Sunday, May 30, 2004

Wyoming Marathon

Race Report
Wyoming Marathon
May 30/04

Planning for this marathon began last fall when one of my running friends from the UK told me that he was planning a trip to the US to run marathons in Wyoming and Colorado in 2004. Since both races are close to our home in CO I invited him to stay with us and agreed to run both races with him. As the trip plan became firm a second runner/friend from the UK also decided to make the trip.

Since the first marathon was scheduled for May 30/04 in Cheyenne, WY, I decided that I would/should leave Florida earlier than usual to give myself a few weeks in CO to adjust to the altitude and train in the mountains. Thus my sports manager and I left FL on May 6th and arrived in Summit County on June 12th - during a snowstorm! It continued to snow for the next three days as we watched out the window – it was too damn cold to go outside let alone run!

Finally it quit snowing and warmed up enough so that I could start my high-altitude and hill training. I had two weeks to get ready for the Wyoming marathon which went by quickly. My sports manager decided that there would be too much testosterone flowing around the house so she decided to escape to Seattle and visit our son Chris while my running friends were visiting.

On Fri, May 28th I picked my friends up at the Denver airport and drove directly to Cheyenne, WY. The race director, Brent Weigner, had invited the two Brits to stay at his place and since I was the driver/guide I was also invited to stay at Brent’s. I have known Brent for a number of years having run his race twice before as well as meeting him at several other races.

On Sat I gave my mates a quick tour of Cheyenne and then we helped Brent and his wife Sue load all the race equipment and supplies for the race. It was a very windy and cool day and unfortunately the forecast called for even colder and windier weather on Sun. I had advised my mates to bring cold-weather running gear with them. It was a good thing they listened. On Sun morning we drove 35 miles west of Cheyenne to the Lincoln Monument on I 80 – the highest elevation point on the highway at 8700 ft. When we got out of the car at 5:30 am the temp was 31 F and the wind was blowing from the west at 30+ mph! I had two layers of clothing on but immediately decided to add a third layer – a wind-proof vest! The wind chill was in the high teens! I seriously considered getting back in the car and waiting for my mates to run?

However there were several other fools lined up at the start line for the 6am start – about 120 runners for the three races: a Half marathon, a marathon and a double marathon. Yes, a double for those real crazies! So at 6am I started down the first hill with my mates and all the other fools. The course dropped 500+ vertical ft over the first 5 miles. With a steep downhill and a 30mph tailwind it was very easy to run an 8:15 pace for the first 5 miles in spite of the elevation. I could have run faster but I remembered averaging a 7:30 pace the last time I ran this race and it hurt me over the last 5 miles when I had to run back up that damn mountain! By 4 miles I was feeling too warm and considered taking my vest off and leaving it on the side of the road to pick up on the way back. But I figured that I might need it when I left the dirt road in the Medicine Bow National Forest and reached the paved service road around 7miles. It turned out to be a wise decision!

At mile 5 we reached the bottom of the first hill and started climbing back to 8600 ft over the next two miles. As we climbed that first uphill section and reached the paved service road along I 80 we became totally exposed to the ferocious westerly wind and it literally blew us along the 3 miles of paved road. At mile 10 the course turned back on to a dirt road into the National Forest and dropped 600 ft to the lowest elevation of 8000 ft at the Half. I passed the Half in 2:02! But I had absolutely no illusions that the 2nd Half would be that fast! I had to turn around and run back to the start and now the wind would be directly in my face.

As I had approached the Half I had counted the runners coming back i.e in front of me! I counted 12 runners. To demonstrate how numb/fuzzy/frozen my brain was at that point I calculated that I needed to catch two runners to finish in the top 10! DUH! I was in 13th place at the time! But at least I had the motivation needed to run back up that steep hill from 13 to 15 miles into a cold head wind. I kept thinking that I just needed to keep my feet ‘running’ up that hill until I reached the paved service road and then I could haul ass and catch the first two runners in front of me. I figured they had about one mile or a 10 minute lead on me but surely they would have to walk in the 2nd Half and I could make up that time “if I did not walk”! Right!!!

