Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Everyone Needs Some Montana - Don't Fence Me In Trail Race Report

The Rant

According to the internet, Montana means "mountain" in some other language. This makes sense until you realize that if you divide the state down the middle from north to south, the eastern half contains approximately zero mountains. This trait places Montana high in the rankings as the American state with the most confusing land allocation, geographically speaking, behind Texas, Michigan, and all of the Mid-Atlantic states.

Therefore, I've decided to formally propose that the state of Montana be divided into two separate states, with the western half retaining the name "Montana" and the eastern half being named "Planici" which, according to the internet, means "plain" in some other language. An acceptable alternative would be to re-define the borders of Montana to include the western half of the existing state, northwest Wyoming, and all of Idaho. That would be a state worthy of the name Montana. The left over parts of the former states of Montana and Wyoming could become part of the Dakotas or something. I'm sure that few people would notice, and even fewer would care about this change being made, which is good enough reasoning for me.

I arrived at the above conclusions during the early miles of the Don't Fence Me In 30k trail race last weekend in the foothills outside of Helena, which lies within both the currently accepted and newly proposed borders of the state of Montana. Apparently when I run, I spend my time thinking about the nonsense of American geography. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

The Place

View of Helena and its' hills at sunrise

Downtown Helena

During my three days in Montana, I experienced many of the things that make the state great, including the mountains:

the water:

and the trees:

In addition to these, I experienced Taco del Sol and their exquisite menu of tasy meals. I would gladly go back to Montana just to partake in the food from Taco del Sol. I'm pondering ways that I could score a sponsorship with those guys. At the very least I plan to pitch an idea to them for putting together an event in the same vein as the Moe's Burrito Dash 5k (click the link to read Ryan Woods' account of his impressive and ill-advised performance in this race).

The Race

This was the third race for me this year in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup, which basically guarantees that it will be a fun race in a great location with really tough compitition. It's been fun getting to run with (or more realistically, behind) the same bunch of people who are participating in the Mountain Cup at races all over the country. It's arguably even more fun hanging out with them and drinking beer after the race. As it turns out, it doesn't take much beer for things to start getting crazy when you're drinking with a bunch of runners with 7% body fat. On a related note, the Blackfoot River Brewing Company is a great brewery with a top notch staff who are nice to their patrons even when said patrons are still drinking beer and loudly discussing running store inventory strategy well after the taproom has been officially closed.

The race resulted in a poor performance on my part, but despite this, the event as a whole was great and the people were wonderful. Athough I admit that I had to resist the urge to puke, lay down in the grass and pass out during what should have been the most enjoyable part of the course, the route for the course was very well designed and offered great views, lots of fun smooth single-track, tough climbs, and fast descents. The organizers and volunteers for the race were a great bunch as well. Huge props to the Prickly Pear Land Trust for preserving these lands for recreational use and for organizing events such as this one.

The Aftermath

After waking up at daybreak the day after the race, I drove to Missoula to get in some additional time in the mountains before my flight out later that day. Along the way I discovered a magical spring with special healing powers.

Apparently the water from this spring cures hangovers

I did about 12 miles of exploration of the Stewart Peak Trail within the Rattlesnake NRA north of Missoula and took a scenic drive along the Bitterroot river. Before leaving, I closed out my time in Montana in the most fitting way I could think of: eating more Taco del Sol. That stuff is seriously excellent, and I think their logo would look great on running apparel... on me. Just saying.

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