Just two weeks after Alaska, I had scheduled a marathon in Idaho. I was a bit excited about it. I had just qualified for Boston so that pressure was gone and on top of that it was a downhill race so it was the easiest of my last 7 states left to fifty. My real goal is to complete all 50 states in less than four hours so even though my average time is around 3:30, a little downhill cushion never hurt anyone. The course goes downhill for the first half with a drop of 2400 feet or so. I don’t have exact numbers but I like hearing downhill for 13 miles.

The trip began with a trip to Denver and then a flight into Idaho Falls where Karen and I were actually on the same flight. Karen made the entire schedule (as always) and we were looking at going to lunch and then straight to the expo and our hotel was the site of the expo so that was pretty much wrapped up as well. It was an hour drive to Pocatello from Idaho Falls but that would not take long. We met another runner named Tom in Denver and he ended up speaking to Karen the entire flight as their seats were together. I was happy just to catch a few minutes of rest a few rows behind them.

Tom was a great guy and we ran into each other a week later in Sioux Falls as well but there was one thing I just did not get about him. He complained about spending the extra night in the state before going home. His perfect world is to get in the day before, go to the expo, run in the morning and catch a flight that afternoon. I get it (a little I suppose) but where is the fun of visiting the state and seeing Idaho? Or meeting and hanging out with people along the way? This trip was a classic example of how you cannot have it all for me (foreshadowing!).

The rental car company was not at the airport which was against what they advertised so we were hungry and cranky by the time we hit the road. We stopped at a local place where I got a baked potato (yes, in Idaho that is what I had) and after a wrong turn (Karen requires better navigation than I provided) we made it to the hotel and the expo. We got our five pound bag of potatoes, a nice knapsack and a long sleeve tee (no marathon is perfect). After that we made a small trip to the grocery store to pick up supplies and door prizes for dinner and then had a few minutes before we went to dinner that night.

Karen had organized the dinner and she did a perfect job! More people showed up than we had predicted and the restaurant had extra seats for us! It was nice to meet some other Iowa runners there (I run alone – sad I know) and to see Mike C again after the time in Alaska and to talk to some other new runners as well. Just as we were packing up Julia and Shane showed up unexpectedly and then Heather, Galen, and Angie showed up too. Awesome. The dinner was a great success so much so that I never had time to hand out the door prizes so I just gave them to the people who stayed the longest. The three from Utah got one as did Aaron and Denis. There was a Pez prize! Lucky Denis!

After that, Karen is never one for staying up late so there were no worries about an early start as she usually wants everything off five minutes after getting into the room so she can get eight hours of sleep. And when you are on another time zone it is usually not tough to go to bed early. We woke up early and made it to the race where there were very long port-a-potty lines and lots of pictures being taken. I lined up next to a girl who was trying to run a sub three and felt comfortable with that.

A marathon maniac sang the national anthem with no musical accompaniment and it was real impressive. I could not believe she was that brave. The gun went off and we took off. And it was downhill – straight downhill. I went out at a fast 6:23 first mile (Too fast! Too fast!), but then again it WAS downhill and I was thrilled to settle into 6:35 miles for a bit after that. When we made it to the Mile 7 point I already knew I may be going a little too fast and my quadriceps were burning from the constant downhill. I was either in trouble or on my way to a PR. The course turned and went uphill for a bit but it did not slow me down. And the miles kept coming in under seven minutes until Mile 12 where a steep uphill killed me but I was able to settle into just over seven minute miles after that for the next five miles.

Four people passed me in the next 8 miles including the Sub three girl and I was thrilled to think she may make it! All I wanted was something under 3:10 so I could make it back to Boston for sure! And I had a real shot at a PR however there was a hill at 21 that just hurt me and I was fighting to keep it together. On top of that the 5K started at Mile 23 and wouldn’t you know it I came up on them just as it started! I was going to be held up by another race? Was I going to lose everything in the last three miles?

Thankfully no, I navigated just fine around the 5K crowd and even passed a runner along the way. He had a great kick and caught me but those quads were burning and I was just trying to keep it fast enough. I was more than shocked to see myself come in at a 3:08:45 – my second fastest time ever! I was also 20th overall. Afterwards there was plenty of chocolate milk and I waited for my friends to come in. Galen was first and I talked to him for a bit before Tom came in. I went out of my way to talk to him and he and I talked for a while before Heather came in. She was talking to some other runners so we met her in the finishing chute.

Now not everyone is out there to complete a fast marathon I assure you but Tom, Heather and I are all trying to complete all 50 states in under 4 hours. This was all of our Idaho and we were hoping some others would come in as well. So we just stood at the end of the finishing chute staring at the clock and the runners coming in for the next five minutes.

Then they started to come in. Paul came in with the 3:55 pacer and we all cheered for him. Karen was next and she made it with three minutes to spare. She looked shocked to see the four of us just sitting there waiting for her. We asked her if Aaron was still out there and she said that she was pretty sure he was right behind her. Sure enough he came in a minute later. He seemed much more low key about the matter. It was also incredible after the fact when we also found out our other friend JC made it as well. JC is a great runner but he does not always aim for fast times so we never even waited for him. Sad.

The after festivities had beer and lots of other drinks in addition to the chocolate milk. Running phenom Gary Krueger showed up afterwards and Heather and he went on a road trip to Colorado where he would try to win the American Discovery Trail two days later. We had some fun catching up. Afterwards and I believe I talked Mike C into Vegas to see my 50 states finish – yes! Both Paul and Mike C age group placed and that is awesome. We left after a long talk with JC and seeing Angie again. As soon as we got back to the hotel all I could think was what next to do in Idaho? We could visit a national park or something? I saw some bears exhibit was in Idaho Falls?

But Keri posted on the maniac page she and Denis would be showing up at Applebees afterward and honestly that sounded like a better time so pretty much everyone mentioned in this story and even Eddie showed up too. We were looking for him for some time before we left and I was happy to hear he finished. He is currently trying to run all 50 states barefoot – impressive! This was not a trail that was easy on the feet he reported.

As dinner ended Karen and I went back to Idaho Falls and were able to catch the falls and see the area. It was a compromise to seeing bears I suppose but like I said earlier you have to weigh these things out. It was an awesome trip and honestly, I may do it again someday (and I would take the friends over the sights again too). Certainly if you run Idaho, there are few chances to do better than Pocatello!



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