When I finally did reach the service road the head wind was so strong and cold that I could barely move forward. The weather channel later confirmed the winds had been 41 mph with gusts up to 50 mph! I ran/pushed as hard as I physically could along that service road and all I could average was a 12 min. pace! And I was freezing to death! (Thank goodness I had kept that vest!) But I had closed to within ¼ mile of the first runner (in front of me). Finally and mercifully at 19 miles I reached the end of the service road and turned back into the National Forest. I had been hoping that the forest would provide some protection from the wind and maybe even the wind would be coming at me from the side instead of a direct headwind. So I was really surprised when some fluke of nature swirled the wind and it literally blew me down the hill for the next two miles? I didn’t complain!

By the time I reached the bottom of that last downhill at 21 miles I was about 200 yards behind the first runner and could see the 2nd runner about another ¼ mile ahead! And we had 5 more miles of continuous uphill to the finish line. I knew I could catch them – if I could keep running? But it was a bitch! A first the uphill/mtn was gentle but now the wind was blowing directly into our faces at 40+ mph! I struggled just to keep my legs moving in a running motion that resulted in a blazing 12 to 13 min pace! I passed the first runner around mile 22 when he stopped to walk. Target: runner #2 – now about 250 yards ahead! But that frigging guy refused to walk so I had to keep running and slowly drew him in. I finally passed him at mile 24 and put on a brief sprint to kill any incentive he might have to stay with me or try to pass me back! It worked and I eventually left him behind.

But I was now dieing! My legs had nothing left and were close to rebelling! I was running a 14 min pace if you can call that running? At mile 25 the hill became very steep and my legs finally quit – they could no longer maintain any motion that resembled ‘running’. So I gave in and allowed myself to walk for a maximum of 15 secs and then I would run as long as possible. I continued this process up that frigging mountain until mile 25 ½ when I noticed another runner – a woman- about 250 yards ahead and walking. Damn! I can catch her if I run and she continues walking? So I pushed the old tired bod and rubbery legs and probably got within a 150 yards before she saw me. She wasn’t having any of that nonsense and much to her credit forced herself to run. That killed me! I knew that I did not have enough energy left to outrun her to the finish line so I decided I might as well walk into the finish line? After all it wouldn’t change my place/position in the race?

Fortunately at that moment I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that the runners I had passed were not making a gallant effort to catch me before the finish line. Nope! But Holy Shit! – about 200 feet behind me was a young lass hauling ass up that mountain and closing on me fast! I was not having any of that nonsense! I was not going to be passed in the last ¼ mile by another runner – especially a woman! So I had no choice but to suck it up, accept the inevitable pain and force my old bod to sprint the last few hundred yards up that mountain and across the finish line in 4:31:56! That young lass (less than half my age) finished only 7 secs behind me!

I was surprised/disappointed/confused to learn that I finished in 11th place overall? Hadn’t I achieved my goal and passed two runners? (Wasn’t until my brain thawed out in the hot tub later that I was able to do the correct math!). But my time was good enough for first place (and 56 minutes faster than the next competitor) in the ROF (Really Old Farts) age group.

The moment I crossed the finish line I became unbearably cold. I swear it was colder at the finish than it had been at the start of the race? So I went straight to the car and added another layer of clothes – a heavy sweat suit. Brent invited me into his trailer at the finish line to wait for my two mates to finish. Even though the trailer was heated and I had four layers of clothes on I could not get warm. I shivered the whole time I waited for my mates to finish. Roger finished in 5:04 and Jack finished in 5:41. By the time Jack finished it had started snowing (still 40+ mph winds) and I was so glad that I was not out on the course at that time.

I watched the first of the double marathon racers finish after me and many had to quit and drop out of the double because they had not come prepared for such harsh weather. They had run the first marathon/loop in shorts and T-shirts and wisely decided it was suicide to try to run a second loop! A total of 71 runners finished the marathon and only 11 finished the double.

As soon as Jack had rested for a few minutes we decided to go back to Brent’s house and try to warm up in his hot tub. It took me over 30 minutes of soaking in that tub before I finally felt warm again!

Now we are back at our place in CO and training for the next race on Sun, June 6/04 in Steamboat Springs, CO. It should be an easier and faster race since it starts at 8100 ft and runs downhill for 26 miles to finish in Steamboat at 6700 ft. Stay tuned for the next report!

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