I've pretty much decided that I am AWESOME at picking out races!!!! For realz! The Monument Marathon in Scottsbluff, NE, is truly a hidden gem - just my kind of race! Well all except for the fact that the race website warns you of rattlesnakes on the course. I was initially supposed to go to Scottsbluff alone, which is how I roll most of the time, but I ended up talking GK
into running with me so I wouldn't be alone with the rattlesnakes out of doing Omaha for his NE race so I had a travel buddy! He ended up recruiting another Maniac, and an epic road trip was born!
|Fun at the NE border.|
|Make it stop!|
I did extensive research on things do to in the area of Scottsbluff, and by "extensive" I mean I watched the Nebraska episode of Aerial America. If you don't know about this show, get on it! I'm addicted! I discovered that there are several things to see in the area - Scottsbluff National Monument, the Oregon Trail, Chimney Rock, Courthouse and Jail Rocks, and Carhenge. The first and second we would see during the race, so that left the last three to explore on our own. Upon arriving in Scottsbluff, we checked into our hotel, grabbed our packets from the expo, and then headed about an hour northeast to the itty bitty town of Alliance. England has Stonehenge, Alliance has Carhenge.............
|Feast your eyes upon this artistic marvel!|
|I forgot my can of spray paint so we didn't get to leave our mark!|
|Stayin' alive! Stayin' alive!|
Yup. This place was awesome and should be visited by everyone!! On our way back to Scottsbluff we stopped by a really creepy looking dilapidated building. I had big plans of sitting on the front steps and getting my picture taken and it was going to be so artsy, but the grass just looked like a breeding ground for rattlesnakes, so I stayed safely on the side of the road while the boys investigated.
|No way no how!|
I initially had secret plans to kind of run this race for time. Not PR time, but maybe just better than my usual slug pace. I mean, it's the end of September in Scottsbluff, NE, which is about 3 hours northeast of Denver, surely it must be cold there by then!!! I even commented to the hubs a month or so ago about how I could not wrap by head around the fact that it might be SNOWING for the race!! Oh how wrong I was! If you want your race to be HOT, then send me!! The forecast had the high at almost 90 for race day with full sun! And not a speck of shade on the course! Now after 30-some marathons/ultras, I pretty much know what my limits are, and the sun is my number one nemesis! So, my new race plan was to run as fast as I could until it got too hot to live, then just survive to the end! With an 8:00 AM race start, the "run as fast as I could until it was too hot to live" part wasn't going to last very long!
|Start of the marathon.|
|Maniacs and 50 Staters at the start|
We parked at the finish line (plenty of parking there) and were bussed to the start at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center (where I had seen the rattlesnake sign the day before). This is a very small race - about 100 marathoners - and the half marathoners have a different start location, so we had the buses to ourselves. The RD came onto our bus and introduced herself. We also had several other of the race organizers come on the bus to talk to us. A nice perk you will only get at a small race like this. The race started on time and for the first five miles we were going downhill. I took full advantage of this and my splits were somewhere around 9:30. The scenery was great from the very beginning. For the first 5-6 miles, you are running on a highway, so it can get noisy at times.
|Nice bluffs to look at.|
|He was taking a nap.|
In the first three miles, we saw a snake sleeping on the shoulder of the road (see picture above), a snakeskin, and a smushed snake. This wasn't looking too good. For the first time ever, I did not use gels for a marathon. I used real food. And it was glorious! Around mile 6, we turned off the highway and ran through some farms! Can't run a marathon in Nebraska and not see corn!!!!
|Corn in Nebraska?? No way!|
Up until about mile 10, I was feeling pretty good, then it just got too damn hot! We were making our way towards Scottsbluff National Monument and Mitchell Pass, and I could feel my legs starting to drag. I hit the 13.1 mark at about 2:16-ish, which wasn't too bad. Operation "Just Survive" then commenced.
|Approaching Mitchell Pass and Scottsbluff National Monument|
|Scottsbluff National Monument|
|You have died of dysentery.|
Up until this point, GK and I had been playing a lot of frogger. I'd pass him, then he'd pass me. We both decided that we felt like death, so we stuck together for most of the rest of the race. Right after Mitchell Pass, we had a monster hill to contend with. This was really the first uphill on the course. The second half of the course was pretty much a big loop around Scottsbluff National Monument. Around mile 17 or 18 we entered the "trail" portion of the course, and when I say "trail" I really just mean dirt road. Some big rocks, but nothing too bad. This is also when we started to run directly into the sun and it was about 358 degrees outside and the sun seemed to be about 3 feet from the surface of the Earth! We walked, of course.
