I was not sure if I would be doing Snow Joke. I had a friend who does it every year, but, with my famous lack of transportation, I would be counting on her for a ride. So, on Tuesday, I ask her, and she plans on riding up with some friend of hers. Not a big deal, I planned on giving my legs a rest, and have some good options here in town. I was starting to plan the famous Custis 10 race, and had a great workout at the gym on Thursday, the kind that makes me want to take some time off. Anyway, on Friday she says that she has room, and asks if I want to go. My response ‘Sure!’ I really need to think these things through better. On the other hand, I do take pride in bring able to handle doing half marathons on eighteen hours notice, even with a gimpy knee.
I put the race probabilities at 50% that my knee is fine, 40% that my knee will bug me, 10% that my knee will give out and I’ll end up walking most of the course, and 1% that my knee will be seriously damaged beyond all repair. So, 90% good things outweigh the 1% bad things. I decide that my goal is to get 1:50 on this one. I’ve heard a rumor that a 1:50 gets a better starting time at Chicago. Not that I plan on doing Chicago, but my last half was sub 2:00, and it does seem like a good cutoff between the serious runners and everyone else.
The trip up was snow filled, although Dorota, Steve and Corrine are a good crew. Once we get there, we stand in a line that goes around the Seeley elementary gym to register, but that goes smoothly for being race day only. I had passed on the shirt (which I now regret, but only learn through experience), but did pick up two pairs of sweet racing gloves and a dog shirt which ended up being way too big for the canine it will go to. I just assume that the canine is extra large, since it is an extra large dog! I was warned that the race never does start on time.
I make my first mistake learn my first lesson at the starting line. Traditionally, I start near the back, so I can pass a lot of people, rather than be passed. I consider this to be part of proper race procedure, since passing people is a pain. However, because I was one of the last out of the gym, I end up starting off to the side of the front, and nearer the front than I care to be. So, the takeaway lesson is to do my usual off to the back start.
The race follows the highway for the first five miles. The problem with starting closer to the front than I want is that I get forced into a pace faster than I want. I keep looking at the Garmin, and trying to get around a 8:20 pace. It’s hard to do when I keep getting passed, and have to extrapolate pace for hills. Yes, Snow Joke is a deceptively hilly race. For the record, I do not believe that Montana actually has any flat races. So, for the first five miles, I am getting passed by faster racers, which I can handle.
The race turns and heads south along a road on the west side of Seeley. This part of the race is absolutely amazing. I’m not sure if the signs were particular cool or inspiring, but running on snow covered road in the middle of a blizzard and forest is awesome. There’s nothing but snow covered trees to see. Unfortunately, my right knee was not in this race. So, I kept losing pace, and getting passed. I can handle getting passed by people who keep a faster pace than I. I also got stuck in the Galloway method pack. The Galloway method involves running for a little while then walking. It is a perfectly acceptable way of running on your own, but a pain in a race. Being passed by the same punk teenager four times, only to pass him again detracts effort from forward progress.
The other disaster was that, being a snow covered road, I manage to slip up and not fall around mile eight. Although this was not as bad as last time, it was not good for the knee. Nonetheless, I kept going forward, even though my pace continued to suffer.
At mile eleven, I finally had to make a choice. My running pace was over ten minutes per mile, and my knees were not having any more running. I was close, but, unlike in Butte, I wasn’t feeling that I had anything left to prove, or any chances of doing anything impressive in the race. So, I made the mentally painful decision to move over to the edge of the road, and walk the last two miles of the race. I tried to run again at time, but the knees just were not going to do it.
Post race, I got a nice ice pack for the gimpy right knee, Advil (I think I’m starting to like painkillers), and ate some awesome post race food at the Moose River Bar and Grill. I got a free Powder Hound, courtesy of my race bib, and a free Nut Brown, courtesy of Corrine’s race bib, so I was a content man. They also were willing to fill and ice pack, so they get coolness points.
Final time: 2:06:(and change)
Race Conditions: Lots of snow, snow packed roads, controlled traffic
Upsides: good time with good people, beautiful course, sweet gloves for swag
Downsides: miserable time with gimpy knee, someone left dog mines on the course (that should be an automatic DQ and lifetime race ban), late starting time.