Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rules of the Run

It’s training class season: It’s the time of year when everyone starts feeling antsy about spring and warmer weather. Those of us who haven’t been exercising on a regular basis start getting excited about running or walking again. Lucky for Run Wild Missoula, this is also the time of year when—if you are going to run the Missoula Marathon—you should start your training. Over 300 people are registered for the Missoula Marathon Running Class. In addition, about 70 people are taking the Galloway Training Class and 70 people are signed up for the Walking Training Class to train for the Missoula Marathon. That’s over 400 active people on Wednesday evenings and weekend mornings (the Walking Class meets on Saturdays and the other classes meet on Sundays).

Everyone is having fun getting fit and meeting new friends—which is exactly what we had hoped. We also want you to stay safe. That means being aware of your surroundings and using common sense. Run Wild Missoula’s Training Class Committee came up with a few rules to keep in mind when you’re out for a run or walk. Special thanks to Kevin Twidwell for his advisement.

Run Wild Missoula Rules of the Run
1. Stick to the designated route. We will tell you what the route is, but you are responsible for following it. In most instances, we will not have someone leading the way. Draw a map or write down directions if you need to.
2. RWM discourages the use of headphones. If you choose to use them, you assume the risk of injury associated with head phones. Please be alert, especially when crossing streets.
3. No dogs please.
4. Do not run more than two abreast, especially on busy roads, sidewalks or multi-use trails. Yield to vehicles on the road. They are bigger than you.
5. Be mindful of your language and conversation content during group runs given that we may have some young people joining us.
6. We do not want to leave anyone behind. If you plan to finish your run in a place other than the designated route please tell someone. If you drop out of a run, please contact (or have someone contact) the run leader or Runner’s Edge (if that is where the run is ending- other location if it’s ending somewhere else) so we are not out looking for you.
7. You are responsible for your safety while you are running. Obey all traffic signs and rules. Pay attention to your surroundings.
8. If you are running on a road, please face traffic and run no more than two abreast. If there is a confrontation with a motorist, please be respectful and report any issues to the run leader.
9. If you are injured during a run (or witness an injury), please report it as soon as possible to the run leader.
10. Do not litter on the course.
11. If it is going to be dark during the run: Wear reflective clothing, headlamps and a flasher.
12. If there are people pushing strollers: Those pushing strollers, please stay at the back and be mindful of other runners and traffic. You are responsible for your own safety and the safety of the children in the strollers. Children may NOT ride bicycles next to adults during training runs.

Thanks for staying safe out there. Please contact me at if you have any questions.

Keep Runnin’ & Walkin’,
- Eva Dunn-Froebig

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Darby Woman to run first-ever 1/2 Marathon at the Missoula Marathon after donating kidney to husband

I have just entered the Missoula Half Marathon 2011, which will be my first ever! I also just gave my husband, Jared, a kidney on March 29th, 2011! We are still in Seattle, but will soon be home! We live in Darby [which is about 60 miles south of Missoula]. My husband grew up near Darby, I grew up near Bozeman. We've been here [in Seattle] for over a month now. They said Jared would be in the hospital a week, possibly more. But they let him out in 5 days-that's including surgery day! We are both doing very well. Even our doctors are impressed!

We've been spending our time between Jared's appointments going to the zoo, aquarium, locks, fish ladder, waterfront, science center, etc. And we've been getting on the bike and treadmill in the hotel's gym.

We are looking forward to going home on Saturday.

We've been married for over 11 years and have two children. Caitlyn is 8 and Denali is 5. They are both entered in the Kids Marathon!!

This has been such an amazing experience! God is good!

I am so excited to run my first half marathon [in Missoula]!

Serica Lucas

Run Wild Missoula Member Profile: Julia Hunt

Name: Julia Hunt

Age: 67

Place of birth: Albany, NY

Occupation: Retired

Interests other than running? Bird watching, hiking, camping, biking, nordic skiing, snow shoeing, gardening, photography, yoga, traveling, reading

How long have you been running? 33 years

Do you have your next race planned? Probably the Tree Run

What is your favorite running route? I live on a frontage road so usually run there. It has several hills so is a good training route. I do like running new places though, esp trails.

What do you get out of running? Or how does running personally benefit you? I started running to lose weight after I quit smoking. If I take long breaks from running (several months once because of injury) I always feel awful. Running boosts my spirit and I love the camaraderie of the races.

How do you maintain your motivation to do the distance? I guess I try to internalize the Nike slogan. "Just do it".

Running Pets? I have cats. They don't run well. :o)

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Terry Stekly the newsletter begins a new series on member profiles. We hope that you will enjoy getting to know Run Wild Missoula members and we encourage you to say “hi” to them next time your paths cross.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

View From the Back

The race is called the Snow Joke, but I wasn’t laughing when I finished.

My daughter and I planned to do the Snow Joke race together. This would be the first time we would do a race together, so I was really looking forward to it. We awoke that cold morning at 6:30 AM to a temperature of -20 F. By the time we arrived several hours later to pick up our race packets the temperature was probably -10 F. My daughter had been dealing with some chest pain for the last two weeks, so I was more than concerned for her health if she was going to do the race. She was insistent to at least start and do the first five miles with me and I couldn’t talk her out of it.

