Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 Grandfather Mountain Marathon

I really wasn't sure what to expect coming into this race. The weather was promising mid-60s to 70s and my longest run in the last month (since Bighorn) was one twelve miler. Like most years, I ran The Bear on Thursday evening, but this time it was at a bit slower pace than usual. It had no impact on how I would do in the marathon.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was the wedding of a couple of friends on the ASU track before the race began. Their family looked on, surrounded by runner friends and, I suspect, a number of people who didn't know them but wanted to see a wedding. Their recessional would be 26.2 miles long. I suppose the reception was at the finish line at the Highland Games.

Anyway, our usual group gathered at the start, not really planning to stick together unless it just worked out that way. I fell into step with Dennis, as tends to happened at area races. He had done Bighorn as well, but historically has had better results at Grandfather than me. I ran with him for a bit, but then he took on a pacer and I dropped back a little. Another friend, Brad, joined me for a bit. I let him know what to expect since it was his first Grandfather, and let him go on ahead as we reached the aid station at the top of Shulls Mill Road. I heard Dennis shout from the bridge as we passed under the parkway, so he was only a couple minutes ahead. Paul's nephew, Ian, caught and passed me on the Parkway as we made our way toward the midpoint at Price Lake. I watched him pull ahead and was content to run my own race--not trying to fall into anyone else's pace.

The miles really seemed to tick by quickly, though I knew I wasn't running a blistering pace. I think it was more a case of the course being 1/4 the distance of Bighorn. So, when I'd reach the 13 mile point, I knew I was halfway done. Whereas, at Bighorn, I was only about 1/7 done at that same point. The gels and EPS drink mix seemed to keep me moving. The weather held cool with a constant threat of rain but never any actual precipitation. Everything was actually going better than I had expected with the one exception being my left ankle area, where I would get these occasional "zingers" that shot up my calf area and felt a little like my funny bone had been struck. At best, they were a bit of a nuisance. At worst, they sometimes threatened to make my leg buckle. I guess it was nerve related, but don't know exactly where the problem was. I found that the camber had a lot to do with how much it bothered me, so I tried to keep to the side that put my left foot higher than my right.

I was happy to find myself passing a few people in the latter miles. That's a primary goal in every race for me, don't wear myself out to the point where I'm being run down at the end. Eventually, I even caught up to Ian at about mile 24. He was having some leg cramps or something so I gave him one of my S-caps. It may have been too late in the race to have any effect, but we figured it couldn't hurt. We stayed together for about the next mile and then he pulled ahead on the downhill stretch after mile 25. He never got more than a few seconds ahead, but I didn't close the gap on him either. We turned off Hwy 221, came through the Highland Games parking area and headed up to the track. Dennis was there, but I couldn't tell if he had just arrived or had been finished for a while.

Once on the track, I really didn't pay much attention to the Games as I was trying to catch Ian (and I assume he was trying to keep me from doing so.) I did see them tossing the big sacks over the bars 20' or so in the air.) I heard someone shout something like "Go Amy, you can catch them!" I knew there was someone behind me and I certainly didn't need the crowd cheering as I got passed at the end, so I pushed a bit harder. When rounding the final corner, I saw the clock for the first time and was pretty happy to see it read 3:34. At the start, I thought that anything under 3:40 would be a pretty good run, all things considered, so I was well within my goal. Ian would cross about four seconds ahead of me and "Amy" was about ten seconds behind. After I caught my breath, I made sure to let Ian know that I did not let him win, he did it himself.

This year probably set a record for most people I knew at Grandfather. Skimming through the results, I knew at least 25 people very well and several others reasonably well. I guess that's mostly a case of running enough area races to get to know people. I was a beneficiary of being the right age at the right time as I placed third in the 40-44 group. I would not have placed in 45-49 or 50-59. For what it's worth, I was just over a minute out of placing in the younger 35-39 age group. This was the first time I ever managed an age group award at Grandfather, though I probably would have appreciated it more had I run a PR in a faster group.

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