Tackling the Pengelly Double Dip Race: Part Two

By EVA DUNN-FROEBIG

Read part one of Eva’s story about training for the Pengelly Double Dip race.

Race day arrived on June 11. My fears about tackling (and finishing) the full Pengelly Double Dip race had subsided. I slept well the night before the race and arrived at UM in plenty of time to get my race number, say hello to the amazing volunteers, and socialize with the other runners.

Most conversations were the same: We all asked one another if we were going to run the Double or Single Dip. (The Single Dip is a 10K race that heads back to UM just before the Cox family property instead of summiting Mount Sentinel and University Mountain.) Most people run the Double Dip, a phenomenon that I think would only occur in Missoula. Missoulians like to challenge themselves.

I pinned my race number on my shirt, tied my new trail running shoes, packed some gels, and went back and forth trying to decide if I should bring a long-sleeved shirt with me. It was windy and cold, but the sun came out just before the start and I decided to ditch my shirt. I positioned myself in the middle of the starting line, not quite confident that I would be running up front.

When I found myself huffing and puffing even before I got on the M Trail I worried, How was I going to make it up 2,700 feet if I was out of breath in the first few hundred yards? I was glad I had short sleeves on and wished I was wearing a tank top instead. The Fire Road is one of the only flat parts of the race, but I didn’t feel good until we were on the Crazy Canyon Trail. This part of the course gets steep and eventually the runners around me started to walk.

Some runners who are about my pace in races and track workouts started to catch up with me and it felt good to have them around me. We encouraged one another, remarked on the amazing views and joked about how challenging the race was. I briefly filled my water bottle at the aid station at the saddle and continued up the steep trail to University Mountain, trying to ignore the burning in my lungs andlegs.

Within minutes Kiefer Hahn sailed down the trail and we cheered him on with enthusiasm. Soon other front-of-the-pack runners were racing down the steep mountain. We made room for them on the narrow trail and cheered them on even though we were out of breath. When it was my turn to run down the mountain, the runners coming up did the same for me.

It was then that I realized why people run the Pengelly Double Dip. I had wanted to run it for the challenge and I’m sure lots of people also run it to challenge themselves. But they also run it for the camaraderie.

The support from fellow runners on the trails was like nothing I had experienced before. We continued supporting one another while we ran up and down Mount Sentinel and—as quickly as we could—down the 2 ½ mile stretch of the Hellgate Canyon Trail. About a dozen runners politely passed me on the downhill as I suffered through stomach cramps and an achy knee. But we were all suffering. We were suffering together.

Happy to not be running downhill anymore, I felt good during the last mile on the Kim Williams Trail and even more elated to cross the finish line within my goal time: under 2 ½ hours. At the finish area I chugged sports drink and shared war stories with runners with bleeding knees. Those of us who ran together in different sections of the race found one another and thanked each other for helping us get through it.

I thought I would want to run the Pengelly Double Dip race once in my life, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s race. The competitor in me wants to see if I can get a personal record, but mostly I want to feel the support and friendship of 200 other trail runners for a couple of hours.

Thousands of runners will compete in the Missoula Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay this weekend in Missoula. I can only imagine the magnitude of camaraderie most of the runners will experience on the course!

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Like this blog?  Chances are you’ll also like reading these:  Missoula Marathon 2011 – Bragging Rights to #5, Missoula Running Buddies, and When do you run? Be sure to leave comments in the Facebook Comment box below, and click the +1 button too–it’ll bring Missoula Marathon runners luck!

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Eva Dunn-Froebig is the executive director of Run Wild Missoula and has been running since the seventh grade. She moved to Missoula 12 years ago from upstate New York to attend the University of Montana’s Journalism School graduate program. Eva never dreamed that she would have a running-related job and feels lucky to be a participant in Missoula’s vibrant runningcommunity.