Sunday, September 13, 2009

Running from Forests to Spuds

No Southwest? It has been a long while since we did a race that wasn’t at the end of a Southwest flight, but such was the case the weekend of the 22nd of August when the Toyota took its place. The race was the Mesa Falls Marathon and Half-Marathon. The location: Ashton Idaho. We picked this as one of several good options in Idaho and it turned out to be a nice trip. The course itself didn’t prove to be quite as scenic as billed, because only the marathon started high enough on the mesa to go by the very impressive falls, but it was still nice. We started in evergreen forests well above the surrounding plains, ran some single track trails for several miles on the way off the mesa, then crossed the river…and were in for a surprise! We knew the elevation was a bit higher than we normally run, but not until the day before the race when I looked at the elevation profile did I see there was LOTS of uphill in the course! After we crossed the river we started a grade that lasted nearly three miles and got us on the high plains with potato fields on both sides...and lots of rolling hills...and lots of sun...and much warmer than normal temperatures...and no shade…and not quite as many water stops as might have been nice. Consequently, it was definitely not a fast race, but we successfully completed it and enjoyed the small town atmosphere – definitely a change from our previous race in downtown Chicago.

While in the area we enjoyed a nice trip to Bear World and some huckleberry milkshakes. Rachel got a kick out of driving through the animal preserve and enjoyed the bears, the elk, the deer...and, of course, the rides that were there for kids.

We also planned on enjoying the scenic route along the Tetons on the way home – to include a hike up onto Table Mountain, but the weather didn’t cooperate very well, so we had limited views of the mountains and lots of rain most of the way home. We did manage one short hike at the summit between Bear Lake and Logan, but that was it.

My thoughts DURING this race were focused on making it up the hills and noting I was running much slower than I had anticipated. However, afterwards it occurred to me how nice a small-town race can be, too. We might be inclined to discount the small towns and communities, but they can have a charm all their own.

We went to the pasta dinner the night before the race at the elementary school and it was quaint – but also impressive to find so many people from far-flung places who had come to Ashton, Idaho to run a race. Ashton even had a runner’s breakfast for us before the race – and that was just about a first. Oh….and by the way, did I mention I took second place in my age group?!? One of the other benefits of a smaller race!

All in all, another good race and another State checked off - #34.