Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Yellowstone Half Marathon Race Recap

Sometimes (okay, usually) things just don't go quite a planned and that was how our race weekend panned out.  It was still great, all things considered though probably better for me than for Mitch.

We left on Friday so we would be able to tour the expo and pick up our packets.  We also volunteered to man the post race food for the 5K that night.  From the moment we left the house, Mitch was in a constant state of sneezing.  Convinced he was experiencing allergies, I kept throwing antihistamines at him every four hours.  It didn't help.  I kid you not when I say he was sneezing an average of 30 to 50 times an hour (he lets them fly five at a time).

By evening, he was clearly still miserable but the sneezing slowed and he went to volunteer like a champ.  ~Volunteering gets us 50% off any one future Vacation Race~

We came away from this weekend t-shirt rich.  This one is the Volunteer shirt.

This sign was a nice touch.

We helped stack thousands of bananas on tables and then manned the water station at the finish.  This was my first race volunteering experience and I enjoyed talking to so many runners.  People come from all fifty states (and a few countries) to run these Vacation Races and for many it is their first 5K or Half.  I can't count how many times I heard how tough the altitude was.  West Yellowstone is 6,666 ft above sea level.  Not much higher than Billings, but hard for someone from Florida!

We stayed at the KOA, which is the same as we did last year when I ran this race.  If you ever visit West Yellowstone, I give my thumbs up to KOA as a place to stay.  Its clean and has all the amenities you need including a store/gift shop, ice cream/coffee stand, breakfast and dinner served daily, pool and hot tub, mini golf (sort of), playground, basket ball, bathrooms, showers and laundry.  It's clean and the service has been great both times.  They even let us store our camper in "dry storage" for no charge after check out so we could visit the park without dragging it along.

Pre-race preparations (Friday night)

It became pretty clear by the end of Friday that Mitch didn't have allergies, but a full on summer cold.  I let him crash early while I finished up with pinning bibs and getting stuff ready.

The next morning, Mitch wasn't keen on getting out of bed and I wouldn't have blamed him one bit if he had bowed out of the race.  He didn't.  

The start line is actually quite a ways from here, but we were in the 5th wave.  This is the finish line from the other side.

iPhones don't take the best pictures.  This T6 Texan flew over the start line with a smoke trail right after the National Anthem.  We didn't know it was coming and missed the photo op at the time.  This was taken later in the day when we saw it flying over town at lunch time.

Considering how sick he was, I didn't expect him to run but Mitch ran a majority of the first 9 miles!  This picture was taken on the section of the course that was uphill.  It was about 400 ft of elevation gain over a couple of miles.  It doesn't seem like much, but it is the toughest part of the course.

A gorgeous section of the trail follows this river.  You need to keep moving if you don't wear your bug spray! 

We took the GoPro thinking we would get some video.  We did try, but since the vest clip was too clumsy we had to carry it.  That just wasn't going to work out.  I'm taking a picture of Mitch while he is taking video of me.

I couldn't get enough of this river.  I have several more pictures on my phone.  In this section of trail, a woman who had been running in our vicinity most of the race tripped and face planted.  Bummer!

Around mile nine, Mitch experienced what has been my nemesis for most of my running days: IT Band syndrome which caused severe pain on the outside of his knees.  We walked for most of the remaining miles, saving the legs for the final sprint to the finish.

And we did it!  Despite the odds against us, we finished in 3:11.  I'm so proud of Mitch for getting out there and getting through his first half marathon.  Its not fair that he had to do so in such unfavorable conditions, but he's never been a quitter and I admire his perseverance!

A few things worth mentioning:

Race Expo ~  The expo was very small, consisting of packet pick up tents, race merchandise, Altra Running, Bozeman Running Company and a few other small business tents.  In addition, they had a campfire and supplies to make S'mores.

Race Communication ~ Leading up to the race, we received several emails with race information.  I am a preparer so I appreciated this touch.

Schwag (not including bling) ~ There wasn't much in the way of "schwag."  Just a race shirt (very nice and I will post pics on the FaceBook page at some point).  We also preordered a commemorative race shirt that has the names of all of the participants in the Half.  Unfortunately, they did most of the names in a green font on a brownish shirt so it is extremely difficult to read.  Nice shirt anyway and again I will post a pic later.

Race Organization ~ Overall this was a very well organized race.  We had one issue and that had to do with the overall distance.  It seems that there was a section that was cut short when we went through.  It didn't happen to everyone as far as we can tell from other Strava entries, but several people we ran with had the same thing.  At mile 5, the course cut short by .3 miles.  Figure that out.  Otherwise I have nothing negative to say.

Race Course and Aid Stations ~ I'm sure I don't need to say what a beautiful course this was.  It was mostly trail with some forest service roads.  Single or double track in most areas and some very technical stretches with rocky terrain that required diligence.  Aid stations were approximately every 2 miles, well manned and included water, NUUN (electrolyte drink) and Honey Stinger gels in a variety of flavors. Some also had bananas and oranges.  There were a couple of rustic stations that only had water and even though the race materials said no bathrooms at these stations, there were tent-potties set up anyway!

Crossing the Finish Line ~ The announcer at the finish line called everyone by name and occasionally provided information like birthday and anniversary announcements or mentioning that it was a runner's first half marathon.  This was a nice touch considering how many runners there were!  The race course cut off time was 4 hours.  We saw later on the results page that some people had "official" times of almost 5 hours which means that they stayed there and waited for the last runner and still gave them a time.  They are the best!

Post Race Food ~  Vacation Races gives you what you pay for here.  For each runner there is a sealed box with 5 or 6 different snacks including dried fruit, Honey Stinger waffles and a few other things. Also bananas and chocolate milk! Yum!

And the MEDAL!  Can you believe this thing??!!  My hand is relaxed behind that medal and you can barely see it!  It is heavy and two sided.

I had Mitch go up and take a picture of the back.  He had to take a much nicer one than mine...

The image on the back has the course map which is difficult to see in this picture.  The bear is raised and I meant it when I said this medal is HEAVY.

The race is not IN the park, but on trails in West Yellowstone.  They encourage runners to enjoy the park by offering 50% discount on next year's race if you take one of their suggested hikes and upload a picture of yourself with your bib and medal at the destination within 72 hours of the race.
We did the Osprey Falls hike, but that is a story of it's own and I will post about that later this week!

What's the best race bling you've ever received?

Do you like trail or road running best?

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