The Seeley Lake Half Marathon – 2/27/10
Sun is out for once here in Montana. The snow is receding. Winter clothes have gone on sale. It must be that time again. Race time. The season is fast approaching and training is about to be kicked into high gear soon. I have 2 more weeks of off-season workouts before I get into the real meat of adding endurance back on the speed. This winter for me has been haphazard. With all the changes and business meetings, its been very hard keeping to the schedule. Ive still been plenty active, but I’ll admit that I’m not where I want to be right now. I’m still about eight pounds heavier than I want to be also. More hummus and yogurt for me.
The official first event of my season has come and gone: The Snow Joke Half Marathon in wonderful and wild Seeley Lake, Montana. It was an exciting day for me as my first race ever in Montana. I had been planning for it all winter, and I expected anything from 5 degrees and blizzard to 10 degrees and sheer ice. Notice I said planning, not training: My longest run prior to the race was 11 miles, and I had been mostly sticking to short interval runs about 2-3x a week. Nevertheless, I had heard from others that this was an experience not to miss. I mean with a name like Snow Joke, how could I go wrong. So I hopped into the truck and drove 2 hours to the lake, which is west of Helena.
Much to my surprise, and just about to everyone else in Montana also, the weather was a down right balmy 41 degrees and sunny on race day. This was billed as a “low-key” event, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. After getting into “town” I made my way to the school gym where sign ups were occurring. No fancy-schmancy internet registration for this one; that’s for city folk! Also cotton T-Shirts by reservation only, and no chip timing. What do you expect for 10 dollars. After registration I did my usual pre-race routine of relieving myself of any unnecessary “weight” in the bathroom and listening to music in my truck. Nothing like some Bette Midler to get me in the mood. Just kidding.
Five minutes prior to the 11:00 start, I donned my shoes, headed over to the start line, (which was spray painted on the road in orange) and waited. And waited. And waited. Unfortunately, my first Big Sky race was plagued by my biggest race pet peeve: the late start. A 25 minute late start to be exact. Why? Was it an accident on the course? A delay in the timing setup? Nope. I had to wait 25 minutes to listen to the race director use a non-functioning megaphone to lay out the ground rules and espouse his political views. After some pretty good teeth gritting and getting chilled to the bone, they finally started the race in true Western fashion, with a shotgun.
So off we go, and about 30 seconds in, I immediately get stuck in a bottleneck of walkers trying to avoid a 50 foot section of ice, snow, and puddles.. After dodging, we made it on the main road where things quickly thinned out. The first three miles I used as a warm up, running about a 9:00 min pace. One thing that was immediately clear in those first 3 miles was that it was going to be up and down the entire way. Back in VA, I was use to racing on essentially flat terrain 75% of the time. This race wasn’t even billed as hilly, and it was hillier than anything Ive been on before besides the bike course of CDA. So up and down we go, and I held my pace pretty good for the first three.
After warming up, I settled into a 8:30 pace. I had planned on an 8:00 pace, but the legs weren’t quite feeling it. We went another 3 miles on the up and down and then the route hanged a left onto a dirt road in the woods. Well, dirt covered in ice, snow, and slush. For a good while,my stride was off as I had to gingerly navigate through this stuff, a task made extra difficult by forefoot running in my Newtons. For some reason, I kept imagining Curling in the Olympics, and how I would look like that disc sliding along the ice if I fell.
Essentially, between mile 6-12, it was up and down. I had planned to bump things up to a 7:15 pace between 10-13, but I was pretty much spent by that point. I forgot to bring any gels and there was only some Gatorade on the course to make things worse. Slowly but surely, pace slipped down to about 9:30 in mile 12. I crossed the line, designated by 2 small cones and more spray paint, in 1:54:52
Now, I cant really complain on my performance too much. 1:54:52 is a new PR for me by over 8 minutes. Not too shabby for some half ass training over the winter and gaining 10 pounds. At the same token though, I’m still slow. Next time, I hope I can make it into the 1:40’s. I’m also hoping to extrapolate this race to a 3:45ish marathon this year.
Onward and upward!