Dr. J on Running

22 Casper Marathon, Casper, WY

3 June 2012

The highlight of my trip to Casper must have been trading my first class seat on the Chicago-Denver flight for lunch with PJ. After 50 days on the Paleo diet and Cross-Fit plan, PJ lost 25 pounds, and completed 50 push-ups and 80 sit-ups to ace her Army physical fitness test.

My hotel shuttle came eventually to drive me from the airport to the Ramada. Casper struck me as a depressing community. Industrial buildings dotted the high desert terrain, browned by the lack of water. I checked in, picked up my race packet with beautiful technical long sleeve shirt, and walked to Poor Boy’s Steakhouse for a good sirloin steak. The steak was so think I mistook it for a filet mignon.

I rested most of Saturday, alternating frequent naps with visits to packet pick-up, walks along the Platte River and checking the weather forecast. My right knee felt marginally good. I met many 50-staters. The race director informed us that over half the marathon entries came from 50 States Marathon Club members – 138 out of 270.

The pasta dinner did not disappoint - fresh fruits, two types of pasta, three toppings including grilled chicken breast, garlic bread and steamed vegetables. War stories of past marathons monopolized the conversation. I got reacquainted with Michelle and Fran, and met Suzanne and George.

I slept well and rose well-rested Sunday morning. We rode a school bus for the short trip to the Event Center, where a breakfast spread awaited us. I ate a banana with two mini-bagels, and washed them down with a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. The runners stayed warm indoors and used fully-stocked bathrooms.

An Army cannon sent us away at 0630. The temperature hovered around 45F. I discarded my long-sleeve shirt and walked the first half-mile. I found myself in last place when I started running. I alternated walking half-a-mile with running half-a-mile. I gasped for air from the start. My usual breathing rhythm of 4-and-4 fell apart, and I found myself on a 2-and-2 pace. For all intents and purposes, I sprinted every other half-mile at an 11-minute pace.

At around mile 4, an antelope darted in front of us in full flight. It proved to be the only excitement of the race. Several runners passed me every time I walked, and I passed a few more every time I ran. I averaged a net gain of two runners per mile, culminating into a 189th place out of 237 finishers. The course was free of traffic. After an initial loop around the Event Center, we followed an out-and-back course along the Platte River on an 8-foot paved bike path. The course gave us an opportunity to watch the leaders and the trailers alike.

I felt amazingly good, considering the mile-high setting and the fact that I ran only five times in the preceding month. My knee held-up well. I developed butt pain, aka PITA, around mile 18 that justified ingesting two Ibuprofen tablets. The temperature rose steadily into the eighties, and the sun broiled our half-naked bodies. I drank Gatorade and water at every stop, and dumped water and ice onto my head. I occupied my mind with basic calculations to avoid a personal worst, which I ended up missing by four minutes. I crossed the finish line in the hotel parking lot in 5:42:11.

The finish line food ranked the best ever for a marathon. In addition to pizza – I grabbed a slice in each fist – I saw mini-muffins, mini-cupcakes, mini-brownies, cookies, a vegetable tray with dips, fresh fruits ranging from blackberry and pineapple to oranges and bananas, and an assortment of bagged food like cookies, peanut butter crackers and nuts.

I showered and lay still for one hour. Those of us who did not leave town after the race joined an afternoon reception with chicken wings, vegetables and drinks. After the reception, I walked to the Poor Boy’s Steakhouse for one final Wyoming steak, then I retired for a restless night.

I felt surprisingly good in the morning – absolutely no soreness anywhere, except for a sunburn on the top of my head. My short haircut intended to dissipate heat turned into a bad idea after all. At Casper airport, I met Pink Tutu Keith, a British missionary who gained fame after running the Badwater Ultra in a pink tutu. We chatted for several minutes - very nice lad. The flight home was an uneventful 15-hour three-hopper including a first class leg from Denver to Dulles.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran his 22nd marathon in 22 states in Wyoming, his 19th marathon in 20 months in his 50-state quest. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2012 Dr Kamal Jabbour