“Photoshop the thighs!” – 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Marathon Weekend, Part 1

I embarked on my journey to Philadelphia for the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Marathon as the result of some extremely poor planning on my part on numerous levels. Apparently, I now I have so many marathon trips in the works that details are consistently falling by the wayside. When I booked my flight back in late winter, I got a super cheap fare on Southwest from Greenville to Baltimore, leaving at 7:50 pm on Friday so I wouldn’t have to miss work. Let’s go over the numerous flaws in this plan:

  1. My flight would land at 9:15 pm on Friday.
  2. Baltimore is 2.5 hours from Philadelphia.
  3. I needed to pick up my packet no later than 6:45 am on Saturday for the 7:30 race start.
  4. Jackie gets angry on long drives.
  5. I have half days at work on Fridays in the summer, so I could have left much earlier.
  6. We got to the hotel at midnight.

I was visiting Jackie, one of my sorority sisters in college who is also one of my best friends. She is also prone to hate spirals on a level that simultaneously inspires and disturbs me. Late night driving through construction zones, then, is not exactly on her top 10 list of favorite things. We made a stop at a Wawa (duh) on the way up, and I felt compelled to get a soft pretzel with nacho cheese dip. Carbo loading, as they say. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that if peopleofwawa.com ever became a real thing, it could really give peopleofwalmart.com a run for its money. Many people, including Jackie, like to make fun of me for living in South Carolina as if it is the white trash capital of the world, but as Jeff Foxworthy once said, there is no geographical limit on being a redneck.

How I feel every time I go to Wawa

To say I was delirious by the time we reached the hotel would be a gross understatement. We didn’t go to sleep til about 12:30, with a 5:30 am wake up call on the horizon. Why do I do this to myself? The good news is I actually slept decently for once and had no trouble falling asleep. I did wake up every hour starting at 3 am, but no matter. When the alarm went off, my back was in horrible pain. I had been having a really rough week with my back, and midway through the week, I wasn’t sure I would run at all, let alone do the full. Still, in case you haven’t figured out by now, I really REALLY don’t like letting my afflictions guide me towards making intelligent decisions stop me from running marathons, so I figured the least I could do was go out and run the half. The course was a double loop, so I would have a full 13.1 miles to make my decision.

Packet pickup was early at the local German club. Who knew such clubs existed? I grabbed my stuff and got back in Jackie’s car to wait for the shuttle that was taking runners to the starting line. We figured we would just follow the bus to the start. No problem, right? Wrong, because the bus was apparently driven by a New York City taxi driverwho ran red lights. We promptly got lost, cueing another hate spiral from Jackie, but eventually we made our way over to the start.

And now you know what the inside of a local German club looks like. It brought a tear to my eye when I saw they had Bud Light on tap there.

I thought the race started at 7, so I quickly made my way over to the Maniacs and got ready for the group photo, which I thought I might have missed. But as usual, I was totally disorganized and the race started at 7:30 instead. All of a sudden, I noticed a tiny Asian woman in a Statue of Liberty crown and 50 Staters gear. I wanted to ask her if she was the woman I talked to at Hatfield McCoy who is  from AJ’s hometown, but I didn’t want to be that racist asshole who assumed she was just because she was Asian…and um, wearing the exact same outfit. Crisis averted though, because she totally was! I got to meet a ton of Maniacs at the start, including Peggy, who was also at Hatfield McCoy, Wayne “The Manimal,” who is a 10 Star Maniac, and see my friend Dave Mari, who I try to emulate in pictures as often as possible.

Made it to a Maniacs picture like a motherfucking ADULT. I’m on a roll.

My new friend dressed like freedom was named Maricar, which she explained by saying “oh, it’s totally easy! Like “marathon,” but Maricar!”  I literally said it over and over again in my brain a hundred times so I would not forget.

Me, Maricar, the Manimal, Sutah, and Peggy before the race. Would it kill me to not look awkward in ONE PICTURE?

I told Maricar that I didn’t know if I would be running the full because of my back. She explained to me that she uses a run/walk ratio the entire marathon and normally finishes in about 5.5 hours, which is what I have been doing lately anyway. She runs for 3 minutes, then walks for 1, and does that the entire race. I decided to try and stick with her and see how I felt during the race. Oddly, I had been feeling kind of nervous about not knowing anyone at the race, since lately I’ve either brought my own or found some really great running partners. But you know what the best part is about being a Maniac? You’re never alone if you don’t want to be. So we set off, deciding to take pictures at every mile marker…after we passed the first one because we were chatting the whole time.

