April 19, 2010

Mountain Man Memorial March

Several months ago I signed on to participate in the Mountain Man Memorial March. At girls night out, one of the ladies mentioned wanting to put a team of 5 together in honor of her husband. He's in the Air Force, and she knew that he would be deployed to Iraq by the time the March rolled around. She'd done the march the previous year with him, now it was time to do it for him.

Our training consisted of long walks every other weekend, starting at 10 miles and building up to a 22 miler. The lady putting together the team lied to us told us that the course was pretty much like the rolling boulevard we'd been training on, excluding one fairly substantial hill.

My friend/coworker/training buddy and I carpooled to the event Saturday morning and upon looking at the course route and information knew that we hadn't been given totally accurate information. The "fairly substantial hill" was a 9% grade.

For those of you that don't live in mountainous/hilly areas - that's a big ass hill! And it continued on forever.

Or at least a mile.

The other hills were in the 5% range, which is still nothing to sneeze at! While conventional wisdom says that for every up hill there is a down hill, sometimes it just doesn't feel that way.

During the training walks we split up into two groups; it was just too difficult to find a time where 5 adult women with busy lives could set apart 3+ hours of their weekend. My friend/coworker/training buddy and I did most of the walks together and for several of the walks we chose hikes instead.

The 12 miler was our first/only group walk together, and she and I led the pack. We worried, once we got by ourselves, that we would have to adjust our pace down significantly to accomodate the group.

Turns out we were only partially right.

I would say that I'm at a fairly high fitness level, but for some reason I strugged on the hills. The few flat spots I had no trouble keeping a brisk pace, and on the down hills my legs prefered to jog. But for whatever reason (weak quads?) my legs were slow in carrying me uphill.

My friend & the team leader had no such problem (even though the team leader complained of our brisk pace on the 12 mile walk) and went off ahead of the rest of the group several times.

Another girl in my group welcomed my slower pace. While the rest of us had completed our final long walk 2 weeks before the event, she hadn't been able to make it to the walks so the team leader insisted on walking 22 miles with her the weekend before.

Big mistake.

Poor thing started the walk with blisters on the balls of her feet. Its a long convoluted story about how and why she had the blisters, and I don't want to point my finger at any one. (They aren't reading this any way so what good would it do?)

It basically boils down to the event not being well thought through from a team stand point.

About a hour and a half in our team broke apart, and two of the walkers went headed. At about the 12 mile point (at the base of the monster hill) they waited on us to catch up, but the hill was steep and long and eventually they got ahead of us again and waited at the top.

Finally, at the half way point, they decide to just go on.

To be honest it sort of annoyed the rest of us. Okay I can't speak for the third girl, but me and blister girl were annoyed. The whole point of doing it as a team - we thought at least - was to stick together and be a team. To not get bored over the course of the hours that walking 26.2 miles takes. Being a military event with their 'no man left behind' creed - crossing the finishline 20 seconds before or after your team results in immediate disqualification.

What's the point of going ahead if you can't be done with it?

I'll have to say there were points in the last portion where I was bored out of my mind. Girl #3 is naturally quite, blister girl was hurting and didn't want to chit chat, which left me to walk for hours without saying more than a few sentences.

Chatter box that I am, I'm just not cut out for that. When soldiers would catch up with us, I'd chat with them for a bit, then I'd notice I was too far head of the group and fall back so that at least the 3 of us could stay together. I desperately wanted to put in my earphones and listen to music but I didn't want to be rude.

For the last mile, our other two team members doubled back and rejoined us. They had unofficially finished the walk in 6 hours and 50 minutes by incorporating jogs on all the down hill portions.

Our official team time was 8:18:38 (by my watch at least). We came in 3rd place in the civilian team category out of 3 teams.

You know what? I'm okay with that. One team that beat us was a group of cop types that our team leader knew. They didn't train much for it, but their over all fitness level is pretty high. The other team that beat us had group t-shirts made. On the front was a soldiers name and picture and on the back a phrase "It can't always be someone else's son."

Trust me, I'm much more okay with losing the race than dealing with the kind of loss that team had experienced.

There were many times through out the race where I was inspired by our military. Some didn't make it the entire way, and had to be picked up. Around the 15 mile mark we saw a soldier on the side of the road with his 40 pound pack on the ground. He had his cell phone in his hand starring at it. You could see the question in his eyes - time to call it quits or no. Later we saw him continuing on, although we're still not sure if he made it he whole way.

I'm relying on my team members for pictures, and they haven't gotten them to me yet. I'll be sure to share when they do.


  1. I would have been irked too, especially if the "no man left behind" position was discussed beforehand. But still an awesome thing...I'm sitting here thinking that from my house to the nearest mall is around 26 miles. That's a long friggin' way.

  2. That is irritating them going ahead like that. What a great idea. I've never heard of a walk like this before.

  3. What? Your team members went A-Wall on you?? Srsly!!

    Good job on getting through it though. It seriously made me tired just reading about it - You the woman!

    And that is a HUGE hill!!

  4. Congrats on finishing the march! Wow-o-wow! I can't imagine doing a race of that distance...well, okay, I can *imagine* doing it, but I don't know that it would go much further than that!

    And yes, that is annoying that they went on ahead like that, since the whole point of it was to do the march as a team. Especially the leader, that person is supposed to support the group as a whole.

  5. That is a long walk - good for you for making it through despite the team issues.

  6. Congrats on finishing! I don't think I've ever walked more than 10 miles at a time! Weird that part of your team left you ~ especially if they couldn't actually finish w/o y'all anyways!

  7. Hooray for you for doing it and not leaving anyone behind. Sorry the others on the team didn't feel the same way.

  8. great job! congrats on finishing. did you get a "high" when you were done?

  9. Yay! Good job, Brooke! I can't imagine walking that far. The 1/2 marathon in June is scaring the crap outta me...

  10. I would have been mad too! And I wouldn't have thought it rude to listen to your iPod. Glad you finished but sorry you had to go through that. Just be proud of your self and what YOU accomplished.

  11. COngrats on finishing 26.1 miles!!! That's totally awesome!!! It stinks that some of the others in the group had such attitude about it, I'd have been mad at them too!


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