Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Montana

Just got back yesterday from spending a week in Montana for Christmas. It was a good time, as trips to Montana always are, but my running suffered a little, mostly due to the weather. Our trip got off to a later than originally planned start, thanks to the Grizzlies playing in the national championship game on Friday night. Rather than miss the game, we of course had to wait until it was over before leaving, which turned out to be not very worth it as the Griz got handed a 24-7 defeat by Richmond. So, we weren't out the door until 9:00 on Friday night.

The first leg of our journey took us to Billings. We arrived at the hotel at 2 AM. Let me tell ya, there's nothing quite as exciting as driving across northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana in the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, a snowstorm that rolled through that afternoon dumped much less snow than predicted and the roads were good the whole way. After visiting some friends who live in Billings on Saturday morning (after 5 hours sleep), we hit the road again and headed for my mom and stepdad's place in Lincoln.

Lincoln is your quintessential mountain town. It's basically wedged into the forest in a way that you really can't get a sense that people actually live there unless you drive the streets and see for yourself. If you just pass through on the highway, all you see are bars and motels and trees. It was damn cold there too. I gave up on running on Saturday, as I was still wiped out from the late night and we didn't roll into town until right at dark, with the last 60 or so miles of our trip being on snowpacked roads as we climbed over the Rocky Mountain front and crossed the Continental Divide. Sunday was my long run day, so I set out to explore the sub-zero winter wonderland. Actually, it was exactly 0 degrees when I started, but there was a little breeze, so it felt sub-zero. My plan said to go 20, but given the cold and snowpacked streets, I had no qualms whatsoever when I stopped after 16. We spent three full days in Lincoln and I ran all three. The highest temperature I ran in was 7 degrees. Fun.

On Christmas Eve, we reloaded the Durango and drove 120 miles further west to my father in law's house in Hamilton. It was warmer there, but the streets weren't really in much better shape, at least not on the first day we were there. I decided to do my speed workout the afternoon that we arrived. Trying to run fast intervals on snowpacked and icy streets is quite an adventure. The "speed" workout didn't really end up being that speedy, but I felt lucky just to finish it without falling down. I ran a total of four times in Hamilton, including another long run, which was my first "real" Daniels long run. I started off with 2 miles easy, then 3 miles tempo, then 1 hour easy, 3 more miles tempo and 2 easy to finish off. By that time, the major streets and highways around town were fairly cleared off, but the weather was starting to go to hell. It wasn't too cold (in the 30s) but the wind was blowing like a bastard, so running to the south was much more of a chore than it needed to be. Plus, I had to trade running on cleared streets with dealing with traffic, which often forced me onto the not clear shoulder. Trying to maintain tempo pace while weaving back and forth across the highway and sometimes running through soft snow on the shoulder is NOT fun. The second 3 tempo miles were definitely slower than the first 3 and the last mile was actually slower than my marathon pace in Missoula, so it technically wasn't even close to tempo pace, but it was the most I could muster at the time.

Yesterday, we loaded up and made the return journey to South Dakota in one big shot. We hit some snow and crappy roads for about 50 miles outside of Missoula and then some hellacious winds and blowing snow around Bozeman and Livingston, but other than that, the roads were clear most of the way. Eleven hours and just shy of 700 miles later, we were finally home. No run, as we left at 6 AM and didn't get home until after 5 PM, at which point I was pretty much wiped out.

As much fun as Montana was, I've got to say that, running-wise, it feels good to be home. I just couldn't motivate myself to get up early and run in Montana and even later in the day I had to force myself out the door. Here, it's just automatic that I get up before the sun and get some miles in. Time to settle into this Daniels thing and get ready for that Boston race...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A GRIZmas Poem

No, I didn't write this, just passing it along....

Twas the week before playoffs
And all through the state,
Griz Nation was ready
We knew it'd be great!

First up Texas State and
Griz fans would not worry.
31 to 13
Skinned dem Cats in a hurry.

With a smug attitude
The Wildcats came flaunting
Our seismic North End Zone
Their players were taunting.

But once was enough
And redemption at hand
Weber got spanked
Now ain't vengeance grand

Of the Dukes they all said
"They're the best in the land,"
Redemption round two
Just as we planned.

Special Teams were excited
Showing grit and some gristle
Our defense ignited
And launched the Butte missile.

A pick and a swat
From a corner named Swink
On 4th down and 20
Dukes' hopes he did sink.

Bring on the Spiders ,
The Grizzlies don't care
We've got Chase Reynolds
Who runs like a wild-hare

Mariani , Ferriter
Pfaler and Beaudin
Our feared air attack
Will soon be explodin'!

Now on-Quinn, now on-Horn,
And don't forget Dow
On Hillesland, on Dyk,
Bring it O-line Kapow!

When all are covered
with a juke and twist
He carries the rock
Our mighty Cole Bergquist.

Too many great players
To name in a poem
But at Finley Stadium
All Grizzlies will roam.

Under Friday night lights
Our fans have a wish
The Grizzlies will find
Some Spiders to squish

We're ready and willing
And can't hardly wait
The players, the coaches
This game could be fate.

You've practiced, you've sweated,
You've worked the whole season
The Championship Game
Is the one single reason.

So Santa is here
To offer a toast
To the Montana Grizzlies
The team we love most.

To all of our coaches
in this season of light
Merry Grizmas to all
And to all a good Brody McKnight

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Basebuilding is done and winter is here

Last week was my last one of basebuilding. It was also, apparently, our last week of semi-nice weather for awhile. Several hours after finishing my last basebuilding run, Mother Nature smacked us upside the head with another blizzard. Unlike our last couple of blizzards, this one didn't come with a ton of snow, but instead with frigid ass temperatures (and some snow too). While not as much snow is on the ground, it's certainly going to stick around longer, considering the temperature has yet to climb out of the negative digits since Saturday night. Yesterday morning, the windchill was -35 and this morning the temperature, without wind, was -21. Beautiful...

Anyhow, here's how the week went:

Sunday - 8.45 in the morning, 5.27 in the afternoon

Monday - 13.62. It was 33 degrees outside and raining. I was soaking wet and freakin cold by the time I got done.

Tuesday - 10.51 in the morning, 5.21 in the afternoon.

Wednesday - 8.35

Thursday - 13.34. It was 32 degrees and snowing. Much, much nicer running weather than on Tuesday.

Friday - 8.61

Saturday - 18.27. Was kind of cold and windy...could tell the storm was moving in. But, ended up being a good run and, just for the fun of it, I ran the last 3.25 miles at sub 7:10 pace.

Total - 91.62 miles

A good week of running, but the highlight of the week was still the Montana win over JMU on Friday night (see below). We now know that the Griz will face Richmond in the championship game after the Spiders came from behind to score the winning TD over Northern Iowa with 14 seconds left in the game. The championship game is the same time and channel as last week's semifinal: ESPN2 at 6 PM Mountain time.

Speaking of Montana, we're going there for the holidays. We'll be leaving sometime on Friday....originally we were going to take off at about 4 and drive as far as Billings, but now that the Griz game is on at 6 and we have no prospects of getting to Billings before then, we might not be leaving until after the game and driving until 1 or 2 in the morning. Sounds like fun, huh? In any case, we'll eventually make our way to Lincoln and then Hamilton. Hoping to get some good Boston training in while I'm there (hear that Mother Nature??).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Up with Montana!!!

Okay, everyone sing along with me!

Up with Montana boys, down with the foe
Good ole Grizzlies, out for a victory
We'll shoot our backs round the foemen's line
A hot time is comin now o brother mine
Hey!

Up with Montana boys, down with the foe
Good ole Grizzlies, triumph today
And the squeal of the pig will float on the air
From the tummy of the grizzly bear
Hey!

That would be the Montana Grizzly fight song. I don't remember more than a few words here and there of my high school fight song, but "Up with Montana" will always be burned into my memory. So, what's the point of this post?? Oh yeah...

I just got done watching one helluva a football game. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, Montana's win over Weber St. last week earned them a berth in the FCS semifinals on the road against the top-ranked and favored James Madison Dukes. Madison came into the game at 12-1, with a 12 game winning streak and what seemed to be an unstoppable offense. In fact, I don't believe the Dukes punted once the entire game. But, they did turn the ball over 4 times and the Griz were able to capitalize.






Madison took a quick 3-0 lead, then Montana stormed back with two touchdowns to go up 14-3. Madison drove and scored again to pull within 14-10 at halftime. The Dukes' stud quarterback went down with an ankle injury late in the 2nd quarter, but that didn't slow em down much. However, Montana didn't slow down either, as they racked up 21 points in the 3rd quarter to Madison's 7. It looked like the Griz were going to bust things wide open when they were up 35-17 and had the ball early in the 4th quarter, but a bad punt snap out of the end zone gave Madison a safety and on their subsequent possession, the Dukes scored again and got a 2 point conversion on a questionable call by the refs. By then there were just over 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Griz were ahead by 8 and had the ball. They started driving and working time off the clock but eventually faced a 3rd and 2 just inside Madison territory. Cole Bergquist dropped back and launched a great pass to Marc Mariani deep down the right sideline and it appeared as though Mariani came down with it before going out of bounds, and that was in fact the call on the field, but it was overturned after reviewing the replay. Yet another questionable call against the Griz. So, with just over 2 minutes left, they were forced to punt and pinned Madison deep in their own territory. Madison started driving, but a couple of penalties and incomplete passes later they faced a 4th and 20. The Dukes backup QB launched a pass that would have been good for the first down, but the Griz defender knocked it out of the receivers hands and the game was essentially over. All the Griz had to do was take a knee to run the clock out.


