What’s the Grizzly Double? Great question! It’s a pair of half marathons held by Vacation Races within a week of each other – Grand Teton Half Marathon and Yellowstone Half Marathon. I heard about these races from some of my friends in the High Heel Running Group (a fantastic trail running group for women in the Seattle area.) Anyway, Adam and I signed up for these races to use them as an excuse to get out to the two national parks for an early summer vacation. I’d never been to either park and was psyched for the opportunity! These races plus our Zion run-cation make it the year of National Park exploration. 🙂
Additionally, Adam’s parents decided to join us for the first part of our trip, and his mom also ran the Grand Teton half marathon (her third race in three weeks, mind you!) It was really great to have them with us for this fun adventure.
Grand Teton Half Marathon
This race was much bigger than the races I normally run – about 2000 runners! It was also the first race I’ve done in ages without a hydration pack – what a luxury! Just a handheld with a few Glutinos in the pocket for mid-race sustenance. Despite it being June, it was quite a chilly start, but thankfully we warmed right up once the sun came over the mountains.
Just having run a 100K two weeks ago, this race felt wonderfully short in comparison! A half marathon is a very respectable distance, of course, but it’s all about perspective. Two hours running versus fifteen was fantastic. The only downside was that I’d forgotten how running on the pavement feels… it’s definitely a little rougher on the skeleton.
The course itself wasn’t too remarkable in the beginning. We began outside of Jackson, and ran along the main highway for a bit until getting on a paved bike path. Despite the multi-wave start, it didn’t thin out until nearly three miles in, and then everyone had settled into their sustainable race pace.
After crossing over the very high Snake River, we saw one of my High Heeler friends, Ellen! It’s been awhile since I saw her, so it was great to catch up and discuss past and future running adventures. All of us sea level folks were feeling the elevation (~6,200 feet), but the race generally still felt good.
After six miles we turned down a new road and was treated to this very fine view…
As we ran along this road for the next six miles, the view of the Tetons continued to get better and better. If it weren’t for the mountains, it could have been a bit of a drag since you could see all the runners for miles ahead of you (that always seems to remind you how far you have to go.) Really, though, I couldn’t stop staring at the mountains!
After crossing a bridge over the Gros Ventre River, we crossed the finish line, which was at a golf course. Which also had an amazing view of the mountains.
After receiving our sizable and beautiful medals, we were handed a snack box…
Even though this was a “fun run” for us, and with an additional challenge of elevation, I was very pleased with our time: 2:08:33. After the race, we had a week of exploring ahead of us…
A Brief Hiking Interlude
We had a week between races, and so much to explore! The snow level at Grand Teton National Park was quite low, so it limited our hiking choices. However, we still managed to hike and explore all day everyday for four days!
We also had our very first bear experience on the trail. Thankfully, he didn’t get pissed, and we didn’t get mauled. A win all around.
Then we spent three days at Yellowstone National Park, and what a unique landscape. I’ve never seen geothermal areas like that, and with such a uniform forest surrounding it. (Fun fact: 80% of Yellowstone’s forest is lodgepole pine.)
Yellowstone Half Marathon
After all of our hiking in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, it was time for another half marathon! It wasn’t a road race like Grand Teton, but mostly trail. The course began in West Yellowstone and was mainly on a forest road in Gallatin National Forest. Some of it was fairly rocky, but no singletrack. A decent trail for road runners looking to make the switch to trails.
We didn’t get to the race start as early this time, mostly because it was hailing when we left the hotel. (Again, it was June, lol.) A very chilly start, with a bit of rain to start us off! However, since we’re Seattleites, it was really quite normal for us. 🙂
I felt pretty good for the first few miles, despite the slightly higher elevation (6,700 feet.) I had intended on actually racing (versus “just running”) this half, and was feeling proud of how well I was handling the altitude. Annnnnd then at mile five we hit a hill. It wasn’t a huge hill (only 300 feet of gain), and it was stretched over a mile, so it was gradual. However, even little hills at elevation kill me. Where was all the oxygen? Who was holding a pillow over my face?? Oi. I started to feel a bit light-headed, so I walked a bit. Nothing like high altitude to keep your ego in check!
Eventually we began to go down, which was a welcome relief, but I had lost my racing groove. The trail got a bit rougher, and I was grateful for all of my previous trail experience. There wasn’t much for scenery, just endless lodgepole pine. Quite the opposite of the Grand Teton race, with the exception of this lovely river spot.
After mile 11 I started doing the race math in my head and figured I could still beat my Teton time, but only if I pushed. So… I pushed. Or tried. I dug in for what felt like a strong finish (and thankfully, no stomach pyrotechnics as a consequence!)
My finishing time on this race was 2:06:14. Only two minutes faster than at Grand Teton, but it was a more challenging race, so I earned every second!
At the end, we received the now familiar snack box, medal, and then an even bigger medal for doing both races. It is, hands down, the most impressive piece of hardware I’ve ever earned! (We guessed it could also be used as a bottle opener…or in a pinch, a weapon against marauding moose. It is heavy.)
These two races were very different, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to run both of them. Both were well organized with good swag (and the most detailed race guide I’ve ever seen.) Of the two, the Grand Teton race had better scenery, no question. (I’m a sucker for a good mountain vista.) But the parking and logistics of Yellowstone was a bit easier. Regardless, it was a fantastic vacation with races bookending our enjoyment of some truly incredible national parks. I may have to check out more of these races in the future…