From the Horse’s Mouth

50 Mile Start
Surrounded by wildflowers and ready to go in Mullan, Idaho!

Take it from a 12K runner preparing for the Missoula 1/2 Marathon all the way up to one of the very elite 50 Milers – Runners of the Trail Rail Run each have a unique and yet collective experience in this one-of-a-kind race.   Former participants of the run shared some of these comments and stories:
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I was training with Run Wild for the 1/2 marathon in Missoula so this was part of that (for me).

I thought this race was clever and fun and overall one of my most favorite races I’ve done! The discount coupons and railroad peg were great!! Glad you found a way to continue it!!

Judy

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I ran my first trail rail run in 2015 (30K) and it was my favorite race of the year. The race coordinators and aid station volunteers were super friendly and made it a fun experience. I drove over from Kennewick, WA (about 5 hours away) and camped at the Cabin Creek Campground about 10 miles out of St. Regis. Nice quiet little campground. I grew up in Bozeman and always love coming back to Montana. No wildlife on the run, but some great memories.

First, I made a couple of friends – Scott and Ben.  I really enjoyed getting to know them a bit and running with good company. In fact, Scott ran with me more than intended. He was a bit faster than me, passed me near the start, and was quite a ways in front of me. Then all of the sudden, he was passing me again. I was a bit confused, but it turned out that he missed the aid station and had to double back. When he passed me the second time, I didn’t see him again until the finish line.

I also ran faster than any other long race I have run and give credit to a lady (I believe it was Kelli) who passed me at about 3 miles. She was just a bit faster than me and I set a goal to try and stay with her. I was able to keep up until the last aid station (~15 miles). At that point, she took off like a rocket and I lost sight of her, but she set a great pace for me for much of the race. After the race, she told me that she took a caffeinated gel at the last aid station that gave her an energy blast. I’ll have to try that next time!

Lastly, the chocolate milk at the finish was awesome! Thank you so much for bringing the race back this year. I’m planning to do the 50K this year.

Paul
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Five of us gals came Boise, ID—I did the 30K, two others did the 50K, and the remaining two the 50 Miler. I can’t speak for them, but I had a great time. This was my first Rail to Trail Race. I enjoyed the course, especially since there was a slight downhill most of the way, the race tech shirt (my very favorite), the sound of the bugle being blown to start the race, awesome volunteers, beautiful scenery with one deer, with good food and beer at the end. Oh, the very nice cook book and Huckleberry Milk Shake voucher; a definite plus.

Mary

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Woo hoo! I’m so glad the race is on, I had so much fun last year.

Heather

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Temps were decent for the day…probably high 40’s at the 6am (Idaho time) start at the Shoshone Park area near Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan. The high was projected at 79 for the day, though it was probably around 74-76 when I finished at just after 1:30 pm which was definitely warm and affected my performance, but wasn’t too bad. This year numbers were up from the prior two years, with, I heard, 49 starters (though only 39 finished: 20 females / 19 males). I think the prospects of a Patagonia Houdini running shell just for finishing the 50-mile race surely attracted a few people. At $100 and with the ability to defer participation to next year if needed, you basically get your money back in schwag for your race fee and really couldn’t lose if you signed up.

I wouldn’t call the Trail Rail 50-mile a really competitive race as there is no prize money, so the average runner is pretty pedestrian. I went out as per my plan at no faster than an 8-minute pace and never getting my HR over 139. I did pretty good from the start at just running my own, patient, race and reeling people in as I went who went out too hard. Me and another guy—maybe Curtis…not sure—went out in the lead, but soon that runner had pulled away from me and within a few minutes another chase pack ran by composed of three men and the two lead women.

