Marathon #32 / Overall #47 / State #13 (Montana)
Frenchtown – Missoula, MT
This race was added to my calendar on the basis of connecting with our church up there. I had received notice in advance from my boss that I was going to have the weekend of July 8-9 off. Upon looking at the race calendar (www.runningintheusa.com), there was the Missoula Marathon on July 9. Then, I went on to the disciplestoday.com page and saw the Five Valley Church of Christ had Sunday services at 4:30 pm… Having said, that qualifies as a GO.
I was really excited to hear that there will be a few other disciples from other churches that are running the marathon. Mariah (from the Oregon church) was one of the first ones that I got in contact with, and at first there was supposedly a few other people from Seattle that might be making their way down for the race as well. Well, it turned out that out of all the disciples, it was gonna be only me and her running the full. There might have been a few others from the Five Valley church (the main one in Missoula) who ran the half…
I got in contact with Cole and Darvin, two brothers from the churches up there in Missoula, prior to flying up that Friday the 7th.
Out of all people… I ran into Paul and Claudia at the El Paso Int’l Airport of all places!! I’m not surprised since Paul literally travels EVERY freakin’ weekend, either for work, or a half marathon. They were on their way to San Diego to drive back his car back to Texas… which was crazy but not as near as crazy as the amount of driving that Sgt. Broadnax does (LOL…).
And the plane they put us on leaving out of El Paso was TINY… I had a 1 1/2 hour layover in Denver before I got to Missoula, when I met Cole (and two other sisters from the church) went back to his place.
Saturday before the race
After Cole and I had a quiet time and breakfast, he dropped me off to Darvin’s place. Interestingly, he hosts a house church that actually is separate from the Five Valleys Church of Christ. Shortly after settling in, he dropped me off to downtown Missoula where I finally met up with Mariah and two of her friends Jordan and James.
It is HOT outside… I came here to escape the Texas heat but man I was wrong… lol. Interestingly, out of all the races I’ve done, this was the first marathon (ultras are a different ballgame) which the expo held OUTDOORS (thank God there was a tent cover!!).
We came across a few Maniacs. One of them’s name is Charlotte, from Charleston, SC. I believe she’s done about over 70 races, but all in costumes!! She told us how she was gonna wear this moose costume tomorrow but it was going to be HOT. And I said, “cut slits on the sides… I ran Cowtown with a cow costume, it got hot, and cutting slits on the side helps”.
Later on, we met up with one of the brothers Jake from the Seattle church, and grabbed a very late lunch at this place called Five On Black. It’s supposed to be Brazilian, but then when I asked one of my friends from residency in San Antonio she was like yeah that’s NOT Brazilian… lol but whatever that was, was good, and I ended up even closer to poverty by getting a second bowl… carbo load *OINK*
As we’re all walking around downtown Missoula, I suddenly realized that my calf started to feeling a little tired, I looked down on my shoes and BOTH feet had a torn sole!! I was tempted to buy another pair of running shoe from the running store across the street from Five on Black, but resisted the temptation…
Missoula is full of these little shops and stores everywhere!! Maybe too much for this Texan to handle all at once lol… after lunch, we ended up going to some local soveniour shop and we were there for quite a bit, and that’s where I bought the 4 Montana coasters for my dining room. One of them was of Glacier National Park, which I haven’t been yet – that means I had to go!!
Lastly, the 5 of us over to Mariah’s parent’s house, which is like right along the route of the marathon, we had a late “dinner” and lit up a campfire and sang some worship songs since Jake is a songleader back in Seattle lol…
I thank God for so much green and trees here lol, but at the same time it felt weird having the sun still out at 9 close to 10 pm. It’s bedtime already!! It was like… yeah I’m glad we’re having fellowship but we also have to be up by freakin’ 4:15AM the next day!! :O
Finally, Jake took James and I back home to Darvin’s place. Darvin was like… “Hey! Aren’t you supposed to be in bed two hours ago?” I was like… “uh… I had to ‘fellowship’ therefore I stayed late”… lol. It was already 11pm at night, and yes the sun was finally down.
Start Line – Frenchtown, MT
I woke up at 4:15 AM ish and got ready around 4:40 ish. Jake was about ready to at that time, and we took off and on our way to pick up Mariah from her parent’s place. Little did we know, the only road leading up to their house was blocked off. I can sense that Jake got a little flustered, but so would I, had I been in the same shoes. But sometimes the race people are just being told what to do and may not even be telling you the right thing… oh well. But finally, she found a way to come down and meet us while Jake and I were waiting at this random intersection…
Finally… we made it to the start line in Frenchtown, which was about 16 miles Northwest of Missoula around 5:35 ish. I was supposed to find the Maniacs and get in their group pic.. but missed it because we were stuck in traffic, but all good.
Now, the quest to find the crazy Ed aka Sgt. Broadnax LOL… I asked around the other Maniacs to see where he was, they were like, “yeah he’s wearing a blue shirt”… But he was nowhere to be found… so as Mariah and I walked back towards the back of the pack… there he was!! And with his girl Bonnie who apparently is also a Maniac and lives in FL. He was like, “what’s up you crazy!!” and I was like, “no YOU crazy!!” “No YOU!” “YOU!!!” Lol.
