But at 3:30 I sprang from the bed and got moving. My plan was to get to the shuttle bus location across the river at the U. Montana athletic center by 4:30 AM, about a mile walk from the hotel. It was a struggle to keep pushing myself to get ready. It was just so darn early!
I'd been kind of dreading this race for the reason that it is a point-to-point race and that I'd be at the mercy of the shuttle system and the staging area for a lot longer time than I care to spend, the morning of a race. But the shuttle system worked like clockwork. The buses were lined up 3 or 4 deep and more buses were coming behind them as soon as the filled buses departed. I stepped into line at one of the buses and had no wait....we immediately loaded and the bus took off for the start line several miles southwest of downtown, up in the foothills toward Lolo.
It was still dark when the bus dropped us off at the start line, a large parking lot area for a Physical Therapy/Orthopedics center. It was 5 AM and I had an hour to wait for the race to start. The hour seemed to drag along, even though I did sit on the curb next to a woman and struck up a conversation with her. There was a full moon and a beautifully clear sky to show it off. In the opposite sky, a pink glow began to peek up over the mountains. Sunrise and a full moon in the same sky!
National anthem was sung and a big firework boomed in the air to get the race started. We were treated to a prolonged fireworks display as we took off running. How cool was that?
The first few miles were a gentle downhill and I was moving along at a pretty good (for me) pace. But at around mile 5 or 6 I began to have a lower GI issue that's nagged me in the last couple of races. Despite my diet and proper preparations pre-race, I've been struggling with what's known among the running community as "runner's trots." I'm not sure if it's a diet thing related to my doing these traveling destination races or what. But it will kill a good finish time in a real hurry in a larger race.
So there I stood, waiting in line at the portapotties. Even though this race had a very good number of those at each water station every 2 miles, The line was long. I lost almost 10 minutes waiting there. Very disheartening and pretty much blew my under 3 hour goal out the window.
When I emerged, my Garmin watch went from an average 12:46 minute mile pace to a 14:05 minute mile pace. There would be no recovering this lost time. It was then that I decided, "To heck with the goal time. Just slow down and enjoy the event and the scenery."
I gave myself permission to walk the second half of the race, justifying it by reminding myself that I had just run a half marathon the previous Sunday, that I was still recovering from a mild head cold earlier in the week, and that I was at 3200 feet above sea level, an altitude at which I rarely get to run.
|My race route tracks from Garmin GPS watch|
I flirted with the little kids along the side lines, thanked each and every volunteer staffing the water stations and the intersections, and even crossed the road to pet a mule and talk to her owner, who'd come out to spectate the race, bringing his mule with him. Her name is Muleene...cute! She was docile and loved having her cheeks rubbed.
The last two or three miles were run through some gorgeous neighborhoods, where residents were out in their yards cheering us on. All along the entire route, many homes had their sprinklers set out at the curb, providing "misting" stations. The water comes out of the tap ice cold up here, so in the early miles I avoided these at all costs, but near the end, they felt really good. This race has excellent community support! While we were waiting for the start of the race, the announcer mentioned that of the top 15 marathons in the world, Missoula Marathon was voted #9. I could see why!
At a good, steady 14:58 or 14:59 minute mile walking pace, I began to reel in a lot of other runners who'd slowed to a walk. I even reeled in runners who were still running, but barely.
I managed to break into a run for the last couple of tenths of a mile to cross the finish line and wondered why I hadn't started running earlier since it didn't feel too difficult to do.
As I neared the finish line I could hear the annnouncer calling off each runner's name and home town/state as they crossed the finish line. Then I heard him mention my name and fellow just ahead of me, saying we were both from Texas. Then he mentioned my name again, adding that I had run half marathons in 39 states. Now how the heck did he know that? Pretty cool!
I got my medal, grabbed a bottle of Powerade, and walked over to the food tent where they were serving two different kinds of pasta, fresh fruit, cookies, frozen juice bars. Yumm!!
But wait, there's more! They funneled us through the runners finisher chute and then left down the hill into the park along the river where they had free photos with instant printouts, free beer, including a pretty danged good wheat beer which I guzzled down, and some vendor tents giving away freebies. I got a cool tote bag from Brooks (my running shoe brand of choice) that collapses down into a tiny pouch.
Even though I put in one of my slower times (but certainly not my slowest), I'm pleased with having completed this race, partly because I'd been dreading the logistics of a point-to-point, partly because of the elevation. I felt great when I finished, not tired, my legs didn't hurt. And I can fill in the state of Montana on my map! Now the entire Northwest is done!
Tomorrow: drive back to Spokane, turn the rental car in, and fly home.