The 6th annual Missoula Marathon, orchestrated by a local running club, Run Wild Missoula, took place Friday, July 6th through Sunday, July 8th. Runners from all 50 states plus 5 countries converged on the gorgeous community of Missoula with a population of 110,000+ to partake in the celebration of a true racing event – the Missoula Marathon. I was one such participant and now that I’ve got the dry basics of reporting done, I can get on with the juice. I arrived early Friday evening and was greeted by 2 Marathon Maniacs (Dave and Patti) and 1 Half Fanatic (Amanda). I met up with another Maniac (Michelle, aka Mom O’ 6) while waiting for our flight out of Salt Lake City to Missoula and the 5 of us loaded up in Dave’s rented car and headed to our hotel. It’s not often that I head out to a race alone and end up in a group and I was thoroughly enjoying this new experience.
After checking in to my room, I met up with the group to head out to the Beer Run event – an excuse to gather with other participants over a cold frosty one at Tamarack Brewery. I had intended to take the 3 mile excursion through downtown Missoula but decided to park my hindquarters at the bar and pretend. Dave, Michelle and Patti decided to join me too but Amanda, being the odd duck, actually went out on the run. The brewery was hopping – with Maniacs, Fanatics and others meeting old friends and greeting new ones. At Tamarack we picked up our race packets for the morning’s 5k and ate some dinner. I met the “Biking Viking” – a Swede on a mission, some Maniacs and Jeff Galloway.
After the “beer run” the 5 of us headed out to the carousel and ice cream. We picked our horses, got out our cameras and prepared for our photo op. We couldn’t understand why the workers were so adamant about us buckling up but once it got started, we understood why – that sucker went fast. And it lasted forever. Lots of laughing, a little dizziness and some hit and miss photos and we were pretty glad we hadn’t partaken in too much of the Tamarack brew. From the carousel we headed to the Big Dipper for ice cream and stood in line. It always seems I’m standing in line for food. In Portland it was at VooDoo Doughnuts. In New Orleans it was for beignets. In Kansas City it was at Oklahoma Joe’s for BBQ. And in Missoula, it was for ice cream. It was good ice cream, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure it was line-worthy. Although residents tell me that the line is always present so I’m probably in the minority.
I must add that we drove to everything. The brewery was about a mile away from the hotel, the carousel was across the street from the brewery and the ice cream was .3 miles from the carousel. A group of 5 people, who will be running/walking a total of 94.1 miles over the next 2 days (not including the walking about), drove about 2 miles to their adventures. Is that irony? I never really was able to grasp the concept of it.
In any case, the next morning, Amanda and I met in the lobby to head out for the 5k. It was a beautiful day in Missoula and the sun was shining – hotly. We met up with Dave, Patti, Michelle and Santa and headed to the start line. Over 400 runners toed the start and when the gun went off, we were off: some (everyone but me) much faster than others (me). The course meandered along the Clark Fork River and was nicely shaded. I took in the scenery, talked to other walkers, and enjoyed the walk. When I finally came to the finish line, I was greeted by Amanda and the cutest little kids around. Amanda got a little stalker’ish with the photos but the kids were adorable. They handed me my medal (a medal for a 5k? Score!) and a paper flower and told me, in the best little kid voice, “good job!” My first 3.1 miles of my 16.2 mile weekend was in the books and while I did not PR (Michelle came in 3rd and Patti came in 4th), I had a blast.
After the 5k, Amanda and I walked through the expo and got our packets for the half marathon on Sunday. Sunday’s half marathon would mark Amanda’s 50th state (plus DC) in the 50 States Half Marathon Club – 45 months of training and racing finally culminating in the accomplishment of her goal. This is an amazing feat and I was tickled that I got to mark her final state off with her. The Biking Viking signed Amanda up for a 4 hour volunteer shift at the expo so we wrapped up our expo gawking and headed back to the hotel. I puttered around the room for a bit, enjoyed the air conditioning and then headed back in to the expo area to see what I could see. I got some of the best fried donuts, a diet coke and shopped at the Fanatic booth. I then found my way to MacKenzie River Pizza Company and ordered some lunch. It wasn’t the best lunch and the service kind of stank but it did the trick of filling the void in my tummy and getting me out of the heat. I stopped at Amanda’s station, asked her if she needed anything and then headed back to the hotel to take a nap. And nap I did. For a good 3 hours. It was wonderful. The room was dark and cool, I was content and I had no homework to procrastinate. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more relaxing nap.