I'm seriously sweating right now....that was a great, intense playoff game. The victory sends the Griz to Chattanooga, TN next week for the FCS National Championship. This will be Montana's sixth appearance in the Big Game. Their last appearance was in 2004, when they lost to.....James Madison. Ahhhhhh......revenge is sweet. Montana's other appearances were a win over Marshall in 1995, a loss to Marshall in 1996, a loss to Georgia Southern in 2000, and a win over Furman in 2001. Here's hoping they can even that championship record at 3-3. We'll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to find out who they play; they face the winner of the Northern Iowa-Richmond contest.

UP WITH MONTANA!!!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

One week to go

This past week was my second to last one of basebuilding. Frankly, it's about damn time. I've been in the lots of slow miles mode since July. I'm ready to do some "real" training again.

Sunday - 8.69 miles. I had planned on doing another 5 miles in the afternoon, but I just did not feel like it. I was totally wiped out for the rest of the day after the morning run.

Monday - 12.04 miles. This was supposed to be closer to 14 miles, but again, I just did not feel like doing it. It wasn't that I felt lazy and just wanted to go back to bed (well, kinda) but my legs just did not have any energy or strength.

Tuesday - 8.39 in the morning and 5.36 in the afternoon. The morning run was more of the same: dead legs and not much motivation. I finally started to break out of the slump in the afternoon and had a good run.

Wednesday - 6.35 in the morning and 5.15 in the afternoon. Felt somewhat normal.

Thursday - 11 miles. I wussed out and ran on the indoor track because the wind chill was near zero and I just did not feel like bundling up and going outside. So, 126.5 laps later, I was done.

Friday - 8.79 miles.

Saturday - 18 miles. I ran on my "old" long run route, which is an out and back course I haven't run on since I got my Garmin back in May. I really don't know why I've shunned this route because it seems like I always have my best long runs on it. It's a net uphill on the way out and then of course downhill on the way back, which I think helps me to finish strong.

Total - 83.77 miles. A little less than I was planning on, but I'll take anything over 80.

So, on to my last week of basebuilding. Hopefully I can finish this cycle strong and be ready to go on December 15th. Is it too early to start counting down the days until Boston??

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sweet vengeance

Back in October, the Montana Grizzly football team traveled to Ogden, UT and was handed their first, and so far only, loss of the season by the Weber St. Wildcats. Flash forward to yesterday. The Griz and Wildcats met in a rematch, this time in Missoula and this time with much higher stakes. It's playoff time in Div. I-AA (yeah, a playoff, how quaint, huh?), so it's loser go home, winner advance to the semifinals.

Since that loss to Weber, the Griz have reeled off 8 straight wins, including a win over Texas St. last Saturday in the first round. Weber pulled off an upset on the road, beating 3rd ranked Cal Poly on the road to earn a trip to Missoula for the quarterfinal rematch. Missoula's Washington-Grizzly Stadium is not a nice place to play if you're a visiting team and has been even more unfriendly to visitors in the quarterfinals, as the Griz came into yesterday's game sporting an 8-0 record in quarterfinal games played in Missoula.

The big question heading in was whether or not the Griz could stop Weber's extremely dangerous offense. The Cats put 45 points up on the Griz in their first meeting this year and scored 49 against Cal Poly last week. Griz turnovers played a big role in that loss to Weber as the Griz coughed it up 4 times in that game. Turnovers would prove to play a part in this game too, but fortunately in a different way.

The Griz jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, capitalizing on two Weber fumbles. They opened the scoring when quarterback Cole Bergquist ran a sneak 35 yards for a touchdown on a gutsy 4th and 5 call. From there on out, it was a smashmouth, grind it out affair as the teams exchanged blows. Eventually, Weber pulled within 17-13 in the 4th quarter and momentum appeared to be shifting in the wrong direction. Then, the Griz drove methodically downfield. In Weber territory, they faced a crtical 3rd down. Bergquist dropped back to drop, was chased out of the pocket by the pass rush and scrambled 14 yards for a first down. A couple of plays later, running back Chase Reynolds ran it in from 12 yards out to seal a 24-13 victory. Reynolds finished the game with 185 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns. Just a sophomore, his two scores gave him 19 rushing TDs for the season, breaking the previous Montana single-season record of 18.
So, now Montana advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2006. They will face a somewhat familiar foe in top-ranked James Madison. It was JMU who defeated Montana 31-21 in the 2004 national championship game, the last championship appearance for the Griz. Thanks to JMU's higher seeding, the game will be played away from the friendly confines of Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Another chance for vengeance and the right to play for the national title is on the line.
Oh, and here's another interesting trivia fact that I learned from watching the ESPN broadcast of the game yesterday. Which Division 1 football team as the most victories since the year 2000? Oklahoma? Florida? Ohio St.? USC? No, no, no and no. That would be Montana. The Griz have now won 104 games in that span. Oklahoma is second with 102. Yeah, they play at different levels of Div. 1, but still, that's a lot of damn wins. Here's hoping they tack on two more this year...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One down, three to go

Another non-running post, but it's playoff football time, so as long as the Griz keep winning, you're gonna keep hearing about them. Today they played a first round playoff game against the Texas St. Bobcats (marking the Grizzlies 2nd straight game against a Bobcat team after whupping Montana St. last week). The Griz got off to a slow start and fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. But, they came storming back behind the running of Chase Reynolds and ended up winning big, 31-13. Reynolds carried the ball a whopping 38 times for 233 yards, both career highs for him. The 38 carries also ties a Montana record. He also scored two TDs. Not a bad day. On to round two, which will be a rematch against either Cal Poly, who the Griz beat 30-28 in the first game of the season, or Weber St., who handed the Griz their only loss of the season, 45-28.



Friday, November 28, 2008

Speedwork? I don't need no stinkin speedwork!

It's been a long time since I set my 5K PR. About thirteen months, to be exact. It was at the Halloween 5K in Rapid City in Oct. of 07. I ran a 19:45 that day to break 20 minutes for the first time ever. It was a joyous occassion, but over the past year plus, I've gotten then sense that that PR was ripe for the picking. I first started to think so in April, when I ran the second half of the Kevin Whirlwind 10K in 19:05 on my way to my first sub-40 10K. The problem is, I didn't have many opportunities to improve on my 5K PR between last October and now. I ran exactly two 5Ks in that time: one just a week after the Colorado Marathon in May and the Halloween 5K last month. The first was never intended to be a PR effort coming to soon after a marathon on a hilly course. The second was where I was planning on making my move, but Mother Nature conspired against me with 45-50 mph winds. The result was that 19:45 remained as my official 5K PR. Until yesterday.

I could probably run 5Ks faster if I actually trained for 5Ks, but the fact that I'm almost always preparing for a marathon, be it basebuilding or actual training, kind of puts a damper on that. So, I just squeeze them into my running schedule and hope for the best. Looking back at my running log for the year, I haven't done a speed workout since July 1st. Since then, I've run a few races, but all of my training runs have been at a relatively slow and easy pace (8:15-9:00 miles). In order to set a 5K PR, I would have to run under 6:30 miles. Would my body know how to go that fast after having not done it for over four months?? I've heard a lot of stories about how runners make great improvements in their race times after a period of slow, high mileage running. I've been doing just that, long slow miles, since July. My previous three weeks of training were 93, 96 and 102 miles, with no mile faster than 7:20 in that stretch. I was curious to see if this was really going to work, or if I was just going to suffer (well, being a 5K, I expected to suffer either way, but I was hoping not to do it needlessly).

Mother Nature cooperated yesterday. Earlier in the week, forecasts had called for winds of up to 20 mph on Thanksgiving morning, but those winds never materialized and it was dead calm at race time. It was cold, in the low 20s, although even by the end of the race it had warmed up quickly and it would eventually reach 50 in the afternoon. In any case, I was comfortable in shorts, a long sleeve pullover, a beanie and gloves.

The Turkey Trot in Rapid City is a huge event, the biggest race of the year for the Black Hills Runners Club, in fact. Why? Because they give out pies afterwards. There are no official times or places or age groud awards or anything like that. Just a post race raffle for over 300 apple, blueberry, cherry and pumpkin pies. Word is that there were 880 people signed up for the event yesterday. A vast majority of these were walkers or joggers who may or may not have even run the entire course. That's a lot of people on a bike path, which made things interesting during the race. I made sure to line up right near the front, knowing full well that I needed to get in open space as quickly as possible. It worked well, and after some jostling I was able to fall into my goal pace (at least 6:17 miles, which would equate to a 19:30 race) and then some. I quickly located a couple of local runners who I know run a slightly faster pace than I usually do and I followed them for a majority of the race. We hit the halfway turnaround in 9:30, on pace for a 19:00 race and, while that is a huge PR in and of itself, I knew that I would ultimately be frustrated if I came that close and didn't break 19 minutes. Fortunately, there seemed to be a slight downhill on the return stretch and although I ran a good chunk of the second half on the grass because there were just too many people on the bike path, I managed to negative split the race, running the second half in 9:13, good for a final time of 18:43, a PR by 1:02.

I knew that PR was stale, but didn't really think it was that stale. It's pretty amazing what you can do with no speedwork whatsoever. Maybe it was the shoes....it was my first race ever wearing Asics Speedstars and they lived up to their name.

