On Thursday, I had some paperwork to take care of on the third floor. While I was communicating, I ran into Victoria, who told me that she was headed up to Missoula this weekend, so I asked if I could ride along with her. She said it would be awesome, and I was happy to have some time to spend with her. I really do not get enough time to spend with cool people, and being in a car is a great chance to converse and find out how people are doing.
So, since I had this and a bunch of other good reasons to come up to Missoula (including an awesome show by the amazing Kevin Koutnik and the Protectors on Saturday night), I head up to Missoula. My beloved mother had already registered for the Lucky Race, so I look up registration on Thursday night, give them the magical Visa information, and print out the confirmation.
On Friday, we wait in line for an hour for packet pickup at Runner’s Edge. I thought that this would be a great time saver, but Saturday had no line. I also bought a sweet Brooks winter shirt (which I wore to the race, and needed), the new New Balance Minimus Zero, and some awesome compression socks. I’ve got a post just about my experiences there, and I’ll never buy running shoes at any place without a treadmill again.
Saturday morning, we get up and hit Liquid Planet for breakfast and food. Caffeine is among the non-banned stimulants, and it’s a generally awesome place for breakfast anyway. The race was supposed to start at 8:40, so I head out at 8:25, thinking I would be late by the time I moseyed over there and got stretched out.
At the starting line, there were a few nasty delays, and we did not actually get going until close to 9:00. Considering the pass fest that happened at Snow Joke, I start way in the back, and decide to be the passer rather than the passee. I didn’t really have any great time goals (it’s an odd distance, but not my first listed 7 miler), but was looking forward to the course.
The first mile was the usual jockeying and getting a pace set. I started slow (around 8:30) but quickly found myself feeling much more comfortable with a pace slightly below 8:00 per mile. I got in a good rhythm and just started going. No one to follow, and eventual passing when others tired out, or when I was feeling good. I also made it a habit to give high fives to the volunteers and otherwise cheer them on. Those people work hard so I get to have fun, and get my eternal gratitude.
We headed out through the beautiful Northside neighborhoods and back over the bridge across the tracks. One thing about bridges (or any elevation) is that the knee injury has sapped my uphill power, but I still have the skill to hammer downhill. It’s not as nice as being on the flat, but at least I’m good at it.
Around the three mile mark, we did the part of the race that I was looking forward to the most. The race goes through the Northside graveyard. I removed my racing hat (out of respect for the dead) and enjoyed the beautiful gravestones. Graveyards make good places to walk, and would be fantastic places to race, although the bereaved (and caretakers) might not appreciate this use. But, I thought it was awesome.
Around the six and a half mile mark, we met up with the fresh leggers doing the 5K. Now, I understand that RDs get a choice. Have everyone start at the same time, and finish in annoying trickles, or stagger the starts and get a mass finish. Nonetheless, running through a pack of fresh legged weekend runners is really annoying, especially when the knee was starting to hurt. Yep, the knee injury from Frigid Digger is still nagging. I don’t think it hurt my performance, it just requires being able to ignore some pain. Anyway, the pack of fresh leggers were running at a slower pace than the sustained 8:00, so I got to get pack into passing mode.
I also ran into my fellow runner, Scott, from Helena. Scott and I had very similar running times during the South Hills trail series, so its good to see a friendly face and have someone to compare myself with. Scott passed me on the seven mile mark, and I didn’t have the leg strength to catch back up.
The last challenge was the pedestrian train bridge, about a half a mile from the finish. It was fun to run up a corkscrew, over the tracks, and back down again. Only downside was weaving around the fresh leggers. I had one gal step in front of me, forcing me back and putting way too much impact on the knee. I considered that it would have been easier for me to just apply my body weight and send her sprawling, but I did have other things to do.
Finish line soon came up, and I manged to complete the whole thing in 55 minutes and change with an overall pace every so slightly below 8:00. So, I’m more than happy, because this means the 1:50 half marathon is very much doable, as is the sub 4:00 marathon. With the weather changing, two months to prepare, and a downhill course, I can rock Spokane.
After the finish line, there was good Irish stew for the victors, and plenty of Highlander beer. I got my beer, my mom’s beer, and another beer because I stood in line again (the beer man offered). Not a ton of variety, but the stew was good and different.
Clothing: Larry Bird style blue shorts, Brooks cold weather shirt, Champion magic athletic underwear, green Adidas running shirt, awesome running gloves, running hat, fanny running pack without bottle to hold the iPod. I regret not wearing running tights, Missoula was cold in the morning.
Music: Dave Matthews Band, Live at Lakeside
Swag: green tech shirt, a bunch of Missoula stickers, two beer coasters, and another shopping bag from a local physical therapist. Nothing particularly unique, but I did this more for the course than the cool swag.
Overall: A good Missoula course, although I’m not sure I’d recommend traveling just to do it. The graveyard gives it some unique character.