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[at-l] GMM'99: part one. If I'd known it was this hard....


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Subject: GMM'99: If I'd known it was this hard....
Author:  Thomas McGinnis at UCCLAN
Date:    7/20/99 11:10 PM

     If I'd known that the Grandfather Mountain Marathon was as hard as all 
     that, I NEVER would have run it. Maybe....
     Course Summary: UP. Net climb of 946'. Gross climb 1,969'; 1,023' down
     Start 2mile 4.5mile 5mile  7mile 9mile 10mile     Half     ...     End 
     3333  3160   3680   3500   3800  3550   3820      3400     ...    4279
           -173   +520   -180   +300  -250   +270      -420            +879
     Short Version:
     Again, 03:41:40, good for 42 overall, 39th male, 16th male 30-39. (Hey 
     cool! Same age group next year!) This is also a PR!!! What a Hoot! And 
     sister Kathy! Out of retirement in 4+ short months! 04:30:50, good for 
     22nd woman, 6th woman aged 40-49!
     Really Long and Drawn Out Version:
     It's Midnight in lovely Boone, North Carolina. 550 miles to get there; 
     the last 100, it seems, on the tiniest of backroad highways. Didn't get 
     in till WAY past beddybye time. Pulled up to see a big white Suburban 
     parked obviously by itself, NC plates, and assumed that it was my sister 
     and her family, hopefully bedded down for the night. Got out of the car 
     with a sense of relief (finally here!) and went to the front desk to 
     find room assignments, and discovered the door locked. "No Vacancy" sign 
     hanging. OK.....But paused long enough to notice the envelope with "Tom 
     McGinnis" printed in my sister's inimitable handwriting. Note inside 
     says "Key is in the gas cap." Cool.
     Back to the obvious Suburban, open the gas cap access, and...nothing. 
     OOPS! Lean up. "Heh, heh. Eeeeeeew." Scan the parking lot to find at 
     least six other Suburbans (or Suburban look alikes) awaiting a goose 
     in the gas cap. I'm tired enough that I giggled. Thought somebody 
     would be out with a shotgun after me before I found the key. Noone 
     did, though, and I went from car to car, and the last one in the 
     parking lot was (of course) theirs.
     Stood up before the two-story motel to shine some light on the key 
     number. "Three-Oh-Three." Great. I felt like I was in somebody's high 
     school prank, holding a "303" key before a two story building. 
     Searched high and low, front and back -- No "303", no clue, no 
     nuthin'. As a last resort, the motel parking lot adjoined a two story 
     restaurant, and I thought I'd check there. On my way there I noticed 
     the front desk was now occupied and I went inside and inquired. I was 
     assured that 303 was indeed above the restaurant. Cool. I'm on my 
     Morning comes. Went through the usual pregame routine, which usually 
     rewards me with a reliable pre-race poop. (You'd think that'd be 
     especially important before a MARATHON, EH? MAYBE EVEN LOAD ON SOME 
     "ACTIVATED"????) Nothing. Not even a hint. I thought (keeping karma 
     kool) "Don't worry about it. Right about 21 miles, you'll need a little 
     side line action -- you'll take the break, and Powie, you'll be moving 
     light and fast for the last five." Rest of morning routine is madness 
     as I meet my sister and her family for the first time in over a year, 
     realizing that I am nowhere near prepared to leave for the start, and 
     gratefully acquiescing to my sister's suggestion that they meet me at 
     the start "later," leaving me to finish up. Manage to shave two day's 
     growth (been busy) without causing major blood flow -- actually 
     important psychologically for me: clean shaven, short hair, run fast. 
     (This from, you know, beard and more-than-once a ponytail type....)