The crappy part of the day? I didn't win a pie for the first time in three years of running this race. But don't fear, I managed to stuff myself with enough Thanksgiving food afterwards to make up for it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Century plus two

I'm just so f***ed up and I'm never gonna change...
It's never enough
No, it's never enough
No matter what I say
It's never enough
No, it's never enough...
Those are lyrics from Five Finger Death Punch's song "Never Enough". They come to mind because, for one, that song is on my ipod and I often hear it while I'm running. And, although the song itself isn't about running at all, those snippets of lyrics seem to pretty accurately describe my running addiction. How many miles is enough? I have no freakin clue, but 102 has gotta be damn near (or at least I hope so). Here's how my highest mileage week ever went down:
Sunday: I had done some calculatin and figured out that I needed to average 14.29 miles per day to finish the week with 100. With that in mind, I started the week off with 8.81 miles in the morning and 5.3 in the afternoon, for a total of 14.11 for the day.
Monday: 14.12 miles, all in one chunk.
Tuesday: 10.52 in the morning, 5.32 in the afternoon for 15.84 total.
Wednesday: 9 in the morning, 6.1 in the afternoon for 15.1 total. The morning run was by far my toughest of the week. My legs just did not want to run anything faster than about 9:15 miles. However, the afternoon run was great as I clicked off 8:30 or faster miles with the same perceived effort as in the morning.
Thursday: 8.61 in the morning, 5.43 in the afternoon for 14.04 total.
Friday: 18 miles. I had the day off of work and wasn't sure what I was going to do running-wise. It started snowing fairly hard late in the morning and I decided to just head out and see what happened. The snow eventually stopped, then turned to rain sprinkles, then the wind started to pick up. Through it all I felt good, so decided to get my long run out of the way. This ended up being my fastest paced run of the entire week.
Saturday: 11 miles. Friday's run put me at 91.22 miles for the week, so I needed less than 9 to hit 100. But, I've already run 100 miles once back in March or April. For some reason, 102 seemed more appealing than 101. So, 11 miles it was. This was my second fastest paced run of the week.
Total: 102.22 miles
So, a new weekly mileage high. The best part is, I sure as hell don't feel like I ran 102 miles last week. In fact, I feel like I could do it again no problem. But I'm not gonna. This week will be a cutback week. Last week, I had double-digit mileage every day. This week, it'll be one, maybe two days with double digits. The logic is two-fold. First, I guess my legs deserve a break after 4 straight weeks of 80+ miles and three straight weeks of 90+ miles. Second, I really, really, really want to beat my stale 5K PR at the Turkey Trot 5K in Rapid City on Thursday and hopefully taking it easy this week will help.
Okay, now for a football update. As I mentioned in my last post, the Montana Grizzlies will be making their 16th straight trip to the FCS playoffs beginning this coming Saturday. Yesterday, they learned that they will enter the playoffs as the number 4 seed and will face another Bobcat team, this time Texas St., in the first round. The number 4 seeding is critical because it assures the Griz homefield for the first two rounds and, if #1 seed James Madison gets upset, then in the semifinals also. The crappy thing is, the rest of the 16 team field is matched up regionally to reduce travel costs as much as possible. So, the Grizzlies' second round opponent will be either Weber St., who handed the Griz their only loss of the season, or Cal Poly, who the Griz narrowly beat on the road in their first game of the season. But, at least the game will be in Missoula either way, which gives the Griz a huge advantage. GO GRIZ!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The 108th Brawl of the Wild

Okay, so this is going to be another non-running related post, but bear with me. Yesterday was one of the biggest days of the year back in my home state of Montana. It was the 108th meeting of the mighty Montana Grizzlies (my alma mater) and the pathetic Montana State Bobcats in what has recently been dubbed by someone as the "Brawl of the Wild". Whatever you call it, it's a series that has been dominated by the Griz. Going into this game, the Griz led the series 67-35-5. Those 67 wins included a streak of 16 straight that included my 4 years at UM. The Bobcats did eventually break that streak and actually won 3 of 4 from 2002-2005, but the Griz had won the last two, so maybe another streak is in the works.

The Griz are currently riding a wave of 11 straight Big Sky Conference titles and 16 straight playoff appearances. The Bobcats glory days are behind them. They won a national title back in 84, but have done little since then (besides lose to the Griz a whole bunch). So far this season, the Griz had compiled a 10-1 record, losing only to Weber St., who they will end up sharing the Big Sky championship with this year. The Cats came in 7-4, but had won 4 straight games. In any case, playing in Missoula, the Griz were fairly heavily favored.

The biggest shocker of the game came before the ball was even kicked off. You see, the Griz had warmed up in their normal uniforms, which are maroon and silver. But, after going back into the locker room for the final pregame meetings, the Griz emerged from the tunnel just prior to kickoff wearing their throwback copper and gold uniforms, which were last worn in 1995. The crowd went NUTS. Apparently, this plan had been brewing since August, but the athletic director and head coach managed to keep it a secret until Saturday. Pretty impressive. Check out the pictures below to get an idea of the awesomeness of these ugly uniforms:


This first picture is the Grizzlies' current uniforms, featuring the "new" maroon and silver colors:






These are the old school unis:



Yeah, they are ugly, but they are ugly in the awesomest of ways. The story is that the Griz originally wore maroon, but that Jack Swarthout, who coached UM in the 60s and 70s, changed the colors to copper and gold after going to Texas to learn the wishbone offense (the "copper" is identical to the University of Texas' burnt orange). After the 1995 season, in which the Griz won their first national championship, the copper and gold were retired and replaced with the current maroon and silver. Seeing these old copper and gold colors brought back some good memories of that first championship year.

Not only did the crowd love it, but it seemed to give the players a boost too. The game was fairly close for the first half, but the Griz busted it open in the second half and ended up winning easily, 35-3. Today they will find out who and where they play in the first round of the playoffs. They have a decent shot of getting a top 4 seed, which would guarantee them home games in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The University is auctioning off the throwback unis today (and will make a buttload of money out of the deal, I'm sure) so we won't be seeing the copper and gold again in the near future, but it was fun to see em on the field for a fews hours yesterday.

GO GRIZ!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A trip down memory lane (part 2)

As I mentioned once before, a month ago I made a pilgrimage back to Missoula with some college buddies to get drunk, act stupid and watch a Grizzly football game. Mission accomplished. Today, my buddy Kloker sent me some pictures from the trip. So, here's a brief photo tour of Griz Trip 08:
This first one is just minutes after we arrived in Missoula. We literally headed straight for Sean Kelly's, one of our old hangouts. From left to right, that's me, Bill, some girl I don't know but I think we woke her sister up at 3 AM to give us a ride home, and Stich. Stich is so photogenic, isn't he?

This second one is at the pregame tailgate on Saturday. The short guy in the orange hat is Kloker. That's our friend Max's mom on the left. Max didn't make the trip out this time, but his mom drank with us before the game.


This one is Bill, myself and Stich at the football game. Yes, we had been drinking.


And, last but not least, me feeling the effects of the peppermint schnapps after the game at Hooters. Don't let that stupid grin on my face fool ya; I felt like crap with a capital C.

Ah, memories....

The plan is to do this thing every other year, so again in 2010. One thing I learned while I was there is that I'm actually getting old (the horror!!!)....two years oughta give us all enough time to recover properly. One thing I know for sure: no peppermint schnapps next trip.

Back to running; I've got a big week brewing. I'll tell ya all about it when it's over though, because I don't want to jinx it. The suspense is killing ya, isn't it?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Miles, miles, miles

I've reached a sick point where I feel like I'm a slacker if I don't record at least double digits on any given day. I remember the day, not so long ago, when 10 miles seemed like a long damn ways. Now, I find myself going through mental torment if I don't get in at least 10 miles. I am one sick bastard....

Sunday - 10.49 miles

Monday - 8.48 miles in the morning and another 5.25 in the afternoon.

Tuesday - 15.36 miles. An awesome run. I took off for a 2 hour run and quickly settled into a fairly effortless 7:45ish pace. I was on cruise control pretty much the entire way.

Wednesday - 8.02 miles in the morning, 5.22 in the afternoon. Apparently, I used up all my mojo during Tuesday's run, because I felt the exact opposite during the morning run. Just getting the 8 miles done was a struggle in itself. Of course, that didn't stop me from tacking on the extra afternoon run. I told you I was sick.

Thursday - 9.01 miles. That's right, just single digits for the day. This had more to do with gorging myself at the Ruby Tuesday salad bar at lunch than anything else. I very seriously considered going for a late afternoon run, but knew by the feeling in my gut that I would regret it if I did.

Friday - 8.49 in the morning, 5.6 in the afternoon. The afternoon run was my first indoor run in a very long time. The wind was blowing 25-30 and it was snowing, so I wimped out and ran inside on Black Hills State University's indoor track.

Saturday - 17.13 miles. Didn't feel great, didn't feel horrible. Not my fastest long run, not my slowest. It just was.

Total - 93.03 miles

So, that's two straight weeks over 90 miles. I've only hit 100 miles in a week once. Doing the math, I have to average 14.29 miles per day to get 100. Yesterday I ran 14.11 (in two runs), this morning I did 14.12 so, I'm right at that magic number. So, yeah, I'm thinking of going for the century this week and then cutting back pretty significantly next week to rest up for the annual Turkey Trot 5K in Rapid City. Sick, sick, sick....

Monday, November 10, 2008

High altitude training

I spent most of the past week a little out of my comfort zone (about 3000 feet out of it, to be exact) in Colorado Springs. I had to go there for work (supervisory training) and had hoped to get in some good runs on the Springs extensive trail network. The training schedule, however, dictated otherwise. Since I would spend most of the day in class or eating (seriously, three meals a day at the all you can eat buffet at the resort they put us up in), I didn't get as much daylight to explore as I would have liked. Consequently, I spent most of my runs wandering around the streets of CO Springs in the dark trying not to get lost.

While I was off in the Springs trying desperately to burn as many calories as I was taking in, the Black Hills got hammered with a blizzard. We're talking over 40 inches of snow in some places and wind gusts to 78 mph in Rapid City. Nasty shit. So, this would mark the third time in the last couple of years that I've gone out of state for training only to have to return in bad weather conditions. The other two times, I made the trip back just fine, other than some white knuckle driving. This time, not so much. About 40 miles from home on Friday night, my co-worker and I hit a patch of black ice on the interstate, skidded across the left lane, bounced off the left guard rail, skidded back across both lanes and side-swiped the right guard rail, where we finally stopped. Thankfully, neither of us were hurt at all. The government Trailblazer, however, is a little worse for the wear. From now on, I'm either flying to training or only going in the summer.

