121st Boston Marathon (2017) – Race Report

On Monday, April 17, 2017, I joined a corral of a few hundred other anxious, jittery runners a few minutes before 10am to begin the 121st Boston Marathon. It took a few years of preparation to get to the starting line, and it was an unforgettable experience.

Someone put a bib on this Samuel Adams at the Tea Party museum

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

In October 2013 I ran the St. George Marathon. It had been four years since I last ran a marathon, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. For the previous 13 years since graduating high school my running was intermittent. I rarely ran in the winter because it was too cold. My weight went from about 185 in 2003, up to 239 in 2007, and then back down to about 205 in 2013.

I ended up finishing the marathon with a time of 3:24:53. It was a major success for me, and it broke my previous PR set when I was 18 years old at the Park City Marathon. I was hooked on running. For the first time I realized I could potentially qualify for Boston — something I’d never considered before. I needed to take 20 minutes off my time, but that seemed doable.

I signed up for the Phoenix Marathon in the late winter of the following year and continued training with the goal of eventually dropping my time down to below 3:05. Unfortunately the following year was marred by small, but nagging injuries that stifled my improvement. However, I took the time to heal in the fall of 2014 and then trained hard in 2015. I finally hit my goal time of sub-3:05 at the Mt. Nebo Marathon in September 2015.

Once again my Boston Marathon plans were frustrated as excess demand to run the race reduced the cutoff time and I missed qualification by 1 minute 46 seconds.

I continued training until finally I got a secure qualification time at the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon in May 2016. Then I had to wait one year to actually run the Boston Marathon.

Vacation to New York and Boston

This month (April 2017) finally arrived. Cyndi and I decided to make a vacation out of our trip across the United States to Boston. Neither of us had been to New York for more than a few hours, so we wrapped that into our plans.

Airline tickets are generally cheap on Wednesdays, so we booked a flight to New York on a Wednesday and out of Boston the following Wednesday. On the Tuesday evening before our flight, we drove 7 hours to Vancouver, WA to drop our kids off with family. Then we caught a red-eye flight to New York. We spent 2.5 days seeing all sorts of sites and having a great time.

In approximately this order, we saw: all sorts of subway lines and stops, the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Central Park, Belvedere Castle, the MET, an awesome Mexican restaurant, the show Stomp, Times Square, delicious cheesecake, a busy but spectacular bagel shop, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Trinity Church, Wall Street, the Staten Island Ferry, the Statue of Liberty, the LDS Temple, Serendipity 3, Rockefeller Center, Highline Park, and also walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Central Park
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Stomp off Broadway
Times Square
One World Trade Center and the Memorial
High Line Park
Brooklyn Bridge

On Saturday we took a four hour Amtrak train to Boston, dropped our stuff off at our South End airbnb, ate at Shake Shack, and met up with my parents. On Sunday we went to church, walked around Harvard, went to packet pickup, and did a Duck Tour.

What did all of this amount to? WAY TOO MUCH WALKING RIGHT BEFORE A MARATHON! To be precise, here is my step count:

Day Steps
Wednesday 15,869
Thursday 27,585
Friday 19,877
Saturday 25,769
Sunday 11,963

That doesn’t even account for the hours of standing around in museums, in lines, and on the subway. We came home exhausted every night. On Sunday I tried to take it easy, but it was too little too late. I knew going into the race that this was a major risk. Still, I don’t regret it since I wanted to see the New York and who knows when we’ll go back.

Boston Marathon Packet Pickup and Expo

Packet pickup and the expo run for three days for the Boston Marathon — Friday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm. We attended on Sunday. It was a great relief to finally have my bib in hand. I also loved the shirt.

Finally have my Boston Marathon packet in hand!
“Be Boston” – the theme this year
Bib in hand with my biggest supporter by my side

The expo was huge and we walked around it for a while. There were several samples of sports drinks and we each got a free Kind bar. There were lots of running products and big stores from Adidas and New Balance (and Saucony maybe?).

Race Morning

I woke up at 5:40am on race morning, ate part of my PB&J, and got ready. I had arranged for an Uber driver to picked me up, and she dropped me off at Boston Common so I could hop on the bus to Hopkinton. There were large crowds, but the organization was superb and I was on a bus pretty soon after arriving.

