Friday, July 31, 2009

Great Running Under The Big Sky

The Buzzard was on the road this week, traveling for work. Traveling can be a bit of a chore; but, from a running perspective, it does mean that you get the chance to hit some locales and routes that aren’t part of your everyday, ordinary routine. And, that was the case for me this week. I hit a great trio of runs ranging from the western side of the state to the southwest/south-central areas.

The trip started on Tuesday. After traveling to Missoula from Plains and taking care of some business items, I had the chance to fit in a nice tempo run in the Lower Rattlesnake and Greenough Park areas. The whole Rattlesnake area is such a great urban forest/wilderness/trail system. It’s always a pleasure to hit this area that is, literally, just steps away from Downtown Missoula.

I then spent the night with my parents in Butte; and, the next morning was up and out the door early for a nice run in the Mile High City. The sun was just cresting the East Ridge, the air was crisp and cool and the air was still. What a great morning for a run in my old stomping grounds. The best part may have been the temps. After several weeks of hot, hot weather in the Plains area, it was great to be out in 40+ degrees. Very refreshing!!!

After spending the day in meetings on Thursday, I had the opportunity to go for a trail run in Bozeman. Running with Michael Sanderson, we headed up to Sypes Canyon on the west side of the Bridger Mountains. It was my first time in this area and I was super impressed. Cool, forest shaded canyons, knife ridges, rocky slopes, sweeping vistas. This run has it all (including some quad busting, lung searing climbs). With opportunities like these just minutes from town, it’s little wonder why so many trail geeks gravitate towards Bozo.

In the end, these 3 runs were opportunities to see the best of Montana running. Urban trails, high altitude and world class mountain trails. About the only thing that I missed out on this run was the unique experience of the Rimrocks in Billings.

It was an invigorating 3 days and reminded me of how fortunate we are to live and run under the Big Sky. Sometimes it’s easy to take our landscape and unique environment for granted. These runs brought me back to the appreciation for what’s available out our front doors. It put some burn in my legs and a smile on my face. Good days indeed.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Griz Remove Courtney's Interim Title

For those who haven't seen it, Courtney Babcock was upgraded from interim XC and distance track coach to permanent/full-time coach. (Likewise, a few weeks ago, Brian Schweyn had the same bestowed upon him at the Director of Track and Field.)

See the story at:

Best of luck to Courtney. She's a super nice lady and has been trying to give back to the community and the sport (leading Run Wild Missoula track workouts as an example). And, word has it that the kids really seem to like her.

Here's to hoping that she proves to have the long term organizational and leadership skills to bring the team (XC especially) to the top. With the setting and training environment, there's no reason that UM can't be a top XC contender on the national scale. Let's hope that this is one of the pieces of the puzzle that helps to get them there.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that the athletic dept. really cares much beyond football and women's basketball. The other sports seem to be treated more as bastard stepchildren than as Division I athletic programs.

So, among other things we need to support UM (and MSU and MSU-Billings, and Rocky Mountain College, and University of Great Falls, and Carroll College and Flathead Valley Community College) and show the athetic directors at these schools that these programs are important and provide fantastic opportunities to bring outstanding student athletes to their instititutions.

The Muddy Buzzard

Big Sky State Games - Montana Mile

Well, for the first time in many years (since 1991 maybe), I wasn't at the Big Sky State Games. And, for the first time since 2001, I wasn't going to be around to announce the Montana Mile. Just too much travel to and from Billings this spring and early summer (it's an 850 mile round trip from Plains); and, I have to travel there in a bit over a week from now. So, I had to tell Karen Gall (and it pained me to do so) that I couldn't make it over this year.

But, I was at least comforted by the fact that my old friend Jeff Thomas was willing to take up the task. And, with the work he's done at events such as the Spring Meadow Triathlon and the Wulfman CDT 14K (plus with Dave Coppock managing the technical components of the race), I know things would be fine.

Turns out that this wasn't necessarily the year to miss out on the event. With temps dropping to the high 70's, negligible winds and loaded fields, the stage was set for big happenings. How about a couple of new records - is that big enough.

The women were after Nicole Hunt's record of 4:59.8 from 2001. The one and only time to date under 5:00. Well, after years of chasing it, Lois Ricardi (now Lois Ricardi Keller) finally got the sub-5:00 time and the record. Her 4:59.5 took the measure of a solid field. An Idaho State grad, Lois had won the last 2 editions of the race, including a 5:04.8 time from last year.

