A Bittersweet Anniversary

It’s the number 6 post for the month and as the tradition goes for the month of July, the topic is the premier running race of the season.  There is one race I look forward to every year and probably the focal point of my yearly training program — that is the Bix7 held in Davenport, IA the last Saturday in July.  For those without a calendar handy, that means yesterday was the date of this year’s extravaganza.  Things were falling into place nicely this year, the training had been going really well and as decided from the Steamboat Race (link here), there was plenty of heat acclamation – a lot of 95 degree runs with a sprinkling of 105, 108 and 110 degree runs addressed that shortfall quite nicely.  The weight was perfect (153), the distance endurance was there and the injuries were in check for the most part which is generally the critical concern for this time of the year.  Life was good and expectations were high!  The three races ahead of this one were miraculously PRs so there was an outside chance I could go 4 for 4.  After the last taper on Wednesday all that was left was to keep from getting sick or hurt before lineup at 8:00am Saturday morning.  Piece of cake right… umm ..wrong.  Even though I tried my best to sequester myself from large masses of people (greater the people, the greater the chance of catching a bug is my philosophy) and watched my food intake for the week to prevent another Steamboat incident (link here) some contagion made it through.  Friday morning I woke up with the start of a sore throat followed immediately by concern and genuine fear.  If there is one thing I know well, it is when my body isn’t hitting on all cylinders and even though Linda was confident it was just my standard pre–race fretting (Linda’s words), there was little convincing me.  Immediately, my thoughts rocketed back to an emergency 3 hr meeting for work the previous Tuesday where one of the attendees coughed during the presentation – the spidey senses went in full riot mode the minute that happened.  Here it was Friday, a mere day before the race and panic was setting in.  If there was any sign of hope, it was the fact that the throat didn’t seem to get any worse from the travel, dinner, the packet pickup process (although for the first time I really had a lack of interest in checking out all the running booths) and the pre-race prep.  Just a constant annoyance in the throat and a slight forming of congestion.  Maybe it was just pointless worry.

The alarm went off Saturday morning at 5:30am and the answer to that quandary was apparent.  I was officially sick with a sore throat and some form of sinus congestion.  The heart sank and the confidence was shattered.  A lot of hard work and sweat was at jeopardy.  The thoughts of PR were quickly transformed into hopes of being able to just finish.  The only thing going for me was my body’s ability to bend to the will of the mind – a lifelong creed that has come in handy many times over the years.

Here is what your pre-race photo looks like when you are not on your game – hanging out in a hotel lobby!  (part of this is because a certain someone ..uhummm LINDA was complaining about being cold … let me repeat that … TOO COLD for a Bix day, now that is a shock.

Hit the jump to see how this turns out

Continue reading A Bittersweet Anniversary

Another Medal Earned… or What Was I Thinking

Start of Steamboat Race 2009

Apparently I did not learn my lesson from last year. Yesterday was the 36th running of the Peoria Steamboat Race (15K and 4M) and as planned, I was at the starting line.  The actual photo was scanned from the Peoria Journal Star so all credit remains with them.  Since they did not ask my permission to put my image in their paper I decided I did not need to ask their permission to use it in my blog.  If you are interested, that’s me in the orange and shades – I could say I was honoring my Illini Alma Mater, but the real choice was based on being the coolest fabric (temp, not hipness).  I made a pact with myself at the end of the last Steamboat that I would not let it beat me and I would attempt it again in hopes of not getting injured early in the race.  I rarely break a commitment to myself so there I was, although this time I was not sure if I was ready.