In line for the bus I met a guy named Sam from Louisiana. We chatted the whole way to Hopkinton. This was his 4th Boston in a row. His wife had also run it in 2013 but finished before the bombing. It was good to talk to him. We discussed past marathons, target times, and training. When we arrived at the Athletes’ Village we snapped a photo at the entrance.

The Athletes’ Village is huge. I have never seen so many port-a-potties in one place in my life! They had everything you might need before running a marathon — bagels, bananas, apples, sunscreen, Clif Bloks, water, Gatorade, etc. (Who eats apples right before a race though?) There was a HUGE line to take a picture in front of the “Welcome to Hopkinton – It all starts here” sign. So I didn’t get a picture there. A guy on a loudspeaker was announcing the same stuff over and over and a helicopter hovered overhead.

Did I mention the police? They were everywhere. From when I approached the buses until I went home that afternoon. Everywhere.

I hit the port-a-potties early and then again about 20 minutes before I would have to head to the start. Right after I exited, around 8:45am, the lines grew exponentially. I couldn’t believe how long the lines got despite the fact that there were hundreds of toilets available.

I ran into Joseph, who I was runner-up to at the Mt. Nebo Marathon in 2015. We sat by each other and talked until it was time for us to head to the start.

The Boston Marathon had four waves this year. I was in Wave 1, Corral 3. I got to head to the starting line at 9:15. I saw an acquaintance from my hometown on the way and gave her a high-five. It’s about a 0.75 mile walk from the Athletes’ Village to the starting line.  There were more port-a-potties on the way as well, so I made another stop right before the lines for those exploded.

All morning the energy was electrifying. Everyone was jittery and anxious, including me. I finally got to Corral 3 and waited for 20 minutes. It smelled of Ben-Gay and BO. Most of the people in my corral were similar to me with runner physique. All of us had trained for years to be here. I talked to a runner next to me for a few minutes, but I forget where he was from (Wisconsin maybe?).

A cheer erupted when the elites walked out from an area to the left. When their names were announced there were huge cheers for Galen Rupp and Jared Ward.

A man sang the National Anthem as several flags waved. Right when he finished two F-15’s flew overhead. The timing could not have been more perfect.

Before long a countdown began and at 10am we were off!

The Boston Marathon

Miles 1-5: 6:33, 6:27, 6:19, 6:19, 6:28

We started at a walk and quickly transitioned to a jog and then a run. I was in Corral 3, pretty close to the Start. There were so many runners! I was boxed in and couldn’t move around much, but it didn’t matter since everyone was basically going the pace I wanted to run anyways.

I noticed the energy of the crowd right away. There were loads of people lining the start. Eventually there began to be gaps in the spectators on the sides, but throughout the race I was impressed by the sheer numbers of spectators.

The Boston Marathon has some decent downhill for the first 4 miles. I didn’t feel like I was taking the downhill too fast because I was so boxed in. I actually wanted to go a bit faster, but I was happy with 6:33 for my first mile. The second mile was similar and I came in around 6:27.

I picked it up a bit for the third mile. The runners started to spread out. There were also some nice crowds and I had fun giving high fives to the people on the sidelines. I got a little carried away on a downhill portion with crowds and started running too fast, but I reigned myself back in and ran a 6:19 for miles 3 and 4. 6:19 was actually near my “stretch goal” pace of 2:45:00, so I didn’t mind.

One great thing about the Boston Marathon is the variety of runners. For example, I was near the Blind Runner pictured below for a while. It’s amazing to me that he could move like he did with that disability. I ran by him for a large portion of the race. I also came across handcyclers and people with other disabilities and missing limbs during the race.

I ran near this blind runner for part of the Boston Marathon

Around Mile 4 I took my phone out and captured a selfie. I figured I should get at least one since I was carrying my phone. It was a pain to do since I didn’t want to stop, and as I got more tired later on I didn’t feel like messing with my phone.

A fuzzy selfie taken while running around Mile 4 of the Boston Marathon. You can see the runners had spread out a bit by then.

I hit my fifth mile at 6:28. Something changed during that mile. I noticed that my legs and breathing were not quite right. If my heart rate was being measured correctly it was way too high. It was hot out. It hit 79 Fahrenheit during the race, and we started out at about 69F. There were aid stations every mile starting at Mile 2, and I was taking one cup of Gatorade to drink and a cup of water to dump on my head. Despite drinking a lot, I could tell that my stretch goal was not likely to happen. I was not feeling well.