She was followed by:
Sara Graves - 5:06.2 (Boston Marathon elite runner to Montana Mile - what a range)
Bridgette Hoenke - 5:11.5
Chloe Palakovich - 5:20.4
Alexa Aragon - 5:21.3 (the older of the Aragon sisters)
Dani Aragon - 5:21.7
Nicole Rietz - 5:22.5
Brook Rogers - 5:26.7

Not a bad day with all the women under 5:30.

The men hit the track with a bit of a "rivalry" going on at the front. In 2007, John Ricardi won the race in 4:19 over Patric Casey's 4:27 (having just completed his junior year in HS). In 2008, Casey took the win 4:17 to 4:19. So, 2009 was a bit of a rubber match. With John wrapping up his time as a collegion (Idaho State) and Patrick just getting going in his (sophomore to be at Montana State) it was two young studs in their prime going head to head. And, toss in Air Force Acadamey's senior to be Zach Nordhal (3rd in 2008 in 4:21) and you have the makings of a great run.

But, Patrick decided to make it into a time trial. Going out hard and fast, he was alone by 500 meters. Ricardie and Nordhal were both running at a pace in the 4:15 to 4:18 range, thinking that Patrick would come back. Patrick had other ideas. Looking to set a new PR (much like he did in winning in 2008), he kept the burners on and crushed not only his old PR; but, the old record (Chuck Sloan - 4:12.2 in 2001) and the 4:10 barrier as well with his 4:09.6.

A stunning run. Sub-4:10 in the off-season. Could this be our next Montanan to go sub-4:00 at the mile? Who knows.

Following Patrick were:

John Ricardi - 4:18.6
Zac Nordahl - 4:20.4
Forrest Lewton - 4:22.0
Zach Barrett - 4:22.7
Lynn Reynolds - 4:24.1
Thomas Jodoin - 4:24.5
Mike Fisher - 4:25.0
Dan Jackson - 4:26.0
Matt Winter - 4:27.1
Mike Asay - 4:34.8
Chase Robinson - 4:45.3

Wow, big night, big fun. Sorry to have missed it.

To see a video clip of the finishes, check out:

The Muddy Buzzard

Monday, July 13, 2009

Missoula Marathon - WOW!!!!!!

Man, what a day at the Missoula Marathon. Actually, what a weekend.

Let's start with Saturday. The race expo/number pick up was at the Pavillion in Caras Park right below the Higgins Avenue Bridge. Add that to 3 Farmers Markets in Downtown Billings and beautiful weather, there was a feeling of electricity around the town.

Late that afternoon (5:00 p.m.) there was a fun run along the river trails that was run as a benefit for Alzheimers and in memory of Anne Hayes. Anne was the wife of Bob Hayes, a long time runner from Evaro, and passed away a couple of years ago. I ran like crap; but, it was nice to be able to do a run that was a benefit that was connected to one of our own.

Then, that evening, I had the pleasure of marking the course with Anders Brooker, his uncle Jay, and Kevin Twidwell. The course is spectacular. Only a few "dead" zones - it's almost all scenic and runs through some beautiful areas in and around Missoula. And, the area along the river to the west of town is spectacular. There is one climb around mid-way; but, it's not too severe and from there, it's basically all downhill or flat. And, the half-marathon has the potential to be a super fast/barn-burner type of course. It was just a fun way to spend an evening - hang out with 3 other runners, set up a race course and swap stories. Good times indeed.

An hour and a half of sleep (which was better than Anders who got no sleep) and then it was time to head out to Frenchtown and set up the start line and get ready to welcome the walkers and runners.

Initially, there was a bit of concern about the temperature. The clouds had rolled in during the evening and held the temps in a bit. When I left downtown at 3:30 a.m., it was 70 degrees. It was cooler out at Frenchtown at the start (64 degrees); but, still a tad warmer than we were hoping for. At about 4:30 or 5:00, the clouds cleared and the temp started to come down. By race time it had dropped to 50. With a very light tailwind, conditions were ripe for fast running.

With a nod to perfect timing, the clouds came back in about 8:00 and helped to keep the temps down. By the time the course closed at 12:30, the temps were still only in the low-'70's. What a break. (Sunday morning saw Thunderstorms, gusty winds and cold rain; and, this weeked woudl have seen the temps headed towards triple digits). Sometimes the weather gods choose to smile upon your event.

And, now, onto the running. The half and full marathons both start at 6:00 a.m. So, that means that the first batch of finishers come only from the half. Although this had maybe been the more competitive race in 2008, that wasn't going to be the case this year. That's not to say that it wasn't a good race. But, for reasons that you'll see in a moment, the half was definately the step-sister event this year.

