Inspired and intimidated by the “Sentinel Salute” farewell tours of Justin Yates (17 laps in 24 hours back in 2014) and Mike Wolfe (19 laps! last june), I always told myself I would throw down my own “Sentinel Salute” if/when the time came for me to leave town. After graduating and accepting a job in Driggs, Idaho, I found myself both excited and scared by the task that lay before me. Granted it was completely voluntary, (not to mention ridiculous and meaningless to most other people), but it held significant meaning to me. Over the years I’ve ran Sentinel hundreds of times and I even had a childhood birthday party at the cave. So it felt fitting to spend one of my last days in Missoula pounding out lap after lap on this iconic mountain.
Given the relatively light running volume I’d yet accumulated this spring (and the fact that I was still on the tail end of a nasty 2 week viral sickness), I opted to “dumb down” the Salute to my level, with a goal of 10 laps in 12 hours. What unfolded was a memorable goodbye to Missoula, capped with a beautiful sunset on the summit on my last lap with two good friends.
With a well stocked cooler in the back of my pickup at the trailhead to serve as a self-serve aid station, I started up the ridge trail at 9am with mixed emotions of excitement, trepidation and nostalgia. After 4 solo laps, it was awesome to enter the parking lot to see Jeff with my tailgate down, campchair and waterjug at the ready. The conversation with Jeff on the ensuing lap was a nice reprieve from the mounting fatigue in my legs (mostly on the down) and the glaring hot sun (80s and bluebird). After parting ways with Jeff back at the trailhead, I opted for a quick dip in the river to cool off, which was nothing short of spectacular.
I bumped into Jeffrey on the way down from lap 6, who demonstrated tremendous support by joining me for the remainder of the day. By the end of lap 7, it was evident from my splits that I wasn’t going to get in a 10th lap before dark, which has a little disappointing but also somewhat relieving. Lap 8 came and went, with poles providing a nice boost on the climb and my downhill pace slowing to a mere crawl. On the final climb (#9), we bumped into John a few minutes up the ridge, which was an awesome surprise, who would join us for the final climb and descent. On the summit, we relaxed and watched a beautiful sunset, a fitting end to a memorable goodbye to Missoula.
|summit #9 (photo: john)|
A big thanks to Jeff, Jeffrey and John for coming out and helping keep me motivated and to all those who couldn’t make it but were there in spirit.
Stats – about 34mi and 18k vertical in 13 hours
Rose: mid-day swim in the river, mid-day gatorade courtesy of Jeffrey and Teresita (thanks!)
Thorn: relentless sun and heat
Bud: although leaving Missoula will be challenging in many regards, I’m really excited for life in Driggs and having the Tetons practically in my backyard