There’s two things you need to know about this race: 1. It is run in Pennypack Park, which looks mostly like this, and 2. It is German themed.

The miles passed quickly and I was really loving the run/walk intervals. It made the early miles seem so easy! We got to see lots of crazy costumed runners dressed up in liederhosen and drindels, enjoy some beautiful scenery, and startle the precious volunteers with our enthusiasm.

These boys were slightly traumatized that we forced them into our picture.

The volunteers at the aid stations were mostly dressed up, and one of the stations was called the Oktoberfest stop. Guess what was there? Marshmallows, pretzels, cookies, water, Gatorade, and BEER! Since we passed that aid station 4 times, I am pleased to report I imbibed frequently throughout the race. Beer and cookies are the key to success. The course had some steep hills, but it was very shady and very pretty and Maricar and I were having a smashing time. I about died when I heard an accordion player from around the corner.

“Hey, lederhosen guy! Get in the picture!”

That would be Uber Hans, a former NFL player turned world-class accordion player who now entertains the masses/marathoners. Sorry I’m not sorry for picking better marathons than you. Shortly after this point, we ran past a photographer. We tried to look as fresh and not sweaty and gross as possible, and as we were running past him, Maricar yelled “PHOTOSHOP THE THIGHS!!” And then I died. And it became the theme of the race slash my life.

I am told that the race advertised that it included a trail portion, but as we’ve clearly seen, I don’t research my marathon courses very well. Maricar didn’t seem to know either. Um, PS that trail was a bitch. It wasn’t like the trail at Hatfield McCoy that was mostly a road. It was a legitimate technical-ish trail with actual roots and shit that I had to avoid. Not ok. But this is what I get for picking races on the basis of their theme, name, and swag alone.

To make it worse, the trail was uphill both ways. In the snow.

Meanwhile, I was feeling pretty good and we were still having fun. All the volunteers and everyone who ran past us on the out and back portion commented on how much fun we were having and how great we looked. It’s nice to be recognized.

Made it through the trail and back to civilization/Germans

While running along, we saw a big tree and decided to do one of those engagement photo type pictures where each person stands on one side of the tree and creepily peers around. We asked an unsuspecting runner if he would kindly take our photo since he happened to be walking at the moment, and he obliged and found us to be quite amusing.

We’re not judging if this is one of your engagement pictures, but we’re not NOT judging.

So it turns out that Halbert (you people are killing me with your impossible names) was running his 7th (ish) marathon) and that he liked our style and didn’t mind taking pictures with us along the way. Around this point, Maricar had become quite possessive of my camera since hers had died at the start and we were obviously having an epic time. She became the photo dictator, telling us how and when to pose. At mile 9, she said “Do something funny!”

You don’t let strangers pick you up during a marathon? I do.

And then we ran past the Oktoberfest stop again.

It’s beer! Hooooraayyyyy beer! Shit, wrong country.

Halbert was very entertained by us, and we talked about all sorts of things. A wide range of topics varying from divorce to marathons and all the places we have been. Halbert has done the Flying Pig Marathon four times. I can’t even finish it once.

Namaste, bitches.

As we approached the half, I was still feeling really good. The run/walk thing seemed to be working for me, so I decided to keep going. After turning around at the halfway point, we saw Peggy and Dave approaching on the out and back part. The course had a 6.5 hour full marathon time limit, but they were cutting off everyone who didn’t make it to the halfway point in 3 hours to account for the fact that many runners slow down in the second half of a marathon.  Dave missed the cut off by a couple of minutes but was able to argue his way back in because he had gotten lost on the trail portion, but unfortunately, Peggy got cut off and was only allowed to finish the half, so she was super bummed. Stuff like that stinks, but it’s just one of the risks you take as someone who goes slower during races. It’s only a matter of time before this happens to me as a direct result of excessive photo taking.

When you getz a photo opz with Dave Mari, you takez.

We lost our dear friend Halbert about a mile or so into the second loop of the race. We thought he would catch back up eventually as we kept on going with our run/walk intervals, but he never did. This was the first time I really realized the advantage of doing a race this way. No, it’s maybe not the fastest method, but you do feel pretty good later on in the race. Good enough to take more obnoxious pictures on the course.