So, back to running. Despite the long days at class, I managed to hammer out some good miles while I was in CO Springs:

Sunday - 8.9 miles in the morning, another 4.61 in the afternoon. Finally got around to raking leaves (I was waiting for them all to fall first....I swear....I wasn't just being lazy).

Monday - 7.27 miles followed by the 7 hour drive to CO Springs and 3 hours of training.

Tuesday - 13.74 miles in the morning, another 5 in the afternoon. First runs at 6100 feet. I didn't feel like I was gasping for air, but my pace was noticeably slower, especially on the uphills (which there were a lot of). After the afternoon run, I intently watched the election results as they started coming in. GOBama!!!

Wednesday - 10.24 miles.

Thursday - 10.16 miles in the morning, 7.34 miles in the afternoon. Both times I ran in the afternoon, it felt much, much easier. Is there more oxygen when the sun is up or something??

Friday - 8.6 miles followed by the aforementioned adventure on the way home. The good thing about crashing where we did is that we were near enough to home that someone could come retrieve us.

Saturday - 20.1 miles. The longest run I've done since.....uh.....the Missoula Marathon back in July, I guess. I was planning on going for at least 15, but felt pretty good so decided to go for 20 instead. By mile 17, I was pretty sure I shouldn't have done that, but it was too late by then.

Total - 95.95 miles. Yes, I would have run another 0.05 on Saturday if I would have known. In any case, it's my highest weekly mileage since April.

This week, back to the grindstone at work (except for the Veterans Day holiday tomorrow). Hopefully, miles will be similar to last week, but we'll see if Mother Nature has any more tricks up her sleeve....

Friday, October 31, 2008

And my endorsement goes to....

Okay, I know you've all been on pins and needles waiting for me to announce my endorsement for president (all 3 or 4 of you). I'm sure the candidates themselves have been following this blog closely for any word. Sorry I've kept you waiting for so long, but now that election day is only 5 days off, I guess it's time to let the cat out of the bag (how does that damn cat always get in the bag anyhow???). Hopefully, you haven't already cast an early ballot that you'll regret after reading this. I know this is a running blog, but damn it, it's my running blog so I'll make it political if I want. Plus, this post is about the two guys running for president. Get it?....RUNNING for president.....okay, never mind....

So, without further adieu, here it is in one word: GObama!!!!

To put it simply (and in terms that may or may not piss off any Republicans out there), the GOP has had their turn at the wheel and managed to drunk drive head-on into a tree. I've never voted for a Republican candidate for president and after 8 years of W, don't really see any reason to start now. My honest opinion is that McCain's campaign is focused more on trying to convince us that Obama is evil incarnate and less on how to fix this mess that W got us into. On the other hand, Obama talks about issues instead of firing back at McCain and Palin with smear tactics (and if you've done any research on McCain and Palin, you know full well there's plenty of ammo there). The internet is rife with so-called "evidence" that paints Obama as a terrorist, socialist, Muslim, anti-American, and, probably, the devil himself. It's all a bunch of crap. You shouldn't believe everything that lands in your email inbox. Again, McCain is no saint; his own autobiography admits as much. But the American public hasn't been exposed to all the rumors/stories/accusations that surround McCain's past because Obama hasn't gone there. He's been too focused on discussing proposals that might actually fix this country (and if you believe it's not broken, then you haven't been watching the news much lately).

Barack Obama is an obviously smart man. He's calm, he's cool, he's collected. I won't claim that John McCain is dumb, because I don't think he is, but he is known for being hotheaded, rash, and stubborn. Which qualities, regardless of the name attached to them, are more befitting of a president? As I said, I don't think McCain is dumb, but I do have to question his rationality with the selection of Sarah Palin as his VP candidate. I have nothing against a woman running this country. I would, after all, be voting for Hillary if she had won the nomination. But, I do have a problem with picking your VP candidate based on who gives you the best chance to win the election instead of picking the person who is best qualified to potentially be president someday. Honestly now, if, God forbid, McCain were to die before election day, how many people would vote Palin for president?

I've gotten into this election far more than any previous one, and I could rant here for hours about it, but I'll stop now. I had to express my support for Obama somehow since my vote for him in South Dakota, one of the reddest of the red states, is virtually meaningless. Sorry for injecting politics into an otherwise totally uninformative, senseless, light hearted blog, but as I said before, this is my blog, damn it, and I've gotta rant somewhere because my wife is probably sick of hearing about it:). Next time, back to running. I promise (and I'm not a politician, so that promise might actually be kept).

Now, go vote!!! (preferably for Obama, but hey, to each their own...)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winds from hell, twisted ankles and undefeated seasons

It was an interesting week. After my voyage to Missoula and back last weekend, I was hoping to get back on the high mileage bandwagon. But, I was also hoping to break a year old 5K PR, so I ended up sacrificing miles toward the end of the week to rest my legs for the Halloween Sock Hop 5K in Rapid City on Sunday.

Well, as she is prone to due, Mother Nature decided to screw with my plans. The wind was blowing yesterday. I'm not talking like 10-20 mph, I'm talking more like 35-45, with occasional gusts to 60. Nowhere near ideal conditions for running a 5K, but run it I did. We drove to Rapid and arrived at the park where the race was to be held to find.....nothing. The park gates were locked up and no sign-up area was to be found. Finally, after a half hour or so, some people started showing up and registration got under way. It wasn't terribly cold, mid 40s, but with the wind it was pretty damn uncomfortable. The local running club puts this race on and starts the festivities off with a kids 1K, which both of my kids ran in their Halloween costumes, a Seahawks player for Caiden (I have taught him well.....or really badly....not sure yet) and a monkey for Chloe (it should be noted that Chloe's real costume is Sleeping Beauty, but since it was so cold we put her in the much warmer monkey suit instead). The kids did great, considering they were the two youngest ones running. They each got a bag of candy when they were done.

Soon after the kids race was done, it was time to line up for the 5K, which my wife and I were both running. Despite the ungodly wind, I still toed the line with the goal of running something faster than 19:45. When the race started, I took off and found myself smack dab in middle of the lead pack with 7 or 8 high school cross country runners. At one point, I got sick of trying not to step on people and tried to break free, but the wind quickly convinced me to tuck myself back into the pack. I stuck with them for about a kilometer before they lost me on the windiest stretch of the course. We were running along a reservoir, totally exposed and going into the wind, which was blowing so damn hard that snot was coming out one nostril and the other was just being pushed shut, which means I couldn't breath very well. I knew then that a PR was probably out the question and I started trying to keep up with a local guy (the dad of one of the cross country runners) whom I have yet to beat at a race. When I hit the turnaround, I was already at over 11 minutes and knew for sure that I wasn't going to PR. I was expecting to see my wife as I headed back for the second half, but never did, which made me wonder if I had just missed her or what. For the entire second half, I kept that guy in my sights, but could never gain any ground....every time I put the hammer down, so did he and maintained the gap. I ended up finishing in 21:34, good enough for 7th overall and 1st in my age group. The wind definitely affected me, but my Garmin also showed that I ran 3.31 miles, not 3.1 like a 5K should be, so maybe the course was off too (although it could just as easily be my Garmin that was off, considering it took it forever to locate satellites when I turned it on before the race).

As soon as I finished, my sister in law told me that Shannon had twisted her ankle. At one point, we had to run on the grass around one of the locked gates and when she planted her left foot, it rolled and down she went, so ended up having to DNF, which explains why I never saw her. So, between the wind beating me up and Shannon's sprained ankle, we took quite a bit of abuse for $10 each. But, hey, at least we got a free pair of running socks out of the deal.

Okay, now on to football. It was a good week overall for my teams. On Thursday night, we went to Belle Fourche High's final regular season game against their archrival, St. Thomas More. Belle hadn't beaten More since 2001 and hadn't won an outright conference championship since 1998. Since both teams were undefeated in conference play (although More had lost 2 non-conference games), the Black Hills Conference title was on the line. Belle dominated from the start and racked up 523 yards of offense and 23 first downs compared to 26 yards and 2 first downs for More, winning the game 37-3 to finish the regular season 8-0. So, now they head to the playoffs, which began on Tuesday for some stupid reason (I could rant for a lllllooonnnnggg time on South Dakota's screwed up football classification and playoff system). Their first round game is against Custer, a team they beat 41-20 two weeks ago despite 9 (yes, 9) turnovers. Assuming Belle wins that game, which they should, they will most likely play More again in the quarterfinals. Assuming they dominate More again, which they should, it will be on to the semis, where they might play yet another team they've already beaten this year. In any case, they have a decent shot at playing in the State Championship, but once they get there they will likely face West Central, who has won 10 of the last 14 state titles (beating Belle for two of those). But, there's a reason they play the games, so we'll see how it all shakes out.

Montana also won easily over Northern Colorado and Seattle, in a shocker, doubled their win total by beating up on the apparently even more hapless 49ers.

This week: miles, miles, miles....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A trip down memory lane

Here's a quick breakdown of last week:

1) I crammed almost 75 miles into Sun-Fri, without a long run.

2) I drove to Billings and then Missoula on Friday night to meet up with 4 of my college drinking buddies.

3) We drank.

4) We slept.

5) I didn't run the 5K I was thinking of running on Saturday morning (see #3 above).

6) We tailgated.

7) We went to the Grizzly football game. They won 43-7.

8) We went to Hooters (the first one in Montana!!).

9) I slept (I'm getting too old for this stuff).

10) We went our separate ways.

