|Mount Sentinel and University Mountain. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
|Mark Handelman and Mike Wolfe lead the pack up the initial climb. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
The first of four significant climbs on the course, the popular “M” trail gains over 750 feet in close to one mile. Mark Handelman—winner of the 2013 Sentinel Hill Climb and Blue Mountain 30k—and local elite trail runner, Mike Wolfe, took charge of the climb early on, with Jeremy Wolf, Chase Parnell, and Seth Swanson close behind. Rhea Black quickly gained the women’s lead.
|1st place finisher Mike Wolfe on the Sentinel Fire Road. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
At the top of the “M” trail, the course turns right onto the relatively flat Sentinel Fire Road, giving runners a chance to spread out before ascending into the mountains. At this point, Mike Wolfe established his gap on the rest of the field, which he maintained for the remainder of the run. Handelman continued in second for the time being, with Jeremy in third. Rhea and I were separated by a steady gap, giving me the chance to relax knowing the hardest part of the run was still far from over.
|Mark Handelman and Jeremy Wolf chasing Mike Wolfe. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
The course then partially circumnavigates the south summit of Mount Sentinel before heading up the second steady climb of the day: the Crooked Creek trail. This short, single-track trail runs alongside a seasonal creek. It is one of the few cool and fully shaded areas on the course, making it relatively refreshing considering the next two climbs. After gaining the saddle between University Mountain and Mount Sentinel, the course gets serious with steady, demanding, out-and-back climbs up each mountain for the true meaning of the Double Dip.
|University Mountain trail. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
Peak wildflower season on the University Mountain ridge makes for a strange dichotomy between the beauty of the scenery and the furrowed brows of runners slowed to a strong hiking pace. Rhea and myself were separated by at least 10 meters for most of the climb, and early on Mike Wolfe passed us flying back down the mountain hollering cheers for runners. I was reminded of the Bill Rodgers saying: “if you want to win a race, you have to go a little berserk.” Within minutes, Jeremy Wolf passed, now in second, with Mark Handelman, Chase Parnell, and Seth Swanson not far behind. The gap between Rhea and myself closed on our descent from University, giving me the opportunity to pass on a steep, slippery, downhill section.
|Women's 1st place finisher Kristina Pattison descending University Mountain. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
Amazingly, John Hart—on his second lap of the course that morning—was not far behind us. Beginning before the race, Hart and several other runners including John Fiore and Seth Swanson, ran the entire course unofficially once and then geared back up with timing chips for another lap—a challenge now known as the Super Nova.
|John Hart on his way to his second Mount Sentinel ascent. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
Hart was breezing up Sentinel, all smiles and cheers, as if running two consecutive half marathons with bloody knees is completely normal and enjoyable on a Saturday morning. Rhea was on my heels as we headed up Sentinel, and before long, I was on hers. We leapfrogged a couple times before heading down to the saddle for our final descent down the Smokejumper trail into Hellgate Canyon.
|Jill Olsen descending down Smokejumper trail into Hellgate canyon. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
The descent dives down 2.5 miles of switchbacks—a typical place for race-day carnage—before the final miles of flat, fast running in full sun on the Kim Williams trail. At the top of Smokejumper trail, I again passed Rhea while trying to channel my inner-berserker and ran hard for the win in 2:01:41, far from Kelly Webster’s 2012 record time of 1:53:57. Rhea came in two minutes later in 2:03:41 and Jessica Jakes followed us in for third in 2:08:50.
|Final mile along Kim Williams trail. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
Mike Wolfe finished close to record pace this year in 1:36:45, almost a minute faster than Jimmy Grant’s 2013 winning finishing time, but not quite surpassing Kiefer Hahn’s 2011 record of 1:34:36. (Making everyone wonder if these guys will ever show up fresh and tapered enough to show us how fast they really can run.) Jeremy Wolf finished second in 1:41:04 followed by Mark Handelman in third with 1:46:41.
|Worthwhile schwag. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
Following the race, Rhea took it to the next level by joining Mike Wolfe on a victory lap, completing the Super Nova in the heat of the day. Later, Draught Works Brewery hosted the after-party with free beers and a place to fill the schwag of the day—Pengelly Double Dip growlers.
|Race director Kevin Twidwell (in blue) with Run Wild Missoula Volunteers. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.|
Thanks to Run Wild Missoula, Race Director Kevin Twidwell, all the fabulous volunteers, Myke Hermsmeyer Photography, Cory Kaufman of Competitive Timing, and race sponsors including Hammer Nutrition, Runners Edge, and Draught Works Brewery for supporting a spectacular day out on our local trails.
Photos by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography
Race Results by Competitive Timing