Marathon Route #23: Casper Marathon – Casper, WY

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When you were young, you didn’t notice you were growing. It happens slowly, gradually, it sneaks up on you.  You think, “The washer shrank my favorite jeans” or “My Mom is getting shorter” or “Oh no, the roof is caving in!” At some point, it becomes clear that it isn’t your surroundings which have changed; you have changed. Initially when I finished this marathon I was a little disappointed in myself, but as I stood against the doorframe of my previous races, I was amazed at how much I had grown.

As a benchmark, I looked at my performance when I ran the route of the Albuquerque Duke’s City Marathon. Both Albuquerque and Casper are about a mile high.  The previous week for both races were at mid level altitudes.  It was much warmer in Casper, but the Casper Marathon has what feels like a large downhill run towards the beginning (in reality only around 150 ft) compared to the exceptionally flat course the Rio Grand Trail provides.  I was well rested and well fueled for both runs. Casper is about 1000 feet higher than Albuquerque adding to altitude stress. The biggest difference was Abuquerque was an unofficial race run solely by myself and Casper was official with fellow competitors in the field.  Even with that difference, the results are dramatic. I averaged 10:40 per mile pace in the first 10 miles of Casper compared to a 13:50 pace in Albuquerque. In Casper, it wasn’t until mile 19 that fatigue had a significant impact, whereas I was clearly struggling by mile 12 of the Duke’s City Marathon. The disappointment initially arose due to the 5:41:37 finish time. When you look at the pure numbers, you can clearly see the growth and strength I have gained in my previous races and this is why I consider Casper a win for me.

Race Review:

The first impression of a race is always through it’s volunteers, and Casper has a fantastic team who truly want to put on the best race they can.  They were very informative and friendly and great at handling last minute requests like adding a runner into the pasta dinner after the deadline. The expo was very small and most of the vendors were dealing in local product that I wasn’t interested in, but the race group had a large selection of previous year’s shirts and promo wear, just not in my size.  Although I appreciated the free photos, there weren’t as many taken this year as in previous years – very few finish line photos and very few photos out on the course (Correction:Finish line photos were taken by the timing company, there just weren’t any of me). We really lucked out with somewhat lower temperatures than usual and cloud cover for at least the first two hours of the race.

The course starts at the Casper Expo center which was very well staffed by volunteers and had many bathroom facilities to accommodate the runners from both the marathon and the half marathon. I really liked the fact that the start of the race was announced with a connon booming out across the morning! The first 5 miles of the course start with some light rolling hills on top of the bluff that overlooks downtown Casper. You do get some nice views of Casper Mountain around mile 3 as you sling back to pass by the expo and certainly as you have the half mile plunge to the valley floor. The next four miles run beautifully along the Platte River. Not only is the trail well paved shaded in many places by the trees along the way, there are some wonderful landmarks and bronze sculptures along the way like the Oil Derrick and big bronze fisherman fly fishing in the middle of the river.After crossing the river a couple times, you loop the Three Crowns golf course where you are pretty exposed to the sun for a little over three miles, then back to the Platte River Trails. The next area was pretty bland until get past the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, then the trail starts to have gorgeous views of the river again, along with some winding curves and two fairly steep but thankfully short hills around miles 19 and then back again after the turn around at the 20 mile mark. After that we are just retracing our steps back along the river.  By this point, the cloud cover protecting us that morning had either burned or blown away and the heat really began to escalate. I was glad we didn’t need to run around the golf course again.  I will say that around mile 24 there were quite a few less volunteers along the route than when we came through the first time and I did get a little lost for a moment looping around a bridge which was a reroute due to the high waterline of the river that week.  Once I got past that area, the route back to the finish was very clear.

At the finish, I always appreciate when there is plenty of food left for us slow pokes and Casper didn’t disappoint.  Plenty of pizza and sandwiches of all sorts, iced beverages and sweets and fruit and I think there was beer, though I did not indulge. I did take advantage of the massages that were offered to runners. There were many therapists on hand and I did not have to wait and got a terrific post race rubdown that truly helped with some issues on the road.  I would highly recommend this race if you are looking for an affordable, well supported, easy course in Wyoming.

Lessons Learned:

Do Not Trust Runner’s Pace Predictions:

At the races where there aren’t pacers, I’ve been trying to find runners who run my paceat race time. I should know by now, I can’t predict what my pace will be on race day, and most other runners can’t either.  There were about 6-8 runners who I sounded out before the race and their paces were anywhere from 2 minutes faster per minute to 2 minutes slower per mile than predicted. I should just get running and see who I surrounded by around mile 3 or 4.

No Fruit Before The Race:

I’ve been eating oatmeal as my pre-race breakfast for sometime but had started to add fresh fruit to the mix.  For two races, this has left me with a bit of a sour stomach during the first hour of the race, so I am switching back to just oatmeal.

Physical Review:

I had been having some minor issues with my left hip over the past couple races, but really minor and truly only affecting me after the race.  This race I could feel it around mile 15 and made some adjustments to my stride. Unfortunately, that seemed to affect my left knee and as I was approaching the those steep hills around mile 19/20, I started getting sharp pains in my left knee.  I was able to mitigate this by making some shifts in my stride and foot placement, but little twinges haunted me throughout the last 6 miles.  I was truly grateful for the terrific alignment I received at the end of the race and I feel that everything got lined back up where it’s supposed to be, but I will be keep and eye on the knee for a little while.  I am nervous about running on it next week in a race that is all downhill – Revel Rockies, outside of Denver, Colorado. Thank you for following along. as always, I appreciate your comments and questions.