Miles 6-10: 6:24, 6:25, 6:33, 6:35, 6:44

I still pressed on and continued hitting my primary goal pace of 6:28.

I don’t recall all the details of the race, just continued amazement at the crowds of spectators. It wasn’t exactly one continuous line of spectators, but there were large groups of people quite often. They were cheering, giving high-fives, handing out orange slices and water. Some were searching for their runners but many were just out to watch the spectacle and cheer us on. It was fantastic. It certainly provided a boost.

A few times during the marathon, a runner would grab a water bottle from a spectator, take a sip or dump some on his head, and then hand it on to another runner. I took part in this a few times during the race.

Miles 6, 7, and 8 were at 6:24, 6:25, and 6:35. I remember distinctly feeling rotten around mile 7. I was drinking a lot (more than planned) and eating my Gu Energy Chews, but I was feeling rotten. I decided to eat my Honey Stinger Waffle at Mile 8 instead of waiting until Mile 10. Unfortunately my mouth was already really dry and it was hard to swallow. This is usually the case around Mile 20 for me, but not before Mile 10 (that’s why I only bring one Waffle to eat). I actually gagged on the last bite and it got stuck in my throat until I hit the next aid station and downed some water. This was not pleasant.

I couldn’t believe how bad I was feeling. I had felt way better on training runs at a similar pace. Five weeks earlier I had run a half marathon at a 6:00/mile pace. Now I knew I had to slow down more, so my next two miles were 6:35 and 6:44.

I was in a pretty dark place at this point, despite the amazing crowds and all the energy. I did my best to think positive and keep chugging on. I was surprised at how lousy I felt, and I even felt light-headed a few times. In hindsight, I’m quite sure this was due to a combination of the heat and wearing out my legs walking all over New York. Touring on foot had taken its toll.

Miles 11-15: 6:50, 6:48, 6:57, 7:00, 7:07

Accepting this, I let my pace drift further. I wanted to finish, no matter what my time was, and I didn’t want a total disaster like when I ran the Hoover Dam Marathon. This section of the course was mostly flat. I tried to regroup and hydrate. I also tried to enjoy the experience despite how terrible I was feeling.

At mile 11 I grabbed a Clif gel and it provided a good boost.

At mile 13 we passed Wellesley College and the “scream tunnel.” I didn’t get a kiss, but a lot of other runners did and it was entertaining. I did give a lot of high fives. I thought the energy here was similar to what we saw in a lot of the towns along the course.

Crossing half way was a relief. I crossed at 1:26:30. This was slower than what I had originally planned and at this point I didn’t expect any kind of negative or even split. I still hoped for a turnaround though.

MILES 16-20: 6:37, 7:10, 7:26, 7:05, 7:18

Finally during mile 16 I emerged from my haze and got a bit of a second wind. In my last couple of marathons (Morgan Valley and Layton) I’ve gotten a second wind at a similar point. There was a half mile where I felt really good for the first time in about 12 miles. I thought there could be a chance of holding the line at a 7:00/mile pace. That didn’t happen for long, but I received a huge mental boost and it was enough to get me out of my despair and through the rest of the race.

My splits for miles 16 and 17 were 6:37 and 7:10, attributing to the second wind I got as well as some downhill during mile 16 and uphill during mile 17.

Now that I was past mile 17 I knew we had more hills coming up, in fact, we had just passed the first one. Given my state at this point in the race, the hills didn’t really bug me much. I mean, I was already somewhat of a wreck relative to where I thought I’d be, so I just took the hills as they came.

The crowds were also growing by now and provided some nice support on the hills.

MILES 21-25: 7:54, 7:26, 7:59, 8:23, 9:15

Heartbreak Hill finally arrived at ~mile 20.5. Similar to the previous hills, this wasn’t a huge deal for me since I was already wrecked anyways. I trudged up it at a relatively decent pace and finished mile 21 in 7:54.

The crowd from here to the finish essentially lined every foot of the course and it was awesome. However, when I got to the top of Heartbreak Hill I was starting to get really exhausted and I could feel my quads locking up. Uh oh.

I finished mile 22 in 7:26 but after that it became a slog. My quads became extremely tight and heavy. Every step took effort. I had been here before, but in the last four marathons I’d run I hadn’t gotten to this point. The Newport Marathon was the last time I had hit The Wall like this.

