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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Recap: Missoula Half Marathon

Hola! I'm joining Hoho Runs and Taking the Long Way Home's Weekly Wrap linkup to recap a race from last weekend. 
Free race photos!
The Missoula Marathon took place at 6:00am Sunday, July 15 in Missoula, Montana. I ran the half marathon. [race website]

Pre Race
We arrived in Missoula on Saturday–earlier than last year– and picked up my packet, explored the farmer's and craft markets, then went over to set up the Oiselle meetup. Our team includes a few race officials, so we were able to meet in the same room Deena Kastor used for her talk and book signing. As a result, we got an early team photo with Deena and Canadian Olympian Courtney Babcock, who lives in Missoula.

With Deena (bottom left) and Courtney (bottom right)
After the meetup (which was huge for Montana!), Alex and I checked into our hotel, grabbed a bite to eat at a local brewery, then settled into our room while I set out stuff for the next day.

Full team meetup. Huge group for Montana! (+ 3 out-of-staters)

I haven't been running on the roads and haven't had a traditional long run in two months. My long trail runs involve quiet a bit of hiking up a mountain and stopping for photos. It's great training, but not quiet the mental training needed for a road half marathon. Taking that into account –and the potential for warm weather– I made what I thought were pretty flexible goals.

A. Beat last year's time or at least sub-2. I'm in better shape, so I figured this was doable.
B. If I can't do that, then at least 2:05

Oiselle meetup at the half marathon start

It Was Perfect
Unlike my current PR half,  everything went perfectly. I hydrated well, went to bed at 10 (early for me!) and slept. In the morning, everything went like clockwork and I lined up with time to spare. I didn't feel like running, but everything was going so well I figured it might be a good day!

I lined up just behind the 2 hour pace group and got into a groove. I felt like I was working pretty hard for a pace over 9 minutes, but that's usually how I feel for the first mile or two.

Didn't see the photographer until too late.
We wound our way along a river and I passed the 2 hour pacers pretty early on. They were on pace this year–maybe even a little slow. I probably shouldn't have passed them, but there was a good downhill in mile 2 I needed to take advantage of. I wasn't feeling great by the time we crossed the river at mile 3.5, but I figured I could keep a 9:00-9:10 pace and hopefully stay in front of the pacers to get a sub-2 finish.
Miles 1-4: 9:17, 8:48, 9:09, 9:06

...Until it wasn't 
I felt like I was working harder than normal. My legs felt very heavy (even though I stopped running trails last week to give them a break) and my breathing was a bit labored. My stomach felt a little empty since breakfast was over 2 hours earlier, so I decided to take my gel around mile 5.

I've been using the same two flavors of gel for over three years. I'm not a huge fan of the Mocha flavor, but someone gifted me a huge box and I've been using them since. In fact, I'm almost out. I say all of this because using this specific type of gel was not new to me during a long run But for some reason less than a minute after I finished the gel my stomach cramped! It was in knots. I've run with stomach cramps or side stitches before, but this was on another level. I felt twisted.

I tried running through the pain, hoping it would go away. I noticed my pace was slipping. A 9:20 pace should have felt easy, but instead it felt like a sprint I couldn't maintain. I drank some water, but the pain continued. I couldn't imagine running 7 more miles as I tried to hang on.

It worked for a few miles, but almost as soon as my watch dinged 7 miles, the 2 hour pace group passed me. That was all I needed to stop and walk. I knew my day was over, so I texted Alex to expect me around 2:05. Soon after, my friend Wendie sent me a text to say her day was over, too. We were suffering out there!
Miles 5-9: 9:03, 9:18, 9:23, 9:59, 9:55

Better with Friends
From there, I walked on and off. I planned to finish each mile and walk the start the next if my miles chimed under 10:00. Just after my mile 9 walk break –as I strongly considered standing on the side of the road to wait for Wendie–I came upon a Oiselle teammate who was also suffering. She was going for her first sub-2, but when we met up she'd just started walking. She felt nauseous and upset over her race. We commiserated and tried to figure out what went wrong today. Was it the heat? We both thought last year was hotter. Maybe there was more humidity? Who knows.