I’m guessing it was around 0 F or colder at the start. The race started with a “bang” or should have, but Palin (a look alike masked person) couldn’t get the rifle to fire. That was ok, the clock had started so we started the race only to hear the rifle fire a moment later behind us. Maybe that’s why they call it the Snow Joke! It was humorous.

For the first five miles I was constantly checking how my daughter was feeling. She had some pain but wanted to continue. At the five mile marker her husband was waiting for us in case she decided to stop. She decided to stop at that point, but wanted me to continue on, so I did.

At mile marker 8 both calf muscles started to cramp. Never having to deal with cramping before, I wasn’t sure what to do. So I slowed down my pace to see if that would keep them from going into a full cramp. That seemed to work so I continued on, but I could feel that the calf muscles were hurting and just on the edge of cramping. Although I wasn’t laughing at the end, I sure had a big smile on my face and enjoyed the experience. And that’s how I finished the race.

I’ve learned a lot by participating in different events organized by Run Wild Missoula. The training classes, races, monthly newsletters, and all the RWM members have been great. And let’s not forget Runner’s Edge and all it contributes to making Missoula a great place to live & run/walk. A big “THANK YOU” goes out to all of you!
~Stan Harris

Monday, April 25, 2011

Swiss runners planning to run the 2011 Missoula Marathon

Since its inaugural running in 2007, the Missoula Marathon has attracted runners from around the world, including Australia, Japan, Sweden, Hong Kong, Scotland, and Delaware. Sometimes, as with our first Delaware runner last year, a participant is willing to tell us a little bit about themselves. This year, the Swiss Family Metzler - Hans, Monika, and Linus - will travel from Switzerland 12 weeks after Hans completed the Zurich Marathon and son Linus finished the relay - while wearing Missoula Marathon shirts. Hans has sent us the following blog post.

I am Hans (49) from Switzerland. We - my wife Monika and our son Linus (16) - will visit Montana this summer. Linus and I are runners, Monika loves horse riding, small wonder we will visit Montana ;-)

I started running after several knee surgeries; I played soccer before and still do some mountain biking. So, when I ran my first marathon and I was hooked. Today, I run almost every day. Why do we come to Montana? For the last 15 years, we often travelled in the region from Northern Alaska south to Idaho, Washington and Montana. These regions are great to be outdoors for hiking, fishing, wildlife, etc. during July (in recent years, July is the only time we can travel). So, this year, it is Montana again, we will hike most of our time in the Beartooth Absaroka Mountains, fly-fishing the lakes up there.

Back to running: I run often, I follow a training program, but I run for fun, for relaxing (yes!) and 5 or 6 times a year, I am joining a running event. Since Linus started to join me (and he runs faster every month, so he will take the lead soon), I enjoy it a lot more, especially after work. When planning our trip, I found out “hey, there is a marathon in Missoula, let’s run it!” OK, it’s only 12 weeks from the Zurich marathon to the Missoula marathon, but I will try. So, we registered for the race, Linus will run the half marathon, I will do the long one. Monika keeps wondering how we are doing the first days backpacking in the mountains after the race (I am wondering too).

I had some questions and soon I got in contact with Jennifer and she offered me some shirts. So, when I was running the Zurich Marathon, Linus, his two cousins Andrina and Domenica, and Marc (a fine substitute for our 4th runner, who had to cancel due to illness) were running the 42 km as a team. For Linus it was clear (and he made sure) that all of his teammates were wearing the proper shirt. Why is the team called “Chatterbox”? I f you would know Linus, you wouldn’t ask! I promised Jennifer to send a picture of some Missoulian shirts in action – here it is!

BTW: It will be my second US marathon. No, not New York, not Boston: In 2007 I was running the first KMXT Marathon in Kodiak, Alaska. It was a very cold October day, so most of the registered runners decided to run the half marathon, and only maybe 20 runners were finishing the long distance. I was the winner, which was cool! You don’t have many chances to win an inauguration marathon in your life, especially when your usual running time is around 3 h 20. The Kodiak run-the-rock marathon is held every year, still very small, but no crowds and so cool (cold).

So, we are happy to meet you on July 10th! There are so many friendly people like Vic and Vo. We hope we can meet you in person. RWM must be very active from what I could gather consulting your website, congrats!

See you and join in

Hans & Family

Friday, April 22, 2011

Last Best Finisher Award Takes Shape

The idea began with the Sweathouse Half Marathon, and an article that celebrated the remarkable achievement of a woman who finished last. Shortly thereafter, a first version of the award was presented to Stacey Bray at her final Beginning Runners Class before leaving the area for a new job. Since that time the idea has grown.

We now have a supply of attractive medals designed and produced by our own local Jocko Graphics. They are available to be presented on a race-by-race basis at the discretion of the Race Director. One wonders whether there will be a new competition "Race for Last." We aren’t worried.

The Last Best Finisher Award recognizes the courage it takes to start a race, the persistence required to continue, and the commitment needed to finish. The award pays attention to the fact that a person who finishes at the end has been on the course longer, and has overcome both internal self-talk and the implicit feedback of a system that waits impatiently for them to arrive (or doesn’t).

We recently discovered that the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska has long presented a "red lantern award" to the final finisher; Race to the Sky here in western Montana has adopted the practice as well. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and our flattery is indeed heartfelt.

