Saturday, June 4, 2011

Steamboat Marathon: Previewing the Course

I'm spending a relaxed day in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, trying to consume plenty of carbs and not wear myself out with too many activities before tomorrow's race.

One activity that doesn't take much energy at all is driving the course route, so I took the opportunity to get a better sense of what I'll be experiencing tomorrow. The race starts near Steamboat Lake, at an elevation of 8,126 feet. While the temperature up there was around 60 degrees, there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground. Here's a photo from nearby Pearl Lake:

Beautiful! But of course I won't be running through snow: the road itself is completely dry. What I am more concerned with is exactly how steep the hills were, and whether the elevation profile I mentioned a few days ago is accurate:

Based on this profile I had surmised that there are four major climbs. It also looks like there are two steep downhill sections, after Mile 2 and Mile 4. Driving the course, I could confirm that, but also get a sense of exactly what I'd be dealing with. None of the uphills looked especially difficult. The hilly section near the end in Mile 21-23 will be hard because of its position in the course, but it's really not very steep at all. I also am not especially concerned with the steep downhill sections near the start. I handle steeper hills at home without much problem. But one thing I hadn't noticed previously is that the downhill that starts Mile 24 is also quite steep. That might be a tough to handle on tired legs that late in the race. Fortunately it will be over fairly quickly.

Other than that, this course looks to be nearly as spectacular as the Big Sur race. I took some pictures of the course, but since I'm not planning on taking pictures during the race this time, I'm going to save them for tomorrow's recap.

What I'm really looking forward to in this race is the long, gradual downhill from Mile 5 through 20. The hill is so gradual it almost looks level, but every step will give me a nice little boost. Some of the tiny bumps on that elevation profile really are hills rather than just GPS artifacts, but they're small enough that they should just add a bit of variety to the course. This section is also probably the most beautiful -- winding through farm country with a swollen river running past the road, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. There are cattle in green fields punctuated by purple and yellow flowers, under a blue sky with just enough clouds to make it interesting. Even if I don't perform well in the race, it should be a fantastic experience.

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