It’s alright to hate hills… as long as you don’t give up! Also, if it’s your first race at a new distance, you automatically get a new PR, right?!?
My first official half marathon is exactly one month away and training is going swell! With the season’s first race already on the books, this past Saturday I ran the longest race I’ve ever participated in and it was definitely a tough one. I previewed the course a week early and went into race day looking for a finish, pace or place was irrelevant.
The Prickly Pear Land Trust is a local organization that works with land conservation and has established a great trail system here in Helena. There are over 65 miles of trails around town that PPLT helps to maintain. Our largest city park, Mt. Helena, is over 700 acres, second only to NYC’s Central Park. It’s pretty awesome to have that opportunity at the outdoors and northern Rockies, literally steps from our Downtown. For a town with only 28,000 people, that’s a pretty good feat.
The Don’t Fence Me In Trail Run is one of PPLT’s largest events. Last year I completed the 5k race and won my age group. This year I took on the challenge of the 12k race – 7.68 miles is how it wrapped up. I finished with an official race time of 1:13:46 and a pace of roughly 9:36.
I finished just behind middle of the pack in a group of runners that were pretty fit. The winner finished in just 50 minutes. Definitely a win in my book with the two good hills we had to climb and by the time you figure in getting stuck behind folks on the single-track trails.
The course started out with a solid mile and a half uphill. Not a fun way to begin knowing that there are still two decent climbs to make. I despise a starting line that looks straight up a hill. At least give me time to warm up. However, this also made for a very strung out crowd and gave us a chance to stretch out and find a group to pace with.
Over the course we gained about 1,542 feet in elevation, topping out at almost 4,700 feet, which made for some great views for the hills south of town. We’re pretty lucky to have this trail system in town, even part of Helena’s city parks. Last weekend when I previewed the course, I took a bit of time to take in the view.
The second half of the course was much narrower with several switchbacks up and downhills, which makes for some fun running. It’s all good and fun till we reach our final climb which was .7 miles looking straight up hill. Once you’re up at the top, there are some great views of the Valley, but you don’t really care at that point, because the downhill climb is just as steep and you can see the final road ahead at the bottom.
Unfortunately, this is where the trail is cruel. You’re almost to dirt road at the bottom, after turning down switchbacks on the whole hillside, and the trails turns and heads back up hill. Just cruel and unusual. This is where its a mental challenge, because you’re no longer running in the thick shade of the trees with a soft, mulch path. It’s all dry and loose rock. Just mean.
But after one final run downhill, we made it! I completed my first official 12k trail run (in MUCH better shape than last year’s climb in a 10k) and greatly savored the free beer at the finish line. I’ll definitely be looking forward to next year’s attempt. There’s a 30k held on a similar course in this event, but I think we’ll hold off a few years on that!
That’s another race down! I’m already up to 46 miles training this month with a long run of 13 miles in. I’m shooting to beat March’s long of 106 miles running. With lots of travel over the next week, we’ll see how I keep pace.
Next race: Yellowstone Half Marathon
Date: Saturday, June 13
Location: West Yellowstone, MT
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: Only 1 major hill this time