I left early Thursday morning, June 11th for Idaho Falls, Idaho. Yup, Idaho. My cousin Andrew joined me for this trip, and we met up at the teeny-tiny Idaho Falls airport. He was already there as I was landing, and he texted me while I was still in flight to let me know he was enjoying some local Idaho potato french fries at the airport while he waited for me. I was instantly jealous. Because, of course, Idaho is all about the potato.
I found him quickly, as the airport is smaller than my local grocery store, and we headed off to get our rental car. We decided we would skip checking in to our hotel at first to instead pick up our race packets a few towns away in Rexburg, where the official race took place. That would leave us all day Friday to do what we wanted.
Thanks to the wonders of GPS, we easily found the Rexburg City Hall and retrieved our numbers, t-shirts and other goodies. The set-up was well-organized, and the volunteers were very helpful with our questions. My main question related to the elevation of the course. Seeing as the race was dubbed the Teton Dam Half Marathon, my concern was that we’d be tackling some kind of foothills of the Teton Mountain Range. I prefer knowing what to expect when it comes to hills, and the race website only profiled the elevation for the full marathon, not the half. The man I spoke to let me know that there was one major hill that started at mile 5 and ended at mile 8. A three. mile. hill. But, here’s the fun part…as one of the awards of this race, they take special timing marks at the start of the hill and end of the hill. The male and female racers who run up the hill the fastest are dubbed the king and queen of the hill and each win a cash prize. Now that’s incentive to keep moving! He said after that big hill the course was “rolling” hills until about mile 10 where it was all downhill to the finish. Ok, I guess I could deal with that. It sounded better to me than the sadistically placed humongo hills that show up notoriously at mile 11 in half marathons. Tackling hills when you are fresh is certainly preferable, and at least I had a downhill finish to look forward to.
We left packet pick up and went to our hotel to check in. We stayed about a half hour away from Rexburg in Idaho Falls.
|View of Snake River, river walk and temple from our hotel room.|
Our hotel overlooked the Snake River and the lovely riverwalk that runs along it. It was a beautiful view, and we had a small balcony we could sit on to enjoy it. We were both pretty tired from our long day of travel, so we decided to just have dinner at the hotel that first night. We opted to sit on the patio off of the restaurant/lounge area, and luckily we had it all to ourselves. We shared some wine along with dinner and had a great time catching up with each other, as we hadn’t seen each other in quite awhile…I think not since November of last year! It was early to bed for both of us after that.
Friday morning I awoke from a sound, solid and wonderful night of sleep. I love it when that happens on a trip. I woke up earlier than Andrew and got myself together. I snuck out of the room to give him time to sleep in and just relaxed in the lobby area of the hotel enjoying coffee and the newspaper. Andrew joined me an hour or so later, and we had breakfast. Then it was off to explore Idaho Falls. First we just drove around a little to see what was nearby. There was a fair amount of retail along with some residential areas. We then drove to the Museum of Idaho to take in the exhibits.
|Museum of Idaho|
The museum was hosting the “Real Pirates” traveling exhibit which chronicled the history and eventual demise of the Whydah pirate ship, the wreck of which was discovered off the coast of Cape Cod. It was a pretty cool exhibit to see, as it featured many artifacts found in the wreck including coins & pieces of eight, utensils, plates, buckles, buttons, weapons and other items. The museum also featured some history of the local area including some connections to the explorations by Lewis & Clark, the significance of the nuclear industry in the local area, and a replica of a 1800’s era “downtown main street” back when the town was originally named Eagle Rock. It was a fun way to spend our morning. We were glad to have visited.
For lunch we found a cute little cafe nearby called the Snakebite Cafe. I ordered shrimp tacos with Idaho fries (yay!) and Andrew ordered a veggie burger with fries. I also tried a local microbrew which was very tasty. The cafe was cozy with indoor and outdoor seating. Local art hung on the walls and was available for purchase. I love when places do that. We had a swell lunch and then decided to take a drive following the signs that indicated the “green belt” district.
We headed out of town and in just a couple of miles, we were surrounded by farmland as far as the eye could see. It seemed that some farms grew potatoes while others grew wheat or some other kind of grassy crop.
|Wild terrain in farm area.|
The huge sprinkler systems on wheels were everywhere. There was a real kind of desolate farm beauty to it all. It was very green, indeed. We pulled off the road to take a few photos before heading back to the hotel to relax a bit.
We chilled out for a little while and then took a walk along the Snake River walk behind our hotel. Literally steps away from our hotel were the falls of Idaho Falls.
|The falls of Idaho Falls.|
It was a pretty sight. We walked along the path a bit longer, admiring some of the artistic benches that lined the way. It was a popular area for walkers, runners, bikers, skateboarders, and kids on scooters. And geese.
|Snake bench on the Snake River.|
Our next adventure brought us out to the site of the Teton Dam for which our race was named. In 1976, shortly after the dam was completed, it was breeched, destroying several towns in its wake. Eleven lives were lost in the tragedy, and the dam was never rebuilt. You can learn more of the history here.
|Remains of Teton Dam.|
|Looking downstream at Snake River beyond dam site.|
The dam site was so desolate and quite eerie. The Snake River runs through the area, and a large land mass sits in the middle of the section where the dam once existed. You can see the evidence of the two man-made sides of it on either side of the river valley. I couldn’t help but feel the magnitude of the history that happened here. There is a strong sense of ghostliness there. Along with that, there is graffiti in a few spots, most likely marking the proof that some partying takes place there among the young crowd. We didn’t stay long, as we had to get to the pre-race potato dinner, but we were glad to have visited this historic site.
It was back to Rexburg for the dinner, and after a minor snafu regarding which school the dinner was being held at, we found our place. We arrived just in time to hear the race director provide all his last minute announcements. One bit of information that came out of the Q & A portion of his talk was that the half marathon only had a total of 192 runners registered. 192. Total. That means it would be the smallest half marathon I’ve ever run in. Right away my nerves started freaking out. What if I came in last because everyone in Idaho practices running in the mountains and is faster than me? What if I run so slowly that I lose sight of anyone in front of me and can’t figure out which way to go. What if...
|Potato bake dinner.|
The pre-race dinner featured baked Idaho potatoes (so cute!) along with some toppings. I was so looking forward to this part of the weekend, as I thought it was genius to have potatoes to “carb up” rather than pasta. When in Idaho… However, I ended up being a little disappointed with the offerings available. I guess I am just too used to how I doctor up a potato at home. I usually use lots of fresh veggies, some healthy caramelized onions, salsa, black beans, low fat dressing or sour cream, jalapeños, etc. I was looking forward to some creative and delicious toppings. I made the best of what was available, which for me was some beef & bean chili to top my potato along with a fairly bland side salad with ranch dressing. Other toppings available were broccoli & cheese sauce, some kind of creamy/meaty dressing (not sure what it was), sour cream & butter. Not exactly the “toppings bar” of my dreams. I didn’t want any of the creamy stuff, as I don’t usually eat that way, and I didn’t want to make my stomach get all crazy before the race. Plus, my stomach was already a little gassy from the beer and french fries from lunch (also stuff I don’t usually eat…). I was getting worried that this might be a disastrous G.I. trouble situation. So I did my best at the potato dinner to keep it straight up. I didn’t even partake in the brownies for dessert.
Back at the hotel, we prepared our gear for the morning and turned in somewhat early. Andrew was earlier to bed than I. I turned the lights out at 9:30 pm, but had a restless and fitful sleep. Partly because of the gassy stomach and partly because of the 192 runners info. I hate when that happens the night before a race!