Run Wild Missoula co-sponsors the Last Best Finisher award with Wellbuddies Coaching.
~Pam Gardiner

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Story – Missoula Marathon

My name is Brenda Ritter, I was born and raised in Missoula. I graduated from Big Sky High School in 2003 and immediately left Missoula to join the United States Air Force. I am not in the Air Force anymore, but my husband is; we are currently stationed in Florida.

My husband is currently deployed to Iraq so I moved back home to Missoula while he is gone for 7 months. He is due to return home the first week in July, I signed us both up for the Missoula Half Marathon. He is training on a treadmill in the gym. (It is too dangerous and too hot to run outside where he is.)

I am a new member of Run Wild Missoula and am training with the marathon training class. I have a few things on my bucket list, one is to run a marathon. I ran my first 5K a few weeks ago, will be running the 10K at the Riverbank Run, and if all goes as planned, will be running the half marathon with my husband on July 10th.

I figure these are good steps toward the eventual completion of a full marathon someday. I am so grateful for the running community in Missoula and all the opportunities to run in the city I love. I love running because it helps me deal with the stress of my husband being gone and being in a dangerous situation. It gives me something constructive to do with my time, I feel better every time I run. Many people have asked me recently if I am a runner, and my answer is "No, but I want to be!"
~Brenda Ritter

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Missoula Marathon and Youth Home Run 4 Kids - Inspiration

I'm not a runner. I've always wanted to be a runner - just didn't think I had the stamina for it or the athletic build or whatever excuse I could come up with to get out of it. It looks like the perfect form of exercise: cheap, travels anywhere, not much gear.

Living in Missoula we certainly see people venturing out for their dose of health in all kinds of weather: Watching runners in a beautiful, bigsnowflake-fall along the Kim Williams Trail. Watching the trail-runners up Blue Mountain or Mt. Jumbo.Watching the Sunday morning runners training for the Marathon. And each year my husband and I have watched some of the finish line fun at the Missoula Marathon - each year I've felt goosebumps and butterflies in my stomach for all these people running, for all the people watching, for the energy and excitement the event creates - simply by bringing people together to do this one simple thing: run.

Last year my dear friend, Kim Anderson, started posting a blog on training for the Missoula Marathon and doing it for a young woman who was a resident at the Youth Home. She, like me, is not a runner. She has now completed a marathon - and folks, she's a runner.But, more than that she's an inspiration. She joined the Youth Home Run 4 Kids team for the Missoula Marathon. The team commits to walking or running the half or full Missoula Marathon ... and raise money for the Youth Home kids. All the money goes to the kids to help them with the basics we take for granted: clothes, toothbrush & toothpaste, backpack, school supplies. But I learned that this money does something more - something every child should experience: a birthday party, birthday gifts, holiday gifts,little surprises. Things that I just might grab in the aisles of Target for my kids and not think twice about. SO...I'm reading Kim's blog about these kids and the half marathon and I think: I can do this. If they can live through the hell they've had to face at age 4 or 6 or 12, I can run a silly little race and help them out.

I can't wait to cross that finish line for my own personal "bucket list". But more importantly, I also can't wait to help these kids. Because they're my true inspiration for competing in the half this year.
~Angie Tranel

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Missoula Marathon Registration Update

People often ask me, “Vic, how many people have signed up for the 2011 Missoula Marathon? How does that compare to last year? Are there any people from strange and far away places, like Mount Pleasant, Michigan; Mahwah, New Jersey; Wasilla, Alaska; or Freidorf, Switzerland? And are you planning to finally run the Missoula Marathon or Half Marathon this year?”

OK, no one asks about specific cities, or whether I’m going to run the half marathon, but if they did, I would have the answers. For example, as of March 23rd, we had the following totals:
• 325 in the half marathon (compared to 369 at this time last year)
• 418 in the marathon (compared to 391 at this time last year)

So, we’re ahead on the full, behind on the half. And with entry fees going up substantially after May 18, and even more from July 1 on ($120 for a marathon entry), there is no good way to predict how many people will actually sign up for the 2011 races.

I do know that entrants will be coming from all over the United States and Canada, as well as Scotland and Switzerland (a father and son from Freidorf). So far, no one from Rhode Island or West Virginia has signed up.

We do have one person each from the cities listed above – and, no, Sarah Palin is not the entrant from Wasilla. Closer to home, 104 Missoulians have signed up, while Spokane, Helena, Kalispell, and Austin round out the top five. Yep, so far 13 runners from Austin, Texas are planning to run in Missoula.
~Vic Mortimer

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Missoula Kids Marathon is Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 10:00 AM.

It's time to register for the Missoula Kids Marathon! Register online at, or pick up entry forms at the Runner's Edge, the Missoula YMCA, PEAK Health and Wellness, or Currents.

Logs are available at these outlets as well as online. Check us out on FACEBOOK! We'll keep you up on current running events for kids and will let you know how many miles your child may have logged each week starting the week of April 1st.

THE BIG 3!If your child does Run for the Trees (4/2) AND the Riverbank Run (4/30) they can register for the Missoula Kids Marathon for FREE!! They receive a cool hat and are entered for great prizes as well. Check it out - Run for the Trees is coming very soon! The Missoula Kids Marathon will have a table there for registration for both the Missoula Kids Marathon and the Riverbank Run.
-Kathy Devlin & Wendy Melvin, Missoula Kids Marathon Race Directors

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Missoula Marathon is Best Event in Montana!

