Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Running the Mountain

"Don't take this for granite."
- David Pengelly

The Pengelly Double and Single Dip is the only race I've heard of that gives out growlers instead of t-shirts.  It's because you're going to need it.

2013 Pengelly Double Dip Races, 10 Years Old and Not Getting any Easier

The Double Dip is a half marathon that covers ground on both Mount Sentinel and University Mountain.  Also, there's that little matter of a 2700 ft. elevation gain.

The Single Dip, which I ran, is a 10K that starts with a short run to a steep climb up the face of Mount Sentinel.  The view of Missoula is beautiful, but you have to get there first.

Mount Sentinel
This was a race I had to do some training for.  I would make mid-week attempts at running up Sentinel, followed by running up and down stairs to recover.  I did okay if you didn't count the wheezing at the end.

I was nervous enough about this race that the night before it I actually had the thought, "I could just not go."  But I had registered and worked pretty damn hard, so I was going.  This was going to be my bragging rights race.  I'd never run it before and had no time goals.  My goals were this: finish the race and don't fall down.

Sam and I got to the starting area on a sunny and bright Saturday morning.  I have a bad time psyching myself out so I thought, "Crap, it's gonna be too hot, I should have worn shorts," and "Good Lord, everyone here is in really good shape."  A woman walked past me in a sports bra and shorts while I hugged my new growler and hoped to get through this.

The Dip races are smaller than a typical road race because we're insane and also because the Double is capped at 200 runners.  So when we lined up I was suspiciously close to the front.  Before I knew it, the gun fired and we were off.

I ran to the base of Sentinel too fast, always my problem.  But I more than ate up time on the power hike up the trail.  I could hear the wind and the sound of people breathing hard.  One of the runners had a watch that talked; it told her (and everyone nearby) the distance and current pace.  Most of us were quiet, concentrating on the grade of the trail and our next step.  The guy behind me tripped and fell and we all paused to help.  He dusted off his knees and laughed.

Once we made the turn that would take us to the fire road and the longer trek down the mountain, people sped up.  They started talking, laughing.  The volunteers pointed us in the right direction and cheered.  I thought, "Okay, that was the hard part.  Just five miles left to go and I didn't have a heart attack.  This is good."

I tripped on a rock, but stayed on my feet.  I reached the rolling fire road that cuts a downward diagonal across Sentinel and there were butterflies on the trail.

This was the point where I finally hit my zone.  My nerves were gone and in its place was overwhelming gratitude.  I get to live here and I get to do this.  This is why I run.

I tried to remember everything.  The way the breeze felt and the happy look of the volunteers at the water station.  On the final downhill I learned the funny, half scary feeling of "controlled falling."

When I got off the trail, it felt weird being on a road again.  The breeze dissipated and I got hot.  It slowed me down a little, but I didn't mind.  When I got to the last hundred yards, I was spent.  It was a good race.

Closing in on the finish

The Pengelly Double and Single Dip honors David Pengelly, an accomplished climber and fellow Missoulian who passed away in 2003.  I like to think that his favorite saying, etched into a rock on the Pengelly Ridge Trail, was about gratitude.

I was grateful to run this race and for those few miles where I could stop taking it all so seriously.  I was grateful that I only tripped once and that the volunteers told us exactly which way to go because I worry about getting lost.  I'm grateful for the people that make these races happen.  And I'm grateful for the growler, which Sam has enjoyed very much.

The growler is mine, the beer is for Sam
 Next up - The Missoula Half Marathon in July!

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