|Shows the tortuous nature of the course. The 24K racers go around twice counterclockwise.|
|Race Director Mike flagging the course|
|Race morning near the start was 52 degrees|
|A great mix of deciduous and evergreens cover the winding path|
|Campgrounds along the course were mostly unoccupied.|
I didn’t know much about the course except for the profile on the web site, so I hiked the first mile of it yesterday and encountered Mike marking the trail. The 8-mile loop meandered quite a bit, crossing numerous other ski trails, so it would’ve been very easy to go off track--but Mike marked it flawlessly. Almost all of the race participants were from Casper, many whom had ran this course, so they had homefield advantage. Races started at 8 a.m. for the 24K runners (25 of them) and 8:15 for the 12K people (90 participants).
|I was a little too ambitious at the start and later paid for it by dropping from 1st to 16th.|
(Photos by Jake Black)
The first mile or so was uphill along a path wide enough for people to spread out--which in most cases is an advantage, but for an impatient sprinter like me it turned out to be a disadvantage because I edged around the crowd and up to the front five right away. I’d told myself earlier to take it easy, but the grade was just too vanilla to restrain to a shuffle. As we topped out I finally decided to agree with my pre-race strategy but by now the altitude had extracted a little more than expected. So, it was the same old rookie error of being too proud to dial back the stride for the first mile. It just felt so good...
But that wasn’t really the most challenging part of the race--rather, the unexpected, relentless ups and downs required expert pacing. When you’re running in dark timber, you can’t see too far ahead and so you don’t know how to gauge your pace to a sustainable level. I don’t remember any level spots that went on for more than a few yards. And so half the time I was sucking air and the other half felt like an easy jog.
The tortuous nature of the course [notice I didn’t say torturous but it could be that too] prevented me from locking in to a steady pace and so I had to take several one-minute walk breaks to recover from the numerous steep inclines that popped out from behind the trees. By mile 5, I glimpsed the eventual Masters winner 2 minutes ahead. I had a too-late surge where I passed a few people in the last quarter-mile. Despite my overoptimistic predictions of landing in the top 10, I took 16th out of 90 in 1:21. Maybe the two extra-strength Tylenol I took for my piriformis syndrome right before the race slowed me down a bit. Or it was “Diesburg’s Dungeon” that only the locals knew about. But I know that next time my herky-jerky pace will be tamed if I remember to initiate interval training earlier before the race date and incorporate more running at altitude.
The age range seemed broader at this race than others, giving it a small-town, community flavor; 3 of the top 4 finishers were teenagers and ages ranged from 9 to 75 years old. The Casper home team took 1st place in both races (Justin Henry in the 24K and Ben Baedke in the 12K). Nik Deininger of Laramie, who took 2nd at Pilot Hill and 5th at Quad Rock 25 this year, won 2nd in the 24K. Afterward, Casper’s Windy City Striders served a hearty lunch, and people of all ages and sizes had a good time together.
|My surge to the finish; notice Diesburg behind my shoulder, smiling at the pain|
One comment I get from city slickers when I mention Casper is that it’s not the prettiest place in Wyoming. They only judge what they see as they drive by on I-25. If they dared to leave the highway and go south just 15 minutes, they’d find a new world of flora and fauna rising 3,000 feet on Casper Mountain, with abundant combinations of trails and backroads to explore. Congratulations to Windy City Striders for putting on a professional, small-venue, exciting trail race. Looking forward to next year with my cousins!
|My cousin Capt. Jake Black and me; no, I didn’t lose a tooth, it's a cleverly placed shadow|
|View from Casper Mountain toward Wolf Creek where I often roamed the hills with my cousins growing up|