So… I never see this guy in El Paso anymore, and now he’s moving away to where his girlfriend Bonnie lives in Florida, out of all places. I remembered when I first came to El Paso last September to run the Franklin Mountains 50k shortly after I got my job, he welcomed me to stay into his house, and he was telling me he was injured and had been out of running for a while and I asked him, “how long was that?” He said.. oh for about 3 weeks. And I was like, “BRO… GET OUT of town!!” LOL
Anyways… back to the race.
The start line kicked off with some fireworks, and they were LOUD!! For a split second I was like… um that’s not an explosion right? It was pretty awesome though…
The Missoula Marathon is a point-to-point course from Frenchtown, MT and zigzags its way around Missoula, ending in downtown.
Miles 1-3 to 4 ish
Ok so these first few miles I was a good friend. I had told Mariah prior to starting that I’d keep a no more than a 9:20 pace and that my watch would beep if it goes more. We stayed together at a pretty consistent pace, but then I took it up a notch slowly but surely as we past the 5:00 pacer, then the 4:45, then the 4:30, until I got behind the 4:20 pacer.
Ok so these next few miles I was a bad friend… lol. At this point my competitive nature had come out, and the letters “PR” creeped into my mind… So I asked Mariah, are you sure you’ll be ok? At this point we were still behind the 4:20 pacer. And she said, “yeah I’ll be fine, go for it!!” And I was like… alright here it goes… So I picked up my speed and slowly advanced through the crowds, and eventually caught up to the 4:10 pacer.
And I had passed by the moose Maniac Charlotte, who was indeed wearing her costume!! And I also saw a mom pushing a stroller of THREE people!! Apparently she’s trying to set the record of a sub 4:30 with that triple stroller lol…
The roads were still pancake flat at this point with a slight camber (which meant yes I could feel it!!). There were just grass, trees, forest, and etc. At this point, I finally felt like my stride has opened up a bit and it felt a little “easier” running. Temperatures were creeping up to the high 60’s into the low 70’s shortly. At this point, I knew that a PR sub 4:10 might be pushing it, but it would be nice to get close to a 4:15 or so.
After the mile 9 aid station, the course crossed the Clark Fork River on a concrete bridge. It had been relatively cool and we were facing away from the sun for a bit, which was nice. There were random people on their horses (were they spectators??), and at this point the temperatures were beginning to rise.
After the half mark, there was all of a sudden a hill that came out of nowhere!! I mean, we expected it, but that sucker was steep!! It knocked me out quite a bit, to be honest. It was probably at least like a 8-10% grade hill for a good half a mile or so!! And then there were some rolling hills up and down, before we started to course downhill…
This was an unexpected surprise!! I knew that Boone and Shelley (Mariah’s parents) would come out to watch us, but I had no idea that she actually made a sign for me and her as we were running down!!
Out of the 46 previous races I’ve done, sure, some people (including my parents) had come to watch me, which was encouraging, but Shelley was the first one to actually make us a SIGN… As I was coming down the hill, I felt so toast, and yet, seeing another disciple holding a sign to encourage me gave me the additional strength to press on to run the race… for like another 0.5 mile lol.
Obviously I wasn’t thinking straight cuz I felt like dying lol… Because at the time, I had thought that it was Jordan who made the sign and that I was saying hi to her, not her mom… that’s pretty embarrassing to admit lol. But apparently Jordan was next to Shelley, and apparently I didn’t realize that she was actually there at all!!
There was a guy on the grand piano which was absolutely hilarious! And after crossing the Clark River again, the temperatures started to rise up to the mid 70’s. My quads were getting shot already… I had slowed down by quite a bit. I was dying for water as I felt sooo parched. There were plenty of people who opened up their sprinklers and hoses for us to cool off, and at some point I was so desperate that I took gulps from the water hoses…
Thoughts were now going through my head… maybe I should’ve stayed with Mariah the whole time and not hang on to the 4:10 pacer. Maybe I should wait for her to come up and finish the race together…
Well I was wrong on that one too.
Right when I was drinking from a fountain on the ground I saw Mariah come up to me. She was cramping up on the left side and said she couldn’t talk as much. My quads felt like they were about to give out any moment. She was like, “come on, you got this!!” And I was thinking to myself, “I’m done. Time trial FAIL lol”. Temperatures were rising up to the mid to high 70’s with the sun directly in our faces… Given we were playing a game of cat and mouse for mile or two, but I felt like mentally I was like done done, haha.
So I told Mariah, “go get this…!! As for me, as long as I don’t let Sgt. Broadnax sweep me, I’ll be good”. LOL… I wonder how the crazy Maniac Ed is doing back there with his girlfriend. He was aiming for a 5:30 finish, but I dunno if he’s gonna make that goal with this heat… I know he was coming up.
Then I could sense a feeling of disappointment come, but I was like, nawww. But I wondered why I bonked so bad. I made it to the half mark at 2:03, and fell apart shortly after! The same thing happened in Reno. Was I undertrained? Maybe. Was the weather too hot? Probably. There were also a little bit of humidity as well. Why am I having knee pain? I looked down on my shoes and there was an obvious slab missing!
