Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Madison Half

On July 24th I ran the Madison Half Marathon.  It was a pretty awesome experience.  Here are the highlights:

I got to Montana a couple of days early.  Though I have been to Montana before, I was blown away by the beauty of the land and sky. 

On Saturday I went exploring and took some pictures.  The rain had cleared up, and I could see each layer of mountain in front of me.    
I half-expected to see a grizzly in one of the meadows but never did.
I climbed this hill to get another perspective...and got winded from the elevation.  Uh oh.

Indian Paintbrush for my good friend Rose

The highest elevation of the race

Sunday morning registration came early.  Apparently I wasn't thinking straight because I left my iPod and my Garmin back at the car.  I got on the bus to the starting line with just my race stuff (water bottle, shoes, clothes, two gels, and some Chomps) and a smile.

The 13.1-mile bus ride to the start was long, and truth be told, that intimidated me. I wondered how my lungs would do at 9,500', and I worried I was going to come in last...again.  (Such things shouldn't bother me, and for the most part they don't; but I had to make a conscious effort to tell myself that I was there for the views and the experience and not the time.)
About to start and a little nervous
The race started around 9:15, and it was unlike any start that I have ever seen.  The race director's son rang a triangle announcing the start, and everyone started running.  But that only lasted a couple of seconds; the first hill was right in front of us, and most slowed to a power-hike.  It was awesome to see other racers walking with me; my spirits improved instantaneously.

The first few miles of the race were good.  I hiked all of the uphills, and I even passed a few people.  (Perhaps I should thank Moscow Mountain and Kamiak Butte for that.)  I loved running the downhills. 

Isn't this just an awesome dirt road?! This stretch is pretty typical of what I saw for the whole race. 
I knew that the climb to the highest part of the race was coming up, but I embraced the fact that the long, hard climb was inevitable.  After over a mile of climbing, I still had this far to go:
This picture just doesn't do the mountain justice.  It was TOUGH!
Just past the summit, I caught up with a runner named Tim, and we ran together for almost two miles.  It was nice to jog and chat with someone I never would have met without this race. 

It is funny that I don't have more stories about each mile like I did during my first half marathon and my first marathon.  The race just kinda blends together as a gorgeous long run that I am blessed to have experienced.  I never felt like I was gonna die; I never wanted to cry when I realized how far I still had to go.  I just enjoyed the landscape.  I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but it was almost as if I am getting more comfortable with the distance of a half marathon; I knew how long 13 miles feels, and I knew that I could handle it.

The only time I felt borderline-discouraged was around mile 9.  I felt like I had been climbing more than I was descending, and I then I saw this: 

Again, the climb was long and slow, but that just made the blue Gatorade even more delicious.  (Thank you, race volunteers!  You were amazing!!)

More views:
Black Butte
When I was around mile 11, I decided to check my time.  My average pace put my finish time at just about 3 hours even.  I decided to pick up the pace to ensure a 3-hour finish time. 

Unfortunately, my RunKeeper application on my phone and the course mile markers were a little bit off.  According to my app, I reached the 13-mile mark with two minutes to spare.  However, I didn't reach the 13-mile sign until after 3 hours had passed.  My official finish time was 3:03:09.

A welcome sight no matter how beautiful the course.

I was bitten by one of the deer flies that swarmed me from mile 11 on.  The welt took up the better part of my thigh by the next morning.
Tired legs

I am so glad to have run the Madison Half.  The landscape was breathtaking; the volunteers were wonderful; and the feeling I got after completing a race at over 9000', well, it makes me smile just thinking about it.  I highly recommend it... but bring your bug spray! :)