Yellowstone Half Marathon – West Yellowstone, MT (2015)

Since the race started at 8:00, I got to sleep in for a bit and headed out of the hotel around 7:15. It was really easy to get to the start, though there was a bit of a traffic backup to get into the parking lot. It didn’t take terribly long to get into the grass lot and then I headed to the start line to put my ticket in for the giveaways before the race. It was warmer for the Yellowstone start than the Grand Teton start, which was good because there wasn’t a tent to hide under this time.

The race seemed to be bigger than the Grand Teton race, but it could have just been the fact that we had to back into the finish line corral since the start and finish were only a few hundred yards apart. The race was listed as a trail run, so I actually went out and bought new trail shoes for this race. I needed to get some anyway since I’ve got the Ragnar Angel Fire race at the end of August, but since I only found out this was a trail race about two weeks before I left (not sure how I missed that communication!), I didn’t have much time to break in the shoes. I ended up getting them in time to do a short (1.5 mile) trail run around Charlotte before I left and I went up an extra half size from what was initially recommended just to make sure I would have enough room in the toe box.

The run started out on the road near the airport in West Yellowstone and after about a mile, we moved onto an actual trail. This section of the course was definitely too small for how many people were running. It didn’t help that there had been rain throughout the previous week, so there were some really big puddles and mud that everyone ran around. While I was glad to finally get on the trail, it was disappointing to see everyone destroying the plants and surrounding trail.

Eventually, it did start to space out a bit, especially during the brutal uphill starting at mile 5.

During this section, all I could think of is “the ants go marching two by two” – needless to say, there was a lot of walking during this part of the race!

The good news is that since there was such a big uphill, eventually we got to come back down that hill and I was able to pick up some time in mile 8. Unfortunately, the hills along with the uneven terrain killed my legs. The most scenic part of the race came in the last 5 miles or so when we ended up wandering around a road above the river.

Instead of doing an official run / walk for this race, I just ran when I could and then walked when I had to (especially during that major hill). This seems to work pretty well for me in races that have a lot of hills, tough terrain or when I’m not trying to go for a specific finish time.
  • Mile 1 – 10:29
  • Mile 2 – 10:54
  • Mile 3 – 11:21
  • Mile 4 – 10:33
  • Mile 5 – 10:51
  • Mile 6 – 13:35
  • Mile 7 – 11:57
  • Mile 8 – 10:48
  • Mile 9 – 12:04
  • Mile 10 – 11:50
  • Mile 11 – 11:51
  • Mile 12 – 11:43
  • Last 1.1 – 10:56

Official time: 2:29:45

Apparently this worked well for me, because I finished this race 5 minutes faster than the Grand Teton half. I think the fact that I had been at elevation for over a week made a major impact, but I was still working with tired legs (from June 7-13 I did 83 miles, mostly hiking), so it was surprising to be able to finish this race faster.

The view from the finish line parking lot was still as good in the daylight, as it was the night before!

The race also provided free finish line photos again for this race.

After the views in the Grand Teton race, Yellowstone was a little bit of a letdown. I think I got a little spoiled with all the awesome mountain views in the tetons which made it easy to forget I was running along traffic and a dusty dirt road for most of that race. Other than the river near the end of the race, we were mostly on an overgrown road (it looked like an old road that 4-wheel drive vehicles occasionally drove over – big ruts for tires and then overgrown grass in the middle). 

I loved the combo of these two races – it gave me an excuse to get out west and check out  some awesome places that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to (at least not this year). Plus, although I didn’t initially sign up for the Grizzly Double (for half marathons in back-to-back weekends), I was able to add-on the extra shirt and medal.

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