A Southern Marathon of Excitement- Part 2

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Wednesday, July 2, 2003 9:12 PM
“A Southern Marathon of Excitement - Part 2” (very long)

“Only 15 hours left!”

Today was the big day. The day of the marathon. Today a lot of questions I had would be answered one way or the other. Once I left Kevin Smallhorn’s house, I started to feel very nervous. Why was I feeling this way? I mean, in reality, this is kind of like an extended ERT.

Kind of.

Right?

Maybe not.

Once we arrived at the park, we were met by Bobby Nagy who was handing out plastic cards with our names on them. We would later tie these cards around our neck with a string. I could tell right as everyone started showing up that they also had questions. Some people were talking. Some people were noticeably nervous. I was kind of in between. I was nervous, but I was talking with people. I get to meet a lot of the marathoners. Some I had known for a while. Some I had just met for the first time.

Public Relations Manager Jim Taylor showed up and explained how the seats were to be dealt out. I never really thought about what seats were going to be good. I knew the wheel seats were rougher, but I didn’t care. I thought I was prepared. After all, I did purchase that foam the night before. I had enough for most everyone just in case we needed it. I totally forgot about the train being a 3 bench PTC. When I rode this coaster during ERT in March, I remember the seats not being very soft, and tight. Perhaps this foam was going to be my best friend after all.


Here is what happened. Our name cards were thrown in a can. Another can had numbers for seats. The left side of the train was represented by ‘A’.. The right side ‘B’. If we had our choice of seats, I think I would have chosen not a front seat, but rather a middle seat. That way, I was clear of the wheels. I would have liked to have been up front as well, but I didn’t have a choice as to where to sit. I just had to go with the flow and I was prepared for anything.

The first seat was called. 1B. This was for the front right seat. Lucky Bill Monticello ended up with that seat. Hector Jimenez was to be Bill’s riding partner. Seat 2A was called. At first, it didn’t register until Kevin told me congratulations, but I ended up with this seat. This is pretty much where I wanted to be if I had a choice. Chris Johnson was to be my riding partner.

We soon made our way down a service road, past Superman: Ultimate Flight, and next to the climbing wall next to GASM. The park had set up a tent so we could store our belongings. This was nice as it also provided us with a “mission control” during our breaks. We also had water and snacks provided in the tent as well.

Then it was time……..


Just around 8:00am, we boarded our assign seats and began our long journey. I decided to go for the first hour without the aid of padding. This way, I could teach myself how to ride if my padding flew out during the ride when I would need it. Right from the start, I could tell this would be a challenge as the ride was a bit bumpy. Nothing bad, just not as smooth as it was when I rode it last March. Given that I was assigned the seat I was in, I thought it was only right that I stay in that seat for as long as I lasted in the marathon. I did feel bad for those that were sitting in the wheel seats. Poor Sam Ulrich was sitting in the very back row but said he didn’t have any problem riding back there. There was also a man from a radio station riding in 4A. He was going to try to last as long as us.

At 9:00am, we got our first break. This was a key piece in seeing how difficult it was to walk up that long exit ramp to the bathroom after just one hour. If it had been a chore after just one hour, we would all be having a hard time for the rest of the marathon. Luckily, everyone felt great. At 10:00am, the GP showed up and we were soon accustomed to the operation of two train operations, and most importantly, THE brakes. The end brakes are well known for their stopping power during two train operation. Basically, if a train doesn’t leave the station before the train behind it comes back, the train arriving to the station gets to hit those brakes full force. Talk about stopping on a dime! If a train leaves the station in time, the train behind it won’t slam into the final brakes as hard.

Now, I would love to go into a play by play of every hour of the marathon, but frankly, I don’t remember every lap, and I don’t want to bore you with more little details. I do remember by the end of our 2nd hour, we lost a few marathoners due to sickness. Luckily we had “back up” riders who were more than willing to take over those that were ill. Sadly, the man from the radio station had enough and decided to leave soon after.

The GP were being surprisingly supportive of us. They would ask questions as we were sitting in the station. Some would take pictures. Others would just watch in awe as to why we were doing this. Some of us questioned this ourselves. Why were we doing this? I was having a blast at this time and tried to take it all in. Bill mentioned that later in the day, the GP would be grouchy and be yelling at us. I hadn’t seen anyone mad just yet so maybe we were going to get lucky.