Now the challenge was not to finish in a certain time, but to finish without walking. I knew if I slowed to a walk I’d immediately cramp up and wouldn’t be able to resume running.

I also noticed that I was no longer sweating. This concerned me, but I was close enough to the end that I figured I could make it.

My miles slowed from 7:59 to 8:53 to 9:15. This is always remarkable to me in hindsight (even though it’s happened before). When I am doing training runs, I pretty much never run slower than 8:30, even on recovery days. On those days I can’t imagine ever needing to run slower than 9:00/mile. Yet here I was unable to hold a 9:00 pace!

To make things worse, I was getting passed by what seemed like hundreds of runners at this point. They were like a river running past me. I thought it was even thousands, but looking back and knowing my final placement, it was probably about 1000 runners that passed me between the half and the end, possibly fewer.

While it’s not fun to be passed by 1000 runners, I did see some guys walking or obviously injured or cramped up. I’m grateful I was still moving as fast as I was.

I counted down the minutes until I could stop running. I remember this started when I had about 3 miles left — about 25 minutes.

Cyndi later asked me if I had the classic dark thought of “I’m never doing another marathon again.” I laughed. It’s been a few years since I had that thought (Robie Creek 2012 I think). On the contrary, at this point I was thinking about which race I could redeem myself at…

MILE 26 & 26.2: 9:40, 7:47

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston

One thing that kept me going was that Cyndi had texted me to say that she and my parents were on the corner of Hereford and Boylston, very close to the finish. I didn’t want to make them wait any longer and I wanted to run by them, not walk. From Cyndi’s spot, she saw a lot of my heroes:

Kiplagat
Kirui
Galen Rupp
Jared Ward
Puzey – the brother of an old friend
Meb – who is very inspiring to me

I saw the CITGO sign up ahead, then finally I got to make the right turn onto Hereford. The crowd was so loud here! I watched for Cyndi and finally spotted her about 100 yards ahead on my left. It was such a relief and a happy moment to see her! I ran up to her and gave her a kiss. Then I rounded the turn onto Boylston.

Hereford Street during the 2017 Boston Marathon
Here I come down Hereford! Almost done!

Apparently I had a little more left in me because the pace of my last 0.2 mile was 7:47.

About 150 yards before the finish I saw two runners grab a guy in blue that was falling. I started to run up to help on his right, but an officer stepped over to support him, so I ended up going around them. I glanced back and saw him go all the way to the ground. He was later carried across the finish. I found this video:

Crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon was such a relief! I had waited so long, thought about it during dozens of training runs over thousands of miles. It was an accomplishment I’d looked forward to for 3.5 years. It also meant I could stop running.

My official time was 3:08:42, a far cry from my expected time of ~2:48:00, but it could have been worse.

After the Boston Marathon

I soon got my medal and some snacks (which I couldn’t stomach yet). The race organizers made the runners walk what seemed like forever. I just wanted to sit down and rest! I was really light-headed. At first I just stopped and leaned. Finally when I thought I’d puke and/or faint I had to sit in a wheelchair. I rested for a minute then got up and continued walking. I eventually had to find another wheelchair. I rested in that and then continued walking. I found one more wheelchair and sat in it until they threatened to take me to the medical tent. Then I finished the death march to the meetup area and sat on the sidewalk for 10-15 minutes.

Runners milling about and looking for friends and family after the Boston Marathon

I sat next to a guy named Craig Stevenson from Michigan. He was in a state similar to me — happy to have finished, but exhausted and disappointed with his time. The heat had gotten to us both. If I remember correctly, we had both ran a similar number of marathons and were both at Boston for the first time. It was nice to talk to someone and realize that many of us had a tough race. [I later came across this thread on LetsRun.com and saw that many other people had similar experiences.]

I grabbed this photo of Craig so I could remember who he was. I hope he doesn’t mind me posting it here!
Keeping warm after the marathon in a plastic blanket

I eventually caught up with Cyndi and my parents in a little cafe. It was good to see them and I gave them a recap of the race. They’d had a fun time cheering and seeing the fast runners come through. They said a lady next to them cried when I gave Cyndi a kiss! Cyndi said that watching the end of the marathon was one of the top 10 experiences of her life (I just checked again and she still affirms that even though it’s been a week since the race).

Heading out for a tourist walk with my medal after finishing the 2017 Boston Marathon

After cleaning up we walked part of the Freedom Trail and ended up eating a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Row 34. I had the “Daily Whole Fish” which was a black bass. YUM.

It was fun to see other runners walking around and congratulate them.

In Conclusion

I honestly think that 70-90% of people that want to run Boston could run Boston. The 10-30% that can’t are those that are plagued with injuries or other ailments. I think most other people could do it. What does it take? It takes planning. It takes sacrificing other hobbies for running. It may take losing some weight (I’m down to <190 from my high of 239). It takes patience: I read recently that we generally overestimate what we can do in the short run, and underestimate what we can do in the long run. I think that most people that are willing to put in the time and effort can get to Boston in 3-6 years.

I hope to run the Boston Marathon again someday. It probably won’t happen next year, but maybe in two or three.

Boston was my 17th marathon. It was unlike anything else I’ve done. The energy and excitement was amazing. The organization was superb. I’ve never been in a corral with ~1000 other runners that are my same speed and fitness. I’ve never seen crowds that line a course for miles. I’ve never run next to blind runners, runners missing limbs, runners pushing disabled people, and wheelchair athletes all in the same race. Boston was a unique, memorable, and remarkable experience. How could I not want to do it again?

Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon 2017

On Saturday I ran the Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon. The course made for a unique experience. It was crowded but still enjoyable.

I signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle a few months ago. Sometimes I sign up for a race and then regret it. However, I found myself anxiously anticipating this half marathon. I’ve been training hard since December in some nasty (i.e. cold, snowy, icy, and dark) conditions. I haven’t had a chance to test myself since the 10k Turkey Trot I ran in November.

The Shamrock Shuffle took place on March 11, 2017. It was a great time to test my training and just over 5 weeks before my next marathon (the Boston Marathon!), so it would provide some pacing guidance and a good training stimulus. Additionally, it was an opportunity for me to PR.

The race was going to start from Reid Merril Park in Eagle, ID. I would be an out-and-back on the Greenbelt along the Boise River. This is a nice stretch of mostly paved path with some decent scenery. Unfortunately, we got an email from the race director a few days before the race. The email indicated that parts of the Greenbelt were flooded due to the heavy snowfall this winter. The race wouldn’t be canceled, but the course was changed to this:

That’s right, a sideways “H” course with four out-and-backs three times each. Plus there were some sharp turns onto and off of a walking bridge. It actually added up to 14 out-and-backs since we went back to the start area two times before finishing the third time.

I was at least happy we were still going to be able to run.

I felt great on race day. I did a mini-taper on race week:

  • 14 miles on Monday
  • 6 recovery miles plus cross training on Tuesday
  • 8 miles on Wednesday with 2×800 and 1×2.5mi@HM pace
  • 6 miles recovery on Thursday with 15 minutes on the spin bike
  • 2.5 miles recovery on Friday and 16 minutes on the spin bike

Like I said, it was a mini-taper. I’ve been doing lots of miles, so by Saturday morning I felt quite recovered.

The weather was also great on race day. It was mid-high 40’s at the 10am start time with a breeze. It was warm enough that I was able to wear my tank top without gloves or a hat! I haven’t done that in months (especially since I usually run in the early morning).

Miles 1-4: 5:52, 5:55, 5:56, 5:55

Once we started I immediately took the lead. I went a little too fast as usual, but I tried to pare it back within the first half mile. My target time was to break 1:20:00, which would take a 6:06 pace. I hit the first mile at 5:52, which really wasn’t too much faster than my target.

I was feeling good, so I kept the pace just under 6 minutes/mile. It’s amazing to me how different a race feels than regular training. It’s hard for me to run a mile sub-6:00 when I train in the early mornings, but put me in a race and all the sudden it really doesn’t feel too bad.

The first time I crossed the bridge in the center of the course I almost ran off the trail and down an embankment. The bridge has some grade to it, and I didn’t quite anticipate the sharpness of the turn. Luckily I caught myself.

The nice thing about the out-and-back course was that I could see exactly where each of the other runners were. By the second turn-around I had a comfortable lead and it was growing. I hit the second mile at 5:55. Then the third at 5:56. The third turn-around was actually a little loop, which was nicer than a 180 degree turn like the other three points.