No explanation necessary. Those are going to be some aggressive tan lines.

It’s fun to be able to watch all of the much faster runners coming back in on the out and back while we are just heading out. In the first half of the course, a teenager, maybe about 14 or 15 years old, ran past us in a bright yellow shirt shaking his head around mile 9 with a smile and said “Marathons, dude” as we ran up the hill and he ran down. He ran past us again on his way to the finish, and he looked like his soul had died, as a marathon is apt to do. I smiled and yelled “Marathons, dude!” and he couldn’t help but laugh as he ran by. That’s what I do. I bring joy.

Right before nearly being massacred – Mile 20

The race didn’t have additional mile marker signs for the second half, so we just added 13 to all the old ones. An imperfect system, but close enough. When we got back on the trail portion, we were coming through a particularly narrow stretch where the trail is only as wide as your body and lined by bushes on both sides. I was in front with Maricar behind me, when all of a sudden a mountain biker flew around a corner and screeched to a halt 5 feet in front of me. T-Rexs don’t scream except when they are about to be crushed into oblivion, and boy did we scream. The guys laughed and apologized but it just increased my trail hatred even more. I vow next time to read the course descriptions more carefully.

We eventually escaped and I got sassy at Mile 21

I include the next picture as a simple reference of how quick the decline in a marathon can be. At this point, we were mostly sticking to our intervals, but every time we even came close to a hill, Maricar yelled “Oh, we’re walking this bitch!” So this picture was probably taken in the middle of walking one of those bitches.

One short mile later and I’m ready to KILL ALL THE THINGS

For the most part, we were both still feeling great. The volunteers and other runners, on the rare occasions we saw them, couldn’t stop commenting on how much fun we were having and how great we looked. I will point out that no one has ever told me I looked great while running PR pace, so I am taking this as an added bonus of my “fun run” quest.

We love marathons, mile 25, and each other!

Despite our consistent run/walk intervals throughout the race, I bugged Maricar to try and run the last 1.2 miles in true T-Rex fashion. I didn’t know if I would be able to since I was suddenly very hot and my heart started acting up, but I thought it might be worth a try. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a good day for a “Cupido.” We ran the vast majority of the last 1.2 miles, but as it got warmer, my heart got angrier. As we approached the finish line, I saw Jackie, who had come to pick me up, and we saw Peggy, who amazingly had cold water bottles to hand us as we ran in to the finish. Maricar threw her my camera and instructed her to take a picture as we crossed the finish line, but that required a near full sprint from Peggy, whose valiant attempts resulted in us getting a picture about 10 seconds after we crossed the line instead.

Of course we crossed the line holding hands. Was there ever any doubt?

And so with that, I finished marathon #20 and state #16 despite raging back pain in the morning. Our time was about the same as at Hatfield McCoy, but I felt a whole lot better at the end. There is something to be said for the run/walk method. I don’t think I would do it in every race, but it definitely helped keep my pain to a minimum and hey, it was fun! I like to think you all are getting super jealous reading all these reports of fun marathons because I am sweet and caring like that.

Multicultural finisher’s medal

In tomorrow’s edition, read about more of Jackie’s rage spirals, my trip(s) to as many local breweries as I could get my grubby little hands on, my intense stalking of Runner’s World, and a random airport encounter. And now go like my page on Facebook.

Do you know of any other races with a cultural theme? Because I love that shit. Leave me a comment and enlighten me.

30 thoughts on ““Photoshop the thighs!” – 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Marathon Weekend, Part 1

  1. Inaugral Canton, OH marathon this past weekend has a football theme. It’s a bit hilly, but sound a bit less rugged then this one.

      1. It was pretty good, some people complained about hills, but hey I have run Hatfield & McCoy, Canton doesn’t have anything compared to that. Typically I avoid inaugral races, but since this within 45 minutes of my house I decided I couldn’t pass it up and everything was realy smooth, no problems that I noticed (well OK, start was about 10 to 15 minutes late, but that’s no big deal).
        Weather was even pretty good which is hit or miss in OH, luckily it was overcast all day and even rained for about 1/2 hour. Glad it wasn’t in the last week as we have hit 100 degrees almost every day.