On the men's side, Spencer Carter (living in Missoula for the summer) won in 1:14:00, 50 seconds ahead of Nate Canton in 1:14:50. The top 5 were rounded out by Collin Fehr (1:16:05), Peter Miller (first master) in 1:16:19 and Eric Larson in 1:16:24. (I do have to give a shout out to Jacob Naegeli of Trout Creek for his 6th place in 1:16:52 - gotta support the local boys :-) ) All in all there were 8 guys under 6:00 pace and 9 under 1:20. Not as fast on the front end (2008 saw Casey Jermy run 69:52); but, a deeper race. And pretty damn competitive for places 3 - 6.

For the women, Meg Lerch stepped up in distance beyond her 5K specialty. Running 1:25:23, Meg got a 35 second win over Rye Palen. Rye has had a solid year on the roads in 2009 and this was a really strong performance for her. They were followed by Suzanne Huse in 1:28:42, Sarah McGlaughlin in 1:28:54 (no word on if she sang "Angel" throughout the run) and Michele Bazzanella in 1:28:55. 1st master was Mary Thane (more of a mid-distance track specialist) in 1:29:05 (6th overall). Again, not as fast as last year; but, much deeper with 9 women at sub-7:00 pace, 6 @ sub-1:30 and two right at 6:30 pace.

But then, a week after Independence Day, the fireworks started. At the finish line, we had been getting reports off and on at odd markers (i.e. X hours and XX minutes at 10.2 mile, X:XX at mile 19.7). We had to do some conversions; but, it seemed like the race was right on 2:30 pace. And, we had reports of at least one person way out front; but, we couldn't get any confirmations on who was in the lead. But, after a bit of waiting, here came the lead bikes over the Higgins Avenue bridge with Kiefer Hahn of Missoula in tow. Hittin the line in 2:33:17, Kiefer broke his own race record (set in 2007) of 2:43:30 by over 10 minutes!!!! That was exciting enough. I can't remember the last time for certain that we had a sub-2:40 marathon in Montana. I ran 2:37 in 1994 to win Governor's Cup; and, Scott Creel may have been in the 2:30's at Lewis and Clark some years ago; but, I think that's been in. So, to be so near 2:30 in Montana was super exciting.

But, the thrills weren't done yet. Kiefer barely had time to catch his breath when here comes Jimmy Grant onto the bridge. Like Kiefer, Jimmy was hoping for a sub-2:30 today. And, like Kiefer, close but no cigar. Still, here we have another guy in at sub-2:40. Not only that, Jimmy's 2:35:10 was another sub-6:00 run for the day and two guys under the old record.

But, then here comes Leif Seed in 2:43:11 (also under the old record), then Andrew Drobek in 2:45:50, then Chuck Engle in 2:49:41, the JR Roberts in 2:52:28 and Jesse Carnes in 2:53:52. Holy Crap, that's already 7 guys under 3:00 - as many as the first two years combined (4 in 2007, 3 in 2008). But, wait the sub-3:00 club is still open. 8, 9 and 10 are Jason Ridgeway in 2:55:57, Brad Ferris in 2:56:28 and John Herring (Masters Champion) in 2:56:53. So, at this point we have 10 under 3:00 and the madness isn't over quite yet.

7 more people decided that they needed to go under 3:00 as well. That's right kiddies, 17 people doing a sub-3:00 marathon in Montana. Unbelievable. Maybe the Governor's Cup in the mid-'80's had that kind of depth. But, it's clearly been a long, long time since we've had this kind of marathoning in the Big Sky State.

Of those 17, 5 were masters. With Herring leading the charge of the old farts, the group also included places 13-16 overall with Steve Noone (50), Dean Lipp, Kevin Plumage (who is a very recent 40) and Brian Fruit all breaking the 180 minute barrier.

And then, in a case of anything you can do I can do better, the women decided to kick up the exictment level just a notch. Annie Thiessen of Tacoma did a smack down of Jamie Schuster's 2008 course record (3:15:08) and of the 3:00 barrier with her 2:57:44. And, to top it off, Victoria Russel of Spokane decided that the women's side also needed multiple sub-3:00 runners - so, she kicked it across the line to hit 2:59:57. Madness I tell you, complete and utter madness.(By this point, I'm up on the announcers scaffolding about ready to wet myself with excitement. Glen Moyer (my announcing partner) must have thought I had lost my mind.)

