Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 5: Center of the Nation Series: Albion, MT- September 19, 2013

There are just no words for Montana. Apparently, Montana and I have a love hate relationship.

Montana Race #1 was awesome and left me with a PR. Montana Race #2 was le suck. And as awful as the race itself was, the experience was amazing. I'll get there.

But first, If you haven't figured it out yet, this is part 6 (day 5) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries.
The final installment will be coming soon, so stay tuned...

Day 5 of this badass trip brought us back to Montana, and a little ghost-town called Albion. Technically the registry of Montana ghost towns lists Albion as a ghost town, but in fact it is not entirely abandoned. It is still technically a town of residual population (similar to Colony WY, I guess). The only thing that indicates that this area of Montana had once been a town is the abandoned schoolhouse that was found right near the start line for the race. 

Once again, the course was fairly straightforward with a 2.3 something-ish mile out and back where you collect 5 rubber bands and perform a victory lap. Unfortunately, the first thing that was going against us was the unbelievably cold and windy temperature.

When those with smart-phones could get service, the temperatures were reading at 37F with a wind chill of 29F. I knew that I was going to be cold in my running tights, skirt, and multiple layers of shirts, but cold is a word with little meaning compared to what we were experiencing.

Imagine this... go into your kitchen and take a bag of frozen peas and drop it down the back of your panties. then put a frozen steak over each nipple, put a bag of frozen broccoli under each armpit and between your legs. now stand there in your kitchen in front of your open freezer for 3 hours. That still doesnt seem cold enough to me... maybe turn a fan on high and aim it right at you and eat some icecream while you are at it. Then you might know a fraction of the type of cold we were experiencing. 

The first trip out on the course was decent enough... albeit frigidly cold, but it was the return trip that was brutal. The return trips had us running into 30+ MPH SUSTAINED winds, that chilled you so badly you felt like all of your joints were going to explode and your tears were going to freeze to your face. I was putting in twice the effort to run my intervals, yet I was going so incredibly slow. It was absotively exhausting...

Now, some people may think that I am exaggerating here, but I kid you not, this was the most brutal experience I have ever been through. My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad race at Singer Island on April 27th had nothing on the brutality that was Albion Montana. One would never understand how horrible the wind was or how bad the cold was from the spectacular photos, but you are going to have to trust me here...

What made it worse was that there was an extreme pitch to the gravel roadway, leaving my feet screaming in pain with each excruciating step as the tendons and muscles tried to keep my feet underneath me. My my legs felt as if they were going to shatter off with every step and my muscles never wanted to warm up. 

At one point, after nearly being blown off the road (and I am not making that up either), I was in such mental and physical anguish that I  turned to one of my fellow runners (Jim) and told him that I had to listen to my body and I would be giving up. I wasn't even sure I would be able to make it back to the vehicles I was in so much pain. I was cold. I was crying. I felt like a complete and utter failure. Had I done a video of myself I would have looked like that poor snotty nosed girl from The Blair Witch Project... But I didn't, because my fingers and hands wouldn't even work well enough to unzip my camera from the case. 

And when Jim saw me struggling, he stood in front of me to block the wind, and said we would walk together. He crammed athletic socks on over my mittens. His friend crammed a winter ski hat down over my head when we passed the turnaround point again, and we carried on. I wanted to give up with every fiber of my being. But I had come this far already... as much as I wanted to give up, and seriously thought that the next step would be my very last... I kept going. One excruciating footstep after another.

Once again, Seth and I brought pennies hoping that Brina would find them and have the luck she needed... but it was really me that needed all the luck I could get.

And finally, after 4 hours and 23 minutes, I was hobbling across the finish line and to the car where Brina was waiting for me with heat and a shot of Fireball.

It was the worst race I have ever participated in, but one of the best experiences of my life. I could never fully explain what happened out there next to the abandoned schoolhouse at Albion Montana, so I am not even going to try.

Just know that I have forever been changed because of that day. And believe it or not, to learn the lessons that I learned about myself during that race, I would gladly do it all again in a heartbeat.


  1. To all your "I am not exaggeratings" I will offer confirmations. It was that cold. It was that windy. I basically bagged it as soon as I got out of my car, went into my trunk, grabbed my street clothes, since I had no cold gear, changed right there on the road (don't look if you don't want to see) grabbed my camera and was the defacto MarathonFoto guy for the day.

    It took me 4 hours to walk the course. I was sore in places no run has ever made me sore before. It was at least the second most brutal race I have ever experienced. I did colder in all five Dust Bowl races, one as low as 18ºF. Even Chadron, NE clocked in at 32ºF. But this was the coldest race, regardless of where the mercury was.

    The only other race that may have been more brutal was in Scotland this past August. I had slept in a tent the night before after a five hour ferry trip to the Isle of Coll. The storm from the North Sea gave us sustained 20 MPH winds, temperatures below 50ºF and intermittent showers. The island was so hilly that even though the max altitude was 131 feet, I recorded an elevation gain of nearly 1000 feet. Somehow, they managed to arrange for the wind to always be in our face on a circular course. All that said, Coll and Albion are a very close 1 & 2 on the misery scale. Coll might get the edge since I was a foreigner there. Maybe.

    1. thanks for being there with me tim, i dont think the experience would have been anywhere the same if i hadn't been enduring these conditions without the amazing people that were a part of the CONS experience.

  2. I totally believe you! That part of Montana and Wyoming get so windy, and out west lately we have been having some major wind and much colder temps lately. I wouldn't be surprised if the windchill at times felt more like 10 degree's. Way to hang in there and finish! In races like that it doesn't matter the time, just getting through it and finishing is all that matters:) Way to go! I'm enjoying reading this series!!!

    1. thanks. i think you are right. some races are supposed to challenge us physically while others are supposed to challenge us mentally. its all a game. 13.1 miles is never just about the run.

  3. I think pushing though extreme adversity does change us for the better. I've had a couple of those moments in life and I call them my mountaintop moments. And you can't get there without the struggle and pain. Great job!