Friday, September 30, 2016

Happy Birthday Blog! Trail Running and a Goodbye

My blog turned a year old in September.  Happy Birthday, Run Which Way!

Let's talk about trail running.  For more than my first year as a runner I shied away from trail running and almost exclusively ran my miles on the road.  I love road running and I always will, but when I started training for The Rut, I had to make trail running a staple of my routine.  I learned some important things when I did this that I would like to share with you.  The pictures below are from my business trip to Helena, where I took a morning to explore Mount Helena City Park.

1.  At any given location where trails exist, the choices of where you can go from one trail head are virtually endless!

2.  Unless you want to face-plant, you better focus on your steps and not on what's going on at work or what you need to do later.  It's good for taking your mind off run-of-the-mill brain overload.

3.  Terrain is ever changing which causes you to use muscles you don't activate when road running.  While it may seem counter-intuitive, engaging so many muscle groups can help prevent injury.  It's been a much better year for me!

4.  You get to see things you never would have seen had you not ventured off the road!  This rock formation is huge! 

5.  On occassion you find the perfect, frame-worthy view and if you're lucky you brought your camera.

6.  There is almost always more than one way to get where you are going.

7.  Sunrises (and sunsets) are still the most beautiful celestial events.

8.  It might be a lot of hard work to get where you are going, but it's probably going to be worth it when you get there.  To get to the summit of Mount Helena, I hiked/ran 1,095 feet in 1.65 miles.

9.  Trail selfies are way cooler than road selfies!  By the way, the funny lines across my face are actually hair that was blowing in the breeze that caught the sunlight.  I have looked at this picture a dozen times wondering what those were from and just figured it out in time to post here.

10.  There is no better way to spend a day with a friend or your spouse than hiking or running through awesome new places.  Mitch wasn't with me when I ran Mount Helena, but I look forward to every opportunity we get to share these adventures together.


Today I had to do something I've not had to do before.....

I threw one of my beloved pairs of running shoes in the garbage!  I have many pairs, some even older than these.  I probably put more miles on them than any others and I haven't worn them to run in much since March.  I was very surprised to see the upper separating from the soles of both shoes.  It was a sad day. 


Registration for the Missoula Marathon opens tomorrow.  I'll be doing this one again as part of my preparation to get a Boston Qualifier.  This year I did the race in just under 5 hours.  In 2017 it is my plan to get a time between 4:30 - 4:40.

I doubt it will surprise anyone when I tell you that I will also be signing up to do The Rut again next year.  I need to finish what I set out to do - summit Lone Peak and bag a 50K.

Which do you prefer: roads or trails?

Ever climbed to the summit of a mountain?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Picture Book of Our Weekend and the Montana Marathon

Happy Sunday!  I'm trying not to let so much time go in between posts.  I miss telling you so much and my lovely pictures go to waste.  We've had such a busy weekend, it's worth a post anyway.

We are three weeks away from our 60 mile ride in Yellowstone.  Of course, running always comes first so my cycling training hasn't been what it should be.  Now I don't have any races on the schedule and I just can't make any believable excuses to skip my rides, so on Saturday we set out for a 20 miler.

Mitch scored very cool cycling jerseys for the Yellowstone ride.  I don't have a picture of his so I'll post that another time.  The design on mine is gorgeous... and slimming!  The bicycle in the picture is "vintage."  Mitch brought it home just for decoration in our front yard!

Almost half way in to the ride and Mitch took this picture while I was having a Gu.  It's the lemonade flavor and tastes exactly like lemon pie filling.  My stomach didn't like it.  Good thing I was riding and not running.

Mitch says this means I am a real cyclist now (chain oil on my leg).  Even after two showers, I can still see it.  That stuff doesn't come off easy!

I did okay on my ride.  I'm still pretty slow, but Yellowstone isn't a race.  It's a sightseeing tour.  I managed the hills fairly well and let myself speed up a little more than usual going down.  We had a killer headwind, so I had to use my brakes less.