The top women were rounded out by Trisha Miller in 3:05:24 (3 under the old record), Darr Tucknott in 3:17:36 and Julie Gilchrist (Masters Champ) in 3:17:37. To top of the day, Tami Harmon and Mary Hanna both decided to get under 3:20. Again, an unbelievable field - fast and deep. 3 under the course record, 2 under 3:00 and 7 under 3:20 ( with only 1 under 3:20 in the first two years).

For me, it was kind of like Christmas in July. It was all that one could ask for in a running and racing event. An energy filled pre-race expo, a well managed event (put on by runners for runners), a fantastic finish line (the whole Higgins Avenue bridge is closed off to allow the runners to cruise into downtown Missoula unimpeded), large enthusiatic crowds, fast and deep fields. I've been at this sport for 30 years now. I've run and raced all over the United States; and, I have to say this event was as exciting as almost anything I've been involved with over the years. On a smaller scale it has the feeling of a Boston or Twin Cities. Really, race weekend was that electric. It was stupendilicous!!!!!!!

Man - I'm getting jacked up all over again just thinking aobut it!%!!%!%!%!%!%!%

For full results and more aobout the Missoula Marathon - go to

For those of you thinking about 2010 - this year saw the event climb from about 1,500 to almost 2,400 runners. I would encourage you to put this on your calendar for next year and to Run Wild in 2010.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Missoula Marathon

Sunday is the 3rd Annual Missoula Marathon. In it's short life it has become the Marathon in Montana that may create the most buzz. This will be my first time at the event (I'll be doing finish line announcing); and, I'm really curious to see how it comes off. They have over 2,000 runners in the marathon (600+), half (over 1,000) and relay.

There is a full day expo today, Runners Edge has a 6-month training program with over 100 participants, and the close down the Higgins Street bridge as part of the finish area. Seems like the community has really embraced the event.

Will be interesting to see if the Montana Marathon in Billings can match the level of excitement no that it has been merged with the Governor's Cup. No reason why we can't have 2 high quality, high excitement events here in the Big Sky.

Back to the MM - there has been some speculation that we could see the first sub-2:30 marathon in Montana in many years (man, it may be since the late '80's since anyone has gone that fast in Montana). Jimmy Grant is entered and Keifer Hahn has been suggesting that he was going to toe the line. And, I've heard 2:30 thrown out there by both of them. And, who knows who else may be ready to uncork a quick one.

The two biggest problems are time of start (6:00 a.m. is pretty early to be ready to run super fast) and possible heat. Even with the early start, the sun should be up and starting to warm things up pretty quickly.

Not sure about the half marathon. Casey Jermyn had been planning to run; but it now appears as though he is passing. Should be a wide open race.

Will let you know details first of the week on how it turned out.

The Muddy Buzzard.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Mountain To Meadow Pix

From Ray Hunt, here are a couple of pix of the Mountain to Meadows long race winners.

She had said that it was a beautiful day with great scenery; but, Nicole is looking like she is having just a little bit too much fun.

Jimmy Grant doesn't look like he is having nearly as much fun as Nicole. He must not have stopped to smell the roses

Mellow Johnny tours the wine country

Today is the start of the Tour De France and Lance Armstrong makes his heralded return.

Although I can't see him winning, I'm excited to see how he does.

(I'm also excited to see how my fellow Butte native Levi Leipheimer does as part of Lance's Team Astansa)

Lance has publicly stated that his return is primarily to raise awarness of his Livestrong Foundation and the need to continue the fight against cancer - so with that thought in mind, take a minute to check out the Livestrong site and do your part to help those fighting this terrible disease

The Muddy Buzzard

Beartooth Run

Finally, the results from the Beartooth run were posted.

The short race saw some competition to keep the titles in state. On the women's side Lisa Minnehan (MSU-Billings track competitor) won the 4.2 mile climb in 35:22, beating Katie Pulizzano of Allentown, PA (37:33).

However, on the men's side, Allentown got the best of the Big Sky as Michael Lehtonen ran 27:54 to beat Billings Master's runner Stephen Kosnar (30:43).

But the real racing of the day came in the 8.4 mile climb up the switchbacks. This race starts at about 7,000' and climbs over 2,000 to top out at over 9,000' in elevation. It's a real bear (pun intended) or a run. I can remember actually having my ears pop during the climb and even getting a bit of an altitued headache one year.