I still felt good for the 4th mile and I was happy to be holding the sub-6:00 pace. I finished the mile at 5:55. However, at the turn-around at about Mile 3.5, I saw a couple fast guys coming up behind me. It freaked me out. Where did these guys come from? Then I realized they were probably 5k or 10k runners who were released a few minutes after the Half Marathoners but were only doing 3 out-and-backs instead of all 4. They passed me, but I was ok with that.

Miles 5-8: 5:54, 6:04, 6:00, 6:02

After each “lap” we ran past the finish line and looped around to start over. I was pumped when I finished the first lap and crossed about 4.3 miles into the race. I completed the 5th mile at 5:54.

Then the race started to get more interesting. The 5k and 10k runners and walkers were now on the course. The course was comprised of a walking path which was wider than a sidewalk but more narrow that a typical car lane. Some of the walkers didn’t mind walking 3 or 4 side-by-side. This meant that the runners were forced to do a lot of weaving and yelling warnings.

I tried to be as kind as possible. I usually yelled out “coming left” before passing on the left. Then I would wheeze out a “thanks” when I passed them. I hope I didn’t come across as a jerk.

In any case, the course was really crowded and it was all I could do to keep from bumping into people.

On the other hand, it was a good distraction. When a race is lonely and spread out it can be easy to beat yourself up. In this case I was too concerned about which direction to dodge that I didn’t have to think about my tiring legs as much.

Still, my legs were beginning to tire. Between the weaving and the fatigue I slowed my pace to just over 6:00/mile. Miles 6, 7, and 8 were 6:04, 6:00, and 6:02. During mile 8 I actually came to a dead stop at one point when someone stepped in front of me in a congested area.

Miles 9-13: 6:02, 6:11, 6:09, 6:12, 5:56

I finished my second lap at Mile 8.6 or so. After that I had a break in the congestion for about a mile, which was nice. I was still over the 6 minute pace but I knew I was on track to hit my goal time. I finished mile 9 in 6:02.

During mile 10 I saw my former boss, Rhett, and his daughter. It was nice to see a friendly face on the course. They were running the 10k I think.

With two turn-arounds to go, at about mile 10.5, the congestion mostly cleared. I was fighting to hold onto the 6 minute pace, but miles 10, 11, and 12 were my slowest at 6:11, 6:09, and 6:12.

Finally during the second half of mile 13 I found my kick. I visualized myself finishing and was able to speed up back to a sub-6:00 pace.

I saw my family when I came around the last turn and I was able to give them a big smile.

Giving my family a smile as I finished up the Shamrock Shuffle

Unfortunately the course was short, or at least my watch said it was. I crossed the line at about 12.8 miles, but I wasn’t about to not get an official PR. So I just kept running through the park after crossing the finish. Hopefully I didn’t come across as a spaz, but I didn’t want to stop until my watch had passed 13.1. I kept running until about 13.12 and then went back to get my medal.

I finished first overall — which was amazingly my fourth consecutive 1st place finish (Layton Marathon, Zeitgeist Half Marathon, Turkey Trot, and then this). Up until 2016, I don’t think I’d ever finished first place since maybe a race or two in high school. Due to the number of times everyone crossed the mat, there were errors with some of the times. That meant they couldn’t give out awards (they said they’d mail them out). This was fine with me because I didn’t want to stick around waiting.

Wearing my medal in front of the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon

I did grab some snacks though. Delicious brownies with mint (green) chocolate chips, cookies, pretzels, apple slices, and orange slices. Plus they had hot chocolate. They gave out glasses — presumably for drinking beer, although they didn’t have any beer. That was fine with me since I don’t drink.

It was a fun race and a good day with near perfect weather. I’m sure they’ll fix the course next year and it will be an even better experience.

Walking back to the van after the Shamrock Shuffle with my support crew of 5 future runners

Skiing into Stolle Meadows Cabin

Me with my ski gear

Despite the extra snowy and extra cold winter in Boise, I have still been running. However, this past weekend I took the opportunity to cross train a bit by cross country skiing with a Varsity Scout team into the Stolle Meadows Forest Service cabin.

This is the cabin, although it was much more snowy when we were there

We left on Friday at about 4:30pm after the boys were out of school. There were six boys and three adults total. One of the boys was 11 (he was the son of one of the adults), but the rest were 14-15 years-old.

