I posted recently about adding another set of back-to-back marathons to my already busy September. The Jackson Hole Marathon was the second in this pair. You can read that previous post here
The short version is that without much thought, I jumped at an opportunity to do 2 more marathons in one weekend, in 2 states. Training partner Dennis Hanna scolded me, and dictated a training plan for the week between our 50 miler, and 2 more marathons. I ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon, near Salt Lake City, UT, in 3:15:24 the day before, and wondered just how much I would pay for that during this marathon.
This is the second year for the Jackson Hole Marathon, and it is organized by the same people as the Grand Teton Trail Marathon that I did on September 1st. I promised race director Jay Batchen that I would not be making any wrong turns during this one.
The Jackson Hole Marathon events are cup-free. They have chosen this format for environmental sensitivity reasons. No cups would be provided at the start or at the aid stations. Runners would be required to carry their own hydration system. They were also promoting the Hydra Pouch
, and were selling Jackson Hole Marathon logo'd Hydra Pouches at packet pickup. I decided to give this a try.
My opinion on green events is completely neutral. Whether an event is environmentally sensitive or not, has no influence on my decision to participate. I have no vested interest in the Hydra Pouch. I thought I'd give it a try, and then provide a candid opinion of how well I thought it worked.
The marathon started in charming downtown Jackson. My legs were reasonably fatigued and stiff, but not horrible. My goal was simply to relax, enjoy, and run a 3:59. WY is a repeat state for me, now that I have joined the 50 Sub 4
marathon group, I need a sub 4 hour marathon for this state to count. The rugged trail marathon I did a few weeks ago took me over 6 hours. That was a week before training partner Dennis Hanna's son-in-law Joey Heinrichs told me about the Sub 4 group.
The marathon had just about 100 participants, so I knew I'd be running alone. I decided to relax, take in the scenery and enjoy some tunes on my iPod. (OK - for the record, I keep the volume low enough that I can still hear things around me - people talking, cars, etc.)
The weather was chilly, little to no wind, and smoky-hazy due to the wild fires in Salmon, ID. The course is on the flatter side, with gentle long gradual hills. The highest point in the course is about 6,400 ft and the lowest is about 6,100 ft.
More than half of the course was on paved bike paths. A short stretch of it was in the city limits, and on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate the scenery for this part at about an 11. Just incredible! A little stream along the path, mountains in the background spotted with changing fall colors. Webmaster Bill and I returned to this part after I finished, so that we could get some pictures.
As I settled into a pace, my legs were surprisingly cooperative. But, 26.2 miles provides many opportunities for muscles to change their minds. I was grateful for every mile that felt decent.
OK, let's talk about this hydra pouch thing. I am not here to promote it, or condemn it. Just tell you my honest experience.
The cup is a soft plasticky material. It holds about 6 oz. When empty, it collapses to be pretty flat. You have to squeeze the sides to open it to allow filling it, and its shaped to minimize spilling when you are drinking while running. Its is promoted as an environmentally friendly product, as well as a logistically better way to drink liquids.
My first impression is that it looks a tad dorky. Not a deal-breaker, but if you didn't know what it was, you might think I had some sort of strange bodily issue that you wouldn't want to ask about. So, for looks, I'd give it a D+.
My second impression... I clipped it onto my shorts, and it was not uncomfortable. I am a bit persnickety with accessories bugging me, and I'd say on a scale of 1 to 10 for the bugging factor, it would be a 1 or 2. (1 is good, 10 would be bad.) So, I guess for comfort, I'd give it an A-.
The aid stations had self service filling stations offering water and sports drink. They are designed to fill the pouchie thing quickly.
Filling up was a bummer. If you tried to fill it using one hand both hold the pouch, and push the lever with the pouch, the spouty thing was not aligned properly, and all you got was a soaking wet hand. So this required a two handed maneuver. One to push the lever and one to hold the pouch in the line of fire of the gushing liquid. It also required you to come to a complete stop. During a trail marathon, this is standard practice, and not a big deal. However, during a road marathon, its actually a bit painful to come to a complete stop for a few seconds. The faster you are running, and the more miles you have behind you, the more discomfort this will cause. So, for filling, I have to give it a D-.
For drinking, I found a benefit here. It did hold more, and spill less than a traditional cup. I found that I drank more at each aid station. I could also drink slower, which is more comfortable as well. As a result, after a while, I figured out that I only needed to use every other aid station. So, for drinking, I give this funny looking thing an A.
My overall review of this thing, I guess would be a C. If a race I consider in the future were using this system, it would not deter me from participating, however, if given a choice, I might still lean towards the traditional cup.
OK, back to the marathon...
I didn't worry about my pace too much, I just enjoyed the run. When I got to mile 13, and saw husband Bill, I checked my watch, and estimated I'd be running just about a 3:45. My legs were holding up, and not protesting yet. Of course, anything can happen over the next 13 miles.
Around mile 16, we have to leave our bike path, and run along a busy highway for about 3 miles. A necessary evil, in order to connect the 2 bike paths, and get us from Jackson to Teton Village, this section was rather unpleasant. The constant oncoming traffic created a head wind, and was too noisy to safely listen to my tunes.
We started our final stretch at about mile 19. Back on a bike path, and now heading in a direction towards the finish, I soaked in the return of pleasant scenery. I checked my watch, and started doing some math in my head. Was I still on pace for that 3:45? Once again, I started thinking of the points system for the Sub 4 group. A 3:45:00 would score me 6 points, but a 3:44:59 would score 7. I like 7 better than 6, by a factor of 1. (Yes, I know that mathematically doesn't work, but at this point I am dedicating all my math skills to figuring the differential between the pace I am running, and the pace I need to run.) I had slowed a bit for the middle miles, so I needed to pick up the pace a bit.
I had successfully transferred an orange flavored Gu from my pocket to my tummy, and it was staying put. I told my legs that if they hurried up a bit, they could be done sooner, and they seemed agreeable. I occupied my little brain at each mile marker trying to figure out if I had enough cushion. I'd feel relaxed when I got to the point that I could finish at a 9 minute pace, and still hit that 3:44:59. The difficulty of doing math in your head is inversely proportional to the number of miles you have left.
I finished with a chip time of 3:40:58. Sweet. This earned me the second place female spot. The awards were hand made by a local artis
Post race festivities were held at the Teton Village, a ski resort area. Our hotel was walking distance from the finish. We chatted with other runners and spectators for a bit, and enjoyed the relaxing environment. Locals talked about the smoke and haze from the wild fires, and were disappointed that the normally spectacular views would not be present for us.
As I mentioned in the previous post, this was not the smartest thing I have done. Jumping into a 3rd weekend in one month of double marathons, and a 50 miler in there too is a lot to ask of 2 legs, but I do not regret it. I am grateful for training partner Dennis Hanna who relentlessly insisted that I take it very easy with my running in the week leading up to this weekend.
But in the end, sometimes you do just have to dive in to an adventure, and seize the day. It may work out, it may not. I could have easily ended up injured. I could have easily ended up with a 5 hour marathon on the second day. My goal in life is not to never make any mistakes. My goal is to take a few risks, enjoy an adventure, and to challenge myself. And if one of those risks ends with a disaster, well... bad fortune makes for good stories... so I will enjoy writing about it afterwards.
Keeping score... Sub 4 marathon state number 22.
And in case you were wondering, I am NOT doing any more marathons this month. I promise. (And for the record, I am writing this on September 27th.)