thePowell Blog

My Brights Were On (Madison Marathon)

Okay, so some of you (facebook people) may know what the title refers to, but to the rest here is the whole story.

Jess and I rose early Sunday morning for the hour journey to Ennis, MT for the forth annual Madison Marathon where we would be running the half. We got dressed, grabbed our gear and headed on our way. I definitely felt the lack of sleep as a result of being in Billings the night before for a wedding (congrats to Scott and Sara!). I’m not complaining, we chose to do this race knowing full and well that we would get back late. We needed to leave by 4:15 to ensure that we made it in time to catch the bus to the staging area, and we were able to leave a few minutes early. There is always something nice about those cool, dark mornings, driving the empty streets of Bozeman. We were a few miles out of town when a guy turns out in front of us. Now this was a normal turn, nothing suspicious, plenty of room, but then he pulls a U-turn and starts following us, flashing his hazards and nearly forcing us to pull over. Now I went a little further where there was at least some light from a nearby lamppost and pulled off. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had someone flag me down in a similar fashion, usually to tell me that my headlamp is out or a tire is getting dangerously low. As I stepped out of the car, Jess was nervous at this point, I walked to the rear of the car and was instantly confronted with a thin man writing down my license plate number and a gruff “Do you know what you just did?!!” I was shocked! The only thing that I could think of was that maybe I was late at dimming my lights, so I said “is this about my brights? I’m sorry for dimming them late.” Which received the response “I’m sure you are! I’m going to report your (explicative) for harassment” as he hopped into his truck and quickly drove away as I walked dumbfounded, to the front of the car to an equally dumbfounded Jess. What just happened here? We continued on, in silence at first and then we started to talk about it. We prayed about the situation, the guy, and put it behind us as a start to an exciting day.

We arrived early, even with the earlier inconvenience, and waited for some more people to show up. As people started to arrive we got out of the car and headed toward the buses. While waiting for instructions, we chatted with some people. We had the privilege to talk with people from all over the United States and from varied life-backgrounds and ages. Finally the race official arrived and we received our itinerary for the morning. First off, an hour and a half ride up to the staging area. This was a long ride on a narrow, bumpy, winding, gravel road up to the top of the Gravelly Mountains, southwest of Ennis. Finding a bathroom was among the highest of priorities upon our arrival as the heavily wash-boarded road filled our bladders. There were only two port-o-potties at the staging area and the line was instantly 50-deep with mostly women. The men had the easier task of walking into the woods to find relief. We waited for a little while and then reloaded onto the bus for the ride to the start line 13.1 miles away. This took about 45 minutes and was equally bumpy, but Jess and I actually sat by some different people and chatted the entire way up. As the buses climbed up the narrow road, we could see that this race would not only be “The highest road race in America”, but also the hilliest one that Jess and I have ever run.

Upon our arrival the exit from the bus yielded the same response as the first exit, along with the same conditions, only two port-o-potties, except this time with 200 people that needed to use them. Even women headed for the bushes, some not being so bashful. The bathroom line was so long that it postponed the race for about twenty minutes. Then it was time. Jess and I were ready, the crowd was ready and the port-o-potties were actually bounding up the road to meet us at the end. We started, and this was a start like no other. Usually the start is a high-energy sprint to get ahead of the pack, except this time it was a slow (some people were walking) up the hill that rose, and rose, turned a corner, and rose again. Jess and I count ourselves grateful that we live in an area with higher elevation (around 5000 ft.), but even we were feeling the altitude. The race started at 9,200 ft., rose to around 9,300 ft. and then dropped to just below 9,000 ft. Then came our big climb, a steady 2.2 mile, 4.2% grade up to the peak of our run, 9,580 ft. We walked some, ran some and walked some more. This is the first marathon where we have had to walk, period. After the big climb was a set of staggered descents with a few little hill climbs between. Some of the descents had a 10% grade on them which made for some hard impact on the knees, but made me grateful that we were running the half, rather than the full. Fortunately the race ended on a relatively flat section of the course. We ended with a time just under 2:22:22, nearly 30 minutes more than my personal best. We knew that this wasn’t the race to PR on, but just to do to say we did. It turned out that whoever was closest to the 2:22:22 crossing time was eligible for a prize, good thing we both came in at the same time!

Some of you might be saying “That is a long way to run” or “Brent and Jess are crazy,” but those comments pale when you consider that this was a marathon. Many of the marathon runners were over the age of 50, some had even run a marathon the day before, and figured, why not run the highest road race in America. One man, who last year ran 114 marathons, in that year, was running his 766th marathon at the ripe age of 66. Now those people are crazy, and truly amazing, inspiring people. Here is a paraphrase of what I’ve learned about runners. To be a runner, you have to be positive. If you go throughout life, you will rarely meet a mean marathoner. They are simply the most positive, encouraging people around. A marathoners attitude is attractive, and the only way to achieve it is to do it, and surround yourself with even more positive thinkers! Now most of you might think that this would be a great place to stop a fairly lengthy post, but I have a little more to share.

As we headed back on the bus, ready to get down to our car and drive home, all was not well. I wasn’t feeling the best, my stomach wasn’t feeling the greatest, I was sun-burnt and had just ran the most intense run of my life. We made it to the paved section of our travels. I was uncomfortable at best, concentrating on not doing what I knew was nearly inevitable. Paved roads are almost always better than gravel ones right? Right? Well, not this one. This is what I would classify as a roller-coaster. Up, down, up, down, was the pattern of this road, and my stomach gave up. You can infer what happened next. Fortunately, I had a plastic zip-lock at the ready and nary a person, aside from Jess, ever knew I was sick. Needless to say, Jess drove home and we rested for the rest of our day. I eventually felt better and we had a great nights sleep.