Honestly felt like I walked more before mile 9!
We walked/jogged our way in and did a pretty good job running the final mile. Talking to her took my mind off my stomach pain. I wasn't gunning for a PR or time goal, so I let her unload her frustration. We've all been there! It sucks when you train for months and know you can do it. In the end, we finished in 2:08. I may have been able to hit 2:05, but honestly, who cares? I had more fun this way.
Miles 10-end: 10:17, 11:12, 10:42, 11:04, 8:47 (.1)

Crossing the line

Afterwards - Cheering Others 
I met up with Alex after and we made our way through the free food line, then over to the Oiselle cheering area. We stood there for two hours watching the marathoners come in. There were some big goals on the Oiselle team and while a few were met, most people struggled. It reminded me of my earlier conversation: Was it the heat? The humidity? What happened on Sunday? Why didn't we meet our goals?

After. Happy to be done.
Final Stats and Thoughts
My time was 10 minutes slower that last year. That's kind of a bummer, but this wasn't a goal race, so I don't really care. I'm mostly worried about why I got such painful stomach cramps and what to do if it happens again...

Final time: 2:08:05
Overall: ? (the results are separated by gender...)
Gender: 485/1852 (26%)
Age Group: 109/265 (41%)

Nice, big medal
Up Next: Cross Cut 15k (I've already run it, but the recap won't be up for a bit), then the Sweet Pea 5k. I was planning to go for speed at the 5k, but it's only 2 weeks away so maybe not... ;)


  1. I love that in spite of not meeting your goal finish time, you recognized that it was just as important to have fun! Yep. I'm not thrilled with where my running is at but boy, I'm sure having fun! Isn't that the msot important thing?

    1. Yes - exactly!! Having fun really is more important!

  2. I'm impressed that you could still have fun despite the stomach pain! Sometimes I don't feel like I can eat anything on the run when it's hot. Maybe it was the heat + gel combo?

    1. Oooh maybe that was it. I avoided taking a gel the next week at Cross Cut!

  3. Oh, what a shame. If it helps, when I was on a long run the other week, I had a perfectly normal, standard gel in a make I use all the time and have used in two marathons and endless training in the best flavour and then ARGH and I thought I was going to return it under a tree. Humidity there, I think. Maybe slight dehydration because of the heat, too, I wonder?

    Well done on a great half (I'd be over the moon if I got that kind of time!) and a brilliant attitude.

    1. Humidity and slight dehydration make sense. I'm sorry you had to deal with that on a run, too. Not fun! I understand you on the time. A teammate "bonked" their full marathon and finished in 4:02 and I kept thinking about how elated I would be with that time!! :)

  4. That's so odd. When did the stomach cramps subside? Maybe it was the heat/humidity? And some dehydration from that? So sorry to hear this - but glad you kept going until the end. Even if it wasn't the goal you wanted, you got the business done and took home another medal!

    1. I felt pretty crummy the rest of the day... but tried to distract myself with sightseeing. I love "you got the business done!"

  5. So sorry to hear about your stomach pain :( Been there, done that, and it's so hard to keep running when you feel like that. Great job on finishing the race and I love that race medal - its so unique!

    1. The medals in Missoula are amazing! The whole race is so well done. Definitely recommend if someone happens to be out in Montanan. haha ;)

  6. I can understand how frustrating it is to train well and know you have the ability to run a certain time...and then it just goes wrong! But whether you ran a 1:58 or a 2:08, you had fun (most important) and received a beautiful medal for your perseverance. It looks like a pretty course. Free race photos are such a nice perk. Thanks for linking!

    1. Definitely an awesome race and course. There was more crowd support last year, but they town really embraces the race -- really helps when the going gets tough!!

  7. That is still a great time. Congrats! Have you found that running trails has made you a better road runner? I know my pace slows down on trails but than it makes my road running feel faster...lol

    1. Last year at this time I would definitely say trail runs made me stronger, but this year I've been really inconsistent with my road times. I got a huge half PR in April, but haven't done much since. I think part of that is fatigue from running trails with lots of elevation. If I do a better job tapering / resting before a road race I think I could come out with some fast times!


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