The net result? I missed two days in a row of running after having run for 68 days straight dating back to Aug. 10th. In reality, probably not a bad thing. And, it was well worth it as I hadn't seen 3 of the 4 buddies I met up with for 8 years. We now have plans to hold this get together every two years (if you're out there MS and D, you'd damn well better make it next time!).

This week, back on the saddle. Since I didn't run the 5K in Missoula last weekend, I'll be gunning for a PR at the Halloween 5K in Rapid City on Sunday. I haven't exactly been training for a 5K, but then again, when have I ever?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

First Snow

Let the games begin.....

Last Friday, Mother Nature annointed us with the first snow of the season. Super. Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows full well my feelings toward Mother Nature. In short, we generally don't get along. And several inches of wet, slushy snow over the weekend didn't help any to improve my opinion of her. In any case, it's back up to 60 degrees now and the snow that was on the ground all weekend is but a memory....for now.

So, despite the snow and some more prescribed burning, I managed to hammer out a really good week:

Sunday - 8.66 miles in the morning, 5.28 in the afternoon

Monday - 14 miles. Hoped for 15+, but my legs just weren't into it.

Tuesday - 10.22 miles followed by a bunch of hiking (i.e. prescribed burning).

Wednesday - 8.38 miles. Our burn was aborted by the descending cold front.

Thursday - 8.35 in the morning, 5.53 in the afternoon.

Friday - 11.68 miles. It had snowed overnight, so I slept in and waited to run until just before lunch. By then, most of the snow had melted, although some more flakes started falling on me toward the end of the run.

Saturday - 18.27 cold, wet miles. Oh, the joys of running for over 2.5 hours in alternating misty rain and snow. I foolishly took off for a few miles on a dirt/mud road, so my feet were soaked for most of the run too. Honestly, I had kind of planned on going 20 miles, but I knew that 18 would get me 90 for the week, so I happily cut it short there. One of the best things in the world after a cold, wet long run is a nice, hot shower. Unless your hot water heater takes a crap on ya. Then you get to follow up a cold, wet long run with a cold shower. Awesome.

Total - 90.37 miles. First time over 90 since April, I believe.

This coming week will be somewhat of a cutback week. I'm heading to Missoula on Friday to meet up with some old college buddies and to relive our glory days (or something like that). So, no long run this weekend, but I might run a 5K race in Missoula on Saturday morning, depending on how the events of Friday night are affecting me (we aren't going there to hang out in the library reading all the books we never read in college, if you know what I mean). Who knows, maybe I'll run a PR. Then, I'll have to go bar hopping every night before a 5K.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Kick the tires and light the fires!

Last week was a busy one. With fall comes prescribed burn season at work (if you work for the U.S. Forest Service, that is). I'm no longer a full time firefighter, but still have the requisite quals, so when overtime calls, I come running. For those not in the know, we conduct prescribed burns to reduce the amount of fuels on the forest floor, thereby making it less likely that a future wildfire will burn that same area in the near future. First, we lay out a burn unit, typically around 100 acres in size and surround it with control lines (or, more often than not, use existing roads as the control lines). Then, an ignition team walks back and forth across the mountainside with drip torches (kind of like gas cans with a spout and wick that drips a flaming gas/diesel mixture onto the ground) to light the unit. Meanwhile, a holding team makes sure that the fire stays where it's supposed to (99.9% of prescribed burns do just that). Last week, I was on the ignition team both times we burned, which means a lot of miles walking across rugged terrain, carrying a drip torch and all the required gear. This doesn't happen quickly. In order to keep fire intensities low, we have to light off small chunks at a time. Also, at this time of year fire doesn't really want to burn all that badly unless it's the heat of the day, so we can't start burning until late morning and then must try to safely get everything ignited before the sun starts to dip in the evening, because once it's gone, so is our ignition window. Long hours and a significant amount of manpower are required to pull off a burn on any given day.

So, given all that information, here's how my week shaped up:

Sunday - 8.8 miles in the morning, another 5.33 in the afternoon

Monday - 13.02 miles

Tuesday - 8.34 miles followed by a day of burning

Wednesday - 10.47 miles and another day of burning

Thursday - 10.42 miles

Friday - 18.14 miles

Saturday - 10.2 miles

Total - 84.7 miles

The observant out there will notice that I ran my long run a day early. That's because my wife ran the Crazy Horse Half-marathon on Saturday morning. Since Caiden had a soccer game that morning, she went to Hill City with a friend while I stayed back with the kids. It turned out to be a succesful day, as Shannon ran a 2:11:34 (her second fastest half) and Caiden scored both of his team's goals in a 6-2 loss. After Shannon got back, we headed straight for the Black Hills St. vs. Dakota St. football game, which BHSU won 37-14, and then off to Wal-Mart for the weekly grocery shopping expedition and then, finally, back home where I was able to get the 10.2 miler in before dinner.

This week I'll hit 90 miles easy, based purely off my schedule. But, more burning looks to be on tap, so I might have to knock that number back a little to accomodate. I need all the overtime I can get to fund that trip back east I'll be making in April.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dancing with the sun

This was supposed to be another week of 80+ miles after last week's cutback, but it just didn't work out that way. Still, after a horrible start on Sunday, the rest of the week went alright and I got in some decent mileage, just not as much as planned. There're three culprits for that: feeling like crap on Sunday, work and a Saturday race:

Sunday - 4.77 miles. This was actually supposed to be a double day, with 8 or so in the morning and another 5 in the afternoon. I skipped the morning run because my wife was running a 10K in Spearfish and then we went to brunch after that. When I took off in the afternoon with the goal of getting the 8 done, I felt like absolute crap. I honestly thought about bagging it less than two blocks from my house, but charged on and suffered through 4.77, having to make two, yes two, porta-john stops in that time. It wasn't pretty...

Monday - 13.05 miles. As bad as Sunday's run went, Monday's was equally as good. Whatever was wrong with me the day before was gone today. Also played basketball at lunch time.

Tuesday - 10.13 miles

Wednesday - 10.25 miles and more basketball at lunchtime.

Thursday - 10.84 miles in the morning, 5.18 in the afternoon. This was a classic South Dakota fall day. It was chilly (mid 30s) during my morning run and then overly warm (high 70s) during my afternoon run. So, I was cold in the morning and sweating my butt off in the afternoon.

Friday - 10.03 miles in the morning followed by a 13.5 hour workday. With fall comes prescribed fire season at the U.S. Forest Service and since I still have my fire quals, I have the option of helping out with burns. Never one to turn down overtime, I jumped in and spent a majority of the day hiking up and down the burn unit lighting fire and eating smoke. Not exactly the best way to prepare for a 10K the next day...

Saturday - 7.65 miles, including the inaugural Sundance Trail 10K. The race was held just northwest of Sundance, WY in the Bearlodge Mtns. and only about a mile from the unit we had burned the day before. I was concerned that there would be a bunch of residual smoke socked in over the race course, but it turned out to be a very nice, clear day. Unfortunately for me, the previous days workout had taken it's toll and I am very inexperienced when it comes to running trail races. Apparently, you shouldn't take off like it's regular ole road race, cuz you'll pay for it later. And pay I did. The middle couple of miles were pretty brutal, but once I got to the high point of the course at about halfway and started back down, I started feeling much better and was able to run a big negative split and finish strong. I finished in 55:04, good for 6th overall and 2nd in my AG. Really, the "I worked hard all day yesterday" excuse is kind of a lame one, because three of the people who finished ahead of me were co-workers who had also burned the day before (but I'm guessing they hadn't run 10 miles before burning....or a total of over 70 miles for the week). One thing I learned for sure is that my hill climbing legs aren't nearly as developed as they were back when I was a full time firefighter and hiked trails like that every day.

Total - 71.88 miles

So, a crappy (literally) run on Sunday and no long run for the week, but I still topped 70 miles, which ain't too shabby I guess. With no races and (hopefully) no weird stomach issues getting in the way this week, I should be back over 80.

As for the weekly soccer/football update, my son played his 4th soccer game on Saturday morning. I missed it because of the trail race, but saw the video highlights and he banged home two more goals and his team was actually competitive this time. No Seahawks game this weekend, which immeasurably reduced my stress level on Sunday, but the other three teams I follow all won: Belle Fourche 54-0 over Lead-Deadwood (Belle is now 4-0), Black Hills St. 48-2 over Mayville St. (BHSU now 3-1), and Montana pulled out a nailbiter, 38-35 over Central Washington (the Griz are now 4-0 also and are the owners of the longest regular season winning streak, 25 straight, in all of Division 1 college football).

This weekend, my wife will be heading down to Hill City to tackle her third half-marathon of the year (the Crazy Horse Half). I'm staying back with the kids and haven't decided yet whether or not we should go to Spearfish to watch the Black Hills St. vs. Dakota St. game or stay home to watch the Montana vs. Weber St. game on the internet. Decisions, decisions...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cutback

Last week was a scheduled cutback week for me. After back to back weeks of 82 miles and a constant, steady increase in weekly mileage since Missoula, it was time to knock it back a notch and let my legs recover a little. A quick look at my running log reveals that I haven't had a rest day since August 10th. That may or may not be my longest running day streak, but I'd have to check to be sure.

Sunday - 9.4 miles

Monday - 7.1 miles

Tuesday - 7.6 miles

Wednesday - 8.4 miles, basketball in the afternoon

Thursday - 9.2 miles

Friday - 6.9 miles

Saturday - 16.1 miles

Total - 64.7 miles

It was an action-packed weekend, to say the least. Friday was Belle Fourche High's homecoming. The parade was in the afternoon, with my son riding on his preschool's float, and then it was off to the football game, which the Broncs won easily, 33-3, to move to 3-0 on the season (that's a lot of threes).