It was a double activity day and Saturday evening we went for a 3.5 mile trail run on the rims.  It was an easy run/walk.  He makes me nervous when he gets close to the edge like that.  I have a little fear of heights and when I get too close it makes me sweat.

Today was the Montana Marathon.  My company sponsors the event and we set up a water station at mile 23 of the course.  We had many volunteers scheduled out over the hours that the course was open.  My coworkers are awesome!  

I did not sign up for any of the events (they have a 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon) because I didn't think I would be up to running a race so soon after The Rut.  In retrospect, I feel great and could easily have participated.  But I loved volunteering.

My shift was the set up and first couple of hours.  I was leaving just as it was getting really busy, but I had to get to the finish line in time to see Mitch finish.  Yep... he did this race and I wasn't participating.  I think he might be coming over to the dark side.  Why not?  We have bananas!

He finished in 2:37:31.  That's almost 11 minutes faster than his best time!  Great PR!  

Congratulations on a great run, Mitch!  I'm very proud of you.  

I'll see if I can get him to answer a little survey so you can have a race review.

Have a great week, everyone!

Have you ever volunteered at a race before?  What did you do?

Runners/cyclist:  Do you use Gu (or other brand of gels)?  What's your favorite?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Summer's last will and testament, Some great food and What's next?

Spring and summer are my favorite time of year.  I love autumn weather as well, but because it portends the coming of winter I can't help buy dread it.  Here in my neck of the woods, summer is fading fast and the blustery, slightly chilly weather of fall is here.  The leaves are changing and finding their way to the ground.  I do have a few things that I love and I look forward to - perfect running weather is among them.  But I'm in no hurry for it.

On Wednesday, I went for a trail run on the rims while Mitch rode his mountain bike.  The weather was nice and starting at 6:30 p.m. there was still significant light out.  I love taking pictures on the rims.

It rained a bit on Monday so there were puddles along the trail.  I love running in the rain and missed my chance this week since I was sick.  I took advantage of these beauties and splashed around in my trail shoes.

My run lasted about an hour.  It's amazing how quickly the sun was disappearing.  Shorter days = sad Angie.

I splurged on myself and bought this new cookbook by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky.  Shalane is an elite marathoner/runner whom I admire very much.  I love this cookbook.  Since I don't enjoy cooking and I'm not a fan of following recipes, that's saying a lot.  I've made 6 or 7 recipes from it already.  Shalane and Elyse promote what they call "Indulgent Nourishment."  It's okay to include real fats in your diet, including butter, whole milk dairy and meat that isn't necessarily lean.  It's a concept that I'm having a little trouble trusting, but I'm going to give it a try.

Super hero muffins are the bomb.  I can make a batch of 12 and they make for snacks/breakfast all week.  These aren't mini-muffins either.

Fig and Pig Quiche - my first quiche ever and it was amazing.  It was even better the next day as breakfast.

Seriously... go get yourself a copy of this book!  You don't have to be a runner to love it.  I bought mine at Amazon, but you can order direct from their website at Run Fast, Eat Slow.


Some of you might ask, "What's next?"  Well, most immediately is the Montana Marathon.  Mitch is running the half marathon and I am volunteering at the aid station that my company sponsors.  It's always hard to sit out at a race, but I like to think of it as my opportunity to give back to the running community.  Volunteers are the heart and sole (look! a pun!) of my sport.  I'll get the early shift so I can make it to the finish line in time to watch Mitch cross it.  I'm super excited!!

In October, Mitch and I are riding bicycles in an event through Yellowstone National Park.  It's a 60 mile ride from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful and back.  I'm nowhere near prepared for it.  Cycling isn't my favorite.  If it has wheels, I can crash and that makes me afraid of it.  I'm less concerned about the distance (though I'm sure my nether region will pay) and more intent on teaching myself to ride downhill without creeping down at 2 mph on my brakes the whole way.