  2. I’m jealous of your marathon-ing and fun-having. The Wawa picture, made me literally laugh out loud, that was the picture from the Delaware Marathon right? Looks like my local Wawa to me 🙂

    1. That’s right! It was from the Delaware Marathon but I’m not sure exactly where we were. I didn’t have the foresight to take a picture of the one we went to on this trip. If only I had known the type of people that would be inside! And don’t be jealous, come join me and have fun too!

      1. 11 months and counting until I graduate and can get a job where I can afford to join you. 2013 goal: Ragnor D.C., New 2014 (or late 2013) goal: Join Team T-Rex in a marathon 🙂

      2. I just realized that may sound stalker-ish.. it really should read: Run a marathon T-Rex is running so I can yell “OMG is that the T-Rex runner/blogger?”
        BTW: 2015 goal: Join Marathon Maniacs

        1. T-Rex loves stalkerz. Like cute stalkerz, not actual ones.

          Well I am hammering out my 2013 schedule now, and I am taking requests for races I haven’t done yet, so perhaps something could be arranged. Those are excellent goals! I want to do a Ragnar, just haven’t found one that really works in my schedule yet.

  3. I was surprised to hear you were running this one – I thought it had even more trail than it did! Great job. Oh, and I talked to Maricar for awhile after Hatfield McCoy, she is a riot.

    1. Well clearly I know nothing about the races I enter. I wouldn’t be surprised if I show up to one someday and it is entirely on a trail. Must do more research! Ugh.

  4. I’ve said it before, but you definitely ENJOY marathons more than most people, which is pretty admirable. It’s also impressive when your body rallies and lets you finish 26.2 miles after waking up with an aching back. Do you keep tabs on all these fun people you meet? (Literally, is there a tab on your running spreadsheet where you keep their info?)

    Good times.

    1. I don’t have a literal spreadsheet but I TOTALLY SHOULD. Not a bad idea. Mostly I use the blog as an archive so that when I write my book one day and get famous off of the conversations I’ve had with other people during races, I have half of it already written down. I’m counting on you to provide me with entertaining fodder in Tulsa, btw. Otter is in for Chicago whether he knows it or not. T-Rex takez no prisoners.

  5. OMG – I thought I’d check out if you did a race in PA. You are a riot! I love the photos and commentary along the way. Your documentation of the race is awesome! Also, the Wawa pic cracked me up. I have several joyful Wawa pictures because when I’m away I miss it so much! (But, yeah, those ones near the Maxon-Dixon line can be a little sketchy…)

    I did my second ½ with that group. It was the Oktoberlauf Fest ½. It was basically the same course that you described which is why your play-by-play was personally awesome to me. Yeah, I was like, thanks for sending me into the WOODS at mile 11! I could barely lift my feet over the roots by that point and the race was small and I’m not fast so I was ALONE in the woods – which way do I go? Which way do I go? But it was also kinda fun. It reminded me of my mountain biking days. The mountain biker that I encountered was politely standing there waiting for me to fly by (LOL) and helped me figure out which way to go. I don’t know if they did it at this race, but at the Oktober ½, they served bratwurst and sauerkraut at the finish line. I just about vomited. I’ve never come so close. I hate the smell of sauerkraut and it about did me in! It was a fun one though. I loved how they gave cuckoo clocks to the winners and our “medal” was a handmade wooden whistle with a little bird on it! Love it!

    Again, love the pics and the recap. I also love how you ran with a virtual stranger who was into having fun all the way too! I think I could even get my sister to run if she could run with you! We are totally into photo documentation of our adventures. I’m looking forward to checking out more of your blog as I prep for my very first marathon!

    1. Ahhh that was one of my most fun races ever! I don’t always take that many pictures, but that one was just so much fun and Halbert and Maricar are now my friends for life. I really do miss Wawa! I would love to run with you and your sister sometime if we are at the same race. I can’t promise it will be fast, but it WILL be fun 🙂

  6. Super fun to read a race report of a race I REALLY wanted to run. 1) because it is practically in my backyard and 2) because it would be fun to run those trails with other people. But alas, our daughter graduated that weekend. *sigh*
    Made up for it in September when I ran the Sloppy Cuckoo Half (another Uberendurance race staged at Pennypack) a week after my first ultra.

    1. You are lucky to live close to that great park! Although some of the hills are nasty, it’s a great place to run. We don’t really have anything like that where I live, so I definitely enjoyed it!

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