“The Missoula Marathon was the best event in Montana in 2010!” If you don’t want to take my word for it, just ask the Montana Office of Tourism. Last night, the Missoula Marathon was honored as the Montana Tourism Event of the Year for 2010!

As a few of us were heading back to Missoula from the celebration in Helena, it gave me some time to think. I couldn’t help but think of all the hard work that is put into an event like the Missoula Marathon from people who will never get any recognition or awards. I am part of the Marathon for selfish reasons: it not only directly helps my business, but running is what my life is centered around; running and encouraging people to run is my passion and what I enjoy. But what about all the volunteers and businesses of Missoula that support the marathon and never ask for anything in return? For many folks in this community, running may not be their number one priority, yet they continue to work countless hours to make sure this event goes off without a hitch.

One of the speakers at last nights dinner used a John Wooden quote, “the true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.” I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers and supporters who work so hard on the Missoula Marathon. Whether your job is handing out water to thirsting runners or cleaning up after them, we appreciate everything you do and know this event would not be what it is without you. Congratulations for being part of the “Best Event in Montana!”

Happy Running
Anders – Missoula Marathon Race Director

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Running the 51-mile Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in 90+ degree heat was only part of the adventure for four Missoula runners who participated in the 7th annual Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in Urique, Mexico. We met the famed Raramuri runners, made new friends and saw some incredible sights. We spent some high-quality time running in the canyons and reconnecting with our friend, Micah True, the White Horse, Caballo Blanco.

Getting to Urique
Getting to Urique was all part of the fun. Rick Wishcamper, Dean McGovern, Kiefer Hahn and I met in Mazatlan and took a six-hour bus ride along the coast to Los Mochis, where we befriended some locals at a local cantina and sampled some Mexican beer. The next morning, after about two hours of sleep, we boarded the famed Copper Canyon Train, El Chepe, for a seven-hour ride through some absolutely spectacular land.

El Chepe has been touted as one of those must-do trips because it passes is the only way to see parts of the Copper Canyon that are otherwise inaccessible by motor. The train itself is very comfortable, with reclining seats, a dining car and a separate bar car.

Daisy the sheep keeps a close eye on Dean and Kiefer.
We were a bit surprised at the cost of transportation. The bus ride cost us each $35 US and the train was $85 US one way. The exchange rate was between 10 and 11.5 pesos per U.S. dollar but the whole trip was not as cheap as we envisioned. But the train ride, whatever the cost was worth the trip.

We arrived in Bahuichivo around 1 p.m. and exited the air conditioned train into a furnace set on medium. It was in the 80s and fairly comfortable. It would get much hotter as we descended into the canyon.

From the train station, we needed to get Urique, which was about 30 miles down the canyon by road or 18 by trail. Many of the gringo runners who arrived earlier in the week took the 18-mile hike as an organized group, but we arrived too late to participate. Oh darn. Luckily, Mario just happened to be at the train station when we exited. He offered to give us a ride for the small fee of 1500 pesos, or $150. This sounded pretty steep to us until Mario and another fellow explained that our only option was to hope that the bus to Urique actually showed up in about five hours. We pooled our money and decided to ride with Mario.

Although expensive, riding with Mario was a wise choice because he gave us a guided tour to the bottom of the Canyon and let us buy some road beers at a small stand alongside the road for the trip, which turned out to take 2.5 hours.

The beer helped calm our nerves on the road. Mario also stopped twice to give us views of the canyon and Urique and introduced us to young Raramuri runner who would kick our butts on Sunday. Along the way, we stopped at Mario’s brother’s house to drop off some drinking water. His family has operated a cattle ranch there for years, and Mario showed us all the places he liked to play as a kid. Mario was also an expert on local attractions, such as Yogi Bear Rock.We couldn’t find Boo-Boo.

The 30-mile trip to Urique took so long because the road to the bottom is THE road you envision when you read in the newspaper that a bus of gawking tourists died after their bus plunged off a third-world road. It was slightly wider than one lane and we spotted a few vehicle relics at the bottom of the canyon and several small shrines and religious crosses on the side of the road marking spots where people took the fast way down to the bottom of the canyon. But Mario was an excellent driver and even refused a beer when offered.

Mario dropped us off at our home for the next few days – Keith’s place just on the outskirts of Urique. The real name is “Among Amigos,” but we call it Keith’s.

Keith is a great guy from Oregon who bought some land in Urique in 1975 and just never left. He spends a few months a year in Oregon, but he has turned a small hillside into an oasis of grapefruit and orange trees, and has a garden of lettuce, beets, onions and many other vegetables. On the compound sits four small buildings, including his home. He rents out beds to travelers, and this is Caballo Blanco’s headquarters when he is in Urique.

We were lucky enough to reserve a room with four cots. Outside our door was a shaded patio and a communal kitchen that we shared with the other gringo runners who were staying at Keith’s. We set up camp in our new home, hung the Montana flag outside the door and Rick inflated the second sheep, a bow-wearing, red lip-sticked beauty named Eve.

