May 29, 2011

2010 Grandma's Marathon - 1, Man Dots

training buddies, Pigtails calls male nips "man dots"
* Click Here for Part 2 *

My hairy sticks have been pounding pavement with the Serious Coin Running Club (SCRC) since the first of the year.  From the frozen-balls Idiots of Winter Marathon back in January to a stupifying 25 miler yesterday, we continue cutting fat and prepping to deliver a beatdown at Grandma's Marthon in Duluth, Minnesota in three weeks. 

I've been training with Greg, Martin and Ryan for five months now.  They are fast dudes, together we blow quads and blisters, paying the dues necessary to hopefully stop the marathon clock at 2:37 next month.  Our goal is six minutes per mile for 26.2.  Ouchie.   

yes, that's a wild cherry juice box
I ran Grandma's Marathon last year with friends Kip and Jenny.  Below are the gory details of that race.
Once you learn to accept pain, molding it into a paddle to propel you forward rather than a wall that holds you back, you’ll become stronger.  Both as an athlete and in life in general. - Beard

Stink bomb
My brain fights to unscramble mixed signals from eyes and nose as an attractive blonde emerges from the coed throne at the tired dorms of UW-Superior.  A pretty face in pajamas steps out with a slight smile.  A pause, then the essence of “food digested but not absorbed by intestines” follows her.  It burns my nostrils, an odor so concentrated and repugnant (it had a tangy sulfur-garlic finish to it) that I feared my clothes and hair would record the stench, then replay it for Kip back in the room.  I moved to grab the industrial-sized lilac air freshener and blast the raunchy cloud to kingdom come, but retreated in defeat when I realized that would be like trying to quench a grease fire with a bucket of water. 

Carb loading tip for comely blonde runner that smells:  next year, try pasta and buttery breadsticks, not chili dogs and funnel cakes.

Later that evening in the same bathroom, a pale dude is standing by the mirror, mouth foaming, brushing his teeth shirtless in his tighty whities while women walk in. 

Social skills recommendation for underpants man:  be aware of your surroundings and try wearing shorts next time.

Kip's MC Hammer pants in foreground, destruction in background

Let’s race
Our eager bus surprises and leads us to the half marathon course, lost and full of 60 squirming marathoners.  The driver either forgot his glasses, was giving us the scenic tour or we were expected to jog to the start 13.1 miles north for a wholesome warm-up.  He eventually got her squared away and to the start on time.  

Relaxing a little, a sharp western wind flaps Kip's MC Hammer pants a half hour before the gun.  Overcast, 62 degrees and 80% humidity.  The strong breeze would help us if it cooled crosswise out of the west, a hindrance if it turned south and resisted for 26 miles.

Line up with the panicked pissers wetting the woods, then join Kip and Jenny at the line in front of the 3:10 pace group.  Kip looks happy, he chats, then moves back to the 3:20 group.  Jenny is quiet and nervous. I give her a pat and tell her to not go out too fast, have fun and GET IT DONE. 

A diesel passenger train drops off a load of runners to the start, then clacks south back to Duluth.  The Black Eyed Peas mark the final minutes.  A pair of F-35’s scream above as the Star Spangled Banner fades. 

a little heavy on the coffee
The helicopter from hell emerges above the trees, blades THWACK- THWACKING chop at our heads, flying sideways crab-style, barely 50 feet above to allow the videographer a good shot.  The pilot missed his Ritalin that morning, he was hyperactive.  Did he think he was in Afghanistan, finger on the stringer trigger, waiting to fire rockets at insurgents runners?  He buzzed us overhead over and over again the opening miles.  After the race, Jenny told us she pictured the crazy 'copter snagging a power line and crumpling to the blacktop.  She decided she’d continue running if it crashed behind her, but would stop if it crashed in front.   Smart advice, and a topic marathon training books fail to mention.

A limp air horn releases the hounds. 

Why is great aunt Matilda starting in front of me in her Hush Puppies, just behind the elites?  And why are there so many high BMI, walker-physiqued participants ahead, headphones ringing and fuel belts sagging with fluid? 

A watch but no GPS, I start out with what I hope is a 6:20 mile.  First mile clocks at 6:24.  The cadence would quicken from this point on.

By the second mile, I notice most runners ahead are wearing racing shoes, legs stuffed with slow-twitch muscle tissue and lots of ribs showing. 

That's more like it, let's go. 

The key on this snaking course is to hook with another runner or two, as it can be a lonely fight, running a mile or two in quiet sections without seeing any other runners or sidelined crowds.  Plus the whipping wind wouldn't be all that fun to shove alone. 

I caught up to random stranger Aaron.  His goal was the same as mine:  2:45.  And he looked tough.  We notched down from 6:20, warming up our quads, easing in and locking the pace down to 6:15. 

A patriotic runner wearing shorts and jersey sporting a pattern of a thousand tiny American flags clipped onto our wake.  His wheezed like a horse, stride was gangly.  He gasped out parts of words, confirming this was his first marathon (no duh), aiming for around three hours.  I said, "you realize you are on the 2:45 train, right?  You may want to back it down a little…or a lot."  He said "huff…fffff…OOO…kay…huff…", somehow held on for another two miles, then dropped off and disappeared.  After the race, Kip mentioned he passed this same clown several miles from the finish.  Flag was walking. 

Grandma’s is the antithesis of the Chicago Marathon.  A forest of trees on the right, Lake Superior on the left, hardly a spectator for 19 miles and excellent aid stations every other mile.  The stations were full service, a couple hundred feet of stocked tables, with a pattern of ice, water, Powerade (beats the lukewarm horse urine they served in prior years) and sponges.  The volunteers were spot on.  Even the smaller kids helping knew what they were doing, correct in the details with holding the cups from the bottom, standing out there and taking a direct sticky splash to the eyes/complete upper torso soak as needed to ensure we were hydrated.  

Aaron and I continued extinguishing other competitors and clicked miles in the 6:10 to 6:18 range, rolling with the mild swells on the course.  We talked only a couple of times.  His dad ran Grandma’s in 1993, this was his first time running in Duluth, he was from northern Minnesota and served in the Marines.  We pretty much ran side-by-side two through 17, picking up and dropping a few runners along the way.  

Worked by a troop of six elite women that looked solid.  Wished they would have clipped to our heels so we could work together through the 20 mph wind.

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