Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mystery Mountain Marathon

EARLY 2010
Shortly after registering for the 2010 MMM 12 miler I sent Kim an email that was worded something like this:
"Dear Kim,
Should my training surpass my expectations, would it be possible for me to switch from the 12 mile option to the full marathon?"
Well, my training didn't go anything like I expected and I ended up running the 12 mile option as originally planned. 

9 APRIL 2011
I knew that I wasn't going to be the first place finisher, so I had to try my best at coming in first for something.  Well, I did it!  I was THE FIRST PERSON to register for the 2011 MMM!  Which, consequentially won me a sweet ass Moon Pie technical running shirt.  SWEET!
Also around this time, maybe a little earlier, Mama Kim (the Race Director) and I had been e-mailing back and forth about things I could do to help out with the race. You see, this is one of my favorite places in Georgia to run, and is one of my favorite races to run, so I had to be involved in it more than just running.  We talked about a ton of things from t-shirt designs to medals.  As it turns out I would end up making the finisher's medals for the 12mile and Marathoners.

I have to give Mama Kim most of the credit for the design of these.  All I really did was sketch up some different logo options, offer opinions and suggestions on different shapes for the background, layout of the bear, and color schemes.  Once we finalized the design and determined a quantity, it was time to put them into production (one week before the race).  Here are some images of the production and final product.

Preliminary sketches.
Pieces and parts.
Some of the stencil cutouts...I spent a lot of time with Mr. Xacto.
Someone thought it was funny for the bears to "escape" across my kitchen counters...
Marathon bears stenciled and drying.
Discs stained and drying.
Do you want the logo or the bear centered?
I can't even fit them all in the shot!
Finished medals - 12miler on left and Marathon on right.

OK, I didn't do this all alone.  Anna helped me a TON on these things as did my neighbors Ed, Stacey, Justin, and Liz.  AND with the final assembly again, Anna was there as were Greg, Tracy, Rebecca, and James.  The six of us did in 40 minutes what would have taken me and Anna 4 hours...I learned a lesson on this that I can't be afraid to ask for help...that's actually a difficult thing for me to do.
Wind blown and goofin' around after our work was done...and that is a Schweppes tall boy...

Love the colors...
Never miss an opportunity...

After finishing up the medals we had planned to camp out with some of the volunteers and runners at the Primitive Campground.  Admittedly, that would have been a TON of fun, but in a nick of time Officer John stepped in and offered us a place to stay in his nearby cabin.  Holy freakin crap!  Me, Anna, John, Jim and Kate all had a very restful night and I can't say thanks enough for putting us up!
When the morning finally came we lay in bed awake when Jim knocks on the door making sure we were getting up.  This was the last alarm and we sprung into action with 22 minutes on the clock before we had to leave.
Getting to the park I stopped and said hello to a bunch of friends while I made my way to get marked for the marathon.  I can't believe how many people I know at these events!  Funny, though we joked about it, I was never really nervous about this race.  It was the hardest one that I would ever do, but I knew I could do it, and I was going to run it with my buddy Frank which I also knew would be a huge plus.

Earlier during the week my friend (for anonymity purposes lets call him) Obediah found plans to create a 'freakin' mega canon blow up explosion bomb thing' that would be used to start the race.  The first version looked cool and all, but Obe was encouraged to make one that was three times as large.  Fearing nuclear winter we dialed down the charge on the cannon and then with a gigantic boom and mushroom cloud the race was started like that. 

Frank and I ran and heckled and ran and heckled and ran and heckled some more.  We followed some woman he affectionately called 'East Cobb' for like 8 miles.  This was her first trail race and first time running on anything with a hill.  Fortunately for her, she was only doing the 12miler.  Also, there was this guy that would passing us and then fall just as soon as he got by.  It was strange.  At one time Frank commented to him that he might want to consider dropping out...holy shit that was funny...but not...but funny...but not...but yeah, it sort of was...
Frank (#20) and me charging down the steps at the stone tower.
(Photo: Russ Johnson)

At the top of the Tower look I came across of the Grim Sweepers.  We traded a hi-5 and he then says to me, "I'll see you on the 301."  I looked that bastard in the eye and said...shit, I don't remember what I said, but it was something like "The only place you're going to see me is at the finish."

A few months ago I was hiking in Cloudland Canyon when this guy runs by.  Being the person I am and recognizing his Scenic City shirt I called out to him.  We had a short conversation and then he asked me if I had something written on my leg during that race...why yes I did...It was 'Rapture This'.  We chatted for a little bit, and then he was off.  Well what do you know?  As I approached the Park Entrance aid station this guy from behind me says the same was him again.  What a small world!  I so wish I knew his name, I never introduced myself or asked him his name...dang.