Saturday started off with me up at 4 AM to get my long run in. I had a good 16 miler, almost all in the dark (guess I'm getting in some good ultra training). After a quick shower and breakfast, it was off to Caiden's soccer game. My wife's sisters were in town to watch him play and my father-in-law also suprised him by showing up at the game, so he wanted very badly to score a goal. His team got obliterated but, finally, in the second half Caid took a kickoff down field and pounded it home to score his team's only goal of the game (they lost 10-1). The relief and excitement after he scored was obvious. After the soccer game, it was off to Spearfish for Black Hills State's homecoming parade and football game. The kids took home their body weight in candy from the parade and the Yellojackets beat down the South Dakota School of Mines 33-13 (yet more threes). After the game we did some bowling, followed by dinner at Applebee's, followed by grocery shopping at the Walmart Supercenter. Then, finally, we went home.

We were up early again on Sunday to head back to Spearfish for the inaugural Yellowjacket 5k/10k. My wife Shannon ran the 10K with hopes of breaking the one hour mark. As she re-entered the football stadium where the race started and finished, it was obvious that it was going to be close. She came around the final turn on the track and the seconds were ticking away, but she managed to cross the finish line in 59:59. Nothing like cutting it as close as possible, huh?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm going to be published!

Apparently, not all of my writing is senseless crap (believe it or not). Several months ago, on a whim, I emailed a few of my race reports to Rich Benyo, the editor at Marathon and Beyond, knowing full well that they weren't publishable in their current states. He responded several weeks later telling me as much, but asking if I had any other stories I could submit. I didn't. Until Missoula, that is. After I BQed there, I sat down and over the course of 30-45 minutes, pounded out a brief history of my running life and my quest for Boston. I read through it once to make sure there weren't any glaring grammtical errors or accidental naughty words and emailed it to Rich. Several more weeks passed with no word, leading me to believe that nothing would come of it. Then, out of the blue, I received an email from Rich last week asking for my mailing address so he could send a contract! Holy crap! I'm sending the signed contract back to him today. Not sure yet when it will be published, but I'll keep y'all posted. Now, in addition to reading my stupid rambling for free, you can pay $6.95 for an issue of Marathon and Beyond to do it!! What a deal, huh?

I won't bother with too many details of my running last week, since it was virtually identical to the week before (82.2 miles versus the previous week's 82). The weather is still awesome in the mornings, making it oh so much easier to get those big miles in.

I will take some time here to blatantly brag about my son, Caiden. He is 4 years old and Belle Fourche has a youth soccer league for kids under 6, so we signed him up. Caiden has played a very watered down version of soccer with me in our front yard (watered down is all I know, not being much of a soccer fan and never playing it myself), but he had never actually played "real" soccer. Well, after 3 practices and 2 games, it has become apparent that he is a force to be reckoned with on the soccer field. He was a little unsure and cautious in his first game, but something clicked in game 2 and he became a ball hawk, scoring 2 goals and chasing down the other team's best player several times to stop him from scoring. I'm also proud to report that Caid is definitely the fastest player on the team. Yesterday at practice, after about 10 minutes of scrimmaging a couple of the other kids were obviously tired and asking when they could be done. Caiden was still rarin to go....he would have scrimmaged for hours. As the team huddled up after practice, Caid's coach looked at him and said "You could go all night, couldn't you?". He has a blast at practice and at games...he plays with a huge grin on his face the entire time and when there are breaks in the action, he's jumping in place and clapping his hands, just totally overflowing with excitement and ready for the game to get going again. Glad to see that he inherited the ole competitive spirit!! The day when I stop "letting" him win at stuff may be closer than I thought it would be....

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pounding out the miles

The weather was about as perfect as it gets this week and my mileage reflects that. It was under 50 degrees for every morning run, under 40 degrees for a couple. The result is that I tacked on a couple of extra runs to take advantage of the awesome weather and ended up with a few more miles this week than I had planned. Oh well.

Sunday - 8.5 miles

Monday - 11.2 miles in the morning, 4.1 in the afternoon. I split the afternoon run in two and took each of the dogs for a couple of miles (taking them both at once would be an exercise in stupidity, although entertaining I'm sure for any onlookers). Our black lab, Vedder, could run seemingly forever....two miles is nothing to him. On the other hand, our yellow lab, Molly, is dragging pretty good by the end of two and spends the rest of the day sprawled motionless on the floor.

Tuesday - 8.47 miles

Wednesday - 9.3 miles in the morning, 4 in the afternoon. Registered for the Boston Marathon!

Thursday - 10.77 miles

Friday - 8.44 miles

Saturday - 17.14 miles

Total - 81.97 miles (about 10 more than planned)

Along with the arrival of fall-like weather came the arrival of football season this week. It was oh so close to a perfect football weekend for me, with only the Seahawks blowing it by sucking big time against Buffalo yesterday. Belle Fourche took down 5th ranked Winner on the road 12-0, Black Hills St. upset Southwest St. 21-14, and Montana pulled out a close one on the road against a very good Cal Poly team, 30-28. The Seahawks sucked.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My favorite time of year

As is typical of changing seasons in South Dakota, we saw a drastic change in weather this past week. From a high of 100 degrees on Saturday, to a high of barely over 60 today. Fall is definitely on its way. Between the cooler running temps and the start of football season, I'm just about as happy as George W. Bush at Chuck E. Cheese.

Sunday - 6 miles along part of the Lean Horse Ultra course.

Monday - 8.5 miles

Tuesday - 6.9 miles

Wednesday - 8.6 miles

Thursday - 9.6 miles

Friday - 7.1 miles

Saturday - 16 miles

Total - 62.7 miles

This coming week is a big one all around. Today was my daughter's first day of preschool and she was a very big girl when I dropped her off, not crying one bit. This evening is my son's first soccer practice and his first game is on Saturday morning. It'll be kind of like a Chinese fire drill, but should be entertaining nonetheless. Registration for the Boston Marathon opens tomorrow....sometimes it still awes me that that actually matters to me this year. Belle Fourche High has a cross country meet in Spearfish on Thursday. Conveniently, I work in Spearfish and might be able to sneak over to the golf course and catch some of the race. The Belle football team has their first football game on Friday night, but they are on the road so I guess I'll have to watch the highlights on the news. Saturday is Montana's first football game of the year at Cal Poly, which should be a tough one as both are ranked in the top 15. Then, the day I've been waiting for ever since the infamous blizzard game in Green Bay during last year's playoffs comes on Sunday, when the Seahawks open their season in Buffalo. Sounds like a good excuse to head down to the local sports bar at 11 AM! Oh, and it looks like I'll break 70 miles this week easy....especially if this totally bodacious weather holds!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lean Horse Ultra: A view from the sidelines

This weekend, I participated in a race in a very different way from how I usually go about it. Rather than lacing up my running shoes and actually running the race, I volunteered to man an aid station at the Lean Horse Ultramarathon. Definitely a different experience from what I’m used to, but it was a rewarding and interesting perspective on what goes on during an ultramarathon.

Lean Horse begins and ends in Hot Springs, SD, in the southern Black Hills. This year was the 4th year of the event and judging by registration numbers, word is starting to get out in the ultra community about this one. For the first three years it included 100 mile, 50 mile and 50 kilometer distances. The 50K distance, which I ran at Lean Horse last year as my first (and so far only) ultra, was dropped this year due to lack of popularity (there were fewer than 30 finishers last year). So, that left the hundred and half-hundred this year. Both races start at the Mueller Civic Center in Hot Springs, follow the bike path through and out of town before turning onto Argyle Rd. and, eventually, the Mickelson Trail. It’s an out and back course, so ends back at the Mueller Center. One of the draws of this race is that it’s considered to be relatively “easy” (as if running 50 or 100 miles is ever truly “easy”). Unlike many ultras, this one doesn’t involve any single-track, rock and stump laden trail with thousands of feet of elevation gain. The first (and last) 16 miles are rolling hills along a gravel road (once you get off the bike path). This is definitely the toughest part of the course. From there, it’s onto the Mickelson Trail, a rails to trails project that features a nice, relatively soft, well groomed running surface and very gentle grades (no more than 3%).

I had considered returning to Lean Horse this year to run the 50 miler. Actually, it was penciled into my racing plans early this year, but after I failed to qualify for Boston in Fort Collins in May, I decided to readjust and focus on the BQ. After I captured the BQ in Missoula in July, I thought briefly of running Lean Horse, but with only 6 weeks between Missoula and Lean Horse, I just didn’t think it would be feasible. I was sure I could cover the distance, it was just a matter of how much misery would be involved. And, honestly, after Missoula (my 3rd marathon in 3 months), I was just ready for a break and some recovery. When I mentioned this to Jerry Dunn, the Lean Horse race director, he asked if I’d be interested in volunteering. Now, here’s a little advice. If a race director asks you this, whatever you do, don’t say “Sure, I’m up for anything.”

I drove down to Hot Springs, about 2 hours south of my home, on Friday afternoon. Upon arriving, I helped out at the expo doing various tasks (including helping to eat the pre-race barbecue). After awhile, I took a drive out to my aid station location so that I would know where it was and wouldn’t have to search for it in the dark the next morning. It was easily located thanks to the cut barbed-wire fence and orange cone. Then it was back to Hot Springs to pick up the motor home that Jerry had arranged for me to use at the station. It was a nice unit, fairly new, although it took me an inordinately long time to figure out how in the hell to turn the interior lights on (of course, I didn’t try until it was dark outside, which only increased the difficulty).

