Sunday, July 10, 2011

That's More Like It!

I finished the Missoula Marathon in less than five hours, the fastest I've been able to run a marathon this year. And Missoula is a good marathon - if you're thinking of running one in Montana, I recommend it highly.

My Race:

The right kneecap hurt off and on the whole way. I stopped to wiggle the kneecap a few times, with uncertain results - it was always better afterward but might have been anyway, just because I stopped. Several times the knee produced a sharp pain, as if hit with a projectile, but those pains resolved quickly and I could usually start running again within half a minute. I tried to run on the most-level part of the road and to take corners very carefully, both of which may have helped. Anyway I just ran through that pain and the knee was not a limiting factor.

Otherwise, no problems. In recent marathons the calves have threatened to cramp, but not today. I did take a salt tablet or two every four miles, clif shot with caffeine every other four, and water at every aid station but the last. I didn't carry water and didn't need it.

I did run out of gas though. For once my pace wasn't limited by the knee or the calves, just by sheer muscle exhaustion. That's fine! Except for the knee, no pains unless you consider the effort of running to be painful. I don't - to me it just seems like working very hard, to the limit. Breathing was normal until mile 24 or so, and then it became more urgent, as it should at the end of any race. I feel so good afterward - quads, calves, and hamstrings are uniformly sore but uninjured.

Time 4:57:03, second of five in my age group. Average pace 11:20. I followed the 5:00 pace team for quite a while, catching up to them after each of three bathroom stops, then finally chugged out ahead. I used the walk/run method, most of the time running 30 seconds and walking 30. State number 36, marathon 54, completed.

The Missoula Marathon:

  • The expo was outdoors, in a park under a huge tent. Well done.
  • Women could choose a finisher's shirt in a woman's style.
  • One exhibit at the expo had shirts & sweatshirts for $3.00! Some of them were quite nice. Pants were $1.00. They were used, of course, collected from a high school lost-and-found or from discards at other races, then washed. The idea was to use them at the chilly start and eventually throw them alongside the road, where they would be collected and used again. I started with a very nice $3.00 Columbia polar fleece vest, and later tossed it near an aid station. This is a WONDERFUL idea - I hope it catches on. Race directors take note!
  • Fireworks at the start! Very inspiring.
  • 6:00 am start. This is a big plus for me, because it means running in the cool of the morning.
  • The sun illuminated the snow of the opposite mountains just as we started.
  • Not much shade at the beginning, but a delightful view of mountains, and there was shade in the last 10k when temperatures had risen.
  • On a roadside sign: "Don't mess with someone who runs 26 miles for FUN!"
  • One woman was running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). We had a chat and I'm sure she knows how much one guy appreciates her effort. She could be saving my life.
  • It's a one-way marathon, with ALL runners bussed to the start. Almost all of the race was on roads not closed to traffic, but there really wasn't much traffic. No problem.
  • According to the elevation chart it's an uphill marathon, gaining a couple hundred feet, but I swear it felt like a downhill marathon. There is really only one significant hill, which took us up and then down again.
  • As in most marathons, the volunteers were superb! They really wanted to be there and were having fun.
  • The 5:00 pace team leader knew what we needed and did it right. To my own surprise, I finished a couple of minutes ahead of the team.
  • Weather could hardly be better, about 46 at the start and 66 at my finish, clear, no wind. Imagine NO WIND in Montana!
  • The dew point was in the 30's the whole way - VERY low humidity, which helps keep runners cool.
  • The mile markers were wonderful, easily seen, inspiring to a tired runner.
  • Literally dozens of homeowners left sprinklers running on half of the road for runners to run through if we wished. Chicago Marathon take note!
  • Clearly, Johnny Mapleseed came through Missoula years ago, because lovely, mature maples arch over many of the residential streets.
  • Someone had put up several signs with quotations from the movie "Top Gun," like "Just stay on my wing, I'll take you all the way in."
  • Spectators were magnificent, especially after mile 18 or so when we got into town. Lots of little kids - I high-fived as many as I could.
  • Both the full and half marathons are walker-friendly, with an early start for the full and a six-hour limit for the half.
  • Finish line food was superb! The Good Food Store did it right. There was watermelon! Gosh I love that at the end of a race.
  • The exception was fluid, provided by Coca Cola, who had chilled bottles of their "products" but no chilled bottles of plain water for people who didn't want to ingest that stuff. You could get water in small paper cups if you wanted to stand and get your feet wet filling a cup from a spraying nozzle fed by a water hose, but a bottle is a lot nicer. Coca Cola sells water too - they can do better. Or maybe Pepsi could.
  • The finisher medals are quite artistic. They look like fired enamel on plated brass, but could be epoxy I suppose. Nice!
  • Internet results were a little slow, still unavailable several hours after the race ended. In the modern day of chip timing, it's possible to have partial, unofficial results up even DURING the race, and many races do that.
  • Finishers: Marathon 1057, half 2394.

About 68,000 people, mostly living on a plain which was the bottom of a glacial lake millenia ago. It is surrounded by nearby hills and more-distant mountains.

Missoula is a destination for hikers and bikers (bikes with pedals, of course), who enjoy the several trails that go up into the hills and probably beyond.

There is a university, and the town is a mix of cowboy and cosmopolitan. Lots of pickup trucks with dirt all over them, and we also saw lots of dads who brought their little ones to see the runners go by.

The Clark Fork River is high right now, running fast. We saw kayakers braving the rapids right through downtown. Missoula is a cool town.

Splits: 12:17, 22:18 (2 mi), 11:25, 11:27, 10:57, 14:21 (major potty stop), 10:42, 10:39, 11:14, 10:23, 11:58, 11:15, 11:43, 10:29, 10:17, 10:43, 11:52, 11:24, 11:44, 11:14, 11:36, 11:40, 11:29, 10:47, 10:51, 2:23 (0.22 mi), total 4:57:03.

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