I actually flew into Denver which was much cheaper and only a 4 hour drive from Casper. While in Denver, I met up with fellow blogger, runner and triathlete Iron Eric and his wife Nicole for lunch. They'd had a new family addition since I last saw them at Florida 70.3 in 2007.
The drive up to Casper also allowed me to see Southern Wyoming, which I'd never been through before. It was not as stunning as the Yellowstone area, which I'd seen on the drive between my week-apart marathons in South Dakota and Idaho in 2006, but having lived in the burbs all my life I never tire of seeing mountains, ranches and lots of open land. The pink asphalt on the roads was also quite unique.
The Casper Marathon was small affair with about 150 marathoners, 200 half marathoners and a few relay teams. The course started at 5270' and ended at 5100' and was mostly flat but the altitude would be a factor for flatlanders. Still, that didn't keep 50-staters like Amanda and I away (photo above; we met on the short bus ride to the start). In fact, my guess is that a quarter of the field were 50-staters and/or Marathon Maniacs. Most of us don't care about slower marathon times or the fact that the course was not certified (hence no race times would count as BQs here). We just want to run in fun places and check the state off our list!
I'd planned to carry my camera with me during the marathon but discovered in Denver that the shutter was no longer opening on its own (probably due to embedded sweat & grime). I could force it open with my fingers but decided it'd be too much of a pain to do so while running so I left it behind in my gear bag just before the 6:30am race start. Sorry, no photos during the race!
Photo of the path we ran on from the race website.
The first few miles the dry air and cool 50-ish deg temps felt magnificent but the thin air was immediately noticeable. Everyone seemed to be huffing and puffing way more than they should be so early on but I went out fairly hard on purpose. You see, another common high altitude side effect for me is having to pee often, which led to my slowest marathon time (4:32:05) at the 2007 Colorado Marathon. So I was employing a new race strategy that hubby Dave suggested: run harder so you won't feel like peeing. I also drank very little before the race even though I knew I was supposed to do the opposite especially at high altitudes. Things went great for the first half and I got to mile marker 13 in 1:53:31 (8:43 pace) with NO pit stops vs. numerous ones before but only in the first half. YAY!!!
We ran alongside the Platte River for most of the course (photo taken after the race).
But thereafter things got more difficult. Temps warmed up quickly with lots of blue sky and little shade along the nice quiet riverside path. I'd drank all the fluids I was carrying by the midway point and was now grabbing a cup at every aid station but it still wasn't enough. My pace plummeted down to the 9:30's and heading out on this long out-and-back section from mile 10.7 to 16 seemed to go on forever.
Finally I got to the mile 16 turnaround and decided to make a full stop to refill one of my water bottles and take in extra fluids. Shortly thereafter, two women passed me, one who was in her 20's and another who looked to be in my age group. Gasp! But there was nothing I could do. I'd gambled with my pacing and hydration and was now paying the price. Grumble, grumble, plod, plod ...
The good thing about heading back, though, was that many more runners were still headed to the turnaround and everyone was encouraging each other, often by name as they were printed on our race bibs. This is the type of small race camaraderie I love and it made the miles go by much faster. There were very few spectators otherwise on this course except volunteers at the aid stations and folks at the relay exchange points.
Another post-race photo inserted to break up all the words ;-)
Near mile 20, I made another full stop at an aid station to refill a water bottle and drink plenty. Now folks headed in the opposite direction were pretty much nonexistent but I was feeling better than I did a few miles back. When I passed the 20 mile marker I hit the lap button on my watch (no Garmin) and it said 2:59:32, which meant I should be able to finish within 4 hours as long as I didn't slow down much more.
But then the path made a big turn and I saw another woman less than a quarter mile in back of me. Yikes! The competitive side of me kicked in and I picked up my pace and made it my mission to not let her pass me (not without a fight, at least). Around mile 23, I was surprised to see up ahead the woman who'd passed me earlier who I thought might be in my age group. She still looked to be running strong but I was slowly closing in. He-he.
Finally after mile 25, I caught her and said "good job" as I went by. She said something similar but I don't remember exactly what. Then I saw another young woman up ahead who I'd run behind for most of the first half of the race. I hadn't seen her since the halfway point but wouldn't it be nice if I could catch her too?
I gave it a shot but it was not to be. Still, I ran the last 10K in 57:06 (9:11 pace) and finished with my best marathon time to date at 5000+ feet altitude.
3:56:31 (9:02 pace), 2/14 F40-49, 6/47 Female.
And the woman I was chasing the last few miles actually turned out to be in the F30-39 AG. Oh well! As for whether it felt equivalent to running a 3:44 race time at sea level as predicted by the Daniel's Running Calculator, I'd say it felt harder since I wasn't acclimated to the altitude. To me, this race really seemed to be more of a lung workout than a leg workout!
I actually ended up winning my age group since the 1st F40-49 was the overall female winner. All award winners got the same prize, however, a nice folding camping chair with an insulated compartment to carry food and additional pockets for other stuff. It's probably the most useful award I've ever gotten and it'll come in handy this weekend while spectating at a race.
Hanging out afterwards was a blast. I met up with a few other 50-staters while enjoying the plentiful post-race food.
Dawn Easton, the race director, came walking by so I grabbed her for a quick photo (above) and thanked her for a wonderful Wyoming race experience. Highly recommended for other 50 staters!
Just 4 more states left in my 50 states quest!!!