July 22, 2013

Trail Rail Run - Trail Rail Run - Trail Rail Run

Every time I hear Trail Rail Run I hear Farva saying "Team Ram Rod; say it, Team Ram Rod, why didn't you say it?  Look I even wrote it down...".  If you haven't seen Super Troopers then you should.  Right, so I wanted a little jump start race before Burning River and couldn't find anything that fit the bill.  There were some low key races in Montana and Washington but I wanted rolling terrain that I could push mid to high 5min/mile pace.  I noticed a new race called 'Trail Rail Run' was being put on not too far from Missoula and hit all the criteria BUT the race was brand new, super expensive and a week before I wanted to throw down this hard effort.  In the end I just couldn't find anything to beat the Trail Rail Run so I ponied up the dough, adjusted my training and signed up for my first ultramarathon in beautiful Montana.  Chloe, Lisa and I jumped in the Jeep at 5am and headed West to an old railroad bed in the middle of nowhere Taft, Idaho.  At least Chloe was pumped for new smells.

The Montana Radio Company put on the event which included: 50m, 50k, marathon and 10k race options.  I immediately liked the race's low key atmosphere and prepared myself for 31+ miles of old, uneven, rotting rail beds.  Much to my surprise, the first several miles of the course weren't on the rail bed!  Instead we headed South back into the woods and up over a new trestle and into a pitch black, old railroad tunnel.  I looked up and saw some sharp objects dangling precariously above me, which I believed were icicles. After a quick turnaround we went back through the dark tunnel, over the new trestle and back to the rail bed, which we would follow all the way to the finish.

The first 10-15 miles went by very quickly.  I was running 5:50 min/mile pace and was just cruising.  Every now and then we would turn off into an old town along Highway 90, check in with the aid station volunteers, dip under the highway and head back out to the rail bed.  Then repeat.

Chloe broke up the monotony by chasing me into an aid station.  I had to turn around and run her back to Lisa.  She does look cute trying to hide behind that flower!  Shortly after that picture I turned a corner and spooked two moose who were grazing by an old, abandoned oven...  Nothing to see here folks just two moose standing next to oven on a old rotting rail bed - makes sense.  My presence sent them scrambling down the cliff towards the river.  The noise they created by crashing into and smashing trees, bushes and other foliage was unbelievable.  It sounded as if a train had come off the tracks and tearing through the hillside.  

Somewhere around 2hrs in I glanced at my watch and noticed that I was flying.  I wasn't really pushing hard but was focused on keeping my stride smooth and staying hydrated.  Every once and a while I would look down and notice 5:50...5:40...5:20... shit I'm going too fast... slow down... and repeat.  I came through the marathon in 2hrs 39min and was starting to feel the sun and the fast early pace.

Meanwhile the Clark Fork river was taunting me at every step.  The water looked so blue so cold and refreshing but always just out of reach.  

I come rolling to the last aid station and find out that I still have 12k to go... hmm I should only have 6k but whatever nothing I can really do about it now (The 50k course ended up being around 33.5 miles total).   Adding to that, my gps went berserk in the mountains informing me that I was running 4:00 min/miles when I was really running closer to 6 min/mile pace.  

The last two miles were on road and brand new, rough cut, bumpy trail.  For fear of twisting my ankles I literally slowed to a walk for those last 400 yards.  I ended up crossing the line at 3hrs 28 min for 33.5 miles (avg. 6:13).  I'm very happy with how that hard effort went and am excited for Burning River at the end of July.  Just a little more work to do!

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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.