First the women - Kristina Trygstad-Saari of Bozeman had a solid run one week after her 2nd place performance at the Wulfman as she took the win in 64:22. That gave her a 1:14 win over Boston elite field athlete Sarah Graves of Ballantine (Billings area) (65:36). The top 3 were rounded out by Bridgette Hoenke in 69:01. Bridgette is a Billings native who is a UM grad and spent her track years as an 800-meter specialist. A bit of a long race for her.

Of note, in 6th place was Renee Coppock. A number of years ago, Renee was hit by a car during a training run in Billings and suffered some servere knee and leg damage. A former 37:00 10K runner, Renee' turned to the bike as her primary fitness tool. Over the last couple of years she has worked her way back to being able to run and race a bit; and, has become a bit of a stud at the duathlon.

The men waged an exciting battle. Only 18 seconds separated the top 3 athletes in what may be the closest men's finish in many, many years. Billings Senior and Saint Johns (Minnesota) alum Zach Hunter is home for the summer and took the win in a solid 58:14. That gave him only 10 seconds over Martin Stensing of Powell, WY (58:24) who was just 8 seconds ahead of Bozeman's Dewey Peacock (58:32). It must have been a quad burner over the last mile as the three of them pushed up the final grade to the finish. And, one of the things about the Beartooth is that the finish is blind until the last 200 meters or so. So, you really need to push and can't sit and kick once you see the finish.

Also under the hour mark was Leif Zimmerman (Bozeman and an Olympic XC skier who got his start at the Brider Nordic Foundation) in 59:35.

1st Master was Craig Kenworthy (5th overall) in 62:59, with Mark Slater in 65:36 (7th overall).

Right behind Slater was the Buzzard's old pal Sam Hartpence (now of Lander, WY) who made it up the hill in 67:56

One of the newer twists of this event is the addition of a hill climb/time trial for bikers held the day after the running race (called the Beartooth Burn). Some of the top runners who also did the Burn include Martin Stensing (2nd in run, 1st in bike), Sarah Graves (2nd in run, 2nd in Bike) and Renee' Coppock (6th in run, 3rd in bike).

Also on the bike was a member of the Church of the Blue Dome's Sunday Morning Run Club Jarred Rensvold. Jarred has taken to the bike as his running has been curtailed by compartment sydrome in his calves. He was 4th on the bike and swears he saw Eddy Mercx riding alongside him as they passed 9,000'.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard.

Sloan Ironman Follow Up

Appears as though the reported time for Chuck Sloan at the Idaho Ironman raised a couple of eyebrows - and, hey, if he did a 5:34:24 Ironman I can see why!!!!!

Chuck's acutal time was 9:34:24, with the following splits:

Swim = 1:03:35
T1 = 3:39
Bike = 5:27:02
T2 = 2:14
Run = 2:57:56

Not bad for a steepler - a sub 3:00 marathon (5th fastest run of the day) after a pretty serious race warmup!!!

The Muddy Buzzard

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Running Hits the Main LIne News In Montana

Quite a few main line news stories about running and runners in Montana in the last few days.

First up was a short blurb in the Billings Gazette about Chuck Sloan. Chuck is a Billings Senior grad and former NCAA All American at Oklahoma State (Chuck was steeplechase specialist during his days as a Cowboy). He's also the record holder at the Montana Mile at 4:12 +.

Well, he's now moved on to triathlons and has qualified for the Iron Man in Hawaii:

Gazette News Services Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2009 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE, Idaho - Chuck Sloan, a 1995 graduate of Billings Senior, has qualified for the Ironman World Championships scheduled for October in Hawaii. Sloan qualified by placing sixth overall age bracket (30-34) at the Ford Coeur d'Alene Ironman competition. The Idaho event attracted 2,153 competitors. Sloan finished 23rd overall. Sloan finished the swim, cycling and running competion in 5 hours, 34 minutes and 24 seconds. At Coeur d'Alene, competitors swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and finished with a 26.2-mile run. Sloan, a former standout runner at Oklahoma State University, competes for TriMettle Racing in Tulsa, Okla.


Bozeman Masters runner Tim Dumas had a good story in Tuesday's Bozeman Daily Chronicle about ultra-studdette Nikki Kimball and her tough day at the Western States 100-mile race. It's a great read. The link can be found at:


Finally, there was another fantastic story about the Helena Running Club (including quotes from rick Judge and Jeff Thomas) and their Tuesday lunch time track workouts. If anyone out there wonders why they do so well at Montana Cup - the answer is in the regular, consistent workouts with all everyone helping one another reach the next level of performance. See the story at:

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard