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

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

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.


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...