Le Grizz 50-miler, October 2012, Montana, USA

Prelude (similar to Quaalude, might put you to sleep).

What to do–having gone through six or seven months of training that never seemed quite right; watching a summer that was slightly out of kilter almost every day; priorities shifting in every direction but the one that was needed–I did what was expected.  I ran myself into the ground, earned one more DNF, and indulged in the usual analysis on the way home.  That is what I did.

Meanwhile, over there on the other side of the console, chief consoler and ego rebuilder was plotting with little consultation needed.  Late Sunday evening; not even twenty-four hours after being declared dead, totally lacking, and bumbler extraordinaire, when all was unpacked and we couldn’t even see the mainland, Kathy said in a very calm manner, “You should run Le Grizz.”

“Uh…. , sure, okay, why not?”

There followed some silly-arsed reasoning about the excellent 34ish mile training run I just did (see CC100 DNF) and I knew the course (6:31 and 7:24 the previous two trips) and we liked the Glacier National Park region (we do) and I only had to run 16 miles farther in the same amount of time to be … uh… to be what?

“Uh…, sure, okay, why not?”  I sent in the entry blank, with check.

I did a couple of long pavement runs just to recall the thrill of irritating every nerve and tendon in your legs by the monotony of running with the same cadence for hours and hours and hours and … hmmm, she said something about ten and a half hours.  Can I run a 10-hour fifty?  Probably should try to just finish the dang thing, mend the ego and so on, right?

“Uh…. , sure, okay, why not?”

And so it was that we were eastbound over the Cascades

Eastbound, fall colors in the Cascades

Fall colors on Stevens Pass, US 2, Washington

The prairie (the Palouse)

and across the Palouse (like prairie, but in Washington)

Montana rocks

on past some rocks in western Montana

Kootenai River, Montana

stopped at the swinging bridge across the Kootenai River

The bridge that swings

walked across (and back), eventually getting to Hungry Horse Reservoir

Hungry Horse Reservoir from the dam

and driving out to the clearing near Spotted Bear, about 55 miles out in the woods… bear country.  Le Grizz, remember?

Going around the lake

took a picture of the South Fork of the Flathead River

Our temporary back yard

put up the tent


met some people from Ohio and Montana and Washington and Arizona and…

Patiently waiting... waiting... waiting...

stood around [me in shorts/white cap] in the middle of the dirt road for a while waiting for Pat Caffrey to shoot the starting device.  He did, and as in two previous years, Kathy drove off down the road while I used other means of covering ground.

This is as close as you'll see me.

The silliness of it all.  I was running along quite happy with how relaxed and casual the whole deal was when some guy announced, “Dead on 10:30s,” loud enough for all to hear.  He had one of those large, multi-dialed, Technicolor, fully illuminated, argyle colored GPS things.  He went on to explain that piece of electronic crap was set to go “Ding!” every mile.  I looked over, thought about the 10:30s and backed off, trying to figure out how to let him run off into the foreground so I would not give chase.  I was trying to live with the 10-hour fantasy.  He was in 8:45 land.  I ran off the road and hid in the bushes for a few minutes, studied flora, fauna, and did something I will not describe here, but, all in all, it worked.  I could not see, nor hear, him any longer.

The car with all the doors locked... mean mean mean is she.

Kathy was there every three miles.  She is a nice person, but she always has the doors locked–offers food, something to drink, a dry shirt, maybe, but she will not let me get in the car.  Left out in the rain, on my own, all I can do is continue towards Hungry Horse dam.

Some ego massaging takes place as I exchange names and where-are-you-froms with a couple.  They read my fantasy column and it is really neat to have someone say, “I have always wanted to ask about… ”  They were from Ohio and just giddy from running in the northern Rockies.  We talked for a couple of miles, but something unexpected happened at the halfway point.  I was at 5:01:12.  I knew what was in front of me for the next five or six miles and the fantasy of ten-hour (or 9:59:47.8) awoke and said hello.  We parted company and I picked things up a bit.

By the 35-mile point I had a 12-minute cushion on ten hours.  I also had a problem.  The only thing I could keep down was Fig Newtons™, maybe a gel every fourth or fifth mile… not near enough to run at the effort level I was doing.  I adjusted, told Kathy the ten-hour was gone.  I would try for something above total fade.  I locked my eyes on the back of the next person up the road and pulled him, then her, then her, then him… and so on, passing the last person I would pass as we got to the dam.  (Some of the white spots just above the dam are caps on runners.)

The white dot in the middle is me crossing the dam.

I was hoping to stay inside 10:30.  The fun of what does the watch on the wrist say versus what does the official clock say crossed my mind several times.  Ten and a half hours… how much have I slowed.  I walk very well and I was putting in running one-hundred steps on the ups, trying to stay conscious of effort.  If I could keep the effort up, the mind stays awake and effort and concentration feed off each other.

But… big but… I did not know how far out I was.  Big sigh.  Finally, as most hope had faded, and all I knew for sure was that I would finish, a woman in a blue car slowed and said, “You’ve got about two tenths of a mile to the trail, then two-hundred yards on the bush whack and you’re done.”  I looked over at her and asked, “Really?”  She pointed (we were rounding a curve), “Yep, trail is by that pick-up.”  I checked the lake for a moose, said hi the gentleman by the pick-up and turned in the direction he was pointing; went to the left of the aspen, past the big rock on the right, up the hill, hanging on to the bushes, and came out by the driveway to the parking lot where the screaming throng was gathered.

Kathy was waiting, hugs are always good, jokes about the differences 25 years can make, but it was done.  10:19:16 it said on the clock.  Smiles, barbecued (maybe) chicken, and toes that tingled and wanted out of the shoes.  It is done.


The larches were changing colors all the way across until we got back to the last pass on the Cascades.

Larch trees and a forest fire from long ago

They don’t come to the wet side of the mountains.  They look like many evergreens (conifers), but they change color

Larch trees in the fall

and shed their leaves (needles).

their needles (leaves).

Appropriately, a ridge of clouds and rain greets us as we cross the last pass on the North Cascades Highway and head for the island.

Back into our Cascades, two hours to the house.  Thank you.

—–Run gently out there—–