I don't have a running race on my schedule yet until June when we will do the Yellowstone Half Marathon one more year.  I'm pretty sure I will sign up for Turkey Run (Thanksgiving) and Run to the Pub (March), but I haven't really laid out my plan for next season.  I know that I want to run two marathons and work all year on speeding up.  But deep down I'm struggling with the fact that my big, holy cow race this year (The Rut) didn't go as planned.  I didn't get my 50K and I didn't get to summit the peak.  I finished and I worked hard to get through it and in no way do I feel like it wasn't a worthy accomplishment.  But... well... you know.... unfinished business and all.

But the big push for this year is definitely speed on top of endurance.  I want that Boston Qualifier!


Just a couple little things from today:

I skipped the gym and opted for a 3.5 mile run outside this morning. Get it while you can, right?  It was dark when I left the house so I got some use out of that spendy headlamp!  When I hit the top of my hill I witness the largest full moon set I can ever recall seeing.  I took this lame picture with my iPhone 6.  You can see the moon setting.  It's my proof that I really saw it even if I can't possibly demonstrate how incredible it was.  

After work was packet pickup for Mitch for his race on Sunday.  Then this happened.  Sushi and Hibachi grill.  It was delicious and I'm still so full that I wish I had a deflate valve.

On that note, I will leave you with something I gleaned from a running podcast:  Discipline trumps Motivation.  This sums up a comment made by Jason Fitzgerald on the Trail Runner Nation podcast.  Discipline will get you out of bed for your work out even if motivation fails to do so.  Its food for thought and I think I should put that little mantra on my bathroom mirror to remind me that good habits and discipline to stick with a training plan is an important foundation.  Motivation is awesome, but it is often elusive.

Do you eat sushi?  Real sushi or just California rolls?

Any podcast listeners out there?  What do you recommend?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Not My First Ultra Marathon - The Rut 50K Race Recap

The Rut 50K - the first ultramarathon I ever signed up for.  My husband and most of my friends have accused me of being insane for attempting this run.  Months of preparation and this is my story.

Saturday, September 3rd - Arrival in Big Sky, Montana

This is the view of Lone Peak when we first pulled in to Big Sky.  The Rut 50K includes an ascent to the peak of this mountain.  I am very nervous, but anxious to tackle this challenge.

The Rut has a variety of races - A Vertical Mile (VK1), which is on Friday, 28K and a Runt Run on Saturday and the 11K and 50K on Sunday.  The VK1 was altered due to weather but the 28K went off without a hitch on Saturday.  It was a lovely day for the race, the "expo" and packet pickup.

We cheered on a few finishers of the 28K before we headed to the hotel for check in.

We stayed at the Huntley Lodge which offered a discounted rate to Rut runners.  I love this beautiful bear in the lobby.

Our room was nice and big.  We reserved two nights so we could get up early Sunday for the race and have a place to go shower and rest when the race is done.

Saturday's lunch was at Montana Jack in the Mountain Village at Big Sky Resort.  From our table, we could watch the hustle and bustle surrounding the 28K and could see runners coming down the hill on the final stretch.

When you reserve a room at Big Sky Resort direct, you get a free pass for each person in your party for each day you are there to ride the scenic lifts.  The hours are limited, so Saturday was the only day we would both be able to ride.  We took the lift to Swiftcurrent and also the Ramcharger lift that went to the top of Andesite - these are both main aid stations on my race.  Mitch was doing the 11K, so the Andesite was also on his course.

This picture was taken when we were on the Swiftcurrent lift.  It was just a tad chilly, but a beautiful day!  The Swiftcurrent lift ends up in the bowl of Lone Peak.

In the spirit of carb loading, we decided to have dinner at Andiamo Italian Grille which was just outside of our lodge.  We both ordered the half serving of lasagna which turned out to not be very much food but was probably the most authentic Italian style lasagna I've ever eaten.  I also regretted it dearly as it didn't sit well and my tummy hurt all night and half of the morning (on race day!).  Delicious, but if we ever come back to run the Rut again I think I will stick with pub food.  Beer is carb loading, right??

On Saturday night there was a 50K meeting.  Mostly, we were all concerned about the weather and were waiting to find out if we would be doing the planned course or if it would be altered due to the expected 8 inches of snow.  They announced at this meeting that they would wait until race morning at 5:00 a.m. to decide whether we would be going to plan B or not.  The race starts at 6:00, so basically we would find out at the start line.  Why not?  I like to fly by the seat of my pants.  

