The Grand Teton Trail Marathon in Wyoming gave me lots of new "est's". Smallest marathon I've run - 21 finishers. Highest marathon I've run - 9600 feet above sea level, farthest off course I've been - 2.6 mile detour, and the slowest marathon I've done - 6:23:50 was my official time.
This was also one of the most scenickest. I know that's not a word, but I had to make it an 'est'.
The Marathon started and finished at the Grand Targhee Resort, which is primarily a ski lodge. The start/finish area was at the bottom of one of the chair lifts.
When we arrived at the resort to check in, the lady at the desk asked me if I needed bear spray. Uh... What? Here in Wisconsin, the most vicious thing we need to worry about is a cranky squirrel, so I was a bit taken back by this question. I knew what the course was going to be like in terms of climb and terrain, but forgot to think about wildlife. Um, tell me about this bear spray? She explained its a hot pepper spray, and when you spray it in a bear's face, he'll usually just run away. I noted the word 'usually'.
This brought 2 images to my little brain. The first, a recent memory of being in a museum gift shop, playing with the trinkety stuff. I picked up one of those helicopter pencils where you rub your hands together to launch it gently into the air. Mensa Mary unintentionally did it backwards and shot the thing straight into the floor. Thus extrapolating my gadget skills, this yielded a second image: me trying to operate a can of bear spray while a bear is in spraying distance. At best I could hope that a flailing runner doused in bear spray would not be tasty. With my luck, I'd get the bear who likes Tabasco flavored runners. I think I would be safer if we leave the bear spray here.
When a marathon starts and ends at a ski lodge, you are going to be doing a lot of climbing.
The first section of the course is a trip up and down Fred's Mountain. We reach the top which was 9,600 feet above sea level, and about 2,000 feet above where we started. In one of these pictures, you can see the resort in the background. This upward journey took us 54 minutes.
We then make about a 4 mile journey back down to the start finish area. These first miles, I hooked up with Rox from Steamboat Springs, CO, and Dan 'Otter' from Chicago, IL.
Here's another est... biggest coincidence. I mentioned there were 21 finishers in this race. Dan and I were in another race together with only 25 finishers... Heat number 3 at the Heatbreaker half marathon in Milwaukee. Maybe not the biggest coincidence, but it definitely gets the 'small world' award.
As we made our way down from the top of Fred's Mountain, we got a view of 'The Grand', which is the highest peak in neighboring Grand Teton National Park.
We enjoyed lots more great scenery along our journey.
Around mile 9, Dan dropped back, and Rox and I continued together. At mile about 12, we missed the most obvious turn on the course, and ended up 2.6 miles away at the Idaho border. Booooo. When we finally realized our error, we hitched a ride from a nice young couple with a dog, and they drove us back to the point where we went off course.
Rox and I separated a few miles after we returned to the course.
Arriving back at the start finish with 5 miles to go, and an extra 2.6 miles on my feet, I knew it would be mentally hard to go out for that final segment. I was feeling good, and in good spirits, but, I had been out there for over 5 hours already and was getting a little tired.
Fortunately, I hooked up with Suzie from New York. She works for Microsoft, so not only could we talk about trail running, but also nerdy computer stuff.
When we arrived at the finish for the final time, I was definitely ready to be done. We enjoyed a burger at the Trap Bar at the resort before heading off to Grand Teton National Park.
The next day, my quads were sorer than they have been in a very long time. An ice bath, and a bit of kicking around in the hotel pool, and my legs were as good as new. Well, not new, but as good as they were going to get.
Many more pictures of the event can be seen here
For those keeping score in my quest to do all 50 states... This was state number 23.