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Grandpa wears a kilt (Read 486 times)


A Dance with Monkeys

    Top 10 ways to make Grandfather Marathon even more difficult than it already was - 10. Eliminate the nice, flat first mile on the running track and the parking lot, without advance warning to the runners 9. Divert the course from the relatively flat Blue Ridge Parkway onto the more rolling Route 221, without advance warning to the runners 8. Hide a couple of the mile markers from view, including the first one, without advance warning to the runners 7. Make sure the weather is beyond perfect so that you start a bit too fast 6. Run Grandmas Marathon 3 weeks before, and two others the month before that 5. Tapering is overrated 4. Make sure that you have lots and lots of signage at the 19.5 mile aid station stating that it is mile 18.5 3. Avoid providing gu or other calories to the runners at all costs, without advance warning to the runners 2. If you put a marathon on during a busy tourist season, runners will stay in far away hotels and drive to the run rather than getting any sleep. 1. 26.2 miles? Pshaw! Let's give 'em 27. Without advance warning to the runners. Okay, so Grandma was hot. What do you expect after all these years. But who knew I'd have to go south and yet a month deeper into the Summer to get nice cool weather. That's right, North Carolina in July and it was 47 degrees at the start. The predicted weather for the day was moderate humidity with sun and a high of about 70. Of course, much of the route is shaded, which was certain to keep it cool. At the starting line, the RD made the usual welcome announcements, then informed us that the Blue Ridge Parkway was under construction and we would need to take a detour on the "old" Grandfather Mountain Marathon course. That means no taking the double loop around the ASU track, but instead launching right into the hills. And, as you gathered from above, more hills on the already hilly course. Gun pointed to the air, and they...oops, missfire. Try again...another missfire, so we just all took off. Man I felt good. Really good. The morning was beyond perfect, bright but no direct sun, cool without wind, and a low humidity in the air. This was a far cry from how I felt just three weeks ago running up in Duluth. So off I went on #10, shooting to run it as a training run for Pikes Peak, with no real finish time goal, but a vague hope to complete it in a time between 4:00 and 4:30 or so. The first two miles were downhill and flat, and I clicked them off in 8:20, 8:10 (too fast, but very very comfortable). I felt really good. At mile 2, we began our first climb. The way the course was laid out, we had three bumps, a reprieve, then a big up with a maximal slope at mile 16, then rolls, then another big up in the last few miles. Each of the first three bumps is actually a winding and erratic climb over a small mountain foothill, each one gaining about 500 feet, with a drop after each. Many consider them to be the hardest part of the course, and they can beat you up. The climbs in the second half are reasonably relentless in that there are few downs of any substance, but the absence of downs saves your legs real trauma. The final mile or so is supposed to be flat, and then you finish around a track, bagpipes playing for you, and thousands of people watching you as you circle during one of the Country's largest Scottish Highland games. I took each of the three bumps as smartly as I could, slow my pace going up, pick it up on the way down, but trying to remain in control. Bump 1, 9:03, 9:14, 9:12. Bump 2, 9:39, 9:16, 8:20. Bump 3, 10:01 (a bit steeper here), 9:20, 9:10. From here, the route flattened out to the halfway point 8:53, 8:32. Halfway split 1:58, on a gentle rolling section. Now here I should point out that the scenery was JUST AWESOME. Beautiful sunlit foliage with rhodadendrons in bloom, huge rock outcroppings, creeks, lake views and cottages. There were old cabins and fences, mountain views, sharp drops (especially in the second half). I saw nearly no wildlife, and no monkeys. But it was nice nonetheless. After the half split, you soon come to the real treat of Grandfather Mountain, the long climb TO Grandfather Mountain. Around the 10ish mile you see a view of the beast in the distance. Briefly. It looms really high above you, and really far away. And then it is gone, and you can almost deny having seen it. But eventually, you will see it again, on close. Shortly thereafter, you hit Route 221 (the day's major detour) and catch a sign that says, "Linville - 17 miles". Grandfather Mountain, of course, is in Linville. Road signs like this during marathons are just funny. On up the hill, headed towards the gravel section and the big massive hill nearly everybody walks. 8:55, 9:33 to complete 15 miles. Then onto the gravel, where there were no mile markers. I came out the other end, much much higher above my normal elevation (and oxygen partial pressure) in Nashville at around mile 18 with a total 31:42 for the three minutes (no GPS or mile markers to track my progress, and I had thought I was going slower). Out the other side of the gravel, and back on the main route, there is a sign marking the Eastern Continental Divide, at an elevation of 3900. Funny thing that, because I noticed that my heart rate at the time was about 200, I was lightheaded and easily winded. I believe the sudden elevation change had gotten to me in the exertion, and I had to slow my pace on the next mile, and take some of the yet-to-come hills more conservatively. I still felt strong, but just did not have much breath. From here, it is the final winding climb to Grandfather Mountain and the finish line. I reach mile 19 in 11:20, pass the aid station marked as Mile 18.5 at mile 19.5, reach 20 in 10:26. Clouds are moving in and the temperature has dropped back into the 50s, but still no wind and it was very comfortable. Then 10:33, 10:54, 9:48 (a bit of downhill here). Mile 23 included the last major uphill, 13:56 with some walking. 10:39 to mile 25. 10:32 to mile 26. But there was a big problem. The finish line, as I mentioned above, is on a track in the middle of a makeshift grassy stadium. There are thousands of folks there celebrating the Highland Games. There are vast parking lots and food and bagpipes playing music. And I had to run through all of it, then circle a track by mile 26.2. Getting through it all and to the finish was probably a mile's effort. And at 26, none of it was around. And there was the "26" painted clear as day in bright green spray paint on the road. But no finish line to be seen. Umm, okay. Keep going up the hill. Pass the main entrance 2 minutes later. Take the marathoners entrance a half minute later. Up a hill. Pass the recovery tent and all the recovering runners, all cheering you on and yelling bold faced lies, "almost done, just around the corner". Up another hill, and take a right to the stadium. Up another hill. On these two hills, I fly past about 4 runners, figuring I was almost done, and that the finish would be right as I hit the track. Silly me. So I get onto the track and they point me to the left, going counter-clockwise. No finish line. I look the length of the track, no finish line. I look behind me and realize that I'm gonna feel awfully silly if I crump after flying by those other runners and then they pass me in front of all the thousands of spectators. So in pain, I pick up to my best pace for the run/climb and take off. Around the track, still no finish. Keep going, still no finish. This ain't no friggin 400 meter track. Still no finish. Big man in a kilt telling stories, but no finish. Piles of watermelons of sale and still no finish. Finish line photographer (?!?), but no finish. And then there it is, I take my final kick and go. I complete my 3/4 lap journey around this 47 mile gravel track and finish. 26.9ish miles is the consensus among the other runners. The RD on the hill seems proud. The final "0.2" miles? 7:57. Finish time of 4:22:36 (or about 4:15 for 26.2). And I still feel good, even after my 7 hour drive back home. 4 down in 2006.