A bonus that The Rut offered was an app.  The app had all the race information you could find on the website, but also included the course maps, live tracking and updates.  We would get an email with the updated course offering as well as an alert via email, app and facebook.

Back at the room by 8:00 because we needed to get to bed early and still had our preparation to do.  Flat Angie wasn't really an option because I had SO. MUCH. STUFF.  What you don't see in the picture above is all of the fuel I brought with me.  In my hydropack and my drop bag was a variety of chews, gels, waffles and Epic bars.   The camo strip is a piece of KT Tape that I wrote the cut off times for each aid station.  The total allowable time for the 50K was about 12 hours.  Cut off times started at the 2nd aid station, but were all very generous.  I just wanted to make sure I stayed on track, especially when I got to the tougher points of the race where I would be climbing mountains.

I was tired and I figured I would sleep pretty well.  Wrong!  The moment my head hit the pillow, my eyes shot open.  The room was noisy too.  There wasn't an air conditioning unit, which meant no white noise (I'm addicted to white noise at night).  I could hear everything that went on near our room - doors, water running, coughing in the neighboring rooms... everything.

Apparently, Huntley Lodge is aware of the noise in their building because they provided ear plugs.  I used them and they helped a little.  Unfortunately, earplugs to not drown out the sound of my own thoughts.  I had no idea if I would be doing the full 50K course or if it would be altered due to weather.  If it were altered, how far would it be?  Would it still be an ultramarathon?  If it isn't altered, did I have the courage and the physical strength to make it up Headwaters Ridge and Lone Peak?  Would I make the cut off time?  If the weather was poor, but they still did the planned course would it be too hard?  Would it be too hard if the weather was nice?

Yeah.  My brain pretty much lit up all night.  I didn't sleep well.  Thankfully, I slept like a champ all week so I had banked enough rest to get through race day so I didn't stress about that.

4:00 a.m. my alarm went off.  Two hours until gun time (actually, Elk bugle time).  I got up and ate a donut.  I had extra donuts and bagels and planned to eat well before I headed out.  That didn't happen either because my stomach was turning.  Partly it was nerves and partly it was dinner.  Damn that lasagna!  I drank hotel room coffee and waited.  The start line was just outside the hotel, so I didn't need to leave early.  It was just a waiting game now.  

I got Mitch up just before 5:00.  His race didn't start until 8:00 but he would go down and see me off. Shortly after I woke him up, the alert came on our phones -  we would be doing plan B.  This meant that the course would be about 5 miles short and would not climb the alpine peaks.  I was very disappointed and yet oddly relieved at the same time.

When we stepped out the door of the hotel, the weather wasn't bad.  It had rained, but it wasn't too cold.  I had on layers and I knew that it would be too much before long.

A 6:00 a.m. start meant that it would be dark.  Mitch and I had been gone on a few night trail runs in preparation for this and I scored a nice headlamp just for this occasion.  $40 for 30 minutes of running in the dark. No really... I'm sure I will use it again for other things. 

If you've ever seen the movie Hidalgo then you might have a good idea how this race began.  When they sounded the elk bugle, we all took off running up the gravel road in to the dark.  As soon as we rounded the first corner and nobody could see us, everyone slowed from a run to a walk.  We all knew that this was going to be a long day and racing up the first hill wouldn't benefit in the long run (I might have intended to use that pun).  The first half mile was on this road and then turned up the hillside on to a vertical path.  For a mile or so, we climbed this VERY steep trail and already I wondered why I was there.  I fell quickly toward the back of the pack but I didn't care.  I can't count how many times in the first few miles I thought I was last only to have someone come up behind me.

By the time I reached the top of this hill, I had climbed 2,000 feet and it was daylight.  The descent down the other side was steep and technical and slow but was a relief after the hard climb.

The first two hours were cool and nice.  The ground was a little wet but it didn't start raining until around 8:00 - Just in time for Mitch's race to start.