The sheep took up residence on a small couch on the patio and quickly made friends with the runners.Shortly after we arrived, Caballo Blanco and Maria Mariposa (“the Butterfly”), who were staying in a small building next to ours, came to visit. We had not seen Caballo since he was in Montana last year, and we all gave him a big white horse high-five. We were all happy to finally meet La Mariposa because we had been communicating with her by email and Facebook for months about the race and the Raramuri runners. Caballo regaled us with stories about the logistics of planning such a big race and his interactions with a newly elected government. He was able to raise some $17,000 to buy corn for all the finishes of the race. Missoulians donated more than $5,000 to the cause when Caballo came to Montana to talk about his Raramuri running friends. Caballo told us that a Japanese film crew took over a hotel he thought was reserved for some runners. He was fine with the crew coming to document the run of a Japanese woman, but he was disappointed the film makers did not give more back to the Raramuri because the whole point of the race is to help the Tarahumara people. In any event, Caballo’s face lit up when he talked about Raramuri runners who were already filtering into town and explained that there were some very fast young runners who promised to make the race a good one. He also told Kiefer that he was considered a Chingon, which Caballo said roughly translated into big fucker. In other words, Kiefer was considered stiff competition in the run. And he certainly was.

For the next couple of days, we enjoyed Keith’s place and Urique. We met gringos from all over the United States, including fun people from Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Utah, California, and Ohio. We became quick friends with a couple (Mark and Sherry) from Lethbridge, Alberta, and Patt from Salt Lake City. We lamented with many of the runners from the north that we had done all our training in deep snow, ice, and temperatures around zero, and we were going to be running in the Canyon in 90-degree heat. Nobody was sure just how hot it was, but it was hot.
Urique is a beautiful town with one main street and a few other side streets. And we encountered dogs, cows and burros just about everywhere.Having all read the book “Born to Run” that featured an earlier version of the race, we had fun identifying people and places prominent in the book. We ate at Mama Tita’s (in the book) who served food family style to hungry gringos, Mexicans and Raramuri alike. She was a delightful woman who cooked fabulous food. Interestingly, she made sure people were fed, and her husband made sure people paid.
At Mama Tita’s, we met the Raramuri runner who finished third the original race against Scott Jurek in 2006. He was going to run again this year so we bought him a beer to slow him down. It didn’t work. He kicked our butts.

The Hike in the Furnace: Realization Sets In
We went to bed early on Thursday night because we were running on only a few hours of sleep. Friday turned out to be an eye-opening day. As part of the race activities, Caballo organized hikes along the course so runners could see the terrain they would experience on Sunday. The race starts in Urique and is divided into three legs. The first leg is 22 miles of road and single-track to Guadaloupe Coronado and ultimately back to Urique. The second leg is an 18- mile out-and-back through a small village up to a spring fed orchard called Los Alisos. The final leg is 11 miles and covers part of the first portion of the run. This route allows the spectators in Urique to see the runners three times and also gives runners the option of running 22 miles or 40 miles instead of the full 51.

On Friday, Caballo was leading the group on the second leg – up to Los Alisos -- and back. The Montana gringos woke up a little late and decided to join the hikers for part of the trip to get a feel for the trails and roads. There was a lot of discussion about whether hiking 18 miles two days before the race was a good idea or not, so we decided to go about ten miles. We ran two miles to catch up to the hikers and then fell in line with the group.

We introduced ourselves to runners we had not met and traded stories with each other. Rick and Dean decided to turn around after about five miles to save energy for the race. Kiefer went another mile and a half when he decided to turn around because he was getting sunburned. The sun was huge concern because somehow we lost Rick’s sun screen on the trip down from the train.

I continued with the hikers because I wanted to see the whole single-track section on this leg of the race, and I was having a great time talking with some new friends. At mile six, we crossed the Urique River on a suspension bridge. Caballo warned us not to have more than four people on the bridge at one time.

From there, the single track went up a dry creek bed and then switch-backed high above the valley. The trail was quite steep for about 18 switch backs, then it rolled along the side of the hill before turning sharply up again.

The trail was no rougher than anything we have around Missoula but the heat is an added factor that increases the difficulty by at least 10. Pictures of the vegetation around the trail confirm that it is hot there most of the time. And the canyon walls seemed to radiate heat in the afternoons. It was so hot that it was funny at times. I have never been this hot.

On this hike, we saw bright patches of green that stood out from the drab brown of the natural vegetation in the canyon. Of course, these were marijuana fields. There is some gold-mining work in the area, but there is not much else to sustain the economy of the canyon area. Marijuana provides a good cash crop to some, but the farmers really don’t make much money because the middle-men who funnel the weed into the states are the ones who make most of the money. In any event, the marijuana fields and the make-shift irrigation systems were a sight to see.

The turn-around point on this leg was a spring-fed grapefruit orchard. We hikers refueled on sweet grapefruit picked right from the tree. A spring was also there, and many people refilled their water bottles from it, treating the water with various types of tablets. Caballo told the group he regularly drinks from the spring without any stomach distress but said he couldn’t guarantee that we, with gringo-bellies, might not react the same way to the water. After having gastro problems at the Wasatch 100 two years ago, I was worried about getting gringo belly so I didn’t fill my water bottle. Instead, one of the other runners had some excess bottled water he gave me.

As people lounged in the shade of the grapefruit trees, I got antsy and wanted to get out of the sun. So, with half a bottle of water, I decided to run back to Urique ahead of the group.
Descending the single track section of the course was a lot of fun and I let gravity pull me down the hill at a good clip. I reached the bridge in short order and started down the road to Urique, which was six miles away. I had taken some healthy pulls off my hand-held water bottle but the water was warm …. No, it was hot….and my stomach was not accepting it well. I trotted down the road and realized that I was getting really hot. I mean really, really hot. The sun was high in the sky and was baking me. A couple miles later, I reached a small village and bought a luke-warm Coke at the tiny tienda and downed about half of it before the carbonation proved to be too much.

