April 17, 2011

Mountain Man Memorial March - Race Report

Over a year ago I trained with a group of friends to compete in the Mountain Man Memorial March – 26.2 miles of walk/jogging/hiking through downtown Gatlinburg, going into the country and hitting some pretty steep, hilly roads.

At the time Jay made fun “You don’t have to train just to walk that race.” I insisted that doing anything for 26.2 miles required some sort of training. Then and there the bet was made – in one year’s time we’d enter the same race. He’d prove to me that training wasn’t necessary. And I’d sit back prideful knowing I was right, and that the distance couldn’t be completed without the proper preparation.

The night before I went out with some girlfriends – I had the teriyaki steak, peppers, & onions with mashed potatoes and green beans. Fairly healthy for a meal out. Jay made himself 42 pizza rolls and washed them down with 6 bottles of Natty Ice.

I was a lock to win.

The next morning it was still storming as I got up and dressed Jay lay in bed “I think I just forfeit now.” For some reason I talked him out of bed. We got a later start than I wanted, but we still stopped for breakfast on the way and made it in time to pick up our race numbers.

I got teary eyed looking at the people surrounding me. A host of military & ROTC personnel in full uniform. Most would be making this trek wearing 40 pound back packs. I’m sure there is some good reason for those military boots, but mostly they just look uncomfortable.

Once the race got started, we headed down the streets of Gatlinburg. On the sidewalk and looking from hotel balconies on River Road we were showered with cheers and well-wishers. “Thank you for coming out this morning.” I said to a couple as we passed.

“They aren’t cheering for you – their cheering for the military people.” Jay snapped.

“I don’t care who they are here for, it was sweet of them to come out and I wanted to thank them.” I bit back.

He and I stayed together for the first mile or mile and a half. “I hate to leave you, “ he said “should we try to stay together?”

“It’s a race – do what you need to do.” As he pulled away I assured myself I’d be able to reel him back in later. I trotted down the hills, as was my strategy, but he just kept getting further and further away.

As we turned down 321, I started to get bored. Putting in my IPod for the first time I realized I’d made a mistake. Downloading an audio book with head phones with no volume control = bad mistake. As the cars zoomed past us I couldn’t hear the author as she was reading. Thankfully we’d be on back roads soon and I’d be able to enjoy the book then.

In the mean time, I struck up conversation with some Boy Scouts, given their age they had to be Eagle Scouts or higher up in the ranks. I chatted with them for a bit as I munched on my Teddy Grahams I’d packed for the race. I felt like class mom or something when I offered them some.

I could tell I was an old lady cramping their style so we split company. At the half marathon turn around point, I caught up with a crew from the University of Dayton as well as a civilian marching in memory of a soldier killed in action. I’d seen a member of his team carrying a Purple Heart flag. The back of his shirt had a picture of a young man and Dec 2006 date. Underneath the date the shirt read “It can’t always be someone else’s son.”

As I spoke to this man I explained how I was racing my husband. About how last year I did it in honor of a friend’s husband who was overseas but this year it was a competition. How the hubby didn’t realize how hard the middle portion of the race would be.

He told me that he was a nearby local, but not from this county. How his son asked him to hike Mt. LeConte with him and how difficult it was when he did it without training. He said the next year his son mentioned hiking the Appalachian Trail (the Smoky Mountains portion), so he trained to prepare for it. When he asked his son when they would hike it, his son informed him that he had joined the military and there wouldn’t be an opportunity.

This gentleman never got to hike the AT with his son.

Instead, every year he returns to Gatlinburg to march this course in his son’s memory. He assured me that one day he’d be able to hike again with his son before chastising himself for becoming too sentimental. I assured him that was quite already and he’d earned the right.

He dropped back to check in on his team members and I continued ahead. Except for the portions of the road too close to the river & its rushing water from the night before’s storm, the audio book kept me company.

(i don't know why blogger isn't cooperating - this picture should be rotated left & it is everywhere until I upload it.  grrrr!)
At mile 12 there was a 9% grade. This is why I laughed at the old lady at Disney that called an underpass a “hill”. A 4% grade (and there were plenty of those) is considered substantial for a running course. This one was almost unmanageable.

(for full effect please either turn your computer sideways or view them on facebook)

Once I reached the aid station at the top, I took my shoes off to survey my feet. As suspected, a blister had formed on the insides of my heels on each foot. A medic fixed me up with some mole skin and I was ready to go. As I put my shoes & socks back on I heard a soldier ask for padded moleskin – he said his heels were hot but the balls were just absorbing too much pressure from hitting so hard. The medic advised him to put the padded moleskin between his inner thighs and the soldier just starred at him.

“Um, I meant the balls of my feet.”

Silly boys!