Much of this race was on beautiful, single track trails.  Some were technical and difficult while others were smooth and fast.

At Moonlight Basin, there were these wooden bridges.  On any nice day they would have been a lovely addition to the race but on a rainy day like it was they were treacherously slippery.  You can't see it in the picture but the other side was a steep down slope.  I crossed bridges like this 3 times on the course.

This pretty lake was also near Moonlight Basin.  I was on smooth, single track and was able to really take in this moment.  Since the race became more difficult after this, I didn't have many moments to stop and take in the view. The weather made a turn for the worse and it started raining.  It didn't stop raining for the rest of the day and in some of the higher elevation areas it was snowing.

I did not get to take any more pictures on the course at this point.  With the significant amount of rain I had to keep the phone safely in a plastic bag.  I tried to take it out once while I was in the bowl of Lone Peak and trekking through a scree field.  My phone died the moment I tried to take the picture.

The first few miles were fairly fast with the exception of the second mile when I was ascending the 2,000 foot hillside.  My splits ranged between 13 and 17 minute miles depending on the terrain.  I felt like I was doing awesome and was going quickly enough to make up for the miles that would take longer on the mountain later on.  I know that "putting money in the bank" is a bad strategy, but in this case it would be necessary to have good splits on the miles that were flat or down hill.

Around mile 13 I was completely drenched.  I had put on my jacket again but by then my two layers of shirts were already soaked.  I couldn't put on my gloves because my hands were too wet and they wouldn't go on.  I didn't have too much trouble staying warm unless I stopped.  But stopping was required to get fuel at aid stations.  The "rural" aid station at mile 13 only had water.  One of the guys jumped out of a van and covered me with a blanket while I filled my hydropack.  He told me I had only 1.5 miles to go until the Swiftcurrent aid station and it was all on gravel roads.

I had been looking forward to Swiftcurrent.  I knew there would be a warm room, hot broth and restrooms.  But that guy fibbed!  I knew I was in for more than 1.5 miles when the course markings took me off the road and back on a to a single track trail in the woods that climbed a hillside.  This is the one point that I was sure I was going to quit. I stopped and cried for about a minute.  I was angry at that guy for filling me with false hope and angry that I had to climb up hill again.  I decided at that moment that I would be taking the lift down from Swiftcurrent when I got there.

Then I got to the scree field.  I had been dreading this part, but found that the rocks were mostly easy to navigate and the climb wasn't too difficult even if it was slow.  By the time I reached the aid station, my attitude had adjusted for the better.  At Swiftcurrent (and most other aid stations), I drank electrolytes, water, coke and broth.  The hot broth was the best thing on planet earth!  The little warming room was nice, but full of people all trying to change in to dry clothes and shoes.  I ate some of the food I packed and found a way to pry my gloves on to my shriveled hands even though the gloves were wet (my pack apparently isn't water proof). I brought a battery charger so charged my phone.  Too bad I didn't charge my watch.  I argued with myself about changing my shoes.  I brought a pair of dry socks and a spare pair of road shoes in case my trail runners had a blow out.  My feet were soaking wet and it might have been a good idea to change but I decided that ultimately they would be wet again in a matter of minutes and it wasn't worth the hassle.

I left Swifcurrent with a group of people.  Immediately out of that station we descended an extremely steep trail down a scree field that was icy and the rocks were small and loose. For a while I chastised myself for not changing my shoes.  My feet were so cold.  I was super slow and nervous and had to let everyone pass me.  Everyone except a small group who refused to pass.  Why?  Because they were the sweepers and the cleaners which meant I was dead last.  There was no question about it now.

I could go in to great detail about all of the rest of the course, but that could take hours of writing.  I can tell you that there were extremely steep and precarious climbs - some of which I had to stop on numerous times because the alpine air was thin and I tired quickly.  Also... every bit of dirt trail had become deep, thick, slippery mud.  Needless to say, I was glad I didn't change shoes after all.

Having the sweeper crew was actually the best thing that could have happened to me.  Listening to their conversations and having the distraction was super helpful.  At one point, one of the photographers joined us and I had my own personal cheerleading team and photographer there for every step.  They were amazing, encouraging me through every obstacle.

