Woke up at 3:30..well really I was awake at 2:30. I can’t ever sleep soundly the night before a race and even though I felt pretty calm about this one I still couldn’t sleep. I wore my turtle socks for luck and lime green nail polish.
When I am feeling hardcore and have a do or die attitude towards a race I paint my nails a dark color but I really just wanted to go with the flow with this marathon so I went with the mellow color. Had my usual light snack and was ready to go. My husband drove down town and I caught a bus to the start line. I arrived early so there was no line and no wait. After a short ride I arrived in Frenchtown where the race starts. Sat around and talked to other runners. There were a surprising amount of Texans. The 3:40 pacer was even a Texan wearing a cowboy hat and all. I planned on setting my own pace but staying pretty close to the 3:40 group as long as possible.
Texan-pacer in Montana :)
There was a cannon blast and we were off at 6 AM. The temperature 55 at the start with clear skies, I was hoping for cooler weather but I will take 55 felt great. It was a little cramped for the first mile but as the miles went on the crowd thinned out.
All the miles were marked with these special mile markers.
The first 10 miles felt really flat and we ran along a nice straight stretch of road. Beautiful open fields with the mountains in the distance. I was able to soak in all the beauty and stayed relaxed.
My average pace for the first 11 miles was 8:15. I started to feel the incline a bit on mile 13 and the only then mile 14 was the hill that slowed my pace quite a bit. The view at the top of the hill was breathtaking, flowing river in the valley and the mountains in the background.
We did get some relief going back down the hill on the other side but the descent was steeper so it didn’t last as long as the climb. Then we were back to flat terrain with just a slight incline.
The route started to go through neighborhoods during this later section of the race which I did not enjoy as much. Around mile 20 the 3:40 pacer caught up with me, I stayed with or close to him the next 2 miles but lost him at a water stop and never saw him again. There were a lot of turns the last 4 miles and I just couldn’t get motivated to go fast. I tried focusing on staying relaxed and my form but that only made me go slower at this point. Obviously I need a different focus at the end of a marathon if I want to go fast. I just was not in a do or die mindset for this race, I wanted to finish with a smile not a grimace so I told my self to keep the pace in the 9s and try to finish under 3:45. When my garmin beeped at 26 miles, I found some speed for a finishing kick and was able to sprint out the last .35 at a 7:22 pace with a smile on my face. My finishing time was 3:44:19 which is a PR of more than 15 minutes.
I was very happy with my time considering the fact that I didn’t feel like I pushed too hard and I finished with a smile on my face. Post race I enjoyed the popsicles, fruit, beer and massage provided by the race.
And then jumped into the Clark’s Fork River instead of going to the hotel and taking an ice bath..it was cold but it felt good.
Freezing in the river
Overall a great race experience. I really enjoyed the scenery and was able to stay relaxed which was my goal. Qualifying for Boston would have been great but I think if I would have focused on that instead of the experience I would not have enjoyed the race and I may have injured myself and not been able to enjoy the rest of my vacation.
I would recommend the Missoula marathon as a destination marathon. The organization was great, everything from registration to the finish line went very smoothly. A beautiful course, not super easy but easy enough to get a good time. The weather was good for a summer marathon 55 at the start and around 70 at the end. The sun rises early and is very strong though so be prepared. We have been enjoying Missoula and the surrounding areas while we’ve been here. If you love nature and wildlife there is plenty to see and do.