Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hatfield McCoy Marathon Recap

As I alluded to in my previous Hatfield-McCoy post, I got very little sleep the night before the race because I was busy trying not to die of hypothermia. (Last time I was in West Virginia I did actually get slightly hypothermic, I guess I will always be cold there, no matter the season.)

Even worse, the first alarms went off probably about 45 minutes before I had any intentions of getting up. I was content to remain bundled in my sheet, but our rather obnoxious cot neighbors decided they wanted the lights on, so on they went.

This made everyone feel like it was acceptable to be noisy, so no more sleeps for this sad panda. Quite honestly though, I felt fine that morning. I assume I was running on pure adrenaline. Though I did basically have to tape my eyelids open later in the day to make the drive to Circleville.

There were only two sinks and three stalls in the women's bathroom, but the line moved surprisingly quickly. I think we could've left our stuff there, since people had the option to also stay the following night, but we decided to schlep everything to car so we wouldn't have to worry about it.

Our next course of action was to pick up a shuttle to the start. The RD had said the shuttles would be available on almost any of the downtown Williamson streets. No one at the firehouse had a single clue what this meant, so we ended up wandering around downtown until we were in the right place at the right time. The closest analogy I can come up with is it was like trying to catch a shuttle from long-term parking at the airport. The system worked okay, but I wish they would've designated some intersections, at least.

This was also the first incident of race deja vu. I've come to realize marathoning can be quite small. At Fargo there was a lady that clogged the expo aisles with all her luggage and had no indoor voice whatsoever. Well, she was back with her loud, blocking ways, but this time on the shuttle. Quite a few of us were waiting to board, but we probably stood outside an additional five minutes while she bickered with the driver about coming back after the start. FFS. From now on, she shall be known as The Blocker.

MOVE BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY. . MOVE, VACATE YOURSELF FROM MY PATH.. oh no! the battle royale is outside! I am definitely going to lunge my fist towards your face... visibility out! move the intercourse process backwards, defend

The ride was only a few minutes, and we were deposited at the Food City. Karin and I both originally thought this was a bizarre-o starting line if there ever was one, but the RD explained it is a locally-owned grocery chain that has successfully competed with Walmart, so he wanted to honor them. Plus you can't beat the view for a grocery store!

Guess who couldn't wait to eat her bagel? Classic.
This is where I spotted The Bitch again. I did my best to look like I was having fun to avoid another scolding. Her red hair will haunt my dreams. 

I felt bad that we couldn't really have sashes like a typical bachlorette party, so I turned in my annual pass to the tiny corner of my brain that houses my creativity and made race bib inspired "sashes" for us to wear. They were a big hit with the other runners! (Though everyone kept asking where the groom was...which I thought was a bit odd.)

I like how the Maniac on my shirt looks freaked out by mine.
Unlike all the negative non-runners, these people thought doing a marathon as the party was awesome, and quite a few were jealous they hadn't thought of it. And we even had someone offer to be a stripper.


The other thing we both noted about this race was that it seemed to function mostly as a cult classic for the Maniacs. (I'm sure it was only exacerbated by the fact that it was the 50 Staters reunion race this year.) When people were getting together for the start line photo, it honestly looked like a giant yellow sea was engulfing the parking lot. I loved this vibe, and I sincerely hope the race doesn't get too big.

The race started a few minutes late, but we were off! I think one of the secrets to this race being amazing is the no time limit. While everyone at the back of the pack always seems friendly, it was 10 times that this race without the pressure of the clock. If someone wanted to walk and chat for a few extra minutes, no worries!

We also stumbled upon a goal for the race - have Karin get pictures with the trifecta of emergency personnel. Number one - cops. This guy seemed quite pleased someone was happy to see him!

Now I see why people said I needed to move closer to him...for some reason I though we were almost touching!
Clearly we were already having a bit of a runners high because we began to develop a rating system for all the bridges we were seeing. We did create a special "small bridge" category so as not to penalize them unfairly.
I believe this got a 4/5, just for reference.
However, there was some trepidation in the first few miles. Both of us trained in mid-Michigan, which, as I've said many times before, has no hills. Like, no hills to the point the MSU cross-country team has to go the cemetery to do hill repeats no hills. Everyone talked about how infamous Blackberry Mountain was, and there was pretty much nothing we could do to prepare. But it seriously wasn't bad at all.

At one point we started power-walking for maybe a half mile, before we came to an aid station. This station has signs saying we were at the top. I was skeptical for a minute - were these nice-looking old people punking us? No, we were truly at the top. And it was time to run down! My knees weren't too happy with this, but it was some of the most fun running I've ever done.

We also were able to pick up EMTs, two out of three ain't bad for eight miles!

Then came the bestest part of the race, the mini-ponies! They would've been relatively easy to miss if we hadn't known about them, but they were adorable.

But lesson learned - don't touch them. I went for a pet, and it nearly went berserk.
Next stop was firefighters! I was worried this one would be tricky to get, since there isn't a very high chance a marathon will burst into flames, but we did it! All three before the halfway point!

We also made a quick stop for some moonshine. (Not really because I can't tolerate alcohol to save my life.)

I'm bummed I didn't think to get any pictures of downtown Matewan. I was too busy being cranky that we had to pass the finish line for the half to be bothered to take out my camera.

