Sunday, June 05, 2011

Casper Marathon 2011

If you're doing 50 states, and need Wyoming, I certainly do recommend the Casper Marathon. We three ran it today - I ran the full and my sweeties ran the half, and we're all pleased with it despite near-record heat and flooded trails. My 52nd marathon and 35th state.

My Race:

I started out very concerned with the patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee) that I've battled in my right knee as recently as Thursday. Happily, that turned out to be the least of my problems. It was never more than a murmur at any point in the race.

My plan was to run 30 seconds and walk 60, which ends up with an average pace that should have produced a finish of 5:30. I felt really good, though, and the knee wasn't bothering at all, so I shortened the walks to 30 seconds, resulting in an actual pace in the 11 to 12 minute range, which could have brought me in just after 5 hours, all else being equal.

But nothing was equal. The marathon started at 5270 feet and went up a bit from there. The temperature at the start was 48, but it rose to 81 at my finish, with intense sun and a dewpoint of zilch. There were definitely times when my mouth was calling for water but the next aid station was a mile away. I had carried water on my back for the first few miles, then decided I didn't need it and dropped it at the car when the course wound back past our parking area, later regretting that decision.

I did take six Clif Shot gels along the way, and maybe nine or ten salt tablets, but my calves started to cramp up at about mile 22 anyway, and I was forced to walk in from Mile 23. I could have gone faster, other muscles were willing, but when I tried to run the calves said NO, and they really meant it.

What affects this? Training (not good lately), hydration, salt, hills (there are a few), speed (I started faster than intended), probably core strength. It's possible that the mile-high altitude has some effect as well. For a while I was 17 minutes ahead of the planned pace for a 5:30 finish, but most of that pad evaporated during the walks and I finished in 5:23:54 (my watch), just 6 minutes ahead of schedule. Third in my age group of 70 to 98, though I have no idea whether there were more than three of us musketeers. And I could swear that I passed the guy who finished second, never to see him again on the course. I'll be interested in the results when they're published.

An odd fact: My finish time for this race is within two minutes of the finish time for my last marathon, in Rhode Island, even though EVERYTHING was different, including the amount of hills, altitude, temperature, humidity, sunshine, aid stations, running surface, and my race plan. The girls had the same experience, finishing within a very few minutes of their last race. Our bodies are the only constant - perhaps that's what it's about after all.

The Casper Marathon

This year the organizers had to battle a flooded race course and near-record heat, so if I have any suggestions for the race directors I'll put those in a separate email, not here, and I doubt I'll be telling them anything they don't already know.

A standard joke in our house is "don't invite us to your marathon," because quite often something unusual happens at the marathons that we do run. Heat, floods, hurricane, rain and bluster, fire on the course, you name it, we've been there. This race definitely fits the pattern.

The marathon course follows a lovely paved trail along the North Platte River. Today, that river is well over its banks and flowing rapidly toward the Missouri, then the Mississippi, and finally New Orleans. From Casper, it drops a whole mile on its way to the sea, and right now it's in quite a hurry to get there. Despite that speed, the water was high enough to cover some of the paved trails, so the race directors had to redirect us on dirt trails in a few places. No problem here - I love dirt trails, have been quite happy with marathons that are ALL trails. They improvised well.

Other wonderful stuff: All of the volunteers; Pizza and other great food at the finish including fruit and beer (several different labels); Fruit and GU at every aid station; Excellent mile marking and course marking; A superb indoor facility at the start; Same at the finish; The Half Marathon was on the same course as the Full; The finish is 170 feet lower than the start; Great news coverage afterward on local TV.

It's definitely not flat, but probably shouldn't be called "challenging." If I can do it, you can. Might be good to sleep IN Casper for two nights before the race, to adjust to the altitude. I'd like to come back someday with normal weather and no floods.

Splits: 11:05, 11:21, 11:23, 10:59, 11:10, 10:59, 13:45 (major potty stop), 11:43, 11:43, 11:06, 11:25, 11:00, 11:40, 11:07, 12:48, 23:27 (2 miles), 13:33 (minor potty stop), 11:25, 12:43, 12:49, 13:20, 12:18, 14:38, 17:25, 15:21, 3:12 (0.2 mi), total 5:23:34 by my watch, overall pace 12:20. I was shooting for 5:30, so it'll do! My calves are sore, everything else is tired, and I'm happy. It's a masterpiece.

A sample of the yummy food at the finish line. There is much more, not pictured, including vegetables with dip, muffins and cookies, plus pizza:

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