Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Casper Marathon Review

Casper Marathon
June 3, 2012
Casper, Wyoming
21st Marathon Completed

Time: 3:35:10
Pace: 8:13/mile
Place: 13th/237 Overall
          2nd/41 40-49 Age Group
Elevation: 5,348 ft
Temperature: 70 Degrees
Wind: 5 mph WNW
Overall Experience ... 3/5

Spoiler Alert ...
  • Good small town marathon
  • Easy city to navigate
  • Convenient packet pick-up
  • Great pre & post race food
  • Easy parking a few feet from the finish line
  • Great warm up and pre race waiting area
  • Home of Pronghorn Antelope
  • Very friendly staff
  • Absolutely no crowd support
  • Very poor water distribution and very limited volunteers
  • Very poorly marked & confusing course
  • No sight of runners ahead of, or behind me for most of the race
  • Nice post race party

Race Shirt, Medal, & Award Stuff
Casper Marathon race shirt, race medal, and cool stuff I won for 2nd place in my age group - a blanket and duffle bag

Casper, Wyoming
If you like cowboys, blue sky, mountains in the distance, miles and miles of prairie grass, abundant wild-life, and a long-long drive from anywhere ... you would love Casper, Wyoming.  With a population of only about 50,000, it's actually the State's second largest city.  I'll be honest, it wasn't the most exciting place I've ever been, but I did find some very interesting things about this central Wyoming town.
Casper, Wyoming
Fortunately I still had energy for the race after building this log cabin
People seemed friendly and helpful.  But when I asked the girl at the hotel if they had any good local pizza joints that delivered she said, "Yeah, Pizza Hut."??? Also, after the race I asked 4 different people to take a picture of me in front of the finish line - they all acted like I had 3 heads, saying they were afraid of technology (my iPhone), or "Yeah, I guess I could take a picture with you?" (Not with me ... of me, ha!)

Also, I've been reading "Blood Feud", about the Hatfield & McCoy rivalry in the late 1800's. So in honor of them, I took some time to build this log cabin.

I browsed the Internet for a few days before the marathon to find a few of the unique things about the city.  Below are a few of the great pictures I got while in Casper.
(Top row from left to right) Garden Creek Falls near Casper Mountain, Casper city limits sign, road up to Casper Mountain, Pony Express Monument near the Casper Events Center, sheep statues with railroad spike in downtown Casper (second row) 20% Chance of Flurries statue in downtown Casper, Fly-Fishing statue in the North Platte River in downtown Casper, runner emblem on a street light, downtown Casper, Wyoming, (bottom row) a real cowboy hearding a calf with a train in the distance
Pronghorn Antelope
By far and away the coolest thing about the central Wyoming area (at least to me) is the abundance of Pronghorn Antelope.  These little fellas are everywhere.  The Pronghorn Antelope is native to North American grasslands, predominantly in Central & Western Wyoming.  They are the second fastest land animal behind the Cheetah, running upwards of 55-60 mph.  However, many view the Pronghorn Antelope as the fastest land mammal based on how long it can sustain this speed, as opposed to the Cheetah which is known for shorter bursts. 
Several photos I was able to capture of the native American Pronghorn Antelope while at the Casper Marathon
As I made my way along Interstate 25 toward Casper, Wyoming, I noticed many lone Pronghorns, as well as herds feeding and running across the open plains in the distance.  However, once inside the Casper city limits, I found there to be almost as many of the Antelope wandering nearby fields and seemingly fairly domesticated.  An interesting fact about the Pronghorn is they don't jump.  When they come to a fence, they will try to go through it or around it, but will rarely jump over it.  My friend Meredith, who grew up in the area told me that to locals they are  more of a nuisance than anything.  She also told me that they are not very intelligent, and that it's illegal to hunt them with music playing because they will walk right up to you - drawn to the music.  At any rate, I thought they were pretty cool and was able to take a ton of great close-up pictures of one of this true North American native.

