Sunday, September 30, 2001

RR Lewis and Clark Marathon

Race Report
Lewis and Clark Marathon
Bozeman, MT

Trip Report/Update: We are back in Colorado for a few more days while we close up our summer home and prepare for the drive to Florida. We plan to route through Dallas to spend a few days with my brother Doug and his wife Darlene and visit some friends. We had a fun trip to Montana although it didn't start out much fun. We had an early (9am) flight out of DIA (Denver airport) last Thursday and arrived two hours early which meant leaving the house at 5:30am. Even with the two hour buffer we missed our flight by more than one hour. There was some kind of security threat at DIA and it took us one hour just to get to the Delta ticket agent and then another 1& 3/4 hours to get through security. We were rebooked on a 12pm flight which left 30 minutes late because the security line was over 3 hrs long by then? But finally we arrived in Bozeman, MT around 4pm and immdiately started gathering information about Yellowstone National Park. We planned to visit the Park on Friday. Unfortunately there was a huge forest fire raging out of control in Purdy, southwest of Bozeman which meant we had to detour through GoldWest Country (SW Montana). This added about 60 miles to our trip but we did get to visit Virginia City, MT - an old mining town. But it is not as big or as interesting as Virginia City, NV. We drove south along the Madison River which provided some spectacular views of the Madison Range and the Tobacco Root Mtns and entered the Park through the West Yellowstone entrance in Wyoming. I didn't realize the Park was so big - it's a two-hundred mile loop (at 45mph) through the Park to the North Entrance. We stopped at some of the geothermal areas to view the hot springs and mud pools but did not have time to stop and view the wildlife every time we saw some. We did see lots of bison, elk, deer and I damn near ran over a fox but we never did see any bears? Of course we made the obligatory stop at Old Faithful and had to wait around and explore the area for 45 minutes while we waited for the next eruption. I thought that the geothermal areas were not as spectacular nor colorful as those we saw in Iceland but Old faithful came through higher and longer than the Great Geysir in Iceland! We then continued the loop along Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River north to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with its two specatcular waterfalls. We were lucky to arrive at Artist's Point just as the sun was setting on the west horizon and shining brilliantly through the western portal of the Canyon. We were treated to a dazzling kalaidescope of colors as the light relected off the variuus mineral deposits on the sides of the steep canyon walls. To me, Old faithful and the Canyon were the highlights of the trip. We then continued north through Mammoth Hot Springs where we were delayed by elk meandering across the road while grazing on the manicured grass of the resort. Finally we made it out the North gate and another hour later were back in Bozeman. It took us a total of 10 hours to make the trip. I would strongly recommend that you spend at least 2 or 3 days in the Park to enjoy all the wildlife and scenery. You can stay in hotels outside the Park entrances or there are resorts inside the Park at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. We might have returned to the Park on Saturday except for the hour-long drive just to get back to the North entrance. So we decided to explore Bozeman and the surrounding area instead. Bozeman is a small university city (30,000 pop.) nestled in a high valley or plateau between the Gallatin Mtns on the north and east and the Bridger Mtns on the west and south. It is kind of pretty but I think I am spoiled or biased because I didn't think Bozeman or any part of Montana was as pretty as Summit County, CO! As part of our exploration we decided to drive the marathon course to check it out. The course started in the Gallatin Mtns northeast of the city at 5500 feet and climbed to 6,000 feet over the first four miles. Only 4 or 5 miles of the course was paved roads, the rest was dirt roads and trails that followed some of the route used by Lewis and Clark during their expedition in 1805. Needless to say the course was very hilly. The first 16 miles ran up and down the Gallatin Mtns before turning back into the eastern suburbs of Bozeman and finally finishing south of the city. Sunday was M-Day and the weather was unseasonably warm - mid 40s at the start and low 70s by the time I crossed the finish line. I wasn't sure what kind of shape I was in so figured I should start out easy. Thus I was somewhat shocked when I hit the 10-mile mark in 80 minutes. I figured that was way too fast considering all the hills and the altitude. A series of steep nasty hills from 10 to 12 miles slowed my pace but again I was surprised when I crossed the half-marathon mark in 1:46 and change. Although I still felt good I was now very concerned that this race would turn very ugly - but I decided to forge ahead at my current (too-fast) pace and do a gut check at 20 miles. I almost got a lengthy and unwanted rest at 16 miles. The race director had warned us beforehand that there was a major rail crossing at 16 miles and not to try to beat any trains. As I was running along parallel to the tracks at 14 miles a train came by? At 15 miles it was still going by? I figured that if it were another 10 minutes long that I was going to have to wait. Fortunately as I approached the crossing the caboose went by and I was not delyed but there were about 15 pissed-off runners who had cooled their heels for about 10 minutes. See - it doesn't pay to be too fast in this race! At 16 miles we hit pavement again on the eastern suburbs of the city which lasted until 19 miles when the course was directed off into dirt trails that climbed a series of short steep hills in the foothills of the Gallatin Mtns. By mile 24 I was wondering if those damn trails and hills would ever end? Finally and gratefully I crested the final hill on the trail at 24.5 miles and was rewarded with a steep decline down to a paved road at 25 miles. I managed to gain enough speed and momentum going down that decline to hold a sub 8-minute pace over the last paved and flat mile(at 5,000 feet elevation)! I was very very pleased to cross the finish line in 3:33 - I had only slowed down by one minute over the second half! Only after I listened to all the other runners bitch and complain about the hills and how tough the course was and discovered that the winning time was only 3:02 did I realize that it must have been a tough course? Compared to the last two mountain trail marathons I had run this race seemed pretty easy? I can't wait to see how I do on a flat paved course at sea level? My time of 3:33 was good enough for 2nd place in spite of 10-year age groups (i.e. 50 to 59). Not surprisingly, two local young pups (both 51) won 1st and 3rd in my age group. Thankfully our return trip was much quicker, easier and non-eventful.

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