I slept in the RV that night outside the Mueller Center and woke up at the early even for me hour of 3:30 so that I could squeeze in a 6 mile run before heading back out to my aid station location. I didn’t really suspect when my alarm clock went off that morning that I wouldn’t be going back to sleep until 9:00 Sunday night, some 41.5 hours later. Having never actually driven a motor home sized vehicle before I was kind of nervous, but made it out to my location without incident and went about setting up the tables, chairs and awning as I waited for someone else to deliver the food, water and first aid supplies. Those arrived shortly, long before the first runners did. We had what I suspect to be normal ultra fair (I haven’t been in the ultra scene enough to truly know) including peanut butter and jelly, turkey, cheese, boiled potatoes, pretzels, trail mix, chicken noodle soup, oatmeal, Hammer gel, Accelerade, Heed, chocolate chip cookies, saltines, grapes, bananas, and of course water.

Runners started filtering through at about 7:30, or 1.5 hours into the race. The first 50 miler was moving at a good clip (sub-8 miles) and already had a good lead on the rest of the field. The big rush arrived about a half hour later as a mix of 50 and 100 milers started arriving in packs. This would by far be the busiest stretch of the weekend as the field was still fairly close together. At this point, the runners were still excited to be out there and all very enthusiastic about how things were going (this would change later, as you might guess).

Obviously, there were busy periods at the aid station alternating with not so busy times. I spent a lot of time reading or chatting with whoever was there with me (three others came and went throughout the day and night). Before we knew it, the 50 mile leader came back and actually stopped this time instead of sprinting through. He chatted briefly while he ate and topped off his fluids and then was off again like a shot. We learned later that he had crushed the 50 mile course record by nearly 50 minutes, running a 6:07 (that’s 7:20 pace!!).

Some other 50 milers filtered through, although none were anywhere near the leader. Long before we expected, the 100 mile leader and his pacer came down the road. He had set a blazing pace early on with aspirations of breaking the course record (15:24), but had run headlong into a brick wall just 3 miles before my aid station. We offered him a chair, which he gladly accepted, and various food, but nothing was sounding good to him since he’d been vomiting. Finally, he decided to try a saltine, ate about a half of one cracker and threw that up. Then, he took a couple of drinks of chicken broth and threw that up. After at least 20 minutes of sitting, he decided that food wasn’t going to stay down, so he might as well start walking and hope for the best. We offered him good luck and he was off like a herd of turtles. As it turns out, he had built such a huge lead with his fast early pace that he would end up winning and would miss setting the course record by only 17 minutes. That’s pretty incredible considering that, out of all the runners I saw come through the station, he looked to be by far in the worst condition.

Before too long, night fell and more 100 milers began filing through, headlamps bobbing in the distance as they arrived. I could tell by this point that most were hurting, but almost all of them were in good spirits and with only 11 miles left knew that they were going to finish eventually. To the best of my knowledge, only 1 runner dropped from the race in the final 10 miles….all other drops came before they came back through my aid station. My overnight volunteering partner kept suggesting I lie down and try to get some sleep, but I honestly wasn’t even tired until well past midnight and then it got to a point where I thought I’d feel worse if I laid down and just got an hour of sleep as opposed to just gutting it out. So, gut it out I did, minus a few 10 minute cat naps as I sat in one of the lawn chairs waiting for the next runner to wander in.

Around 7:00 Sunday morning the tail end of the pack (the rear of the Lean Horse, as it was) was coming through. I decided to change into my running clothes (I take them everywhere) and go for a short run up the course to try and find the back of the pack. I passed several runners right away, another about 1.5 miles out and found the last three, running together, exactly 3 miles from the station. I told them how far they had to go at that point and turned around and ran back there myself. It wasn’t too long before they arrived and were gone. Jerry just so happened to arrive at that time with the official race vehicle (an old school bus he bought for $900) and we broke down my station, loaded the supplies onto the bus and I was off.

Upon arriving back in Hot Springs, I transferred my gear from the RV to my truck, took a quick shower at the Mueller Center and watched a few of the 27 hour 100 milers finish (much different from a marathon finish….no finishing kicks were to be found). I had thought about sticking around for the awards ceremony, but it wasn’t until 1:00, leaving me with 3 hours to kill. So, instead I decided to just hop in my truck, head home, and maybe get in a nap (didn’t happen).

I guess that witnessing an event like this could lead to one of two possible results. The sane one is that I’d see the pain and suffering involved with covering such a huge distance and vow to never ever run anything longer than a marathon (or maybe a 50K). The insane one is that seeing an event like this from the sidelines, where you can really see the how things shake out rather than just the first person perspective you get when you are participating, would make me want to run a 50 or 100 miler even more. Ultra running is a different breed of running from marathoning. Kind of like how bulldogs and greyhounds are both dogs, the same in many ways but different in many others. For many, marathons are about accomplishing time goals, getting faster and faster until the goal (4 hours, Boston, 3 hours, whatever) is met. Ultras are, unless you are one of the few ultra elite, more about survival, just trying to cover the distance with time goals taking second fiddle. Having met my major marathoning goal (BQ) back in July and having witnessed Lean Horse, I find myself ready to jump into survival mode. So, it’s very possible that I’ll be back at Lean Horse next year, but not in an RV. After all, if I run the 50 miler, I’ll get MUCH more sleep than I ever would volunteering again!

Monday, August 18, 2008

An 11 minute PR and 25 minute CR!

No, I didn't sneak in another race without telling anyone (although I would love to run the race I'm referring to, but the reasons why I can't will become obvious here shortly). Yesterday, my wife Shannon ran the Leading Ladies Half-marathon in Spearfish. As you might be able to ascertain from the race's name, it's an all-women race, which means that it features a lot of pink, purple, flowers, chocolate, and hugging....and a fast and scenic downhill course. This race was Shannon's first half-marathon a year ago and she finished that race in 2:30-something (okay, sue me....I can remember specific mile splits from my own Missoula Marathon or the score of the Seahawks game against Arizona five years ago, but not my wife's exact first half time). She lopped a good 14 minutes off that time at the Deadwood-Mickelson Half-marathon this past June.

Going into this year's Leading Ladies, she professed that there was no way she would be able to PR. This would have ramifications later on. You see, I actually believed her assertion that she would run no faster than 2:16. Being a runner myself and knowing all to well that we often hedge our bets (see my Missoula race report), I should have known better. So, Sunday morning I packed the kids up and we arrived at the finish line at right around the 2:07 mark of the race. Perfect timing, I thought. We waited a few minutes, looking intently for her to come down the last straightaway to the finish. As the time was ticking nearer to when we expected to see her, my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I fished it out and saw "Shannon" on the ID. What the? To be honest, the first stupid thought that went through my brain was "Why in the hell is she running with her cell phone and why is she calling me while she is running?" The truth soon became clear. She had ripped off an 11 minute PR, running a 2:05:12 (there, got that one to the second!) and was looking for us in the finish area. We missed seeing her by a few minutes (idiot!!).

The good news (besides Shannon's awesome run) is that I get a chance to redeem myself in 7 weeks. She is running the Crazy Horse Half in Hill City to complete the "Black Hills Trifecta" (Deadwood, Leading Ladies, Crazy Horse/Mt. Rushmore). I'm going to be sitting at the finish line with the kids at the 1:30 mark, no matter what kind of bull Shannon tries to feed me!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Slowly but surely

I am officially at the point where I just want my legs to quit being big wussies and just run at a good clip without complaint. It happens a few weeks after every marathon; the soreness from the race is long gone, leading my brain to believe that the speed that my legs had before the race should be back. Apparently marathons take something out of you, and I guess maybe 3 in 3 months culminating in a high effort BQ run takes even more out of you. The weather certainly isn't helping. It's not that I've had a lot of hot runs, only two in fact, but the humidity is killing me, propelling my heart rate through the roof on runs that my heart would usually barely notice. In any case, I guess bitching about it isn't going to help matters any (is it?...I could go on...).

So, here's how the week went:

Sunday - Rest

Monday - 6.4 miles recovery

Tuesday - 9 miles easy

Wednesday - Rest

Thursday - 10.2 miles easy. Awesome run...gave me hope that things will get back to normal eventually. It was actually supposed to be a 9 miler, but Google maps innaccuracy combined with me unknowingly running down a dead end road in the dark and having to double back, stretched it a little. But that was alright, because it felt good.

Friday - 6 miles recovery. Horrible run...one of the toughest I can remember for a while. Even at over 9:00 pace, my legs were just dead and did not want to move.

Saturday - 15 miles easy. Better than Friday, not as good as Thursday. Humidity was a factor and it wasn't as cool as I would like it to be (as in 45) when I get up at 5:00 on a Saturday to go running. It was in the mid 60s throughout the run, but the humidity was like a wet blanket and I was totally and utterly soaked with sweat when I got done. I lost 6 pounds of pure sweat in just over two hours of running. The fact that I ran down a couple of roads I've never run on before didn't help because those two roads turned out to be quite hilly. Oh well, now I know.

Total - 46.4 miles

So, another week of not much excitement. Maybe it's the lingering fatigue from Missoula or maybe the fact that I have a llllooonnnggg time before my next marathon, but there's just not much thrilling going on with my running right now. Honestly, the three most thrilling running events I have coming up really have nothing to do with me. First, my wife is running her 3rd half-marathon of the year (4th overall) this coming Sunday at the Leading Ladies Marathon in Spearfish. The next weekend is the Lean Horse Ultramarathon, which I won't be running but I will be manning the mile 10 and 90 (it's an out and back course) aid station. I'll be spending the weekend camping out in an RV, dishing out food and water to some runners and probably helping others mend torn up feet at some point. The third big running event coming up is the Olympic Marathon, which I guess is two events in itself (men's and women's). Here's hoping Deena Kastor and Ryan Hall (or any other Americans, but I'm guessing they are the likely candidates) bring home some hardware.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Newspaper article

As I mentioned in my last post, the local paper was hard up for something to fill the white space, so they decided to write a story about me qualifying for Boston. That picture of me oughtta scare off one or two loyal subscribers at least:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_QPpbsFb_xLI/SJmt5rw7jmI/AAAAAAAAAT8/26LXhGrdGnY/s1600-h/newspaper+001.jpg

Two things of note: my last name is Stores, not "Store" as stated (repeatedly) in the article; also, my BQ time in Missoula was 3:09:41, not 3:10:59. I would have had an even better story to tell if I had cut it that close!





Monday, August 4, 2008

Too damn hot

I'm a big fat wussy when it comes to heat and this last week was the hottest we've had so far this summer with highs in the 90s and pushing 100 for a couple of days. I am officially sick of summer and can't wait for fall (all two weeks or so of it) to arrive. I think when I retire, instead of spending the winters somewhere warm ( like Arizona) and the summers somewhere not as hot as Arizona, I'll just travel around following the 50 degree temperatures.

In any case, another week of recovery is in the books. Nothing too spectacular, except that I got totally wiped out by my "long" run on Saturday...

Sunday - There was no running to be had. It was a scheduled rest day, which was good, because scheduled or not, a rest day it was gonna be. You see, we were in Hamilton, MT, for my wife's high school reunion and the combination of a barbecue at her dad's house and the microbrew fest going on downtown took a mighty toll.

Monday - Another rest day, but alcohol wasn't a factor this time. A 680 mile drive home was. We left Hamilton at just after 5 AM and got back to Belle Fourche at about 4:30 PM. Sound like fun? Didn't think so...

Tuesday - 6.2 miles recovery. Nothing exciting, but it was too damn warm (60s) for 4:30 AM. I like my low temps in the 40s or 50s.

Wednesday - 6.3 miles recovery.

Thursday - 7.1 hot, hot, hot recovery miles. It was my wife's turn to run in the morning, so I did this one in the afternoon after getting off of work. Even though I was running a full minute per mile slower than my Missoula pace, my heart rate was the same. Damn heat....

Friday - 6.9 miles recovery. My wife got the morning run again and when I got off work at 4:30 it was pushing 100 degrees so I pushed the run back until it started getting dark at 9:00. It was still in the 80s then, about the same as Thursday's run.

Saturday - 13.3 more tiring than they should have been miles. After running at 9:00 the night before, I turned around and left at 5:30 in the morning to beat the Saturday heat, effectively giving me over 20 miles of running in less than 10 hours. It was definitely cooler, but still not as cool as I'd like (60s) again. I think the toll of the last two hot days and the quick turnaround from Friday's run was a little too much, because I was totally wiped out on this run. I was actually planning on running 14 miles, but somehow, even with a Garmin strapped to my wrist, managed to turnaround at the wrong place and came up 0.7 short. Honestly though, I didn't really give a damn by the time I reached my house...I was done at that point no matter what.

Total - 39.8 miles. Maddeningly close to 40, but oh well.

I'll bump the miles up a little bit more this week (and the next, and the next, and the next....).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

An AG award, a race shirt and a newspaper article

Man, I'm a slacker....guess I'm taking this recovery period a little too seriously and letting it affect my blogging too. Honestly, not much exciting is going on with my running right now, so not much to write about. Just plugging along. My legs feel good though, so that's good. And I did get in an awesome 12 miler (my longest run since Missoula) last Saturday when I was back in western Montana for my wife's high school reunion. I started from her dad's house and ran out to the Blodgett Canyon trailhead. Blodgett is a narrow canyon with extremely sheer walls that was carved back during the last Ice Age. I had to endure a lot of uphill on the way out, but it was worth it for the views I got of the Bitterroot Valley and the Sapphire Mountains on the far side of it.

Anyhow, on to my original intent of this post. I mentioned in my Missoula report that I won the 30-34 AG, but since I was chugging local microbrews at the Iron Horse, I missed out on the awards ceremony so had to have my award mailed. Well, it finally arrived this week, bringing to an end a couple of weeks of high anticipation. I got a Missoula Marathon bag (which I knew was coming). There was also a mystery manila envelope too, which turned out to contain a certificate saying I had won the AG. Not too exciting. I was secretly hoping for four plane tickets to Boston. Oh well.

I also got my new Missoula Marathon shirt in the mail this week. You see, I didn't actually try on the race shirt I got in my packet while I was in Missoula, but waited until getting back home only to find that the large, which is the size of every other shirt I own, fit more like a medium. So, I emailed the race director and she said she could exchange it for an XL, which fits much better (like a large should).

The third exciting item from this week was the phone call I got on Monday night from the sports editor of the local newspaper. Apparently, he's rrrrrreeeeaaaalllllyyyyy desperate for stories because he wants to write one about me qualifying for Boston (word gets around fast in a small town). He wanted to take some pictures of me running, but when I told him that I usually run at 4:30 AM, he decided that some pictures of me standing in my yard would work just fine. He asked me a bunch of questions about Boston and how I qualified, but while he was here I didn't actually see him write anything down, so this article should be interesting. I'm not sure when it will be printed, maybe in this Saturday's edition (the Belle Fourche Post and Bee is printed on Wednesdays and Saturdays).

So, that's my exciting news for the week! The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is next week, so maybe I'll have some more interesting tales to tell in the near future....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Heart of the Hills Race Report: My dumbest PR ever

Well, now that most of y’all have had a chance to make it through my Missoula epic (or have at least skipped ahead to the good part), here’s another race report for ya. I promise it won’t be as long.

Running yesterday’s Heart of the Hills 10.4 mile race probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my running life. But, in my post-Missoula, BQ-laced euphoria, it seemed like a good idea. Why, I don’t know, but it didn’t fully dawn on me until I actually started running yesterday that maybe it wasn’t.

The Heart of the Hills is one of the oldest and most popular races in the Black Hills. The race starts in Hill City and follows the old highway to Keystone (the nearest town to Mt. Rushmore). The distance between the two is 10.4 miles, hence the odd distance. The course itself is a bear, with a bunch of uphill in the first 3 miles including a lung-searing , leg-jellifying hill at the 1.5 mile mark, and then a general downhill with a few ups thrown in to keep ya honest in the remaining 7 miles.

My past experience with this race is a large part of why I wanted to run it again so badly. I’ve run Heart of the Hills once previously, two years ago. On that day, with a pretty much fully rested body, I suffered through one of the most humbling race experiences of my life. The big hill combined with temps near 100 absolutely destroyed me and I was walking, and seriously thinking of DNFing, by mile 3. I made it through and finished in 1:28:29 (8:30 avg. pace). I felt like I’d just run twice as far as I actually had. Last year, I missed (or was spared?) running Heart of the Hills because it fell on the same weekend as the inaugural Missoula Marathon. When I saw that this year’s race was a week later, I knew that I wanted to tackle that course again. When I was able to put the BQ demons to rest in Missoula, thereby clearing up my marathoning schedule for the fall, I knew I’d be back in Hill City.

So, yesterday afternoon (the race starts at the odd hour of 6:30 PM), we were off to Hill City. The race starts at the 1880 Train Station there, which is, as the name implies, the station for an 1880-era train that hauls tourists back and forth between Hill City and Keystone. I signed up, got my very bright green shirt, and then stood around contemplating why in the name of all that is holy I thought this would be a good idea. My legs have felt surprisingly good since Missoula, but I had only run twice since then and those were very nice, easy recovery runs, not 10.4 mile races up and down hills. I knew my ultimate goal was to beat my CR/PR, but I also thought that if things went very well, I could match my pace from Missoula (7:14) and finish in the 1:15 range. Another goal was to place in my AG (I finished 4th 2 years ago), which would earn me a cool railroad spike award. The weather at least was better than last time, with starting temps in the low 80s and a slight breeze in our faces.

With some cursory directions from the race director (take a right at the STOP sign, follow that road until you hit Keystone), we were off. I could immediately tell that my legs were not going to be happy with me for this, especially my left hamstring, which has felt a little tweaked ever since Missoula. I figured things would loosen up eventually and I’d fall into as much of a rhythm as you can while running up and down hills. My big mistake running this race last time was charging up that big hill and suffering for it later. I didn’t totally waste myself on it this time, but I probably could have taken it easier. By mile 4, we were out of the big hills for the most part and I was jockeying for position with two other guys who I thought might be in my AG. That ended at mile 6 when I felt a sensation akin to hitting The Wall in a marathon. As soon as we passed the 6 mile marker, I knew without a doubt that I was not going to keep up with those two. My hamstring was talking to me pretty good and the pace just was not comfortable, so I eased up and let them go. I would pass one runner in the final 4 miles and got passed by two others (who had probably played the uphill more conservatively). Finally, the 10 mile marker came into sight and, as we were on a pretty good steady downhill, I picked up the pace to finish strong and look good for the cameras. Here’s how the splits shook out:

1 – 6:52
2 – 7:54 (Big Hill)
3 – 7:18
4 – 7:00
5 – 7:36 (Another decent hill)
6 – 7:23
7 – 7:28
8 – 7:22
9 – 7:43 (Tired)
10 – 7:27
10.4 – 3:08

Finish Time – 1:17:15 (7:26 pace)
Overall Place – 21st (out of 120 or so…interestingly, this is only one place higher than I finished two years ago, despite the big CR)
AG Place – 2nd
CR/PR – 11:14 (this one was ripe for the pickin)

So, no 1:15, but that was an arbitrary goal anyhow. I did achieve the goal of getting my CR/PR (the two are basically one and the same in this case…..how many 10.4 mile races have you run??). And, I got my cool railroad spike (apparently those two guys weren’t in my AG). My hamstring was NOT happy about the situation and was mighty tender last night, but feels much better this morning after some ibuprofen and ice.

I would love to run this race again on rested legs, but given that it will probably always be near the Missoula Marathon (which takes personal priority), I’m not sure that will ever happen again.

So, now what? Not a damn thing, that’s what. I think it’s time to rest….