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


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Subject: GMM'99: part two. If I'd known it was this hard....
Author:  Thomas McGinnis at UCCLAN
Date:    7/20/99 11:26 PM

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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
     20 miles comes in 02:45:28, about a 8:16 overall pace. I've slowed, my 
     hip really hurts, but not to wear I have to stop. (On a scale of 0 to 
     10, with "Stop! You're injuring yourself!" pain at a 7, this was about 
     a 5. Not fun, but doable.) At 21 miles (a 7:55 whipped in there, BTW), 
     I stopped for some liquids and tried to stretch out the leg(s). The 
     aid people offered me Ibuprofen, but I demurred, thinking "I'll be 
     done by the time it hits." I kept trying to stretch out the legs, 
     looking at the time roll by on my watch, then thought "Hell! If I 
     crash right here, it could be an HOUR before I finish!" I said I'd 
     take them up on their offer of ibuprofen, and after a short delay 
     serving the dozen or so runners now going by, they got me some. I 
     crunched it up in my teeth to speed its absorption, anticipating a 
     horrid taste which never actually came, and swallowed the paste with 
     more Gatoraide.
     Took off from that station really struggling to make forward motion 
     now. But the effort is painful mostly in my calves. I take that as a 
     sign that perhaps the worst of the hips is over. Still, my mind is 
     turning to mud, my pace is slowing beyond 9:00/mile, and walking 
     breaks are coming more frequently. What a hill! Will it never end? The 
     route winds around the shoulder of Grandfather Mountain itself, now, 
     twisting this way and that, never straight for more than a few hundred 
     yards at a time, never affording you a view of what's ahead -- 
     probably a good thing, because the incline is (at this point) 
     merciless. Turn the corner and WHAM! another jaw-dropper.
     The miles did come harder and harder, but eventually I passed mile 25. 
     I tried throughout this one to "lay it on", to "give it all you got!" 
     and all of that Malarkey. Forget it. I was flailing. Felt like I was 
     running in mud; like I was stuck in one of those childhood dreams 
     where for as hard as you run, you don't go anywhere and the danger is 
     still just off your shoulder. But there is a guy ahead of me who 
     passed me at Mile 21, and I want him. I attempt to approach.
     The last 500 yards has you descending slightly toward a turnoff, a 
     short sharp drop to enter a field/parking area, then a partially paved 
     uphill roadway for 50 yards, then a lap around the McRae Meadows 
     track. I didn't know this. So when I was directed to turn off of the 
     highway, I set my sights on the guy I've now gained on (20 yards off) 
     and, howling after the short drop, I chase him toward the top of the 
     hill. The guantlet of crowd parts slightly before him, and is cheering 
     us both on with gusto. I'm sprinting up the last little hill thinking 
     the race ends at the top, but the people are crowded there only 
     because of poor crowd control. I have surged mightily, to the crowd's 
     approval truly giving it everything I've got, and nail him as we are 
     directed to left onto the track. 
     I am wasted, blown, finished, but where's the finish line?????? I am 
     pointed around the track, and I realize I've been done in. I have no 
     lungs left to even sufficiently say I'm out of breath. I can't TAKE a 
     breath. I wave my cohort by, and he shuffles past, getting about 30 
     feet in front of me, and then slowing and matching my speed. We travel 
     the entire back straight like that, shuffling and shambling -- so slow 
     I'm ashamed. The crowd tries to applaude, but for what? No great and 
     glorious battle, just blown and limping and wasted. The great marathon 
     finish was going to be out-done by Highland Games contestants in kilts 
     tossing haybales.
     As we come around the front straight, with 100 yards to go, my 
     competitor looks backward over his shoulder to find out where I am -- 
     making sure I am not plotting another coup on him -- but he sees me 
     shuffling right where I should be. He didn't know that in that 
     nanosecond I'd decided that I was NOT going to be beaten by a guy who 
     shambles. If he's going to win, he's going to earn it!
     I searched out the finish line, measured it with my eye, looked down 
     and dug down deep for all that was left in me. I knew it wouldn't be 
     much, but with someone in front of me like that, I knew I could tap 
     into it, too. I strode out. I surged. I knew I wouldn't be real 
     pretty, but in a few strides I knew I was earning my keep. I closed 
     half the distance to the other guy and yelled out "Foot Race! Let's 
     make this a Foot Race!" This was, surprisingly, loud enough to echo 
     off the crowd, and I could feel the faces turn and then heard their 
     approving roar. I reached the other guy as he turned to see where I 
     was, and truly, the race was on.
     But he had another gear. I was at top speed, redlined and sucking 
     fumes, and he had another gear available. I passed him, but he came up 
     hard and pulled even. I leaned down and pounded the ground with my 
     feet, my leg turnover seeming as fast as anything I'd ever run, but he 
     slowly pulled away, and by the time we neared the end of the 
     straightaway, and the Marathon finish line, it was apparent he was not 
     even done.
     But he sure didn't shuffle! No!
     Douglas Engel and I crossed the line officially one second apart, me 
     grateful that I had enough left to give him (and the roaring Highland 
     Games crowd) a run for his money. Unbelievably, my time for the last 
     1.2 was 7:58, a 6:38/mile pace. Honestly, I think the last mile was 
     measured short.
     Afterwards, I went about half a mile back to await my sister, cheering 
     the other runners as they went by. It was a thrill when I saw her, 
     chugging up the last piece of rise before descending toward the 
     highway turnoff. Her two sons were running the last mile with her, but 
     they were not running very steady and Kathy was about to run them 
     down. As she passed me, she yelled out "Run with me!" in tones half 
     prayer and half command. I had been stretching the entire time I had 
     waited for her, and still my legs had locked up.
     Once I had gotten going, I ran the parking lot guantlet for her, 
     yelling "Runner! Runner! Make a hole!" and eliciting cheers from them 
     (for her) for my effort. Her trip around the track seemed just as long 
     and laborious as mine -- and she imformed me that there'd be no surge 
     from her -- but I wanted SOMETHING. As we rounded the last corner, I 
     yelled to the crowded stands "Hey! This here's my SISTER! and SHE 
     hasn't run a marathon in 15 YEARS!!!" The generous Highland Games 
     crowd was only looking for an excuse: they roared their approval for 
     Kathy's  rock steady finish. "Not fast" she forewarned me, "But I 
     won't *walk*, either!" And I don't think she did, either.
     Carpe Viam, Y'all.
     Tom McGinnis in Indy.
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