Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Casper WY - Is That a Glimmer of Light?

I'm starting to see just a faint glimmer of light at the end of this very long, very time-consuming, and very costly tunnel.  Don't misunderstand....I am totally enjoying this quest for completing half marathons in all 50 states.  I'm enjoying the travel, seeing towns I'd never in a million years spend time in if it weren't for this quest.  I'm enjoying meeting up with old friends that are scattered all over the country and meeting new ones along the way.  And I'm enjoying the challenge itself...running 13.1 mile races once or twice, even three times a month, has kept me active and off the couch.

The travel is getting hard, though.  Not physically, but because it's kept me from participating in other activities and events in my life.  It has seemed like the races I've scheduled myself for just never seem to coincide or line up with other activities nearby that I would have loved to participate in.


The plan:  My next race on the calendar just popped on there totally fortuitously.  The biannual IBA InterNational Meet is once again being held in Denver CO the third week in August and I had booked my reservations months ahead to ensure I got in to this very popular and always sold-out-early event.  My plan was to drive there but then I got to thinking, wondering if there would by any chance of a race in neighboring Wyoming the weekend before or the weekend after the event.  I began researching the various race calendar websites and, lo and behold, there was a race in Casper WY, to be held the weekend leading up to the IBA Meet.   Perfect!!

Because I had already booked a timeshare vacation in Santa Fe NM for the week following the IBA Meet, this meant a really, really long road trip and leaving the cat home alone for the longest stretch of time ever.  But it would be a real shame not to take advantage of this opportunity and save myself the expense of yet another trip back to this part of the country just to complete a race in Wyoming.

So I began packing for the eclectic nature - and wildly divergent wardrobe requirements - of this trip, taking advantage of the fact I'd be making this trip in the car.  Ahem...  One trick I learned years ago, when taking long trips on my motorcycle, is that when I'm in transit and only staying the night in hotels along the way, I pack a separate, very small bag - a tote bag, really - containing only the things I'd need for the night. Traveling by car is no different for me.  I had only the things I'd need each night, plus 2 days' clothes and my Samsung tablet in a small roller tote bag.  This also included the running gear I'd need for race day.  The rest of my two weeks' wardrobe needs stayed packed in my 21" wheeled suitcase and safely tucked out of site in the back of my SUV.  The non-perishable dry goods that I brought along were packed in a tote bag and tucked in the back of the SUV as well.

The drive:  Let's all be honest here.  The drive from Houston to Raton sucks big time.  To minimize the pain as much as possible, I broke it in half by leaving the house right after lunch and driving to Mineral Wells for the night, staying in a free room at a new Best Western, then continuing on to Colorado Springs CO for my next night's stop.  Of course, once I got near Capulin, the road started to get interesting and stayed that way all the way into Colorado.  A free room at Fairfield Inn awaited me and my last gas stop netted me a full gas tank and a Subway sandwich to enjoy in my room for dinner.

Then it was on to Casper WY, a long, boring, but fast drive from Colorado.

The town:  As soon as I got into Casper, I headed straight for the Boys & Girls Club where packet pickup for the race was being held.  It's also where the start/finish line will be the next morning.  This is my third Biggest Loser Half Marathon.  The venues have all been so different from each other, and the level of participation, volunteer staffing, and organization have all been different as well.  But the one thing they've all had in common is that they've been held in smaller communities.

Parking was easy - a good indicator for what it will be like race day morning - and the packet pickup tables positioned under canopies in the Boys/Girls Club parking lot were well-staffed and running like clockwork.

No lines at packet pick-up

Nice little fitness expo, in the Boys/Girls Club parking lot

My packet - race bib, t-shirt and their usual, very much appreciated, nylon backpack with zippered pocket - was now in my possession and I punched in "grocery store" into my GPS and let it lead me to the Safeway in town, where I picked up some bananas, a sub sandwich, and snack foods for my hotel room.  Then I continued on to the Hilton Garden Inn and checked into my free room.  I was pretty much "fried" at this point, having covered almost 1400 miles in two days' driving, and now I must get up early the next morning and run a half marathon!

