Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Yellowstone Half Marathon

Sue, Cheri, Tracy and Rachel at the finish
The Yellowstone Half is officially in the books!  And what an amazing race it was!

Paul, Sue and I arrived in West Yellowstone, MT on Thursday afternoon, June 9 and pulled the trailer into the Buffalo Crossing RV Park.  The park was not much to look at – pretty much a gravel parking lot interspersed with railroad ties and picnic tables – but the location was fabulous!  We were right around the corner from the entrance to the park, and walking distance to pretty much anything the town had to offer – including the Race Expo.

This year’s Race Expo was set up like a Forest Service campground, complete with the brown and beige sign and, get this, the Forest Service!  They were there with a fabulous display on the bears of Yellowstone Park.  After all, the Yellowstone Half Marathon is a trail race, and the trails are right smack in the middle of bear country.  The Forest Service advice:  run with others, make noise, and if you think you’ll be all alone on the trail, carry bear spray.

Sue and I had signed up for the Bison Double, a 5K on June 10 followed by the Half on June 11.  The 5K was, for the most part, on groomed dirt roads, so we both made pretty good time.  Sue placed first in her age group; I placed second in mine.  Not bad, considering neither of us had planned to really push it for this race.

We had planned to just run and enjoy the half as well.  It was our first ever trail half marathon, so we both expected to run more slowly.  The race started on the same groomed gravel roads, but after about mile three we landed on a two-track snowmobile trail.  We ran through woods and meadows.  It was particularly beautiful along the river.  Not that we got much of a chance to see the scenery – we were both pretty focused on the terrain ahead.  Sue crossed the finish line 6 minutes 55 seconds ahead of me for a first place finish in her age group.  I finished 4th in mine.

Trail running is a completely different skill than road running.  I felt muscles I didn’t know I had as I focused on keeping myself upright on the trail.  I was surprised to see more than one runner stumble on flat ground after maintaining against the rocks, twigs, and other uneven surfaces of the trail. 

Were there bears?  More than likely.  But we didn’t encounter them.  Neither of us was ever alone on the trail, and I know I heard the sounds of bells and clapping throughout the run.  The Forest Service?  Volunteers?  I don’t know for sure, but whoever they were, I thank them.

At the end of the run, Vacation Races provided their standard chocolate milk, bananas, and awesome food boxes.  The awards ceremony was probably scheduled too early, as a few of the age divisions hadn’t had the top five runners come in yet, but they still do a great job of presenting the award medals.  Sue and I each came away with four medals and the promise of a fifth medal in the mail.

I love Vacation Races!  Next year – Yosemite!

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