Now it's time for the fun to begin.  At mile 11 the marathoners split off from the sissies (totally kidding...the 12miler is a hard as hell course) and climb the dreaded power line.  I don't know what is harder, the 10 minute plod up the hill or the 20 minuite baby-step descent down the loose rock steep as all get out other side.  Ugh what a the the the the right bicuspid.  This was just the beginning.
Here we are...ready to die...this is less than half way up.
The rest of the marathon course is rolling up and down until you get to the illustrious Conti's Climb, named for Frank who almost died at Franks Falls (which is at about the halfway point) on one of the training runs over the summer. During this stretch we talked about all kinds of things from $50 hair cuts to cannolis to how we were going to cross the finish line together as a team.  You see, in the months leading up to this race we have been encouraging each other and talking about how we were going to beat this "ball buster" of a a way, it was our mission.
Yes, it's a 2 mile climb starting at mile 19...gotta love it!
(Profile: Jason Rogers 2010 MMM)
Then it happened.  Mile 21.  After cresting Conti's Climb, Conti Cramped.  He cramped horribly.  I stuck with him a good long while until he turned to me and said "Aaron, please go on.  You will make me feel better if you don't wait for me."  He had asked me to go on several times leading up to this point, but now I had to.  It was part of that team thing.  It was hard leaving him there but I ran on...hard...I was going to catch and pass some people.
At the "Last Gasp" aid station I told them about Frank, talked to Blake who drove up to see his girlfriend finish the marathon, got a refill from Bobby, ate some food and took off feeling stronger then I had in a couple of hours of running.
I passed 2 runners.  F' yeah!
Now I am at the top of the power line...back where I started from.  Yeah a tear or two might have fallen, but it was probably from the cobra the bit me on my right eyelid.  I let out a cheer and looked off in the distance where I saw Samantha...I am going to catch her!
At this point my legs are toast.
I am running at 90% effort.
The pain in my quads was insane as I charged down the hill after her.
Look...there I am coming down the hill...she never knew.
(Photo: Russ Johnson)

It's me...focused!
(Photo: Russ Johnson)
Once I got done with the power line section there was a mile left.  At the top of the hill Sarah (I think) was cheering my name.  I cursed out loud as I ran up and over the hill "That's the last f'ing hill..."  I regret that.
Samantha was gone...out of sight.
I ran on.
As I rounded the lake I heard people yelling...was it my name I I don't think so, but at the time I thought it was, and it kept me running...harder.
Then there she was...I caught a glimpse of her.
I ran even harder.
26 hard ass miles already on my legs.
I caught up.
We chatted with each other.
WE started running even harder.
Shit, it was on.
She wanted this, and so did I.
I think we shifted gears three or four times.
Even faster.
I make no apologies.
I ran faster...
...all out...
And won by half a second.
Look...we're both smiling.
(Photo: Candy Findley)
Should I have let her win?
No.  I haven't asked her, but have a strong feeling that if I did she would have been disappointed.  "This is a race, not a charity event" as I said.  We both ran our hardest.  We're equally matched (she's probably actually a lot better than me).  We ran the same distance.  It was all fair...I have some mad respect for that effort!
Anna gave a medal, a pint glass, and told me congratulations and that she was proud of me.  It took forever for me to run this race.  She waited nearly 7 hours for me to finish.  Really?  Who does that?
Fortunately Mama Kim put her to 'work' during the day so that she had something to keep her occupied through the whole thing.  I'm really grateful for that...for both of them. :-)

So, what happened to Frank?
My buddy Frank.
Well, after the race we sat around chatting.  I told the story of Conti's Heckling, Conti's Climb, and Conti's Cramps.  It seemed like the afternoon had completely drifted hours.
It was 7 minutes.
For some strange reason I looked up.
I let out a scream!
"It's frank!"
"Hell yeah dude!  You got this man!"
He picked himself up and kept pushing on.  This, my friends is what it is all about.  It doesn't matter how fast you run, or even if you finfsh.  It's about giving your all.
This is one of the reasons I run.  In the span of 7 minutes I experienced 3 people, including myself, giving 100%.  I can't describe how that feels...
I love this picture of me and Anna!  And, Lionel just makes me laugh :-)
(Photo: Kate Dycus)
MMM - my favorite trail race experience ever.
There are so many people I want to thank, but really can't list y'all...and I don't want to leave you out.  If you think I would thank bet your ass I would.  So, Thank You people out there that made this a fantastic experience.


  1. Awesome race, Aaron! MMM is my favorite race as well, so rugged and crazy, but so many good friends there.

  2. Loved this...very funny!

    That last climb cramped out a few runners. I met a man in the midst of that misery who was sitting on a rock near a waterfall unable to run because he was so cramped up.

    Thank you for working on the medals. I have a quite few medals now and I appreciate the unique ones so much more. Or maybe that is because they tend to come from the hardest races I've ever done - H9 & this one!

  3. Thanks for the report! Good reading.