I caught up with a couple of girls at one point and even passed them for a short while but they caught up and again I had the sweeper crew to keep me company.  I can't tell you how lucky I am that they were there.

All in all, my attitude was good.  I felt good mentally and physically and even one of the ladies on the crew following me mentioned more than once that she was impressed with how positive I remained through all it.  Looking back, I am amazed that I was able to do that considering how wet and cold I was most of the time.

At the 2nd to last aid station (about 9 miles from the finish), I managed to reel in another runner.  I had literally caught up to her just as we hit the station.  I got the skinny on what was ahead on the course and sucked down my usual routine of Heed, Coke, broth and was prepared to run off ahead of the girl I caught up to.  But she was leaving in a pickup truck.  She had given up.

One of the volunteers had warned me that I would have a couple of little hills to climb and then I would have a doozey of a climb up Andesite Mountain.  I really had no idea what REALLY was coming up.  This is where I had the deepest appreciation of the team of sweepers and the photographer that were following me.  The Andesite climb was BRUTAL.  It would have been rough on a nice day.  In fact, it was a hard enough climb that there were ropes at two points to help get up the trail.  Add to this the fact that it was completely saturated from the rain.  A river of water was running down the trail.  The ropes were soaked and when I pulled on the first one, my gloves immediately filled with mud and water.  I only made it part was up the rope before I lost my footing. I began blazing new trails.  I launched myself over to the right side of the trail, wrapped myself around a tree and found footing in bushes.  

I didn't realize there would be a second section with rope and when I got to it I was nearly devastated at the idea of trying it again.  So, rather than trying the rope I found a way around it on the side.  All this time, the crew following me was telling me how awesome I was doing and giving me hints on ways to overcome the obstacles.  I've never been so happy to be last!

Mitch was waiting for me at the top of Andesite.  He took this picture of me working my way up the muddy hill.  If you look past me, you can see the actual trail and the water running down it.  Mitch has waiting here for me for about three hours because I had misinformed him of the distance I had to be from Swiftcurrent.  I feel so bad that he had to wait all that time.  I'm so glad he was there though!

A little deviation from my own story here...  Before Mitch joined me at Andesite, he ran his 11K race.  He wanted to finish in under 3 hours and he did it in 1:53!!!  I am so proud of him!

The aid station at Andesite was the last and I had five miles to go to the finish.  This aid station was awesome!  They cooked bacon on site!!!

The last five miles felt like eternity, but most of it was downhill.  I ran most of this section and somewhere on this part my Garmin died.  Much of the trail was single track and parts of it were covered in thick, slippery mud.  Even though I was able to run most of it, I had to stop and walk occasionally or I would slip.  I've never played in so much mud in my entire life!!

About 1.5 miles (give or take) from the finish, I caught up with those two girls again.  This time I passed them and put some distance between us.  Since I was no longer last, I also lost my crew of cheerleaders.  I had one more climb to make and I hiked that bad boy like I was on my way to my last meal.  I wasn't going to slow down now... so close.  On the last gravel road, I caught up to a couple that were running together.  They offered to let me pass but my IT Band hurt and I couldn't muster up any more speed than I was going.  Mitch met me at this point also.  He ran a few feet with me and encouraged me to keep going and then took a quick shortcut back to the finish line.

I did it!  I crossed the finish line with the clock at 10:37.  My official time is 10:27 because I was in the 3rd wave at the start so ten minutes back from the gun.  Tears were pretty much pouring down my face as I ran over the mats.  I was greeted by Mitch and a small crowd of volunteers and a finisher's medal.  Can you see the pure joy on my face in this picture???

It is unfortunate, but because they changed the course the route was the distance of a marathon and I cannot claim this as my first Ultramarathon.  It counts as my first trail marathon and is by far one of the most challenging things I have ever done.  I find comfort knowing that I finished a short course in extremely difficult conditions with an hour and a half remaining on the course cut off time.  Based on this, I believe I could have finished the full 50K (including the climb to Lone Peak) in ideal weather within the allowed time.  I don't know that I will ever give this particular race another go, so I might never know for sure.