That night, after my nap, I got up and got ready for the Maniac/Fanatic dinner. The last dinner I went to was in Phoenix for the RnR in 2011. I wasn’t a Fanatic then (I still had one more qualifying half marathon to do) so I felt a little awkward crashing the dinner – even if my ride, a double agent (Maniac and Fanatic), assured me that I would be welcome. For this dinner, I was a bona fide Half Fanatic and I was looking forward to it. I rode with Amanda and Allen and the Biking Viking and we got to the restaurant a little before everyone else. As people started to arrive, the volume in the room we were in grew by decibels – lots of laughing, hugging and joking going on. We had two servers to the 40+ of us and they did an excellent job keeping our drinks filled and the bread coming. I sat next to a natural comedian who kept me rolling with laughter. I wish I could remember his name but I can’t so I’ll just call him Mohawk Dude. Mohawk Dude took it upon himself to take Michelle’s sparkly heart headband out of her purse and wear it on his head. And it took Michelle a few beats to realize what he had done. I hope I run into Mohawk Dude again – he and his wife are funny. As we gathered out front of the restaurant to take a group picture, a rainbow appeared – glowing brightly from the clouds to the mountains. I took it as a sign for a good race in the morning.
The race was scheduled to start at 6 am so we said good night to our friends and headed back to the hotel. That is, after we dropped the Swede off at his bike, Marc (he arrived Saturday afternoon, went to his hotel and ran to the restaurant – really making me feel inadequate for driving those 2 miles the night before) off at his hotel and then Allen off at his hotel. We also had to stop at a gas station for Diet Dr. Pepper. There was nary a Diet Dr. Pepper to be found and I was going into serious withdrawals. We finally pull into our hotel around 8 or so and Amanda and I made plans to meet in the morning and then we said good night.
Back in my room, I got everything ready for the morning, puttered around on Facebook and then hit the sack. For the first time before a race in my memory, I slept – and I slept soundly. But that stupid alarm, going off at 3:30 in the morning, was not welcome. Groggily I arose, hopped into the shower and began my pre-race ritual. I had to braid my hair to keep it out of my face. That required a shower so it would be wet. After braiding comes the taping. I tape up the soles of my feet in an attempt to avoid blisters. Then comes the Glide and finally the running skirt, socks, shoes and shirt. I loaded up my running pack with fuel, attached my hydration bottles (also known as “snacks” and “drinks”) and headed out to meet Amanda. The time was 4:40 am.
Amanda and I head in the direction we think the busses are and start talking to another lady headed the same way. Eventually we discover that she is none other than Mrs. Jeff Galloway. I never did learn her first name and I don’t think she ever offered it. She introduced herself as “my husband is Jeff Galloway”. We figure she probably knows where she’s going so we walk with her and talk the whole way. What an amazing woman. She does full marathons and believes in the Galloway method of run-walk-run. In fact, the whole town is Galloway converts so I thought maybe, just maybe, I would give the method a try on my walk. We get to the busses, wish Mrs. Galloway a good run and find the line for the bus that would take us to the half marathon start. The busses are run efficiently and quickly – we weren’t in line more than 10 minutes – and we soon found ourselves at the start line. Amanda and I find the bag drop, write our stats on our calves, take the required pre-race photos, visit the porto-pots and soon it’s time to line up. I wish Amanda the best 50th state run she could have and we part ways – she to the runner section and me to the walker section.
The race start was heralded by fireworks – a good 10 minute display – expressing all the excitement and energy that the crowd was feeling. I set my cardio-tracker, adjusted my visor and headed out. Within the first half mile, the tape on my feet started to rub. And it didn’t rub in the usual places, this rubbing took place on the arch of my right foot. I tried to ignore it, thinking it would work itself out, but it didn’t. It just got worse and became an all-consuming irritation. By mile 1, I knew I had a problem and if I didn’t fix it, I wouldn’t finish. By mile 2, it took over every thought, every breath, and took on every fear that the little voice in my head tells me – “you’re not good enough”, “why are you out here”, “you’ll never finish this race” and on and on and on. I couldn’t have another DNF to my credit so I stopped, took my shoe and sock off and looked for the offending bubble of tape causing me to doubt myself. I couldn’t find it so I just pulled the tape off and lo and behold, I see a nice little blister in the arch of my foot. I don’t know what was causing it – there was no bubble in the tape, no rock in my shoe, no real reason for the offending skin to be causing such an issue. I put my sock and shoe back on and told myself that I would stop at the next aid station for a Band-Aid and began walking again.
Now I was at the very rear of the pack and all earlier thoughts of doing the Galloway method went flying out the window – all I could think about was not being last; for one race in my life, I didn’t want to be last.