I'm done now, right? Right?!
Unfortunately, this was also when Karin started not to feel very good. It was very hot and extremely humid, again two things we don't really have in Michigan. After a few miles of walking, she didn't feel much better, so she dropped. I offered to stay with her and drop too, since it was her special weekend, but Karin said I should continue on since I had already made it so far.

Side note time: so far the race had been great about being prepared for the heat, with cold water, undiluted Powerade, and ice readily available. There were also ATVs and ambulances patrolling the more remote parts of the course and using megaphones to call out if everyone was feeling alright. Though I obviously felt awful that Karin had to DNF, I was operating under the assumption that she would be able to recuperate on a cot in an air-conditioned medical tent. I found out from her at the finish line that the "med tent" was just a piece of shaded sidewalk. It's not like I puttered along on purpose, but I would've hustled more had I known the situation. This is my one disappointment with the race. For all the love and care put into it, there should be an air-conditioned place of some sort at the finish to accommodate ill runners, especially since the race is hot every year.

Back at the ranch, I plodded along. I'm glad Karin made the call to drop when she did because the course took a sharp turn for the worse almost immediately after. The road quickly tapered out into dirt and then into thick mud. I ran with a guy for most of this stretch, and we actually had to completely stop a few times to determine the best path. I know the RD can't help the weather, but I wish this section had been advertised better.

I think the worst moment came where the trail (let's call it what it is, that was no road) and came to what seemed like a dead end, blocked by a rusted aerator. There was nothing to do but push through the bushes, where we suddenly found ourselves on the golf course. Talk about culture shock. But the swinging bridge made my mountain goat activities worth it. Though I almost laughed that there was a golf course employee out there to supervise us. Trust me, after running 20 miles, I'm not in any shape to hurt your course.

I hate to say there was anything "nice" about Karin's DNF, but the walking had set me back quite a ways from my running pace, so it was honestly pretty fun catching back up with where I should be. Whenever it got hot or hilly, I would talk to another runner for awhile before forging ahead. I decided to leave my iPod behind at the last second (dumb), so their company really helped stave off the boredom.

I think around the 17 mile mark, almost every aid station had some combination of grapes, orange slices, and bananas. These were a godsend on such a hot day. I barely used any of my own fuel in the second half because of everything the course had. At first the undiluted Powerade had been a little nauseating, but it was so delicious in the second half.

After the golf course jaunt, the course basically turned into a sufferfest. There was little shade (and wouldn't be until the evening), so the asphalt had had all morning to warm up. I could feel the heat radiating off the ground and started doing a very generous .25 mile walk, .25 mile run pattern to keep my core temperature down. (Again, if only I had known poor Karin was just sitting on the sidewalk....)

While I certainly was not setting any land speed records, I felt surprisingly good. It reminded me of the last 10K of Mount Desert Island - I was looking forward to getting to stop running, but I was still enjoying the race. This definitely made me feel very positive about my fitness gains in the last month and a half.

I don't have very many pictures from this part of the race, because there wasn't much of note. Oh yeah, besides this monster hill at mile 23. It was much shorter than Blackberry Mountain and didn't take very long to walk up, but it was demoralizing to come around a bend and see it there.

Here's Johnny!
The last three miles seemed to drag on, but I have to credit a guy I had been running with on and off for kicking my butt in the last mile. I was walking out of laziness, and his encouragement led me to run the very last stretch. I'm not sure of his name, but I owe him a couple minutes off my time.

I forgot what this picture was when I first uploaded it...for a second I was like, "Who the hell is Minh?!"
I didn't completely enjoy the finishers chute because I was busy looking to see if Karin was out there. When I didn't spot her, I immediately began to worry, since almost three hours had elapsed. It turned out she was just sitting down behind other people and would've been almost impossible for me to spot. Phew.

Time: 6:21:58

I took a moment to grab some food and pull myself together to look for the med tent, when she walked over. (Another side note, the poor food lady was instructed to force a banana on every runner. I thought this was very wasteful. I had eaten probably more than two full bananas in the last 10K, I threw mine out because I was done with them!)

I'm also glad Karin had had time to scope out the finish chute set-up, because it was awkward to navigate with marathon fog brain. The mason jars were out of the way, and there were no signs to the post-race meal. I would've written it off as a loss if Karin hadn't been able to take me there.

I did appreciate that the RD had scheduled live music well past when people were finishing, which actually kept the party going. There were lots of tents with chairs and tables lining the chute, but not enough of them. If there had been more, I would've been tempted to stay longer.

All in all, this was an awesome race! I'm so excited to go back next year with Michael and look for my returner sign. You can tell the whole day long how much the RD loves this race and wants every single person, from the fastest to the slowest, to have the same world-class experience. It takes effort to get to Williamson, but it is worth it 100 times over.

(PS - As I posted about on Twitter, my chip malfunctioned, and I didn't have a time. I didn't realize until after dinner Sunday night, but it was resolved in a matter of hours, and the timing guy was so nice and helpful. This only sealed the deal on how awesome this race is.)

But perhaps the most important thing I learned this race? There was legitimately a person named Pharmer.

Truly the godfather of all hipsters.

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