I had some rough-ish miles from about 28 or 30 until 40 or 45. The trail opens up through there and has some long, exposed straightaways where, after the cool, shady morning, the sun begins to beat down and the trail surface, combined with the fact that I had been running for 4+ hours by that point, becomes less forgiving. Lump that with my one big Aid Station complaint—the water wasn’t cooled and there was NO ice on the course—meant that fatigue started to increase right as my stomach grew less and less tolerant of warm sugary goo, water and Nuun. There were a couple moments where I had flashes of my great race slowing to a walk and my CR and PR hopes being dashed on the hard 1.5-inch minus crushed aggregate and stones of the old rail bed. But, luckily, I was able to re-group a bit by taking slightly longer walking breaks as I downed my half-hourly gel, and as I started to dump water on my chest, head and back as I pulled into each Aid Station. I remember being at a 9:00 average pace at half-marathon mark, and dropping that average down to around 8:55 or maybe even a little faster by the marathon point, but my pace kept slowing a bit through those middle miles and my mile splits started falling from the high-eights to the low-nines after mile 30, and I didn’t see another sub-9-minute split again until mile 46 when I knew the end was near and that I could finish strong.

Luckily I struggled through it and by mile 45 when I knew I wasn’t going to eat anymore gel, I had a free hand as I had my empty BodyBottle tucked in jersey, and as the trail softened up a bit and became more shaded and cooler, I knew I’d be able to pull it off. I thought the course record was out of reach at that point (as I had been using 51 miles as the race length to figure out my pre-race pace predictions), but still figured a PR was 90% possible. I still wasn’t aware that the course this year was .5 miles shorter than what I had run in 2013, so when I came out the end of the RR grade and made the hard left on the road up and over the overpass sooner than I thought I should have per my GPS distance, it put a bit of final spring in my step. There was a female runner out in front that I had been chasing a bit (before I realized she had to be a 50K runner). But the fact that she was ahead of me and running gave me motivation to step on it a bit and get past her, which I did just beyond the overpass. I was feeling tired but great and mile 50, my final full mile split, was one of my fastest mile splits at 7:56.9. As I turned the corner into the campground and knew it was only a minute or so more I pushed it even harder, kicking into the finish all alone with my fastest pace and highest HR (161) of the day, just like every great race should end. I didn’t realize I had been that close to not making the old CR, but was really glad I had pushed so hard and actually pulled it off, albeit by a mere 1.31 seconds.

The after race was good—cold chocolate milk and a nice meal of pulled pork sandwich, watermelon, potato salad and baked beans. They had an inflatable kiddie pool at the medical tent and man did it feel great to lay down in it on my back with my head on the inflatable side like a pillow and rinse off my dusty, sweaty, salty body. Schwag was great: Patagonia Houdini running pull-over ($90 msrp, really nice and will be great for IMTUF!) along with a race t-shirt, gel, beef jerky sample, metal water bottle and some other stuff, along with the commemorative finisher’s RR spike for every 50-mile finisher.

For placing second I won a Nathan’s “Trail Mix” hydration belt with a couple of 10oz. bottles and a rear pouch pre-loaded with some gels and running food. Not really a waist-belt guy anymore, but pretty nice prize. After hanging around the finish for a couple hours and getting refreshed and changed I found a ride back with a 50K runner named Lisa from Spokane who drove me back to the race start in Mullan so I could get my car. I didn’t really have a plan on how I was going to pick up my car since Aaron couldn’t come crew for me at the last minute, but figured something would work out, and I sure didn’t want to have to get up at 1:30 or 2am in order to allow time to drop Hawkins off and make it all the way out to St. Regis and pay $10 so I could be bussed to the start and have my car at the finish instead.

Overall, great day. I ran smart and kept my HR in the mid-to-upper 130s (136 overall average) and then finished pretty strong. My fastest mile was a 7:44.5 at mile nine coming downhill out of Lookout Pass, and my slowest mile was mile 20 at 10:57. My overall mile split average ended up at a 9:03 for the race, coming in just under the 4-hour marathon pace of 9:09.

Not sure if I could ever do this course in under seven hours, but I think I could get close.

Aaron