Monday, March 31, 2008

Running in the Last Best Place

It's been awhile since I posted here thanks to me being off in Missoula last week for work-related training (Contracting Officer's Representative.....yawn). Rather than list all of my workouts from the past two weeks, I'll just talk about my few days spent in Missoula, which is my favorite place in the world.

William Kittredge, an author and former professor of creative writing at The University of Montana, referred to Montana as the "Last Best Place". I grew up in the northcentral Montana plains and spent 4 years in Missoula obtaining my bachelor's degree from UM. Ever since I left Missoula, I've wanted desperately to move back. But, alas, jobs in my field, while fairly plentiful, are difficult to get. You see, Forest Service employees tend to stay in Missoula until they either retire or die, so I have to sit idly by waiting for one or the other to happen, thereby creating a job opening for me. Another factor making it hard to move back to Missoula is that it has been "discovered", meaning that it's one of the fastest growing areas of the state, largely due to out of staters moving in (if you're from California and you ever travel to Missoula, you're better off not mentioning that fact). Consequently, Missoula and the nearby Bitterroot Valley are also one of the most expensive places to live in Montana. While an average home price of over $200,000 isn't much on the east coast or in California, it's much higher than most other areas of Montana (and much higher than my current location in South Dakota). So, the stars will have to align almost perfectly before I have the opportunity to move back there permanently.

In any case, I knew that I would have to attend a COR class this year and decided that if I was going to suffer through a couple of days of mind-numbing lectures I would at least do it someplace cool. When I found a class in Missoula, I jumped all over it. I drove over there last Monday, making it in about 9.5 hours (two hours faster than it would take me to get back, thanks to a spring snowstorm that hit much of Montana and Wyoming). As soon as I had checked into my hotel, I threw on my running clothes and headed out for an easy 4 miler along the River Trail, which is an old railroad line along the Clark Fork River that the city has converted to a walking/biking path. Within the first 2 miles of my run, I saw some hippies and a bum sleeping under a tree and knew that I was indeed back in Missoula.

On Tuesday, I had a speed workout planned, 12 miles with 6x1000m intervals, so I ran a circuitous path from my hotel to Dornblaser Field, home of the UM track team. On the way there, I ran past the house I lived in during my last two years of college. Let's just say that back then, it looked like 5 poor college students lived in it. It obviously has new owners now and is probably worth at least twice as much. When I reached the track, I started in on my intervals and after a few found myself kind of intruding on the Run Wild Missoula (the local running club) track night. They had a bunch of people there running at a bunch of different speeds, so I was alternately dodging and running with other people and felt kind of like a jackass for just doing my own thing. Regardless, the workout went really well and I made sure to apologize to the girl who was leading the RWM workout (who I would later learn was a Canadian Olympian) when I was finished. She was totally nice and cool about it and asked if I wanted to join the group. I told her I'd had my fill of speedwork for the day and headed off back to the hotel.

I had mapped out what looked like a cool route for Wednesday's 15 miler on Map My Run, but a lunchtime drive of the route (we had a two hour lunch that day....lame) revealed that one of the roads I had planned on running was a private road, which cut off one of my loops. So, I ended up running a 10 mile out and back up the Rattlesnake Valley, where I used to take my dog hiking when I lived in Missoula, and then a 5 mile loop past campus and through downtown, including across the Higgins St. bridge, which will serve as the finish line of this year's Missoula Marathon.

Thursday was a simple 6 mile out and back along my Rattlesnake route before loading my crap up and making the slow, long drive home through a spring blizzard. Have I mentioned on here how Mother Nature is a dirty, dirty hobag?

So, that was my Missoula trip. I'm already looking forward to my next visit, which will be for the Missoula Marathon in July.

1 comment:

jen said...

Awww, that's a nice recap. I lived in Missoula for 4 years of college (grew up in Helena before that), and my boyfriend (husband now) lived in the Rattlesnake. If I move back there I will play up my Montana roots and downplay my stint here in CA. :)

Another strong week for you, you're going to rock your goal race!