Unfortunately, our late departure resulted in a late arrival at what we thought was the trail head. The place we stopped had a nice plowed area for parking and a gate indicating a trail. Unfortunately again, it wasn’t the trail head! Michael (one of the adults with us) has a Yamaha Rhino (side-by-side) with snow treads instead of wheels. He brought that along for support. It took 20-30 minutes for everyone to get their gear and head out. The six boys went first, but as Doug (another leader) and I headed out to follow them, we saw them turning around. They had lost the trail.

At first we thought they just couldn’t navigate, but then we soon found we were at a dead-end camp site. Luckily there was a detailed map of the area in the camp site, and we soon realized that we were about a half mile from the actual trail/road that we were supposed to take. We debated continuing along the same direction until we met up with the road in a couple miles. From past experience, I knew that these ideas always sound better than they actually turn out to be. We were only ~1/3 mile from the highway, so we decided to turn around and head back.

In the meantime, the Rhino had gotten stuck a couple times due to the crazy deep, mostly unpacked snow (~4 feet deep). That was worrisome, but we were able to dig it out and move on.

When we were finally at the correct road and ready to go again it was 9pm. Nevertheless, with our headlamps on and a good attitude, we were skiing once again. A couple snowmobiles had been on the road, so the snow was a little packed and the Rhino did much better. Michael took the Rhino ahead to blaze the trail, take some gear, and prepare the cabin and a really late dinner.

The boys skied fairly well. Of course, some were faster than others. After a couple miles, four of the boys had distanced themselves out front. A couple boys and Doug and I followed in back. The road was six miles long, which is quite a distance if you haven’t skied in a while — or ever, as was the case with the slower boys. Even for me, cross country skiing was definitely working muscles I wasn’t used to.

I had to encourage the slowest boy quite a bit, although he did well. I had my Garmin on, so I knew exactly how far we’d come, but I didn’t always tell him as I didn’t want to discourage him with how far we had to go. It was cold outside — probably 10 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as we were moving it wasn’t bad, but when he wanted to take a break I would start freezing.

About two miles into the journey I felt some blisters developing on the back of my heels. There wasn’t much I could do. It was freezing, dark, and the snow was deep. It wasn’t worth stopping to me.

The last of us finally arrived at the cabin at 11:20pm or so. The cabin wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was warm and there was enough room for all of us, although there were only 4 beds so some had to sleep on the floor. The outhouse was a 20-yard walk through the snow. There was drinkable water from a pump outside. Drinkable, but not clean. It was yellowish and had some sediment in it. In fact, I was the last one to the cabin and they were melting snow when I got there. I knew the water was drinkable from the Forest Service website, so I went out and pumped for a few minutes to get it as clean as possible. Then we started using it. The cabin definitely has a cool, rustic feel. It’s not just a second house in the mountains as some cabins are.

Dinner was delicious and I was exhausted by the time I laid down at 1:30am.

We got up pretty late the next morning — about 8:15am. The cabin had stayed warm all night. The Forest Service keeps it well stocked with lumber. We didn’t even need to add any during the night though.

A couple of boys made breakfast after some encouragement from me to get going, and we ate scrumptious breakfast burritos. Otherwise we didn’t do much in the morning — we cleaned up the cabin and headed back.

My blisters were huge. I put some duct tape on them and tied my boots extra tight before heading out. [Update: it took them about 2.5 weeks before they no longer bled when I ran. Ouch.]

A photo I took of my blisters after I got home.

The scenery was pretty spectacular as we made our way the six miles back. It was just us and the snow covered mountains and trees. There were a couple hot springs we noticed on the creek where the snow was melted more. Everything was brilliant white, and we even had some snow fall.

Skiing back to the highway from the Stolle Meadows Cabin

I had asked Michael to double back with the Rhino after he made it to the cars and unloaded. That way he was able to pick up a couple of the slower boys that were struggling on the way back.

I was surprised at how much I struggled. I made it back, but the last two miles were a slog. I could run 10-15 miles a few days a week with no problem, but skiing 6 miles was a different matter. It worked my leg muscles differently than I was used to. Plus, my skis are a little small for me and I didn’t glide very well, so it was kind of like hiking with skis on. My slow speed meant I was skiing for ~2 hours on Friday night and then another 2 hours on Saturday morning. I have to run ~15-16 miles to be on my feet that long.

We all made it back safely though. We didn’t have any injuries or big mishaps. Three of the six boys did the whole 12 miles (6 miles out and back), and two more would have if we had been more patient.