The race:  Race day morning and I was up early, dressed and breakfast consisting of cheerios, raspberries, and a banana eaten.  I packed my things back into the small roller tote bag, checked out of the hotel, and drove the 3 or so miles to the Boys/Girls Club parking lot where the race will start and finish.

These Biggest Loser races have a VIP option when registering, which for me is a real bargain at $25!  It includes VIP parking, access to a VIP tent with a full breakfast buffet, cold drinks and bottled water, coffee, a place to sit in the shade to wait for the race to start, and our own VIP porta-potty without the long lines.  Well worth the money!!

Originally the weather forecasts were for cooler temperatures so it was with some alarm that race day morning was already in the low 70's at sunrise and with a 8:00 AM race start, would be even warmer.  I wasn't even sure I'd totally recovered from the very hot race in St. Paul just two weeks earlier.  I did suffer a bit of heat exhaustion from that race, no doubt about it.

I need Wyoming.  This is my chance to check this state off the list.  I'm going to finish this race no matter what!  The course itself had great promise, running the paved river trail along the Platte River.  It was truly a gorgeous route!  There was plenty of shade along the route on the outbound leg of the race.

At mile 5 we crossed a pedestrian bridge and then ran on a paved trail that circumnavigated a public golf course.  There was no shade here.  And the sun was getting high in the sky at this point.  And then whatever shade we'd enjoyed on the outbound leg of the river trail was long gone by the time those of us who are slower runners got back onto that return leg.  Whenever I did find a little scrap of shade, I paused for a few seconds, standing in that shade in an attempt to recover a bit before continuing on.  Everyone who was behind me on the course was apparently struggling in the heat as well, since not a single person passed me by as I took a break.

But these little scraps of shade were few and very far between.  At the turn for the last mile, there was a bit more shade and a water station, so I took a longer break here, knowing that the last mile was totally shade-less, hot, and along a sidewalk bordering a main street.  It was along this last mile that I realized just how much the effects from the heat of the previous race had been lingering.   And here I was, putting myself through this again.  I had a few choice words to say about race organizers that would start a race in August at 8:00 AM in the morning.  What were they thinking??

It was through sheer will power that I propelled myself that last mile and across the finish line.  I was so thankful for that VIP tent, its lunch buffet, cookies, cool yogurt, cold drinks and picnic tables in the shade.

The race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

Given the small size of this race, I was pretty sure I'd at least placed in my age group for runners, so I waited until the awards ceremony.  I'd already checked out of the hotel so there was no hurry to get back there, so I sat in the shade, snacked on cookies, fresh vegetables, and yogurt, and waited.

With Dan Evans from Biggest Loser Season 5

My finisher's medal and Age Group 1st Place award
The post-race drive:  1st place award and finisher's medal in my possession, now it was time to get on the road for the long drive to Fort Collins, where I had a nice room at a Hilton Garden Inn waiting for me.  I was pretty sweaty and sticky, but no opportunity for a shower before getting to hotel.  But I did pack a washcloth and small towel and about 100 miles down the road came to large rest area with bathrooms, where I washed my face, wiped my arms and legs down and changed into a t-shirt and shorts before continuing on to Ft. Collins.  This small effort helped greatly!

I had a beautiful suite at the hotel, the perfect place to spend a few days.  The hotel had a nice little cafe-style restaurant and a small walk-up bar and once I could get into my room and take a proper shower, I took advantage of the bar, the cafe, the friendly staff who had no other customers, and enjoyed a nice glass of wine and pleasant dinner before calling it quits for the day.

The "Chill":  Now I don't have to be anywhere, don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn.  I can sleep in, take it easy for a couple of days and do absolutely nothing at all if I don't want to.  It's been a hectic last four very long days.  Time to chill out!

Here's what the 50 States map looks like now...really starting to fill in now, isn't it:

As I said, there is that very faint light beginning to show, way down there at the end of the tunnel.  If all goes well, I should emerge from the tunnel by this time next year.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, have you been busy. Not much white left on that map. What will you do with all of your time when you are done?

    Enjoy your down time - you earned it.