Life is made up of many decisions every day, large and small.
At the Fourth Annual Team Run Flagstaff Snowbowl Road Climb, I faced an excruciating last-second decision as the clock continued to tick.
I reached Aspen Corner, less than two miles from the finish of the seven-mile race, feeling surprisingly strong. Even taking into account the steep final ascent to Agassiz Lodge still to come, I figured I had a personal record for the race in my back pocket.
As veteran Snowbowl Road Climbers know, however, Aspen Corner is site of the Mama Burger Challenge. Runners can choose to stop at the aid station, down a hamburger, then continue up the mountain, with the fastest closer from final gulp to finish line taking home $100.
Since there were only 20 burgers available, I didn't expect there to be any left when I arrived. But as I reached down for my Fluid Performance drink, I must have blanked for a moment and asked myself, "What would Guy Fieri do?" rather than "What would Ben Bruce or Kellyn Johnson (the men's and women's overall winners) do?"
I shouted out my question to no one in particular: "Are there any burgers left?" In a heartbeat, a juicy Double Mama Burger had been unwrapped and placed at eye level.
This wasn't exactly when to launch D-Day or which college to attend, but it was a decision nonetheless. And we runners do take our shots at a PR seriously.
Not surprisingly, I caved to gluttony. Even if it wasn't yet 8:30 a.m., I couldn't pass up this opportunity to combine two of my favorite activities, eating and running. A person can only consume so much Gu.
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When I expressed a twinge of doubt that maybe the five minutes I was spending eating could have been better spent completing the race, I was affirmed by my newfound dining buddy, Christopher Carsey: "Yeah, but this is cooler," he said between bites.
When I later explained to my family that I had opted for the burger, my wife and daughters tried to trivialize my choice. You just chose the burger because it was free, they said. The lure of free (and in this case, delicious) food looms large for me, so their instincts were good. But they failed to appreciate the nuances at play here.
There's the adventure of trying the unknown. Or at least seeing if I could keep it down. And you want to support the features that make a running event entirely unique from other races. The Snowbowl Road Climb, thanks to race visionary Eric Bohn, does plenty on that front.
I certainly didn't make my decision expecting to win cash for being the fastest to the finish, post-burger. John Yatsko was in the process of wrapping up his second consecutive Mama Burger title by the time I took my first bite. Still, I did fantasize over my last 1 1/2 miles that my delay might result in one of the other great unique prizes in the Snowbowl Road Climb, the exact middle-of-the-pack award of $100, and still be able to pull off a personal best.
That's right: I wanted the trifecta: free food, prize money, and a PR. As it turned out, one out of three ain't bad.
I finished 2 1/2minutes off my race record, confirming my fear of an opportunity lost. But hey, now I have two Snowbowl Road Climb PR categories to aim for.
Myles Schrag is coordinating editor for High Country Running. He welcomes submissions (500-word maximum) from runners of all levels about any aspect of the local running scene. You can reach him at email@example.com. Also, he is seeking fun, interesting, or inspirational stories about any aspect of Flagstaff participation in the Imogene Run over the past 39 years. If you have stories (even short anecdotes), photos or video that you want to share for possible publication or future use, please contact him in August.