By 11:00am, we were really getting into this marathon. The park set out some extra break time for us to actually have a nice meal, other than pretzels and crackers. They provided some tasty subs which were fine with everyone. I didn’t eat most of my sub though as I didn’t want to stuff myself with food and get sick a bit later. I decided to just eat light and see what happens.

Lap after lap, stop after stop, we continued through the afternoon. Lap 100 came and went. At around 4:00pm, the skies darkened and the threat of rain was very apparent. The amazing and energetic ride crew was continuing to keep our spirits raised by cheering us on as well as explaining to the GP just what it was we were doing. One crew member in particular even purchased some small pizzas for us (thanks Chris) for our 4:00pm snack. We also had our own cheering section. Various ACE members showed up to support us. It really did help us out and we appreciated it.

During our 5:00pm break, we were treated to pizza. We had many types to choose from. It was during this break that two of the marathoners, Tommy Faircloth, and Matthew Lambert, got the insane idea or going over to Ninja for a quick ride because it didn’t have a line. While I do like Ninja, I wasn’t about to ride it as it might have taken away some of my energy. This didn’t stop Tommy and Matthew from riding though. Just as they were ending their ride, lightning started to show up and the park closed down for a bit.

This extended break let us finish eating at a slow pace and to rest a bit more. Once the rain had stopped, we went back to the coaster to continue our laps. The line quickly started to grow once the ride was running. It was at this time that we noticed the GP starting to become more agitated as Bill predicted. One man in particular showed his disgust by booing us, yelling at us, and saying some not so kind things to us as we passed by him once we left the station. Another woman yelled to us, “Get a life!” I don’t know if these comments were to make us mad, but they didn’t. In fact, we all got a kick out of them. Thanks for the laughs folks!

As we were just about to do our 150th lap, Josh Harrington showed up and sat in the seat directly behind me. At first Josh didn’t have any padding to use, but once he found some, he said he was able to ride for a long time to come. With the park now closed, and one train off, it was now time to have some fun. The stop at the end of the ride wasn’t as sever as it was when the red train was on. Riders got their second or third wind. It was just a real good time.

At around midnight, Jim Taylor brought us something fun. Glow necklaces! This was exactly what we needed at night. We had a blast with these things for at least a couple of hours. Kevin Smallhorn showed up and got into the action as well. It was raining mildly at this time so the coaster was running very fast. At least 7 seconds faster than normal. Just after Kevin decided to go home, and right after my riding partner Chris threw in the towel, a strange noise appeared on one of the hills before the brake run. At first we thought it might have been one of the glow necklaces on the track that fell out of a car, but that wasn’t the case. The sound got louder and louder until we decided to tell the crew about it on the 4th pass over the strange hill.

They sent our train out empty. When it went over the hill, we could clearly hear the sound from the station. The crew who maintains the ride came in and took the blue train off, then went out and fixed the track. However, they put the red train back on instead of the blue one. This meant that our rides were about to become a bit more jarring. At first, I didn’t notice much difference but within 10 laps, I could tell it was rougher.

Some of us also tried to sleep during this part of the marathon. It took a while, but I finally figured out how to sleep. Given it wasn’t quality sleep, but at least a few times I was able to sleep the entire circuit. I first had to figure out how to sleep down the first drop, then the rest of the ride. The brakes were the hard part. After the brakes, it was just a matter of falling back asleep. The lights in the station were dimmed making it easier for us to rest. It was dead silent as well with only the whish of the brakes releasing being the only noticeable sound.

Lap 200 and 250 came and went without much notice. More and more rides into the darkness, with fog rising from the nearby river passing by the tracer lights, Josh had a cool idea of crawling into a sleeping bag and riding that way. He said he was able to get some sleep this way so I decided to try it out thanks to Kevin’s sleeping bag. I also had my inflatable neck pillow with me but I used that to rest my hands on. Resting my hands on that lap bar for most of the day resulted in me getting some tender areas on my arms.

The rain cometh…….

At around 5:00am, the rain started. At this time, a young girl hopped into the seat next to me which had been occupied by John MacGregor for a few hours once Chris had left. I decided to try and spread out the sleeping bag so the girl next to me could benefit from it as well. We were both freezing, and it started to rain. We also both had ponchos on but in reality, this didn’t stop much. The rain first started out light, but then became pretty heavy at times. It rained for almost two hours. I will admit. This really sucked. This was by far the worst part for me. I was doubting I could make it at this point.

