Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ulm Half Marathon Race Report

The time had come.  It was time that I finally run a race here in Montana.  Ok, ok, I had planned this half marathon for the past few months, but it kind of snuck up on me.  I hadn't pre-registered and didn't carb load, or abstain from alcoholic beverages the two nights beforehand.  I didn't have a plan for the race, I just kinda figured I'd get some miles in.

This particular race is held outside of the bustling metropolis of Ulm, Montana at the First People's Buffalo Jump.  You know, a buffalo jump, where Native Americans would herd buffalo and run them off of cliffs.  My dad made the joke that they were gonna run us runners off of the cliff.  He's very funny once you get to know him.  It's located about 30 minutes from my house via 10 miles of gravel road and some local paved roads.  The plan was to get up about 6:30 for the 9:00 start time, however that got changed a bit since I didn't get to bed until 1:00 AM.  I was out the door by 7:40 after eating a banana and drinking some water.  I also stole a powerade from my folk's fridge.  I decided to take the backroads to the race instead of going into Great Falls and the interstate, even though I would get my newly washed truck a little dirty.  The reason for this detour will be the subject of an upcoming post (teaser anyone?).  

I arrived at 8:15 AM and only 10-15 people were milling around the visitor's center.  I registered (40 bucks!!!  Little pricey) and waited around for the start.  They also handed me a map of the course as if I would be out front leading this mania.  I checked it over and got my phone to take some pics, since I don't have Amy around anymore to take pictures for me.  

This was from the edge of the parking lot looking back to the start/finish line.  Notice how smallish the parking lot suggests this race is.  This race was a fundraiser for the University of Great Falls cross country team, so there were a lot of skinny, pale white dudes running around the place.  The one thing that was great was that this was the FIRST race of 2009 for me where it wasn't raining!  It was great except that it was 80+ degrees outside by the end of the run.

Start line...or shall I say, start cone.  I liked it.  

Finish cone.  Shortest half marathon I'd been to as they were only 10 yards from each other.  Hee hee.  Notice how crappy of a photographer I am?  Stupid pudding head can't get his own shadow out of a picture.  What a dork.  

This is my attempt at getting the mountains.  A bit of a failure.  I guess I should try to get a real camera instead of my stupid camera phone.  As you can see, bright and sunny!

So after waiting around for 45 minutes, the RD lined us up at the start cones and gave us some pre-race instructions.  Here they were:  
  1. There is a baby antelope on the course.  The mom only comes around in the afternoon.  Please don't disrupt the baby antelope.  
  2. (The following was after a short exchange between the RD and the worker at the State Park)  Oh, yeah.  There are TONS of rattlesnakes in this area due to the number of gophers.  Please stay on the roads.
  3. Course description.  Including the words 'gradual hill'.  I'll get to this gem later.
So after the warnings about snakes and angry antelope mamas, the RD said go and off we went.  The first 4 miles or so are downhill on pavement leading into downtown Ulm.  These miles were fairly uneventful except for my 'are we done yet?' joke.  No chuckles.  I'm a dork.  The race then takes a sharp left hand turn in Ulm and goes from pavement to very loose and large gravel.  This is the best maintained country gravel road in Cascade county, I swear.  Most of the time the roads are made up of hard dirt and potholes.  I need to figure out how they get good maintenance and the roads in my part of the county suck.  This gravel was not good for running, however, and there were many slippages.  Halfway between miles 4 and 5 was the 'gradual hill' that the RD mentioned.  He seemed to shrug it off as this harmless little bump in the road that isn't that hard.  I know the first 4 miles we lost a ton of elevation, so I knew there would be hills, but I didn't think we'd gain it all back in one mile.  Yes, this stupid hill was a mile long with at least a 4% grade the entire way.  Also, to make things a little tougher, we were going into a 12 mph wind.  Nothing like going up a hill and into the wind.  There was also the whiff of some sort of carcass that wasn't too pleasing.  

Look at that damned hill.  Gradual my ass.

The course leveled off and turned into some rolling hills, although the footing didn't get any better.  It was difficult to find the most compacted route to run in.  I kept weaving from the left to the right and back to the left of the road.  I did have to negotiate passing a tractor that was out spraying some wheat.  It was a mighty game of chicken, but in the end I dodged.

As there were only about 50 runners, it was a little lonely out on the course.  I did talk to a dude that passed me at about mile 9.  He seemed to be a little less stressed as I was and he ended up going ahead of me, but it was nice to chat it up with someone after not seeing too many people.  

The course headed back to the state park, but first it had to do a loop up the hill that leads to the top of the buffalo jump.  This can be seen by the little blip right before the 11.5 mark.  This, my friends, was almost the end of Craig as you know him.  I was sweaty, hot, thirsty, and tired.  I did not want to go up this hill, but the site of more runners (the 10 k started at 10 AM, and we shared the final part of the course) gave me a boost.  I like passing people and this was my chance.  We headed back down the hill and towards the start of the race.  A 10k runner passed me and I noticed he didn't have a shirt on.  I thought this guy knows what he's doing, so for the first time in a race, I ran shirtless.  It was very liberating.  I especially liked that a photographer took a picture of this pale skinned, farmer-tanned, white boy as he finished.  Awesome.  So, in the end, I finished in 1:45.  Not a PR by any means, but good enough for 4th overall and a decent training run.

Now I have to complain about the water stops.  This race started in 75 degree heat, so we need water and gatorade.  The first station at mile 3 had two people handing out dixie cups of water.  These cups held about TWO ounces of water.  I needed some water and I got TWO OUNCES.  I learned my lesson and the next water stops I actually stopped, chugged water and refilled while chatting with the kids that were manning them.  Much nicer.  Oh, and no gatorade or anything, just water.  

So, there, I'm done.  First race in Montana.  I'm glad it didn't rain, didn't like the heat, but all in all a good small town race.  There is another half in a month I may run.  It's along the river, so it's very flat.  We'll see.  

1 comment:

Amy said...

Haha. Those cones are hilarious. I guess I don't need to ask if it was chip timed, huh?

4th overall, eh? Show-off.