During ultras, I always have a Coke or two on the course to get the sugar and caffeine in my system, but I couldn’t even sip on this one. As I walked along the road, I offered the remainder of the Coke to a Raramuri gentleman who was walking the opposite direction. He gladly accepted it and drank it down with a muted “gracias,” eyes-averted of course. I trudged on, and with two miles to go, two runners from the hiking group caught up to me and gave me inspiration to do a slow trot back to town.

Once I got to Urique, I bought some cold water and started to recover. It was then that I realized that I had grossly underestimated the effect the heat would have on me. While planning for the race, I figured I could cover then whole course in about 10 hours. I had run several 50-milers, and the map and elevation change of this race did not look particularly daunting to me. Last year I ran the Big Horn 50-miler outside of Sheridan Wyoming in just over 10:30 and it had some 12,000 feet of gain. The CCUM had only 9,000. But after being on the course and experiencing the heat, I changed my goal from 10 hours to simply finishing the race.
I trudged back to Keith’s place to meet up with the rest of the gang. About that time, I realized that my lower lip really hurt. I stopped in the bathroom and looked in the mirror to find a big blister in the middle of the lower lip. We agreed that it was probably caused by the heat, which left my lips cracked. Dean theorized that some of the acid from the grapefruit probably irritated the cracked skin too. In any event, this was a problem that would plague me for the rest of the trip. From now on, I will be using lip balm with sun protection on all my races.

We decided to cool off by jumping in the river. When we arrived at a swimming hole, we saw a group of men in their underwear (Dean called them “marble bags”) trying to push an F-150 out of the river. Apparently, they got too close to the bank and sunk it up to the axel. We helped push the truck back onto the river bank and noticed the bed was full of car batteries. Soon, the men took the batteries and went on a little fishing trip, throwing wires in the river and then hooking them to the battery for a few seconds. Then a man with a swimming mask dove down and collected the stunned fish, throwing them on the bank where another guy quickly gutted and cleaned them. It was very efficient but would not pass muster with our Fish and Game Department.

Saturday was a rest day as people prepared for the race the next day. We spent some time wandering around the town and watched as the construction crews built the stage for that night’s pre-race fiesta. I spent some time in “gringo alley,” the alley next to a government building that had wireless internet. Most times during the day, you could see a gringo or two sitting on the ground or leaning up against the building’s wall trying to connect a laptop or handheld smart phone. We were able to connect a few times so we could send emails to family members to let them know we were alive and well.

Just down the street from Gringo Alley, the Raramuri were getting new Huaraches, the sandals made from leather straps and Nascar tire tread they wear. The Raramuri got them for free and gringos could get a pair for a small donation. It was fun to watch them construct their race footwear right on the street by outlining their feet on the tread, cutting the tire and then lacing them up.

Final registration was at 2 p.m. that day. That’s where we received our official running shirts with our race numbers. The shirts are sleeveless cotton numbers that most people wore for the race. Dean wasn’t able to make it to the final registration so we picked up his race shirt and number for him. Big mistake on his part because Rick the jokester signed him up as Dean “El Douche-o” McGovern. Should be interesting to see how the final results read.

Although we decided not to wear our official cotton race shirts during the race because we were worried about chafing, we wore the official shirts at the pre-race party Saturday night.
Starting at about 5 p.m., the pre-race festivities began with local officials taking the stage and making speeches we couldn’t understand. They also introduced the runners, not individually, but in groups of where they were from.

By now, the town was full of Raramuri runners in the colorful clothes. They stood or sat on the walls surrounding the stage and watched as several groups of dancers and singers entertained the crowd.

That night, we distributed about 50 Missoula Marathon t-shirts to Raramuri and Mexican runners and other folks. The marathon had hundreds of shirts left over from the 2009 race, so we each carried several in our backpacks to distribute for free. The shirts are good, technical fabric and we thought it would be fun to share them. We only saw one runner wearing a Missoula Marathon shirt during the race, but we saw several people walking around town in them after the race.

We did not have a dance party Saturday night. We were all thinking about the race and wondering what to expect. Kiefer, who has won several races, including the Missoula Marathon twice, had not decided whether he was going to “race” on Sunday or just enjoy the run. We were all nervous about the heat, and the pre-race jitters set in a bit. We went to bed fairly early and tried to sleep with those jitters.

The Race – Turn the Furnace to 11
On Sunday morning, we woke up about 5 a.m., had some food and coffee and prepared for the race. I decided to go very light, only carrying two gels, some salt pills we had borrowed from another runner and one-24-oz water bottle. Rick had a Camelback; Dean had a fuel belt; and Kiefer decided to rely on the aid stations for his needs.

The race was scheduled to start at 6:30 a.m. so we lined up around 6:20 and were treated with more speeches from the dignitaries and what seemed like endless renditions of the same song by a mariachi band. Finally, the race began at 6:34 and people streamed out of Urique toward the first checkpoint. Rick and I hung back and conserved our energy. The first ten miles were on a road to Guadolupe Coronado and the runners spread out quickly.