Luckily however, the rain did slow down, the sun came up, and before we knew it, we had survived the night as well as our 300th lap. Sad to say, Bill didn’t make it after that. He left. At around 7:00am, we were given breakfast and were told we were originally going to go ride Mindbender, but due to the light rain, Mindbender couldn’t run, so we got another extended break. During this time the National Guard showed up to set up for a display near GASM. It was neat to watch them drive their nice trucks into the park. A total of 4 military helicopters landed in the parking lot for the day as well. Watching them fly low and fast over our location was something right out of a movie.

Before we knew it, it was back to riding. These last hours were going to be rough as we were all very tired, and it was clearly showing. At 10:00am, the GP showed back up (and we got back on the blue train. Yay!). This time however they were even better than the day before. They really were cheering us on and I didn’t see one complaint. The next few hours came and went very quickly. Jim managed to ride with us on and off. General Manager John Odum showed up and gave one ride with us. This was enough to boost our energy once more.

The last two hours were the most fun IMO. The bottom of the first drop sits next to a picnic shelter. There was a pretty large picnic going on. A large group of people decided to stand outside and watch us as we continued to ride. Pretty soon, we were communicating with them by yelling back and forth. When they asked how many laps we have done, we simply had three of us hold up our fingers in the right amount.

At around 2:00pm, we started our second to last lap. Everyone was so excited to take the final lap. As we pulled into the station, we chanted out, “One more time!” very rapidly. At 2:00pm, we took the final lap. Lap 367 to be exact. All of us were wearing red, white, and blue leis that John purchased for us before the marathon. The last lap was a special one. Everyone was the most energetic they had been the whole marathon. Once we pulled into the station, the GP cheered as well as our ACE cheering section.

Jim Taylor held a 30th Birthday cake in his hands while he had everyone join in singing Happy Birthday to Scream Machine. It was a very cool moment. We then left the train for the last time while a photographer quickly took some photos. We proceeded back to our tent and had some of the cake.

Out of the 20 or so that took part in the marathon, 8 of us lasted every lap. Those eight were, David Drake, Wayne Grant, Charles Austin Sr., Hector Jimenez, Tommy Faircloth, Matthew Lambert, William Cromwell, and I. I think most everyone remained in their original seats as well. We were so glad it was over, but to be honest, it wasn’t all that bad. Don’t get me wrong. The rain did suck, but if I had to do it all over again in the same conditions, I would. I just would come better prepared.

The only thing on my mind after the marathon was sleep. Josh and I quickly grabbed our stuff, said our goodbyes to everyone, and headed back to the car. One the way back to Kevin’s house, Josh was trying to talk to me but I kept on passing out. Sorry Josh. It wasn’t you.

Once we arrived at Kevin’s (thanks again Kevin and Samantha for putting me up….or putting up with me), I sat around for a bit before I decided to go to sleep. I didn’t want to be a party pooper but the 30 hour party I had just left, made me pooped. I fell asleep at 4:30pm. I woke up at 9:30. It seemed like I had been asleep for 5 minutes. I looked out the window. It was light outside. I couldn’t figure out why it was so light out at 9:30.

I didn’t sleep until 9:30pm after all. It was 9:30am! I had slept for 18 hours and didn’t get up once. That just shows you how tired I was. I needed the sleep so I wasn’t complaining, but it felt so surreal considering it felt like I had just gone to sleep. I expected to be very sore the next morning but I wasn’t. Josh had already woken up and was downstairs watching TV. He showed me some of his bruises. Somehow I managed to avoid being sore and getting bruises. Perhaps it was the padding or something?

Now that the marathon is over, I look back at how cool the actual experience was. I didn’t know it was going to be that fun. I liked all the funny things that made me laugh during riding. The glow necklaces. The angry GP. Chris’s laugh when everyone would grunt as we hit the final brakes. John’s hilarious stories. Many other things.These all made me laugh.

I originally looked at this marathon as a once in a lifetime chance. A BIG THANKS goes out to SFOG’s Jim Taylor and John Odum, as well as Robert Ulrich and others for putting this together. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Now that I have done a marathon, I do look forward to any other chance I might get to take part in one. What can I say? Bring it on!


Thanks for reading,

-Sean Flaharty
*** This post was edited by Sean Flaharty 7/6/2003 10:50:27 PM ***

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Thursday, July 3, 2003 12:45 AM
Congrats on lasting all 30 hours. Not sure if I could have done it especially on wood maybe B&M steel.

