Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Missoula, Montana: Marathon - #14

When I was training for my 6th or 7th marathon, a friend who was training for her 3rd asked me "When do they get easier?" I smiled, remembering when I too thought that after a certain amount under my belt they be less challenging, and then gave her an honest answer "They never do. It always comes down to your to your training for that one, no matter how many you've done."
My 14th marathon!
I flew to Missoula on July 6th with Sandy and Art. This was going to be Sandy's 20th marathon, and Art's 61st, but since he was still recovering from surgery he was doing the 1/2. We were there four days before race day, and I went for a 3 mile run that afternoon. On my run, I began to worry about the 3,200 foot elevation coupled with the heat; it was in the mid 80's! Those 3 miles weren't easy, and as I ran back to the hotel I was imagining doing 23 more.
Lake MacDonald


 On Thursday we drove 150 miles North of Missoula to the West entrance of Glacier National Park which I was excited to learn extends into Canada. We drove as far as we could (16 miles) on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is only fully open 2 months of the year due to snow. From that point, we took a small tour bus farther, up to Heaven's Peak. Billed as one of the most scenic stretches of highway in the world, it made the beautiful drive there pale by comparison.




Going-to-the-Sun Road
Glacier NP would have been a beautiful place to hike, but since it was already Thursday, we were trying to stay off our feet as much as possible. We had a picnic lunch, dipped our feet in some very cold streams and took pictures. We also went on a short hike to a waterfall where the tour bus dropped us off.



Sandy and I, w/ Heavens Peak in background 


After spending the day in Glacier National Park, we stopped at Huckleberry Patch to buy a pie to share with our hosts at the cabin we were going to be staying at that night. A $27 pie. We knew huckleberries were special, but didn't realize that the fact they can't be grown/farmed drives the price up. At dinner the previous night our waitress told us about their family's tradition of going huckleberry hunting at the end of each summer. We ordered a huckleberry sundae and were then on a mission to find any and all things huckleberry. Between the three of us we purchased: huckleberry pancake mix, huckleberry brownie mix, huckleberry preserves, huckleberry syrup, huckleberry honey, huckleberry licorice, huckleberry jelly beans, huckleberry frozen yogurt and then the pie, which was the best of all! But back home after the race, Sandy found the one huckleberry item that would've helped us the most: Huckleberry Hammer Gel!

After our huckleberry fix, we drove to the cabin on Swan Lake. On the way there, Sandy and I spotted some gigantic hay bales that weigh about 1,000 pounds and stopped for some photos as a storm rolled in.
Sunset - 9:30pm


That night, the storm brought us some rain and thunder that was so loud it actually shook the floor of the cabin. The lights flickered on and off a few times as our hostess cooked us lasagna. She and her husband were both retired school district employees (he, superintendent; she, teacher) and we marveled at what it must be like to have a graduating class of four, or 250 children total in the district. We stayed up by the fire until after 10pm talking about Montana and stories of being snowed in; snow so deep that a snowmobile rode right over a car without the  driver realizing it, until the person came out of the bar yelling 'you just ran over my car!' About Hutterite  colonies that attend local school until 8th grade and produce a lot 

of agriculture, and about our upcoming race. They were as interested in our marathon adventures as we were in Montana, and it was neat to describe our previous destination marathons and answer lots of questions like: What do you eat while you're running? What if you have to go to the bathroom? Why do you do it? It was almost dark by 10:30pm and as I retired to bed upstairs, thoughts again drifted to the race. I slept in as long as possible - almost until 9am while everyone had breakfast and went for a walk. But there were plenty of huckleberry pancakes left for me! We headed back to Missoula, stopping for lunch along the way. That night I went out for sushi, pink animal cookie ice cream and great conversation. Key ingredients to race day success! 


