Sunday, July 21, 2013

Grandfather Mountain Marathon 2013

Last weekend I headed back to Boone, NC to run the Grandfather Mountain Marathon for the second time. This was the 46th running of this race, which ends atop Grandfather Mountain at the Highland Games.
 Manly indeed!

Good thing he was not "commando"!
The race starts on the track at Appalachian State University then winds it's way up through the back roads to Grandfather Mountain. You even get to run a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

   Last year's race was filled with heat and humidity, and all the stunning mountain views I could have seen were covered up by the thick air and mist. (Quite Scottish, I must say!) This years race was shaping up to be the same way. On the ride up Friday afternoon, the mountains were shrouded in fog and mist and the air was thick. We drove straight to packet pick up, then had dinner at a friend's beautiful mountain cabin right off the parkway. After we gorged ourselves, it was time to head to the motel and rest up. We got a good night's sleep and woke up at 5am and headed out in the pre dawn darkness. The Motel was very quaint, which meant they did not have a coffee maker in the room! So, no race day coffee. Bummer!
Me and the crew, ready to rock n roll!

 The race started at 6:30am Saturday morning, and after our 2 laps around the track at ASU, we hit the streets. The first mile or so we run through town, then make a right after the Bojangles which puts us on the back streets. Then the hills begin. A little something like this:

I wore my kilt for the race last year, but it became so heavy and cumbersome with sweat I had opted out of wearing it this year. I hoped it would not upset the Scottish Gods and that they would not smite me with a wayward bolt of lightning or falling tree branch!

The first few miles ticked off, and I was feeling well. The temps were a bit cooler than last year, but the humidity was the same. I was getting soggy by mile 5 and was happy not to be toting that kilt up the mountain with me. It was amusing to see three sets of painted mile markers on the ground along the course. Last year's start consisted of running only one lap around the track, while this year we ran two! So, the mile markers were about a 1/4 mile apart from each other. I was walking the hills, saving some energy for the back half of the race, and running the flats and downhills. Last year I struggled mightily on the front half of the course, but picked it up on the back half and finished strong. I felt some fatigue early on the course this year, but kept plugging away.
   Around the 10 mile mark we headed onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Last year at this point, I felt like complete crap and walked most of this stretch. This year I kept a nice steady pace along the Parkway.
I looked at my Garmin, and I was right where I needed to be. Then the Garmin told me it had reached it's data limit (I never clear the history, even though I download it to the computer) and I did not have the patience or wherewithal to stop and mess with it. It began beeping incessantly, like some kind of ADD Galloway program, so I turned it off and kept going.
  We came off the Parkway at around mile 14, then up a nice hill and onto a gravel road which had another big climb on it. Right after the big climb last year I had revived myself and had a great run on the back half of the course. I was hoping for some of that mojo to return this  year.

 It didn't.

 Maybe this was payback for not sporting the kilt? My running shorts were now matted to my legs and my hands were getting "pruney" I was doing well with my hydration, but could have probably used some more calories. After being spoiled by ultra aid stations, I always forget that most marathon aid stations provide only water and Gatorade. I drank a UCAN shake prior to the start of the race, but did not have the means to take one at the halfway point. I did have a Vega gel on me and also a pouch of Justin's Almond Butter, which were rabidly consumed around mile 15.
  So now the strategy was to hold on and bring it into the finish. I got a little mental pick up when I crossed the 20 mile mark, but it was still slow going. There is a five and a half hour cut off to where you can finish the race inside the stadium where the highland Games are going on. Trust me, you want to finish inside the stadium and be cheered by hundreds of Scots! Those who finish after 5.5 hours have to settle for a finish outside of the stadium. Not the same.
  Finally I found myself at mile 25, walking with two guys I had caught up with on the last climb. The one gentleman wondered aloud if he could make the cut off by walking the last mile. I was not about to find out. I wished them well and began to haul ass towards the finish. I rumbled into the dirt entrance that led to the stadium. I was ahead of the cut off.  There is one last tiny hill you have to run up that puts you on the track inside the stadium. Spurred on by the cheers I bolted up the hill. That's when both my calves almost seized up on me. Was it the Scottish Gods mocking me? "Too humid for the kilt laddie? I'll show you!" Thankfully my calves recovered and I was able to run the lap around the track and finish strong.
On the track, heading for home!

 I finished in 5:23:20. I'm okay with it. My time last year was 5:07:44. Maybe there's something to that kilt thing after all! Despite the hills and humidity, this is such a great race and a lot of fun. I will be back next year. And I WILL be wearing the kilt!
Me and the crew post race. Notice no one is standing!

  Come out and join us next year! Grandfather Mountain Marathon Website
Be sure to wear a kilt!