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I hope they kill that iron yuppie. Thinks he's so big. The great homer simspon

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Thursday, July 3, 2003 7:29 AM
Congrats, Sean. Don't know how you "marathoner-types" do it, but color me impressed! I can only handle an hour or two of riding non-stop before I need a serious break.

Now you can start challenging some of Mr. Rodriguez' endurance records!

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Mike Miller - Con-Quest 2003 pictures now available at http://photos.yahoo.com/bassistist

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Thursday, July 3, 2003 8:22 AM
Great report Sean, now if we can get Carowinds to come up with a marathon on Top Gun...how many years has it been open:)

Holla

Tommy
*** This post was edited by TheShizzznit 7/3/2003 12:24:06 PM ***

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Thursday, July 3, 2003 4:09 PM
Thanks guys!

voldemort,

I would LOVE to marathon on a B&M. How sweet would that be?

Mike,

I am not sure if I would be able to handle 100+ days on a coaster, but then again, I doubted I could actually spend a day + on a ride.

Tommy,

A marathon on Top Gun would be awesome! I can see it now...

"To celebrate the 4th birthday of Top Gun, we have a group of people that are going to attempt to ride the coaster for 4 days straight!!"

Nice job on the marathon video Tommy. It really captures the mood well.

-Sean

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Thursday, July 3, 2003 4:55 PM
I'll be sending you all the bill for those pizzas....

eh, I guess we'll call it even since you got me on MF front seat for my first ride on a coaster over 200 ft. ...

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"Press down, pull up, and enjoy the rest of your day here at Six Flags over Georgia as we celebrate 30 years of operation at the Great American Scream Machine."

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Thursday, July 3, 2003 5:23 PM
Congratulations, I knew you would do it:) When you explain how you slept it seemed so hard but I imagine you were just so tired. Also what kind of lap bars are on GASM?

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-Sean Newman
*** This post was edited by SFgadvMAN 7/3/2003 9:32:03 PM ***

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Thursday, July 3, 2003 5:28 PM
"Some I had known for a while. Some I had just met for the first time."

Are you Dr. Evil or something? :)

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--Maddie--
What do I Listen-To?
I am stereotypical.

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Sunday, July 6, 2003 7:25 AM
SFgadvMAN said:
When you explain how you slept it seemed so hard but I imagine you were just so tired. Also what kind of lap bars are on GASM?

The GASM has buzzbars which made sleeping very easy for me. Sean and most everyone else just kinda dozed off in their seat. I on the other hand wrapped up in the sleeping bag and layed my pillow across the buzzbar. Then I wrapped my arms in a "knot like" fashion around and through the bar to hold on to my pillow. Once I got comfy, I was also out cold. I think I had a few good laps without waking up to. The brakes are what usually got to me. It was so much fun and after fully recovering, I'm saying let's do it again!



*** This post was edited by Rampage 7/6/2003 11:26:01 AM ***
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Sunday, July 6, 2003 12:14 PM
Maybe next time you could ride on a wheels. It is an interesting 30 hours riding on the wheels. Does wonders for the neck and back. Well not really.

Thanks for the foam you gave me at 11pm friday night. Without it I am not sure I could have made it.

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Sunday, July 6, 2003 12:50 PM
Josh,

It was so funny seeing you sleep in that position. The best part was when you slowly looked up and said, "I feel like ****" in a very calm manner, got out of the train, and fell asleep on the exit ramp for a couple of hours.

Priceless.

Dave,

I have no idea how you managed to ride on the wheels for 30 hours. Sam tried his best and didn't make it. I am glad the foam helped you out. It certainly made my riding easier.

-Sean

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Sunday, July 6, 2003 2:03 PM
Damn, I just looked at Tommy Faircloths page of photos and that looked like an awesome time! Granted, Sean, Kevin and I rode over the wheels a couple days before the marathon just to see how bad it would be and we both looked at each other after the first drop and said "Uh uh no way!" It was pretty funny. But you know me, I think I could have done it (non wheels please!), it would have just taken some getting used to the "roughness" and a LOT of padding.

Sorry I couldn't have been there to cheer you guys on though! Good job everyone!

Joe who would MURDER to ride a B&M (Nitro, please!) for 30hrs straight

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Top Thrill Dragster -- The most intense, unbelievable, and spectacular fifteen seconds on any coaster, anywhere, ever.

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