Monday, July 11, 2016

It's All About Race!

Running a race, that is.

This past Saturday Julie and I ran the Beartooth 10K and 5K, on the Beartooth Highway (US 212) in Wyoming, just across the border from Montana.  The race begins at 10,500 feet elevation (just under 3200 meters) and runs uphill from there.  The start is in a saddle, so from the simultaneous start the 10K headed out east (more or less) while the 5K went west...first time I've ever seen a starting line with runners facing both ways.

When the race director blew her whistle for the start, I took off "like a shot."  I didn't think that was what I was doing; I thought I was jogging easily and I was well back in the pack, but after about 4 minutes of this I took my first walking break -- my first in a 10K ever, I believe -- to catch my breath.  The race climbed a steep grade for 2.5K to almost 11,000 feet, then turned around and back down to the start, whereupon we continued on the 5K course, another 2.5K climb up a steep grade (passing a herd of mountain goats) again to almost 11,000 feet, and then back down.   All of this was complicated by steady winds in the 20-30 mph range (30-45 kph) and plenty of switchbacks so the we got to experience both headwinds and tailwinds going both up and down.  Someone who GPS'd the course claimed it was actually 6.5 miles (10.5K).

The start uphill and into the wind was brutal.  In some ways, this felt like one of the hardest races I've ever run, because of that difficulty -- uphill, into the wind, at 10,500 plus feet.  And keep in mind I've run races of up to 100 miles over much tougher (but lower) mountain trails.  This had its own kind of toughness.  I loved it.  So did Julie, who "only" did the 5K.

After the race, Chaos and I did a three mile trail run down past Gardner lake (visible in the first photo).  Lovely.  Up high, the wind actually got much worse.  Julie stayed up high by the car, and when the wind picked up she aw it blow the glasses off a tourist who had stopped.  Julie and others helped her search, but without success.  She also saw a motorcylist who stopped remove and set down his helmet -- it promptly blew away, but he managed to chase it down.  It was really something.  Numerous baseballcaps are still floating around up on the plateau, I know.

The race was well organized and the running crowd was very fun.  The race director, Kristen Hollum, and her crew did an excellent job and were extremely helpful and fun to talk with.  We definitely want to return to this one (we met several regulars who insisted we come back, too).  We did train at altitude, but never made it above 8600 feet.  Next year, I think lots more time at 10,000 and higher is called for.  Besides, I love it up there.

Photos: click on 'em to expand.

Parking area/race start. Gardner Lake below.

10K course. The 5K runs to the top of the mountain on the left.

Locals watching the race (mountain goats).

Open borders!

Escape from Wyoming.

Free beer for all runners at Red Lodge Ales! (Julie doesn't actually drink beer, so I had hers.)

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