Monday, September 07, 2009

Grande Ass 2009

Trophies by Steve Walters, photo by Rich Walter.

The 2009 version of the Grande Ass was a roaring success! When we first began planning this year's race, I wasn't going to run it. Last year, it was too warm for me and I felt sick for hours afterward, so this year I decided not to do it. Well, that decision lasted about a week, then I came up with Plan B. Plan B called for an early start. I figured that would help me manage the heat, plus give me the added bonus of finishing with the mid-pack, and a chance to see everyone. (As opposed to last year, where I was there to greet the runners, but finished dead last.) Since our marathon starts at 6:00 am, I decided that I'd start at 4:30 am. Margaret thought it was a good idea and agreed to go with me. Rick did too. Then late Friday night Bret and Dawn, a couple of local Maniacs, decided to join us as well - it was shaping up to be a party!

Course marker - flour dissolving in the rain. Photo by Rich Walter.

To save on a bit of sleep, we offered Margaret a spot on our floor. And since Steve, who lives in Oregon and is the designer of the logo and the website, was planning to spend the night camped in his car, we offered him a spot on the floor too. Steve does much more than the logo and website - he also keeps the entrant list up to date, assigns all the bibs, puts together the packets, and this year, he and his Dad built two beautiful trophies for the 1st male and female finishers. Oh, and he collected six pounds of Starbucks from his sister to give to the first three male and female finishers.

Running along Levee Road, during a dry spell. Photo by Rich Walter

There was a lot of race prep to be done - Eric and I worked on course marking for about three hours Thursday afternoon, then Eric spent another nine hours on it Friday. By the time he rolled in the door at 10:00, we were all ready for bed. Unfortunately, both Margaret and I had trouble sleeping - too many things whirling through our brains. I know that the last time I looked at the clock it was 12:30 am - that's a bit late when the alarm is going off at 3:30 am!

Margaret and I were up listening to the sound of pounding rain way too early. We met Rick, Dawn and Bret in front of the starting Starbucks. Sonya was there too - she was running half way, then her husband Patch was running the second half. We got started about 4:33. It was black and rain was coming down in sheets. It's too bad I don't have a picture for you - I'm sure I was a sight to see. Imagine a fifty-cent poncho over my running clothes, with a reflective zinglet over that, my backpack over the zinglet, a hat and headlamp. It was actually quite exhilarating to be out in the rainstorm, running down the dark, wet streets. We made it to the first Starbucks in Sumner just five minutes before they opened and decided not to wait. Our route started in Puyallup at our running club's "main" Starbucks, ran a little over six miles to the Starbucks in Sumner, then about sevenish miles through town and along the river trail, back to the Starbucks down in the Puyallup valley. After that, we crossed the river and ran along the levee road and through farmland and an industrial area to the Starbucks in Fife, through car dealerships and a business strip, up a killer hill and along a park, through the glass museum grounds to the downtown Tacoma Starbucks. From there is just a couple of miles along the working waterfront to the finish - the Old Town Starbucks. Sounds good, right?

The drenched runners and RD. Margaret, Dawn, me and Eric. Photo by Rich Walter.

My hat is so wet it's stuck to my head and looks huge. Photo by Rich Walter.

Eric made arrangements with all the Starbucks to have water tables out for us, and many of us popped in for drinks and snacks along the way. Margaret and I shared a soy misto at the River Road Starbucks, and again in Fife. Margaret even got a heated eight-grain roll to eat along the way. That is my kind of marathon! We had Y Run Club runners volunteering at each Starbucks, recording split times and making sure the water stayed full. We spent a bit of time socializing at each one, chatting with our friends and other runners.

By the time we got to Sumner (the first Starbucks) the rain was slowing down. When we hit the halfway mark, the sun was out. I pulled off my poncho and stuck it in my pack, just in case. We continued on our way, shifting back and forth, chatting away, getting to know Bret and Dawn and sharing stories. Just after we left Fife, we saw a rainbow, and shortly after that the next deluge started. I cannot describe to you just how hard it was raining. Water was flowing down the streets and gushing from downspouts. Cars were throwing up waves of water as they passed by. I left it way too late to put on the poncho, so I was drenched.

Chugging along, about 15 miles in. Photo by Rich Walter.