    Needs more cowbell!

      Wow, Trent...that is awesome! And I love your account. Anything with bagpipes is cool in my book! But how crazy that things seem to have been so disorganized. One would think that they'd have their stuff together for something of that caliber. k

      Kirsten - aka "Auntie Kirsten"

      '14 Goals:

      • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

      • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

        I love your "top 10's!" Smile How flusterating it must have been looking for that finish line! I know when I reach the end of MY races I want to see the finish line... By the way, I was near that area just last weekend. Funny - I didn't see any monkeys either!

        Roads were made for journeys...


        A Dance with Monkeys

          I had actually heard rumors that the bagpipers would be playing Chariots of Fire. No go, but it was great all the same. I think the race was reasonably well organized, but things that a lot of folks care about (correct distance and intervals, good postrace food, knowing the course beforehand, etc) were not priorities for the group putting it on. And reasonably so, despite all that, I had a great time and now have some extra braggin rights Big grin
          vicentefrijole


            Great race report! Sounds like a crazy one! Roll eyes Glad to hear you had a good time and took the bad with the good!
            Mile Collector


            Abs of Flabs

              Trent, You sure have a way of picking out these horrendous marathons! In a way, that's good because I enjoy reading your top 10s Blush Congrats on going the extra mile Tongue What's your next marathon?