February 26, 2012

It's Snowjoke 1/2 Marathon

  Well it is February here in Montana which means snow and ice are plentiful.  Most of the steep mountain trails are not runnable which drives me crazy.   Here is Missoula we have been alternating between 30 degrees and 40 degrees every other day.  It will rain and freeze over night and then snow the next day.  This cycle has been repeating since mid November.  Just to be consistent - we arrived at Seeley Lake for the Snow Joke 1/2 marathon in a full on blizzard.  Even with the eye stinging snow, there were 580 other people ready to run 13 miles around the lake.  

It was snowing so hard on the way to Seeley lake that we needed to use the rear windshield wipers.  This proved too tempting for Chloe.  She jumped to the trunk and moved her head in unison with the wipers.  She was pretty proud of being in the trunk and rewarded us with a signature Chloe smile.

An hour and a half later we arrived to the popular Montana vacation destination.  We never did see the actual lake but we did see ice fisherman and atvs riding on Salmon lake. 

Race check-in was held in a school gymnasium.  Due to the bad road conditions we were a half an hour late.   I hurried into the gym to find a registration line that snaked around the entire gymnasium and into the school hallways.  The race was delayed well over an hour.  Chloe made her way into the gymnasium that was full of dogs and played her favorite race time game - pull Lisa.  

Eventually we made it out to the starting line.  Now the snow was really coming down and the spray-painted start line was quickly fading away.  The race director was a piece of work and let us go after talking for 30 min.  

and then we were off sliding down the streets of Seeley Lake.  The mass exodus of 500+ runners and their canine companions gave Chloe time to pose and look cute.  Chloe says "What do we do now?".

Coming into the race I wanted just to open the stride and get a good aerobic workout in.  The first mile ended up being right at the pace I wanted to run - 5:30 min/mile.  Then the snow really started coming down and the roads began to fill with a couple inches of slushy white snow.  At mile 3 I found the pace slowing down to 6 min pace and decided to push.  I started to break away from the pack and pushing hard to run 5:40s.  At the half way point I knew that I was in for some fun.  A nice side stitch under my right rib cage reminded me that I had not done any speed work yet this year - not even a stride!  From miles 7-10 I took short deep breaths and managed to hold 6 min pace.  By then I was in third place and holding on for dear life.  After 3 miles of agony the cramp subsided and I started pushing back to 5:40s.  With each mile 11 - 12 - 13, I was slowly pulling myself back up the leaders.  At mile 13 I was right behind the leader Jimmy Grant.  We made a left hand turn onto the highway and Jimmy started his sprint to the finish and I followed closely behind.  With about 100 meters to go I had nothing left and watched him disappear around the bend to the finish line.  In the end I got the speed work that I wanted but the pace was much slower (5:50 min/mile) than I had imagined.  1:16 is not a good half marathon time but I think it was a sign that I'm starting to trade some speed for endurance.  Hopefully!

No racing trip is complete without Chloe passing out on the ride home.  She is still a big baby.

Lisa and I love the ride back home on MT 200.  Right before you hit highway 90 there is a sign for bighorn sheep.  We have never seen bighorn sheep outside of Glacier but it is awesome to know they are so close to home.  "Bighorns huh...that is why we come out here".

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Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.