     Arrive at start with six minutes to go, misplacing car keys. Again with 
     the prerace "keeping karma kool", I don't worry about it. Find 'em 
     later. Grandfather Mountain awaits. (Remember, I have never run with my 
     sister before. SHE has not run a marathon in 15 years or so, nor even 
     run seriously too much since. *I* conned her out of marathon retirement 
     this past winter; SHE'S listened to me moan about idiot injury after 
     injury all winter/spring, while she's quietly run her way to 60+ mile 
     weeks. "But you have the speed I can't get back to!" she cries. "But 
     you didn't blow out your hip pointers two weeks ago!" I reply. We end 
     up agreeing that I go out at my "faster" speed, perhaps to crash and 
     slow and finish with her, perhaps to finish faster before the hips blow 
     out. None the less, we've been working for this date since January, and 
     we're both facing the relative unknown of "a" marathon, and the 
     absolute unknown of Grandfather Mountain....)
     I see my sister and her family at the start, in the center of the 
     Appalachian State athletic facility. Nice track. Normal looking runners 
     milling around. (And you were expecting....??) I slather on some 
     PENETRAN lotion -- a little internet discovery of a muscle/joint lotion 
     that actually seems to do some good. I'll need more later, but Kathy's 
     husband Dominic will keep it handy in the SASSO-MCGINNIS SUPPORT 
     MOBILE. Kathy shows me her cap: "D.R.S." on the front, "Finish for Tom" 
     on the rear. Her shoes have her family's names on them, "'cause that's 
     where I'll be looking late in the race." Recognize Kathy K's DRS 
     singlet and wish her well. Stretch inadequately. Cue up for the start, 
     POP, and we're off. Well, kinda. I don't know what I expected exactly, 
     but something faster than this? Then I put it together....All these 
     normal runners...all looking so normal....not nervous, not hyper, not 
     race-faced, not scared...just normal, like a "fun run." I concluded 
     that these were all/mostly veterans who knew what was ahead and what to 
     hold back for; I'd better keep karma kool and just flow around the 
     track with everyone else. (There is this little waif, half the height 
     of anyone else, leading the lap around the track, and back where we 
     were, we scoffed. "Ha! Obvious HE'S never run a marathon before! He'll 
     learn!" In fact, he HAD already run Grandfather Mountain last year, 
     finishing around 03:35; this year, at the veteran age of 12, he 
     finished around 03:25, good for 5 in the 29 and under age group. 
     Remember the name Chris Thomas.)
     Kathy and I jog together through the stadium loop, the parking lot 
     loop, then down the hill through the campus to the highway. I'm 
     nervous about my lack of stretching, but am benefiting from the easy 
     pace which EVERYONE seems intent on keeping. I eventually speed up 
     away from Kathy, but then I hit McDonalds for a quick visit, and when 
     I came out, thought for sure she'd be nearby....but I move on up the 
     road, thinking "I'm going for a good 'time' here; I'm not really 
     Turn the first corner out of Boone, it seems, and the hills started. 
     Big hills. *Ruinous* hills if you're thinking you're just going to 
     power up them and recover later. "Later" is about halfway up. And they 
     speak about the hills in the first half (three of them) and how the 
     second half is not-so-bad. Liars! If you don't switch gears from your 
     flatland running speed, you'll never git past the 10 mile mark. You 
     MUST gear down on the uphill AND the down. These hills are (mostly) 
     just "bad" enough to bring you down to a jog-and-be-grateful speed, 
     and there are (perhaps) four different places in the first half, 
     between 100' and 400m long, which will slow you right down to "plug" 
     speed (where you just "plug" along, hoping walkers don't pass you). 