By the time we were running along the waterfront, my feet were sloshing. We splashed our way to the finish where runners were crowded into Starbucks. Jenny was sitting, foot propped (CCC injury) under an umbrella, recording finishing times. Eric was there to see us finish, then left to haul a bus load of runners back to the start. We changed to warm, dry clothes, loaded up on hot drinks and more goodies and sat talking for another hour. Eric returned and we chatted while we waited for the final runners to come in. By the time I got home and hung up my running clothes, a couple of hours had passed - and the clothes were still dripping!

The Glass Museum, right before the next rainstorm. Check out those clouds! Photo by Rich Walter

We quickly showered, gathered up more goodies and headed to Cat's house. She was hosting the post-run potluck, which was in full swing by the time we made it. (Eric had to return the Y bus that we borrowed and drop off the keys, which delayed us a bit). We spent a lovely afternoon, warm and dry listening to the rain outside instead of running in it. We even had a bit of thunder and lightening.

Everyone we talked to was happy with the run - rather than being bummed about the rain, the runners all seemed to embrace it and enjoy the challenge.

Putting on a marathon is a lot of work that we couldn't have accomplished without tons of help. Here is the final accounting of the day:

Ten volunteers: Wendy, Miriam, Laurie, Elaine, Cal, Monica, Linda, Jessica, Rich, and Jenny
One Course Director/Route marker: George
One website manager/packet stuffer/trophy maker: Steve W
One medal maker: Monica (maker of 60 woodburned medals!)
One party hostess: Cat
One official photographer: Rich Walter
One fabulouse Race Director/ bus driver/course marker/shirt designer: Eric
One YMCA Childcare bus
Six Starbucks
Four towns
39 marathon runners
37 marathon finishers
Two half-marathoners/finishers
One billion raindrops
One rainbow
One rockin' potluck

Many, many thanks to all of you! This race is success due to the combined efforts of the ever-fabulous Y Runners!

**A brief history for those of you who don't know the Grande Ass story: I love the run from Puyallup to Tacoma . Last year I wanted to do an early morning training run from town to town - something I think is fun. As we sat at Starbucks discussing the plan, we thought we'd do the Starbucks to Starbucks thing for sustenance along the way. Cat made the comment that if we were going to do it, we should make it "official" - in Marathon Maniac terms, that is. That means publishing the race at least a month ahead, having five starters and three finishers and posting results. We figured we could do that. I cobbled together a website, and we got it up on the MM calendar. Steve jumped in with a professionally designed logo and website. Before we knew it, we had 32 runners for our first year. This year we set a limit of 50, which was reached in July. Lots of last minute adds and dropped had us sitting at 49 on Friday night. I'm pretty sure the sound of the pounding rain kept the eleven or so runners who didn't show up away. Oh, and the name comes from the Starbucks "Grande" size, combined with the "Fat Ass" style run - free, no support races. That's the story!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lot of fun. In the picture of you and Eric, he looks appropriately caffinated.

justrun said...

Aw, man, how great! I would have loved a spot in your race (and on your floor). :) Maybe some day!

Sarah said...

That looks like so much fun, despite the heavy rain! : )

Wes said...

That's the kind of race I could really get into! Well done!!

Jessica DeLine said...

That's a pretty cool idea and race name!

Sunshine said...

And a good story it is, Michelle! Fun to read; enjoyed the pictures, as always. Flour marks on the course are great.

Annette said...

Michelle, that's so awesome. It sounds like you put on a great race. What a fun idea and it sounds like it's gotten even bigger and better than last year. Go you! :)

By the way - my old blog was deleted. Please update with my new location! Thanks :)

Anne said...

Another great Grande Ass in the books. Congratulations on a race well run, and it sounded like the perfect crowd to appreciate a *little* rain along the way. I know how much work goes into these things, so hats off to you!

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Well done! It was awesome, happy to help.

Joe said...

One year is an event...

Two years is a trend...

Three years will make it a tradition...

You have the basics laid out...and the cap at 50 creates what economists call "scarcity" which drives up value.

This is brilliant!!

Glad you could enjoy it, despite the non-sleep and rain.

Boy, Portland will be different, eh???

Darrell said...

Congrats to all for putting on this event. I really like the whole idea and theme.

Marilyn said...

Michelle and Eric, a great event, especially along the Puyallup River trail. Great timing that we should be running while the salmon were. It was fun running around downtown's sites in the pouring rain. Who but Maniacs would do that? Thanks a bunch!