Friday, August 10, 2012

Race Preview: The Crater Lake Marathon

Tomorrow I'll be running my fifth marathon: Crater Lake. It should be an absolutely spectacular run, but also spectacularly challenging. Yesterday Greta and I drove most of the course (except the last 4 miles, which were closed to traffic), and were struck most of all with the incredible beauty and scale of the place. It's as if a god took the Grand Canyon, stopped it up at both ends, then filled it with sparkling blue water:

Crater lake 1
The lake is so big, it won't fit in one photo!

Crater lake 2
Here's the other half!

The race nearly circumnavigates the lake, offering several beautiful vistas of the lake, and many more views of the surrounding mountains. I had previously found a good elevation profile of the race here. Here it is, reduced in scale so you can see it all at once:

As you can see, it's quite hilly. According to Greg Maclin's site it involves 2600 feet of climbing and 4100 feet of descending. From the profile, it's clear that the really tough climbs are from Mile 10-14 and 23-24. That second massive climb has the additional wrinkle of being on an unpaved gravel road, and following an 8-mile, 2000-foot descent!

For my purposes, I divided the race into five types of terrain: Up, down, "flat" (really rolling hills), and steep up and steep down. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I'm going to try to do this race in under four hours, which should put me in the top 20 percent of finishers. I've been spending the past several weeks trying to come up with a realistic pacing plan to accomplish that. I want to be able to really use the downhills to recover, so I'm not counting on running them super fast; I've settled in on an 8-minute pace. In my training runs at elevation, I've been able to run downhill at an 8-minute pace without getting out of breath at all.

Uphill, however, is another matter entirely. Most of the course isn't terribly steep, with only four miles gaining 300 feet or more, which is just over a 5% grade. Mile 24 will be the toughest climb of all, gaining 500 feet for a 10% grade. But the span from Miles 10-14 is a five-mile stretch gaining about 1,100 feet. Although that's not Mount Constitution-level, it won't be easy! I'm hoping to do the uphills at a 10:30 pace. I've given 13 minutes for that last steep uphill mile 24. Then I'll do whatever I can down the final two steep downhill miles, but I've budgeted 8:30 per mile for this difficult stretch on gravel roads and tired legs.

In case you're interested, here is the spreadsheet I used to plan my pace for the race:

The weather forecast for the race looks okay. It should be about 48 degrees at the start, which will be ideal, but it will warm up throughout the morning, hitting about 60 at the halfway point, and about 73 at the finish. I don't know how exposed that final hill-climb is, but if it's in the sun, it will definitely feel warm!

I'll be carrying a hydration pack and a camera during the race, but I'm not sure how much I'll be pulling the camera out. I suspect that the slower I go, the more pictures I will take!

I'll have a full race report either tomorrow or the next day, so stay tuned, and wish me luck!

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