Anyone who’s followed my blog for a while knows my Mom and I have made it our mission the past few years to go on a hiking trip every year as a fun mother-daughter thing. The past couple of years we’ve been to Charlie’s Bunion, Mt. Cammerer, and Mt. LeConte to name a few. This year Mom had the bright idea to combine our hiking trip with her personal mission to run a half or full marathon in every U.S. state. There’s an organization called Vacation Races which offer races of various lengths in and around certain National Parks. So she signed up for the Bison Double (the Yellowstone Half + 5K) and I signed up for 5K, with the plan being to run first, and then take some days off after to hike and explore Yellowstone, as well as the Grand Tetons.
The 5K was scheduled for Friday night with the half marathon to follow the next morning. We picked up our packets that afternoon, and then went back to our cabin we had rented for two days to rest and eat something small before running.
A few interesting things about this race:
- Turns out West Yellowstone is quite wet, meaning there are a crap ton of huge mosquitoes, flies, and gnats everywhere. The race provided tables of bug spray at the start line, as well as at the aid stations, but we still got eaten alive with bug bites. I also probably swallowed a few gnats when we ran through giant clouds of them.
- Mom and I didn’t know until time that the majority of the 5K was a trail race. Race organizers sent out a course map via email beforehand, but not being familiar with the area, I couldn’t tell that the course started in town and then went off-road (Side Note: It’s possible Mom would have been able to tell had she looked at the course map, but she prefers not to know the race route beforehand if at all possible). This was a major bummer because I didn’t bring running gaiters, and I hadn’t been training for a trail run.
- The race director would not stop talking about bears. It came up almost every time she had a microphone in her hand. Apparently she saw one while running a day or two before the 5K and she wanted everyone to know because her fellow race workers and volunteers didn’t believe her. She also made a point to reassure everyone that every aid station had someone there with bear spray just in case, which I think, quite frankly, alarmed more people than it reassured.
Mom chose to run the 5K with me, which I felt bad about since I’m so much slower than she is, but she pointed out that if she had run separately, she most likely would have taken refuge from the mosquitoes in the car after finishing and would have missed me cross the finish line, which she wanted to see. Sadly the paved portion of the 5K at the beginning didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped because I got a cramp at the top of my ribs on my right side, which continued to plague me until I got some electrolytes at the first and only aid station. It was hard to run with a cramp in that particular location, but I tried my best to keep any walking to a minimum, which resulted in an interesting ‘right arm over head, leaning as much to the to the left as possible while running’ strategy.
When we reached the trail running portion, all of us non-local runners realized quickly just how much the course consisted of rocks and gravel. There were some patches of solidly packed dirt, but those were few and far between. Most memorably, on the final righthand turn to get to the straightaway for the finish line, there was a slight bump up, which required approximately two steps to climb, and then a lower gravel-filled depression on the other side. When my foot hit that lower gravel area, I swear it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to stepping in quicksand. My foot immediately sunk into the gravel so deeply that the laces on the top of my shoe were completely covered up. Dragging my leg out of there and onto solid ground again was not the easiest thing in the world, and I saw a few others around me struggling with the same as well.
A lot of people ended up falling on the 5K and the half marathon the next day due to the rocks and gravel – I can’t count the number of finishers I saw covered in dust and dirt, and/or bleeding from various places. Mom actually ended up falling during the half, and sadly the EMT manning the first aid tent didn’t have a clue what he was doing, so she and I ended up cleaning her knee ourselves afterwards in a gas station bathroom down from the finish line and wrapping it up with gauze and a feminine sanitary pad underneath (to soak up the blood and keep the gauze from sticking to the open wound). Although it worked, we’ve since made a mental note to start traveling to races with a first aid kit in the car from now on, just in case.
My finish time was 47:55, which seems slow for a 5K, but considering the terrain and the fact I wasn’t prepared for a trail race, I was happy with it. There were a ton of other runners behind Mom and I when we crossed the finish line, so I felt good that we finished in the middle of the pack and weren’t some of the last ones. If we do another Vacation Race in the future, though, I’ll definitely examine the course map a little closer, looking for indicators of trail running or other oddities for which I’ll need to adjust my pre-race training.