     The downhills surprised me by how well I was able to take them, with 
     my hip complaining loudly in the previous weeks whenever I strode off 
     my leg with too much back extension. The downhills of the GMM course 
     were matches of the uphills (in the first half, anyway), and were just 
     long enough to threaten quad destruction....Next year, I will go much 
     faster downhill, confident in my quads' abilities to sustain the 
     I had not really planned out how I wanted my splits to go, I was 
     running this one strictly by feel -- especially feel of the hips. I 
     cleared the first five miles in 40:00 flat, and was simultaneously 
     surprised at how slow that was, given how conservatively I was 
     running, and at how fast it was, given the course's HUGE hill and slow 
     downhill at that point. Ten miles at 01:20:42; 8:04/mile. WAY more 
     consistent than I could take credit for. But I could sure use the 
     support van about now. "Support!" "Dominic!" (Well, I yelled that in 
     my mind, anyway.) I had passed Dom and the kids at about mile 3, 
     declined any aid, and went on my way. The GMM aid stations were 
     supplying Gatoraide -- even though they said (for two years in a row 
     now) "Water Only on the course!" and I felt no need for anything else 
     then......but now, at 10 miles!!!
     Well, I didn't get any more support from the car -- they decided I was 
     too far in front to abandon Kathy for so long. So no gels, no 
     caffiene, no Succeed!, no albuterol, no Penetran, not so much as a 
     <sniff now> hug or pat on the back from a familiar face!!! <OK, 
     sniffing over.> I didn't know it, but around here somewhere, somebody 
     said I was about 21st place. No way. "Yes. Way!" came the reply. Well 
     I was shocked. I WASN'T running for place, and DIDN'T see how I could 
     start toward the rear and be so far forward. The route denied you the 
     ability to see very far ahead -- and in fact I ran most of the way 
     with a gentleman who finished about 5 minutes in front of me as my 
     only partner. (Later on <like mile 22?>, about 10 people passed me, 
     and since I finished 42, I must have been in the 30's and not the 
     20's, but I didn't know one way or the other.)
     So I picked up the pace a little bit, hitting 15 miles in 01:58:19, 
     for a 7:53 overall pace. But my hip is really taking the downhills 
     hard, and I'm beginning to limp. But it's like the last downhill for 
     the rest of the race, OK? But like I could really use some Penetran. 
     And like some gel? And there's like nobody near me, except for the one 
     other guy I've been running with for an hour. (There is a younger guy 
     in a purple singlet, too, but he's going to step off course sometime 
     after mile 20, and come in about an hour after my sister.) If I run 
     fast enough, I can see people just before I get to the aid stations 
     (where I walk and drink, and they disappear once again). Run harder.
     So and like then, I'm realizing that the gentle uphill I've projected 
     for the second half marathon is just the same kind of GAWDAWFUL 
     incline the previous hills have been. Grueling. And I'm approaching 
     this aid station on the Blue Ridge Parkway, located near the top of a 
     "T" intersection, and this Ranger patrol car approaches from the other 
     direction, turns left across the coned marathon route and toward the 
     leg of the T, and stops. I'm a hundred yards out, it's relatively 
     flat, I'm humping hard, he's stopped cold. I eye the aid station 
     volunteers, and it's apparent they're realizing that Officer 
     Friendly's not moving. "Hello!" I call, hoping to give them some 
     ammunition to move him out of the path. "Vehicle's in the route!" I'm 
     50 yards out, hoping I'm loud enough to get around the noise of his 
     engine. If it was a shorter race, I would have run across his hood, 
     but as it was, I could either run in traffic, or play dodge-the-car. 
     The aid station volunteers are plainly distressed that he's still 
     sitting. (To this day, I wonder what he was trying to jaw about with 
     them.) "MOVE THE CAR!" Ten yards out. At this point, you've already 
     realized he ain't moving. I've realized it too, and let him know my 
     thoughts on blocking a marathon route, probably a little something 
     about his parentage, and finished with a traffic control critique, all 
     in seven seconds or less, ending with "BAD CHOICE!"
     The aid station volunteers (bless their hearts) could only look 
     apologetically as I went by. But one woman runner's support driver (I 
     thought he was a marathon volunteer till the end of the race!) yelled 
     out "Want some water?!", and proceeded to give me water AND a gel over 
     the next couple of miles. WHAT A PEACH! And as I thanked him after the 
     race was over, I swear a dozen more runners came up and said the same 
     thing! He was being a peach to EVERYBODY! And he REALLY helped me out, 
     too. Wow.
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