The Race
Me before the Casper Marathon - ironically, this is exactly
the same amount of people that I would run with
for most of the race
At 237 runners, the Casper Marathon was the smallest marathon I've ran to date.  And if I can help it, it will remain the smallest.  I just didn't "love" the whole small marathon thing.  I know a lot of runners prefer them, but I just really enjoy everything about the larger runs.  Don't get me wrong, the folks who organized Casper did a great job with limited volunteers and support.  But the single thing I remember most about the race is running the last 10-12 miles completely on my own with no one around for several hundred yards ... I couldn't even see them in front of, or behind me!  No other runners or crowd support.  It basically felt like a long training run - and I can get that without driving 13 hours from home.

Packet pick up was held the day before the race at the host hotel, the Ramada Plaza Riverside.  I stayed at my customary Hampton Inn.  There was a little bit of a line starting to form at the doorway for packet pickup when I arrived, and some of the runners were beginning to get a little restless.  I felt bad for the two ladies handing out bibs and race shirts - this wasn't that big of a race, but there were only two of them, so a little bit of a wait could be expected.

There was a very nice ... but REALLY chatty ... woman in front of me in line.  If you know me, you know that I come across completely different on my blog than I am in real life.  On here, I can seem really outgoing and gregarious - but in actuality, I'm pretty quite, shy, and keep to myself ... and I really enjoy it when others do the same.  But this lady was a complete 180 of me.  She kept dropping little hints and invitations to inquiry about her life to everyone just out of the blue like, "Boy, I hope this race goes better than the last time I was in Wyoming" (like we're supposed to be enticed to say - Golly, what happened the last time you were here???) ... and "Boy, I wish I knew if this race was a 50 States Club qualifier" (insert someone from the crowd asking - Golly, have you done a lot of other States???)  Somewhat rudely, I had been looking away from her when she pondered aloud as not to make eye contact - but then she trapped me when she asked, "Do you think there's another Expo somewhere else besides this one?  This one's really small!"  I had to answer.  I had no choice.  And I could have been A LOT nicer about it, but after only 30 minutes, this kind, but slightly irritating woman had broken me.  So I blurted, "Why would they have two different Expo's?  There's only like 250 people in this race - it's not like they can afford rental on a huge hall.  Plus, what vendors are gonna drive 12 hours to Casper, Wyoming for 250 people?  Really, two Expos?"  About 5 or 6 of the people in the group who had been thinking EXACTLY what I had been thinking started chuckling.  I felt really bad - in no way did I want to embarrass her.  And I would have felt worse if it would have silenced her, but she just started in on another topic.

Casper Marathon Elevation
I've only ran two other marathons at elevation - Missoula, Montana and Logan, Utah - and being a flat lander, neither of those altitudes affected me in the least.  But I noticed while I drove around Casper the day before viewing the sights, the elevation was kinda getting to me a little.  It's not like Casper is a small little ski resort town at the top of a mountain somewhere, but for some reason, the 5,500 ft seemed to getting to me.  When I got out of my car and hiked up a short little hill, or simply walked around local businesses, I was getting winded.  I hoped that it didn't affect the next day during the race.

Hard to decipher course markings for the Casper Marathon
On race day, I woke up at 3:30am for the 6:30am start.  The race began at the Casper Events Center and ended at the same place as packet pickup.  So they had a shuttle bus making trips back and forth, and it allowed you to leave your car at the finish line - only about 50 ft away!  At the starting line, the Events Center was open for the runners, and inside the volunteers had a ton of water, bagels, bananas, and some other food as well as coffee for everyone.  It was really great of them to have food not only after the race, but before as well.

