25-Mile Relay Ranch Run
This was a busy weekend for the Montana running community! September offers so many great opportunities for runners and this weekend was one of the busiest!
On Saturday, I took part in the inaugural CattleWomen’s Ranch Run, a 25-mile relay in the Castle Mountains near the town of Lennep. This 5-person relay showcased 5th generation ranches, stewardship and conservation ranching practices on private and public forest lands. Definitely a different race course than most offered in Big Sky Country!
The course started in Lennep (5,248 ft elev.), wound through the Grande Ranch, up forest service roads, above 7,500 feet elevation and back down to Lennep through the Voldseth ranch. The wind certainly kicked it up a notch and kept things cool Saturday morning, but once we were on Forest Service land and at higher elevations, winds calmed down. We had 17 teams race and had a great mix of ranchers and those from outside our ranching communities.
Each leg was close to 5 miles, +/- .2. Leg 1 was into the wind, with gentle rolling hills, slowly climbing up. Leg 2 was described as gentle climb, but as I would later find, a LONG hill. Leg 3 was labeled as the most difficult with several steeper climbs and descents at the highest elevation. Legs 4 and 5 were both quick descents back to lower elevations.
I was partly there for work and opted to fill an empty spot on a team short notice. I didn’t want to over-do it on Saturday, having made plans to run the Montana Marathon on Sunday (more in that in my next post), so my only request was not to do the most difficult leg of the race.
Well, I ended up with the second leg. Albeit a gentle, steady climb, it certainly felt like the hill was never going to end! 4.88 miles of hill on loose rock forest service roads. I’d much rather get the climb over with, have a downhill recovery, and go at it again.
But aside from that, it was amazing views. I ran by the historic ghost town of Castle. There were cow trails next to the road that made for a much smoother path most of the way. The final stretch of the route was a definite walking steep climb. I definitely shouted in relief to see the final steps to the exchange at over 6,800 ft.
Our team finished 4th overall and definitely had a great time on a beautiful day on a great landscape!
The CattleWomen did a great job of putting on their first relay race. There was a great beef meal at the finish line which warmed everyone up! I would definitely recommend this race for anyone who enjoys a good mix of climbs and descents at higher elevations, great scenery on ranches and forest lands that we don’t normally have the opportunity to experience.