The Mountain Man Memorial March is an event to celebrate members of the military who have lost their lives in combat. To honor them, teams are paired with gold star families so their flag/picture can be carried out onto the course.

I had the privilege of representing “Team Paul” in the ceremony the night before the race. My friend Christal presented me with the gold star flag in honor of her brother, Sgt. Thomason. Then Gretchen, Christal and I hit the streets of Gatlinburg for our prerace dinner and usual shenanigans.

My original goal for this race was to set a training marker to reference for my upcoming goal race, Expo 10K in May. Despite my memory of this difficult course, somehow I had forgotten just how hard it is.

Also, my head is still in long distance training. Despite the large incline at the beginning, I chatted through the first couple of miles with random people along the way. I probably should have been pushing harder, even that early, but I wanted to save some for later hills.



Mile 1 – 9:35

On the downhills of this course, I tried to really push myself. I knew it would be practically impossible to make up the time lost on the ups, but I wanted to give it a good effort. By the time we reached the short, steep up in the second mile, I decided on 30 second run/walk intervals. I didn’t want to allow myself to dally, but the hill is practically impossible to run.

Mile 2 – 9:27

Once again, the course rewarded the hard uphill will a down. At this point, I was starting to feel the humidity and the warmth of the morning. The atmosphere of this race is what keeps me coming back. There are members of the military and ROTC dressed in full gear, carrying 40 pound packs. Some travel 13.1 miles. Others complete the entire 26.2. Yet these men and women are some of the first to cheer on the runners.

Mile 3 – 8:41

Long, gradual climbs are harder for me than short steep ones, probably for more mental reasons than physical. When we finally got out on the main road, we began the longest hill of the 10K section. I tried to break it up with walk breaks, only allowing myself to walk the length of a light pole before starting back. One of my few regrets of this race was not running with my hand-held water bottle. I was thirsty, but the first aid station wasn’t until after the turn around.

Mile 4 – 10:05

The course is a lollipop, with the circle part in the beginning. The turn around was just after the 4th mile and also served as the first (and only for this distance) water stop. By this point in the race, I was so thirsty I stopped completely at the aid station. I knew I would be drinking a 2nd cup, so there was no forward motion while I drank. Thankfully the downhill of this mile helped me make up some time.

Mile 5 – 8:39

While the 5th mile clicked over, I looked down at my watch and thought “okay slow and steady.” Then it hit me – there are only 6 miles in this race! My brain is still in distance mode, and I didn’t make the transition to “almost done” until late in the race.

The last hill is in this mile and I charged up it with all I had. In the process, I passed a lady who looked like she was probably in the 30-39 age group. She was feeling the hills too, and encouraged me as I passed.

Mile 6 – 8:40

The final push was awkward for me. Even as late as mile 5, my garmin was spot on with the course mile markers. Somehow I picked up an extra 0.19 at the end of the race. Also, since the course is open, I had to fight tourists strolling on the sidewalk. At one point a group was 3 abreast – including a stroller. As the runner in front of me approached them, I shouted “runner up!!!”

Of course they stopped, turned, and just looked. The other runner and I had to go off into the grass to pass. Also, I kicked a bit early, thinking I was closer to the finish than I actually was. Coming off the main road, there are 3 turns in the last tenth of a mile.

Final 0.39 – {8:20}

Chip Time – 58:16

 My finishing time was almost 3 minutes off my 10K PR, but given the course I was happy with my effort. Also, it was good enough to earn me 2nd place bling.

Age group – 2/13

 So yeah, the girl I tried to help by shouting to clear the sidewalk? Totally the girl who won my age group. She beat me by 8 seconds (chip time) and crossed the finish only 3 seconds ahead of me. I’m not a very competitive person by nature, but that one hurts a bit.

Overall – 13/82

Still, its hard to be disappointed with my performance. Now to look forward to more runner friendly courses!

Advertisements