Last weekend, I was in Montana. We were visiting my brother and friends while taking in some fly fishing and running a marathon. You know, just like any other weekend. The fly fishing was great and the marathon was tough. It was my 7th and my friend’s 22nd marathon. My friend is trying to run a marathon in all 50 states! While I’m not intentionally trying to do a marathon in each state, I’m happy to support her along the way.
I knew it was going to be a tough race because I’ve been running at sea level and Bozeman is at 4,820 ft. I’m not exactly sure how you train for a race at elevation but I think after last weekend, I need to stick to sea level races. I’m sure I could have trained more but I didn’t. And thankfully, neither did my friend. We’ve both been busy so our goal was to finish and just have fun.
Since my brother lives outside of Bozeman, we left his place at 4:30 AM and headed into town. The race was a point to point and we had to be bused to the starting line. The bus ride was interesting. It seemed like the bus was full of people from Seattle. There was a set of girls who gabbed the entire time and their topics switched every second. They discussed their entire playlist to fantasy football teams to the actual race. By the time we arrived at the starting line, I was ready to get off the bus. I thought if we run into them on the course, they will either make us run faster or slow down to get behind them. Don’t get me wrong, I can gab with the best of them BUT at 5 AM, quiet is better.
We got off the bus and waited for the start. As it turns out this was a small race and I would guess there was about 200 folks running. My friend pointed out that there wasn’t really any old or out of shape folks that you normally see at the starting line. At 7 AM, the gun went off. No really, there was no count down, no flair, there was a gun and it went off. I guess that’s how they do it in Montana. Here’s a pic of the starting line…
The first few miles felt good and I was beginning to think the elevation wasn’t going to be an issue. However, at the first hill around mile 6, my friend and I got separated. I could still see her up ahead but decided to keep going at my own pace. I heard those girls from the bus catch up and just decided to turn up my volume to drown them out. Luckily, they kept going. For the first time, I was fine getting passed. At mile 8, I caught back up with my friend.
The thing with running a marathon is it’s not just physical, it’s mental. If you tell yourself at any given point, that you can’t do it, you mind will believe you. At around mile 9, my friend started struggling and saying she was going to DNF. I wasn’t going to let her give up. We came to conquer Montana and we were going to do it. If she DNF, then she’d have to come back. We were here, we might as well finish. I suggested we start running the telephone poles. Run to one set of poles, walk to the next set. We did this for 3 miles which is where we ran out of poles. I guess an artifact of running in Big Sky country. We walked up the hills and tried to run down. The elevation got the best of both of us. Running just felt hard, breathing felt hard. At mile 18, I texted our hubby’s that it wasn’t a great day for running and we’d be walking. (They hubby’s went fishing)
The race was well supported and everyone was so friendly. Water/Gatorade stations every 2 miles. It would have been nice to have some orange slices because when you’re walking a marathon, you need something to eat. Normally, I have peanut M&M’s on me but I wasn’t as prepared. They did provide GU at miles 13 and 17 but I just couldn’t stomach it. I want to thank the family that put out some coke at mile 21. You saved me! After every race, I always crave a soda fountain drink. Finally, we were at mile 24, our spirits were lifting and we knew we had this race. We crossed the finished line together. When all was said and done, we averaged just under 13 min miles…not bad for walking almost 16 of those 26.2! And we weren’t last. (not that there’s anything wrong with being last) We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the hot springs.
When I was going through chemo and running half marathons, someone told me ‘same day finish.’ While I do have time goals, sometimes it’s just not a good race day. I don’t have too many of those days but I give myself permission to just finish the race. I’m proud of my friend for sticking with it. I knew if she had given up, she would have regretted it. We’re both planning our next race at sea level to redeem ourselves.