Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Missoula Marathon

Montana, finally marked off the list at the Missoula Marathon on July 10, 2011. The story may be getting a bit old but I was supposed to run this one last year. It was planned to be state #17 but ended up being state #22. It was supposed to be my first race as a 49 year old guy being run on my birthday in 2010. Instead it was run as my last race as a 49 year old guy run the day before my 50th birthday. A business trip to Europe for 2 weeks last year interfered with my grand plans. In the end the trip to Europe was a great opportunity. I was supposed to run last year with fellow CA Cruiser 50 stater, Margaret. I felt bad about abandoning here to Montana alone. But this year Missoula became the Cruisers annual group outing. I was joined in Missoula by 15 other CA Cruisers; 8 of us running the full, the other 8 running the half.

Many of us flew up together, non-stop from LAX on Allegiant Air. They only travel to and from Missoula 3 times a week so we went up on Friday and came home on Monday. We all stayed downtown, which I highly recommend to take advantage of the many restaurants in downtown Missoula. The big chain hotels have built outside of town but would require a car to get around. We simply walked everywhere we needed or wanted to go.

The Missoula Marathon organization had a full schedule of events, for the hardy souls. I opted to stay off my legs for as much time as possible before the race on Sunday but there was a Beer Run on Friday. Runners met downtown at a local bar, ran up to 6 miles and then came back to the bar to enjoy a beer or too and to socialize. Saturday evening was the Hellgate 5K (named after the local high school). I’d done the 5K in Illinois with Joe but opted out this time for no other reason that it collided with the group dinner we had planned.

I spent Saturday morning hanging out at Caras Park, a nice little suburban parked wedged between downtown and the Clark River. I made it there in time to see the start of the Kid’s Marathon. They ran 25 miles on their own leading up to race day, running the last 1.2 on Saturday. The race started on the bike path directly across the river, followed the bike path, crossed a pedestrian bridge and finished at the park. It was a very good time to watch all the little kids finishing the race. I clapped and cheered for them all. There were smiles on nearly every little face. The finish line definitely reinforced the notion that running is FUN!

I woke up at 3:45 on Sunday morning to prepare for the race. Breakfast was the standard instant oatmeal prepared with the hot water in the in-room coffee maker followed by a cup of coffee and some Gatorade. I boarded the bus to the start at 4:30 a.m. with fellow Cruisers Julie, Cathe and Mary. Julie and I had planned to run together. Cathe and Mary weren’t sure if they could keep up. The start was in a Frenchtown, Montana’s version of Boyleston.

I met up with a bunch of Marathon Maniacs at the start for the requisite photo op. I ran into Steve Metcalf who I’d met in Little Rock and Terri Menghini a Facebook friend. I’d worn my MM singlet. I think I’ve worn it for all my marathons this year.

The race started promptly at 6:00 to a cannon blast and some fireworks. The temperature at the start was in the low to mid 40’s. I was plenty warm enough once I was running except for my hands. It took over two miles and the sun popping up over the mountains before I could feel my hands.

Julie, Cathe and I feel into an easy rhythm from the start using a 6 minute run and 1 minute walk schedule. The pace was a bit fast for Mary so she fell back and ran her own race joining up with Sue another CA Cruiser for quite a few miles. Our first couple of miles were on the slower side but not of us were overly concerned with time. It was mile 3 before we finally ran a 10:00 mile.

The first almost 9 miles were run on Mullan Road. Those miles ticked off in: 11:54, 11:13, 10:01, --, 21:48, 10:29, 14:02, 10:15 and 10:17. The long one in the middle was a bathroom stop for all three of us.

Mile 9 include our first turn onto Kona Ranch Road which took us over the Clark River and gave us a beautiful view of the mountains directly in front of us. After about a mile or so we turned again onto Big Flat Road which had two things to offer us. One of the prettiest views on the course with the hill rising on our right and the river down below on our left, not to mention some of the most beautiful homes on the entire route.

Cathe had soldiered along with Julie and I up until the point that we hit the incline around mile 13. Julie and I continued on together. We’d definitely hit our rhythm at this point with the next 7 miles ticking off in: 10:19, 10:34, --, 22:30, 10:17, and 9:45. That last one being going down the other side of the “hill” on River Pines Road.

Soon after that we got back into civilization and starting making left and right turns more frequently. We just keep doing our 6:1 thing and ticking of the miles up to mile 20 in: 10:15, 10:17, 10:12, 10:08 and 9:51. Mile 21 at sub 10:00 was a complete surprise to me. It was only the second mile at that pace and the first was aided by a downhill.

Right after that fatigue began to set in with the remainder of the miles: 11:13, 11:54, 11:44, 11:06, 11:40 and the final 0.2 in 2:45. Julie was obviously feeling good and able to keep up the faster pace but no matter how often I suggested that she go on without me she refused. She started taking longer walks and then “sprinting” up to me then walking again. I continued on with the 6:1. except for a couple of time that Julie allowed us an extra break mid way. Finally after mile 25 she took off toward the barn and finished nearly 2 minutes ahead of me. I crossed the Higgins Street Bridge to the finish line in 4:44:38. I was happy to have kept the pace consistent for longer than expected and to have finished in sub 5:00 pace.

We were rewarded with a medal and a Popsicle at the finish line. Any race that gives out popsicles is a great race in my books. Missoula also offered a free beer at the finish line and I enjoyed that as well.

After phone calls and texts home, a short nap and a shower I headed back out into Missoula and hiked the “M” Trail to the big M up the side of the hill my the University of Montana. Julie was somewhat perturbed with me that I hiked the hill after the race assuming I should have run harder. The “M” had beckoned on Saturday but I decided hiking it the day before the race was a bad idea and I wasn’t sure I had sufficient time to do in Monday morning before the return flight home to Sunday post race it was. Enduracne is never usually my issue, speed in the final miles is and hiking to the “M” only required endurance not speed. I was rewarded with a great view of the entire Missoula valley.

And now after having run 26 marathons – 22 states plus DC and multiple California races – I am taking a forced hiatus from running. My heels have been painful for the better part of a year and my left hip has been troublesome for some time. I may be admitting defeat but running nearly non-stop for 7 years has apparently taken its toll. The plan is to start running again sometime in November. I’ve already signed up for the Hollywood Half Marathon next April and I’d like to make the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon in South Dakota my 23rd state in June of 2012. Joe and I have tentative plans to join Wes next November for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in Georgia. Wish me luck.