yellowstone half marathon routeKeep your eye on the prize. Make a goal, then set out to accomplish it!

Last summer was rough after getting t-boned and totaling my pickup. I was on pace to do some serious exploring and run several races across Montana, but a back injury and physical therapy kinda placed those goals on hold. My back still bothers me, but I’ve found that remaining active and keeping a regular exercise schedule helps to manage the pain and discomfort, and keeps my core muscles strong.

Late last Fall I set a goal to complete my first half marathon in Spring 2015 and in early April I completed my first 13.1 miles in training. Then on June 13, I satisfied my goal by competing in my first 13.1 mile race by participating in the Yellowstone Half Marathon in West Yellowstone. I use the word race lightly because I wasn’t there to set a new PR, but rather to complete the run. And I did it in 2:05:50!

The Half Marathon didn’t actually go through Yellowstone National Park (permits for those things can be rough to obtain), but we were in Forest Service land and on snowmobile trails just outside West Yellowstone. And really, when you’re in that region of Montana, all the landscape is a great view. After all, the YNP boundary is only a political line.

The race description noted a large hill and technical terrain along the course, so I put in several of my training miles along gravel roads and on our extensive trail system in the hills surrounding town, which consist of sandy/gravel trails on sharp ascents. Helena is a great training town, being just east of the Continental Divide.

On race day, I was disappointed, or rather relieved, that the lone hill on the course reflected only the elevation change on my “flat” training runs and the technical terrain involved stepping around rocks, not avoiding slides on turnbacks in graveley descends. As far as those obstacles go, this race was a breeze! Turns out the total elevation gain for the entire course was only 663 ft.

The race had pace leaders at ten minute intervals. Having covered the distance prior to the race, I wasn’t sure where to go, but knew I was in the 2:00 to 2:07 range. I briefly thought about starting with the 2:00 pace group, but they looked a little too fit for me. So, I backed up to 2:10. I later found out, several of the runners are from lower elevations and were actually faster runners, just backing up their pace to adjust for the higher altitude. I’ve been training just shy of 4,000 feet, and the race course had a low elevation of 6,600 feet.

yellowstone half marathon running team beefOne of the great things about running with #TeamBeef is have a great place to start conversations. A large T-bone steak on your jersey tends to be an interesting topic. I met a guy from Texas, also in his Team Beef jersey, who was traveling across the country with his wife, visiting National Parks and running a few races along the way. It is rather cool to join a race with an identity of a group or cause. Folks are able to identify me with ranchers and beef. Seems like it’d be different for those who don’t have a network of people to identify with right away.

I have completed several 10+ miles training runs and had covered 13.1 miles on 4 previous occasions, so I had an idea of what I was in for when tackling the distance. Through mile 5.5, I was good to go, maintaining a slower 9:00 pace. Then the next 2 miles jumped up close to 7,000 ft, before dropping down for the remainder of the course.

It was a great run, overall. I was able to keep a fairly steady pace, gaining ground on the ascends and descends where other runners may not have trained as much, and kept counting down the miles. I was a little worried when I wasn’t tiring around mile 8, still feeling great. Then I hit mile 10 and it started to settle in that I had yet another 5k ahead of me.

Most of my training miles are covered along. Actually, almost all of them. So it was kinda surprising when in the group, other runners were aware of edicate, such as moving to the side of the course when slowing or walking, or giving a heads up when going to pass. There might have been a few elbows thrown. It was interesting to people watch.

yellowstone half marathon finishCrossing the finish line was a great feeling. I finished halfway between pace groups with a 2:05:50. Not a PR, but a great feeling to have accomplished a goal set last Fall. I wasn’t terribly sore following the race, and @SeeDaneRun was sure to let me know I should have run harder. #Truth.

It’s yet to be seen whether my next long-distance race includes a half or full marathon. A full isn’t out of the question. The Bozeman Half/Full Marathon isn’t far away, but just far enough that I’ve considered training for the full. I have another month to register before prices go up. We shall see.

Next race: Ragnar Relay – Northwest Passage with the Montana Running Ranchers
Date: Friday-Saturday, July 17-18
Location: Blaine to Langley, Washington (i.e. between Vancouver and Seattle)
Distance: 200 miles/12 team members (my total is 18.3 miles)
Terrain:┬áModerate to Very Hard; Looks like more humidity as we’re close to water


yellowstone half marathon course