My reward for making it to the finish line.  It is very unique and it smells like a campfire!

Fun fact:  About 25 people dropped out of the race.  That's a 10th of the field.  Finishing was a huge accomplishment.

So, as is tradition a few items of review for this race (this post is already long, so this will be brief):

Race Schwag:  The shirts ran exceedingly small and they didn't allow us to exchange.  As a result, I have a shirt I may never get to wear and Mitch had to give me his.  There were no other items in the race bag, but the bag itself is pretty cool.  It is camo with an elk silhouette on it (you can kind of see it in the picture of my gear above).

Race course:  Beautiful.  By far this was the best marked course I have ever been on.  There were flags just about every meter.  You could not get lost running this race.  

Aid Stations:  I was pleased with the aid stations.  I do not have any other ultramarathons to compare to, but The Rut provided candy, chips, pretzels, gu, coke, Heed, water and hot broth at most of the stations.  The volunteers were always super helpful and willing to do anything you needed.  My only complaint was the guy that gave me incorrect information.

Other perks:  There was a tent full of Rut gear and other items for purchase at the start/finish line.  They didn't have stickers, which I was sad about.  There was massage, beer, food (Mitch said the food was unique and very good.  I didn't go to the post race meal because I just wanted to get to my room for a shower and dry clothes).  There was also a guy giving free Rut tattoos, but he was gone by the time I finished.

There was a big after party on Sunday night.  I was coughing a deep, wet cough after I was done running and I was afraid I was coming down sick so I didn't go.  I'm a little sorry that I didn't, but ultimately I just needed a good night sleep anyway.

Communication:  The Rut had stellar communication.  A few weeks prior to the race, they had a Q&A session at a running store in Missoula that they also live broadcasted on Facebook.  The app had any information you could want, but there were plenty of emails and facebook posts leading up to the big day as well.  The race director was as good as his word about when we could expect notifications of race course changes and provided up to the minute updates of the GPS course maps.

Overall:  This was an awesome event that was very well supported and the volunteers were amazing.  I would recommend this race to anyone that has a strong sense of adventure and is willing to put in the time to train for such an event.  But you should know that this race sold out in less than two days from the day registration opened so if you are interested you need to be prepared to sign up as soon as it goes live.

I feel like my fingers just ran that race all over again!  If you made it this far, thank you for reading all the way through this long post.  Happy Trails!

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Long Overdue Missoula Marathon Recap

I have been a master procrastinator when it comes to blogging since we returned from vacation.  I have imagined up every excuse known to man to not fire up the lap top and write this post.  I have no idea why that is.  But here I am.  Better late than never.  I thought I should probably do this now because in two days I will put another notch on the race belt and I'll have a much more impressive story to tell.  I hope.

Our vacation this year was planned around two main events:  The Missoula Marathon/Half Marathon and our daughter's wedding.  The were a week apart and both on the other end of the state (the wedding was actually in Idaho).

We arrive in Missoula the Friday before our Sunday race.  That night was packet pick up and the race expo.  I get very excited about race expos because most of the races I go to don't have one.

But the best part about Friday night was the Beer Run!  Basically a 5K just for fun.  We got a cute little bottle opener and free beer for participating.

Mitch doesn't really drink beer, so he posed for this picture and then I got his beer.  We have a perfect relationship.  More beer for me.

The 5K race and Expo continued on Saturday.  I wasn't planning to buy any souvenirs (other than a window sticker for my truck)...

But I couldn't help myself.  I walked away with this adorable ankle bracelet that says "No Limits." Since then, I have removed the charm from the cord and put it on my shoelace. I like it better that way.

Just a couple pics from Saturday night before the race.  We spent all day wandering around Missoula but went back to the camper and crashed pretty early.

Because the Marathon and the Half Marathon both had a 6 a.m. start!  That meant we had to be at the college to catch our buses around 4:15.  I wish I had taken more pictures at the start line.  There were fireworks every 15 minutes in the hour leading up to the race.  When the gun went off, so did a LOT of fireworks.  I didn't get to see them much.  I was busy running.