Unlike last year, we decided to move our vacation to the two weeks leading up to the race day as opposed to last year where we headed out immediately after the race which resulted in serious leg cramping.  Rather than repeat that, we changed the vacation dates which had its own challenges.  The first of these was finding time and places to train while traveling.  As best we could, we stayed at hotels with treadmills and although it was pretty cold out at night (see the other challenge), I did get one road run in.  I am now a big fan of Comfort Inns and Courtyards – both of those hotels had excellent treadmills in them and operating ours that fit my late night running preference.  Luckily, I did not have to compete for the treadmill even once allowing me to get my entire 1:10-1:20 hour training sessions in.  The other challenge was the fact we were vacationing in the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Park areas.  Yes folks, that puts me in the 9 to 12 thousand elevation level.  I had no idea how that elevation training would impact my performance other than I knew it was actually harder to run at that elevation than it would be in Peoria.  What I did know is I could not keep the same pace causing me to back off my pace significantly (was floating around 10 minute miles for a lot of it which is significantly off my preferred pace).  So I was running slower than I wanted, running less than the full 15K (due to the slower pace), reduced foot/knee impact from running on the treadmills instead of pavement, but had the unknown of the elevation benefits and it was significantly colder at that altitude over the steam bath that usually exists on race day. .   The reduced impact from the treadmill was somewhat of a blessing because my hip had developed a serious socket pain during the training runs before the vacation.  With the uncertainty, the decision was made to ease into the first two miles to give time to assess the body.

Some starting line number you mind find interesting:

  • 36th Running
  • 4,150 participants (total both 15K and 4M)
  • 480 15K participants
  • Race time – 7:00am
  • Time the alarm clock went off – 4:50am
  • Start Temperature: 68 (I personally think it was a lot hotter or it warmed up quickly during the time I was running
  •  91% Humidity (suckage)
  • 15K winner -48.23
  • 15K Last Place Winner – 2:15:08  (congrats to beating hundreds of thousands of people who decided to stay in their comfy beds)
  • My Finish: 1:20:35 (race stats have me at :49 but I am going with my watch over the timing chips)
  • My Ranking: 285

I did come in ahead of my time last year and pretty pleased with the results based on the thoughts going through me head at  the start of the race.  I attribute some of that to the spectators along the course.  There is nothing and I mean nothing more motivation that having a complete stranger clap for you and give you encouragement along the way.  A special thanks to the couple around the 6.5M mark that was calling out our bib numbers and spurring us on with personal words of encouragement.  I always try to thank them as I pass, but my small gesture never makes up for the large boost of adrenaline that results from hearing people cheering you on.  A few more miles and I was reaching for my medal at the finish line.

Steamboat 08-09

I used the same medal image to save some time (the latest one looks almost exactly the same but does not even have the date on it anyway, so no reason to really scan it again).  A lot of sweat and wear and tear on the feet got me that medal and I clutched it with pride as I headed over to the water station.  As I looked down at my watch those 35 seconds called out a challenge.  You guessed it, I plan to be back next year to break the 1:20 mark.  Nothing like a challenge to keep the rest of the 364 days interesting.  Next time you see someone on the road struggling to make it up the hill or pushing themselves to make it those final miles… give them a wave and smile.. we all need a little encouragement every now and then.

Time to put some ice on the legs.  Tomorrow starts another round of training cycles for the upcoming Bix 7M race.

No Pain, No Checkmark

So I may have mentioned previously, I have a “Life List”… I use that name because it sounds a little more positive than “Bucket List” or “Death List” or any number of other names that people refer to their set of things they want to accomplish during their lifetime.  My list usually refers to physical challenges or achievements I use to challenge myself.  I generally do not give a timeframe for them, but often the activity requires a certain age level, preparation or sequence of events to complete the task.  Without a doubt, there are few moments I cherish as much as when I get to take that spreadsheet out and place a little checkmark and date next to an entry.  two weekends ago I had the opportunity to make such a check – so alongside the black belts in martial arts, completion of the Bix 7 mile race and learning to Snowboard (to name a few) I now get to add the following:

Steamboat IL Toughest 15K

I started running sometime back in order to complete the Bix 7 entry.  I’ve been pretty much running ever since with the sole purpose of being ready compete in every Bix since then.  In the meantime I would catch the various 5Ks and would catch the Peoria SteamBoat 4 Mile (IL’s Fastest 4 Mile) in preparation for the treacherous 7 Miles of hills at the Davenport IA Bix.  At the halfway point of the Steamboat 4M, I would make the turn and head back to the start while all of the 15Kers started their trek up into the hills.  For some reason, I convinced myself on the way back that I needed to complete the 15K so I could prove Continue reading No Pain, No Checkmark