Snow Joke Half Marathon Seeley Lake MontanaIf you’ll recall, a few weeks ago, I outlined an aggressive plan for my 2016 running calendar, culminating in my first (now) three marathons. This past weekend, I checked off the second race and first half marathon of the year with the Snow Joke Half Marathon in Seeley Lake, Montana.

This was a great motivation to continue training throughout the winter. The mid-winter run in Western Montana brings with it unpredictable weather, even at 4,000 ft elevation. This year has been a warm winter, so we lucked out. Most snow had melted on the race course, leaving just enough icy patches to keep us alert on the back stretch. I chose to drive up morning of the race since it’s only a two-hour trip on good roads from Helena. I drove through an hour of freezing rain and began cursing my decision not to dress for sub-freezing wet weather. Luckily by race time, the rain slacked off and temperatures rose to 35-38 degrees.

Start time for the Snow Joke is 11 a.m. The race circles the lake on paved state and county roads. There were small climbs at miles 3, 6.5 and 12, but overall, only 350 ft elevation climb. Race start funneled 900 runners through narrow roads where the race organizers failed to block parking. This made for a slower than desired start. But once we were out on the highway, everything was wide open and easy going. There was no chip reading at the starting line, so if you’re farther back in the pack, add those slow start seconds to your finish time.

Take Homes from the 2016 Snow Joke Half Marathon:

Stretching out on Sunday with a hike and trail run at home in Helena.
Stretching out on Sunday with a hike and trail run at home in Helena.

Start farther back in the pack. – Like many runners, I’ve always struggled with pre-race adrenaline and often start faster than planned. This go-round, I lined up mid-pack in an effort to slow my start. It worked great, I started the race slowly and was able to avoid the fatigue that can result from going out too fast.

Form matters. – As I build up miles in my marathon training, the importance of proper running form becomes more important. “Running tall” as they say, not leaning forward and keeping an even stride results in more efficient running and more energy dedicated to covering your miles. Reflecting back on last year’s race performances, I definitely noticed an improvement following a winter of training.

Stick to your fueling plan. – I’m frustrated at myself for this one. I’ve been attempting to improve my fueling plan and not eat or drink too much. This being a cool race, I figured I’d try depending on the aid stations at miles 4.5, 7.5 and 10.5, instead of carrying my own water. It wasn’t clear that aid stations did not have gels provided, so I had only carried one gel on me. Good thing I did. I definitely could have used the extra nutrition later in the race.

Stretching out on Sunday with a hike and trail run at home in Helena. Still a touch of snow on trails higher up in USFS land.
Stretching out on Sunday with a hike and trail run at home in Helena. Still a touch of snow on trails higher up in USFS land.

Training rocks, but what’s my potential? – Training through the winter has gone well and having this race on the calendar was definite motivation to put in consistent miles. As I gear up for my first marathons later this year, I find myself anxious to see where that training takes me as I build to longer distances. Consistency, dedication and patience are all things learned in this process.

I finished the Snow Joke Half Marathon in 1:44:52, an 8:00 min/mile pace and placed 68th in my division and 99th overall. I’m plenty happy with that. I went in with a goal of finishing in 1:45:00 and I practically hit that on the head!

Looking down the road, I’m excited for my 2016 running goals. My next race is in just a few short weeks. I’ll join several friends at the Run to the Pub Half Marathon in Bozeman on March 12. Should be another good relatively flat half marathon.

Adding one more marathon to the calendar

I’m excited to add one more marathon to my 2016 race calendar! I’ll spend Halloween in Washington D.C. for the Marine Corps Marathon thanks to the sponsorship of the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative. It’ll be exciting to team up with this program through the Beef Council, to meet Team Beef runners from across the country and to see Washington D.C. by running through town in such a large marathon!

Keep an eye out this year as I track my training and share updates on my progress. It should be an exciting year of new milestones!

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