I was looking for a time goal on this marathon, so my phone stayed tucked away in my vest.  I didn't get any pictures along the way, but there were very few places on the course I considered picture worthy anyway.

I set off with the 4:40 pacers.  I knew this was a very lofty time goal, but I wanted an advantage that would get me to the finish under five hours.  I stayed with the pace group steadily until midway.  The pacers were awesome!  They were engaging and we told stories, made up stories and just kept the mood light the whole time.  My only negative is that they went out a little fast to put "money in the bank" for later in the race.  I think this is a bad strategy.  I lost the group when we hit the only hill on the course.  It was steep and for the first time I had to walk. I hoped I could put some speed on the downhill and catch up, but I couldn't.  I was too tired.

Mitch and I download the race app.  This cool tool meant that we could follow each others progress as we hit timing points along the race.  Mitch was doing the half and I loved that I knew when he finished.  It was kind of a bummer that I didn't get to be at his finish line.

Nice Job!

Of course I didn't finish in 4:40, but I did manage to get my sub 5 hour marathon time!

With a tiny bit of cushion on the time, even.

These are the medals and they are enormous.  They are bigger than the Yellowstone Half medals and I thought those were big!   I have to admit that I was disappointed though.  Previous medals for this event have been horseshoes.  These are big and heavy but otherwise not very pretty to look at.  The backs are nice.  I'm not impressed with the race sponsor's name being on the ribbon.  I don't feel like that is an appropriate place to put the sponsor logo.

My review of the race:

Swag:  The race shirts are great.  Mitch and I got different colors, which is nice!  The free bottle opener that came with the beer run is fun too.  Other than that, there was a virtual race bag that was mostly useless to us.

Prerace events:  I don't need to say much about that here because I recap it well above.  But overall, fantastic!

Race course:  The great thing about the marathon course is that it is almost all flat.  There is one significant hill in the middle but otherwise easy running.  I was totally unimpressed with the general course as a whole.  Had the weather been nicer, at least I would have had a view of the mountains but they were under cloud cover.  9 miles on a single straight road before it moved in to some farming community.  This is the nicest part where you cross a creek and run through some wooded area.  It was a nice distraction from the hill.  But after this section, where you move in to the town of Missoula you run through some of the least attractive area.  The last few miles are basically running through a neighborhood, circling blocks.   Later, Mitch drove me out to where the half marathon went.  Hands down he had a nicer view through most of the race.

Aid stations:  Stations were all well manned.  Many of them had gels, but it seemed like less than what the website said.  But they did have electrolytes and water and friendly people everywhere.  Once you run in to town, there are people that have set up sprinklers and buckets of ice water full of sponges.

Spectators:  One of the main reasons I signed up for Missoula was because I wanted something with a big city feel.  While the Missoula marathon in no way can compare with a city like Chicago, there were tons of spectators and so much support from the community.

Finish line:  Even though there were thousands of runners, the commentator at the finish still called everyone by name and even noted when there was a particular accomplishment for that runner.  Pretty cool.

Post race food:  By far the most impressive spread of post race food I've seen so far.  Quinoa salad, cheese, nuts, Popsicles... I can't even remember everything that was there.  Oh... and of course there was free beer.

Overall:  With a few exceptions, this was an awesome event.  They really know how to put on a good party at the Missoula Marathon.  I plan to run again next year because it's the flattest marathon near me and I'll be working towards that Boston Qualifier.

This post could get extremely long.  I could include our trip to the Trail of the Hiawatha and all of the fun trail runs we have done since vacation, but those will have to wait until next time.

Tomorrow we head for Big Sky and The Rut!  That's the big one... the 50K mountain race I've been preparing for all season.  I am as ready as I'm going to get and I'm super excited to get out there and take on that mountain.  My fingers are crossed for good weather.  It's supposed to get cold and there is a potential for storms that could reroute the run.  Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Good luck to my husband who is tackling the 11K on Sunday also!

I promise not to wait so long to post the race recap.  See you soon!