UPDATE - 3/7/09:
The Cheetah Herders website has been updated and the 2009 results are up and posted. They can be found at http://www.cheetahherders.com/SJResults2009.html
The Muddy Buzzard
For those of you who haven't been to Snow Joke before - shame on you! It's one of the classic Montana races (this was the 30th edition) and one that all serious Montana runners need to experience.
The course, in and of itself, isn't overly challenging. It's one loop around the lake at Seeley Lake, starting and finishing at the High School. The first 5 or 6 miles are on the highway running northwest out of Seeley. It's a bit rolling. Not severe; but, no completely flat either. Normally, the road is in pretty good shape and you can run pretty normal pace, rythm and effort for the first half of the race.
The challenge comes in the 2nd half of the race. It's a local gravel road that, more times than not, is covered in snow and/or ice. That's where your choice of footwear will make the difference. Regular racing flats are out of the question. Legend has it that in the '80's Branch Brady of Great Falls stashed a pair of spikes on the back half of the course and switch shoes mid race! When I last ran the race in 2004, I wore sheet metal screws in the bottoms of my shoes and they worked great. Of course, the road was a bit icy or very solid snow pack. If you have loose or soft/slushy snow, that 2nd half of the course will be a struggle.
The other challenge comes from the weather. In typical Montana fashion, the race start could be anywhere between -10 and +50.
I haven't heard official reports; but, I do know that it was very cold in Seeley in the early morning. But, it has been suggested that it warmed up a bit by race time. I also know that they got quite a bit of snow mid-week; but, haven't heard about the road condition. If anyone knows for sure, post it here.
As to the race - the overall winner was Jimmy Grant of Missoula in 1:16:16. Jimmy had a number of top finishes last year (Riverbank Run, Montana Cup); and, it looks like he has stayed fit over the winter.
The women's winner was Trisha Miller in 1:30:18. Trisha was 2nd in last year's Missoula Marathon 1/2 Marathon and the Riverbank Run Trifecta series.
Julie Gilchrist of Ovando was the master's women's winner at 1:35:10. Julie had a great year last year (2nd Master at Montana Cup, 3rd overall in Missoula Marathon 1/2 Marathon) and isn't showing any signs of slowing.
My vote for performane of the day comes from men's master's winner Kyle Strode. Kyle's time of 1:22:12 was solid; but, it comes just two weeks after running a 4:56.0 indoor mile to take 4th in the Montana Men's Master's Mile race in Bozeman. How many people do you know (especially old guys like Stroder :-) ) who can turn in top rate performances at the mile and the 1/2 Marathon in a span of two weeks!!! The training for the two events don't go hand in hand. Congrats Kyle.
See you on the roads, tracks and trails.
The Muddy Buzzard