After a couple of miles, we came to a large bridge and the first major aid station that offered plastic bags of water and oranges and bananas. Among the volunteers were law enforcement officers (or military soldiers) armed with machine guns. We would see the armed guards along the course and at each aid station throughout the day. We were always very nice to the people with guns. We never did figure out precisely what their role was because it was surely was not to enforce the race rules. In America, it is safe to say that runners are supposed to follow the course, but throughout the day we witnessed people deviating from the official course and taking trails that offered a more direct route to the turn-around spot. At each turn-around station, volunteers gave runners a wrist band to prove that you completed that leg of the race. Racers are not official finisher unless they cross the finish line with four wrist bands. At first it bothered us that people were cutting the course, but then we realized that these folks were running for food. Each finisher gets 500 pounds of corn, which is incredibly valuable.. We were just running for fun and the experience. So, we cut them slack and just laughed when we witnessed something that would get a runner disqualified in the U.S.

On this first leg, we encountered our first stretch of single-track trail. It was rocky but well maintained. We climbed to the top of a ridge over numerous switchbacks. On this stretch, we started encountering Raramuri and Mexican runners who went out way too fast. It is true that there are some really great Raramuri runners but, just like us whities, there are great runners and not-so-great runners (or should I say, unprepared runners) Raramuri. We found a couple of young guys sitting under a tree looking pretty desperate, so we shared our water and salt tablets with them. Later we came upon a young Raramuri woman whose face was encrusted with salt. We gave her what remained of our water and salt tablets hoping she would make it to the next aid station.Just before the crest of the hill, we passed amarijuana farm. The smell was unmistakable. Cheech and Chong would have loved this place.

After reaching the top of the mountain, we had about five miles of screaming downhill as we lost all the elevation we gained as we ran back to Urique.

The heat and terrain were taking its toll on us too. Rick was feeling completely gassed and decided that he was going to drop out of the race when we got back to Urique. We talked quite a bit about the decision because with every DNF (did not finish) comes inevitable regrets. He decided that he had had enough, so, after 18 miles of running together, I left Rick and ran the three miles to town.

Urique was in full party mode when I ran back to the starting line. People were milling around; music was playing; and the streets were filled with people watching runners. As I filled up my water bottle, a spectator who knew the “Montana guys” said Kiefer was the first gringo and was in about 8th place overall when he passed through Urique. That meant that Kiefer was racing the Raramuri. YAY!!!!

I filled up my water bottle and began the 18-mile, out-and-back leg of the race. This was the section I had hiked on Friday so I knew that I had six miles of road before I would cross the bridge and enter the next single-track section. I decided to take advantage of the good footing and ran the first six miles pretty hard. It was on this stretch that I saw the lead runners coming back from Los Alisos to Urique. I saw about 10 Raramuri runners heading back to Urique before I saw the first gringos – Nick and Jamil Coury -- two brothers from Arizona who have run this race two or three times. A few minutes later, I saw Kiefer, who was bright red but running strong.

Watching the lead Raramuri runners was a treat. They have an incredibly efficient stride and seem to glide over any type of terrain. The lead runners were running at what seemed to be about a 6 or 6:30 per mile pace and I did not see any of the front runners walking the hills. Most were wearing the standard huaraches and I have no idea how they didn’t continually fill with sand and rocks. Also, none of them were carrying any water. Instead, they would grab a plastic bag of water and drink it on the run. Those front runners were impressive and I can understand why the author of Born to Run was so enamored with these natural athletes.

Just before I reached the bridge, bicyclist Nick was sitting with his bike in the shade. He had graciously set up his own little aid station and was giving fruit juice, coke, chips, and even toilet paper to all the runners. I downed two cups of mango juice and learned that Leal and Dean were only a few minutes ahead of me. This was strange because Dean is much stronger runner than I am, and I was not moving that fast. After about a mile, I caught up to Leal, who was speed hiking this section of the trail. It was incredibly hot at this time and she had a pronounced limp. The trail is cut into the sides of the mountain, and the canyon walls radiated heat. Someone had turned up the heat dial to 11. I know there were stretches that were at least 100 degrees.
When we reached Los Alisos, it was incredibly hot. Dean was sitting in a chair drinking water. He reported that the heat had gotten to him and he was having a difficult time. We ate some grapefruit and splashed our heads with spring water. Although I was reluctant to drink this water on the hike on Friday, I guzzled it on Sunday. It was cool and, frankly, I didn’t care at this point. The sun was baking us. We decided to leave the aid station together and limped our way back to the aid station at the bridge. Instead of turning right to begin the 6 mile trudge back to Urique, we went left and jumped in to the Urique River to cool off. I am not sure how long we were there but neither of us cared about our race time any longer. We just wanted to feel better and to get this sucker done. After our plunge, we ran down the road and caught up to Nick and Leal. Nick was pushing his bike as Leal limped along. Frankly, you could tell she was in quite a bit of pain and was moving incredibly slowly. She decided that she was going to end her race in Urique at the end of this leg. And she did. This young woman who had spent months biking and had never run more than 20 kilometers in her life completed 40 miles in the grueling temperatures with no running training. That’s one tough runner.

While we were walking, Nick told us that Rick actually had not stopped in Urique after all. Instead, he caught a second wind and ran to the bridge and up the switchbacks. But he was now in the hottest section of the race during the hottest time of the day and decided that safety was more important than finishing the race. He went back to the road and caught a ride back to Urique. He ultimately completed 32 miles of the 51-mile race.

