Another week, another race in Steamboat. This time I was able to gain access to the west side of town and Howelson Hill. The Stinger Marathon (as put on by Honey Stinger) was a fun and relatively fast course with plenty of single track. Despite a somewhat contrived ending to the race (presumably to gain the necessary exact 26.2 distance) there were plenty of things that made this race worth doing:
2. Actual bathrooms at the Start/Finish
3. Finish is on the Yampa river
4. Pulled pork sandwiches
5. Ranger IPA on tap
As for my race against the man with one nut, it was a decent effort, but another reminder that I'm not fast. I did decent work on the initial climb, not overdoing it, and tried to relax on the long downhill. As the race essentially consisted of two climbs followed by two long descents, my plan was to hammer the back half climb. At the start of the second climb I had to shepherd a gigantic heifer off the trail before really getting to work. The climb was shallow and like the rest of the trail, non-technical. I was working well, but couldn't find that extra gear. Caught Luke just before the summit, and tried to make some ground on the 5th place guy. About halfway down, I caught a glimpse of 5th and made an overly concerted effort to close the gap. This was a mistake.
I've been pretty good lately in races about catching and passing without expending extra energy, but I discarded that here. Just after the final aid station (3 to go) I was nearly in contact and in regular sight, but once the course opened up and the sun exposure took hold, it was clear that the effort I made to get close pushed me a bit over the line and I began to fade. So, unfortunately, I fell back a bit and missed my pre-race goal of 3:30 by a solid 10 minutes.
Certainly the positives of the race were gaining course knowledge and familiarity with that side of town, as I'll be hitting it right around mile 23 of the 100 in 5 weeks. The 100 takes a much more direct approach of Howelson Hill however, and removes all of the zig-zagging and sends you straight up the ski jumps before completing what appears to be the same middle half of the marathon course.
I'm feeling strong, and already recovered from the effort, which is a good sign. However, I'm not harboring any ill-conceived ambitions of winning cash at RRR. That will be an effort in survival and constant trudging, with this side of the course being the "easy" side I'll hope to get back to Long Lake for the 2nd of 3 times feeling comfortable before the real brutality of the course kicks in. So, I'm about as familiar with the course as one could be without living and training in the area. The only sections I'm unfamiliar with are the Fish Creek drop and climb and the Summit Lake loop (two admittedly important sections). The good thing is that if I can make it back to Long Lake for the 3rd time I'll be able to taste the finish line and I'll know that section to the finish like the back of my hand, and it's gonna suck. The last time I ran this section of trail (LL to Gondola Square via Storm Peak Rd), I passed out at the finish line. Hopefully, this time I can make it standing.