Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In which I visit the West

I just got back from a (for me) very looong vacation.  I was gone for 10 days (plus took yesterday off to organize/recuperate).  There were no horses, but it was fabulous nonetheless.  I flew from PHL to BZN (who knows that airport code?), or for those of you wondering --- Bozeman, Montana.  I immediately drove down from Bozeman to Idaho Falls, Idaho.  I am newly enamored of airbnb and highly recommend that you check it out if you are traveling (especially to smaller towns).  In Idaho Falls, I stayed in an upstairs room of a lovely home about a mile from the race packet pick up location and about 3 miles from the race parking/finish.  Oh, right, race.  Well, we know I am slow, so there isn't much racing, but my primary goal for this trip was to complete 3 half marathons in 8 days.  June 19th, The MAD half marathon in Idaho Falls, June 24th (Pioneer Day),the Deseret News half marathon in Salt Lake City, and July 26th, the Madison half marathon in Ennis, Montana.  So after settling into the room, picking up my packet and having a decent dinner at a local bar/grill (with interesting conversation with some local folks there), I had an early night, then got up in the morning and headed to the park to catch the race bus to the start.  The race bus got totally lost and dropped us off in a random parking lot.  We kept telling them it wasn't right, but they had no directions and no contact information for the race director.  One of the drivers ended up going back down to the park and finding out where we were really supposed to be, so we got there late and then there were only two porta-johns for about 100 people.  The organizers were really nice though and it was for a good cause, so hopefully next year they will have the buses, the johns and the aid stations (which were on the wrong side of the road with unclosed roads) sorted out.  The course itself wasn't terribly interesting, slight rolling hills on back roads around Idaho Falls, no real scenery, and simple aid stations, but it did the job.  It wouldn't be first on my list for a race recommendation, but for locals, it is a nice group of people.

I grabbed a shower, then hopped in the car to head down to Salt Lake City, got there and checked into my next airbnb accommodation, which was really wonderful.  I arrived Saturday evening and would be in SLC until Friday morning.  I ended up filling the time with yoga, local beer, Liberty Park and quite a lot of work.  I found a great yoga studio just about a mile (through the park) from the apartment and they had a Groupon deal, so I bought a 10 class card and ended up doing those 10 classes while there (2 Sunday, 2 Monday, 1 Tuesday, 2 Wednesday, 2 Thursday and 1 Friday).  On Thursday, I ran the Deseret News Classic half marathon.  It was mostly downhill, so I was able to run a reasonable amount of it and enjoyed the race.  There was a great view over the city and good shade in the canyon, so while daytime temperatures had gotten up over 100 the past several days, we got about 15 minutes of rain and wind which cooled things down and with the shade, it was quite pleasant. This was a fun, well-organized race.  The medal was quite large for those of you who collect the bling.  The logistics weren't bad at all, a quick drive up to the Rice-Eccles stadium to park and then a quick bus ride to the start.  After the finish, the buses back to the stadium were very prompt, so I was actually back at my room by 9:30.

After a quick shower, I headed into town, did yoga and enjoyed the Pioneer Day festivities.  There were parties and fireworks at night, but I fell promptly asleep and wasn't bothered by any of it.  Friday morning, I had a leisurely breakfast and then headed up to Montana.  It was a 5 and a half hour drive, but much of it very pretty.  Ennis is tucked away alongside a river, a cute little fishing outpost where 3/4 of the shops on the main street seem to be selling fishing gear.  Packet pick up was in a park outdoors and we then got a pasta dinner from a local non-profit and a great talk from Frank Bartocci who was running his 600th marathon at this event.  I can't even imagine running that many marathons.  There were also guys who were running their 350th and 300th marathons and many other high mileage folks.  Interestinging, the first place male, first place female and overall first place half finishers were all NCAA athletes and the two marathon winners were each running their first marathons.  The race was super challenging, billed as the highest elevation *road* marathon in the world, it has an average elevation over 9,000 reaching a high point just over 9,600 feet.  We got on buses in Ennis and headed to the staging area (almost 2 hours by bus) and then from there onto the start line (over the race course road 13.1 miles away).  The start was pretty much straight uphill and I had a couple of minutes of wondering if I was going to be able to do it at all.  I had been worrying a bit about whether the blood-breath machinery was going to be up to this one but I told myself I would go very slowly to the first aid stop at mile 3 and make a decision there.  The first mile was slow and hard, mostly uphill, but then there was a pretty good downhill and some reasonably level ground and by the time I hit the next uphill before the aid station, I was feeling fairly warmed up and capable of finishing, so I chugged on and did finish (very slowly).  Much of the slow was just me being slow, but I did stop to take some pictures along the way. 

The Wildflowers didn't come out that well.  After hanging out at the staging/finish area for a while, watching several runners finish, I climbed back aboard a bus for the two hour trip back to Ennis.  Once there, I jumped in the car and drove the hour to the airport.  I was tempted by the Norris Hot Springs, but decided to head onto my airport motel (no airbnb near the Bozeman airport).  The front desk folks recommended a surprisingly good Italian place around the corner, where I had a very nice glass of montepulciano with yummy eggplant parmigiana for dinner.  Then packing, sleeping and up at 3:45 for the flight home (uneventful).  

In other parts of the country, much eventing was occurring.  The first weekend, I was gone Maryland Horse Trials took place, scores here:  Then the second weekend, both Rebecca Farms in the West (I considered going up, but it was over a 7 hour drive to Kalispell) and the WEG test event at Great Meadows in the east.  It felt a bit odd to be fairly disconnected from horsey happenings for so long, but I ended the vacation feeling very refreshed.  

Sunday night invovled massive amounts of lightning and very loud thunder, but I fell asleep fairly quickly despite the light show. Monday, I took a day off and hung at Blue Hill, getting a great dressage lesson from Rachel and then Tuesday was back at work, but ending the day with xc schooling at Fair Hill.  Keegan was very good and jumped a bunch of the preliminary stuff, so I'm starting to feel ready, though still nervous.  Dressage at Dunmovin Saturday, lots of work and hopefully this amazing weather holds.

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