Dean and I continued running toward Urique and entered a small village where we each bought a Fanta soda and some chips and sat in the shade. Dean was smart and sipped his luke-warm soda but I downed mine. I knew this was a bad idea but it tasted so GOOD. A young runner – Shawn from Salt Lake – caught up with us and the three of us headed for Urique. About a mile later, the Fanta and chips I had wolfed ended up on the side of the road. Although barfing is no fun, I really felt better after expelling that awful mixture of orange soda and spicy chips.

On this stretch, we talked about whether we should drop at 40 miles and forgo the last stretch because we were feeling so beaten. Shawn from Salt Lake was adamant that he was going to stop. (He ultimately went 45 miles before catching a ride to the finish). He had never run 40 miles so this was a PR for him. Dean and I wavered a bit but as we got closer to Urique, we decided to keep going. Dean said all we really had to do was run five more miles out of Urique, and then we had to get our asses home. So, with no choice but to get our asses home, those last five miles didn’t count. Seemed logical at the time, and we agreed to keep going.

Just outside of Urique, a group of guys were having a little fiesta and called us over. I ran over to see what was up, and they jokingly offered me a beer. They all looked surprised when I grabbed the Tecate and took a long swig and ran off with the beer. I offered it to Dean and Shawn. Dean took it and held the cool can to his face. Shawn said “no way.” I had a couple more sips but then threw the beer away.

We entered Urique, and I bought a piece of watermelon, a fruit that has saved me numerous times in past ultra races. Dean went looking for a mango popsicle. I caught up with him and he was bummed because the vendor was sold out. The watermelon energized me for the last ten miles.

Dean encouraged me to go on alone. My legs felt good and the sun was starting to go down, so the temperature was falling. But then a big wind storm moved through. Luckily it was short lived and soon I was running and feeling good. About a mile before the last turn around, I encountered our Canadian friends. I was so excited to see them, I stopped paying attention to my footing and tripped over an obvious rock and went down hard. I scraped my knee, my calf, my hip and my elbow. The worst, however, was that my left quad landed on a pointed rock and my whole leg cramped up. My friends helped me get to my feet and I took a couple of steps with hopes of stretching out that quad. It hurt. Bad. And I knew that if I didn’t try to loosen it up, it would just seize on me. I thanked my friends and trotted off (or gimped off) at the best speed I could attain. I got to the turn around, had a sip of water and turned around to get my ass home. Those five miles counted now.

I had two big hills and then some easy running and I would be done. I actually had a pretty good pace going up the hills and tried to lengthen my stride on the down hills. For inspiration, I put on my Ipod and listened to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,” a song that a few running friends sing when we are in distress. Pretty soon I am cranking down the hills and singing aloud and scaring the locals with my inability to hold a tune. I didn’t care. I felt good and motivated. By now it was dark. I could see the moon and the stars above the canyon wall but as I approached the river, even they disappeared. I used my Ipod to illuminate the darkest stretch but it provided a dim shine and I tripped a few times. But once I reached the bridge, I knew I had about two miles to go. And there were a few street lights as I got closer to town.

I ran into Urique and could hear the commotion of the finish line. Rick yelled my name and jumped up out of the shadows and ran with me to the finish, where a race official wrote down my number. I had finished just under 13 hours – my longest 50-miler ever. I limped over to the curb, and Rick put a beer in my hand. He understands the value of a replacement, recovery beverage. What a friend.

A few minutes later, Dean crossed the finish line. He too had caught a second (or fifth or sixth) wind and ran well over the last ten miles. We were finished.

Rick reported that Kiefer had “left it all out on the trail,” finishing as the third gringo overall. He stayed with the front Raramuri runners for 30 miles or so but the heat got to him on his way back into Urique from the bridge. He was hurting but he powered through the rest of the run in about 9 hours. We also learned many runners stopped after 40 miles because of the heat and only about 50 percent of the people who started finished the full course.

Raramuri runner Miguel Lara was the winner, setting a course record of 7:04, an incredible time for the terrain and conditions. Caballo had the pleasure of distributing some 60 tons of corn and more than $11,000 in cash awarded by the town of Urique and sponsors. Nick and JamilCoury were the only gringos to finish in the top 10 finishers, and they donated their corn and prize money back to the people of the canyons.

We told Cabollo to distribute the 1500 pounds of corn our finishes entitled us to. We asked him to use his discretion to give the corn someone who really needed and to tell them it was from the people of Missoula, Montana.

After our race, we limped back up the road toward Kieth’s place. Rick bought a bunch of tacos, and we took them back to the hostel and ate them with Kiefer. We all showered and went to sleep early happy to be Mas Loco in Mexico.

We had a great time in Urique and made many new friends from both sides of the border. The experience is one that we will never forget, and we have the utmost respect for the Raramuri and all the people of Mexico. Before we left, friends and family expressed concerns about our safety given all the news reports of violence in Mexico. But we traveled all over Mexico and stood side-by-side with Mexicans on busses, trains, and in bars, at street-side cantinas and on the streets of Mexico. Never once did we feel any animosity directed toward us, and we felt safe the entire time. We sincerely hope that Caballo and the people of Urique continue the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon tradition and that gringos continue to join in the celebration of running in the Copper Canyon to become Mas Loco. You will not regret it.
~Kevin Twidwell