So I sucked it up and picked up my pace and looked around. I looked at the sun cresting over the mountains, at the green fields surrounded by the early morning haze and at the river, peacefully meandering toward the ocean. And soon my foot was no longer bothering me. I set my sights on a couple in front of me – and passed them. I set my sights on another group – and passed them. And soon I found my groove, walking easy, enjoying the sights and relishing in each breath. I did a modified Galloway method in that instead of run-walk-run I did walk fast-walk-walk fast. I did this through mile 10 and it worked for me. I would walk a little bit with a couple of people, talk with them and then move on. I slowed down and chatted with a lady from Canada who was walking with a lady from Atlanta – they met about 2 miles earlier – and we discussed our races, where we are from, what our goals are. The lady from Atlanta invited me to stay with her if I ever found my way there and the lady from Canada asked my advice on blisters on the balls of her feet. The lady from Atlanta got a cramp in her hip so I gave her my Cliff Blocks and then it was time for me to move on.
All throughout the course, community members came out to offer their encouragement. Some set up sprinklers to help battle the heat, some offered popsicles and some offered high fives. I asked one family if this was the worst parade they’ve ever seen and they told me it was the best parade in the world. A gentleman had pulled his baby grand piano into his yard and was playing for us – in a tux. And all the while I felt I was really making good time and might even be on track to get a PR. I would talk with fellow walkers, set my sights on a group ahead of me and move on. Up to about mile 6, I didn’t listen to my iPod but I realized I needed a little more motivation so I broke it out and plugged my ears in. Soon the music, the blue sky, the community and the sheer gorgeousness of the mountains was driving me on. I kept wondering what I would do when I hit my wall – generally about mile 9 – but when I passed the marker and I was still going strong, I thought maybe I finally beat it.
I munched on my fuel, drank my hydration and plugged along. And then mile 10 hit me. Usually mile 10 gets me past my wall, this time it made me stumble. Usually I think, “Only 5k to go!” This time I thought, “Only 5k to go – it takes me almost an hour to do a 5k when I’m fresh.” And the mind battle began again. This time my left foot started to bother me (I took the tape off it at about mile 4) and then my knee started to ache. I slowed down dramatically and I was beating myself up for the slowing down. It’s a vicious cycle, this self-doubt, it finds a little wiggle room and soon it’s a full-blown confidence buster – self-depreciating insults bouncing around inside an already fragile ego. If this had happened any earlier in the race, say around mile 4 or 5, I can’t say I would’ve finished but fortunately it happened at mile 10 – when I only had a 5k to go.
And this is how the battle would go – Nasty ego: “You’re never going to finish.” Self-confidence: “Oh yes I am, 5ks are nothing.” Nasty ego: “You have no right to be out here.” Self-confidence: “I have every right to be out here – I paid.” (ok, so self-confidence thinks she’s funny) Nasty ego: “You’re too fat.” Self-confidence: “That may be true but here I am.” Nasty ego: “You look ridiculous.” Self-confidence: “I look ridiculously fabulous what with the sweat dripping off everything.” Nasty ego: “Just give up.” Self-confidence: “No.”
Back and forth the voices in my head would go until I came to mile 12. That’s when I knew I was going to make it. It won’t be a PR but it will be a finish and with that knowledge came a little more (not much) pep. As I’m walking into the last .1 mile, 2 ladies catch up to me. They tell me they’ve been trying to catch up with me since about mile 3 and that they were glad they finally did. Well, that brought the competitiveness out in me and I look at both of them and tell them that I was glad I was able to encourage them along but the only way they were going to catch up with me was if they ran. And I ran. My calves started to cramp but I kept running, all the way through the finish chute. And I hear my name announced (incorrectly), “and it’s Brittany Hall from Grand Junction!” I finished a whole 3 minutes in front of those two ladies. I found them after and thanked them for that last little push and they thanked me for keeping them going throughout the course. We were all just so full of thankfulness it was getting a little mushy.
I collected my medal, got my picture taken and looked for the promised chocolate milk. Let me explain, all over the course there were signs meant to encourage the runners. One of the signs said, “All of this for chocolate milk?” I was so excited to see that sign. I thought for sure it meant there would be chocolate milk – my most favorite recovery drink in the world – waiting for me at the end. There was no chocolate milk: just water and Poweraid. I was highly disappointed. I text Amanda, tell her I was done (she finished at 2:39 or something amazing like that) and we met and walked to the beer tent. I got a Michelobe Ultra and found a place in the shade to sit. She found Marc and the Swede and we both went about our recovery in our own fashion. I am not a people person. Or rather, I’m not a crowd of people at once person. It takes a lot for me to engage and be charming and share in conversation and after the race I was at my limit for people. So I finished my beer and told Amanda I was going back to the hotel. She asked me to stay and I told her that I was done with people and she told me good job. I congratulated her on finishing her awesome goal of 50 States plus DC and wandered off to the hotel to relax in the cool silence of my room.
So I didn’t PR but I also didn’t PW. I finished the race and get to color in Montana on my map. I now have 12 states completed.
Run Wild Missoula – I’ll be back. You were a beautiful course with incredible support and wonderful scenery.