Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Famous Missoula Marathon

Last year, I did the whole marathon in Missoula. The first half of the race is peaceful (or boring), the second half is where the action is. There was a shortage of aid stations in the first half, the second half was surrounded by community members and full of calories. Since I had plans to do a 50k the weekend before, it made sense to just sign up for the famous Missoula Marathon (13.1 mile edition). Strangely enough, the full marathoners not only get cooler medals, but they also get cooler shirts which have no half mentioned anywhere on the shirt. Yes, I'm feeling some buyers remorse, although the real point of this was to get something in during July and then focus on getting trained for that upcoming Elkhorn 50k.
I get to Missoula later than expected, but still get packet picked up, and still get to check out David Boone at Ten Spoon, which is always a good thing. I'm a big fan of David's stylings, and get to enjoy some awesome wine, along with some awesome rain.
The plan was to wake-up for the race at 4:00 and get there early. I oversleep with the alarm set to silent mode (this is one annoying feature), but am fortunately woken up and manage to get to the race on time. I do end up struggling to set up the annoying hard chip that needs to be zip tied into the shoelaces. I'm really tempted to start just putting those in the Nathan packs, since they are such a pain to deal with, and I really care about lacing systems. I get downtown, get on bus, get to starting line, stretch out, wait for race to start.
I do the smart thing, and start at the back of the pack. Actually, that isn't quite so smart at Missoula. The event is large enough that I spend a lot of time pack weaving, including dealing with the super-annoying Galloway method runners. I have no object to using Galloway for personal training, but it goes against the spirit of racing, and makes life more difficult for fellow runners. I also get to deal with a few walkers who managed to weasel their way to the front of the course.
So, I spend the first three miles trying to weave through the pack. Actually, I spend the first two dealing with the mess, then I blow by the water station, completely ignoring it, and life is now good. One thing I learned in this race is that I'm getting really good at hitting the water stations. The trick is to only slow down a bit, bend the cup, and take a huge gulp. There's an art to it, which I figured out. Despite my water station skills, they still ended up being problematic, as fellow races would completely wreck pace ahead of me, beside me, and behind me at the many stations alongside the Missoula race course.
The other upside to Missoula is that Missoula has a lot of spectators. For someone who tends to high five everyone alongside the course, and toss out the famous 'wooo' this is a good thing. There's more spectators at Missoula than at the rest of the events I'll do this year, and the spectators are well spaced along the course, rather than clustered at the end. Missoula gets credit for this, because Missoula is good, and does good things.
Anyway, I start flying on the course once I get my bearings. My pace for the race was only 8:53 per mile, but that was a really strong 8:53, and I felt like I was getting faster and stronger, rather than slower, as the race went on. Since I had 3:45 of difference between gun and chip time, I knew that I was running people who had slower pace than me as I passed, which was a good feeling. The one difference between this and the other runs that I've done is that Missoula has enough people on course to always be in a crowd. Once I hit the University district, rather than the usual thinning of racers, the field actually became more crowded.
So, I guess I've got to say, I ran this one strong. The time probably would have been better if the legs hadn't been so busy in the last week, but I don't really care. It's my last race until the Elkhorns, and I'm feeling good going into it.

Cody Custis
Helena MT USA

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Elkhorn 23k Warmup

Running has always been about addiction.  There’s nothing logical about hurling the body over rocks, hills, and dales to just say its been done.  Yet, I still do it.
I ran into Dave at Alive at Five.  I’ve always liked Dave’s running style, which is about keeping a steady pace.  I still tend to over thunder at the beginning, and I pay for it down the line.  He asked if I wanted to do the Elkhorn 23k course with him on Saturday.  I had a few plans that I had been juggling, but I realized that I needed to do this to get used to distances before doing the 50k in August.  So, I agree. He asks what time we should leave.  I suggest that we leave the Women’s mural at 5:00.  Yep, I get to discover that it is possible to encounter 4:20 without the influence of drugs, just to get ready to go run 23 klicks.
I decide not to pack music, which was greatly wise.  We get to the parking area, and head up the road toward the trailhead.  There is an amazing view alongside the road, with all the green fields and forest, along with a bunch of no hunting signs, which are all in green.  The sun is barely up, and things are nice and cool.  The upside of running super early is that there is plenty of cool weather, and one doesn’t get overheated.  There’s a good upslope to the road, but not enough to switch from running to power hiking.  We hit the trailhead, and see a bunch of ugly shotgun shells.  I know that shooting is allowed on federal lands, but it still seems a good place to pick up the brass (or plastic or steel).  Plus, it’s littering, in a bad place to litter.  Go find some ugly BLM land, and leave the forest alone.
We head up the mountain, I manage to get the shoes wet, running through a stream that took over the path.  There’s a strange combination of running and power hiking here, along with many places where there just isn’t good traction.  We get up to the Casey Meadows.
As we are moving from cairn to cairn, and figuring out how to move over a path (trail does not describe what we were on), I see a coyote running across the trail ahead, chasing something.  We stop for a moment, and watch the coyote run.  It’s the closest I’ve even been to one, and the first time that I’ve ever seen one while out running.  It’s a very cool experience.
From the meadows, we continue to head up toward the top of the mountain.  It’s great to have Dave, because he keeps me honest.  My natural tendency is to sprint and trudge, he keeps me at a goodly pace moving up the mountain.
We eventually reach the top, and I realize that I cannot see my place, but I could if I lived in the valley.  Yet, looking out over Casey meadows, and down, I realize how amazing it is to see an entire watershed and the amazing valleys formed by erosion and uplift over the millenia.  So, we head on back down the mountain.  Near the bottom, we run into a bunch of the running group, which is cool.  Once we hit the road, we end up thundering back to the vehicles.  We get done around 9:00, and have a whole day to find new challenges and adventures.