Friday, May 23, 2014

The Famous Idaho Potato Marathon

17 May 2014

On the way home from this marathon one of my neighbors asked why Idaho. I explained my goal of running a marathon in all 50 states and they agreed that was pretty cool. But even with that goal aside, the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon was a good time and I would recommend the race to anyone.
This was the race expo. Which was fin by me.
It is a small race. There were around 300 marathoners and 1600 half-marathoners. The pre-race expo was surpassed in smallness only by the pre-race gatherings for trail marathons that I have done. But it was quick and low stress. You probably could have gotten a bib right there.

The Course

The course largely uses the Boise Greenbelt. This is a bike path / paved trail is reminiscent of the Boulder Creek path where I live (with the main exception that the Boise River is much bigger). While the course does not show off the city of Boise, it is relatively free of traffic and pretty well shaded (Boise is, after all, the city of trees). I can only remember three or four crossings that even needed a guard.

The course starts at the picnic area below the Luck Peak Dam and heads downstream along the Boise River. Halfway through the half-marathoners break off and finish at Ann Morrison Park. The marathoners continue on for another six miles before turning around and coming back and finishing at Ann Morrison park. The course drops around 800 feet, mostly over the first 19 miles before gaining back around 300 feet on the way back to the finish.

The Start

Gear assembled for the race
We chose a place within walking distance of the finish and so I warmed up by walking to the buses just outside of Ann Morrison Park. The starting area was right below the Lucky Peak Dam which exhorted Bosians to Keep Your Forests Green. I found a quite area amongst the picnic tables and stretched.

You could tell this was a small race because they actually waited for the stragglers to get in their pre-race piss. So it was a little after 7 am before we got off. Temperatures were in the 50’s and the sun, while up, had not yet crested the canyon rim.

The first three miles were through beautiful canyon country. I knew the first 19 miles were a steady downhill so I did my best to keep my pace modest and not pound my legs too much. As we left the canyon country we got our first taste of the sun.

Logistically, the course had water stops every 1.5 to 2 miles as well as one gel stop and a couple of porta potties along the way. I did my usual strategy of alternating between water and Gatorade and eating a gel every at roughly every quarter (6.5 miles). Right around the time I was reaching for my first gel we crossed to the west side of the river and went through some neighborhoods.

Middle Miles

The course alternated between neighborhoods to the west of the river and the greenbelt until the end of mile 11 when it crossed back to the east side and stuck to the greenbelt for the rest of the race. Suddenly at the halfway point the half-marathoners left and it got very still and lonely. This was not a course for spectators. Most of the people were either volunteers at the aid station or folks just using the bike path (which was not closed and sometimes made running your tangents awkward).

I had no idea where I was in the standings other than I was fairly secure where I was at – there was no one in front or behind that I could see. Eventually some aid station volunteers told me I was second.

Around 15 miles I got a sighting of a POW flag off of a bridge over the river. I took it as a timely reminder of perspective when it comes to suffering.

Last 10k

This is the hardest part of any marathon. But it was especially cruel when you turn around and go steadily (albeit gradually) uphill to the finish. The one encouraging thing was that I got to see first place (who was well ahead of me) and third place (well behind me). It was some comfort to know that my increasing splits were not going to change my place.

Eventually all good things come to an end and I came into Ann Morrison Park. My wife and son met me and we relaxed under the shade and I slowly ate, yes, a baked potato (and some other goodies). We may have relaxed in the cool shade a bit too long as one person got concerned that my lips were turning blue. I explained it was par for the course. After recovering my wits we walked back to where we were staying and enjoyed the rest of this post marathon family vacation.

Little man says, "Finishers medals are delicious". Agreed.

Fun in the City of Trees

View of the City from Camelback Park
Some of our favorite restaurants while we were there were the Bitter Creek Alehouse, the 10 Barrel Brewing Company and Bar Gernika. The Bitter Creek Ale house had some fabulous poutine (as any good restaurant in a city with French roots near Canada should have). They also had a fine beer list with local offers and good craft offering from around the globe. The lamb burger was also delicious. The 10 Barrel Brewing Company was a new brewpub that was conveniently between the finish and where we were staying. We enjoyed their pizza and a flight of some of their twenty house beers. Of note was a refreshing cucumber ale and radler made with grapefruit soda. And the bar Gernika is, to me, everything Basque in the city that has the largest Basque population outside of Spain. The lamb grinder will not disappoint.

Enjoying the view at Bitner
The day after the marathon we drove about 40 minutes west and had a great time in wine country. Our favorite place was Bitner. This place had a lovely outdoor patio that looked out over rolling vineyards. On Sunday it has some nice live blues music to accompany your glass. We also liked Koeing. This one also had a distillery (although you could not do tastings of these spirits). However, the tastings that you could do were complimentary – something that is quickly disappearing in wine tastings.
Distillery at the Koeing Winery
14 of 50 states in the bag. 36 to go.

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