When I woke up on Saturday, I went to the expo and picked up my bib, purchased a few race-logo items and walked around town. It was so warm out that I was sweating as I ducked into the Missoula Art Museum. This made me a little nervous about the weather for the next day, but I learned the high each day isn't until around 4pm and I planned to be finished well before noon. Whenever I'm in a new city, I make it a point to visit the art museum. Contemporary art is my favourite and I always find a piece or two that leave an impression. 
William Ohrmann, "I don't think much of a man's religion if it makes no difference to how he treats his dog. ~Abraham Lincoln"
Marathon morning came at 4am. Luckily, I had slept well thanks to my trusty Target-brand sleeping pills. After I was dressed, I grabbed everything I had set aside in a bag the night before: 5 hour energy drink, iPod and arm-band, camera, cell phone, gatoraid, sunscreen and a cliff bar. We drove to the finish line and then were bussed to the start in Winters. It was still dark, and it was (thankfully) cold. I met several of the other Lopers that Sandy knew, and met up with Bridgette, who I met on my 20 miler run in Orange County a month prior. We snapped some pics (and of course I updated my fb status!) and I left those things in a bag with my bib number, so I could collect them at the finish. 

Running a marathon on her 60th birthday - inspiring!

Bridgette and I, before the race.


The National anthem was sung and there was a short fireworks display, and then we were off. The sun was rising within the first 6-8 miles but it was still in the 50's as I shed my sweatshirt and threw it on the ground. I usually make a concerted effort not to go too fast...but I felt good and didn't worry about the fact that some of my miles were coming in under 9 minutes. I had only brought 1 package of gu chomps with me, expecting there to be more at the water stops. But after passing the 3rd water stop that didn't have any, I began searching the ground for unopened packages. In all, I picked up 3 packets of gu off the ground throughout the race, exactly what I needed. 
Feeling good, around mile 10.


I started the first few miles without my music, listening to the sound of shoes striking the pavement, over-hearing different parts of conversations, and the sound of my own breathing. But that's about as interesting as it sounds, so I put in my iPod and the miles started to fly by. My time for the first 13 miles was 1:58. This is a 9:05 minute per mile pace, and a good time for a 1/2 marathon. But then, I slowed down. I slowed way down.


See, there was a hill at mile 14. A pretty big hill. I walked up part of it, and then tried to make up some time on the downhill. At this point, I still felt like a PR was attainable, if I kept up the same pace or even slowed down a bit. But downhill is really hard on your quads, and by mile 17 I was asking spectators on the course for ibuprofen (a really nice lady gave me four 200mg pills) and maintaining the same pace just wasn't possible. I was expending more effort, yet going slower. This became really clear to me when the 4:30 pace group who I had been in front of the whole time ran past me. I had been at their pace, faster than their pace actually, but now hanging onto them seemed impossible and I watched them fade out of sight.


In retrospect, I should not have gone out as fast as I did. Maybe if I had a 9:30/min pace per mile for the first half, I would have had more energy at the end. But at least I know I did push myself, and I gave it everything I had. I took my iPod off for the last mile, where there were finally some spectators, cheering me on. Because our bibs didn't have our names, they yelled out "Go #241!" or "Looking strong!" As always, it felt amazing to cross the finish line: Finish Cam.
Elated & exhausted!


These ladies stuck together the entire race!


I had some food, and waited to congratulate Sandy and her friends. We showered and met Barbara and her husband at their RV for a home-cooked meal of carne asada tacos, chips and salsa and German chocolate cake to celebrate her 60th birthday. Everything tastes better after a marathon!


After I had a small real coke (not diet) I felt a little more coherent and back among the living. I really was wiped out after this marathon, maybe due to the elevation, or going out to fast. Before that coke, even talking or thinking seemed to require a lot of effort. I wasn't just physically exhausted, but mentally out of it as well. It was difficult to think or interact, but I also felt calm and peaceful. It's not a bad feeling to not be able to think clearly, especially for someone who often has the opposite problem: thinking too much. 


We had a good night's sleep and on Monday, drove south of Missoula to explore the Bitterroot Valley  and the town of Darby. Along the way, we drove up a road and did a 3 mile hike that gave us some amazing, sweeping views. I also found a horse that let me kiss him.


Muah!



Tuesday, we hiked up to the 'M' above the city, I had a 90 minute massage - the best one of my life- and ate at Cracker Barrel before catching our late afternoon flight home. 
Wendy, Sandy and I, above Missoula.
After my 1st marathon (LA in 2003) I actually said "I will never do that again!" and happily checked 'running a marathon' off my life's to-do list. But here I am, fourteen later. They may not get any easier, like I thought they would when I was new, but something keeps me coming back for more. It's not just what happens during those 4 1/2 hours, how I felt or what my time was. It's the long training runs with friends, the nervousness before, the sense of accomplishment afterwards and all of the experiences in between that I'm hooked on.