Most of the rest of the race was uneventful. The outsides of my hips started getting sore just past the half way point and I had to stop several times to stretch. At mile 20 I was starting to get discouraged, Jay was still well ahead of me.

In an effort to hydrate, I did too good of a job an around mile 22 I was desperate to pee. Despite being back on the main road, I couldn’t jog because of the state of my bladder. While my legs were crying to run, my bladder was threatening to wet me if I tried as much as a jog. I had to wait until the 24.5 marker before seeing a porta-potty.

It was just me and my thoughts since my Ipod wasn’t cooperating, and they weren’t happy ones. I heard my phone beep at the 6:20 hour point and I assumed it was Jay telling me he was done. It was my mother instead, but I didn’t get it before the call went to voicemail. Shortly after I got the call from Jay – he never said he was done but I knew it by my voice.

Although the sun was behind the clouds, I put my sunglasses on so I could cry. Didn’t want a passing car to mistake me for someone in physical pain.

What a failure I am I told myself. Worked two years to get here and Jay can beat me straight off the couch. I’ve been such a fool, been so proud of all I’ve achieved and in one day he proves that nothing I’ve done means anything. Anyone could walk 26 miles – you don’t even have to train for it, he said, then got out and proved it. I should just give up.

When I reached the last water station I asked how far it was to the finish. I honestly considered calling it quits. It was only another 1.5 miles, so I trudged on. Wogging from point to point, trying to remember the layout of the city and if the finish was just around the corner.

When I saw the guitar on the front of the Hard Rock Café I knew it was time to jog one final time. As I headed down the hill I heard cheering, knowing this time it was for me. I rounded the corner and headed toward the finish line. Jay popped out of the crowd, told me he was proud of me and crossed the finish with me.

I wanted to hit him.

My watch time said 7:50:54 – I think the official clock was a minute slower, but that didn’t account for the time it took to cross the start line. Official results haven’t yet been posted, but Jay thinks he might have placed in the civilian light marcher division. I’m going to do a post about how proud of him I am, but I just can’t stomach it right now.

Yes I’m still pouting.

This sucks.

Out loud.


  1. Brooke! I'm so sorry about the race! You know you did your best and that is what counts! You gave it your all!

    Husbands can be stupid loser pants though...

  2. The thought that nothing you've done means anything is wrong. This was one walk where your hiker husband had an advantage over you. The fact ghat he came out of the crowd to finish with you pisses me off. He was being an ass and you deserve to be treated to a pedicure or something.
    I'm so sorry this race didn't turn out the way you'd hoped. You need to be proud of your accomplishment.

    Ps-the balls comment cracked me up.

  3. Great race report and although you didn't do what you set out to do and beat Jay, just remember you just completed AN ENTIRE MARATHON!! YOu ROCK, girl!! NO if, ands or BUTS!! Hope the blisters heal quickly and your pride, too!! You are the best no matter what your inner beast is telling you!! Much love!!

  4. WOW! what a day!! You are amazing! I could never do that race! I am sorry it didn't work out as you had hoped but don't think all you've done is for nothing! its been for you & your health & to have new PR almost every time you cross the line :) I wish I could be you when I grow up!

  5. You did it! I'm so proud of you.
    I think that most any other husband wouldn't be able to pull this off, so don't beat yourself up.

  6. I am proud of you for doing it and sticking with it!!!!

    Husbands can be a pain sometimes sorry!

  7. Oh my goodness! You had me chuckling several times! {"Class mom" & the balls!} I know you're disappointed, but you've said before that Jay can just DO stuff like this! If he had a blister like yours, I'm sure he wouldn't have done as well. I think you did awesome!!

  8. I feel your defeat wholly and entirely. I know that feeling of having a husband race past you, straight off the couch. I know the feeling of not wanting to finish too. I hate the feeling so much and I cried during your report.

    (I also cried during that whole middle -- that part about the dad. and laughed at balls too.)


    His crossing the finish line at whatever time he did doesn't define YOU.

    YOU are so much more than that.

    You've done this TWICE now. You've done 26.2 THREE TIMES NOW!

    It takes endurance, perserverence and a whole lotta stuff that a lotta people have never even found, much less USED.

    THAT'S what defines you Brooke. I love you for it.

    I know it's hard to feel defeated and rebound afterward (I feel that way right now too but for different reasons.)

    But the rebound is what makes the story greater.

    And you're GREAT. So is your story (all of them.)

  9. You should be so proud of yourself for accomplishing this race. There are so many people who can't run or walk a half marathon, much less a full marathon distance....three times!! You did great (and have the blisters to prove it.)

    Now, go schedule a pedicure. You've earned it. :)

  10. I'm so sorry you weren't able to accomplish your original goal of beating Jay but you are an amazing athlete and stupid boys are built better for certain things. You are still a rock star in my book and I hope to complete as many races as you have some day.


what up yo?