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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

(Late) Race Recap: Missoula Half Marathon

This bridge was around 3.5. (Free race photos!)
The Missoula Half Marathon took place Sunday, July 9 at 6am in Missoula, Montana. [Race information] Another delayed recap... but better late than never.

Pre Race
Tobias really enjoyed the Oiselle meetup
Alex and I arrived in Missoula around noon on Saturday and went to the Oiselle team meetup in the park by packet pickup. We had a little mini pizza party and got to know some fellow Montanans. It was suuuuuuper hot, but at least we were in the shade. I grabbed my packet and bib before we left the park to head to the hotel.

After check in we came back downtown to go to a brewery, then ended up at Notorious P-I-G BBQ. I could not resist that name. I had a half rack of ribs and sides and was feeling mildly stuffed. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a build your own fro-yo place. I was breaking all sorts of pre-race eating rules, but whatever.

Somewhere around 4:00 or 5:00 pm – after watching Roxane Gay on C-SPAN, of all things – I started to get a massive migraine. This was my first Montana headache and my first migraine ever outside of spring or fall season change. (Little did I know, it would become a new thing for me.) Alex ran out to get Chipotle and medicine. Unfortunately, I could not make room for food. The migraine was so bad it made me nauseous and I had some GI issues. Between my rough, food-less night and the 4am wake up, I was seriously considering not running the race in the morning.

I set out my gear the night before 
Race Morning
Luckily, I woke up just before my 4:00 am alarm and felt okay. My stomach still felt icky, but I was able to eat my toast and peanut butter breakfast. My head hurt a bit, but I took meds and it dulled the pain. I wasn't in tip-top shape, but I was in a really good mood for some reason and I'd gotten solid sleep from 12-4, so I figured why not roll with it?

Alex dropped me off to catch a shuttle and I was able to get on a bus almost immediately. It was a 10-15 minute ride to the start and I made a friend on the bus. The start line had a bajillion bathrooms and plenty of space for everyone to sit/stand in the grass. I met up with the Oiselle team and we applied temporary tattoos, took a few photos, then split up to get ready to run.

Lovely ladies, ready to run
The Race
I stood behind the 2:00 pace group at the start. My original goal was to run a sub-2:00, but this being Montana (elevation) and me being sick (blarghhhh) I had no idea what to expect. My revised goal was under 2:05. I know I can do that - even with walk breaks.

Ha - I'm a burry figure in this photo, scarffing down a gel.
The start line announcers were great and as soon as we set off there were fireworks. A ton of fireworks. I tried to watch, but they were behind us. Oh well. The first mile was beautiful. We were running through a rolling valley with mountains all around. I wish I had a picture. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I think Bozeman is prettier than Missoula. However, the first few miles of this race were so pretty I'd be willing to take back my initial assessment.

Anyway, I was running. The 2:00 pacers were ahead of me after the crowd settled, but I caught up with them. I think mile 2 was when we passed a man wearing a tux playing the "Chariots of Fire" theme on a grand piano in his front yard. I don't know how long I ran with the pacers, but at least through mile 4 or 5. They were steady pacers and very friendly guys.

Miles 1-5: 8:56, 8:50, 9:06, 9:02, 9:06

All I remember about mile 6 was some guy in a red shirt coming up next to me and asking my pace, then saying I was super steady and he was going to follow me. I think he stopped to grab water or something because we split up. Little did I know he was still close behind. (More later!)

I'm pretty sure that's red shirt guy back there!
I really don't remember anything in this section. I was listening to The Archers, of course, and it was entertaining. We were winding through neighborhoods and I ran under EVERY sprinkler. It was warm, but not Ohio summer hot, so I didn't think it was that bad. My stomach still felt like crap, but it was a distraction from normal run pain. I was maintaining a pretty steady 9:00 pace without pacers, so that was also cool.

Miles 6-10: 8:59, 9:00, 9:06, 9:00, 8:56

Mile 10 or 11 I caught up to another Oiselle teammate. We exchanged pleasantries (nice way of saying I have no idea what we talked about) and I continued on. Turns out she had a 12 or 14 minute PR when she finished! Holy cow!

I was starting to get le tired and my stomach was cramping a lot. There were some turns in this section that slowed me down. In mile 12 I got that half marathon "ughhhhh" feeling. I usually get it at mile 10, so it was a total bummer it even appeared. I'm not sure if I walked quite yet, but the red shirt guy from before was suddenly next to me saying something about my super-consistent pacing and how he'd been trying to catch me. It was so nice to hear, so I ran with him for about 100 ft then I HAD to walk. Totally lame to walk at 12.4, but I needed it.

Mouth breathin' into the finish. 
I took about a minute to regroup then began to run. I could see red shirt guy up ahead, but knew I wouldn't catch him. At 12.9 we made the final turn into the finish chute, which was on a bridge to downtown. Lordy, that bridge felt really long. I kicked up my pace and got into the upper 7s and it hurt. But when I saw my finish time it was all good.

Miles 11-13.1: 9:02, 9:15, 9:21, 7:57 (.1)

By the way, I found red shirt after and told him thanks for the mile 12 motivation. He finished about 30 seconds ahead of me.

Great success!
Final Stats and Thoughts
The Missoula Half is a well run race. Big medal, nice shirt, good post-race food, free beer, and free photos! Plus, the course is relatively flat with 203ft of elevation gain. There are a few small hills in the beginning, but most of the gain happens from mile 5 to 13.1 and it's so gradual you barely notice.

Final Time: 1:58:44
Overall: 621 / 2824 (22%)
Gender: 276 / 1897 (14.5%)
Age Group: 48 / 284 (17%)

I'm pretty proud of a sub-2 in Montana while feeling like absolute crap (but in a good mood - attitude is everything!). Missoula is 1,600 feet lower than Bozeman, so maybe the extra air helped? By the way, if you're keeping score: this is only 30 seconds off of my PR. I was planning to break it at an April race in Ohio, but after we moved I decided to see what happened in Missoula before declaring half marathon goals. I'm currently training for a faster half in September, but I'll be honest: training isn't going well.

Giant medal!

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