rest of the energy.  Most of the race was spent just behind two women who were keeping a pretty close pace.   One of them must have known EVERY racer we passed and most of the spectators – every time we passed someone they would cheer her on BY NAME.  Talk about a great support system.  Pretty sure she was the lady just behind me at the turn here.

Once I made the turn I realized that the finish wasn’t that far down the road.  Could have easily turned on the gas earlier, but good to know for next year. That last stretch was probably one of my most enjoyable finishes ever.  Top speed passing everyone in sight.  A dude hanging on the fence made note of my solid finish adding “all you need to do now is smile!”  Can’t smile, breathing HARD hehehe.  One of the reasons for feeling great is my form hadn’t broken yet.  Usually when exhausted the body stiffens, leans back and the legs turn to jelly.  Not this time, everything right where it is suppose to be.

Linda almost missed me at the finish – don’t think she expected me that early and surely not moving that fast.  At the time she was busy taking pictures of former Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood.  He is a regular at this race (something like 25 years) and as all politicians are wired to do uses it as a political advertisement (his kid is in politics as well).  I personally have no respect for him anymore and consider him a an Obama turncoat – quite pathetic.  Good news is I passed him – he was walking the 4 mile.

Chip time puts me in the 1:15:38 range (which they no longer list on their website), a 1:15:52 race time, 8:09 pace range which I am extremely happy with.  214 out of 777, 15th in my age group.  Ladies and gentleman contrary to my understanding at the time.. that is a new PR for me.  Last year’s PR left me barely walk at the end of that race.  A walk around to get the acid out of the legs and I was good to go! (I originally mistook my 1:15:9 to be 1:15:09 which was incorrect so double elation for finishing strong and PRing to boot  (or is that to “shoe” for racers).

All that was left was the traditional post race shot… in the tin.

I was going through Linda’s shots and noticed the one below that totally cracked me up.

It looks like an elite took off early – some people will do anything to win.  The other competitors didn’t seem that concerned – one (in yellow shorts) was either pulling a Monty Python and taunting him a second time or really really really had to go to the bathroom hehehehe.  Note to others, watch your hands when you know there are plenty of cameras around.  The following shot brought similar humor.  Steamboat does not have the most exciting post race party – they do have a band, beer and some fruit/snacks – far better than the Peoria Half after race party for sure.  None of them compare to the Bix party.  While walking to the race area I looked over and noticed this ride and immediately made Linda take a picture.

Nothing like truth in advertising – Come One, Come All to the shittiest fair ride this side of the Illinois River.  Either that or this ride is guaranteed to make you shit your pants — either way, no way this kid is getting on that.  I’ll leave you with that visual.  The good news is the day was a smashing success – next up … The BIX 7.

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