We lined up at the starting line with a temperature of about 60 degrees - and rising.  As soon as the sun got a little higher in the sky, the temperature stayed right around 70 degrees for most of the race.  The gun went off about 5 minutes late.   This would have been annoying if I would have timed my warm up down to the starting gun, but I wasn't really going to run this one that hard so it was no big deal.  Although there were a couple of runners grumbling about it.  (You know from previous posts that I think there is ALMOST NEVER a good reason for a late start at a race)

The Casper marathon is a very flat course with a couple of little hills here and there.  But the only significant climb is a 100 ft incline from miles 1.5 to 2.5.  And even though the race had just started and my legs were really fresh, I began to breath really heavily running up this mile long incline.  I looked at my heart rate monitor and I was at about 175-180 bpm ... what the heck???  I should have been at about 130-140 bpm at this point.  But unfortunately, I monitored my heart rate all day at about 10-15 bpm higher than normal.  I guess the elevation took more of a toll on me than I thought it would.

Race "Improvement Needed" #1
Nice post race party at the finish line
Since the course is ran mostly along a bike trail adjacent to the North Platte River, I had no trouble running the tangents at the Casper Marathon.  In fact, my total mileage at the end was only 26.19 (guess I owe them a .01 mile)  Although it was fairly pretty course, there just wasn't really a lot to see while running.  Mostly just a winding bike trail next to a river.  And you would think that since it's on a bike trail, there would be no way of getting lost or confused with directions.  Not true.  The course doubled back on itself several times and crossed paths at intersections.  The limited volunteers did what they could to help with directions, but there were a few times where the marking on the path (like the one pictured above) was really confusing and you just didn't know which way to go.  I literally stopped running twice to take a close look at the directional arrows, which in some cases had been scrawled through and corrected.  And since there was no other runner around you - you just had to make an educated guess.  That was a little frustrating in the last few miles when you were trying to focus on finishing and not which way to go.

Race "Improvement Needed" #2
The only other somewhat negative observation about the race was the water situation.  Not enough of it, and a very non-efficient job handing it out.  But again, this was a REALLY small race and I know they did the best with what they had.  It had be really tough to get volunteers for such a small event.  But at almost every water stop, you had to stop and wait for the volunteers to give you a cup of water.  They weren't there waiting for you like most races.  I wasn't running for a PR or anything at Casper, but if I would have been, this would have definitely added a few minutes to the clock.  You could tell the volunteers were pretty new to the process, but it was really great of them to get out there and help out.  The spacing of the water in the later miles was fairly scarce as well.  If memory serves, you had to run about 2 miles between water stops in the last few miles.  It would have been nice if they were a little closer together.

Me with prizes for 2nd in my Age Group at Casper
At about mile 10 - 20, we started on a long out & back.  My legs felt great but my breathing was really laboring.  But I noticed that as the faster runners passed  on the way back to the finish line, there were only about 10-12 of them in front of me.  That was a really weird feeling.  I knew it was a small race - but I was going to finish close to the top.  So the competitive side of me kicked in.  I knew this wasn't going to be a stellar time for me, and definitely not a PR.  But despite the 70 degree temps and the altitude, I thought I might be able to put together a strong finish.  And in the last few miles, I caught and passed two more runners.   Passing them was great, but more than anything, it was just great to know that I hadn't strayed off course.

I finished 13th overall with a 3:35:10 - fast enough for second in my age group of 40-49.  The time seemed a little slow to be winning anything, but as I compared the times from previous years, everyone seemed to be 7-10 minutes slower than past finishes.  It was probably due to the higher temps.  I know 70 degrees is not face melting or anything, but it seemed really hot in Casper during the marathon.  It was only a little after 10am when I finished the race, so I knew I had time to get back to my hotel room, shower, pack, and then come back to the finish line area for the awards ceremony at noon.   For second in my age group, I got a really cool duffle bag, and a great blanket, both with the Casper Marathon logos.  Awesome!   Immediately after that, I got in my car and headed back to Missouri.

Would I recommend the Casper Marathon to others ... hmm, that's a good question.  The race is 10 years old, so you would think they would have some of the kinks worked out, but there are still a couple of small issues there.  If you are trying to do all 50 States - I would say "Yes", do it!  Everyone I've talked to says its the best marathon in Wyoming.  (I think there are literally only 2 or 3 other marathons in the State) But if  you're looking to run just one or two marathons and don't mind travelling a little, there are several other great marathons in the area like Missoula, Montana and Logan, Utah - which are both on the smaller side, but seem to be a little better.  That being said, the race organizers definitely did the best with what they had to work with, and they helped make my stay in Casper an enjoyable one!
... be great today!