|It was hot. Really hot and really sunny.|
|Old rusted out car on the other side of the canal. Looked to be 50 years old at least.|
We stayed on the trail for four or five miles. I think these were some of the prettiest miles on the course. It kind of reminded me of Bataan a little for some reason. The trail was rolling, but I tried my hardest to run and then walk at the aid stations and at each mile marker. After the trail, we got onto the road and it was the hottest ever!!!!!!!! I saw a volunteer setting up a sprinkle ahead and thought I'd died and gone to heaven!!!!
|Wet t-shirt contest.|
There were at least two other sprinklers on the course and I indulged in all of them! For the next few miles we wound our way through some neighborhoods and along a paved path, all with Scottsbluff National Monument in the background. Aid stations were a little far apart in the beginning of the race (first aid station was at mile 3), but they were plentiful in the second half of the race. They had water, ice, Gatorade, and GU. The volunteers were super friendly as well. There were also several people patrolling the course on bike that had water. I never went more than a mile or two without seeing one.
It seemed like it took forever for us to get to mile 25!!! Sub five hours was pretty much out the window, so we adjusted that to a sub 5:10 (I know you are impressed with my speed). At mile 25, we were greeted by some shade!!!!!!!
Just a bit up this road, we turned right onto a dirt road and we ran alongside a cemetery.
I was sooooo ready to just be done running! My face was on fire!! I had been dumping water on my head at every aid station and so my running skirt was soaking wet and getting very heavy. I couldn't go a step without it almost falling to my knees.
|Bad picture, but the top of my skirt was below my butt!|
Finally we could see the finish line! We made the final turn and could hear everyone cheering for us. Now remember that this was a very small race, so we were pretty much the only people in the entire finishers' chute, which was probably about a tenth of a mile long. I'm thinking that we are going to run it in so as not to disappoint our adoring fans, but no. GK stops dead in his tracks and proclaims "Eff it. We're not going to make it under 5:10." We then proceeded to WALK all the way down the chute and across the finish line! For some reason, I thought that this was the most hilarious thing ever!
|Done and done!|
We finished around 5:11, a good 30 minutes longer than I had originally intended! Stupid sun! We grabbed our medals and then made our way to the food! They had pizza, chips, and all sorts of other goodies. I grabbed a couple bags of chips and then our other road trip buddy comes running up to me and tells me that I won something! Of course I'm excited so I run up to the front of the awards ceremony (while they are handing out awards) and proclaim that I had won something and I was there to claim my prize!! Turns out, I got 3rd in my age group! Haha! One of the many perks of running very small races! I figured that there must have been exactly 3 people in my age group, but I was wrong! There were 4 of us!
We were able to shower at the expo location (the Western Nebraska Community College fitness center). I couldn't find the women's locker room, so I just went ahead and showered in the men's locker room. No big deal. That's how I roll. We then grabbed a quick lunch and headed out to see Chimney Rock.
|Make it stop!|
|Looks like a chimney, right?|
|Everyone make a silly face.|
I have had the privilege to run some amazing races in amazing places this year (Bataan, Big Sur, New River, and Jackson Hole just to name a few) and I have to say that this race ranks as one of my favorites. The course was never boring - we always had a view of Scottsbluff National Monument. Although this is a mostly road marathon, the few miles of "trails" were a welcome change of terrain. The course was also not very difficult, but it wasn't pancake flat. I liked that. The aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were very friendly. Overall, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this race!
As for the travel deets, here goes:
- The race registration was $70 (I think I had a $5 discount code).
- I flew into Denver from NOLA. I had Southwest points that I used for half of my round trip. I paid a total of $134 for my flight.
- Since my flight out of NOLA was super early, I chose to stay the night there. That cost me $63.
- We rented a car that totaled $47 for the weekend and spent about $75 in gas. I paid for 1/3 of all of that, so about $41.
- I stayed at the Super 8 Scottsbluff. Unfortunately I did not have a room share, so I had to foot the entire bill of $81. Any area hotel would be fine since you park at the finish and get bussed to the start. If you are a half marathoner, the finish is also the start area.
- I probably spent another $60 on food over the entire weekend.
- Parking at the NOLA airport was $30.
- Memories: Priceless!
- So a total bill of about $479 for an epic adventure!