I started texting my running friend Charysse back in San Antonio and told her I was bonking big time. She was like, “yeah just walk the rest, maybe run the last half mile”.
Miles 23-25 – Get the party started!!
At this point I had pretty much “given up”. I mean, I could run to the finish, but why waste energy when it would do no good but only hinder recovery at this point? I know I’m such a slacker in many ways…
Perhaps this has to do the fact that I have grown more as a disciple, and also the fact that I’ve become more of Maniac, but I quickly got over the fact that I wasn’t going to PR and simply accepted the
First beverage stop
Ok, did someone say “raspberry vodka shots”?? I knew this ain’t gonna do much, but it was at least
Second beverage stop
I could hear “Mimosas!!” like 50 yards away lol.. I took two. After all, they’re just a glorified version of your typical OJ, right?
Stealing the show
This was probably the best part… I noticed these 2 guys playing the guitar as part of “on-course” entertainment. I was like, I think I can play a few chords, I wonder if they will let me play! So I asked them if I could play a song, and they were like, “sure… go ahead!”
So I started playing “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”…
“All my ex’s live in Texas,
and Texas is the place I dearly lo-ove to be,
but all my ex’s live in Texas,
therefore I hang my hat in Ten-ne-ssee…”
Some folks think I’m hidin’…
It’s been rumored that I died…
but I’m alive and well in Ten-ne-ssee!!”
This other Maniac named Glenn from Hawaii who past by took my picture and video and posted it to the Maniac page. He was like, “now I’ve seen it all!!” hahah
The final mile
The guitar guys were right before the mile 25 marker. Mariah actually called me to see if I was gonna make it, after sending her that video that the fellow Maniac took of me playing guitar lol. I had a feeling that she honestly thought I was gonna drop out hahaha…
Maniacs never quit unless there’s an extraordinary or life threatening circumstance (like how I had to DNF Rocky Raccoon 100 mi last February).
Disciples don’t quit the race of life either.
At the last turn, there was a booth with food including bagels, muffins, and cream cheese. I was like, eh… why not. But instead, I took a bite but it was quite disgusting and dry!
So I tossed that bagel along the north bank of the Clark Fork River… right before the finish line lol.
At the finish line on Higgins St, everyone was cheering, and all the disciples were there cheering for me as I passed by, I was like, “thumbs down I bonked!!” But they were like, “no!! you’re doing awesome!! you got this!!”
Their medal was pretty awesome I have to say!
Mariah ended up getting a 4:31, which is a PR for her!
The Biggest BONK… beats Reno 2016 easy!!
I ended up with a 4:57, it was a PR BONK for me lol. I thought Reno was embarrassing… but I think today we have a winner!! LOL
For some reason I have a tendency to bonk bad in the last race of every season… it never fails for the past 2 years in a row lol. I have to say, Missoula is hotter, and temperaturewise it was less tolerable than Reno. I remember in Reno, there was a strong headwind on the return-bound segment. But at least the sun wasn’t in our face the “whole” time lol. So I am proud to say that Missoula has been my personal worst this year in terms of “time trialing” for a marathon to see how I do.
But hey, I have come to accept that (before the race was over) that there were better days, and there will be better days. Today hasn’t been my day but that’s alright. Fixating too much on that PR is like “chasing the wind” in many ways…
“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil- this is the gift of God.”
The important thing was that we finished. A marathon finish is still a finish, and is infinitely times better than a DNF (did not finish).
James, Jordan, and I headed back towards Darvin’s house where we had house church. Shortly after many others arrived, including Boone and Shelley, Jon and Coleen (Jon is from El Paso!!), and many others. As Jake led the service and worship, it was so encouraging to hear people mention the marathon and how our lives as disciples ought to parallel the marathon.
Life is not a 5k, otherwise we would all die when we’re 6-7 years of age lol.
Our spiritual walk with Christ as his disciples is like a 100 miler. There will be times when we want to quit. There will be times when we are strong. Just as we think we are strong, we are at risk for falling. It is not the one who sprints with speed that finishes, but the one with perseverance that endures to the end and will be saved (Hebrews 12:1-3). Consider how Christ suffered for us and endured, gives us hope and courage to move forward.
After taking a nap at Darvin’s place, I woke up, and realized that my knees were still in pain and realized suddenly that these shoes have gone through 8 marathons!! I said, “Darvin, I’m sorry to flood your trash can with old shoes… but these ones I’m NOT taking back to Texas!” LOL
That evening, I spent the night on a double date with Cole with two of the sisters from the Five Valleys church for dinner and a walk near the Clark Fork River.
I am super grateful that I was able to come up to Missoula, not merely to run the marathon, but connect with the churches up there, building memories and new friendships as disciples together, being encouraged by their presence at the race, and being able to encourage others with what I have to offer as a fellow brother.
The fact that my local church in El Paso threw me a surprise birthday party the days before, and my overall trip to Missoula has reinforced me what it means to have unity in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4). How great it is to be unified through Him!!
God willing… redemption for a PR at Steamtown in Scranton, PA this October…