  1. Loved reading this recap. I definitely love the excitement of a race much more with lots of people around. I hope you had some music to listen to during those long stretches of nobody around.

  2. Great recap, and fun to read. I had to laugh out loud about the woman who would not shut up in front of you at the expo. I can't stand people like that either.

    Great job placing 2nd in your age group!

  3. Nice job on the race, seems like you are back to normal - hope you enjoyed the run.

    Wow 237 people is a tiny race! I've done races like that before, but they are like 5 mile races instead of marathons, lol. Bummer on it being so boring because of it.

    Lol on your comment to the woman in line - great job calling her out! Funny that she just kept on talking! I wonder who she subjected to her monologue next?

    As for Wyoming, I know they have the Frontier Days in Cheyenne every year - it seems like it would be a great time. And their is always Yellowstone, I've always wanted to go there.

  4. Welcome to God's Country!! I spent a great deal of time in the entire state of Wyoming in the mid 80s when I was at geology field camp and I can attest that there isn't a whole lot to do in Casper other than be a rancher. But people who live there love it and they have huge hearts.

    For a state that has approximately half a million people living in the entire state, I'm thinking 237 people for a marathon is pretty big :). Seriously, those people don't really run up there - they ranch. And drill for oil. So this is a big thing. I've done a 50k with only about 150 people in it and it wasn't the most fun either, I much prefer large crowds when I'm suffering so I don't have to suffer alone!

    Well done on the race and great swag win on the ag placement - that's fantastic! I'm sure the speed had to do more with the altitude than the heat (maybe) may not have noticed it racing, but your time is definitely affected when you race much higher than you train. But,it looks like your speed is coming back a little...this is GOOD! :)

    Congratulations. When are you coming out to run Pikes Peak with me?? :)

  5. Great recap! Love the people who didn't understand what you meant by "take a picture of me at by the finish line." But if most of them had just finished the race, at least they have the excuse of having runner's brain.

  6. It's funny to me that your photo montage included a train--when I drove through Wyoming last year on the way to Logan, I saw tons of trains, enough that I now think of Wyoming as the freight train state.

    Congrats on the age group win--nothing like taking home some free stuff! Yes, altitude does affect heart rate--I notice it whenever I go home to MO to visit my mom.

  7. Congrats on another marathon! I can imagine how boring some of those miles were. Such a small field of runners. Nice job with placing!

  8. Jim you are shy? really....
    I have to see you to believe that! so come on running in California soon!

    Congrats on the AG place!!! fantastic!
    OH that woman...I would have gone to the back of the line to get rid of her!!!

  9. Seriously, they're afraid of technology? How hard is it to press a button?

    Well done on a great result Jim.

  10. Nice run and congrats on your time and placing. Nice shirt, medal and other goodies. I love small races and will enjoy this one for sure. My one and only top 10 finish was in a 80km (50 mile) trail race with only 8 finishers! :) That train pic is my favourite as it could have been taken on my model train layout!

  11. Um you took 13th overall! Dang that is so cool! I bet it was so incredibly boring to be running solo. I am proud of you for kicking it in the last few miles.

    What in the heck do people in Wyoming anyway. Sheesh only 3 marathons. There are like 100 in Utah I think.

  12. Your race recaps "almost" make me wish I had driven that ridiculous 13 hours with you in the car. Looks beautiful, even if it wasn't too exciting. I think you did amazing sweetie!! Way to go :)

  13. Congratulations on placing 2nd in your AG! Well done!

  14. Congrats on the poduim finish

    Are you part of the Brooks ID Team?

  15. Are there any larger marathons in Wyoming? :)

    Congrats on a great finish and second in your age group. Great things about small races!!!

  16. Congrats and nice job. Also had to laugh bout the lady inline talking.

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